Thursday, July 31, 2008

Get a life...

When I saw the book, 'Get a Life' at a bookstore, the name itself admonished me, whether to buy a copy, because the title sounded like one of the regular self help books. But then when my eyes read the author as Nadine Gordimer, I thought let me give it a try. This was my first read of any work by Nadine Gordimer. I liked the book because contemporary issues formed the framework of the plot, the author modishly jogged towards a wavering climax. No answers are provided and I felt the author has been seeking different interpretations to the various webs we encounter in our lives. In short a provocative book throwing questions at each layer.

The central character, Paul is the child of well-to-do white South Africans, who is forced into a temporary state of in-action and isolation as he is diagnosed of suffering from thyroid cancer. The medical treatment that he undergoes leaves him radioactive, thus being a source of danger to others for some weeks. Sensing the harmful effects of the radioactive radiations, he leaves his wife and only child to return to his childhood family home. His parents, both of whom are nearing retirement, along with a care taker are more than happy to care for their child who is now a 35 year old man. Even though 35, so what. For any parents, their child is always a child, and age is just a number.

This is a novel of inner lives, described emotions not conveyed ones, about human relationships, etc. It's an intricate matrix in which each of the characters is interacting with one's own self.

Paul, an ecologist is fighting for environmental concerns to save the world on one side. On the other side of the fence is Berenice, his wife who works in an advertising agency that facilitates few business firms’ colossal plans for development in the form of constructing highways and resorts, destroying her husband’s beloved wilderness. At a personal level, they share a perfect relationship, make love, have a kid, go out for dinners, and manage the responsibilities at home well but there is contradiction between the values of their work.

How do they manage this?

Paul's mother, Lyndsay, is also a successful professional in the field of law and justice. As a mother, she leaves no stone un-turned when it comes to taking care of her son who has acquired the status of a leper. As the plot develops, she unfolds her past of her heydays, about 15 years ago. A time when she had a four-year affair with a fellow lawyer out of mere desire for gratification. A gross mistake, a lie, and the irreparable damage, are today dark patches of the past for Lyndsay. But some clouds are heavy and don’t get carried away whatsoever. The end result, guilt suffocates Lyndsay.

As the story gains momentum, there is an air of positivity. Paul recovers fast from the radioactive treatment and by the time he is fully cured, both families have changed. Later his parents go to Mexico to fulfill the archaeological vocation Adrian, Paul's dad had sacrificed to support his family. The outcome of this trip is the final surprise in this highly unusual exploration of passionate individual existences.

I found that Gordimer's style is to use less but powerful words. But few sentences were too elliptical and brumous for me to comprehend. Either that's the author bizarre way of writing or my pea sized head didn’t get those Einsteinish format of sentence construction.
Parents are responsible for bringing into the world their progeniture whether deliberately or carelessly and theirs is an unwritten covenant that the life of the child, and by descent the child's child, is to be valued above that of the original progenitors.
But then there are pages, where one would think twice why the author wrote it as fluid prose, though it tastes as good as poetry.
'Where the company of jacaranda fronds finger the same breeze that brushed the boy's soft cheek'.
A slim volume, but the author's literary epithelial ducts convey many things which people won’t like to hear or things people like to share but somehow keep those suppressed.

Hey 'Get a Life'. Nah nah am not giving gyan, here just saying, read the book if that strikes your interest.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Which is this city?...

City Mosaic
Mosaic of some pics, that I had taken while prowling in the city.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Some random moods...

R for Relax:


S for Silence:


T for Twosome:


Mood when took these pictures, dullish, gloomy. The cloudy weather and unadulterated early morning did the rest. Don't know if my fingers orchestrated over the shutter buttons as I wanted. That part you decide?

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Free-dom/doom of Speech....

The 4th of July is celebrated every year as the Independence Day in the US. This day is marked by celebrations, usual patriotism and fanfare and a jovial mood is there in the air. But this year when President Bush was offering a speech marking 232 years since the adoption of the declaration of independence at Thomas Jefferson's famous home, Monticello, not everyone was in a festive mood. It was the annual naturalization ceremony, in which Bush welcomed seventy-six men and women from 30 countries to the land of opportunities. He was interrupted several times by protesters.

"War criminal!" one protester repeatedly yelled.

"He has brought fascism to this shore," another man yelled.

The President did not seem to be in any mood to acknowledge these protesters. He mentioned neither the war in Iraq nor the battle against terrorism in his entire speech, other than to say that "we pay tribute to the brave men and women who wear the uniform." At one point the president told, "To my fellow citizens-to-be, we believe in free speech in the United States of America."

As one of the protesters screeched, she was escorted out by Secret Service members. But the question is why was that done ? Just a couple of minutes back, President Bush, had told that the nation believes in free speech. Did the protesters express something really derogatory in front of the crowd? The answer to this may be a 'Yes' or a 'No'.

If 'Yes', then

I don't understand what was so disparaging about the remark. President Bush, is definitely intelligent enough to understand what 'freedom of speech' means. And that criticism in any format, unless it is violent and is marked by physical assault or attack falls within the ambit of freedom of speech.

Else if 'No', then

The message that President Bush sends is that those at the helm of power and politics, be it politicians or policemen, have a very low threshold of tolerance for criticism. They will hit back with their own ways or get one arrested.

End of argument.

See there are lot of similarities between programming and politics :). Just that active criticism makes one a better programmer but the same act puts an adhesive label on one's mouth in the later domain. Now the way Bush handled the situation is nothing unique to his land, the same demeanor can be seen world over by all those in seats of power and authority.

Now I guess each one of us in India would have seen the Sprite cool drink AD which had a catchy punchline, 'dikhawe pe na jao, apni akal lagao'. Don't you feel with a bit of visual massaging, the Youtube video can fit into this bracket.

How? someone-talks-of-free-speech-and-then-next-moment-a-person-is-arrested. Need I say more, I know you got it. Copyrights for this idea is RC's, well can give the same to President Bush as he is the central character in the video ;). And and and my desi AD geniuses, who recently rocked at the Cannes Lions 2008 winning 23 lions, are you listening too. Can we knit a sooper cool AD out of this ?

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Lucknow 76...

Few months back, Dr.BD had made a post on Lucknow, depicting few panoramas of the city sitting in a roof top restaurant relishing gorgeous food.

But why did this topic come into picture, the connecting chord is 'Lucknow', a city that I have never visited but have read about it and also heard lots about from my room-mate who graduated from IIM Lucknow. Last weekend, I was at Alliance Francaise de Bangalore, to watch a play titled 'Lucknow 76'.

The plot of the play was based on politics and history, shifting between two time frames of 1876 and 1976 looking at Lucknow city through the eyes of the common man. 1876 was a milestone for the Britishers, as that was the year, when Queen Victoria took over the command from the East India Company. 1976 was also significant in history because during that time, the once proud democracy, India was under the clutches of tin pot dictator, Indira Gandhi who had declared a state of Emergency as the Prime Minister of the nation.

So that reasons out for the numeral '76' in the title of the play.

But then why 'Lucknow' and why not 'Delhi' or 'Bombay' or 'Calcutta' or 'Madras' or 'Bangalore'. Because the director and playwright of the play, Abhishek Majumdar (AM) had spent some part of his childhood in this city. During AM's visits to Lucknow, his grand uncle, a scholar of history and geology had inundated his mind with tales and chronicles about the city from an old bungalow.

Now back to the play and the players on the stage.

The stage was a raised platform, bare minimal in terms of setting. A collage carpet dressed the entire floor. A ziz-zag geometrically-shaped stool, an artistically designed bench on one corner and few cushions were all the props used during the various scenes.

The play began with the entire cast of actors on stage firing words arbitrarily, and this state of confusion continued until two characters working in a press chisel in. Soon an old madam editor, of the press enters and they discuss about the sabotage of press and free speech during the 1976 emergency.

The sequence of the scenes in the plot follows a pattern like they do in these aerobic classes, one step back and then one step front. So one scene from 1876 and then one from 1976 and the flow continues. You get me right.

A greater part of the play covered, the 1876 era and it was masterly role-played. The three lead actors for this part were a Muslim revolutionary, a Brahmin Compounder and a brown British madam. Now how can a British madam be brown, that's because her father, a Brit and a general on duty in India had married an Indian woman. As the play rewinds to Victorian India, fervent and fiery debates rise about nation and ruler royalty neatly animated by the revolutionary and the Compounder. Questions are tossed about one's dedication to one's own motherland, supporting indigenous medicines against propagating Brit medical practices for general welfare, the language in which Vande Mataram was written and likewise. Though the two characters share views that are completely opposite, the Muslim revolutionary considering the very presence of Britishers in their own land a bane, the Hindu Compounder considering it a boon but yet they are the best of friends. These two characters expressed their school of views with downrightness.

The brown British lady's part who wants to study India through the eyes of the common man was also commendable. She seeks the help of the Muslim revolutionary to take her on tours to the local bazaars, to the river bed of Gomti, to the sectors where the natives of Lucknow live, and where the street dogs, the cattle and innumerable flies add to the bustle. She is also introduced to local food which can bring water to any person's mouth think about the Dum Biryani, Sheermal, Zamin Doz, Kakri Kebab, Shami Kebab, etc. During one of their saunters, the Muslim revolutionary cracks a joke to the brown Madam, the dialogue piece of which goes like this: 'Madam, you know what, in Lucknow we have more varieties of kebabs than you have Britishers in that small island.'

Few of the dialogues were engaging and just got glued to my mind. 'In a war, its beliefs that fight, not people.' You see the contemporary relevance, it was then, and it is the same, even today and I don't know what will happen in future.

The 1976 half of the play was more of a disjointed and garbled commentary. The unprovoked detention of innocent people, the abuse and torture of detainees in jails, the forced vasectomy of thousands of men under the infamous family planning initiative, the cutting down of electricity supply to publishing houses and the censorship on press were portrayed tactfully. The highlight of the 1976 era depiction was the naxal interaction which was arresting in terms of energizing acting and dialogue delivery. This bit was in Bengali which I feel quite a few in the audience could not understand.

The scenes were as sensitive as was the dark period but to add some easiness in the air, subtle and clever jokes were cracked like 'it's difficult to understand the philosophy of philosophy' (pun on Indira Gandhi's intent for the Emergency) and about the 'Mango tree on the Moon'. (Can someone guess what was actually pointed at here, for the second bit, though I have my own version but not sure if it fits perfectly to the context?)

The lighting was dim for most of the time, mostly because events showcased on stage were from pages of history. A quiet whiskered man, sitting on one corner, strumming his guitar and lending his voice to few evocative songs in Punjabi and Hindi in his countrified voice made the audience travel through the lanes of Lucknow both in 1876 and 1976. The music was a one-man-show, full credits to this gentleman.

Though I am not a connoisseur in the theatrical aspects of sound, lighting, music but still arrangements on the whole for 'Lucknow 76', appealed to me. The only glitch that I could notice, many in the audience had was that many crucial parts of the play were enacted in languages that was not deciphered by all (around 75% of the play was in English and the rest 25% in Malayalam, Hindu, Bengali, Tamil and Kannada).

There were around 12 performers for this play, (sorry, I don't remember their names, and I even lost the play's brochure) and each of them performed splendidly. This play was supported by the Black Coffee Productions in aid of the Concern India Foundation. The director Abhishek is an engineering graduate from NIT Trichy, one of the best technical institutes in India and then an MBA from Delhi University, after which he entered into his professional life in Bangalore. But his heart was in theater, Abhishek won the Charles Wallace Fellowship and went to do a course at the London International School of Performing Arts for a year in 2006. A couple of months back he was awarded the Metro Plus Playwright Award by 'The Hindu'. Very soon he is heading to the UK again armed with an Inlaks scholarship.

Bon voyage and wish you all the best.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Now everyone knows that, with the kind of revolution and global tie-ups happening in the telecom domain in India today, more Indians than citizens of any other nation would be signing up for mobile telephone services each month. This to me is a symbolic milestone in India’s rapid catch-up with other growing economies in the world.

I am not going to touch that bit, but what interests me more are the kind of changes in our social life that the mobile revolution has introduced. Let's keep the economic, business and technological related changes for some other day to discuss.

Long long time back, during the era of tring tring telephony, people had to wait for two and half hours or more to make a call. It would have been a privilege to have conversed over the phone then. More so owning one of those magic boxes at home would have been a matter of pride. I think in this direction because from whatever I have read, I learn that in those bygone days, to dial a number and stumble onto someone else's conversation was a common affair. Consider yourself more fortunate, if at all the call made the correct connection in your first attempt.

A call from Rangoon to Dehradun to one's lady love, would have been marked in bold letters as an achievement in one's curriculum vitae. Yes, I mean it because it had to surpass two major road blocks. One for sure is the connection getting through and other being to be an avant-garde to call and speak to your dulcinea. With an air of conservative, loog kya socchengye and closed-mindedness prevailing in the society, how would the newly married couples or lovebirds have interacted over the phone. May be our grandfathers and grandmothers can reply to this. Shhh....

India probably had the worst telephone penetration rates in the world till the time we entered the era of liberalization around 1991. The most common anecdote, to cite the government's impassiveness to improve India's communications infrastructure is to quote the words of C.M. Stephen who was the Communications Minister under the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984. In reply to a question of regular telephone infrastructure breakdown in India, he told that telephones were a luxury, not a right, and that any Indian who was not satisfied with his/her telephone service could return his phone. From that day till today a lot has changed, and in my view the Government's role in this revolution has always been there but not as much as the private sector telecom companies, who have drafted the new story of connectivity.

Apart from the regular services that I get while I am within the city perimeters, my connectivity is not lost while I am out of town too. When I travel within the different states in India, as soon as I cross the borders of a particular state and enter another one, I immediately get a message on my mobile, 'XYZ Services Welcomes You to 'A' State'. Here 'XYZ' is a service provider and 'A' refers to the state that I have just entered to. Most of the time, our mobile phones connects to its service provider's regular network. Now when my mobile phone is located somewhere not covered by my local carrier's network, I can still avail the facilities by the using services of another provider or a sister arm of the same service provider for connectivity. This is my understanding of what is called 'roaming' on mobile in India. Today this comes at an affordable rate of Rs 1.50 per STD call and Rs 1.00 for local calls.

Mostly, we Indians are a conscientious lot when it comes to spending money on mobile phone talk time. We know which calls can be cut short and which calls can be extended and we do that masterly in our daily lives. Over in India, Ph.D student Carolyn Wei of the University of Washington's department of technical communication has researched the important role mobile phones play in India's Tech city, Bangalore. Not surprisingly, she found that mobile phones play a crucial role in relationships among young people there.
The research was conducted last summer in the fast-growing city of 6.1 million that is experiencing forces of globalization and modernization. Many educated Indian people have moved to Bangalore to work for foreign corporations. The 20 participants in the study were aged from 18 to 30 years, and were fairly typical of young people who have moved to Bangalore for jobs, Wei said. They were financially stable, most had lived in Bangalore for less than two years and most spoke both English and Hindi but none of the local languages. More than half the study participants worked the graveyard shift because they provided technical support for people working during the daytime in North America.

"The people I studied were in this 24/7 environment and they were always on the go," Wei said. Many were involved in long-distance relationships with someone working or studying in another city. The phone provided couples with a "perpetual virtual connection." For people working long hours and commuting in Bangalore's heavy traffic, the mobile phone was even crucial for maintaining relationships with people in the same city.
Now if analyze it, deep down, it's a win-win for both the service providers and the customers. These days, the operating costs are low because the sheer volume of traffic generated by the ever increasing customer base has persuaded many companies to bring down call rates. The end result, invariably everyone, more so the mobile office worker, hopping different cities for business meetings/assignments would like to use a mobile phone for the convenience, add to it the emotional connection, it brings to day-to-day life.

Grandparents from one part of India, (say Delhi) call their grand children based in Bangalore and they carry on their conversations as if they are sitting in the next room. Husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, sons and daughters living away from parents, brothers and sisters living in different cities, for that matter you think of any human relation, and it's a fair bet that the ubiquitous mobile phone network play some part in the exchange of words. To me the 24/7 mobile phone connectivity today can be appropriated as a means of extending traditional sociality between friends, relatives and family members.

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