Monday, July 25, 2011

Why are We the Way we Are?

I was recently reading a book named 'Games Indians Play*' by V.Raghunathan, in which he tries to explain the social and public behaviour of Indians using the props of game theory and behavioural economics. His observations and examples captured my imagination and led me to the question- why are we the way we are?
                Why do we spit at free will? Why do we throw our garbage around with the gay abandon of a Punjabi uncle flinging a 500-rupee note at a wedding? Why is our sense of hygiene so gross? Why do we leave a public toilet smelling when we want it to be squeaky clean when we enter it? Why do we run the water tap at full blast during shaving, knowing well about the acute water shortage in the city? Why don't we stop our cars to let an old lady or a child cross the road? Why do we write on walls with the enthusiasm of a small child? Why do we tear off a page from the borrowed library book or write our names on public properties like buses and trains? Why do we routinely disregard the airline staff announcements about switching off our cellphones? Why do we routinely jump out of our seats in a mad rush for our luggage even before the aircraft has come to a halt? Why are we so averse to voting? Why don't we stand up against social ills? Why do we overtake from the left? Why do we try to jump queues? Why do we try to jump red lights with the cheerfulness of a kangaroo? 
                  Are there any answers to all these why's? We always tend use the cliche ' I am like that only', but when we consider a billion Indians thinking alike, the situation becomes grave. And there by I ask, why are we the way are? Through these questions I do not imply that we do not have strengths as a people. Indians are intelligent and industrious people who have made a mark for themselves all round the world. We have strong family values, are reasonably friendly and stick together in times of hardship (for e.g., in the aftermath of natural disasters, terrorist attacks and wars). But these traits are not singular to Indians only. People from Japan, China and Israel are no less industrious than us, having robust family values. They why have they marched ahead of us while we maintained the Hindu rate of growth ever since we attained independence? It is a fact that we are an ancient civilization and one of the most advanced upto medieval times until the Mughals and the British arrived. But did their invasion have an onslaught on our social principles? Or have we simply metamorphosed into being how we behave today. It is a fact that every civilized society (like ours) suffer from ills, but that does not make our own ills more acceptable. Ignoring our shortcomings and putting blame on other factors is our own 'Freudian' way of escaping the harsh realities. 
             I know some people will say I was being too harsh in my accusations in calling our society less civilized. Hence I will present a few statistics as given by Mr. Raghunathan. The pan Himalayan Lhasa railway, at an average altitude of 5072m with 550km frozen belt out of the total 1400km was built in 4 years flat! Cut to India, the impressive completion of the Konkan railways or the Delhi Metro seem pale in comparison to the infrastructure projects completed elsewhere in the world. Is corruption the one word answer that we will come up to cover our short comings? Beyond corruption, I think it is the weak foundations of civic sense and false sense of national pride that does us in. We Indians are privately smart but publicly dumb! We are a selfish race, with near zero self conscience. We wash our hands off responsibilities towards the way we are. Our social pride is limited to the carrying our age old rituals and customs ahead in the name of culture. We might have achieved many things today, but primarily as individuals rather than a collective group. A few great men cannot make a great nation, it is the greatness of the entire society that achieves it. I know most of you will agree with what I point out in this article, but rarely anyone will act upon it. And there in lies our Indianness in being 'like that only'... 

(P.S. Many examples and lines in this article have been directly lifted from the book marked *)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Few Movies that Deserved Better

Almost every Indian is a movie buff, especially when it comes to Bollywood movies. But such is the fickle mindedness of the public that still no one can predict whether a film will work at the box office or not. Lot of undeserving movies get lucky, but in this article I will talk about a few films that did not exactly strike gold but definitely deserved to do so. 

1. Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1994): Long time back, when Shahrukh Khan was still trying to establish himself in Bollywood, (i.e., not playing Raj or Rahul) he appeared in totally uncoventional  roles. And one such character would be Sunil in Kabhi Haa, Kabhi Naa. The movie was Kundan Shah's second directorial venture after the hugely acclaimed Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. Although this work cannot be termed as a classic or in the league of his debut film, it still manages to remain a great movie. The film is a delightful comic entertainer in the mould of Hrishikesh Mukherjee or Basu Chatterjee movies. It is basically a love triangle set in the backdrop of Goa, wonderfully capturing the small town ethos of that place. Characterization is emphasized in the movie and the everyone in the cast delivers affable performances. But of course the best character is SRK's. He is not a perfect guy, infact he is a total loser. He has flunked his exams, his Dad has given up on him, his band members hate him, and worst of all, the girl he loves dearly, ends up marrying another guy! But it is in all his failings that we love Sunil, he is infectious. He strikes a personal chord with you because at some point or other, we were like Sunil in life. In these days of heroes with 6 pack abs, foreign educated, driving in flashy cars, wearing designer dresses, a character like Sunil is sorely missed. The movie also has great scores from Jatin Lalit like Ae Kash Ke Hum, Deewana Dil Deewana etc. Watch it if you still haven't is my suggestion.

2. Khaamoshi (1996): Only one thing could have let this movie down, its music (considering the fact that it was publicized as a musical). Other than two soulful numbers, Jatin-Lalit waiver in what could have been a dream debut for Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Although the movie was praised by critics, it failed to create ripples at the box-office though it contained some of the best ensemble acting one will ever see in a Hindi movie. Not only were the individual actors brilliant, they meshed together like parts in a Swiss watch. Such is their teamwork that you almost start imagining them as one family! Technically, the film is one of the best one will ever watch. The climax is a bit shoddy though, but it is the camera work that strikes you- quiet and unobtrusive. There are no wasted movements and the frame always manages to seem perfect. The movie was totally shot in a single place and this gives the movie a coherence that seemed to be lacking in those days movies (No dream songs to go to Mauritius!). The editing is also clean, though it could have been sharper. Manisha Koirala was a revelation, considering she was acting opposite actors like Nana Patekar and Seema Biswas. She held her own, using her body language to almost perfection (for e.g., she constantly uses her hands, especially when she explains her music to her parents). Even Salman Khan with his self-depreciating demeanor and the easy way in which he handled his role was lovable. All in all, a really good debut gone waste for the eccentric director. (watch out for the young gal who plays Manisha's younger version)

3. Socha Na Tha (2005): The debut film of Imtiaz Ali (of Jab We Met fame), Abhay Deol and Ayesha Takia (unofficially) was not a classic movie in any sense, but it had a charm of its own. It is basically a love story with loads of light moments. Socha Na Tha is engrossing in parts, but no sooner does the guy realizes that he loves someone else, not the one he has been dating for the past three years, the film becomes one predictable love story with parental opposition and the cliche, and that comes as baggage. Otherwise the film leaves a mark on you. The movie has light moments in plenty, and a few of them have been handled deftly. In fact, director Imtiaz Ali has not only handled the light moments with flourish, but also the delicate moments between Abhay and Ayesha with sensitivity. A lot of unpredictable situations have been woven in the screenplay and that's why the film excites you. Sandesh Sandaliya's music is melodious and the tunes 'Abhi Abhi' and 'Yaara Rab' have a magic of their own. Special mention for the dialogues, they will still connect with the youth of today. On the whole, Socha Na Tha could have been an ideal popcorn flick targeted at the youth but it missed the bus due to inadequate publicity.

4. Lakshya (2004): After successfully attempting a film on male bonding in Dil Chahta Hai, Farhan Akhtar went into a different zone in Lakshya. No one expected him to make a war movie after making an urban cult flick, but the young maverick proved with Lakshya that he would go on to become one of the finest story tellers in contemporary Hindi cinema. However, his storytelling is of the type that may not find universal acceptance. While the intellectual urban will love his style of narrating a story, the classy treatment may not appeal to the hardcore masses looking for entertainment, and that is where Lakshya suffered. Agreed that the editing could have been a bit more taut, but that does not take away the credit of it being the finest war movie ever made. The film lacked histronics and any sort of rhetorism, but still succeeded in making India look like a hero, by not depicting Pakistan seem like a villain (only few references to that connection were present). This film holds good even for those who don't like war movies, with a cleverly put romantic sub plot between Hrithik Roshan and his once college sweetheart and then crusading journalist Preity Zinta. The story unfolds as the maturing of an aimless upper-middle-class youth against the backdrop of a war. Lakshya does drag at times, but the excellent built up to the climax sort of made up for it. Technical soundness of the movie, like the outstanding cinematography, grand visuals and sound action sequences make it a winner. The gradual changes in the protagonist's life - his metamorphosis from an ordinary to an extraordinary life - is depicted with flourish. My personal favourite scene is the last one, watch it to feel it!

5. Swades (2004): “There are entertaining films, there are artistic films, and there are some films that are simply necessary”. - Jack Lemmon. Swades unfortunately fell in the last category. A simple but inspirational experience, Swades must be seen by every Indian, not to be educated about his or her country’s problems, but rather to be reminded about a responsibility to act and make a difference. Director Ashutosh Gowariker gave patriotism a new face in Mohan Bhargav, played aptly by Shahrukh Khan. This might perhaps be his best and most under rated performance as the NASA returned scientist in search of his childhood nanny. And he is ably supported by Gayatri Joshi, who teaches at the local school, hoping to create some sort of change for the better. Her serenely beautiful portrayal of the confident city returned gal in an ideological conflict with SRK is full of grace and poise, making her the dream woman of every sensible man. Gowarikar’s writing is strongly focused, characterization once again, proving to be his forte. Like Lagaan, Swades too tells the story of good triumphing over evil. This time however, evil has no face but is rather equated with regressive ideology. The enemy lies within in the form of passive acceptance of injustice by those who suffer it and ignorance by those who witness it. Agreed that the climax was not thrilling as Lagaan, but the sheer simplicity of the movie blows you away. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics effectively ponder over these emotions through powerful musical interludes such as “Yeh Jo Des Hai Mera”. My personal favourite scenes are the ones when SRK realizes his nanny's words that "one needs to light the lamp in his own house before lighting up the neighbor’s" through his visit to a village to collect tax from a farmer. They will go down in cinematic history as the best scenes ever. The only place where the film loses is the finesse (dubbing sound quality, camerawork) and lack of entertainment that our audience so dearly wants. But still, its definitely a must watch for every Indian once, even under the garb of being branded as a 'documentary', if necessary...  

(The films that loses narrowly in the top 5 are Ek Haseena Thi, Rocket Singh and Luck By Chance because they were not exactly bombs at the box office and also because the above 5 are my choice :) )
P.S. Some of the excerpts about the movie has been taken from the reviews by Taran Adarsh's artcile for reference purpose

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Magic of Harry Potter

With the final installment of the Harry Potter movies releasing last week, millions of fans queued up to bid an ode to 'the boy who lived'. It's 14 years since the first book of the series released, but the magic web spun by J.K. Rowling still manages to capture the imagination of people from all age groups. Books that have been translated into 67 languages and sold over 450 million copies, movies that have grossed over 3.5 billion dollars worldwide..can it be termed as a modern day classic? 

So what does the young stick wielding boy have that has managed to connect with children, their parents and even their grandparent? As Professor Dumbledore would have said, it is love...Rowling's books successfully captured the joys of innocence, friendship, loyalty, family, unprecedented heroism from characters in the face of death and finally, the pain of death. The books are based on a simple ploy of the triumph of good over evil, that moral goodness can be protected with the thread of love. The best part that I wish to emphasize for the detractors of the series is that the main protagonist here isn't superhuman like his enemy Lord Voldemort (flinched :) ). Instead, he is very human and vulnerable, a bit short tempered too but morally incorrupt. And he finally manages to defeat his enemy and also claim right to the deathly hallows because of his only strength, something that he never understood and Dumbledore always adored- his ability to love..The mythology that Rowling has created is an intricately detailed one yet charming in its own sense, a fully fleshed parallel universe of magic! Written in flowingly simple language, the books become difficult to put down once you have started reading it..and there in lies the 'magic of Harry Potter'. 
                   When we talk of the movies, there are three things that make them work- Emma Watson, the special effects and superb casting. While the fans who swear by the books will tell you that the movies are but a shadow of the imaginary world that J.K.Rowling transports you to while reading, no one can question their magnificence and popularity among the general masses who find it difficult to read the 600+ pages epics! Rowling's characters and situations are heavily inspired by classic British literature, and one can find uncanny similarities and archetypes. But that should not take her credit away for weaving a tale so complicated from simple elements of day to day life. Also, the fact that her main character ages with every book adds to the charm of the series. Coincidentally I read the first book (which I had won as a prize) at the age of eleven and somehow the fantasy of a different world with magic in it clicked the right chords with me. And I am sure that I am one among the millions who had felt similarly at that age...:)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Iro'm' Lady- A True Satyagrahi

11th September is a date that has gone down in world history as a day when humanity lost and terror won. It is a significant day in the discourse on terrorism. For the world it could be the crumbling of the twin tower in the terrorist attack in 2001, but for the 40 million people of the North-east India their democratic aspirations had also crumbled on the same day but almost half a century ago, when the President of India put his signature to the Armed Forces Special Powers (Assam and Manipur) Act (AFSPA) on September 11, 1958.
                       The bill was introduced as a temporary measure to contain the uprising in the Naga Hills, but five decades later a large part of the north east is still under the grip of the military rule. Thousands of lives have been extinguished in enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions. Torture, rape, arbitrary detention, forced migration and displacement has become part of life. Of many such instances of repression and subjugation of the local people in the north east, the most notorious one is known as the Malom Massacre
                       On November 2, 2000, in Malom, a town in the Imphal Valley of Manipur, ten civilians were allegedly shot and killed by the Assam Rifles, one of the Indian Paramilitary forces operating in the state, while waiting at a bus stop. The next day's local newspapers published graphic pictures of the dead bodies, including one of a 62-year old woman, and 18-year old Sinam Chandramani, a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner. It was then that a 28 year old female began to fast in protest of the killings, taking neither food nor water. It is 2011, and she is still continuing with her fast...!! She is Irom Chanu Sharmila, or the Iron Lady of Manipur as she is popularly known.

Anna Hazare fasted for four days and the nation stirred up into action to support his cause. Irom Sharmila has been fasting for the past 11 years and barely anyone knows about it! Why? Because Anna Hazare performed the stint in the heart of the capital city and Irom Sharmila has been struggling in a small room in Imphal, in the far forgotten north east state of Manipur (please do not confuse it with the cash rich education mecca of the super rich). For 10 years, she hasn't eaten anything but the Indian state has kept her alive on a cocktail of vitamins and nutrients, and also arrested her on numerous accounts under IPC section 309, which states that a person who "attempts to commit suicide" is punishable "with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year. She is force-fed twice a day through her nose, and this has been going on for the past seven years! The offence of ‘attempt to suicide’ is bailable and the maximum sentence cannot exceed one year. She refused to break her fast or seek bail. As is the pattern, she is released by the court on completion of one year and is re-arrested with 2-3 days of her release under same charges...
              So why did it take so long for media to take notice of this super human effort of a woman, whose resilience moves you, considering the sheer magnitude of what she is single-handedly trying to achieve. It has much to do with the fact that corruption as a broad subject is easier understood by the Indian middle class than an obscure martial law that is perceived to have no bearing on the lives of the majority of people. As it was fashionable to be patriotic during the Kargil war, it is now fashionable to be fighters against corruption! While Anna Hazare became the centre of media attention immediately or rather before he started the fast, and celebrities conveniently grabbed the opportunity to hog some more limelight and media sympathy, Irom Sharmila's struggle came to light only in 2004. But no one came ahead to support her, not a single candlelight walk by the rich and the affluent of India nor the usual media hype. Just because she belongs from a state which is ‘not a part of mainland India’...? 

Sharmila does not seem to be edging anywhere close to her demand, but she surely has lost much in the interim. Keeping aside the health issues, it has been reported that her brother lost a government job because he chose to remain on her side, the family had to go bankrupt. Irom Sakhi’s (Sharmila’s mother) has never met her daughter since she blessed her on the momentous day when she undertook her fast...Irom Sharmila continued to fast under arrest while India carried on elections and cricket. Had Anna Hazare too been on fast during the World Cup, I am sure the media would have blissfully ignored him. Timing, it seems, is very important in politics and media...Except for a customary and superficial mention every now and then, the entire Indian media still ignores her. Why? Because it is unpatriotic to question the army or criticize it, even though it may be as corrupt as our politicians and even more brutal sometimes. A government bullying the citizens of an entire state with its army is worse than corruption. And this has been going on in the North-east irrespective of that party holds power in Delhi. 
            For the past few months, a sort of revolution has been building up against corruption. But Irom Sharmila's silent protest has gone unnoticed. Is it because she is challenging the constitution and not the politician, the favourite whipping boy for the media since ages? Are we waiting for another martyr like Swami Nigamananda, who died after a 114-day hunger strike in Haridwar, demanding immediate stopping of quarrying in the river Ganga. A certain Baba Ramdev, with hugely political ambitions beyond his expertise of yoga promptly makes headlines while a woman fasting for the past 11 years goes unnoticed. Is this our idea of justice? There is a very famous proverb that justice delayed is justice denied, and its high time that Irom Sharmila gets her part of justice, something that she deserved long long time back... 

“I am not important for this world, just like a worm that can be crushed.”- Amritapa Basu  

For details about the AFSPA, check link (2). For the exclusive interview of Irom Sharmila, see link (3). The report by Babloo Loitongbam can also be read for details of the insurgency in Manipur. The list of atrocities metted out to the local people is well documented in link (4). (1),_1958 (2) (3) (4)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lokpal vs Jokepal

This is the story of two brothers, Lokpal and Jokepal, who did not know that they were brothers because they were long lost in, say, Kumbh Mela. They meet after a gap of 64 years, on the night of 14th August 2011, both returning from their routine jobs in Delhi Metro.

Lokpal (L): Hello there!Isn't it strange that we meet every day but never got to know each other?
Jokepal (J): Yeah it is (measuring his tone and poise at this sudden intrusion of his privacy by this common man) I am speaking to Mr..(err).
L : Lokpal...means the representative of the masses (with a smile)
J : Ahh..I see..I have heard about you. Why do your people create so much ruckus, fasting and shouting slogans will not help in the 21st century mate..get over the Gandhi hangover!
L : Excuse me, but our country is passing through very trying times. The credibility of almost every single institution is under attack – judiciary, media, corporate sector, executive, politicians – the people have lost faith in almost every institution. To restore the faith of the people, I stand for the creation of an autonomous independent body that would investigate corruption cases, complete the investigation within a year and envisages trial in the case getting over in the next one year!
J : Isn't is a bit too overambitious Mr. Lokpal? I mean, this body you are talking about, wields an enormous amount of power that can be misused since it is accountable to no one!
L : Sir, if you could put your trust in similar independent institutions like Supreme Court or the Election Commission, why hesitate on something that might curb a deep rooted menace like corruption?
The train stops at the last station. Both of them get down, without speaking a word. Mr. Jokepal clears his throat, and says
J : Well, why don't you explain me further about this institution of yours? We can walk together, can we..?
L : Sure the Lokpal will be at the Centre and a Lokayukta would be put in place in each states. Like the Supreme Court, this body will be completely independent of the governments and would constitute some judicial power to grant justice on its own.  Cases made against people accused of being corrupt will not linger on for many years due to any factors. It will ensure that investigations in every case are completed in one year's time. The trial against the accused would also be completed within the next year so if convicted, the corrupt person is sent to jail within two years ensuring quick justice. The loss caused by a found-to-be corrupt person to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction. 
J : Wait wait wait...!!! What are you talking about? I thought you were presenting a slightly improved version of what was presented in 1969 and thereafter, you know the real Lokpal Bill!
L : A bill whose tooth was taken out by your predecessors, making it more of a jokepal that missed the salient features to nab the culprit! (Mr. Jokepal twitches his bushy eyebrows in a threatening fashion, trying to show his displeasure at the insulting use of his name) But before I continue sir, I wish to know whom am I discussing work with at 11pm? :)
J : Ahem...My name is Jokepal! And I get it that you are the one for whom I have to chair an extra committee from my already busy schedule of saving criminals and politicians (all the same, he smirks thinking). 
L : Ohh...Its great that we are sitting together to do this task that all our governments have promised but none delivered as usual.
J : So who all can be prosecuted by this Lokpal bill according to you mister?
L : Everyone! Politicians, bureaucrats and even the Prime  Minister!
J : This is unacceptable! Are you trying to be above the democracy of this nation Mr. Lokpal? You cannot bring the parliament and the judiciary under it? I have a draft of the bill that lay with the government that says that the Lokpal be an advisory body and just forward the complaints to the recepective department. It will not have any right to register and FIR or police powers. Through this bill,  no investigation can be carried out against the Prime Minister, or the offices which deals with foreign affairs, security and defence! I think it is fair Mr. Lokpal, after all we do not want you to be overworked with wrong allegations against these reputed people...(ends with a sly smile)
L : We opted for democracy as our political system. But I have been wondering for quite some time - how democratic is Indian polity? Indian polity has failed to provide solutions to the common man's problems. If a government teacher plays truant or does not teach properly, can the parents do anything about it? Or if a doctor in a government hospital does not treat properly or does not give medicines? What can a poor person do if the ration shop keeper openly siphons off rations? Or what can any one of us do if the policeman refuses to register my FIR or registers a false case against us? 
                     The Lokpal aims to help common citizens by ensuring that the government is penalised for slack work. Any citizen complaining against work not done within the prescribed time by any government office, the Lokpal will impose a financial penalty on the guilty party and the fine will be given as compensation to the complainant. One could also report any case of corruption to the Lokpal like ration being siphoned off or poor quality roads being constructed or the panchayat funds being siphoned off! We also wish that the existing anti-corruption bodies like the CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged with the Lokpal to ensure complete order. The Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician. Then only will this country become corruption free!
J : Some of your provisions are against the basic tenets of the Constitution Mr. Lokpal, and hence it is not acceptable at all! (Shaking his finger) We are the democratically elected representatives, or u can say the true Lokpal (grins), and you are nothing but a self elected propaganda who is trying to demand things that haven't happened in three decades now. Are you trying to suggest that all the people who sat with this bill earlier were incompetent to leave aside these so called 'salient' points..sir?(clears his throat in self admiration his wit)
L : If power leads to arrogance sir, I think you are the perfect example then. You say that you are the true Lokpal, then your first duty should be towards your 'Lok', who have selected you with a certain faith before getting elected. And if having no control over government employees, government funds, government policies is what you mean by democracy, than we surely are one. Just vote once in five years and then plead before the same people who you voted to power? Or plead before the officials who take salary out of your taxes? I am having my way this time, and you have all the time to decide which side you want to be...sir! (folds his hand in namaskar)
J : Are you threatening me? I have heard lots of stories about you from my close friend Mr. Deshmukh...need to learn lessons from him i guess in managing you, huh? By the way, its midnight..we should keep moving eh, it's my birthday and my family will be waiting to surprise me.
L : Ohh, then you must go sir. And happy birthday to you.
They start walking in opposite direction when Lokpal Speaks up loudly, 
L : Isn't it strange that two people born on the same day are today on the opposite you call this a tryst of destiny?
Jokepal stops and turns to have a better look at this common man who had almost pinned him to ground in an argument, a first in his long legal career.
J : (Pauses for a few uncomfortable seconds before speaking) Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially...
L : (is taken aback by this).... A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity....

The rest of the speech was understood to both of them. They knew it by heart. It was the speech their mother was given after she gained her freedom from the clutches of the British, the night they were separated. They looked at each other blankly, half excited, half scared at what they had discovered. Yes, they were the two sides of the same coin that circumstances has been flipping since 15th Aug, 1947...They then turned back and continued walking slowly, ready to cross paths soon, but sadly being on opposite sides...

 ( P.S. The Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen's ombudsman Bill) is a draft anti-corruption bill drawn up by prominent civil society activists in India, seeking the appointment of a Jan Lokpal, an independent body  that would investigate corruption cases, complete the investigation within a year and envisages trial in the case getting over in the next one year. Its being opposed in the current format by the government and a mass movement has been started. For details, see The movement is being spearheaded by noted social activists like Shri Anna Hazare, RTI activist Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, retired IPS officer Smt. Kiran Bedi and many more. This bill needs mass support, so as to eradicate corruption from the system. This article has been  written with the aim of generating interest and knowhow among the common man about this bill.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Love, Sex and Bollywood - Diaries of an Engineering Graduate

My first impressions of college life were influenced by the candyfloss movies like 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai'. Big mistake, since I decided to join an engineering college...
            As the title of this article suggests, there are 3 sub-parts to it. I will start with the last one, i.e., Bollywood. I am a movie buff, like most of the people of my age group. I was always told that there is a subtle difference between reel and real life. I got a taste of that after I joined college, an engineering college to be precise...It was so far away from what they portrayed in popular films, where hot chicks in surplus numbers moved around in skimpy clothes and nerdy guy gets the hottest of them almost everytime. The only film made on an engineering student's life is Aamir Khan's 3 Idiots, and surprisingly the heroine wasn't a student of the same college but the daughter of a professor! (actually, I don't remember any girl student shown in the movie) This is close to reality, but not 100% because the sex ratio in an engineering college is composed of males and the non-males (a new species of female found only in engineering colleges). It doesn't take much time to differentiate between the two if your balls are in their correct place. Yes, you get to make friends for life as they show in the movies but chances of getting laid (as they show very aesthetically in the U/A rated ones) is close to nil, unless you are born lucky. So the moral of the story is that when Bollywood shows a college, take it for granted that its not an engineering college or else cry 'dhoka' for 4 most important years of your lifetime.
               The views expressed in the last paragraph indicate that the next sub-part might go blank. Before you come to any conclusion, let me narrate you a scene from the superhit flick Jurassic Park. The scientist who had built it tried to be clever and made only female dinosaurs, so that reproduction will not be possible. But he took the DNA samples from a particular African frog that could change its sex according to the social situation, to fill in the gaps in the dinosaur DNA's found from fossils. The protagonist warns him that life finds a way, but no one pays heed to his advice. In the end, everyone ends up with swollen asses as the dinosaurs were able to change their sex so as to reproduce and propagate their race! The situation is very similar in engineering colleges in India today (and was always, so say our uncles), especially the prestigious ones. But sex change is an option that might not feature in the frustrated to-be-engineer's to-do list. With the advent of social networking and cheap telecom, situation today is not so bad as 10-15 years back. A lot depends on how the opportunity is grabbed, but sadly there is no such demonstration on it. Erotica in Hindi films is limited to smooching like puppies, and they seldom emphasize on the built up to it. Porn doesn't help too (especially Asian and American ones), the maximum it can do is to stimulate a jerk off. But then again, life (and sex) does find a way, just that the time taken for finding depends on how hard one strives for it..;)
                   Thus we come to the last section, i.e., love...but before we try to find it, we must first assume that it is not the same as lust. Love and lust actually constituted the first vicious circle on this planet, long time back when man was above poverty, unemployment and illiteracy. It was something like love-boobs-love-bigger boobs-love- (and so on). This is a basic instinct and cannot be manipulated in any living male. In the same way as no one can answer the question whether the egg came first or the chicken, no one can be sure what a guy feels when he sees a girl for the first time, because inside the brain, love and lust are like the transfer functions of a single control system! But mind it, we are speaking of an engineering college where both love and lust are more of a null set...When I was a kid, I had imagined that I will marry a beautiful girl with whom I will fall in love in college. Then I joined IIST (big pause)...First year could be best described as.. umm..optimistic. After all, we were the only batch in the campus. By the time we reached 3rd year, most of us had settled for the idea that any girl will do (another pause..sad one). Then a quest began, in the campus (with the least zeal), on Facebook and sometimes even on Omegle (which can be described as the height of desparation)! Now, after struggling so hard to find love does anyone still think that it will retain the charm and innocence of a normal college life romance? Yes, you got it...As the legendary joker would have said, this is what happens when an irresistible force (read sex) meets and immovable object (read love)...!!!         

Men who stare at...Everything!

I was walking on the street one day, lost in my thoughts when I noticed a very peculiar thing. All around me, men were staring at every other person that came his way, irrespective of their sex... not just take a quick look or glance, but flat out stare! And they were fairly consistent in their stares, unlingering and straight into the eyes. I was at the receiving end of a particularly murderous stare that unnerved me and got me to think why do people have the urge to stare at all? Isn’t it considered to be impolite to stare at someone in public? But then I thought that politeness and manners aren’t exactly the etiquettes that you go looking for in people from a small town like Ranchi. Over the time, I saw people doing this all the time. Now you might think this is just all in my mind and that I am imagining these things but I know when I am being stared at. It's not hard to notice when some is looking directly at you while their eyes follow as you move. I had no idea what could drive someone to look at a complete stranger with the weirdest of expressions that you will ever see on a human face. 
                   To have some answers to such behaviour, I did what every other person does so casually today..I simply googled it! Through the search, I came to know about this weird film starring George Clooney and Kevin Spacey, named Men who stared at Goats. The film is apparently inspired by the events laid out in journalist Jon Ronson’s extensively researched book by the same name about a group of soldiers, who allegedly called themselves ‘The Jedi’, and who were trained to be able to fight wars in esoteric and “non-violent” ways. According to the book, their methods and objectives included learning to live off nuts, learning to be invisible, deterring the enemy with ‘sparkly eyes’, walking through walls and, ultimately, killing goats by staring at them! (yes, you read that correctly) And all these time, we used to think that this power belonged to the mythical ‘rishi munis’ of yesteryears, who could apparently turn a person to ashes with one stare..tch tch!
                       So we come back to the question- why do people insist on staring in the first place? It is really difficult to answer in an exact way as there are numerous reasons why people keep on looking at someone or something. But I am pretty sure that none of these applies to my uncultured and aggressive Ranchiites (all age groups), who will continue to stare at each other as a tradition. An occasional gaze stolen for a passing pretty girl in understandable, but why stare at an overgrown middle aged aunty and make her conscious? It leads more than often to an embarrassing sudden re-adjustment of the saree to hide the hint of cleavage that she thought might be visible to those starers. Her caution is still justified, with the hypersexuality prevalent in today's society, but then why stare incessantly at a potbellied uncle? 
                  Insecurity might be one reason that I think leads to staring. People who feel insecure about themselves can stare at others. They need to know what everyone else looks or behaves like in order to make sure that they look or behave in a particular way. Or it might be that staring given them a pleasure unfulfilled by shagging at their homes watching mindless porn. But then, what pleasure can it give you..the sight of men and women flinching at your stares cannot give your testosterone a high. I tried to find out myself by staring at each and every passerby in a mall here, but ended up making a fool of myself as no one noticed that I was trying to catch their attention (maybe people have got so used to it now that they don't even give a fuck). Then I thought maybe it was the wrong place to find answers or maybe I am wrong in my assumptions, maybe people just stare to be assholes! But I did find out that 'ignoring' is bliss when it comes to being on the opposite side of a stare. Next time though, when someone stares at me, I want to try that ‘sparkly’ stare on the onlooker, thinking of a goat in place of that person, to see the consequences of this 'psychic' gesture, though I suspect that it would lead to his death..:)