Saturday, June 28, 2008

The RMIM World

The RMIM Music Meet is around the corner. It has been so long a time since we had a meet in this New Jersey region. Five years ago to be precise. It seems to have been a life-time away. Miles and miles away in the journey of life and in the journey of RMIM. To look back, a lot of life has happened since. A lot of new experiences... good, bad, exhilarating, despairing, enlightening, profound, warm... just a lot of life. And along with it the growing up that accompanies life. The loss of the rose-tint, the swagger of 'it cannot happen to me' and the diminishing of intensity. The greying down of the blacks and whites. The passage of dear ones....physically and metaphorically. Our RMIM world too has come a long way since then.

Rewinding back to 2001, the first encounter with RMIM and the internet music world can unhesitatingly be etched as a milestone moment in my life. Suddenly, I, with my propensities that were looked upon by the world as quaint at best and crazy/obsessive by the rest, found a whole new world out there. It was a home-coming for my soul. In this world everything was normal. It was normal to have seen a film 20 times (like I watched 'Nau Do Gyarah'). It was normal to hero-worship personalities who were way before your times. I could finally stop being embarrassed about being besotted by Dev Anand instead of Tom Cruise. Of loving Hemant Kumar instead of Bryan Adams. Here were people who would scout 100 shops just to rent a video and record a song off it. People who collected articles, people who passionately loved their idols, enough to fight for them, kill for them(all virtually ofcourse). It was here that I could admit that songs have colours in my mind. There are some songs that are in the colour green, my favourite colour, the songs of nature, the other in grey and so on. It was here I could admit that my heart danced with the rain and 'Diwana hua badal'. No longer would my bubble be burst by someone looking in my direction and circling her fingers near the temples to indicate a person off their bonkers. It was here one could unabashedly admit to crying after hearing 'Waqt ne kiya'. I also met people with an intensity and devotion, so much greater than mine, something I know I would never be able to summon. People, who have dedicated almost a whole life to this passion.

RMIM gave me confidence. The confidence to be really who I am. To stop trying to fit into the mould of the world that surrounded me. I could finally turn around and tell Vivek Dada, (my brother, who has played a significant role in shaping my personality) that the Finance Times and the intricacies of the business world did not interest me. It could stop being in my list of 'to aspire for' ideals. I could turn around and scorn the aspirational elitists who believed that culture was only about Bhimsen Joshi, Kishori Amonkar, Munshi Premchand and Tagore. No. Culture was as much about Sachin Dev Burman, Lata Mangeshkar, Sahir Ludhianvi and Shailendra. It was here that I realised, one could direct the passion to do something constructive for the medium. More than that it was here I realised how much can be done and still needs to be done for the medium.

It was through RMIM that I made 'internet friends'. People miles away from me physically, yet inextricably bound with the same twines. People who you fight with, debate with, marvel at and yet cannot do without. It is impossible to think of my world without them now.

I can safely say today, that had I not encountered RMIM, I would have been a very different person.

As I head out for the RMIM Meet today, my heart is filled with bitter-sweet feelings. The anticipation of a soul-fest, yet, can it be the same without Satish Uncle?

I will probably get back with my impressions at some point later. For now, I leave you with an old account from the last New Jersey RMIM Meet in 2002. Re-reading it was quite an experience for me. I guess it happens to a lot of us who revisit our writings after a long time. Many a time we don't completely identify with the person who wrote the piece. Sometimes, you feel embarrased at the lack of depth and unevovled writing style, sometimes you feel indulgent towards the naivety in the piece and in some vulnerable moments you mourn it's loss. I had mixed feelings for this piece too. I am sure, if I get down to penning my thoughts about RMIM this time, they are going to have a very different tenor. It might be an interesting exercise to compare and contrast. So much for now.

"So, are you taking mental notes?" Ashok asked me as I sat diligently digging into a particularly delicious lunch. "Mental notes?" I looked at Ashok quizzically." Mental notes for what?". You are supposed to be official meet reporter, he said. Didn't Chetan tell you?. Official Meet Reporter???? I said choking over my more than generous helping of srikhand/puri. Yes, said Ashok with a twinkle in the eye now. I'm sure you must have noted down **all** the relevant activities till now . Noted down **all** (choke) activities????… but but but (me gulping down some water).. Chetan never told me I protested. Never mind says Ashok you can goto people take details and create a report. Ouch! ………Yes, I said bravely, I'm sure I could do that….
And so, I spent the rest of my afternoon thinking of people who could provide me details (write the report for me). After a couple of agonizing hours my friend Madhuraji casually mentioned that Kanchanji was taking notes throughout the meeting. She is the official meet reporter!
Ashok that was not a very kind thing to do to a poor harmless soul enjoying a quiet lunch….. !
So, while we wait for Kanchanji to come out with an official and detailed meet report. Here is an informal account from my memory. Add on guys and put in your two bits too.

The RMIM Meet for me started 5 days before the actual meet as I tried to come up with a quiz I had promised Chetan I would do (why do I leave everything for last minute). So after a sleep starved week, I left office on Friday, picked up dear madsji and her gobhi aaloo (for the potluck dinner in the evening) from her place, headed home and then finally headed out to the hosts Chetan and Purvi's place for the informal get-together. It was close to 10:00 by the time we got there. Obviously everyone was hungry enough to eat us by then :-). Chetan it can be told now… we almost forgot the gobhi aaloo behind !

Anyway, after gulping down a scrumptious dinner (thanks Purvi for keeping us really well-fed with delicious fare throughout the meet) we got down to getting to know the people around. Quite a few people had reached by Friday Satishji and Sarojji, Surjit Singhji and Harmeshji who came all the way from San Diego (we hope you do this every year :-)), Ashok, Sanjeev and Armeen, Ramesh Hariharan(whose wife Radhika unfortunately could not make it. Ramesh tell Radhika we missed her!), the co-hosts for the meet.. Moloy and Kanchan Bannerjee who came from India….isn't that nice? Kumjum and Rajesh and their little daughter Shubangi, Vijay Kumar – ISB, Vijay Kumar –Saigal (sorry guys but can't think of another way to distinguish you :-) , Arunabha and Srinivas Ganti (who formed THE twosome of the evening!) and Abhay Jain (have I missed anyone? Hope not)

The Friday session was marked with the usual music discussions that were followed by a singing session kick-started by our dearest Sarojji with a very cute love song in Hinglish based on the tune of ‘Aie dil hai mushkil jeena yahan'. The singing session was accompanied by little discussions as well alongside. Sanjeev's comment on Hemant Kumar's flamboyant singing had us cracking. While Rajesh's mouth organ rendition of ‘Aie dil hai mushkil' and ‘Hai apna dil to awara' had us tapping our feet. Sanjeev delighted us as usual with his near perfect rendering of a Rafi number. While Ramesh sang a couple of songs for us on karaoke. And Ashok kept our spirits up with his wonderfully timed one-liners. Yours truly and Madhura also took full advantage of the benign crowd and belted out '‘Garjat barasat saawan aayo re'.. and yes.. they were good enough not to belt out tomatoes in response!

We then attempted antakshari with keywords. The first set was ‘Pawan, hawa and bahar' but that did not last too long. The next was ‘Duniya' which had an equally short life.
We finally wound up that night by 1:00 as everyone headed out…

Saturday morning was again marked with the interesting discussions and antectodes. From the SJ-Lata fight to OPN's ghoda gaadi beats lots was discussed. More people like Ami, Ajit, Shashak and his wife arrived.The formal meet started after the DC crowd landed in. The first event was the distribution of the Commemorative CD on Geeta Dutt. This was accompanied by Molloy's account of his meeting with Manna Dey.

The day was followed by a series of quizzes of which the official report would elaborate (I'm bad at remembering details). Notable was Arunabha made his exit before lunch. Hey Arunabha had you come all the way from chicago for a Saturday morning breakfast :-)????.

One of the interesting highlights of the event was Sanjeev and Armeen's very imaginative game based on Fantasy football. They put in a lot of hard work preparing the game and we guys had great fun playing it. Great idea Sanjeev/Armeen. We really enjoyed it.

The high point of the whole evening though was a presentation by Vijay kumar ‘Saigal' . He played for us a few songs of Master Madan and KL Saigal that are very rare to get. I had read about Master Madan in the past but after hearing him I'm speechless. Nothing I say will do justice to the way I felt upon hearing that voice. I still get goose pimples when I think of it. Thanks ever so much Vijay for giving and (the others) an opportunity to experience this tragic phenomenal voice.

Vijay has very generously agreed to put up this extremely valuable resource up as an MP3 and I (and I'm sure the rest of us in the group) are eagerly looking forward to it.
A few highlights of the meet:

- Ramesh Hariharan during the ‘Duniya' antakshari session on Friday. After we sang the song ‘Duniya mein logon ko' he wanted know if it was composed by Bappi Lahiri. Very earnestly he says ‘Isn't it a really BAD song? Has to be Bappi Lahiri!!!! :-D!- RDB supporters you know where to find him!

- Vijay Kumar ‘Saigal' (on how he acquired his rare Saigal songs)……. I went to this meet where everyone was IAS, everyone 100 and everyone wore a safari suit. The performer Mr JC Pandey(IAS) played 2 tanpuras, had wives in the past but now lived with 3 dogs (there were speculations on whether the dogs played the tanpura as well) and singled me out for his affections maybe because I was not 100, not IAS and did not wear a safari suit !!

- Sanjeev/Armeen's quiz

- The greying population in the meet grouped together in one team called the ‘Young lads'.. they had Vijay Kumar ‘Saigal' as the only anomaly in their group who I'm sure after wining and dining with 100 year olds found his teammates to be truly ‘young lads'

- Ketan, Shalini, Ramesh and I formed the deadly Force-UM.. we were potentially unbeatable but…… Ramesh and I watched in wonder as Shalini in a couple of minutes created this long list of singers and MD post 1990s.

- Satishji, Srinivas and two other's initially called their team Srinivas (Ganti's answer to Sanjev's question ‘What is your(team) name' – Srinivas ! ) What did you guys finally call yourselves

- Poor Vijay Kumar ‘ISB' was stuck with a 2 rowdy females(Madhura and Preeti) and 1 controlled one(Kanchanji).. they aptly called their group ‘The losers'

- Any guesses who won???? Yeah ‘THE LOSERS'… though I think they should have had 50 points cut for screeching too much.. Sanjeev are you listening?

- Srinivas Ganti mistaking SD Burman's voice for Rafi!..And over that missing out on identifying most SDB songs in the Musical Potpourri quiz. Ganti…. SDB is going to give you a tough time when you meet him up there :-)!!

- Chetan, (after hearing the Aaram piano prelude) in the quiz.. you've given a longer play time to easy songs and shorter ones to the difficult ones.. which were the difficult ones ‘Ganga aaye kahan se', ‘Diwana mastana hua dil' !!!!

- … Sanjeev's comment ‘Popular songs should make a comeback on RMIM" (particularly relevent after Chetan's above comment)

- After Guri's quiz, where he played a Shamshad Begum number backwards. The general consensous : Shamshad Begum sounds better backwards than forwards. This one was guessed by Saroj Aunty and Harmesh Aunty and Saroj Aunty actually sang another song backwards for us.

Overall, we had a blast for 2 days and one feels sad that the next meet is now a year away. A very big thanks to all the organisers of the event. Chetan and Purvi, you were great hosts. Thanks to everyone who worked on the commemerative CD. I am enjoying myself thoroughly listening to it. And thanks to Malloy and Kanchan for co-hosting the meet.

For the entire thread read here

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Concert Review : In Pursuit of Manna Dey, Part 2

Continuing from In Pursuit of Manna Dey, Part 1 (Preparing for the concert)

The legendary Manna Dey walked onto the stage and took the microphone. "I am very happy to be performing in New Jersey. I will sing whatever you would want to hear, but first I would like to start with some songs of my own choice if you don't mind". He had come straight to the point. No frills and flourishes of showmanship for this legend. His personal style is simple, straighforward and down to earth. The audience did not mind one bit. They gave him a round of applause. [Note: If they had not agreed they were likey to have heard this ]

Mannada walked to his chair and settled in. He first turned to the musicians and pulled them up for the their volume tuning. "Your guitar was drowning her (Zafreen) out. You have to keep the volume low.", The guitarist, embarrassed at this very public rap on the knuckles nodded and smiled sportingly.

Rapping done, Mannada fiddled around with the microphone. Something was not quite right. He motioned for some-one to come up to help. As everyone waited with bated breath, no one turned up. Mannada motioned again, no response. He was getting impatient now. 'Who is in charge of the microphone? Can you please help me?', the voice was brimming with irritation. After a few more minutes of inactivity a young turk, in shimmering red pajamas , matching shirt and hair standing up straight came rushing up onto the stage. And behind him came a whole flock of organisers. Now all of them tried to fiddle around with the mike all at the same time! The old man's temper was rising. The audience was on tenterhooks. There were sure to be fire-works on the stage. (Note: This was the pre-reality show era when all such distractions were not welcomed as the smashing highlights of a program)

However, disaster was averted. Before any such happening, the mike was adjusted to his satisfaction and Dada was all set to sing. He opened his notebook and fiddled around a little more. It seemed something was wrong again. The lights this time. Too strong. Again there was scurrying around. No one quite knew what to do. "Just put the footlights off ", Mannada ordered, "I can't see the notebook and the keyboard player cannot see his keyboard. How do you expect us to perform? A totally mis-managed affair!", he muttered. The audience chuckled in agreement and gave him a short supporting clap.

With the footlights switched off the program finally started. "I will begin with a devotional song written by my good friend Shailendra, for the film Basant Bahar' . The audience gave an anticipatory clap. By now, everyone just wanted him to start. The thing that surprised me though was the normally impatient and irreverent New Jersey audience was quite tolerant of the old man's whims. (Just a couple of months back I had witnessed a performer booed off stage.)

Manna da ran his fingers over the harmonium, hummed a little and took a short alaap and then....stopped.

There was silence. My heart sank. He was completely off-key and out of form.

His off-key alaap was not a cause of my anxiety (I really hadn't expected him to be in top form at 84 years). Deep down I was still scared that the audience would boo him. For a legend of the stature of Manna Dey, I did not want to be witness to it. But Mannada stopped there and muttered "See I am so upset that I have forgotten my own scale! Give me sometime to settle in." He fiddled around with the harmonium for sometime again and then took another alaap. This time round... it was miraculously sweet!!

There was huge round of applause. Manna Dey had just managed to wrap the paisa-vasool New Jersey audience around his little finger. Dada simply raised his hand to quieten the audience and started 'Bhay Bhanjana'.

At this point, I will pause and say that my uncle-next-door impression of Manna Dey has somewhat been altered after this encounter. From amiable and insipid uncle he has morphed into the grumpy grandpa . You know the kind, who tweaks your ears three times a day, shoos you away from playing outside his window and then goes out and brings a huge box of candies for you in the evening? [see pictures below]

Back in the concert- his voice was not the same anymore but still appealing. After two-three songs he paused to say he would sing a song based on UP Folk by the great Naushad and then dived into 'Chundariya katati jaaye re' from 'Mother India'. With his voice all warmed up(and all the things that had upset him earlier, forgotten), Mannada was now in fine form. He navigated the high pitches of the song with an ease one simply would not expect of a singer his age. It was a great rendition. I have always maintained that amongst the male singers Manna Dey has done most justice to folk songs. This rare outing with Naushad definitely counts amongst his finest.

The evening continued with a host of songs which included his trademark classical songs like Phool gendwa na maro, Jhanak tori baaje payaliya all rendered with masterly ease. The audience response was spirited and encouraging. Every time he started a song, the first round of applause was just for the choice. The audience clapped and sang with Dil ka haal sune dilwala which he improvised a lot with alaaps and quick sargam pieces that were delightful. For some songs like Kaun aaya mere man ke dwaare the applause just wouldn't die down. Till Manna Da raised his hand to stop it that is.

When he started Chale jaa rahe hain from Kinare Kinare, Madhura and I were the loudest in our appreciation(and I suspect the only ones!), so much so that he even looked in our direction(atleast we fancied). This off-beat song is one of our common Manna Dey favourites. We were delighted that he made this unusual selection. Manna da did not disappoint us. After he finished Madsji looked at me with a content glow in her eyes "I am satiated. I want nothing more. Hello! I would have thought she would not want anything more after catching a glimpse of her idol in person. Yes? No? Human beings, I conclude, are greedy creatures. Madhura greedy and yours truly, the very human one immediately added.. "I'll be completely satiated if he sings Poocho na kaise maine rain bitayi." But let me admit, the job was half done by the mere selection of this song.

A few songs later, Zafreen was summoned back to sing duets. Again confusion prevailed. There was no chair for her on stage. She, on her part, seemed ready to stand and sing as long as the old man kept his cool , but Manna da's temper was rising again. This time, thankfully the chair materialised before the steam engine blew it's whistle. They proceeded to sing a couple of duets like Shaam dhale jamuna kinare , Yeh raat bheegi bheegi, Aaja sanam madhur chandani , Masti bhara hai samma. Zafreen did a good job.

Once the duets were over. Mannda slipped effortlessly back into grumpy grandpa mode.. "Aap logon ko chai-wai nahin peeni?" he asked. "Bhai itni der se yeh musicians baja rahe hain. Give them a break. We will excuse ourselves for 10 minutes. Aap bhi jaaiye aur chai pee ke aaiye"

[Don't you guys want a tea break? These musicians have been playing for so long, give them a break. We will excuse ourselves for 10 minutes. You also go and get yourself a cup of tea]

Well with marching orders like that, did we have any choice but to disperse for tea?

So tea break it is. The after break session will follow in the next and concluding part.

Read the concluding part here : - 
In Pursuit of Manna Dey (Concluding) - Part 3

Links to some songs mentioned in this piece
Bhay Bhanjana, Vandana Sun Hamari - Film: Basant Bahar, Lyrics:Shailendra, Music:Shankar-Jaikishen
Chundariya Katati Jaaye Re - Film: Mother India, Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni, Music: Naushad (song starts after 1:34 minutes)
Phoolgendwa Na Maro - Film: Dooj Ka Chand, Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi, Music:Roshan
Jhanak Jhanak Tori Baaje - Film : Mere Huzoor, Lyrics: Shailendra, Music; Shankar-Jaikishen
Chale Ja Rahe Hain - Film: Kinare Kinare, Lyrics: Nyaya Sharma, Music: Jaidev

Complete Article

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Civic Sense : Of Budding Brahma Kamals and Blooming Idiots

That we Indians lack civic sense is an old rant. The fact that we are more than aware of this failing is also old discovery. Google 'Civic Sense' and you will see the first page results are all either from Indians or for Indians or about Indians.

Yahoo Answers, the wondrous site that answers all questions from "Who decided that north was up and south was down in the universe?" to "Do you hide your most controversial opinions behind vague and allusive statements?" Gives us an insightful thread of Civic Sense.

[Extracted from Yahoo Answers]

Question(From Ayushi, note an Indian) : What is civic sense?

Answer1 : Knowing better than to buy one. Stay away form Hondas.

Answer 2: (From Sameer, again an Indian) :

civic sense means social ethics.the positive perception, understanding, attitudes, towards society or community. the behaviour between persons and group, civility. principle of society
as the oath said of scout
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight

Answer 3: Its not in reference to a car.. it refers to govt and society

So, notwithstanding, the 'keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight', the great Yahoo Answers more than amply helps demonstrate that we Indians have Civic Sense strong on our radar. (What this does not demonstrate, is besides the point for now - that we Indians have a great 'Civic' sense in matters that are automobile as well!)

The coinage and prevalence of this term is not new. I have distinct memories of mom pulling my ears for dropping a banana peel on the road with 'You should have some civic sense'. My definition of civic sense (based on the various things my mother pulled my ears for) is as follows

1. Do not litter your surroundings
2. Do not pluck flowers in a garden/park
3. Do not leave graffiti on the wall
4. Do not play music loud at night
5. Do not talk on the phone for hours (Ok, that not got much to do with civic sense, but my mom always pulled my ears for that)

Growing up in Delhi, I could add a few more points

6. Do not unburden yourself in public
7. Do not spit in corners. OK spit if you have to but DOT NOT make noises while bringing up the good stuff

We will leave other issues like playing Hawa mein udta jaaye, mera hanuman bajrang bali, jaio ho and other soulful bhajans on loud speakers all night for another day, another rant.

While many mothers must have pulled the ears of their progeny, not everybody is as good a learner as I am (or maybe not all mothers knew how to twist so that it really hurts). Attitudes still prevail and flourish. We are constantly educated about it, yet we take the easy and convenient way out.

How many times have I been the butt of a joke of an entire trekking group, because I insist we do not leave empty water bottles in the wild. A typical conversation follows:

Person X :(in some remote corner of the Himalayas): Isn't this place beautiful. It is like heaven on earth. I wish I could live here forever.
Me: Yeah.....It is out of the world
[Person X chucks empty water bottle on the grass]
Me: Why are you defiling this heaven with this trash?
Person X: Oh come on, don't be such a stiff neck. I cannot carry it with me for the next 5 hours. Everyone does it.
Me: So, that means you should do it too?
Person X: Why be such a tight-ass about it? Even if I don't throw it, someone else will.
Me: Imagine, you will come here 10 years later and everyone thought like you. Instead of the **pristine** valley you shall see a **plastic** valley like you do in Shimla (Mussorie, Joshimath, Nainital... or whichever hill station was our starting point)
Person X: Whatever! (still not picking up the bottle... sometimes a Person Y will pick it up)
Me: Whatever! (picking up the bottle)

In this context, I recall a recent trip to the Valley of Flowers, a remote valley near Badrinath in the Garhwal Himalayas. On the same route lies Hemkund Sahib, a Sikh shrine that attracts a large number of pilgrims. The fact most pilgrimage places are dirty is no news. A devout Hindu takes it for granted that the route to God shall be littered with his own bodily discharges.

Frank Smith, the mountaineer who discovered the Valley of Flowers describes the pilgrimages of the 1920s and 30s in his book. More than 50% people would not complete their yatra because they would contract Cholera from all excreta lying all along the route. Is this a part of the penance of a yatra? I wonder.

Coming back to the present, the surprise is that the Nanda Devi National Park Conservation Committee has taken some steps, employed local hands and the path up to Hemkund Sahib is far more pleasant than Frank Smith's descriptions. All through you see signs 'Yeh Devpath hai, Ise Swachch rakhen' [This is a route to God, please keep it clean]. The happiness and hope one experiences after seeing this success is immediately offset by the sight of an excreta of a different kind.

Walk a couple of steps, and look up. You are sure to spot an outcrop with some graffiti like 'Lucky Singh, Jullandhar', 'Happy was here', 'Hello, How are you', 'Manjit loves Manjit'(Singh and Kaur ofcourse) An example of these droppings in the photograph below (no the creature in the photo did not create the graffiti, he's just posing)

What is this obsession for 'Apni kahani chhod jaa, kuch to nishani chhod jaa'? The constant need for leaving behind something for posterity? Someone please enlighten me.

The base for both the Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib is Ghangharia, a small and neat hamlet at the bifurcation of the path. It is from here that people make day trips to the two destinations. Hemkund Sahib nestles high up next to an alpine lake, over 16000 feet in elevation. At these lofty heights, blooms the wondrous Brahma Kamal, the national flower of Uttarakhand. A rare flower that blooms only in certain regions, the Brahma Kamal needs protection. There is a strong ban on plucking these flowers on the entire route to Hemkund (these flowers actually are only spotted when very close to the shrine). Despite a thick fog and incessant drizzle, on our trek up to the shrine we saw these signs clearly all the way up and into the shrine as well. It is truly a beautiful flower [See Picture Below]

While trekking in the Valley of Flowers our group met up and chatted with many other groups. This is a tale I heard from them.

"We are a big group from Delhi. We are here to visit all the pilgrimages in this area. Hemkund was beautiful yesterday. We had clear skies and could see for miles. Have you heard of the Brahma Kamals? They bloom only in this region. We saw them yesterday. They are beautiful. But you cannot pluck them. You know, it is the month of saawan (monsoons) and one gentleman of our group, poor fellow did not know, so he plucked six (yes six!) of them and offered them at the shrine since it is custom to offers flowers in saawan. Once the prayer ceremony got over, the priests announced on the public address system that a serious offence has been committed. The fine for each flower is 500 Rs. I don't know how they managed to trace the culprit and demanded we pay 3000 Rs. It took us a lot of pacifying to get out of that situation. So be careful don't offer Brahma Kamals at the shrine. They create too many problems otherwise"

My thoughts after hearing the tale were like this

- **They** create problems??

- Good for the priests(and Nanda Devi conservation committee). I am glad they made an issue out of it.

- Bad for the priests (and Nanda Devi conservation committee). Why did they let him go?.

My friend's take on this was - If the fine for plucking one flower is 500 Rs then 6 flowers should amount to 50,000 Rs. The fine should not grow as a linear equation.

My suggestion. Too less. We need to make examples of cases like these. Twist his ears as hard mom twisted yours. Just don't let him go back. Have him stay back in Hemkund sahib plant six Brahma Kamal bulbs on those rocky cliffs. Let him leave only after he has managed to produce six healthy budding Brahma Kamals to show as his exit pass........blooming idiot!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Amar Prem

The new VODAFONE Advertisement
Wherever You Go Our Network Follows

The Bachchan family's exemplary 'Amar' Prem continues to inspire contemporary creativity. Some suggestions to the VodaFone folks on the background song for their new advertisement.

Thanks to Savita for emaling this picture

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Opinion: 'De-Saintising' Politics

There is a marked double standard that all Americans practice when it comes to their public figures. For a society that does not think twice before filing for divorce, isn't it strange that politicians don't have a chance to a public office if they have been divorced?

So, it is official now Obama is the winner of the democratic race. Hillary Clinton heads towards accepting the vice-president nominee slot. A historic bid for the white-house comes to an end (I know not the white-house just as yet, but as intense if not more).

The results don't surprise me. Clinton's tenacity in the last leg does - mildly. Over the frenzy of the democratic race of the past few months one thing has become quite apparent, this historic battle was not purely about race, gender and creed as it was pitched to be. It was as much about the attitudes, aspirations and prejudices that survive and thrive in what is considered by many to be one of the most progressive democracies in the world.

Lets talk of prejudices first. Extensive grass-root survey on why not him? or why not her? has yielded some interesting insight. Mind you, this is not the informed, analytical opinion that rests on the understanding of Obama's excellent speeches or Clinton's impressive track record. This is the 'tabloid fodder' opinion that usually makes or breaks a campaign.

Why Not Him: He is inexperienced. Has no clue of the travails of the white-house. You would not like to wake him up with the 3AM call. His wife is not proud to be an American. He thinks all Pennsylvanians are gun-totting red necks...
Why Not Her: She is manipulative. She is power-hungry. She is will do anything to be president. She stood by her husband despite the Lewinsky Scandal. She preferred to spend mother's day campaigning instead of spending it with her daughter (refer to power hungry). She is as superficial as Aishwarya Rai, her smile does not reach her eyes (our desis have an opinion too :))

Do you see a pattern emerge there? If Clinton was a man, would any one of those points genuinely count? Why is being power hungry considered a sin for a woman and ambition for a man? Why would you blame a woman for standing by her errant husband. Should one not praise the strength of her character? Prejudices are things that laws can only reign in, never fix. So they will remain. What emerges in this case is that in the US it is far easier to be anti-woman than be anti-black.

And that takes me to the second part of my observation on attitudes and aspirations. These attitudes might be prevalent world over, but they emerge very strongly in US politics. There is a marked double standard that all Americans practice when it comes to their public figures. For a society that does not think twice before filing for divorce, isn't it strange that politicians don't have a chance to a public office if they have been divorced?

Bill Clinton was in the dog-house for having an affair while in office. If that was a criteria for losing a job a large chunk of the population world-over would be jobless. OK, so it was not so much about having an affair, but getting caught in the act right? So you are basically impeaching him for being stupid? I am told it's not even that, it's lying under oath. Point taken, but what is more harmful a lie, Clinton declaring under oath that he did not have an affair(normal human reaction for anyone caught with their pants down) or Bush declaring with conviction 'There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq'? Should we have not impeached Bush for not only leading the country on a wild goose chase but also for murdering a country and sacrificing so many American lives in the process? Has he not failed in his job as president as opposed to Clinton whose failure was more personal in nature? To me Clinton deserved a hard knock on the knuckles (mainly for using the white-house for his pursuits, if he had done what he did outside.. none of our business) and Bush impeachment.

If you look around, Clinton was not the only one with a roving eye. JFK had an affair with Marilyn Monroe. Look at the French. They have no problems what-so-ever :). The French ofcourse never had any puritanical pretences but, closer to home in India, Nehru was a known womaniser, but our nation continued to revere him. And the less we say about 'Mahatma' Gandhi's experiments with celibacy the better. Yet, it is Clinton who has made history in this respect. The generation of Americans that turned a blind-eye to JFKs distractions has long given way to the far more demanding modern American. An American who expects his leaders to stand by all those values that he himself discarded long ago.

Which takes me to the moot point of this piece. In this era of specialisations, is it practical for us to expect our politicians and heads of state of be sarv guna samppan- impeccable human beings in all aspects?. We all have human failings. How can we expect our leader to have none? Isn't that too lofty an ideal to aspire for? A man could be a bastard in real life, yet run the country with honesty, integrity and acumen that makes a good president. On the other hand another human being could be the perfect family man, yet be corrupt, ineffectual and weak. A politician's job is to run the country. Period. And as long as he does that job well and keeps to the laws of the land shouldn't we mind our own business?

I know the halo around Obama's head as just got stronger, but now it is the time to remove that halo, to conquer the need for seeking an aura. Time has come to de-saintise politics.

An edited verision of the article resides here :