Podcasts – Probably my most favourite modern day invention

2017 has been the year of podcasts for me. I don’t know what took me so long to give them a shot but I am so glad I finally did and I haven’t stopped listening since. India still hasn’t developed a culture of listening to podcasts, even though we are a nation of radio listeners, and I don’t think I personally know even five people who live in India and are avid listeners; I can think of only two infact. While I’ve been trying to get some of my friends to at least try it once, I haven’t been successful. The most common thing I hear is that they can’t concentrate on people talking on audio and lose track of the conversation. Most people are only open to listening to music on audio, and I feel so sorry for what they are missing out on.

Podcasts are such a convenient medium to expand knowledge, to be entertained, to get new ideas and learn about things you may never encounter in the course of your normal life. Its like reading many different types of books in a very short time, and in a very effective way. Its an opportunity to use every free minute of your day to learn something new, to be inspired, to grow.

But I was a late bloomer too, and there are two primary reasons my perception about podcasts was a bit askew. First, because in India, I only ever saw podcast options on tech websites, news websites or entertainment websites, none of which interested me enough to try. And second, because mobile internet in India was still evolving – using data was not cheap and I wasn’t sure it was strong enough to buffer the audio; so again, I never tried. Its only since last year that 4G connections have gotten stronger and data much cheaper.

So earlier this year, as I was exchanging stories with a friend about true crime shows (mostly OJ Simpson: Made in America, which is such a brilliant documentary and a must-watch), he made some recommendations of podcasts with similar themes that I might enjoy too. Till then, I had no idea about the nature of content being produced on podcasts around the world!

And this brought me to my first ever podcast Serial , which tells a true story, over the course of one season – 12 episodes. Oh what a start it was! The research was amazing, the narration was awesome – the whole production was brilliant. I don’t think I would have loved a visual version as much as I loved it on audio. If you’re a podcast sceptic, this is where you should start. It even won the Pea Body Award for journalism in 2014! I was hooked, I was consumed and I never looked back since. I started listening on a Saturday and I think I finished the entire first season (12+ hours of audio) by the end of Sunday. And then I finished the second season, which was another amazing story, before the week was over. Binge listening is a thing!

As I frantically looked for more content, I discovered this whole new universe of some of the most interesting and well produced podcasts. There is rarely a silent moment in my apartment now, whether I’m washing the dishes, cooking, cleaning or getting dressed for work, something is always playing. And you know what, I am super productive and efficient when I work as I listen. I’m even motivated to exercise if I can do it listening to a podcast.

While true crime stories are awesome, there are also some super interesting podcasts that cover otherwise heavy subjects like economics, politics, analytics, human behaviour, self improvement, motivation, history and psychology, and much more, that I’m sure I haven’t even discovered yet. And you know what the best part is? Its completely FREE! You do not have to pay to listen! Imagine getting to listen to all this amazing stuff at zero cost! The only thing you pay for is your internet / data use, which works just like any other streaming service, like Youtube. Just download an app (I use Podcast Addict – I feel like it was made for me :-)), search your podcast by title, hit subscribe and listen to your heart’s content! OR got to the podcast website and stream from there.

The only thing that I wish I would find more of are Indian podcasts, as well produced and as well narrated as the (mostly) American ones. Because while I absolutely love those, the context is completely American (obviously), and not always relevant for an Indian listener – especially when it is historical or legal in nature. I would absolutely love to hear similar stories from India’s rich legal and social history, I’d do anything to be a part of the research!

So before I close, here’s a list of some podcasts and their genres that I’ve heard extensively, loved and highly highly recommend (in no particular order):

  • Serial – True crime / investigative journalism
  • Freakonomics Radio – Economics / analysis – exploring the hidden side of everyday life
  • RadioLab – Curiosity / science / philosophy / history / human experience
  • My Dad Wrote a Porno – humour – if you don’t want to start with something serious, then this is the perfect way to start your podcast journey. Its British and its hilarious! Imagine if your dad wrote a dirty book. Most people would try to ignore it – but not Jamie Morton. Instead, he decided to read it to the world in this groundbreaking comedy podcast. With the help of his best mates, James Cooper and Alice Levine, Jamie reads a chapter a week and discovers more about his father than he ever bargained for. It was my favourite podcast to listen on my way home from work, sadly I’ve finished the third book and the next one comes out next year.
  • TED Radio Hour – TED talks repurposed for audio

Though I’ve listened to a lot more than this (including several from India), there have been a fair share of hits and misses. Of the Indian ones, I only liked The Intersection podcast recommended to me by RadioLab on twitter. But their episodes, though interesting, are just 15 minutes each and I haven’t seen them update feed since April this year.

Some new ones I’m looking forward to include Invisibilia, CRIMINAL, The WIRED podcast and The Anthill. I think I’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg here, so I’d love to hear suggestions on other interesting podcasts that you think I should try!

Happy listening!


Why I’m Still Rooting for Blackberry

Most people I know have written off the BlackBerry. In fact, its more than most people, its nearly everyone.

When people at work (and for that matter at home) see me using my BlackBerry phone (the Z30), its like a novel experience for them to watch someone use what they believe is probably the biggest failure in mobile technology today. The most natural reaction is generally the “but why” reaction. But why must you be using a BlackBerry when there are so many great Android / Apple options!? But why must anyone be using a BlackBerry at all, isn’t the company closing down?

So, while earlier I used to try and defend why I continued to be a BlackBerry user for the past 6 years, I’ve simply stopped doing it anymore. And that’s because until one actually uses a BlackBerry that runs the BB10 OS – which I have been using for the past 4 years, I don’t think they can fully appreciate why some BlackBerry loyals aren’t giving up on it just yet.

BlackBerry released the BB10 OS in 2013 taking a leap from its BB6 version, which everyone said was a desperate attempt at bringing itself at par with Android and iOS. And maybe it was,  an attempt to re-imagine and re-position the BlackBerry on an equal operating plane.

But consider what BlackBerry did with BB 10. It actually innovated! And it out innovated Apple as well as Android.If we leave the app world factor out, BlackBerry actually delivered a much more sophisticated, productive, thought through and streamlined operating system. The Hub, which is the central feature of the BB 10 operating system, is such a simple, efficient and practical solution that I cannot imagine functioning without it. It is immediately intuitive, integrating all notifications from SMS and emails, to social media and instant messaging. I never have to actually enter the Gmail, Twitter or Whatsapp apps to check and respond to my messages, which if you think about it, is a huge convenience.

BlackBerry Flow – gesture control. When I first started using a BB10 device, it took me about a week to get used to having no home, menu or back buttons on the phone. But pretty soon, I realized what a blessing gesture control was! True to its name, BlackBerry Flow allows you to run apps side by side; you can hop from one to the other without losing any content or progress and pickup exactly where you left off without having to exit and enter apps repeatedly. Try doing that on the iOS or an Android, and tell me if it isn’t super annoying to constantly get in and get out of every app you’re using. With Flow, BlackBerry nailed navigation. It is the single most fluid operating system and interface I have experienced across devices – and I’ve used both iOS and Android.

Don’t they call Blackberry the king of the keyboard? Yes they do, and for good reason. Whether its the touch keypad or the iconic physical keyboard, BlackBerry knows what its doing and is hands down the king of keyboard design, so lets not even get into that.

And finally, the handsets. BlackBerry launched a whole new generation of handsets when it released the BB10 OS. And while some of these had a bumpy start, almost every flagship device won accolades for its design and performance. In 2014, the BlackBerry Z30 won gold in the ‘Consumer Product of the Year’ category at the Best in Biz Awards 2014 International. The same year, it also won the WIRED’s CES Smartphone Thunderdome Challenge with a 110 point lead on Apple in the second place (hah!). CES is a global consumer electronics and consumer technology tradeshow that takes place every January in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 2015 the BlackBerry Passport won the Red Dot ‘Best of the Best’ Award for Product Design – I could start gushing endlessly about this device, so just go and read what the jury had to say about it here. And in 2016, the BlackBerry Priv won it again.

My only regret would be to miss out on the BlackBerry Passport, which was going to be my next device – and that too only because it wont get Whatsapp support, which I use extensively like everyone else. But for more reasons than that, Blackberry shouldn’t let this premier device slip through the cracks, and I can only hope they bring an Android integrated version on it too.

So yes, I have more than “some” hope in BlackBerry’s revival and I am waiting to see what they bring out next!

Featured image: 4hdwallpapers

MSG2 – Done n Dusted!

So I’ve been meaning to write this post since Sunday, two days ago. But mostly I’ve been struggling with the decision to write it at all. You see, this post was supposed to be about my amusing and somewhat unique experience of watching MSG2, the second installment from self-proclaimed saint and human GurmeetRamRahimSinghJi Insan’s pool of film making talent. And now, after watching and enduring the movie, and having survived to tell the tale, every time I thought about writing it down, words failed me. I guess I was pressurizing myself too much into writing what I thought would be a movie review. But I now realize that there is no reason for me to bind my thoughts so, and therefore I shall only write it like the cerebral experience it was.

To be fair, I won’t deny how much I anticipated the release of this movie. Over the last few months, or rather, since being part of a crazily themed birthday party, where the birthday boy played the said ‘human’ (read insan), the movie and the god man have become a bit of an obsession. Emulating these god men / women was a real eye opener on how much fun it really was, having people gawk at you in awe (or horror) and basically dress up, dance and be showered with flowers. We took ourselves quite seriously and much preparation went into getting ourselves in character – leading to a rediscovery of MSG1 and its exquisitely composed music. While I won’t go into the details of the original soundtrack here, an honorary mention of the song ‘Daru ko Goli Maro’ (Shoot down the alcohol) is due. Quite possibly the most ‘singular’ song I have ever heard, I believe no one and no one but the ‘human’ in question can sing it in the same tune and tone. Do take a listen some time, and make sure you also have the lyrics handy for a fuller and more complete experience.

So anyway, coming back to MSG2, we were booked in advance with great last row seats in one of the first PVRs of south Delhi. We got there, bought our cola, pop and sandwiches and found our seats in the ever filling auditorium, all set for the show to begin. And what a show it was. From the ever increasing crowd that kept pouring in; to a stylish credits opening with a familiar sounding, though unidentifiable, catchy EDM* track; to the vaguest movie plot ever; to flashing beads and fabric and rhine stone studded head gear; to hair, lots of hair; to color changing tribals that needed converting from ‘animalness’ to ‘humanness’ if you please; to bad dialogue and worse character names; and to some very very second-rate VFX – I came away with a buzzing head and a complex physical, intellectual and psychological blend of experiences. I don’t exaggerate, I actually got goosebumps a few times.

The purpose of the film, as is evident from the previous one, was to – create, disseminate and propagate. And a seemingly effective means of propaganda it was, if one is go by the rapt attention with which the audience watched, cheered and clapped. Many times through the movie I would look around to get feedback on how people were responding, and was amazed to see how they watched with bated breath as the ‘human of humans’ took on tribes and army factions single-handedly. Always emerging undefeated and unscathed from these over the top long drawn conflicts,with not a single hair from his beard or updo going astray – he clearly has set the bar high for even Rajnikant.

The means to achieve this propagandized objective was a bizarre movie plot, completely lacking logic or common sense – that centered around bettering the world by converting tribals into humans – because obviously as meat eating, scantily clad, mahua drinking, dark skinned, muddy looking people, they fell very short of qualifying the civilized human index. So the ‘human of humans’, as a favour to all mankind, took it upon himself to humanize the tribals with love and affection, a few life lessons here and there, and some bizarre acts of bravery that included saving a child from a digitized elephant. But wait! The transformation was not yet complete. As the thankful tribals start dancing in his honour, he stops them mid-song and says that a proper human is one who is dressed modestly. He then orders his minions to catch the tribals and make them wear ‘tailored human’ clothes to be truly called humans. And so in an extremely weird and patronizing sequence of events, the tribals are chased, caught, nail clipped and hosed down to then emerge not only in colourful clothes but also with skin tones five times fairer than their orignal one – all while comic music plays in the background. And then ofcourse the song resumes and as the new ‘humans’ dance their clothes eveolve as well – from ghargra choli and dhoti to salwar kameez and kurta pajama to a long maxi dress and pant-shirts.

I shuddered at this particular sequence in the film for the deprecating and degrading manner in which such a perception about tribal communities was portrayed –  as unclean, unaaceptable and inferior beings. And seeing that literally 98% of the audience in that theater was poorly educated or under-sensitized and unaware about tribals and their lives, I feel they all went back home with a completely screwed up image of them. So good riddance that the film was banned in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and while the censor board did pass the film, it really shouldn’t have, for projecting the indigenous, legitimate and very equal tribal citizens of India in such a  demeaning and insensitive manner.

But as all this takes place we’re only halfway through the movie. What next one wonders? He’s sorted the tribals, what now? Ofcourse there is a bigger, badder, meaner tribal head to deal with, whose love story is yet another masterpiece. This guy is called ‘Ajgar’ – The Python, named so becasue he played with pythons as a kid. His wife ‘Chabuki’ also gets her name from a childhood habit – bullying other kids with her hunter (chabuk) and growing up to lash men who couldn’t live up to her expectations of a mate. When Ajgar confronts her at a tribal fair, she challenges him to a mahua drinking match and when he beats her at drinking a whole potful, she declares that she has found the one. And of course, we cut to a dream song sequence where this newly in love couple is dressed in very western clothes, dancing to the undecipherable singing of the all rounder ‘human of humans’ and basically all logic has taken a back seat by now.

Anyway, the rest is not of much consequence. This tribal too is brought into line, set on the right path – and while that is in process, the ‘human of humans’ also takes the opportunity to further establish his credibility by inserting information about his lineage – going as far as even depicting Maharaja Ranjit Singh as a spitting image of himself, to Guru Gobind’s armies and some such. Basically blue blood, warrior blood, and the works. There is more still, a prolonged and repetitive action scene on a man made mud hill, but it ends as expected with the final enemy, the local politician, getting kicked in the butt and all is well for humans again.

To conclude, MSG2 – supposedly a big improvement on MSG1, is essentially a B grade Hindi film at its core. And had it not been written, produced, acted, directed, sung and composed by the one man army that the ‘humanly saint’ is, it would have never seen a theater release or garnered the cult status for the likes of me. So I guess there is either a very smart marketing case study or a purely monetary one  in there that should be worth exploring, in addition to being a very interesting opportunity for psychoanalysis.

I cannot sign off without acknowledging that the movie and the associated overarching personality have been a huge source of ‘happiness’ and entertainment for me and my brethren – and if you allow your mind that freedom too, then it is sure to bring you the joy it did me 😉 Try.

*electronic dance music

Mrs Funnybones – Book review and a few thoughts

So I just finished Mrs Funnybones today. Infact, I started it this morning and proudly share that I finished it in less than 24 hours too. Which isn’t as great as it may sound, even though I had a full n busy day at work and only allowed myself to read in the metro to work, at lunch, in the metro home and after a much despised 30 minutes of exercise.

That is because at 235 pages, size 12 font, 1.5 line spacing and very broad margins, it really wasn’t something even the slowest reader would have trouble finishing in a few hours. And that makes Mrs Funnybones a perfect read for a two hour flight for an average reader like me. The book was also just the solution for a prolonged ‘reader’s block’ (yes, that is something I experience from time to time and is a perfectly valid condition) that I had been suffering from for nearly two months! And so for that I must thank Mrs Funnybones herself.

As I read this book, which is really a blip of an insight into Twinkle Khanna’s charmed life, I can’t help but have a few contradictory thoughts on how I feel about her writing. While every review I read is appreciating her self deprecating nature and her manner of presenting everything in a sarcastically light hearted way, there were several instances that made me feel that she was being quite condescending towards common folk. Maybe elitist would be the right word here. For instance she talks about an expo /trade fair that she participates in, where some other participants come and introduce themselves in bad English, and how she decides to wrap things up and get home ASAP before she needs to admit herself to a mental asylum. That just wasn’t a section of writing that agreed with me. But then maybe that’s the honesty everyone is talking about?

While I’m not trying to diss the book in anyway, I’m not sure what I really liked about it. Ofcourse, there was the surmounting curiosity about not only getting a peek into a star wife’s life but also about how she puts it across in the witty n funny ways that I was reading about everywhere. Twinkle Khanna is definitely a smart, witty, intelligent and very well read person. The book shows that and anyone who reads her columns would see that too. But there isn’t a lot of depth to remember the book by, and maybe because my world is so different from hers, as would be of most people who read it, I don’t find that connect that makes me go, oh yes!

So it got me thinking, had this book been written by a not so famous person would it still be so well received? I think maybe not, because it is that very reason that makes the idea of the book so interesting. Some of the jokes were not so original, you can predict ends of sentences; and the repeated use of the word ‘blimey’ didn’t lend to the funniness either, though I  do understand how she meant to use it at the end of every little mishap that happened on her day.

In essence what I liked was maybe her approach to life, where an irritating situation had something funny to it too. I came away with a picture of a privileged life, bustling with activity, the perks of being a star wife of a very successful actor, loads of travel and the added but natural responsibilities of raising children – which all together built this comfortable alluring world that does look ideal when there is humor and a daft joke thrown in now n then. And therefore, when Vogue calls it ‘fashionable’, I totally understand why.

Jab tak thi jaan………

What happens when you watch the 10:30 pm show of a movie like this ?? – – – – it ends in hysteria and headache!

But you see, I had to watch the movie, I just had to. And what it confirmed was, my absolute and accurate prediction – that it was going to be exactly as bad as it was! So yay!

But, what I have a problem with is not the underlying basic story / concept of undying love, rather how it was portrayed in the film.

I mean, what is it with movies like this that try and place its characters in a near real modern day setting and then make the same characters larger than life in a manner that one cannot even remotely relate to them….?
Take Shah Rukh Khan for example. He is 47 and plays a 25 year old for half the movie. I think even Hrithik Roshan will not be able to pass for a 25 year old anymore. So i ask WHY? Its not convincing, it doesn’t fit and it just interferes with the viewer’s movie experience. What’s the point if we have to do all the imagination!

Unless maybe you are as attentive to detail as Aamir Khan, who being as old as SRK, managed to play an engineering student with such conviction that everyone applauded the effort. I mean right from his look, to his demeanor, to his acting – – everything lent so well to the brilliant story that it was. I know, I know – AK and SRK are poles apart and have very different cinematic personalities, but, they are both still actors and the underlying premise for both remains the same, no matter what roles they do.

And its not that SRK can’t act, or can’t portray a character perfectly. Swades / Chak de India are two of his most brilliant films. But it seems like his superstar image is always overshadowing the character he plays and that really kills it.

Ok, so about the movie then. It was too predictable. There were too many signature SRK scenes (walking away with backpack especially, which seems to weigh nothing) that looked like I had seen them before.

Katrina Kaif wasn’t so bad, but that’s about it. Ofcourse, she has a fabulous wardrobe.

Anushka Sharma is overdoing her “young / tomboyish / oh i’ve been there done that / super cool dilli girl / enthusiasm pumped to the core / fallen in love and reformed” role. She should stop. Before it ends up in overkill. Also, her character is a little irritating – and I don’t understand how a 38 year old man can be interested in the 21 year old girl who has brains not enough to figure that when you jump in a lake somewhere in Ladakh, the water is bound to be icy!

Also, one would think that maybe it was high time that the movie makers got the “army” angle correct. But no, they must still use it only to portray the macho-ism of their hero. After all, woh hero hai bhai! Woh apne desh ke liye thodi lad raha tha…..woh to Sir Jesus ko challenge karne ke liye bharti hua tha.

And that brings me to my next question – usko bharti kisne kiya? The man did not know english, most likely had an interrupted education (which is why he was working multiple odd job shifts in London, else his multi millionaire girlfriend could have given him an office job..no?), was 25 when he saw Katrina Kaif and fell in love,  28 when he returned to India – – so how did he get into the army?? On the one month speed english course his girlfriend gave him??

All I ask for is a little authenticity.

Sigh….it wasn’t over until it was over…….jab tak thi jaan, jab tak thi jaan…..

Reading about the history of the Sikhs

Ever since I was a child, I have seen a lot of emphasis being laid on the faith I was born in (as I am sure every child is). This emphasis of course comes from within the family who always imbibed in the children the importance of respecting one’s faith and following certain traditions. While there were no issues with the respect part of it, for me, it was the traditions that were hard to follow.

Till I was young enough and not bothered about the “whys”, “whats” and “whos” of my faith, it didn’t really matter why we did the things we did, or dressed the way we did. But as I grew older and started questioning things in my head – I realised that a lot of it did not make sense to me. For me it was a ritual to be learnt by heart and then to be acted upon. It was the “done” thing.

So naturally – I felt like it was being forced on me and my reactions to it became rather stubborn. I would go through the motions but only so that they were done and over with. Never understood a word of the hymns and prayers that I heard at a Gurudwara – hence never really connected to the concept of God through a visit to a place of worship or through the singing of hymns. We also never had a conversation about God and why this is how we worshipped him (or that it was ok to not have to workship him this way) – it was more like an instruction and code of conduct that one had to follow and do it sincerely too.

I think when you are a teenager, rebellion comes as a biological side-effect – – and I almost started detesting the idea of God. Most references to God were either in terms of a reward if you were good and punishment if you were bad or forced prayer, which did not sit well with me at all! My whole problem was that who is this “God” person and why am I pushed to hold him in such awe! Took a while for me to make the connect 😉

But I got a little wiser as I grew up 🙂 and discovered or figured out my own communication and relationship with God, which was a bit of a relief since I had also passed through this utterly confused phase of wondering if was a non believer even.

Since that was sorted – – what remained was my absolute lack of knowledge about my “community”. I had never been concerned about where I belonged and what our history was – – which led to an attitude of complete ignorance from the knowledge point of view as well.

I think my biggest fear of not asking to be told about our history was the idea of being preached rather than being imparted with knowledge. Also about only getting a peppered and somewhat one-sided view of incidents and persons – – or maybe because no one knew the whole thing from beginning to end to be able to put it into perspective for me.

What I was looking for was purely historical background. The facts. And that is where this book came in – – A History of the Sikhs by Khushwant Singh. Some people were surprised to see me read it – – and thought I finally realised what I had been avoiding all this time. But this was not the reason as I have stated above, but more the need to get the picture straight in the historical perspective.

I just finished the first volume which spans from the emergence of Sikhism to the end of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (while reading I realised how little or nothing I knew about this man and why he was such an important figure in the history of India as well. Gladly, now I do know his significance.)

Though it will take me a while to get the sequence of events and successions correctly committed to memory – the book explains very well the course of events that took place and the influences that led them to be. The author has left no gaps in cross confirming every piece of information shared through various texts, scriptures and writings of the time to convey the most accurate details possible. Written in a very text book fashion – there was a point in the book when I was overwhelmed by the number of battles that took place during the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. But overall it helps to give a picture of how the British was then begining to inch their way into India.

After reading about the period that was the rise and establishment of the Sikhs – I realise that though it came into being through the preachings of Guru Nanak and was carried forward by the following 9 Gurus – it was the people who chose to follow or convert to this faith and accept it. And as the years passed, they evolved as any other community would have and responded to what the situation demanded at that point in time – whether is was by conduct, physical appearance or ethics and beliefs.

Ethical failure OR Unethical Triumph!

Just when we thought that here was a show that was going to be or already was about the real issues, was honest and well researched – there is a revelation that makes the whole thing come crashing down.

Satyamev Jayate – much awaited and publicized, produced by one of the most accomplished and “perfectionist” artists in the country – everyone had huge expectations along with  a good bit of curiosity about the show.

The issues this show brought up had never been addressed at a scale such as prime time national television. Especially in the kind of Indian society where we tend to close our eyes, ears and senses towards anything adverse that does not affect us directly. We choose to ignore what happens around us until it doesn’t rattle a good night’s sleep. The sense of community that has so fast dwindled, is now being given a wake up call through this show – – that puts an issue out there and talks about facts.

I was a fan from day one of the show being aired. I thought everything the show brought up was of relevance. While many expected every episode to have a heart wrenching, tear jerking subject – there were other not so emotional but equally important subjects that were dealt with and brought up. I also agree with the format of the show that not only showed the down side of the situation or subject in question but also brought out survival and success stories that become a living example for people to emulate.

It is definitely uplifting and encouraging to see live examples of people breaking through barriers of society, health, disability, etc. I think it is commendable that the show puts in the effort to find and bring such examples from remote parts of India – many of them well accomplished but unheard of.

But, an article I read in the Outlook (http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?281646) really put a dent in my opinion of the show and how highly I thought about it. Wont go into much detail as the article talks about a couple of examples and one realizes that at the end of the day its all “showbusiness”. Especially striking is the Kaushal Panwar story / interview that was shot in an empty studio without any audience – and yet you see audience reactions on the show – and this has been twice confirmed . Also the bit about Bezwada Wilson, whose weeping face I cant seem to wipe out of memory.

Reminds me of the ads that used to run before the show started, when Aamir Khan is shown talking to his team presumably that its important that the janta gets emotional and angry when they watch the show – and thinking back to those now, it translates into how much a show can be prefabricated.

Anyway – – there is a huge amount of disappointment after the knowledge of these revelations. It has sadly also marred my liking and respect for one of the most thorough and  talented people from the film fraternity – there is a sense of having been cheated.

I think it is “unethical” of him to control the show in such a manner – since it addresses the nation and actually can have a very deep and positive impact on its viewers – as I think it was having on me – but after the knowledge of how the show is edited and put forth for the larger audience, I am going to be a little wary every time AK sheds a tear and will be a little cynical every time he dispenses the “what should be done / what is the right thing” advice.

I want…..

A place of my own

A snazzy little phone;

A cute little pup

To lift my spirits up;

A great book to read

That is just what I need;

To own my time

To feel sublime;

To gaze at the stars

That feel so afar;

To not feel like – nothing is in my power

To climb to the top – of life’s every high tower;

To still feel grounded

And yet well rounded;

To live a life of fun

and not by the gun;

To see that i am free

of every decree;

To be an entity

with an i-dentity;

To let life freely flow

And make every moment glow;

To catch the subtle hues

in the life that one pursues;

To be truly who I am

and never give a damn!


My first poem – the result of a random moment of concentrated inspiration…. 🙂

City of Djinns : Enchanting Delhi :)

City of Djinns: A Year in DelhiCity of Djinns: A Year in Delhi by William Dalrymple

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an absolutely enchanting introduction to Delhi – the city I have spent close to 6 years in and I now know of the layers of history that lie silently, waiting to be rediscovered and revisited.

The book comes to me at a time when I couldn’t have appreciated it more. Also a chance to see most of it come alive as I explore the ruins, relics and realms that it has to offer.
Even though the book was written 20 years ago – a lot from it remains relevant and thankfully existent to this day.
So many facts, places and events that one had not even heard of came to light – many of them important in shaping the future of the Delhis that came and went.

Spanning across ancient Delhi, medieval Delhi, to Mughal Delhi, British Delhi and Modern Delhi – the book is a mysterious delight of intertwining stories, instances and explorations – that made me feel like I was there with Mr Dalrymple listening to all the people who shared its secrets and forgotten tales. Though it is the unsystematic storytelling that makes the book such a great read.
Why aren’t history books written like this?? I would certainly have taken up being a historian as a profession.

Lucky to be living in the “google” age – I left nothing that could be encountered, experienced or visited virtually.
I know that I will look at Delhi in a different light after this book and it will always have a certain something that needs to be explored. The explorations are already underway 🙂

A must read for anyone who has lived here and everyone who hasn’t!

Update: Two weeks after I had finished reading the book, I happened to take on a photography assignment for a travel company. They wanted me to cover Delhi and take pictures of places that were historically significant / interesting but not the usual tourist spots. When I saw the list of sites they wanted covered I couldn’t believe my luck. Almost every site on the list was something I had read about in the City Of Djinns.

From the Mutiny Memorial in the ridge area to St. James Church in Kashmere Gate to the Ashoka Pillar in Feroz Shah Kotla and Bahadur Shah Zafar’s abandoned ‘haveli’ in Mehrauli… visiting these sites in person filled me with awe and wonder, I don’t think I would have had a better chance to re-experience the history I read in the book.

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The Help – book & movie review :)

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has been a different experience for me. Especially since I started reading it around 7 pm last evening after I got back from work and stayed up till 4 in the morning reading and watching the movie simultaneously.
The sequence was something like: Read – Eat Dinner – Read – Watch first 30 mins of movie – Pause – Read a 100 pages – Watch the next 1 hour of the movie – Pause Read another 50 – Finally finish the movie 🙂
Totally worth it for some strange reason – the only mistake i made was doing this on a thursday night with a full work day ahead of me rather than wait another day to do it !

Anyway, coming to the book and why i liked it so much. I think it is a well told but sad and heartening tale about how the color of skin can rule the minds of people. I dont have too much knowledge about the condition of the African-American people in Jackson in the 1960s but a fair bit enough to understand the hypocrisy of the white people in discriminating against them and very vociferously so.

On the one hand there were segregations in every aspect (based on the Jim Crow Laws) – like eating at the same table as a colored person, using the same toilets (believing that the colored people had a different set of diseases), drinking from the same water fountain, there were even separate libraries, schools and colleges. All in the name of the “separate but equal” concept.
And yet, the white households couldn’t have functioned without their colored help. From cleaning their homes, to preparing their meals, to raising their children…. to being a a support for a dysfunctional family…..

I guess the book brings this out very well.

References to real life facts from that period also put things in perspective very well to understand the situation and environment during that time.
Like the Medgar Evers (civil rights leader) assassination in 1963 by Byron de la Beckwith, a White Citizen’s Council member. Beckwith underwent 3 trials for the murder, of which the first 2 trials resulted in hung juries and he was only convicted 30 years later in 1994 – which says a lot about the level of white supremacist activities that continued against the African Americans for a long time to come.
But this is just one such example and the little bit of reading on this has led me to the movie “Ghosts of Mississippi” – which is based on the courtroom trial of Beckwith in 1994 – which i will be watching soon enough.

Talking of which, i must say that The Help (movie) is very well made too. A movie can never be as good as the book but it sure is fun to watch real live characters from the book on screen. I have to say that Aibileen was my favorite in the book and and in the movie too.

I think this book should be read just to understand how discrimination on any ground – color/religion/region – is such a sad thing – since the other person is also just another person like you or me 🙂 and the color of the skin is superficial only.

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