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The Blood Telegram – Book Review


***** 5 STARS

The Blood Telegram may possibly be one of the most important and well written books I’ve read on modern Indian history so far. As someone who is almost always incurious, indifferent and unenthusiastic about politics (national and world) in general, reading this book has been a revelation on international diplomacy as well as a completely new perspective on the maneuverings that take place in the highest offices of the world, and the decisions that set in motion a series of incidents that alter the future of generations to come.

I’ve read this book like the history student I never was, completely absorbed in the details, wanting to take down notes, watching simultaneous interviews on YouTube (bringing to life the pages of the book) and constantly resisting the urge to underline complete paragraphs on nearly every page in the book. In the end, I had to make an exception to my ‘no markings in books’ rule – to highlight passages that I knew I was going to want to refer to again.

 

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My interest in modern Indian history is a fairly recent development, sprouting in the last couple of years mostly because of the extensive research I did for a project at work. Before this, my world view was limited to what we studied (or were taught) in school, which was nothing short of propaganda that the ruling party wants to feed you, and therefore hardly worth basing lasting opinions on. And so for a long time, reading history was not even on my radar.

It is laughable that up until now, I did not even know that the major part of the 1971 conflict was actually on the eastern side! It is the western side of the war that I’ve always remembered hearing about and being born just over a decade after this war, it is appalling to realize how little I knew about ‘India’s greatest triumph’ and what led to it.

This is why ‘The Blood Telegram’ came as such an important lesson for me on not just the 1971 war and the history of the birth of Bangladesh, but also as a lesson in world politics, the Cold War context, international relations, foreign policy and the hidden motives that define the realms and repercussions of international conflict.¬†

Gary J Bass’ research is detailed and expansive, and while there is always the danger of the author’s opinion coloring the inferences in the narrative, I think he dealt with every aspect as objectively and un-biasedly as is possible, basing all his interpretations and conjectures on hard facts. This is one of the reasons I am so taken by the book, because every fact literally comes from the horse’s mouth.

The one thing this book would not have been possible without, is the Nixon White House Tapes. Another fact that was news to me. I find it hard to believe that in the era of the Cold War, when secrecy and confidentiality were paramount, a US President would decide to have his office bugged and all his conversations and confidential meetings recorded. A tradition that continues to be practiced even today. In the Indian context, I can totally picture the author and his researchers diving into archival records and microfilms at the Nehru Memorial Library – a place I think is frozen in time from the 70s… and one I have spent several blissful days doing my own historical research in. Oh what a pleasure it would have been to be a part of the research team for this book.

In the end, we are ruled by our personalities, our temperaments, identities and insecurities – and I think what hit me most from the book was the interface it provided with Nixon and Kissinger in their revealing closed door conversations. Ultimately, it was their convictions, preferences and personal opinions that largely affected the outcome of the events in 1971, which despite numerous warnings and evident indications did not waver – and set the stage for a continuing conflict between India and Pakistan.

A #highlyrecommended book for anyone who would like objective and detailed insight into one of the largest but forgotten conflicts of the Indian subcontinent.

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Haywire…. a little amiss?


I am wondering, whether the movie gods happen to be totally impressed with my review writing skills ūüėČ or is this just reward for attempting to even write one in the least!!?? I mean hey, this is my third movie in less than a week!! Ok, touch wood , touch wood – I don’t to jinx that track record ūüėõ (also thanks to a very insistent movie buff who is keeping a record of his own – of being 15 minutes late for both the movies he planned)

So anyway,¬† today’s flick was the action packed Haywire – which suited the mood, since I caught it in the nick of time.

A¬† Hollywood favorite storyline. Agents / assassins hired and funded by the US government to bump off inconvenient men. But when money is the central motivator – even class agents are sold out in a wink. Betray your country’s most valuable weapon and you are in for a ruthless battle to the end.

Though it wasn’t a bad watch, far from it infact -I still came away thinking it lacked something. Maybe a meatier plot – more twists ….. more edge of the seat moments…..more guess work……unraveling of a baffling truth……

But, what I liked about the movie were 2 things:

One. The casting of the woman who plays the central character (Mallory) – Gina Carano. A trained “mixed martial arts” fighter was the perfect choice for a movie with brutal, sudden and very real hand to hand action. She is the kind of attractive but deadly woman you want in this kind of a film – something Angelina Jolie isnt able to do in movies like The Tourist, Salt, or even Tomb Raider for that matter. The fight scenes in these films just aren’t that fun to watch…..

Loved the opening scene in the roadside cafe – where the first major fight takes place. Ruthless. And it happens so quickly that once you recover from the suddenness of it, you’re saying “ouch” at every blow the two fighters deliver each other. But at the end of the scene, I had a satisfied smile on my face – saying, now THAT was Well Done!! Phew!!

What made it so good was that Gina Carano can “kick ass”!!!! and very convincingly so. No fragile woman stuff here!! Infact there is a reference in the film where another assassin is warned not to assume that she is a “woman” – as that would be a big mistake.

Two. The way there is minimal dialogue and distraction where it isn’t required. Just pulsing background score to match the movement onscreen. Allows the viewer to sort of be a part of the moment. Like when Mallory is trying to lose the police on her tail – zigzagging, climbing, jumping, running – but there is no hurry in shooting the scene. The director allows her the time to figure it out and the viewer can actually make sense of where she is going and how she intends to make her getaway.

3 big names in the movie – Micheal Douglas, Ewan McGregor and Antonio Banderas – but hardly any screen space so to speak for either. The first 2 didn’t really leave an impression, but I loved Antonio Banderas’ new bearded look – totally dig it! Very real and genuine again – the “not trying too hard” kinda feeling – which is so Banderas – in fact, not trying at all!

But none of them had much time on screen……so maybe that’s where the makers could have capitalized on having these 3 in the film and creating more interesting sub plots.

Channing Tatum is just a side kick to Gina Carano……nothing much to say there.

So there you have it.

I would give it a 3.5/5 just for the 2 main fight sequences and that’s why it is also worth a watch once at least.

Ciao!

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Meeting Abhay Deol…..!!!!


I’m one of those really corny, kind of crazy, star struck people. And if I get the opportunity to meet one of my favorite movie stars, well there’s no stopping me then.

So well, as a complete matter of chance, I got to meet Abhay Deol – someone I totally adore!! I was sweating it out on d – (read: taking a brisk walk in really humid weather), when I got a call from a friend who works for an online Bollywood magazine.

She asked me if I would like to be a part of an event they were organising for a few fans who could meet with Abhay Deol and interact and chat with him. Oh man, i jumped right outta my shoes!!! Of course i was going to go.

The venue was JW Marriot at Juhu. Swanky for sure! Most of us were there on time and Abhay Deol made his entry 45 mins later in true star style.

Well first impressions of seeing him in person:

1. Very Skinny!! Or maybe skinnier than I’d like. I think I would give him stiff competition in an arm wrestling match for sure! But then again, maybe I would give a lotta people competition in a wrestling match ;). Anyhow, what I mean is, he was skinnier than the average male. He could do with some muscle definition (ok I’ll stop at that!).

2. Very Chilled out and down to earth. No airs about being such a popular movie star. Of course, I’m sure he’s used to being a part of many such events and on a much lager scale too, but still, very friendly and forthcoming.

So anyway, we commenced with a round of questions that each one of us could ask him. Most of the questions were centered around his past roles and his forthcoming films and his reasons for being an actor, which he responded to very comfortably. Except, this one guy, who asked him the most ridiculous thing. So here’s what he said:

“I have heard that you are very passionate about girls. WHat do you have to say about that?”

Oh man, you should have seen the colour on Abhay Deol’s face. Turning a deep red and trying to deal with that question with every person’s gaze fixed on him. So after some initial mumbling n fumbling, he tried to put it in perspective for the guy who asked him the question. He said:

“Whether its girls or your work – what matters is, that you do it with passion. If you’re not passionate, it’s not worth it. So that’s whats really important.”

So well, after this tiny blip, the remaining session went on pleasantly. After most of the interactive event was over, we were allowed to get pictures clicked with him and then we were free to leave. There were some reporters from NDTV who wanted to do a short interview with him so we hung around to watch.

I guess it was Abhay’s day to deal with obnoxious questions and comments. So this reporter was referring to his forthcoming film which is supposed to be a love story, and asks him if he’s learnt anything from it – since he¬† can’t hold a relationship for more than a few months himself.

Wow!! That was a pretty offensive statement, and offended Abhay Deol was. But then again he toned it down tactfully and told the reporter that he needn’t answer that since she’d already made her judgments about him and that she seemed to know it all. I don’t think she realised what she said……

Anyway, once that was over, another reporter from NDTV came and requested that some fans sing for Abhay. Of course I wasn’t gonna make that much of a spectacle of myself, had it not been for the friend who took me there with her. Also, being the only ones who stuck around while every other fan had left, we weren’t really given a choice. A guy from my friend’s office was very confident that he wanted to sing, but the reporter pulled us in coz she didn’t want “girl fans” to be missing from the frame and just a guy fan serenading Abhay would have been kinda odd ;).

So we hummed along while that guy sang a song from one of Abhay’s movies. Abhay of course was very amused and kept giving us looks of encouragement so that we didn’t feel like fools as much!

In the end it was all good. We got to chat some tiddy bitty more and laughed around. We even got to take pictures on our cell phones with him. It was all very gracious on his behalf…..especially since we had made the effort to stay and sing. And as he left, there were some more moments of light conversation and laughter and bye byes….leaving us all dreamy-eyed!!!

Here’s my official magazine picture with him. It’s a treasure!!

ūüėõ I’m a sucker for movie stars!! and of course I’ve been quite the show off on Facebook….making it my profile picture and screaming to all my friends that I MET ABHAY DEOL!!! ūüėÄ

Links to the website:

http://www.bollywoodhungama.com/slideshow/2010/05/22/633/index3.html

http://www.bollywoodhungama.com/broadband/video/Parties-and-Events/uaLNFc89/1/Bollywood-Hungama-Meet-N-Greet-With-Abhay-Deol.html

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A Life of my Own!!!


When I think about it, I realise how much I value it. It sums up everything for me. In terms of who I am, what I do, where I go, what/who I encounter, the decisions I make, the actions I execute, the effect I have……on everything and everyone I come in contact with.

I’m at a point in my life where a lot of changes are due but none¬†of them seems to be materialising. No, no, it doesn’t make me sad, not at all…..but it does make me think and thank!!!

Its the time when your peers are movin on, takin the next step, settlin down, basically paving their paths for a future with purpose and meaning. Not that mine doesn’t or isn’t going to have a meaning – just that I dont see it very clearly at this point. I just cant seem to get myself into settling down mode…..:) though hey I do look forward to it.

Anyway, what I really want to put forth is my time in the “Now” – the present. I dont regret it. Infact I’m thankful for it. I’m goin to be in between jobs very soon and that does give me¬†a few jitters of insecurity now n then but it doesn’t unnerve me. And even though one has a bit of a vision of what one wants to do next, it isn’t a piece of cake really to make it happen. Yet, there are so many things about my independent life in Mumbai that I love and cherish that the thought of a change scares me. Gives me the feeling of a profound loss. I feel like I might lose a bit of myself if this is taken away from me……I’ve evolved as an individual here. Grown in so many ways……..become better at some and worse at others but can still tell the difference. Many people change drastically during their independent single lives. I have too. Sometimes even surprised myself :). But I think I would have felt very incomplete had I not done what I did, been where I went……Not exactly the “been there done that” scenario but close, pretty close!!

I love home and I love my family back home, but everytime i’m there I realise more n more how much I value leading life the way I want to. Its not just about basic stuff like timings to go in n out of home, what to or what not to wear etc etc – its so much about the perspectives and the thought process that develops in these two entirely different environments. Its not that I lead a very happening life away from home, I dont, but even then there seem to be so many more aspects to it here than anywhere else. So many things to deal with…….all by myself. Suck it up – face it – get on with it!!! I like that. I like that I’m thrwn into these webs n mazes and have to find my way out. They’re tiny webs but they teach me so much – about myself, my friends, colleagues, people, life…..

I’ve come across so many people who really are leading life like its an inevitability and must be borne and endured until they run out of air, but then there are also those who make me feel like i’m not making the most of mine……so i feel like someone needs to tell the former what they’re missin and lets all learn from the latter.

So basically,¬† I consider myself very lucky and I consider this time to be one of the best years of my life…….come to think of it, it couldn’t get any better – sure there are some hitches n glitches here n there, but then thats the fun part…..coz if there are hard times there are also some very good ones!!!

On that very positive note I put dwn my virtual pen, coz its only in flashes that one realises and considers oneself lucky to be where they are rather than broood over where they’re not…….and the day I forget, well for that day I’m glad I penned it down here as a reminder that even tho it might not be great anymore, I did have some brilliant¬†momemts that nobody could take away from me!!!¬†ūüôā

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Reel Reality


I was watching this movie called “The American President” yesterday, starring Micheal Douglas and Annette Bening. It was a romantic movie bout the president of America who happens to be a widower and its election time and he needs to retain his presidency – but then he falls in love with an environment¬†lobbyist and¬†starts courting her – about which his rival starts making a big fuss and starts questioning¬†the president’s character n all n all. this is usually what gets the american junta all excited and they start pining for traditional american values (whatever those are!!).

So anyway, its the usual typical american flick – where the “hero” charms the “heroine” with his wit, sense of humour and his brains. Not to mention his looks and the fact that he happens to be the president of the most powerful country in the world – making him the most powerful man in the world for the moment.

But¬†my brains were working on an altogether different tangent. I was thinking, well here’s a movie that celebrates the perfect personality of the US president. He’s like the role model for the whole country and maybe for some¬†in the rest of the world too. Not just this movie – look at “Air Force One” for that matter.¬†Harrisson Ford makes a great president too. He smart, intelligent, loves his country and¬†even saves the day for everyone even when his family’s lives¬†are on the line. With that kind of a president,¬†who needs a body guard eh!! But thats not all i’m thinking.

This brought me to think bout the “REAL WORLD” presidents. So who gets inspired by who??? The REAL by the REEL or the REEL by the REAL???¬† I mean take George Bush…..I dont think he is the kind of person who can inspire people, though he could take a few pointers from these movies. Infact with his smalll squinty eyes – i think he’s more of an inspiration¬†for a baby chimpanzee movie. And Bill Clinton, yeah i know i know – ur like he was ok and a decent president too except his¬†lusty prancing arounds – which wouldn’t have been that big a deal had he not¬†been the president of the US of A (exactly!!!!).

But then again i’m digressing. What i was really thinking was……about our very own indian presidents/prime ministers.¬†Yes yes, i couldn’t help drawing out a picture of some of our classic leaders¬†playing the lead in this movie instead of Micheal Douglas. Hehehehe………

But its hard to imagine that – coz i can’t seem to associate them in such a setting. I mean¬†the first descriptive adjective i can think of to describe them is – “old”¬†!!!! And then everything else just follows – like boring, slow, dull ……..blah blah blah………….though there is one¬†exception. Its Mr Kalam. He’s one cool dude. I mean he may be senior by age – but u know he doesn’t gimme those “oldish” vibes. He’s¬†the kinda guy that u can really connect with. I think the one indian leader that could have been¬†in MD’s shoes could have been him.

Its not about the americanism here. Its more about the fact – that our presidents/prime ministers are just normal people with the same problems like everyone else. The only difference is they have the responsibility¬†of looking into the problems of the nation as well (which is heavy, but all the more reason to lighten up)¬†– but that doesn’t mean they should be serious and proper all the time.¬†I mean, they have a life too right!!!¬†I guess what¬†i miss is the “connection”¬†that one desires to have with the person leading their nation.¬†A little bit of human touch can go a long way……all i wanna say to our leaders is – LOOSEN UP!!!¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

But anyway, thats what i think – my grey cells tend to do a few somersaults over the wierdest topics –¬†And come to think of it,¬†if India had a¬†candidate like Micheal Douglas/Harisson Ford running for prime minister –¬†50% of the population¬†would already have been won over (at least in my world !!!) – as always – AINWAYEE!!!¬†¬†

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