Showing posts from 2008

Apathetic Government

I don't know whether apathy or pathetic-ness is a better way to describe the attitude of the government to the gruesome event last week in Mumbai. This is a government that has raised inaction and incapability to a new high. From the time that the attacks till almost a full day later, no official spokesperson from the government appeared on national television to inform India's citizens of what was going on, what was being done and what the citizens should be doing, how they could help. And what we got after the day's wait was a low-voiced mumble reading out a speech which made the words "We are not prepared to countenance a situation in which the safety and security of our citizens can be violated with impunity by terrorists" sound less threatening than my daughter's threat of 'Chandamama tumhare sar be broke doonga' ( I'll break the moon over your head.

Nobody from the powers-that-think-they-be thought that there was a need to control and direct …

The Resignation of Despair

There was a proverb that said every dark cloud has a silver lining. I can’t think of one to the Mumbai attack by terrorists, can you? The only thing that the attack has done for India is to rip the mask off from the faces of our politicians and shown them up for the scheming, soulless, power and publicity-hungry creatures that they are. To my mind, they are far, far worse than terrorists who at least have the mitigating factor of believing so strongly in their cause that they are willing to sacrifice their own lives for it. Politicians on the other hand believe in no cause, no value and no ethic apart from the ones of money, power and self-aggrandizement.

It is absolutely foul to see Mumbai plastered with hoardings by each political party in praise of the three police chiefs who died. The same parties which bayed for their blood when they performed their jobs in a way the party did not like are now trying to benefit even from their deaths by indulging in a gross game of friendlier-than…

Hospital Review

So Bojjandi was born in one of Delhi's new and privately run, posh hospitals - the kind that try and create the ambience of a 5-star hotel as opposed to antiseptic warehouse. Vir Sanghvi, the bon vivant, had recently written about the ways in which 5 star hotels gouge their clients. I mean, that pack of Lays Chips isn't going to taste any more gourmet because you consumed it in the hallowed portals of the Oberoi and paid Rs. 100 for the privilege, instead of buying it for Rs. 10 from the neighbourhood kirana store. But I think 5 star hotels come off as innocents compared to these new-fangled hospitals.

We'd asked for a single room when we did the pre-admission procedure at the hospital. Of course, when we arrived at the hospital on the due date, they said the single room we had opted for was unavailable. In fact, the process of figuring out which room was available was annoying - the guy would look up room numbers which seemed vacant, then call the head nurse and check and …
My present domestic help is far from being the only Suppandi I have come across, and some of the stories are too good not to share. Years back, at my office, we had a security guard named Pyarey Lal. A thin, weedy-looking specimen with reedy voice to match.

Once one of the girls in office had complained that the cab driver had tried to act fresh when he dropped her home late at night from work. So the head of the office issued a diktat that if any girl worked later than 8 p.m., one of the security guards would escort her home in the cab. One night, I was working till about 3 a.m. editing a film. It being winter, the night was bitterly dark by the time I finished work so I called up the guard from the studio and told him he'd have to drop me home. Of course, with my luck, the guard on duty was Pyarey Lal.
"Who said I have to drop you home?"
"The head of the office"
"How far is your place?"
"Half an hour"
"Goodness gracious, you expect me to tr…

Low Cost Labour?

India's economy has been cruising for the past several years with the ITES sector on overdrive all due to the abundant availability of trained 'low cost labour'. And India's demographic deficit, i.e. its burgeoning population of under 35s is supposed to drive its economic growth for many years into the future. But is that really going to happen? To my mind, the day the myth of this so-called low cost labour explodes, there will be a panic-stricken exodus of MNCs, and no number of ready-mix IITs and IIMs or added seats in graduate courses are going to be enough to stem the rot resulting from India's completely inadequate primary education infrastructure.

The problems are already evident when one goes to recruit from or for any institute. I had posted some time earlier about my horrifying brush with the naked truth when I went on the interview panel of a 2nd rung Bschool in Delhi. And speak to anyone about the kind of domestic help they employ and it becomes even more…

Wake up, Rip Van Winkle...

Have been wanting to put in my two cents on this for ages now - I'm so glad the Left finally got its comeuppance, after 4 years of causing nothing but trouble and preventing any and all development from happening. Am also glad to note that Manmohan Singh's spine is intact and straight - had started doubting it after all the 'accomodations' to the Left in the last few years.

Ok, here's the deal. Anyone who doesn't believe in communism/ socialism while they are in college is bereft of any shred of idealism. I mean, the ideal is so beautiful - everybody is equal, everyone will share everything...their anthem should be John Lennon's Imagine! But the point is, at some stage you outgrow it, because you realise it's an impractical dream, much like Nehru's Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai. There's a wonderful story in one of the William books ( for more info on William, read The Hungry Bookworm) about how William's brother and his friends all decide to found a …

Indian Airports

Flying was once upon a time a status symbol, only to be indulged in by the rich and privileged, while the rest of us drones contented ourselves with creeping along, hugging Mother earth like worms...until the Air Ministry or whoever it is went mad. Now you have a flight a minute to any destination in India...if you can find a spare runway or ATC, that is.

Flying has become an absolute form of purgatory in India today. If we just got all the criminals consigned to Tihar to do a coast-to-coast round trip of India by air, I'm pretty sure most of them would reform on the spot. I've had an excruciating three weeks of constant travel and I'm surprised to note that I lived to tell the tale. Aged by a few years in those few days, but still alive.

Last week, I reached the airport an hour and fifteen minutes before the flight was due to leave, but had just about managed to complete checking in by the time they announced boarding for the flight. Also, the airlines really like to watch …

Reviews of Films - Naya Daur, Guru, From Here To Eternity

Quite a mixed bag, this, but that's all of what we got to watch during our holiday in Goa after the kids fell asleep. From Here To Eternity has been widely written about for the kissing scene on the beach between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. It started off quite interestingly - a movie about an assortment of characters - Prewitt, an army recruit who refuses to box any more because he blinded one of his opponents in a match, the leader of the platoon who's a womanizer and insistent on making the reluctant recruit box as he hopes to get a promotion on the strength of that, and the leader's second-in-command Burt Lancaster, the guy who actually runs the unit, a nice guy in love with the commander's wife. And Frank Sinatra, a fun guy who looks out for the new recruit. All of them in Hawaii just before Pearl Harbour. A highly atmospheric film and an interesting character study, it examines the various differences and conflicts that exist within characters themselves.


Delhi and the BRT

I'm getting more than a little tired of the media witch-hunt and feeding frenzy on the BRT. Delhi is probably the only one of India's cities where the government is even trying to improve the infrastructure, between all the new roads, flyovers, new airport and the BRT. But since the day the corridor opened, we haven't heard a single bouquet, only brickbats. Yes, there are problems and they do need to be sorted out, but let's not negate the good stuff entirely.

And for all the virulent headlines in the media and the snarky comments by the citizens, I'd like an answer to a simple question : What do you do to make things a little better? Do you, as pedestrians, use the zebra crossings and wait for the signal or do you act like Moses and hope the Red Sea will part wherever you happen to want to saunter across the road? Do you as motorists driving any kind of vehicle follow the rules of land and sane driving? Do you stick to the lanes in which you are supposed to drive o…

What the Media's Role Should Be

I'm posting an article written by a family friend, outraged at the kind of coverage post the rape of British teenager, Scarlett, in Goa. While I do believe that the teenager's mother showed remarkably poor judgement in leaving a 15-year-old on her own in the care of someone they had known for only a few weeks, that does not make Scarlett culpable in what happened to her. In typical fashion, the politicians and bureaucracy are not only busy covering up matters but also trying to victimise the victim. And media, in particular journalists who are known to be influential and should highlight the objective facts, are too busy making interesting shows that get higher ratings out of it.For Decency’s Sake…………

Dear Barkha,
This evening, when I got up after seeing your TV Show, “We, The People” on NDTV, I felt very sad. Not merely because of the fact that, as a parent, I went through the agony and pain which Scarlett’s mother must have felt when the whole abominable event took place but, …


Saw this movie last weekend - and was floored. The Indian film industry has really come of age - such an amazing variety of films on a varied lot of subjects, the cinematography and stunts are truly international class now. Abbas-Mastaan have always been known for their thrillers, and race is the latest in the line-up and just right for 2008. It's chock-full of thrills, stunts, BMW cars, horse races, twists and turns, crosses and double-crosses that leave one gasping. Obviously, since it's a thriller, the focus is not on character exploration but on the plot itself, and the movie literally leaves no twist unturned to confound and confute you.

Saif was awesome - he's so sexy - and Akshaye made a lovely, dapper, cheerful villain - not one of the usual broody, uproarious laugh kinds but one who reacts ever-so-casually to each new twist. Sameera Reddy was a total waste of time, and the interaction between her and Anil kapoor would have been better left to one of the new breed o…


Last night, A and I went to the Brand Equity Quiz, amongst the largest quizzes held in India. It felt bitter-sweet to be there, since I wasn't participating this year due to lack of a partner. A and I were quizzing partners for years when we worked for the same company, and we never failed to qualify to be one of the 6 teams that competes to represent the city at the national finals.

I still remember when my love for quizzing first started, way back in school. I was at the International school in Bangkok and our history teacher, Dr. Griffiths, had a way of livening up his classes by having an open quiz every couple of weeks. We had to answer questions turn by turn as we sat, and questions passed on if the previous person hadn't answered correctly. The prize used to be a collection of secondhand paperbacks that you could choose one book from, and I used to win quite often ( this was before I learned that knowing the answers makes you a nerd). I still have the copy of Jaws by Pet…

Barack vs. MCCain - Does it make a difference?

Last week in the latest burst of sniping, McCain apparently wanted to inform Obama that Al Qaeda is in Iraq, in response to Obama's statement that he would support more troops in Iraq if Al Qaeda were there. To which Obama shot back that Al Qaeda had not been in Iraq 4 years ago when it was invaded by the US.

I've long maintained that Al Qaeda's biggest recruiting agent is George Bush (what does he, get a commission for every convert to the cause?) especially after the terribly wrong-headed invasion of Iraq on the flimsiest of excuses. It has only resulted in more fear and resentment of America among Muslims and Muslim countries everywhere, and has turned a relatively secular country into a hardline religiously oriented one, and in neither Afghanistan nor Iraq has democracy been credibly established. Moreover, Vietnam should be proof that an organised army cannot win against guerilla tactics - there's simply no point to continuing the war in Iraq except as a 'save …

Does India have a Future?

Yesterday I spend one of the most frustrating half days of my life, and came out tearing my hair and wondering about the answer to the above question. If the future is in the hands of India's youth - Lord help us! I was invited to be a panelist on the admissions panel to a business school in Delhi. While not one of the top schools, it has a decent reputation, and many of the students we met were toppers at their reputed colleges and had high scores in the CAT exam too.

It was a dismaying experience. In the group discussion, very few of the students were able to put coherent words together to express a thought. And few of the thoughts that did get expressed were original. The topic was quite germane and one would have thought these kids would have some ideas, some opinions on the issue since it would have affected all of their lives - that of creating 50% reservations in higher education institutions like IITs and IIMs for OBCs. Some of the candidates didn't even bother to open …

Movie reviews

I've been meaning to review a couple of movies for ages but been really caught up at work. We saw Jodhaa Akbar last weekend, and honestly - a good effort but somewhere there was a lack of coherence. I feel the movie would have done better to be named Akbar and focussed on the rise of Emperor Akbar, with the Jodha love story as just a part of it, rather than supposedly the focus. The film meanders here and there from the love story and somewhere I feel the director got confused about what it was that he was trying to showcase.
Aishwarya actually acted better than Hrithik who just didn't manage the regal aura in many of the scenes. I have a theory about Aishwarya that whenever she wears brown contact lenses her acting abilities are praised, like in Guru or even in the song Kajra Re, and it certainly proves to be true here. The supporting cast was mostly terrible apart from Sonu Sood. Ila Arun glowered her way through most scenes. Poonam Sinha never vacated her vacant smile throug…

The weather

Sometimes I think the weather God is a malicious little imp who just waits to see what the Indian met department will come up with before doing just the opposite. We in India have had an inkling of this over the years, so, for instance whenever the met bureau predicts rain we know to leave our umbrellas and raincoats at home and whenever they predict a cold wave, we dig out our bikinis and dust off the sun-beds.

But in the last week, they have made even bigger fools of themselves than ever before. It started last week with the Beeb, of all channels, predicting that the current temperature on Tuesday evening was 2.4 degrees C and that it would hit zero within the week. All the Indian media were all over it and the Met bureau issued all kinds of cold front warnings. All schools in NCR declared holidays on Thursday and Friday - only to be greeted with the kind of sunny, warm weather which makes it a delight to be out and about in the winter.

The cold wave warnings done with, once Sunday sh…

Millennium City

Gurgaon has been fancifully named Millennium city, but craftily, politicians have not specified which Millennium. I was thinking about it yesterday, and it's a toss-up between the 18th and 19th, but certainly no later than that.

We start with the premise that electricity has not yet been invented or is in its infancy as a concept. So our day begins with a powercut between 6 and 7 am, then the power goes off any time after 8 and comes back between 1:30 and 2:30 in the afternoon. It goes around 3:30 and comes by 5. It's then off again between 7 and 8 pm at night and makes a brief appearance before going off yet again between 8:30 and 9:30 pm. Since the nights are too cold to permit any staying up, we don't know for how many hours it's gone at night.

Then of course, paved roads were neither invented nor necessary in the 18th/ 19th century since people commuted on foot or by horse-carriage/ bullock cart. So the roads in GG have been made fit for those forms of transport; by…

Notes from a Delhi weekend

We had a wonderful weekend which was a sampling of the many Delhis which co-exist and blend seamlessly into one another. Saturday, we decided to be mall-rats post a heavy South Indian breakfast chez my parents. Ambi Mall, one of the newest and largest is walking distance, only you can't walk there because of the lack of footpaths and crazy traffic. We spent the morning hanging out there, visiting any one of dozens of international brand stores which have now learnt to stock the latest merchandise rather than dated stuff. Upstairs at the Barista in Debenhams, resting our tired feet over a hot cappucino, we gazed out at the Toll Plaza which was doing brisk business, scores of gleaming cars parked in orderly lines on each side. The wide, 16 laned approach to the toll plaza was sparkling clean and looked completely international, with high-speed traffic whizzing past.

We had also visited Select Citywalk a couple weekends ago and were truly impressed by the international ambience of the…

The List

Y'all know what list...Madmomma asked us to name ours, and mine was:

George Clooney
Denzel Washington
Colin Firth
Pierce Brosnan
Cary Grant - who got Xed out for Saif, since live people are definitely more available than dead ones and Saif is drool-worthy + suave

I do notice a certain pattern in the list - either they're the suave but sense-of-humour types or intense and intelligent.

Back at home, asked A for his list. First some intense squirming and denial of any such list and how he hates talking about such a thing, then, within about 2 seconds, names are spilling out as if he spent his days doing a SWOT analysis of this - and for all I know, now that we don't work together anymore, he actually does spend his day doing this. Such hypocrisy ( she sniffs).

A's list:
Catherine Zeta Jones
Monica Bellucci
Halle Berry
Bipasha Basu
Priyanka Chopra

Aaja Nachle

Just saw this movie on VCD on my laptop while waiting for an endless connection from Ahmedabad back to Delhi. I didn't have any expectations one way or the other, but Madhuri Dixit in the movie made me want to see it. I was agreeably surprised, because going by the reviews and the poor box office response, I thought it might turn out to be a little incoherent.

The story was different, particularly from the Indian audience's perspective. A single mother who comes back to revive a theatre school in a small town...possibly didn't quite strike a chord with the viewers. That apart, the story was good, a typical bad girl/ boy makes good which is quite common in the West but not here. The cast of supporting characters all had their own mini-stories which were brought to life well without getting in the way of the main story.

The acting level was quite high. Madhuri easily played herself, as the NRI returned to her roots, and her daughter was a pleasant young girl with none of the t…

Weird convictions

Just read the cover article of the latest Economist - the one that talks about the world's most dangerous place - Pakistan - and I wondered what the columnist was smoking - or whether he had recycled an article circa 1950.

First of all, he starts by saying that Pakistan has always been a country of tolerance and acceptance. Really? Why don't they try asking the Hindus and Sikhs who remained there at Partition time how they feel about this statement - or even the Muslims who migrated from India at Partition time and who are still called Mohajirs -refugees?

Second, he says that they had never expected Pakistan to become Islamicised the way the Taliban had done to Afghanistan. Have they perhaps not heard of a certain America-supported Zia Ul Haq who reintroduced the sharia as the pre-eminent rule of law in the country?

Then they sound all surprised about the schisms - the religious and regional conflicts, the fact that Baluchistan is pretty much out of control of the government etc …

Harassment of women

I'm still pained by the Bombay incident of New Year's Eve, and wondering what is going on in our 'shining' country. What makes matters worse is people like the Police Commissioner who say, "Oh, my wife and daughters know not to step out of the house in the evening." Is that what it has come to, that women should be imprisoned, because you can't trust the men to behave like civilized human beings? That women should be confined, controlled and restrained because the men can't control their baser instincts? What's the difference between the advocates of the burqa and these people? What the difference between the Police Commissioner in Bombay and the magnanimous king of Saudi Arabia who pardons the woman who was raped and then sentenced to being punished for it by stone throwing because she was in a car with a man who was not her husband/ brother/ father, and says that "She has learned her lesson"?

Sadly, somewhere in our women's genes, w…

Culture indeed

In a recent global survey, it turned out that Indians are the proudest of their country's unique culture. Sometimes I wonder which culture we are talking about.

The culture which has us worshipping goddesses in the puja ghar and trying to rip the clothes off two girls on New year's eve, as it happened in Mumbai just yesterday?

The culture which thinks it's okay to scan foetuses and abort the girls or smother them to death as infants while continuing the religion of 'boy-is-king'?

The culture which thinks a women ought to be grateful to her husband who 'lets her work' as long as she ensures everything within the home is taken care of?

The culture which thinks it correct to let the woman earn but gives her no right over her own income?

The culture which takes upon itself the role of moral police and tells our youth, in particular young women, to stay within 'the bounds' as defined by the police?

The culture which has the time to chase young couples out of p…