Friday, June 30, 2006

What the mobile phone did

Mobile phones have turned us into such strange creatures. We are all forever talking to people who are not with us right then, and in that process, ending up not talking to those who are.

Hasn't this happened to you? You go to a restaurant, the person who is with you gets a call, he/she spends what seems like hours on the phone, while you while away time by playing Snake on the phone or staring around. And then you get a call, it's this long lost friend, and in delight you yap away. Meanwhile your companion has finished the call and is staring around. Somewhere in between the calls and the SMSs and Snake and the staring, you finish lunch, and you go your own ways. And then you slap your forehead and say, "Shucks, I forgot to tell him this this this and this." So you call up the person you met just a couple of hours ago. In the meantime, someone is waiting around to have a word with you. And so it goes on, and on, and on.

There are so many Days -- Mothers, Fathers, Friends, Doctors, Kidneys. There should be a "No Mobile Phone Day". And on that day, let's all sit and talk to people who are with us, around us.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A silent tear for some silent friends

If I opened the door of my balcony, I could, till early today morning, see 11 tall silver oaks, swaying in the breeze, blocking from view the ugly sight of bare rooftops. Not anymore. In about an hour, silently, they were all brought down.

And I can't believe that I didn't even hear a crash, a sigh. All I noticed was the extra sunlight that the room was suddenly getting. A curious peek outside and there it was -- 11 trees, mercilessly chopped, their roots pulled out.
How many times I had told myself I should just buy that plot of land! We had even pictured the house that could be built there, my mother and I. With a wide verandah opening to the row of trees. And a hammock between the first two trees. Oh well, somewhere we knew that the days of the trees were numbered.

I suppose the only ones who will even notice the change, let alone miss the trees, will be me and a couple of cows who regularly took shelter there.

I am moving some place else.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Spilling some anger

Why the hell is Bollywood being called "Indian Cinema"? I protest. I shout the loudest I can -- India is NOT Bollywood. India is much more than that. Indian cinema is much MUCH much more than Bollywood. STOP calling Bollywood "Indian cinema".

I am not even getting into Bollywood representing Indian culture at the Commonwealth Games. But take at least the case of this annual extravaganza called the IIFA awards. It's supposedly the International "Indian Film" Academy. If it is truly Indian, then where the hell is other regional cinema? Where are Bengali films, where are Assamese films, where are Malayalam films? Priyadarshan picks a Malayalam film and does a Hindi remake of it, and lo and behold, it has become Indian cinema.

Bollywood is not India, and India is not Bollywood. I wish, I hope, hell I demand, that people stop calling the Bollywood dance and drama Indian cinema.

Exams, rain and buses

Was in Kochi to write a few exams. And I wouldn't mind doing this every now and then. Say two or three exams at a time. Only during rains. It's really worth it.

At home everyone leaves you alone: "She's studying, leave her alone." You are pampered: "You hungry? You want anything to eat? I'll drop you to the college in the morning." If the exam wasn't all that great, it's still ok: "You will pass, won't you? That's enough." Now it is very important that you don't do the exam-writing too often. I mean, none of this happens when you are writing exams all the while. No one drops you anywhere, you better be studying because that is all you have to do, and you better score well -- just manage to scrape through and you have had it for life. So, now you try it. :)

And I would write exams only during rains. Any other time, it would be criminal to waste three hours. But when it rains, sitting in a grand old college, looking out the grand old windows at the lazy misty rain falling on the grand old tree is rather dream like. Oh yes, and answer a few questions too :)

Well anyway, the first time I stepped into a city bus this time, I realised that I had actually been missing those bus rides! Women in the front, men at the back. Even in the most crowded of buses -- in which you have people standing on your feet and hanging on your hair -- the conductor will still shout out "Move in, there's enough space there to play football". Heheh! I immediately have this vision of people actually trying to play a game of football and making a complete mess of it.

Oh that reminds me. A few years ago, someone came up with the brainwave that city buses caused so many accidents because the driver, instead of concentrating on the road, flirted with the women or tried showing off. So promptly there came a new rule that women shall use the back door and occupy that part of the bus. But that didn't quite work. The habit of all those years just couldn't be broken. So they reverted to the old system, but this time made it mandatory that all buses have these bars across the front so that no one could stand anywhere near the driver. Even that rule didn't get much far. In those rush hours, when the conductor lectured about the game of football one could be playing, women and children just squeezed past the barricades. I am yet to see any statistics proving that the rule made a difference in the accident rates.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A letter

Will you write me a letter please? It's been so long. I promise I will reply.

Remember those days when we used to write to each other? Any letter was greeted with a whoop of joy. We would turn it around, trying to guess whose it could be. The handwriting, the stamp, the seal on the stamp, all clues. We would finally rip open the bursting envelope, you carefully cutting the edge, me clawing holes into it.

And then minutes and hours spent reading it, re-reading it. Forming replies in your head as you read. We would then carry it around in our bags, the envelope absorbing the smell of the books, pencil, pebbles and random other things we carried in them. And a warm afternoon we would sit down to reply. Limited vocabulary, poor spelling, bad handwriting and spreading ink were never obstacles. Events of the week or month that went by, trivial, now that I think of it. But meant the world then.

The letter would be sealed with such care. Sometimes a pretty sticker on the back of the envelope for effect. Sometimes gently opening it again to add something you forgot. Trying to disguise your handwriting so that I wouldn't realise it is you. And that letter too would live in the bag for a few days, gathering smells.

Now all I get in the post are disappointingly empty bank statements and reminders that the car is due for a service.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The early bird and the worm

Why were we all taught at a very young age that the early bird gets the worm? And why did I, like a fool, buy it? Why did I let myself be brainwashed to believe that I want the worm? I should have read that Calvin and Hobbes strip much earlier than I actually did. That one in which Calvin's mom is trying to wake him up and says "Early bird gets the worm" and Calvin makes a disgusted face and exclaims, "Big incentive!" Then there is this ex-colleague of mine who said "Who wants the worm? I want the sleep."

And it has taken me this long to realise that the early bird doesn't always get the worm. There's this play in the evening, you reach well in time, and then you wait and wait and wait for all those impolite late comers to come and take their seats. By the time it starts some half an hour late, you are tired of waiting. And you ask, hey I was here first, where's my worm? You get to the airport early so that you get the seat in the emergency aisle, lots of leg room and all that. And you realise that the best seats have already been taken by all those chaps with privilege cards who can do a tele-check-in or an online check-in. Hello?? Can't you at least keep some good fat worms for those who religiously come early??

Think about it, there are plenty of such examples around you. Reject the worm, I say.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Grow your own chair

How would you like to grow a garden of armchairs? Ha! I just love this idea! Now, someone gimme some land so that I can grow my armchairs.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Damn these short forms!

Recently, I got this invite for an event, in which the programme read something like this:
10.10AM: Inaugural speech by HE the President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam
10.30AM: Key note address by HE the Governor of Karnataka, TN Chaturvedi

I found it highly amusing. I mean, what is that "HE" all about?! Sounded like "HE the Supreme Being". You get what I mean?

So anyway, I am sitting at the venue, giggling over the HE and to share my mirth, I turned to this journalist sitting next to me whom I had just met, and said something to the effect of "Isn't that funny, the way they refer to them as HE?" She peered over her glasses with this strange look and said "That's short for His Excellency".

Uh... Either I should figure out these short forms, or I should learn not to sound witty around strangers.

Waiting for...

...the bus, a letter, a friend, a thought, a phone call, a signal, a summer shower.

Someday I will try and work out what part of my life I have waited in bus-stops. From the school bus, to the crowded red ones, to the 27H that never came. It starts pretty early in life, this waiting for the bus. But when you try to kill time by counting vehicles when waiting for that school bus, little do you realise that this is only the beginning of a life-long series.

You wait for your favourite TV show to start, you wait during the commercial breaks. You wait for your mother to wake up from her afternoon siesta so you have someone to talk to. You wait at a cafe for a friend, singing songs in your head. You wait impatiently for a class to end.

You wait for the boy to grow into a man and give up his childish fancies. You wait for the man to realise you are the one he's looking for.

Patience once gave way to mere impatience. Now it gives way to the urge to do something rather than waiting for that something to happen. Someday, it will give way to resignation.

Meanwhile, I wait for life to take another interesting turn.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Whys, Whats, What Fors

What makes a person kill him/herself?

What problem is so complicated that it can’t be talked out? What wound is so deep that time and life can’t heal? What question is so difficult that you would do anything not to face it?

What is it that you achieve from taking your life? Have you been so wronged by loved ones that you avenge yourself by taking your life? Is the pain you go through in killing yourself worth the trauma you put others through? Is one so selfish?

Why? I mean, just why?

It will never make any sense to me, this act called suicide.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Rainbow across Bangalore

It was a beautiful evening. After a long two-hour wait for the president to appear at an event, it seemed worth it when I stepped out. Not because the president gave an inspiring speech, but because after a light shower, the clouds had cleared, the western horizon was ablaze and there was a rainbow stretching across the sky.

It's been so long since I saw one! Pity was there was no one around to shout and point it out to. Among the grim faces of fellow journalists, chose a more friendly looking one and said "Look!" And he said, "Ah, rainbow", a flicker of a smile flashed across his face, and he was back to scowling at people around.

Which reminds me of a theory of mine -- that journalists after years of cynicism and emotionally detaching themselves from the issues they write about, eventually become detached from any emotion whatsoever while they are on work.

But I shall clap, I shall giggle when jokes are cracked, and I shall get excited about rainbows. So there!

Monday, June 05, 2006

If there are trees, there will be elephants

Or so thought this boy of four.

I was at this luncheon party a few months ago. A quiet neighbourhood in the heart of the city. It had this delightful little balcony, with a tree drooping over it and many more trees in the backdrop, which was basically some apartment blocks. But with a lawn also thrown in, it was as green as it can get in a city.

This boy of four (or three, or somewhere in between three and four) trotted up to the balcony and stood by the railings, peering through them at the trees. And he turned around and lisped, "Elephants will come now from there." To indulge him, I said, "Really? From where?" So he pointed to the trees and said with as much conviction as his voice could express: "From there. Elephants will come. They will come and ask for food."

I smiled indulgently and thought how fertile his imagination was. By which time his mother had also walked up, and she explained: "Ever since we went to the Bannerghatta National Park and he saw elephants there, he thinks that wherever there are trees, there will be elephants."

This incident came back to me today when I saw most of the dailies sporting a picture of a tree to mark World Environment Day.

How sad are we, that children think three puny trees form a forest?

No snow?

Weatherman Michael Fish writes in The Mirror on global warming:

The Earth will continue to warm and, if we don't cut back, temperatures could increase by almost 6 degreeC - more than the change between the last ice age and now. The change will be most noticeable in northern latitudes where permafrost will continue to melt, causing oil pipelines to buckle and houses to sink in the mud. Polar bears will lose their sources of food and may have to move into populated areas to survive, as the Arctic ice melts. In Africa drought and starvation threatens not only man but hippos, gazelles and freshwater fish. The continent, already hot, is destined to get even hotter.
Closer to home, the kind of summer we had in 2003, with record temperatures, may well become the norm by 2060. Many deaths will result. Water shortages could become far worse as summers, insufficiently compensated by wetter winters, get hotter and drier.
Our grandchildren are unlikely to see snow - as we highlighted in The Mirror last month - and many parts of Britain could be under water. We could even find that tropical diseases, such as malaria, become endemic and there will be an increase in skin cancer.
WINTER sports will die out in Scotland. Even in the Alps many resorts will have little or no snow. Those that do could find many more avalanches and little skiing below 6,000ft.
Some holiday destinations, such as the Maldives, could be under water and the coral reefs bleached by high sea temperatures. Already Australia's Great Barrier Reef is severely damaged.
The Mediterranean will suffer from increased pollution, heat stress, forest fires and drought.
In Florida and the Caribbean the sea level rise will drown many of the wetlands and everglades, not helped by more violent hurricanes. The great Amazon forest has already suffered unprecedented drought with many trees dying. If this continues the "lungs of the world" could become
just a gasp.

The rest of the article here.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

City of clones

Every time I walk down Brigade Road or MG Road, or contemplate plunging into the sea of humanity at one of the malls, it hits me: They all look the same.

That girl there with ironed out straight hair and perfectly shaped eyebrows and painted red lips is no different from this girl here with straight hair and perfectly shaped eyebrows and painted red lips. Are they all made the same way these days, or is there a conspiracy among beauty parlours to make all women look the same?

Or is it that they all want to look the same? One day you find that one straight-haired girl has decided to get her hair coloured. You sigh in relief: Ah, there is at least one that I can now identify. And then next day you see all those straight-haired babes have gone and coloured their hair.

Sigh... I am bad enough in relating a face to a name -- it's all a huge unorganised pile up there in my brain. And doesn't look like things are going to be any easier.

And hey, no offence meant to all the straight-haired women out there! All in good spirit :)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Haunting Himesh!

I sure thought the Reshammiya song was ghastly. But now it turns out it is also ghostly! :) Read about it here.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Half of me

I have said this before, and I will say it again: Let us abolish the phrase "better half".

Two years ago, I was One. An individual. People asked, "How are you?" Then one day, my identity was halved. And as though that wasn't enough, the other half was known as the better half. I became the not-so-good half. Now people ask, "How is your better half?" It is an entirely different story that they don't bother asking how I am.

It is all very well to say that love is all about one soul in two bodies and that in marriage the husband and wife are one. I still am one single person, you see. I have not halved myself. I do not have another half. Moreover, how dare someone say that I got married to half a person? Hell, he is just as whole as I am.

So, the next time someone asks me about better halves, well, I will direct her/him to this post. :)