Friday, November 28, 2008

Good Old Days

I think we were a happier lot when there was just one channel to contend with. Doordarshan. We only got 30 minutes or so of news per day. An hour at most, if you added up the different language bulletins. These last 60 hours or so have been harrowing, to say the very least. But these news channels have been driving me crazy. Why is there no law that censors what these guys show? We can get into lengthy debates over some woman's short skirt and whether it was appropriate or not. But there's nothing to stop these stupid journalists from asking the following:

"Do you think the terrorists are able to view the footage that we are broadcasting?"

There should be no need for the entire nation to know what the NSG plans to do and how. Giving out detailed descriptions is like telling the terrorists, "Be prepared, this is what is going to happen next."

"There's a helicopter over Nariman House and it looks like the commandos are going to enter the building from above."

Or, "The commandos could go up this building or they could use this one. We have no information on what the POA is."

Why? Why do you even need a censor board? I'd assume these people have brains and maybe some common sense. But it appears my assumption is doing exactly what it is meant to: Making an ASS of U and ME.

To top it all, these people are completely insensitive. Our almost world famous (and also heartless) journalist, Ms. Dutt, asking someone whose husband was stuck inside the building, "How are you feeling?" is the sickest thing to do, IMHO. What did you expect for an answer? "I didn't like him that much anyway and I'm happy he's inside."? If you can't sympathize or empathize, maybe you can at least learn to keep your big mouth shut.

Everyone has now forgotten the Arushi Talwar murder case. But the same journalist had the family of the accused Krishna on TV and asked, "क्या आपको लगता है आपके भाई पर ग़लत आरोप लगाया जा रहा है? क्या आप मानते हैं की आपका भाई निर्दोष है?" (Do you feel your brother is being framed? Do you believe your brother is innocent?) What on earth was she expecting for an answer? "Yeah, my brother has been a murderer since his childhood, so this is really no surprise."

Call the whole world into your studio. Fight over who gets the bigger stars. People, who in my opinion, couldn't care less about anything unless they were directly affected. All because you think your TRPs will go up. Then, in the name of direct fearless media, ask stupid questions and keep butting in when someone is trying to talk, be extremely rude to people who may be your grandparents' age, keep pushing your opinions (and make us wonder why you called those "experts" in the first place), get into a shouting match and force us to turn off the television. Because while we've taken many steps forward, and know that the television is a great tool, you're hell-bent on making us realize that it is, after all, an idiot box.

And you do nothing but sensationalize news. Show us gory pictures over and over again. You've been a perfect vehicle for the terrorists. They laid out the bait for you and you're happily eating out of their hands. You forgot to mention, even in passing, that people died in large numbers due to Cyclone Nisha. But you remembered to mention that some cricket matches have been affected thanks to this violence.

Get real guys. Get some common sense. Above all else, get a heart.

The colour of conscience

Apartheid. We read about it in school. Grew up and learnt about it more through books and the media. We stood up for what was wrong. We supported the fight to end it. We even celebrated the end of Apartheid as we knew it.

In 1974, India came very close to wining the Davis Cup. As a nation, we decided to boycott the finals as South Africa was the other finalist. Why? Because that was our way of showing our support to the thousands of people who, in the words of Vijay Amritraj, “struggle of the non-white people of that country for what the rest of the world takes for granted”. They were people in another continent. They were struggling so far away. It could have been a different planet for all we cared. But there were Indians there (regardless of why they landed up there in the first place) and that made some difference. And even if there weren’t any Indians, we may still have supported the cause of people who were being discriminated against. Could it be that we had a collective conscience?

What has changed since? Nothing has changed really. Today, we are happy that Obama has become the president of the United States. We have followed American history quite well. We know the struggle of that nation’s people and share their happiness. We know that "Rosa sat so Martin could walk...Martin walked, so Obama could run...Obama is running so our children can fly!"

We are more concerned about what happens in some corner of the world. And we’re totally indifferent to our immediate surroundings. Is that it? We boycotted the Davis Cup final because we didn’t want to play South Africa. But we play cricket, every other day it seems, with our dear neighbours. Are we so indifferent to our own people? Or is it that cricket rules over all else? I hear people say, ‘I can’t miss an India Pakistan match ever.” So, we can choose not to play against a country that practiced whatever it did within its four walls, so to say, but we cannot choose not to play against a country that has robbed us of our peace of mind, has made our nights sleepless, has left many of us homeless, and has snatched away so many loved ones. Why don't we take a stand?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Day in the Life of...

I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked down the Colaba Causeway, or sat outside the Taj looking at the Gateway of India and watching the pigeons, or sipped a fresh lime soda at Café Leopold while waiting for my cousin who worked across the street, or waited at VT for a train back home after a long day at work, or eaten my lunch in 5 minutes flat so I could use the remaining portion of my lunch hour to check out the Oberoi shopping arcade. Not even once did I think that that might be the last. I am sure that no one else did either. They were all caught unawares. I wasn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time yet again, but someone else was.

In our hearts, we pray for such things to stop, but can we be sure that they will? When we step out for our morning walks, we tell ourselves "It is a beautiful day", but can we be sure that it really will be? All the things that we took for granted until now, can we ever be really sure of those again? I am angry, sad, furious, depressed, and pained, but above all of this, I am trying to be hopeful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Simple Pleasures: Visiting Friends

When I was growing up, we didn’t have guests who dropped in for tea very often. Somehow, even though we were a rather social family, the “let’s go visit with XYZ as it has been a long time” thing didn’t happen with us. (We just visited friends and relatives from time to time. Neighbours dropped in often and we dropped in at their places too.) To my uncle and aunt in Bangalore, it was really their lifeline. To me, it seemed almost ritualistic. It didn’t seem like they really had much to discuss or talk about. Even the gossip was minimal. But the visits took place on a regular basis. Even at my maternal grandparents’ place in Bombay, there always seems to be a flurry of activity. Somebody or the other always seems to be dropping in at tea time. It is one of those things they took for granted. One of those things that was always so alien to me.

Last week, a dear friend told me that she’d been unwell for over a week. Now this friend lives just across the street from where I stay. I decided to visit her the next day. I spent a good two hours at her place. We talked about a lot of things, and her illness was not really what we were discussing. As I walked back from her house to mine, I couldn’t help but notice how pleasant the evening had been. It reinforced my belief that we live for these simple pleasures. I am certain my friend enjoyed the evening too. We didn’t go to a pub or a disco. We didn’t hit the malls. We didn’t sit down with a cocktail each. We just talked and laughed some. But it was a great evening. A lot of people say very proudly, “I hardly know my neighbours” or "I barely meet my friends" or (the most common) "I have no time". It doesn’t take much to get to know your neighbours or stay in touch with friends.

Is this sense of formality ruling our lives? We wait to be invited and expect folks to come over only when we invite them. Or is it that we treat everything as though it were an invasion of privacy? Do we think we are intruding on their private space? If only we’d care enough to reach out, we’d probably enrich our lives as much as the other person’s.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Music Me-Me

My namesake tagged me to do this me-me. She thinks that just because I have another blog called The Singing Chef, music must always be on my mind.

The rules are:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.

This is a tough one. Really! I can’t remember the last time I specifically played music to listen. I go to work in a car pool and it is Radio City all the way. They play the latest blockbusters in the morning and the evening is usually a repeat with some old (read 90s) songs thrown in. At the gym, it is a CD of songs from Bachna Ae Haseeno and Jaane Tu that seems to rule. There are times when S and I are in the car and that is probably when I get to listen to music from our collection.

In random order:

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane by John Denver. This is probably the one song S and I can call “ours”. The first time that S visited me in Bangalore and proposed to me, he sang this song when he left at 4 a.m. to catch his flight back to Delhi. Since, we’ve sung this at numerous karaoke evenings, we’ve requested this song endlessly on Radio City (and they’ve obliged), we’ve even sung it on our honeymoon (at the restaurant with the group that was there serenading us!)

I beg your pardon by Lynn Anderson. It is an amazingly catchy number with fantastic, far reaching lyrics. You have to listen to it to know what I mean.

Maa from Taare Zameen Par. I cried when this song came on in the movie. I’m not sure I know anyone who didn’t. I love love love this song.

Mausam Hai Aashiqana from Paakezah. I am probably the biggest Lata Mangeshkar fan alive. I know most of her famous, not so famous and unknown songs by heart. Most of my singing in public is limited to Asha’s numbers, but this Lata number is what I’ve been humming everyday in the monsoons. I’d count this as my all time favourite. The lyrics, the music, and that unforgettable rendition.

Mamma Mia by Abba. This was probably “the” song for me. A song that had so much in it as a lesson for me. A lesson I stubbornly refused to comprehend. In some naïve state, I believed that hoding on was better than letting go.

Aji Roothkar Ab from Aarzoo. I would imagine I love this song for the same reason as Mamma Mia. Plus, it is a Lata number. Could I ever ask for more?

Khulke Muskura Le Tu from Phir Milenge. I love all the songs from this film as much I love the film itself. The first few times I listened to this number, I cried bucket loads. Even now, I think its a great song to pep me up anytime I'm down. I like Bombay Jayashree's style of singing very much, but this song, I simply love. To me, it is much better than Zara Zara.

I can't think of 7 people who'd be willing to do this just because I told them to. Let me leave this open for anyone who's interested.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Life or Death

July 4 2002. I was riding my TVS Super Champ to work in Chennai. Just before the Kotturpuram bridge, I got caught in a jam. I was never one to weave through traffic, so I waited patiently as the July summer sun beat down on me. Suddenly, I heard the siren of a fire engine. People tried to move and make way. I moved completely to the side of the road. Then I noticed something that made me cringe. While a few of us moved to allow the fire engine to reach its destination, others quickly moved and filled the space we'd created. As a result, there was no way the fire engine could move quickly. I think we lost 15-20 minutes right there. When I got to work, I came to know that some hutments in Nandanam had burnt down. I wondered how much additional damage was caused by the insensitive behaviour of the people on the road.

This is not something I noticed after I started driving. It is something that has been irking me for years now. And I see it everyday. Regardless of the city I'm in. Whenever there's an ambulance or a fire engine trying to get to its destination, no one is interested in letting them pass. If some people make way, others fill that space. Or worse, they'll try and get behind that ambulance or fire engine in an attempt to get to their destination sooner. Yet if we're waiting for these services, we are so quick to say, 'Why can't these people get here sooner?'

I wonder about what is going to happen in those 5 minutes? To you, probably nothing. To the family waiting for the ambulance or the fire engine, those very 5 minutes could mean the difference between life and suffering, even death. Have the bulk of us really become so selfish, insensitive and hard hearted? Do we really not care at all?