Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A middle class muse on Bal Thackeray

I know Aditya Datey (who blogs at Ghaat Spaat)  from our days of proxies, lab assignments and typical college fun. He came off as a positive, confident guy, very clear about his views and opinions - no two ways about it, just as he is today. Which is why, even though I have stayed away from politics on my blog, I have no qualms about hosting his post as the first guest post on my blog. 

A lot has been said about Bal Thackeray depending on whose side you’re on. This post does not look to favour or disapprove of Bala Saheb in any way. Triggered by his demise, it is in essence, a common man’s musing on having grown up in the midst of Indian politics, bureaucracy and the big religion divide and what it means to him today. So without any further ado, here it is. 


I am very late to all the opinion floatsam on Bal Thackeray, but the ocean is big and palghar cops have by now discovered that the internet has much more interesting stuff to offer.

So here are some points I ponder.

Godwin’s Law states ‘As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving hitler approaches one.’ Bal Thackeray didn’t spend all his waking hours making 
comments on Hitler. But he did make comments professing his love for hitler's oratory, organization skills, artistry and about how india needs a benevolent dictator. Most have heard similar statements by at least one of our friends or family. But Thackeray is who's under discussion and uncle drinks anyway. So it dosent matter that politically, India has always been driven by personality cults pre and post independence. It dosen't matter that Thackeray's influence never extended beyond Mumbai. We can still ring the fascist alarm bells and let reductio ad hitlerum begin.

Do you remember reading The Godfather? What was your dominant feeling after? Awe and respect for the godfather or disgust at the mafias crimes? Compare that to your feelings about Thackeray. Vito Corleone is a much better analogy to Bal Thackeray.

Were you in Mumbai in 1993? If you are reading this, you were either in a muslim stronghold or a hindu stronghold or are incredibly lucky. Who started the riot is a chicken and egg question. Who attacked or protected your neighbourhood is not. If you haven’t seen a truck full of sword bearing men trying to make inroads into your locality and get beaten back by acid bulbs and tubelights, you don’t know what I’m talking about. Yes, it was all terrible and wrong. But who watched your back?

Shiv Sena started out as a Congress pawn in the 60s. A hired gun that the Congress used to break the communist party's hold on the trade unions. Some pawns survive to reach the last square and become queens. Unlike chess, they also change colors. Like a Congress backed Bhindranwale who later changed colours. Like the US fed Taliban that turned against their former allies.

It must be an exaggeration if someone says there are regional and caste based blocs influencing all government job appointments. Meritocracy is right. Parochialism is wrong. Two wrongs don't make a right. Or so I believe until I'm wronged. Or righted.

The bandh didn’t really matter to me. Neither do the elections. They have never. I am not the slumdweller whose home stands or gets bulldozed if this corporator wins or that. I am not the impoverished immigrant escaping the lawlessness of his hometown. I am not a daily wage worker.

My problems are of the urban rich. My activism is air conditioned. My indignance is well fed. My empathy is an ego massage. And my vote really just dilutes the votes of people whose lives depend on an election outcome.

Oo look..India won the test match....

I would love to hear your views!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Piracy or Not?

Flinging her shawl over the couch, Shalini plopped down in front of the television. Jatin was touring all weekend. All by herself, she had decided to simply waste the weekend catching up on senseless soaps, sitcoms and movies. It was nearing nine ‘o’ clock, time for her favourite soap. Pulling out a tub of ice cream from the fridge, she wondered if the big secret about the adopted child would be revealed today. The promos were being aired since a week ago. Suddenly, the world around her went pitch black. “Shit!” She exclaimed. “Another power cut! Perfect timing!” She spent the next hour fretting and fuming before she finally decided to hit the sack. 

The next morning, as usual, she met her school friend Pia in the bus and undoubtedly, conversation centered around the show Shalini had missed. Pia gave her a quick rundown and urged her to watch a re-run on the internet. 

“Youtube has it all! Don’t miss it!” said Pia, getting ready for her stop.
“You know Jatin doesn’t like piracy. We don’t download movies or even songs.” Shalini reasoned. 
“Its not like you’re downloading. Its just watching online.” Pia countered.
“Is there an official channel?” Shalini asked.
“Don’t you watch movie songs? Yes or No? Well, not all are on official channels!” Pia remarked.
Shalini was silent.
“Everybody uses Youtube! You don’t want to miss this one, trust me!” Pia said, disembarking.
Shalini sat thinking. She didn’t want to miss out on what was being touted as the most interesting episode of the show but she also didn’t want to abandon Jatin and his cause, which she truly believed in. What's your shade?
I would love to hear your views!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The case of the disappearing postcards

Passing by a rack of postcards in a souvenir shop, I cannot help feel saddened that just like so many others, these ‘postcards from paradise’, as a friend recently titled them, have also taken a hit by the rapid advancements of technology. Today, visual experiences are shared much more easily via e-mail, Facebook, Picasa, Google+, the latest to hit the market Instagram and the like. It’s definitely a no-brainer considering that cards cost money, as do stamps, add to it the effort to buy and post them and of course, the time they take to travel from source to destination. Even as many consider it plain inconvenient, there are enthusiastic travel buffs who still very much enjoy the practice. In trying to keep up with the pace of technology, I too have moved on to the electronic versions, but I must admit I miss the scribbling on the back, the personal messages which would accompany them. When souvenir shop owners also attest to dwindling sales, I cannot help but cogitate that someday, just like the floppy disks, these might phase out too.

Remember the last picture postcard you ever received? I honestly don’t. The first few I collected were sent by a maternal aunt of mine and I remember boxing them together with other knick-knacks like autograph books, photographs, color pens and key chains in my priceless collection. However, what I do remember from all those cards is being enchanted by and drawn to the glamorous sights and stunning spectacles from places beyond the world I lived in.

The one image that always comes to my mind is that of myriad hues of burning scarlets, bright oranges and vivid yellows on a picturesque fall season postcard which had me believing that it wasn't a place in actuality, just a figment of an over-imaginative artist’s imagination, of brush strokes running amok on his canvass until I witnessed such a paradise for real. So here’s a question for you. Is there one that you found particularly spectacular and awe-inspiring? What’s your image?
Note: A big Thank You to Abhijit S for the beautiful phrase 'Postcards from Paradise'. I couldn't resist incorporating it!

I would love to hear your views!

Friday, November 2, 2012

An Apple A Day

More like 7,382,846 Apples a day. The ones with a bite chewed off. Inclusives of iPhones, iPads, iPods in trams, trains, buses, shops, hotels, restaurants, libraries, on the road and wherever; looking at which iAmGettingAHeadache! OK, that was just a number I pulled out of a hat! Aren’t you glad that I have neither the time nor the inclination to actually count? But seriously, looking at the number of Apples in use here, Melbournians (immigrants included) seem to be a completely Apple-crazy populace!
A funny cartoon emphasizing the inane obsession behind buying an iPhone.
Copyright information as per the picture.
So much so, that the first week in the city, while paying for our new prepaid internet data card, we struck up a conversation with the Vodafone salesman, in an attempt to understand the infatuation. Imagine our surprise when his response stated it to be an attempt at mirroring the US. Again, only his personal opinion, not one that can be generalized, but even then - he went on to explain that the US TV commercials aired on Australian television, movies and even US periodicals like US Weekly, Entertainment, Vogue or the New Yorker always portray people using iPhones or in a broader sense of the term - Apple products. So according to him, it was simply another trend supporting the Ape-the-west syndrome. Duh! And I thought that only applies to developing nations in Asia! And let me tell you, having stayed a good seven years in Minnesota (again, not that it can be applied to the whole of THE United States of America, as Sridevi put it in English-Vinglish) that is so NOT the case. Americans seem to be a lot more open to cell-phone brands. Even brands like LG and Motorola find a whole lot of buyers!

Now I own my share of Apple products, but I am not an Apple-person AT ALL. I have my reasons, I talk more about the iPhone here, but hear me out!

1. Exclusive accessories. Other brands use the generic USB cable; no worries if you forget your charger on a trip.
2. No bluetooth. Cannot share files/songs with non-Apple users. Should I only befriend iPhone owners?
3. No basic Radio. I love the Indian FM channels! Sure, there are downloadable apps available, but they use internet data.
4. No emoticons available in either WhatsApp or SMSes. Those are fun!
5. Exclusive apps and file formats. Its difficult to transfer files/upload files to sites which require specific formats.
6. Don’t even get me started on the price. The higher the price is, the more novel a product is supposed to be?
7. iTunes dependant - can only sync with one library. Watch out before you delete a file from the library!!
8. Micro SIM - so in case of an emergency where my battery might be dead, I still cannot use my SIM with other phones. PS 25/01/2013: On a recent trip to NZ, a friend of ours who had been to NZ recently loaned us his prepaid SIM cards which we could use there. Guess, what normal SIMs! Won't work with iPhone!

I recently posted a status update on Facebook which read ‘In what seems to clearly be an iPhone crazy city, my dear little HTC feels like an outdated dinosaur!!!!’. The overwhelming feeling of being surrounded by iPhones did make me contemplate a switch to the league of iPhone lovers in the near/distant future, but with every passing day that I use my HTC, I feel my don’t-do-that resolve building!

I’ll be the first one to admit that by itself, the iPhone is a good product. But what sets it apart from other phones? I am sure iPhone lovers would be quick to defend my accusations, but lets be honest, isn’t it just one of THE MANY good phones in the market, not just THE good phone? If you ask me, one word for the iPhone - Overrated. There I’ve said it.

Let me end this note on a funny quote I found online.
I found it amusing that iPhone’s website demonstrates how it can help you find a Starbucks just about anywhere. We all know you don’t need to pay $600 for that kind of information. You just need to turn around. A Starbucks will be there.- Craig Wilson

Over to you, Apple lovers.

I would love to hear your views!
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