Thursday, February 26, 2009

Slumdog Wha...?

I was just wondering what our Indian directors would do now that SM has won it. Apart from the "I knew ARR too" quips, I was wondering what would happen if they decided to shoot something similar.

Karan Johar: Kabhi Slumdog Kabhi Millionaire. Without question SRK would star in it with a really young actress (at his age, that is the only category left). There will, of course, be another heroine whom SRK would marry though still pine for the aforementioned one. K-Jo will build all his fantasies for SRK into the movie! SRK juniorest will fall in the shit (w)hole to get an autograph from SRK (real). In the end the winning question will decide whether he will go with little girl A or B (spoiler: he goes with A!) Of course, SRK will break his shoulder blade while reaching for the cheque that Anil Kapoor gives him and will be in Lilavati for a couple of weeks.

Anurag Kashyap: Slum D. Some totally unknown actor will be Slum D (which is basically the cooler version of Salim Dawood). Slum D is raised in a street full of brothels and in the midst of drug addicts. His little love (which becomes his big love before finding another I-got-better-things-to-do love) is the daughter of a prostitute. Everyone swears at the camera while it zooms in and out and Anurag Kashyap captures the angst of the common man in a scene when Slum D refuses to sing a bhajan because everyone on the road only likes hip-hop albeit in Marathi. He will use the story of the German teenager murdered in Goa as part of the story and probably fall in love with the actress who played that role. To make it more realistic, he will have the slum in Goa (booze, babes, pointless events and much more).

Sanjay Leela Bansali: Hum Slum De Chuke Sanam. The slum would no longer be corrugated roofs and narrow alleys. The entire area would have an eight lane road and everything will be bathed in orange and red (because black, blue and green have already been exhausted and yellow and purple are reserved for his next movie). There will be a dozen or so songs and even Anil Kapoor would dance to one in his designer sherwani. The train on which the kids (dressed in cute knickers and hooded sweatshirts) escape would be the Palace on Wheels.

Karnataka directors (all are alike): Slumey Dogey Millionairey. Every woman in the movie would be busty (so the reason behind why the hero's mother floats is understood) and the entire movie will have someone (everyone?) from the Rajkumar family in some role or the other. It will win all awards though it will make no sense nor have anything to do with the original. Thousands of locals in Bangalore will burn autorikshaws because millionaire is not a Kannada word and it should be because it ends in "e". They will stop providing Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu because of that.

Tamil Nadu directors (all are so different that I'd rather spare this post): Silumbu Dogu. Simbhu will demand rights for the movie because his name (rather condensed name) rhymes with Silumbu. The kids cannot sing bhajans because that is too Brahmanical and the Chief Minister doesn't like it. So Maman digs out their eyes to sing and dance dapankuttu. They get on a boat to Sri Lanka and take the visiting Indian ministers on a tour around LTTE strongholds. That is where the hero learns that Ashoka had a wheel and that Benjamin Franklin was actualy Sri Lankan and his first name derived from the cure for baldness (Pane Chemmeen: To cure lice apply a mixture of prawns soaked in coffee and coconut oil). Apparently, the concoction didn't work and he left for America to seek revenge. This movie gets tax deduction because it is about the difficulties of Tamils in Sri Lanka and how quality idlis are not available there (something to do with the lack of coconuts for chutney). The Chief Minister of TN is troubled with the lack of Tamil specific questions and decides to fast himself to death by eating only idlis.

This movie was attempted in Bengal but it failed because millionaires are not allowed in Bengal. Mamta Banerjee felt uncomfortable with the idea of someone becoming so rich that he can buy back his girlfriend and she began chanting "Nano go back". Nobody understood a word of what she was saying or complaining about but joined in and burned a few tea stalls before they realised that several Bengalis had actually made them their homes or adda. Government offered sops for these shops and Rabindranath Tagore was remembered in various schools.


Chee chee
Yes, I watched Slumdog Mill and I am still not sure why it even deserved a mention let alone all those awards. If Slumdog Mill should be the measure then every Ocean's 11,12,13 should have one something or ... well, you get the picture. The movie had nothing spectacular about it and to have won the awards makes me wonder. A.R.Rehman is definitely talented and deserved a tonne of awards but to have been recognised for SM is sad. I could pick nearly any of his earlier movies and the composition was several orders better. Gulzar saab for Jai Ho? Both a Californian and my grandmother pronounce that as Aiyyo, and rightly so. But there are somethings that logic cannot explain (most of what my grandmom says falls in that category) and hence we accept SM to be in the league of great movies (really? I can never put it on par with, say, the Godfather or even The Dark Knight). Frankly, I am yet to see a convincing argument or stance as to why that movie deserves anything. But India will be happy because Amayrika gave us an award. Whatever!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oh! To be a Lark!

Aah! Such love burns my flight

Oh light sepia winged love
What will you sing to me?
Hymns from heavens above,
Or an earthly threnody?

Oh how you whip the incensed air -
Strokes of brown rhyme against the blue
Sweet calls to your love flying fair
She'll shrug and yield when you'll pursue.

Engirdle with songs that hoist in merry
A passion that floats to the skies.
So isn't it true, aerial emissary
You cry what in my heart does rise?

Oh to be you while you are me
Oh to fly singing my heart's truth
Oh to be what you so easily be
Oh for love's breath as chants to sooth.

Lend me your wings but for a day
I have many a tune to hum.
I bared the earth for a chalet
Where love still bloods red a bosom.

I have found none and thus I stop
In vacant quest for the murdered One
Unsurprised eyes gaze as you hop
O'er sunbeams that light where sin has won.

For you and I do surely know
That which flies free is love definite
And that which slyly walks below,
Tis the black of hearts burnt inordinate.

This Week's Read: Vol 1 Issue 3

And another week of interesting things to read...

  1. What women want. I am glad that someone is putting some sense back into a diet (and not dieting) especially for women. I have watched women affected by their diets and their lifestyle. Seems like they are more vulnerable to what they eat and that is unfortunate. But diets of the present nature are not good for them because none of them are holistic. I think if women could only be comfortable looking healthy rather than sexy, a lot of their problems would be solved.
  2. The keys are in your jeans/genes. Steven Pinker (please do read his works; he is good) discusses the genome, the Personal Genome Project (PGP) and how we make up stories to explain why we do something. I cannot but help see the parallels between genomes (applied to predicting traits and diseases) and astrology but I am sure people will call it naive and the like! A slightly long read but very informative.
  3. Comical Life. I am a dilettante in the world of graphic novels and the like. I have always read comics and believed in them (I am still waiting for metal claws to shoot out every time I whip out my hands). I was kindly pointed out Sandman and I am enjoying it!
  4. More disasters ahead. This article talks about another pending financial debacle. Suddenly, I fancy disaster and hope all of them come rolling in. Funny response to a state of being helpless: when you see a hundred men coming to beat you and all your pleas result in the first blow landing, your mind switches to this mode making a game of the thuds (Oh! the next one will be between the right elbow and wrist and it will be by a man wearing green) and possibly never expecting it to get over!
  5. The virtue of anonymity. I was recently having a raging debate with a friend about how the strength to be anonymous precedes the possibility of being free and Right. This articles discusses something similar (more about solitude) in the context of the present day world.
  6. Wisdom Lost. Barry Schwartz makes a though provoking presentation about the loss of wisdom and the place for rules and incentives. This is a TED presentation. Feel free to explore the other talks.
  7. Englipish. Dave Barry and his Mr. Language Person post! A light read.
  8. Life: a sexually transmitted disease. Ken looks at life itself as a mental illness!
  9. Gorilla Economy. An interesting article about how people cannot care about conservation while their basic needs are not met. Isn't there a solution in the article itself?
  10. Sexy Food. This article looks at sex and food and how they play an important role in our lives. What happens when adult human beings are free to have all the sex and food that they want? Paradise? Naaah! Read on.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Conscious Living - Food Habits

McDonalds in Tokyo is a terrible revenge for Pearl Harbour.
--Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa

(This is a fairly long post and should be read carefully. In case you are in a hurry, search for the word "Summary" and read thereon. The summary is not the same as the post!)

Food is vital to our being. We miss out a lot when we hurriedly summarise it as the "fuel" for the body. It is far more than fuel as fuel does not possess the capacity to alter or affect the personality of the machine it drives. Food is actually what we are made of and to treat it lightly is great injustice. I do not wish to romanticise the role of food in our lives, but if it is merely fuel, then we can always concoct a perfect potion of nutrients and minerals to provide to each human being and forget the entire idea of burgers and dal makhani. Beyond a mere gut feeling, I am certain that that will simply not work. Men cannot live (perhaps exist) purely on a dose of vitamin tablets and nutrient supplements. Try it!

Once we realise that food is not merely a bundle of nutrients, we can then move on to eating consciously. I do not hope that every (wo)man would cook with their heart and soul in it and make food the epitome of human taste (well, I would think it is), but to consume food consciously is vital and cannot be emphasised enough.

My mother and my grandmothers (both fine cooks though my dad's mom is fantastic) had a very simple rule as far as cooking goes: eat fresh food and do not be comfortable with leftovers. We are vegetarians (we do not consume eggs though dairy products are ok). Most of our meals are cooked fresh and are exhausted with that meal. Yes, it is time consuming but so are most other activities like surfing the net or watching TV or talking over the phone for hours or going to work or anything. Whether any of them nourish you or not is debatable but cooking food surely nourishes you!! Touche!

I was watching this French movie called Girl from Paris (why do they corrupt a beautiful title which means "one swallow brought spring"?). There is this beautiful (because of this line that I will shortly mention) scene where Adrien reminds Mathilde that a particular vegetable is not eaten in winter because it is not available in winter. He says something like "There is a reason why they are available only in a particular season." I thought that was so simple and true. I am sure the modern industrialist would think of a hundred ways to preserve it and ensure that they are available every single day of the year. I was reading Peter Mayle's Provence series (yes, this paragraph seems like I love the French. Honestly, I love humanity but ... anyway) and I thoroughly enjoyed their culinary adventures. The natives perhaps only cook rabbit throughout the year but plant different things at different times of the year and eat differently and according to seasons. Perhaps that is another reason for the French Paradox.

I think the primary problem with food habits is essentially North American (and British and perhaps other countries, e.g. Australia, with a similar society, lifestyle and thought). Most of Asia, Africa, South America and significant parts of Europe do not suffer from fast food, canned food, preservative laden food. Unfortunately, these "American" cultures are very good at influencing other societies to adopt their "cool" and "sensible" ways to nearly everything. A study and experiment by Kerin O'Dea with the Australian Aborigines proved that their adoption of a Western diet caused nearly all their health problems and when they returned to their native diet (including adopting the way they procured their food) nearly all their health problems reduced within a few weeks! There is no one diet that is perfect and I think it is vital to recognise that. The wisdom passed down the ages about appropriate diet and goodness is valuable and should not be ignored for fads and stupid wants for size-zero bodies!

Ayurveda treats food on par with medicine. Every food item has a guna associated with it and the person's body type is recognised before prescribing medicines (food or concoctions). The beauty of this science is its holistic approach to the body and the nourishment it gets. Ayurveda doesn't focus on the throat because you have a cold or merely on the shoulder because you have a sprain. To treat the body as a whole and to respect the role of each and every thing that we consume (air and water included) with due respect forms the basis of this science. Ayurveda goes beyond mere foods and medication to link the body with the spirit which people can brush aside till they read about alpha-waves in the brain and other recent phenomena and walk back in with the tails between their legs.

Though not Ayurveda, a recent study by TNSACS confirmed the role of nutrition and nutrient supply in the control of AIDS. So what we consume helps in many ways beyond merely being a "fuel". Let us bear that in mind.

This post will explore conscious food habits at various levels. Some of theThe horn of plentym are:
  1. How we grow them
  2. How we process them
  3. How we purchase them
  4. How food is wasted
  5. Choosing what to eat
  6. The unfairness of a non-vegetarian diet

When we worry about the way we "create" our food nearly everyone thinks about pesticides, chemicals, genetically modified crops and so on. I wonder why no one talks about how in-humanely the meat industry works. If you find it somewhere, do read Arthur Miller's tale where the narrator's wife (set in the Monroe-dye) throws back the fishes which got trawled in but are not the kinds people consume. So, the fishermen simply throw them on the sand and let them die there. She goes and picks each one of them and throws them back into the sea! A very touching story.

Have you visited an abattoir recently? Or ever? Do you know where your nicely packed chicken breast comes from (No! Chickens don't wear bras)? Or the bacon? Do you know how those animals were kept their living lives? What were they fed? How? Do you know how they were killed and cleaned so that you get that nice pink in your bulging sachet with chicken or goat caricatures drawn on them to make it look all very nice and cute and perfectly humane?

It might appear that I am making a case for vegetarianism. I would prefer everyone to be vegetarians but if you wish to eat meat then my appeal is different. I cal a conscious eater to be one who creates and handles his food with fairness and with some ethics. If you go out and hunt your meat with something that has a range less than or equal to five feet (so guns are out) then I think you are being fair. To have a few acres of living animals grown and cut up without giving them a say in the matter is ridiculously unfair. How would you feel if I raise a few hundred test-tube babies (no making love so no emotions involved) and subjected them all to manual labour or supplied them shrink wrapped to the cannibals of Andaman or Africa (if there are any left without being converted by some missionary)? Inhuman? Why? These animals are raised, separated from their mothers (I suppose fathers don't always count) and friends, simply taken into a stinking room and slit. Sometimes that death seems better compared to the horrible conditions in which they are made to live, packed like sardines in a can, sweating on each other with no hygiene. They would shit in the woods or meadows and not walk all over them, had they been left to themselves. Then comes the sickening act of choosing the breed (more meat, juicier, consumes less, etc.) and eliminating the ones you don't want. If you think I am making this up, then visit this link. There are many more such reports and "realities". If you thought this was a recent phenomenon, then read this. So, yes, I think it would be best to be vegetarian and if you are worried about the concerns that mis-informed non-vegetarians have about vegetarianism then don't worry: our family has lived for centuries on pure plants and plant products and most people have died due to natural causes (usually beyond the age of 70) or due to accidents (which has very little if any concern about dietary practices).

The great concern about Vit-B12 deficiency amongst vegetarians is mis-placed as no one in the family and in any family of relatives have anaemia. Stupid scientists have attributed the "Hindu" phenomenon (of being vegetarians and not having Vit-B12 deficiency) to the existence of insect larvae, eggs and faeces in the leafy vegetable and other vegetables. Seriously, are we to believe that we don't wash our veggies well enough and eat mosquito shit? If that is the case, then so be it. I'd rather eat invisible mosquito shit than disgustingly butcher animals. And, FYI, animals do not produce B12. We are capable of synthesising it and the entire chemical reaction of food in the oven as well as in our gut is far too complex to assume that we need all our nutrients on our plate in clear demarcated spaces and quantities before we can start eating.

If I were stranded in the Amazon (not the .com one) and had to find myself food, I might pick berries or hunt a rabbit and cook it. That doesn't mean that all planned and systematic murder is justified. To treat animals like a bunch of hub-cups off an assembly line reeks of our hypocrisy. To stuff them with what we want to find on our dinner table is also sickening. I know of cases where a camel (or some hoofed animal) is fed alcohol till it dies (or is anyway killed) and then the meat is marinated for a while before tossed on a spit. Very creative but so was using Jewish skin off the holocaust for lampshades. And if you let the body wallow in urine the skin is softened to provide easily workable leather which one can then shape into really classy handbags. Tanning such leather, I believe, is also very easy.

So feel free to fish and cook what you catch. Hunt a boar and carefully slice it (you can carefully scrape the "inside" of the skin to obtain fat which can be cooked for stuffing vegetables). Preserve them like they do in Italy or other Med countries. I recall a very elaborate procedure of hanging the meat with salt coating on it, etc. And if you are going to hunt them, welcome their hunting you too. Do not have some forest reserve authority shoot down a tiger which just attacked your house and dragged away your 2 month old daughter. You just had her cub last Sunday. Do not kill animals because you need to protect yourself. Protect yourself the way they protect themselves; with your body. If you believe that animals that behave unruly and kill human beings should be killed, then so should butchers. Is it remotely possible for you to be absolutely fair? Wait for your chickens to lay eggs. If you cannot hunt animals, then rear them and let them die. When they naturally do, then eat those dead animals. Yes, you will be called a scavenger. So what? I thought you liked the meat. There is nothing unethical or barbaric about consuming meat though it is atrocious and vulgar to consume meat the way it is commonly produced and distributed in most cities.

Vegetarians too need to be concerned about the food they eat. Lots of chemicals used and hybrid varieties (larger, juicier, longer shelf-life) not only taste bad (compared to the pedigrees) but are not good for your health (if you so fancy, please use a straw in one of the pesticide bottles and sip away). GM crops are a total no no. GreenPeace reports on how the main manufacturer of GM crops stopped the supply of its own produce in its own staff canteens!

Urbanisation and "civilisation" have sterilised us from the actual food production cycle and intricacies. We are happy in not knowing what went into that bowl of cornflakes we eat in the morning. Animals being fed something which is not their natural diet (so that we can get better beef) or plants being grown in unnatural conditions (though not for food, Bt-Cotton is an example of fudging with Nature) and the whole impact on land, water and air (the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by livestock is second only to the industrial gaseous effluents) are somethings that we need to closely monitor and perhaps make it mandatory to publish on the packaging. That wouldn't be of any use for packaged meats though a picture of the dead animal (whose meat looks so cutely pink) on the package might be good.

Processing food is not merely a matter of how as hinted above, but how we do things based on our ignorance. The way we whiten rice or manufacture all-purpose flour would reveal that our fancy for things white and clean make us lose a lot of nutrients (and they are simply washed away). Bigger tomatoes and potatoes don't matter. Smaller ones grown properly are tastier though of course you need to peel more of them for the same meal. Do not buy canned fruits and vegetables. They taste horrible.

You might wonder (as I did) how can this be avoided as long as we need to feed so many mouths. I will address this in another post, so please bear with me. Let us look into our buying habits and wastage.

Most people in the city prefer buying at the supermarkets. I do too because I can accomplish a lot in one trip and the best looking girls are there! But these are for emergency purposes only (to me). I always prefer buying at the mandis (the Indian equivalent of buying from a farmers' market to collective in the US or UK). Not only is it cheaper they are fresher and one can buy them in good quantities. Circumstances have left me with a separate refrigerator for my veggies. So I stock them in there and I don't visit a market for the next 2-3 weeks. I would prefer making the trip every week but logistics is an issue. Buy fresh vegetables from the farmers or farmers' union store them well and use them judiciously.

I overcook (somehow a whole wok full of coloured delicacies soothes me more than just a quarter full) and we have constraints on what can and cannot be stored in the fridge. But most often we would carry over to the next day. Do not throw away food. Feed a dog or the birds in the park. If the quantity is good and can be parceled, ask your maid if she would like to have some/all. We have some traditional recipes (so reducing wastage and recycling is very much in our culture and has been around for a few decades, at least) to utilise the greens and tubers that remain. One fantastic dish my mom makes (which my sister is crazy about) is the yericcha kuzhambu (burnt kuzhambu). I don't know the recipe and I think it is something made extempore (with some basic guidelines in place).

Another reason to avoid supermarkets is the amount of food they waste. WRAP recently published a report which estimated the food wasted (simply dumped) to be about 4.8 million tonnes per year. Do you realise how much people in Somalia would bless you for passing this same food on to them? Every year! No, this is not humbug. I referred to this link for an idea.

Since commencing her EU mission, HMS Northumberland has safely escorted a total of 43,743.92 tonnes of assorted relief food, carried on six vessels over three different voyages. According to the World Food Programme, the above quantity of food will feed 2,550,000 people for a month.

That is 2.55 million people's requirement for a month. UK alone wastes 100 times that amount per year!! Mind you, 4.8 million tonnes is the usable portion of the 17 million tonnes that is actually wasted! If we could only manage the 17 million tonnes well enough and channelise them to places where people are hungry, we would have a huge problem solved. But we cannot afford to live consciously as it is not profitable and it will not give us the sense of being superior.

What has all this got to do with Conscious Living? So much that we think it is a totally different and disconnected concern. Food is what people need (we can do without iPods and F1 racing). To be able to create them in a manner that doesn't destroy the fertility of this earth, doesn't ruin the air around us or pollute the water bodies on and below the surface of the earth is being conscious about how we produce our food. To assume that we can go on and on producing any quantity and hoard is being irresponsible. To think that we can change Nature and consider Nature stupid to have produced crops and pests alongside as well as seasonal crops (as in, why should I wait for the next crop cycle) is a typical trait of one who cannot think beyond his immediate wants (more, more, more) and conveniences (I should just have this rice which never dies). That is not living consciously. To treat animals as if they were created only to be lanced by our forks and spoons is immature and very self-centered. We can also be their food and they have every right to enter our homes and attack us and eat us. To protect the human race at any cost and treat the rest of the Earth and its inhabitants as variegated Granola bars is myopic and extremely destructive if not vulgar and outright barbaric. Whom we call barbarians were only so in matters of modern etiquette and in figuring out whether the fork should be to the right or left. They were genuine citizens of this world in taking only that much from Nature as they could return. Then greed and insensitivity crept in. Man lost all value for wisdom and kept manufacturing at a breakneck speed. We will surely not suffer any of the consequences of this mindlessness. Our grandchildren will and if you care only for yourself and your families, then please realise that Conscious Living is a focused effort to making life easier for your grandchildren (your family). This is not about caring for the child in Darfur (and you would only be human if you did care about that little one there) but about your own family. If you do not believe in expanding your circle of concern, so be it, but at least care about your grandchildren and the world you are going to leave behind for them. Shouldn't you pass on the best genes to them. Eat properly, then. Eat consciously. Live Consciously.

Allow me to summarise this rather large post.


  1. Eat just enough to last till the next meal
  2. Eat mostly plants
  3. Eat seasonal
  4. If you must eat animals, be fair to them. Give them a chance to fight for their lives. Look into their eyes when you hunt them.
  5. Cook slowly and carefully
  6. Eat fresh. Canned food is not food.
  7. Preferably buy your veggies and grains from the farmers
  8. Plan your meal such that there are no leftovers
  9. Buy only as much as you think you can eat (and deduct 20% on that estimate before buying)
  10. Pass excess food on to others who need them. Don't be insecure.
  11. Make it a point to visit or learn about the manufacturing process of the stuff you eat. By keeping it simple (veggies, grains, legumes, salt, spices, etc.) you need to spend less time on this.
  12. Try and enjoy at least one meal in a day
  13. Eat slowly
  14. Introduce colour and variety in your meals
  15. Exercise but do not adopt fad diets
I can never understand the excuse of people being so busy that they can't cook a proper meal. Would you give the same excuse for doing your job properly (that you were too busy to do it properly)? Please hire a cook, at least. If you cannot slow down to the point when you can live consciously, then why bother living and in a variety of ways create problems or support the destructive agents?

I urge every reader of this blog post to buy a copy of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food. If you find it too expensive, drop by and we can discuss the book.

Links: (I am not annotating them. Perhaps I will over time)'t-blame-supermarkets-for-food-waste.html

ps: Please forgive typos (if any) in this post. This was written in one sitting and the mind can only be this alert... Do let me know if you find any.

Dance pe Chance

I keep thinking how incongruous this song is on this blog, but then that is the fun.
I simply love this song and I thank my friends who accompanied me to this movie (average movie but the songs are cool). I really loved this song because it is cute in trying to capture dance moves as lines in a song with very very appropriate similes!! Not to mention that Anushka looks very sleek in this song (just don't show her close up). I still dance to this song whenever I listen to it! Oh you have no clue how I manage in every given space in my house! :-)
But more than the happy feet is the memory of long ago when I was a kid (or so people say) and my sis and I choreographed the dance for another group of kids! It was sheer fun. We might have (knowing the way we think) also given some analogies like the ones in the song. Another incident was when I was in Bombay and had choreographed a dance piece for a tonne of flat-mates (they danced to Dholi Taro Dhol Baje from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. The video is worth watching). We had so much fun dancing like crazy, spinning and practicing in the living room of a vacant house before the final show on stage! They were fantastic and I enjoyed cheering from the audience.

Nothing like dancing like that and nothing like dancing like Anushka in the song!

The video below is a poor recording. Play it, mute it and listen to the audio link below that!!

Dance Pe Chance

Dance Pe Chance

The lyrics follow (the Punjabi is a best guess attempt):

Left leg agge agge, right leg picche picche
Aaja yaara let's start ve.

Sir ko ghumale round, pair zara up down
Itni si ye baat ve.

Woh bandha hi kya hai, jo naache na gaaye
Aa haathon mein tu haath thaamle.

Oye Dance pe chance mar le
O Soniya
Dance pe chance mar le
O Balliye
Dance pe chance mar le
O Soniya (and she sings this beautifully)
[Chorus ends]

Pichche Pichche aaja teri chaal ven day aaya - (twice)
Sano Laakh hon gaye lashkarein
Ni sano tera laung lapiya
Dil dekhe tu lejha mundiyare
Ni sano tera laung lapiya

O chal haath ghuma le yaara
O jaise suyiyaan saath se baara (and there are two steps for this, one which she does and the other a typical Grease step. If you see a silly guy doing this in the middle of the road, that would be me)
Le bann gaya step soniya
Tu bann gaya hep soniya.

O zara kamar ko aise ghumane
O zaise hava mein aat banana
Le bann gaya step soniya
Tu bann gaya hep soniya.


Gaali tere puth tepranda tera laalvi - (twice)
Rup te laaniep perande nussvaarni
Gaali teri gaali teri gaali teri

O ek haat ko ooncha utta le
O Mandir ki ghantti baja le
Le bann gaya step soniya
Tu bann gaya hep soniya.

O dooja haat hiley zara neeche
O jaise udti patang koi kheenche
Le bann gaya step soniya
Tu bann gaya hep soniya.


I don't think I will translate this song. Pretty simple lyrics.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I realise I haven't responded to several comments on this blog. Sorry, been lost in several things. Will do so today.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

This Week's Read: Vol 1 Issue 2

And here is another issue of some interesting links. See, it always runs fine for the first few issues and then... we'll wait and listen to the exact noise it makes!

  1. Didn't we always know they were gold-diggers!? As if the IB didn't have it tough with the economy and depression (oh! it is already here) and the bankruptcy, they have to tackle their "better"-halves! Seriously, and we want to still call them the more sensitive sex? And read about how it was, back then.
  2. Show them the finger! Gesticulating is so vitally a part of Indian communication (though we didn't invent any parallel to the finger). I am always reminded of Peter Russel's piece on Italians and how they were probably all "deaf at some point in time". Really hilarious piece and a must watch.
  3. Since men are bad, kill the babies. Frankly, I hope that someone continues to get crazy everyday and the world is rid of fools. Then and perhaps only then will this world be more sustainable. Control reproduction!? Geez! Why don't we just let people die whenever they are dying!? Will cover that in my article about the balance of Nature.
  4. Smart Grids. A perspective on why the $4.5 billion will not make sense.
  5. Mark Bittman joins the Michael Pollan gang. (ps. I am a member too)
  6. Why human rights are wrong. A thought provoking article from Request you to read, reflect and then (if impossible to contain) react.
  7. Weight is great, or so we used to say when anyone called us fat. Though I agree that being fit is vital, I think we need to re-look fat as well as this idea that the government or any "higher" body can do anything about it. I recall reading this article about how the entire notion that the govt. would have to spend more if obesity was not controlled was a myth. Once I get my hands on it, I will share it.
  8. Starting a reading revolution. Here are some thoughts on something that is very close to my heart.
  9. So what? Why are people so anti-censure when the censure is well-meant and well-intended? Honestly, do we care more about the right to do whatever than the need for rightness?
  10. What really happened? A perspective on the current crisis (though I liked the New Yorker article about post-modernism and the financial debacle, better).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

She loves me... she loves me not...

I sit near the lake
And wait for her to come
Rushing through the fields
Like I knew all lovers to do.
Dhoondtha hoon tujhe har raah mein har mehfil mein
Thakk gaye hain, mere majboor-e-tamanna ke kadam.

But I still wait for the tall stalks to part.

I walk through streets
Alongside dog and cattle
And look up at the grilled window
Hoping that she would be standing there.
Even an outline would do
Of a fluttering skirt left to dry
On the chord tied to a rod of the grill.
Ghar se nikalte hi, kuch dur chalte hi, raste main hai uska ghar,
Kal subah dekha to baal banati vo, khidki main aayi nazar

Is that her?

I pick a flower - she likes orange
And I twirl it around my fingers
Would she wear it in her hair
Or pin it atop her breast
That soft mound of a hundred kisses?
Would she press it between sheets
Of her heaviest book to show
Little children who ask the old lady:
“Did you, granny, have a lover?”
“Ek din aap yoon, humko mil jaayenge
Phool hi phool raahon mein khil jaayenge
Maine socha na tha…

That I had had a lover who brought me flowers”?

I shall light some lamps
And turn off the power
To see her, and her shadow
Walk carefully between the flames
Towards one burning deep within.
Would she stop to smile?
Would she hold my face in her hands?
Would she… you know?
Soppanathil ippadi thaan eppovume vandhu nippa
Solla ponaal paerazhagi sokku thangam pola iruppa
Vatthi kutchi illamale kaadhal thiya pattha veppa.


I get up and shake my head
Maybe I’ll go home tonight
And she will be there
Waiting for me
A bed of roses and dim lights
Or maybe it will just be
Another night of a crumpled bed
And no lights (bill is due).
Maybe she paints her canvas
With such dreams
And then another of fervid gropes
And panting tongues.
Zindagi khwaab hai, khwaab mein jhoot kya
Aur bhala sach hai kya.

Maybe tomorrow she will come.

Dil ke armaan

Sunday, February 08, 2009

This Week's Read: Vol 1 Issue 1

As there are many things I start and find them best started and little else thereafter, I shall start one more for who can ever tell which shot got the drunkard staggering?

I would like to round up 10 very interesting reads from around the world (and from my collection of documents) each week and present it to the reader. I hate mail forwards and hence, find this to be a better way of sharing info with my friends, too. Subjects will, predictably, vary.

  1. Let's cook the books or book the cooks! An interesting article drawing parallels between the world of culinary business and that of investment banking.
  2. Women: A user manual. And you thought you really could get that!? With Valentine's day around the corner (for those who go ga-ga over that day), here is a good read.
  3. The Picasso in me: purge him. Don't we all consider ourselves artists (till we actually meet an artist; thereafter we are connoisseurs)? Well, you can continue feeling that way...
  4. Possessed by possessions. This article will provide historical basis to some of my posts in the Conscious Living series. Read it.
  5. What will change everything. A very widely discussed and relevant article. Of course, from
  6. Saute the libertarian. Mixing food and politics, Jerker makes a jerk of vegetarians and others. Enjoy the read while I silently sharpen my knife for a rebuttal.
  7. Buy this, if you love your child. I am so glad that someone has brought this book out. From the reviews it looks like a promising book. I am going to buy it and show it all those who think that scolding a child or those who believe in "treating the child like an adult". 
  8. Don't you cry. And I have been telling all those who thought that the crying man (or more often, woman) was genuine and honest, that there need not be any relevance. If only people could emote what they genuinely felt rather than put up a drama (except those who think that a drama is the right way of living!)...
  9. How can you understand? I simply love the way of the Japanese not because it is romantic but because it is right and blunt (Oh! How I would love to live in a world where I could speak my mind!). I simply love Tanabe-san's words: His knowledge of brushes, calligraphy, and the properties and characteristics of animal hair was vast, and my capacity for understanding was small.
  10. My IQ is 185. So? Do we need to buy more sugar given that we already have some though the prices might go up next week and we consume only this much per month, or not?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Tom Alter - Maulana Azad

Simply brilliant.

If you left this blog after reading those two words, you would have a good feel of what Tom Alter portrayed at Y's private assembly of friends (and I am indebted to her generosity in inviting me). I have always respected his acting, but today he shocked me in more ways than one.
In the green room
This is a monologue written and directed by M. Sayeed Alam. The Urdu is mature and highly polished. I was stumbling across lines trying to figure out some of the words and in the process had to miss the lines that didn't wait for me. Such chaste Urdu left many in the audience clueless but the performance was still exemplary.

The gathering was at Y's private auditorium and the gathering, in Mr. Alter's words: "to call them the ‘audience’ would almost be an insult". Sir, call us anything, and it doesn't matter, but please call us whenever and wherever you perform.

This play is composed as a dictation by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to his friend and secretary, Humayun Kabir. Humayun is often asked questions and Maulana summarises it for us. The book that Humayun is drafting is "India Wins Freedom". The agreement is that Maulana will speak in Urdu (sprinkled with Arabic and Farsi) and it is up to Humayun to render it appropriately in English. Maulana often teases Humayun for not having the "Jawahar-waali baat" in his English. The script was so effortlessly well polished that Humayun's corporeal absence wasn't felt.

The play’s brilliance rests as much on Mr. Alter’s talent as on Mr. Alam’s script. Some of the slips were not missed but they were overshadowed by the sheer strength and grip of the play. What was well done was the English accent in a typical Indian style by someone whose native tongue is English. But here is where Mr. Alter goes one step further to surprise us all: the script from which he was reading and preparing for the play was all written in Urdu. It turns out that he has learnt Urdu well enough to read and write in the Arabic script!! And I thought I was doing something oddly different by being a pucca South Indian but having my allegiance with Urdu!
Mr. Alter made good use of the props though after a point I wondered whether the grunts and groans were dramatic or genuine (whenever he kept switching on/off the lights). The Chennai heat forced him to unbutton his sherwani a bit (and I don’t think that was in the script)!

The play had Maulana take us through his life starting with a declaration that announcing his date of birth in such a manner resembled announcements prisoners made about themselves. Maulana was no alien to jails and had stayed a good length at the Ahmednagar jailhouse. Maulana takes us through various interesting phases in his life including the domestic scene and his political life. In all of them, the script brings out the sensitive side of Maulana and that was very well done.

The entire play shows us various facets of Maulana’s personality including his sense of humour, the poet in him, his punctured ego, his love for his wife and how he hardly ever got a chance to let her know about that while she was alive and the tongue-in-cheek commentary about various political figures of his times. He does not mince words about his thoughts on Gandhi or Nehru. His comments on Jinnah and Vallabhai Patel are pointed and scathing. The beauty of the script is that it is well balanced though often the attempt at balancing it was visible. Maulana would point out the mistake in, say, Jinnah and then say good things about him in the next sentence and then back to blaming him for his outlook and then stating that it was not entirely Jinnah’s faults. This back and forth was often visible though didn’t tire or become too stark.

The portions where Maulana talks about his begum and how she said “Khuda hafiz” when he left Calcutta were very touching. It was beautiful to get a glimpse into the personal life of such a statesman. The soft words he chose to describe his wife and their relationship were beautiful and moving. I simply loved the lines when he said, “Maut ko kis se rishtedari hai; Aaj woh, to kal humaari hai” (What bonds does death have with anyone, today it is his, and tomorrow it shall be mine). Maulana prayed at an unknown grave till he was released and allowed to visit his wife’s actual grave. I found that immensely sweet and wondered how genuine gestures of love and affection often go unnoticed or delayed. Maulana recalls offering prayers at Jinnah’s grave too (much after the partition). He says here (and I paraphrase): “Jo chale jaatey hai unse maafi maang leni chahiye; aur unko maaf bhi kar dena chahiye”

This play helped me better understand Maulana’s views and I respected the man for that. It also revealed him in the plain light of a human being when he cribs about being just an Education minister while Nehru, with a difference of two years between them, was Prime Minister and treated with such great respect and honour. He makes wonderful observations like the one about how a Hindu politician visiting Jinnah’s grave would have generated great fuss and attention but when a Muslim politician (himself) visited then people just showed him the path to the grave and let him walk down to there! He confesses to having made the biggest and most regrettable blunder of having chosen Nehru as his successor (something he says that he regrets more than his wife's death) but quickly adds that Nehru would also agree to that. He expresses his disappointment at Gandhi's stance over the partition and how he let Vallabhai Patel and Nehru and the Mountbatten couple to influence him. The lines vary between being sharp, witty, touching but always honest. I enjoyed the sher attempted by some Jose or someone like that who came to visit Maulana once. Maulana finds it amusing that his name should ever form the kaafiya of a sher and that too with as poor a word as khaulana!

In short the play weaved the entire persona of Maulana very beautifully taking us through anecdotes of his winning a poetry competition when he was about thirteen, to tales about Cheetah Khan, to tales about how he and the Maulvi would debate with Hindu priests about the Koran and the Hindu scriptures and then rush to the taverns to get themselves drunk, about his learning the sitar and a lot more. Mr. Alter’s Urdu was impeccable and his accents and intonations were remarkably well done.

If this play is performed in your city, please do join the audience. It is worth the two hours that one spends in such company.

Maulana's love for Jasmine tea...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


I assure you that this was not planned. Oh please, believe me when I say that it is impossible to plan such things and worse still, actually find them happening. I was asked to do some work. I think I was clearly asked to "do some work for a change." Had this been at my previous organisation, I would have realised that we were going bankrupt (yes, I worked at the Street) but this place was notorious for not working and paying employees. So I figured that we were going to have some inspection of sorts.
I ran over to my desk and cleared the pennies on the table and the fannies on my desktop. I had chaste images - of little children playing in the courtyard with a big white ball (suspended in perennial indecision between the girl's hands and the boy's) against the sun - pulled up as my wallpaper. I cleared the history cache of all my browsers and then realised I shouldn't be having all these browsers in the first place. So I uninstalled all and opened a PDF file in Notepad. It looked like I was working really hard and long on some involved computation of the next bubble for the market. Typical inspectors and auditors do not look beyond 4 digits and especially if it is at a location other than the bottom right corner: 2009. Someone came over and told me that having pictures of children would make me a paedophile and that I should mix some adults in there too. The only adults I had on my system would have given every Street CEO a heart-attack. They never believe that the economy could be hit that bad! So I copied pictures of people from my family album (actually, it is Greg's family album, but Lisa, Greg's wife, says I had a hand in its current portfolio). It was funny seeing Greg holding a beer glass right under Tommy who watched with confused canine eyes at the ball being tossed between girl and boy (they didn't have names as they came from Webshots). I was never good with images and people say I caused grandpa's nervous breakdown when I made this collage of his office and college crowd but mixed them up so badly that we had his boss shaking hands with his college sweetheart and grandmom extending the baby (I think that was mom in her diapers) to Mark the foreman. Grandpa just kept looking at Mark and mom before he realised that the lady he was staring at was not mom at all. He blamed Mark for transforming mom into the brunette event manager. "All the blond's gone" he muttered before he turned on his right side. He never forgets where he keeps his beer, the old goat!
So my desktop looked like a page out of Gulliver's Travels with adults smaller than dogs (and Greg's uplifted glass was actually full and bubbling) or the Webshots shot children or the Webshots tossed ball. I quickly added the line "Children are our biggest assets" though I wished that line didn't end on Greg's aunt's cleavage. As I said, I was never good with MS Paint and the only PhotoShop I knew was two blocks away.
Then Steve walked in. 
"Do you see something I do?"
I followed his line of sight. Jesus! How did the Latina pics land in Greg's family album!? 
"Thanks, Steve. You saved my job" and I quickly removed the voluptuous one.
"No, not that. The children are Caucasian."
"Yes. So?"
"The adults, miniature or otherwise, are Caucasian."
"Yes. So?"
"Well, you aren't going to score high if anyone who sees this wallpaper believes in equal representation for all races."
"In the same family?"
"Oh! So you think that is horrible? So horrible that you can't even picture it?" he asked pointing to my wallpaper. I think he used that phrase wrong but I wasn't going to correct him.
"What do I do?"
"Get in some colour, man!"
"The only picture I have is of Obama."
"Go with that. May he ride on top of the ball."
Steve walked away stirring his black coffee.
I re-opened the image in Paint. I used bucket fill to make Lisa dark brown in one shot and a rabid red in another. The girl was coloured till she looked like she was a descendant of a family which had taken cross-pollination to new levels. Obama sat on the ball with his fingers forming a "V".
Now, with my desk looking as neat as it was when ... actually, it never looked like this ever, and I realised I was at Greg's machine.
I ran towards mine when my manager stopped me and said, "Andy, you really need to be more productive. We want results, presentations, plans, posters, tea, bowling and Szechuan sauce."
I nodded my head and decided to add "Mastering the recipe of green tea" in my career goals. Our company called these goals ABC or Attainable Business Costs. Our goals always had to be something that the company could afford. Mastering recipes was fine but doing work was not because that often meant giving you a functioning desktop machine. So you can state that you wish to develop your knowledge in the derivatives market and create some instruments to drive your competitors bankrupt, but the goal should not include developing that instrument as the Firm didn't have money to print the flyers. Your contribution to the Firm will be based on presentations about how you would have sent our competitors to the Congress begging for a bailout and how colourful your charts are. Hence, most of us still call it Aesthetic Bullshit Charts.
I decided to act on my manager's advice and headed to the pantry to taste the new batch of Szechuan sauce. Yes, it was still water in those Szechuan coloured plastic bottles. It would be fair to add that to my goals. We will never attain true Szechuan sauce.
I headed back to my cubicle and trotted past a confused Greg staring at a Greg, coloured pink above his neck and swinging a golf club towards his mother-in-law bent over (actually, I hadn't selected Greg's son Mathew from that picture)... nothing. It didn't look like a picture Lisa should see though Greg was smiling away.
I created a meeting request for all the managers on the floor and managers who were soon to have the floor beneath them removed. It bore the title "PLAN to make $500 million in a single quarter". I sent it to all and just before I did, I added every employee in bcc. Now everyone got up and walked around eyeing each other with a "I am sure you don't know but I DO" look. The funniest was when two such looks met and they kept circling each other in the middle of the corridor. That had the ladies whispering to each other "I knew it. Didn't I tell you!? They look so cute. Never thought that the closet would open on them." The men, oblivious to all of this, kept looking each other up like Jedi knights hoping that the other would faint and fall from the massive fusion sparks that one's look radiated. I think they gave up and pumped their fists with their backs to each other. Boys!
I had left out the meeting room and soon people were looking for me. Men went into the restrooms and played Romeo at each closed door.
"Andy, I know you are in there. You better... Sorry Mrs. Larkin. I was just practicing for a charity play."
I was buying hot-dogs from a very familiar looking guy when Greg phoned and asked, "Andy, where is the meeting?"
"Which one?"
"The plan for the 500 mill."
"Oh! Oh! I sent it out to you too? Oh! Errm. I think there has been a ..."
"What? I wasn't supposed to be on it? Don't do this, man! We have been friends for now, how long!? 10 years? 20 years?"
"Well, a little before Jane was conceived."
"Really?", he paused and I knew that he had known all along about that. He sighed and continued, "That long, man!? Wow! Feels like we have known each other forever. Come on, buddy. You won't do this to me, would you?"
"To be honest, Mr. D didn't do dis", I was tumbling over the Ds.
"To be honest, Mr. D did... not... do... this re-org. It was Mr. W who wanted wa wee-worg."
"So? But I am still on right?"
"Well, I guess you can join the party, but you have to pay for this hot-dog."
"Anything man, anything."
"Oh! And the dryers are due to. My car is still at the mechanics and my wife wants a manicure. They always get re-painted together and my car has more coats then nuts in it, unlike the Firm. Then there is the new Porsche that I had my eye on..."
"Hello, Andy, can't hear you. Hello... hellooooo... Anyway, the meeting seems to have started."
"What? Without me?"
I ran upstairs with the hot-dog guy in tow as the mustard was still in my pocket. I rushed into the room and everyone was looking at me. That was when I realised: I only had my white boxers on with the toothpaste snakes that my son, Jeff, had left on them. The mint in them was cooling the delicates and I couldn't stand still.
"Yes, Andrew. We are waiting to here about the plan", said Mr. W while whipping wash woff wis woat wleeve. Greg was sitting beside him though I thought he would soon slink beneath the table and kiss Mr. W's toes or things that I can't imagine.
"PLAN as a verb and not a noun, Mr. W"
"Yes, I called this meeting so that we can plan new initiatives to create 500 mill in some quarter in the future."
I suddenly noticed Mr. D dancing around me in circles and waving an axe, crying to the false ceiling. He kept tossing twigs and leaves around my feet.
"PLAN is in uppercase, Mr. W. It stands for Proactive Learning And Nurturing and I think the Firm is in the perfect times and age for a PLAN."
People started clapping around me and Ms. Crawford mouthed to me that the corporate website was updated with the new buzzword of the Firm. The way she mouthed all of that, I thought she was suggesting something entirely different and I had to show her my wedding band which Jack, sitting near me, pointed out was missing.
"That is a brilliant idea, Andrew. Do you have a presentation to take us through this?"
That is when I realised that my pen drive was not with me. My nightmare was coming true: Standing at the edge of the century's biggest corporate move and not having my flash drive. I could see them shaking their heads and Greg showing Mr. W my childhood albums and both of them sniggering. I saw the ladies play ping-pong across the table, though I never know why that caused so much distress to me. Mr. D had started lighting the huge pile of wood around me (by now it was waist high and the toothpaste snakes had all started climbing down the pile laughing and saying "Did you see it? As in, really? Gosh!") The fire burns more brightly and the hot-dog vendor (his face looks so familiar) is nudging me to hand over the mustard. Nudge. Nudge. Nudge.
"Andy, Mr. W is talking to you."
"Wuh? What? Who? Wister. W?"
They were all looking at me. I hate post-lunch meetings. I wipe the drool off Greg's trouser leg on which my head was resting. I realise that it was not the right gesture and Greg jumps off his chair.
"So, Andrew. Do you have any thoughts on our strategy? Or should I ask, any clue?"
I shake my head into focusing on Mr. W and see Ms. Crawford mimic me, sleeping with mouth open. It looks suggestive again and I decide to show her my wedding band. Damn! Wrong finger.
"Yes? We are waiting, Andrew."
"Well, Mr. W... what wye wink. I mean, What I think is that as long as we are proactive in implementing our plans and give it our 110%, 24X7 there is no way we can't achieve what we have discussed in such detailed terms with clear milestones and a strong vision."
The silence was worse than mint toothpaste burning on my boxer insides. Everyone looks at me and then at Mr. W and then at Ms. Crawford hoping she would look at them and do the mouth-open-eyes-closed-I-am-in-heaven sleep imitation. Mr. W stands up slowly and pulls the pen-drive out of the machine. It snaps with the entire edge of the laptop now in his hand.
"Well said, Andrew" and he looks around the room before continuing, "As long as we have people focused on our mission like Andrew, there is no way we can fail. I can already smell success."
Someone points the mustard satchets on which he was sitting. I think it was Tony. Now I know why that hot-dog guy looked so familiar. Actually a week later, I was collecting change from Tony on the sidewalk. He makes much better hot-dogs than pie-charts.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Conscious Living - An Introduction

I wish to discuss my thoughts surrounding what I call Conscious Living. This is something I have been pondering over and truly meditating on for quite some time. I suppose my life itself has been an experiment in this and having involved myself in another facet of life, I feel I am in a position to discuss this now.

This is an introduction to a series of articles that I intend writing over the course of this year. This post will be where I wish to introduce what I mean by Conscious Living (alternatively called responsible living or right living). This is not a self-help post or series. There is nothing that will make you feel positive about yourself (a normal reading should make you feel horrible). This is not a post on any clinical psychology studies or spiritual gyan. This is not a measure of where you stand or a means to motivate you. An unexpected side-effect might be to make you feel inspired to live a rightness which is welcome and I shall not be disappointed.

Having purged this series of what it can be imagined to be, I shall now proceed to explain what I mean by Conscious Living.

Conscious Living is a chosen style of conducting oneself in the context of Nature (including the various animals, natural resources, environmental conditions, etc.), consumption (including food, manufactured resources, space, etc.), contributions (including one's career, social involvement, returning what one takes from the world, etc.), relationship with other individuals and finally, one's personal journey into understanding the self and Self.

Conscious Living is a choice merely because the human mind is instinctively greedy and insecure, and, left to itself, it will chose the path of maximum returns and comfort for minimum investment or expenditure. This is true about relationships too. Please do not accept this or deny it but observe life around you as it is. That excursion requires a quiet and still mind that is not interested in condemning or justifying. Since Conscious Living is a departure from the effortless and the greedy (I refrain from using the word "selfish" as I require its contribution when I, later, describe rightness of human values and actions in the framework of contributions and consumptions), it is a choice and like every choice, which is a moving away from laziness of a similar nature, it requires effort and a mental faculty that can sustain its observance in the face of all adversities and doubt. Please be aware that Conscious Living is a vigorous and responsive belief in the rightness of things and not in a particular version or rendition of rightness, for rightness is objective and occasionally adaptive.

Conscious Living is a style and not the written code of law because all it can provide is a framework welded from the spine of Truth and honesty and its flesh is derived every single instant. As a style, it does not disallow individual differences which responsibly play within the space of rightness. As a style, it fits in with the individual and his preferred mode of learning about Conscious Living. As a style, it is readily identifiable in a practioner. Deviations from Conscious Living are also, hence, noticeable. It is also a style because its governing principles lie in the inherent order of Nature and in the nature of Order.

Like every choice made, there is an operating context. Conscious Living a few millenia ago might have apeared different from what it would mean and entail now. Today's state of Nature, environmental degradation, moral degradation, economic instability, availability of resources, human perspective and intelligence are what define Conscious Living. It would be irrational to speak about Conscious Living as a context-less absolute, for it is not that though several traits might urge one to conclude so.

Conscious Living is vital because we as human beings are the most destructive entities of this Earth (and perhaps, in the near future, of this Universe). We often mistake our destructive nature to be power, superiority, etc. We believe that man is at the top of the chain of evolution (because he can invent new gadgets and study animals and the world in a laboratory). We also believe we are the most powerful (because we can shoot deer before he knew what hit him or from where, because we can raze an entire building or a forest in a short while, because we can clone something that we believe is beneficial for this world) of all creatures. We believe we are the most intelligent (because we have strong SAT scores, invented chess and created robots that can bark). Whether we are all that or not, we are definitely the most destructive as we are the only specie to systematically invent ways to drastically eliminate scores of living creatures, ecosystems and ourselves, too. No other animal has that capacity. Lions do not refrigerate water buffalo for the weekend dinner. We systematically kill, destroy, hoard (by exploitation and depletion) and introduce economics into this equation to make matters worse. We believe that this world is a smorgasbord and we have every right to clean it up before we burp our last one. We believe there is no need to cleanse ourselves of our ignorance because it hasn't pinched yet. Yet.

One can enter the philosophical argument that every creature is doing what it does and so is man. Why complain? Perhaps this is the order of Nature that we in our amateur benevolence wish to paint differently. Perhaps we are not supposed to learn from animals. Perhaps we need not be kind to water bodies or worry about the depleting coal reserves. Perhaps not. Shall we then abolish laws and turn the other way from every rape and theft? Shall we allow the SARS virus to take its own course? Shall we let a rabid dog walk freely? Shall we direct the effluence to our kitchen faucet? Shall we stop condemning the Holocaust? After all that was quite a human event, wasn't it? Why condemn cannibalism? If I can systematically rear sheep and hack them to death for dinner, why not do that with a bunch of test tube babies? If the argument is that we should do anything to preserve our survival (how parasitical!), then how do we stop intra-specie threats? More importantly, how do we intend coming to terms with the fact that if we wipe out all animals and plants and build more malls and theme parks, we cannot survive more than a few centuries? If we keep polluting all water bodies, how do we intend getting pure water to drink? It is not merely eco-friendly living but Conscious Living.

Any clever attempt at creating arguments for living irresponsibly and ignorantly will culminate in the rapid elimination of the human race. Conscious Living is vital for our existence and not an altruistic gesture at painting a leafy colourful backyard. Conscious Living is the most selfish way to live on this earth. I would have loved to point you to a single resource for understanding selfishness as a virtue but the one tome that comes closest fails significantly in being that. Conscious Living is not an attempt to denigrate the human race or create a lifestyle to curb one's passions and/or ambition. It is not an attempt at destroying individuality nor is it a case for charity and altruism. It is the most wise style of conducting our lives in order to achieve our goals and passions and simultaneously maintain the world around us to be able to provide the same opportunities for others. It is not mindless or ignorant or rash selfishness (as selfishness is often assumed to be) but an awareness of the self, the personal wants in life, identifying the drivers in one's life, recognising and accepting that the world around us is not our larder and structuring our life in the best possible manner to achieve what we want to with least damage to the world around us. Conscious Living places the self above altruism but beneath Natural order. This is where Ayn Rand fails. She is clever in establishing the place of self above altruism but seems to lose steam before completing the positioning of selfishness in the grand scheme of things. Altruism and parasitism must go but so must selfishness in the face of a threat to the Natural order.
Hence, Conscious Living mandates a thorough awareness and understanding of the world around us, the context. Any attempt at living consciously without this realisation would be a stuttering one. It is vital for every individual to understand the following:
  1. What are his basic needs in life?
  2. What is it that makes him happy?
  3. How is balance maintained in the world around us?
  4. How is this balance being repeatedly disturbed?
  5. Why is he consuming/purchasing whatever he is?
  6. Is better quality of life a mere matter of excesses?
  7. How to define "Enough"?
  8. Is he returning to this world at the same rate at which he is consuming? Not charity!
  9. What are the failings of the present society?
  10. What is the fabric of interpersonal relationships?
  11. Why does he seek particular relationships?
  12. What is the state of his spiritual realisation?
  13. Why is there conflict within him?
  14. Why is there an hollowness within him?
  15. Is he leaving the world in the same or richer state in which it was when he was born?
Each of these possibly warrant a month of meditation but there is no necessity to have understood them all in all their depth and breadth before living consciously. Conscious Living, as mentioned earlier, is adaptive. There are few basic logs of wood that would provide anyone with a raft to float on the expansive waters of Conscious Living. With greater understanding, you can watch it transform into a sturdy ship that will take you to where you wanted to go and in rightness.
I shall be immersing myself in the details of these basic constructs over this series, but in this introduction, I intend touching on them to give the reader a taste for what is in store. I might not create these posts in the order below.

  1. Balance of Nature: In this I wish to investigate what do we mean by balance in Nature, how we are disturbing it, how nearly every other animal seems to intuitively maintain it and some more. I shall also be discussing the role of medicine in disturbing this balance. Industrialisation and urbanisation will also be touched upon.
  2. Our Food Habits: Our food habits have been partly formed by the dictates of the market. In the West, a lot of what people consume is a function of their lifestyle and the market trends, not to mention the health business. Our food habits destroy the Earth we are living in in gradual but definite measures. Our mindless eating and disposal of food creates imbalance in the world leaving several pockets of human being impoverished while human beings in other places can afford to taste a spoon-full and toss the food into the garbage bin. This post, would be borrowing a lot from Michael Pollan's brilliant work called "In Defense of Food"
  3. How We Hoard: This post will explore the consumer in us and how we purchase mindlessly or driven by petty factors. This post will explore how imbalance is created and how we cannot sustain this style of living. This also explores the market and political forces behind this tendency. This post will lead into the next one.
  4. How We Deplete: Here I will explore how every consumer's action has repercussions of magnitudes that we do not wish to consider when we buy. Do we know what goes into the making of a burger or that tee-shirt you are wearing? Why, do you know how that tomato was grown? Do you know what that cow was fed before landing on your plate? Do you know how that cow was reared!? The beautiful teak furniture in our house, where did it come from? Who was involved in its crafting? How do they live? Do you know how much coal was burned to produce that wonderful cast iron bench? Do you know that the company that manufactures your prescription drugs throws all the waste into the adjoining stream that is used for irrigating fields way below and as water in poorer villages? Do you know how much of forest cover has been eliminated to build that new amusement park? How many animals died in the process? What is happening to all our iron ore reserves?
  5. Returning to the World: It takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to create a delicious Herb Rubbed Sirloin Tip Roast (and try this with softened yam. Works fine!) but few years to rear that beef-giver! It takes a couple of days to manufacture the finest mahogany poster beds but several years to grow one. You think the price justifies it? Coal, iron and several natural resources take several millenia to form. Can we return these to the earth at the same rate? What then becomes of our grandchildren (so what if they are not yours) who need a little zinc for a particular need but can't get it anywhere or can only get it at this extremely expensive rate?
  6. Relationships: Why do we only think in terms of our family, my girlfriend, my husband, my son, my granddaughter and not in terms of humanity? Why do we build relationships on parasitical grounds expecting sacrifices and the like? Why do we not give as much as we want to take? This post will explore the nature of modern relationship and how unconscious it is. It will focus on how a relationship can be beautiful in being conscious, in being aware of the mettle of the other being, in clarity and in love that is of a very different substance (and not mere declarations in words while actions differ). It will further explore why honesty and truth are vital to live the rightness of a relationship. It will explore how psychological chains can never create a relationship. This post will leave the reader with enough material to ponder over why relationships can only be between equals and why every other attempt will only have one sucking blood from the other, with society to support the parasite.
  7. Nourishment of the Self: This will be my personal tribute to Conscious Living for it is in the individual that rightness can be realised at all levels. A society is contained in an individual and it is not the individual who needs it but conversely. This is the bedrock of all that there is to realise in Conscious Living and all our feeble attempts at joining herds of mindless human beings in finding placebos and escapes from the pressing concerns of our life will wither away in that realisation. I hope to be able to convey the conviction I posses in this regard in this post.
Each of these sub-titles will become a link to the relevant post. I invite the reader to raise relevant questions and offer constructive guidance as I am still exploring this paradigm myself. It will at best help me polish my points and at worst convince me that this world urgently needs this.


Indians Writing in English and the whole drama

I had to hold myself back from writing a post (I am tilting towards writing less opinion this year) after reading Vijay Nair's article about how great the Booker winners from India are and how the nay-sayers are basically jealous sour-grape-predictors. I found that as sorry an explanation as someone saying that those who doubt a particular baba's Godliness were not devotees in the first place. To deny a person the credibility and capability to question a stance is as uneducated as knee-jerk reactions to any incident.
Today I read Shashi Deshpande's response to that article (both in The Literary Review) and I am glad that she addressed one failing of Nair's argument. Another failing that I had noticed was cleverly brushed aside with her declaration that "As a writer and reader he should know that responses to literature are always subjective". I wonder why we treat that as an absolute. Surely we can read something horrible and realise that it is so without providing a myriad disclaimers? It appears that the most starkly denounceable work of writing (please note, I do not term such artifacts as literature) can be dropped by a majority vote but a representative of beauty cannot. I wonder why that is so. In the world of painting a beautiful painting can also be identified without much coaxing. Perhaps a Picasso with nostrils doing a hoola-hoop with nipples might make one wonder "What on earth is there in this for a million dollars?" There is something valid in that question although the compelled association of monetary tags with the capacity to evoke beauty is what the market wants us to believe. I agree that the fine delineators would be picked and bunched together differently by different people but calling something a work of literature, I believe, cannot be a subjective decision. How much a work of literature touches an individual would vary as much as how tipsy a person gets by driking a goblet of '73 Italian Trebbiano white or how tickled a man gets in his seat when long legs walks past (I read an interesting article about the Playboys collection and how tastes changed over the years). But a work of literature differs from a piece of fiction/nonfiction/poetry as chalk and cheese, and to be "safe" about that is basically the human security of not putting one's understanding, knowledge and taste on the line.
The three Booker winners are not works of literature.
What Nair seems to have missed is that the criticism awarded to Adiga's attempt came from non-Indians as well. I believe the Indians on Literary Saloon have been rather kind to Adiga or merely safe. What then is Nair complaining about? I agree with Deshpande in that most people had a reaction of "So? What's new/great about that story line?" which she writes as "In fact, the complaint of many readers has been: “what is he telling us that we do not know?”
I think the problem with many (and Nair is surely a member of the club) is the undying want to be recognised by "them". We are still suckers to getting our certificates from the US and the UK. Perhaps in matters of technology and science, that might make some sense because rigour and research methodoligies can be measured, but in arts!? We still like to parade an Indian Tanjore painter as having had an exhibition in London and hence, his work being of some repute. This might make sense to a certain extent as far as writing in English is concerned because English is a foreign language. India, for instance, doesn't have a test of English language! But accepting a work as literature is not a measure of English but (hopefully) something beyond the mere academic proficiency of knowing when to use a semi-colon. If the grammar is bad, the book is thrown aside. We are surely going beyond that stage and discussing matters. If the Booker was zealously measuring school-book English in the submissions, then Nair's statement about "English writers vie for the same prize and that makes the victory sweeter" would count. Several non-Indian scholars have translated the Indian scriptures into various other languages and provided deep analysis and insight into the works. Should they consider their accolades greater because it is of a non-English nature? I am glad they don't.
My biggest complaint against the majority of the Booker winners (and I haven't read one of them) is their sheer lack of something brilliant. A story about a murderer from Bihar, or the format of letters to a Premier are not novel and do not make me sit up alert. I did that when I read Herzog and thereafter rarely have found opportunity for that. Similarly, Lolita's trick of starting a novel "before" the novel was tittilating but provided more than mere gimmick. Adiga hasn't achieved anything remarkable than a bunch of short sentences and jarring phrases.
Patriotism is foolish in every form of display and Nair's discomfort with reviews raising questions about that is valid. Deshpande raises valid points to address similar concerns though her example of Pamuk doesn't register well with me. Pamuk writes in Turkish; for him to consider any other geographical locality would not be wise.
Whether Indians react or respond to the Booker winners I think it is vital to look at these works objectively and realise that they perhaps will not count as works of literature at all. Deshpande's works are so much better, I am told (and from the snippets I read, I agree) but there is no point attempting camparisons now as that is not the call of the minute. To accept a particular organisation's verdict of what is good writing can be done by the lazy. Those who are interested in entering the fabric of a written work and seeing what it is truly worth will attempt that with the Booker prize winners and conclude for themselves. Any conclusions that challenge the decision are mere acts of jealousy or stemming from concern over patriotism.
Written works which are only interested in portraying the real world as it is in all its gory details should have been written in the language of that land. Why pick English and make a mess of it? Why pick any language and make a mess of it? Language is not merely a means of reporting these details and the lame tale built on it. Language must be employed to reveal all its vastness and depth and beauty which is not of height and breadth. Adiga's novel doesn't do that. Roy doesn't do that either. Lazy writers of today are satisfied with one or two stray clever words and phrases and they are seduced into thinking that they have contributed to literature. A novel which doesn't bring out the brilliant capacity of a language, the mind-boggling imagination of the writer, the amazing marriage of language and imagination and/or the ability to cater to various levels of consciousness of a reader is but an attempt and any prize recognising attempts doesn't define literature. The latter is what defines the God in a writer while the rest are easier to attain though extremely difficult for writers interested in only making attempts. Nabokov's word for a part of all I have described was shamanstvo and I would love to read a writer who can at least give me that. In the absence of that or something of comparable worth, why bother building a case for any writer, Booker prize winner or not? A reader told me that it would be incongruent to expect classy English lines from Balram Halwai to which I responded, "Why write in English, then?". I don't think anyone will read Adiga's work after having read it once. That which will never be revisited cannot be called literature.
Nair's statement "If the aim of literature is to help us understand the world we live in and lead more meaningful lives then undoubtedly all the three recent Indian books that have won the coveted prize have achieved this admirable objective" leaves me wondering whether he wants novels to become extended journalistic articles. That is not the aim of literature. I read every Nobel prize winner's speech and each one of them has sculpted a particular mission of literature which s/he has catered to. Literature is not about individual missions and creating revolutions and uprisings. It is not for making you love your neighbour more or a God, less. It is not for wiping the lines between geographies and race. Literature is not a tool for politics. Please don't make it that. It is an art of capturing thoughts and beauty in words. It is a want to arrest a thought a fleeting insight. It is primarily a love for a language and for telling a story. It is not for changing nations and creating philosophies. Hence, I think Nair's assumption is inherently flawed in that. None of Shakespeare's works qualify as that. Shall we call him poor literature?