Wednesday, January 30, 2008


A couple of weeks ago I was watching television when I came across the news that an asteroid is posing possible collision danger to the earth. The asteroid was passing by around 27th January, and was thought to be a danger, till research confirmed that it will just pass by very closely, but not collide. Another asteroid, which was not in the way of earth, became a cause of concern, as there were chances that it would hit Mars on January 28th, and then be deflected towards us. Thankfully even that did not happen.

Sitting there watching this on TV suddenly made me realize that life is so short. One moment you are somewhere, doing something, and the next moment… an asteroid collides with the earth and all is over in a second. I immediately called up my mother and told her that I was disturbed by these possibilities of life coming to an end just like that. I did not want to die already, abhi toh maine apni zindagi shuru hi ki hai!!

And then I realized… we really take life for granted. We all have assumed that we will live till a ripe old age, and have all the time in the world to do and say things that are important. There is no hurry. But that is not true. Life is unpredictable. You never know which day is your last. I know all this is bookish, but I really felt that it is really important to live each day to the fullest, say and do everything that your heart desires, kya pata kal ho na ho!

And since then, I have tried to do and say everything now, to not fight or keep grudges… you never know, when you fight, those words may be the last the person hears from you. I wont say that I have managed to fulfill the destiny of each day that I have lived, but I try.

I was thinking, what would I do, if I came to know that in a while, the earth will come to an end??

If I had a week, I would pool in all my savings and go for a vacation to my dream destination with my near and dear ones.

If I had a day, I would try to go to Delhi and spend the day with my family and friends.

If I had an hour, I would spend it calling all my near and dear ones to say I love you, and eat lots of my favorite food!

And if I had only a minute, I would spend it in Rohit's arms… I want that lovely feeling to be my last living memory before I say goodbye!

What would you do?

Monday, January 14, 2008

On a recommendation spree... 2!

Last December I went home for the festive season. I reached Delhi on 22nd morning, and the first thing I did was to get tickets for the first available show for Taare Zameen Par. Ever since I came to know that Aamir Khan is making a movie, I had my mind set – no matter what the movies is about, I was definitely going to see it. Aamir is one of the few actors that I admire in the film industry: his acting skills, his perfectionist attitude… I am all for it! So I took my mother along and watched the movie. Here is my two cents!

To say that I liked the movie would be an understatement. The movie was excellently made, with amazing performances by every one of the actors. It is one of the most realistic movies I have seen in a long time, the last one being Khosla ka Ghosla, where every character looked like someone in your own family. Similarly, the house, the parents, the neighbourhood, the school… everything and everyone gave me a sense of Déjà vu. A feeling of ‘been there, done that’.

As every one would know by now, it is a story about a boy suffering from learning disabilities, and his struggle with the world. It is a sensitive tale where the parent-child relationship has been well explored. The interesting thing about the movie is that even if we have never been associated with anyone with learning disabilities, we can still relate to the characters. This is because the movie doesn’t just deal with learning disabilities – it deals with a lot more.

Be it the father who has mountains of expectations from his children, or the mother who has sacrificed everything to give her children the best they can get, or the older sibling who tops his class and is trying to deal with an errant failure of a younger sibling, or the child himself – fraught with the disability, the peer pressure, struggling against everyone. Forgetting deliberately to get our papers signed, bunking school, forging absent notes, taking surprise tests which we are bound to fail… All of us can see ourselves somewhere in the movie. The movie makes us see the mirror, which is a great job done. It helps the audience to identify with the movie, and accept it.

But this is also, in my opinion, one of the drawbacks of the movie…some people do not like to be shown a mirror. The fathers who felt ashamed of being insensitive towards their children’s struggles, the mothers who could not stop their children from being reprimanded by their husbands, the older siblings who felt frustrated on not being able to understand their sibling’s failure… many people told me that they have been in these situations, and watching the movie reminded them of their actions, and they felt uncomfortable. While some people realised their mistakes, accepted their faults, and began to look at the situation from a renewed point of view; others were too ashamed or too egoistic to accept the facts, and walked out of the movie, terming it as a “bad movie”.

So while this movie may have made some people realize and reform, those who chose to ignore the glaring truth: I hope that if not now, then maybe some day in the future, they will think about whatever little part of the movie they saw; and hopefully accept the message of the movie.

Which brings me to the question: what is the message of the movie really, if at all it has one? I think the movie does have a message, and the fantastic part is that it succeeds in imparting the message without exaggerating the sentiments or being preachy. As for the message, in my humble opinion, it is not “we should be sensitive towards disabled children” which is the only message. For me, the movie is about other important issues as well, which are being faced by today’s generation.

Some of Aamir’s dialogues: “In today’s world, there is too much competition. Everyone wants toppers in their homes. 95.5%, 95.6%... anything below that is like an abuse. Medicine, engineering, management… only these career paths are acceptable, there is no success anywhere else. Every child has his or her own abilities and pace of learning. But no, the parents do not understand that, and burden the tiny shoulders with the load of their own ambitions… and if the children are unable to fulfil their dreams, then all hell breaks loose. If you want to win races, breed race horses damnit, why produce kids??”

These statements sum up one of the most difficult problem a child faces today in the Indian society – that of choosing a path of education and career. We all have our talents and abilities and vocations; but for many of us, unfortunately, our parents have already charted the course of our student life and career, just the way they know exactly who would be the best life partner for us. Dare to defy them, face the music. After all they are our parents; it is our duty to quietly submit to their every whim and fancy. Of course, not all parents are competitive or dominating, and many kids today do not care two hoots about what the world expects them to do if they have found their calling in life. But for those who neither have the guts nor the resources to chase their dream, end up killing their desires and mechanically operate as per others’ wishes. And that is the worst thing one can do to a bright young child… kill his enthusiasm, his zest, his creativity, his individuality. If only the parents could respect the wishes of the child, especially if he is a slow learner or is trying to attempt something off-the-beaten-path, this world would be a happier place for youngsters.

In addition, I think this is a great movie for kids who are actually facing learning disability problems. Hopefully the next time we get up to shout at our child who has failed yet again on his test, we will pause to think for a moment and consider the possibility of the child having a genuine problem. For this movie clearly says that it is not a matter of humiliation if your child is a slow learner. We should understand the pain of the child and help him overcome the disability: many successful people have emerged victorious in their battle with dyslexia. It can happen to anyone, and if happens to someone you know, it is not the end of the world. Acceptance is the first step towards recovery.

Alas, change is awfully slow in our society. But it is great to see that there are people who are still trying, via all media, to deliver messages to the public. There is hope. I say, if even 1% of the parents and teachers, who are the prime sculptors of our personalities and lives, can understand the movie and change their own thinking, the movie is a success. For it is not the box office earnings that are important for a movie like this, but the change in the thinking of the society at large, which is the real success factor. So I completely agree with the people when they say that this movie should be made compulsory to be watched by every parent and teacher in this country. It is not a movie just for the kids. It is a movie for all to see, enjoy, and hopefully learn from. A must see, all you people!

Just one warning – apart from the wonderfully done locations, characterisation, music and cinematography, the movie is also very touching: the “hai na maa” and “taare zameen par” songs, the boy struggling at the hostel, Aamir dealing with the boy’s problem and his parents, the climax scene… they all are real tear jerkers, so dont forget to take a pack of tissues with you. I guarantee you'll need it ;)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

On a recommendation spree!!

Hey there folks! Hows life treatin ya?

Well I know I have not been very active lately, but I am here to make up for it!
Here is my next update... I have seen and read and experienced a few things recently, would like to share my experiences and view with you about the same!

Book review - Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is a novel based in the 1960's in Nigeria, when a civil war was waged, and a new state called Biafra was created, albeit only for a few years. The novel traces the life and times of the people before, during, and after the war. Though the characters are fictional, the situation is very real. The prosperity before the coup, the struggling years when Biafra was formed, and the bloody end to it all, when Biafra ceased to exist. The main characters, though fictional, are etched out in flesh so well, they are almost real. Maybe they are, for many people went through what they did during the 60's. Though the novel covers almost a decade, it details the situation and the Nigerian culture and its people well, without being boring or wordy.

Chimamanda is a young Nigerian woman, educated in USA, and has done a wonderful job with the book. Even though she was born much after the war, one can feel that she has done her home work of getting the facts correct. She has captured the experiences of her friends and family who went through the war times very well in her story. The flow of the book is smooth, it is very readable and quite unputdownable. Complex situations and emotions have been brought alive by using simple words. The story has everything: love, hatred, betrayal, violence, kindness... many a relationship has been explored in depth - mother-daughter, father-daughter, sisters, man-woman, servant-master... It is a pleasure to read about Africa, to learn about its culture and people. And somewhere, to think... this is so similar to my life, my city, my country, my people. The trials and tribulations, the way we live and eat, our joys and sorrows... you can relate to all of that and more in this book as if it were your own.

Hats off to Adichie, she deserved the award for this book. It will make many a people aware of the atrocities during war times, and help us understand and empathize with those struggling with the same today. In the past few months, I have come across many recommended books, but have not found the enchantment in them to keep me hooked on. This lady, sure is a magician, for she knows how to weave magic into words! A must read for all book lovers.

A day without my cell phone....

A couple of weeks ago, Rohit forgot his cell phone at home by mistake, and asked me to keep it with me so he could get important numbers if required. It was only then I realized how cell phones have become a necessity in our lives, compared to the rare luxury they used to be. Given that I take my cell phone with me even to the loo, I wondered how my life would be if I had to spend one whole day without it!

First of all, I would not be able to wake up on time: it’s the incessant ringing of my cell phone alarm, which jolts me out of my slumber every morning. And even though I keep putting it on snooze mode for an hour, without it getting up would be unthinkable.

If it’s not the alarm, what usually wakes me up is a call, from a friend, a colleague or family member. Most mornings, I wake up and call some friends, who are on their way to office, as that’s the only time of the day that they are free to talk. Without my cell, I wont be able to get my hands on the day’s gossip!

Once I am up, every other day there is something or the other that needs to be taken care of: pending errands, ordering water or gas, etc. How on earth will I manage to get all this done if I do not have my cell?

Off to office, but unable to take calls from clients or colleagues or bosses. Lunch in the mess is not good? Cannot order a pizza. Shopping after work for groceries? Cannot call the other flat mates to know what is to be bought. Any emergencies, good news, important decisions… I am unreachable. What misfortune!! My mom would have a panic attack if she were unable to reach me within 5 minutes of trying!

It is not that people around me do not have a phone that I can use. I also have a landline at home. It’s not just the mobility that I enjoy out of my phone… it is the address book that stores all the numbers which is of the greatest importance to me. Think about it. Before we had cell phones, we mostly remembered everyone’s landline numbers. Soon after we got cells, we stopped remembering details… hey one could always store phone numbers, birthday, email addresses and much more on the cell phone! So much so that I don’t even know my brother’s cell number, without my contacts list! Such dependency, not a great idea.

I shuddered when I realized: we have become such slaves to technology. Life comes to standstill without our cell phones. I still remember those days, when cell phones were huge, bulky things, costing a fortune, and very few enviable people could afford to buy them, and maintain them at the astronomical call rates. And then, the telecom boom happened, and now, every 5th person in India sports a cell phone! Which is good, most technological advances are good for business, people etc. But then the question is how much is good? Too much of anything is bad, right?

It’s the same old debate all over again… advances in technology, a bane or a boon? People cannot write letters anymore… when you can always send an email or SMS. Everyone is already talking about the death of English language with the advent of SMS lingo, which has started to reflect even in our exam papers! No need to remember numbers or special dates, a phone or computer or website will do it for you for free. People getting blisters, playing too much snake or typing too many SMS’s. Parents worrying about not having control over what their children are doing with cell phones…

Sure, cell phones are not that bad, in fact they are a very useful gadget! They can double up as a device to play music, games, and camera… and are of course, a great way to keep in touch with and ensure the well being of one’s family and friends. But even though having a cell phone makes life much simpler, it also makes it more impersonal, don’t you think? Being a self-confessed cell addict who cant live without it, I still end up thinking sometimes… ‘The times of simple MTNL landlines, those were the good ol’ days!’