Sunday, January 30, 2005

It is that time of the year when therez tension in the air; sombreness all around and nails get shorter as anxious faces are seen busily biting at them :-) Yes, its placement time, folks! and the party has just kind of begun. Placement times in any institute, especially a B School is a kind of a celebration--a culmination of the years of 'hard work'(or hardly worked times!) ...its also the time when the administration works overtime to ensure a good placement as that would earn the institute a higher ranking in the halls of "fame" published by reputed magazines each year....in short, everyone seems to suffer from an 'Entitlement mentality'--where you start feeling the world owes you something, cos you anyway feel you are the best.

Its also the time when CV's are churned out with the utmost finesse--trying hard to recollect every small incident or achievement that might embellish this sacred document. Some wise man has defined a CV as -"a legendary document of known facts and unknown interpretations with the only purpose of extending the scope of the con period from only the students to include corporates as well." Golden rules of CV writing as some friend of mine told me were-

1) Never spare any incident in your life. Try extracting at least one virtue from each of them, however trivial it might be. In these cases use more passive voice, hide the pronoun. For example you can peacefully write, "Was considered a child prodigy". You might've considered yourself a child prodigy, so what? Nothing wrong. You are always justified.

2) Put one of these words in every line of your CV. They are "Top, best, great, leadership, focus, management, new, initiative, change and ingenious"

CV done, preparation done...now the time to also face the unfortunate things...one upmanships and petty politics at its worst best! Anonymous faxes start going to company HR's with a candidate's forged signature claiming that he had signed out of the process for that company, application forms make a strange disappearence, hushed voices and cartel formations in group "discussions"(?!)--in short, a situation where friendships and relationships get redefined, where the right hand gets to know the real worth of the left hand -to which it has hitherto been oblivious! Driven by fierce competitiveness, placement times are the best times to test one's mettle --where even the tough ones who are made of steel crack up under the pressure of uncertainty and a looming future! Isnt it strange that years of toil and preparation are decided in 10 minutes of an interview, where a smile or some other 'actions' on the part of the fairer sex can clinch a dream job!

All said and done, our mundane destinies are decided somewhere up there (thats the easiest and most graceful acceptance of things that we cant change!!)...being as human as anyone around me, i would be economical with the truth if i said the pressure isnt getting on me as well ! But then as they said, in the end let the best horse win! All i can do is remember a school prayer that we religiously sang on chilly mornings-- 'Hum ko mann ki shakti dena, mann vijay kare, doosron ki jay se pehle khud ko jai kare' !!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

I know that my blog is slowly running the risk of turning into a movie review site; still this was one movie I can’t stop raving about! It touched a chord somewhere deep within; stirred me to think. “Amu” was one movie I wanted to see and had I not got the company to watch today of two people atleast, I would have anyway gone alone to see it. And the movie grips you from the word GO. Contrary to belief it isn’t some boring saga of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Konkona Sen being the amazing actress that she is, slips into the role of the US returned Kaju so effortlessly and naturally. It was quite a contrast to the last movie I saw of herz ‘Mr. & Mrs. Iyer’, where she was this typical Tam Brahm and spoke English with a perfect Tamilian accent! The entire cast of Amu was so natural in their acting—the maternal uncle and his family, the adorable and cuddly grand mom, the ravishing Brinda Karat; the boy friend could have been a little more expressive though!

Amu portrays the story of a young woman who has been a victim of the senseless riots unleashed against Sikhs after the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi in 1984. the poignant part of the narrative is she doesn’t even know that she is one; cos 20 odd years in America and her assimilation into the warm and loving Bengali family has washed away all memories of her Sikh past. All she knows is her birth parents died of an epidemic and this Bengali family picked her up from an adoption center. One event leads to another, she gets these thuds from the past, sets off on an exploration trail and discovers that she was the victim of one of the bloodiest carnages in independent India’s history. The existential dilemma that grips her has been portrayed beautifully by Sen. Ultimately on knowing the truth she eventually accepts her adopted mother with a trifle more respect and admiration.

The movie brings back into focus one of the biggest banes of our society today- Communalism. Rooted deeply in the past, it conveys the fact that its always the innocent and generally indifferent common man whoz life takes a huge hit each time a riot happens. We see the Congress led government’s ministers and officials actually helping the rioters by giving them voter lists of Sikh families and identifying target families (something thatz been muted in the film—thanks to Censor board and the UPA government in Delhi!). still the analogies aren’t discrete enough—the ‘politician in black spectacles’- a.k.a H K L Bhagat and ‘Kumar’ a.k.a Sajjan Kumar. Sadly many of these tainted guyz are in corridors of power today. The movie actually ends with this very fatalism—the protagonists walk away from a TV screen thatz grimly announcing the torching of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra (that led to the Gujrat riots in 2002). Some things never change and we never learn a lesson from the past, do we? Doesn’t it ratlle tomes inside you to note that merely the fact that an individual belongs to a group that has a version of God that is different from yours—someone could actually get the gumption to butcher the other person and burn him/her alive---not for a minute considering whether the victim is a woman, a helpless child or an elderly person. So much for one’s religion, eh? But the point is it isn’t religion that drives such tendencies..it is people who neither understand nor have anything to do with it in any case. I am sure Sajjan Kumar or Bhagat (what ironical names these rogues had!) knew jack shit about Hindu philosophy or the scriptures and all they did was to boot lick the killed PM’s son and earn positions of power. But then, the brunt is borne by an entire community. Give a thought to how vain this tendency can get…where we build our palaces on a million corpses, wails and curses!
The movie ended with something unprecedented. We had one Ali who picked up the microphone and announced himself as the Creative director or so of the film. He made an empathetic appeal to the sparse audience in an otherwise crowded Fame Adlabs multiplex hall to spread the word among friends and family, if we’ve liked the film and believe in its philosophy cos they simply don’t have the kind of big bucks to go in for a full fledged publicity drive. Contrast this with the publicity that utter trash and senseless movies like ‘Kisna’ receive!! Its sad that we as a society crave for absolute crap when it comes to the arts- be it music or dance or cinema; while serious and introspective forms of expression suffer and struggle for their place under the sun! Considering the fact that this was director Shonali Bose’s debut, it deserved a standing ovation and that’s what the audience gave! In a short Q&A session someone asked Ali who the ‘bespectacled’ politician was…he simply smiled..we had a sardar ji (incidentally the film is attracting a huge sardar crowd!) who stood up, all emotional and stuff and said “this was a brilliant effort…the guy was Bhagat and the person who needs to be hanged many times for being responsible is Rajiv Gandhi. Hell to him”. And the crowd clapped again!! Thanks to movies like this, atleast our politicians don’t get away in public memory of ignominy—forget the flawed legal system, which hasn’t convicted a single politician for any crime!

We walked out of the movie; totally silent and at a loss of words…something that happened somewhere deep inside…history can not be undone… as one of the characters in the movie weeps and says- what justice are you talking about? Will justice get me back my husband who was chopped in broad daylight or my 2-year-old son who was barbarically butchered? But what can definitely be done is that a collective public opinion against exploitation of minds in the name of religion can go a long way in preventing such holocausts in the future.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Blogspot suxxx…after typing the whole post, something happened somewhere and I lost the whole stuff…its so tough to replicate thoughts!

Anywayz, shall try!

It was an enjoyable weekend for me at Vashi…my Mashi from the US was down for a month or so and the visit was long overdue…Dr Arundhati Rao, is a respected dean of one of the Universities of the US and dabbles with Business and Financial Accountancy there. She had come down with her 6 month old son- Amar. It was nice to see Kaka and Kaki doting over their grandson—after all it had been ages since they’d seen anything of kids, their long list of unmarried sons/daughters being too busy in collecting academic degrees for themselves to find themselves a life partner!

It was quite a strange experience to have a kid all over me—that is something that ive just not been used to, being the youngest of the family for long!

It is always a pleasure to talk to Aru ..she is so easy to talk to, despite all her academic demeanor; verve and enthusiasm mixed together in a rare blend; it is almost like some school girl trapped inside her, just bursting to set free…Among a range of topics that we sat and chatted on—from politics, to religion, movies, societal changes, family gossips ( you-remember-that-aunt’s-second-son’s-niece-who-eloped-with-someone kinds!!), my crushes, her crushes and so on, the discussion veered around the issue behind the movie Swades- that of NRI’s returning to India. And man! Didn’t I touch a raw nerve here! Aru was now a greencard holder and my sweet little cousin was not even Indian, but American by law!

I told her that the extreme step of giving up one’s citizenship and taking up another country’s just doesn’t find takers inside me! The very thought seems so repulsive. I agree that India has its plethora of problems—the oft-repeated ones of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and the rest…but then as Aru herself agreed, the US is no GREAT place to live in either, that 20 years down the line it wouldn’t be in anyway a much sought after place to make a living if it went on the downward spiral it has ventured into. Politically atleast it has the disrepute of being a rogue nation and a global bully and most of its policies have been as self-destructive as they have annihilated other cultures. Perhaps material opulence and a comfortable lifestyle is all it can offer…this might be an attraction in the initial phases, but once the satiation and frustration sets in and the pangs of loneliness seem to cut through your vitals, the desire to return to your roots would only accentuate. It upset me to note that Amar would be spending his time from next week in a Day care, even while his mom would get busy with her University and dad in his business—far far away from his loving grandparents who dote on him and would bring the house down on even as much as a shriek he would let out!

But this is all being utilitarian…about the benefits that would accrue by living in India, the closeness and warmth of family and friends…but in my view, the issue is more macro…don’t we as citizens of this country have even an iota of responsibility towards it? NO, I am not trying to be preachy here…incidentally people have been writing down Swades on precisely this point—its way too preachy! We have sadly become a nation of hollow people, who have lost all our confidence in ourselves and our own abilities. Hence all those scoffs at the hydro electric experiment that the protagonist carries out, as being too impractical. Sadly this is the confidence that our institutes of technology have instilled in us…they help churn out batches and batches of bright minds who are ready to leave at the earliest opportunity, after having been a leech on the country’s economy and its resources; never to return! All we can do is run BPO units doing cheap back office work for US firms…technological innovation or creativity to us seems impractical. And we as a country hate to be told the truth…we’d rather have the hero and heroine dance in multiple song sequences in Switzerland and Canada; but find it implausible for him to rot in a rural setting like Charanpur! Bravo!

My thoughts go to one man I’ve been greatly impressed by—Ramesh Ramanathan- a BITS-Pilani/Yale Grad, who was heading the Derivatives desk at Citibank London, just decided that he had a larger responsibility towards his people and returned to Bangalore to set up ‘Janaagraha’—a movement dedicated to the cause of ‘Participatory democracy’. It seeks to create a platform where citizens fruitfully and in a non-combative fashion engage the government(mostly at the local self government levels ‘cos that is what touches your life to the maximum extent and that is what we are abysmally unaware of!) to get public projects done. It beats me to see a Ramesh who might have hitherto been in one of the boardrooms of Citibank, lugging it along in dusty by-lanes speaking about his novel concept and dream—the dream of a better India---to community leaders, semi-literate women and children trying hard to hide his anglicized English and touch it up with local flavor by using Kannada idioms and the like! After doing all this, if he cribs that India is gone to the dogs, I don’t blame him or hold it against him…atleast he has tried to move the clock back and swim against the tide…unlike those deserters for whom a little moolah was all that was needed to betray, but would hold it all up against the country as alibis for their non-return!

So Aru asked me if I wouldn’t even think of going abroad, especially if my career so demands. I told her that I definitely would if the opportunity so arise, though it neither is a pre-requisite nor does it add to my social prestige index to be seen cris -crossing foreign lands. There is nothing wrong in ‘going out’ per se, it helps to widen one’s horizon, exposes you to a whole new world and style of living, breaks your monotony and of course fills your coffers. But what is wrong is when your greed takes the better of you and you end up getting assimilated in that country forever, starting with acquiring its citizenship. Make your money, nothing wrong…but sometime, somewhere draw the line and get back! I cant think of a situation where my skills and acumen would on a continual and permanent basis fuel the GDP of America! This is my grouse against NRI’s , who are described in the movie as Non Returning Indians!

At the end of our debate, Aru did appear disturbed, pensive and contemplative…as she looked down at Amar happily enjoying his siesta in his grandmom’s lap, somewhere the rationale must have made sense to her…somewhere she might have figured and feared Amar, 15 years from now, becoming one of those uncouth American teenagers; totally confused about himself and his roots and hopefully somewhere the desire to return must have made home!


Ma's birthday today...and yet another time i am not around to give her a hug! Not feeling too nice about it anyway...Its been 7 years now and its with great religiosity that i seem to miss this day. But then Ma, if you are reading this sometime, somewhere, please do understand that you are being remembered more today than any other and that you'd remain in my thoughts and prayers always...

Happy Birthday Ma:-)

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Its been a while since I logged into the cozy environs of this page...not because there wasnt much to write about, but there was a surfeit of things happening! And in the middle of all the muddle it was difficult to decide what to write about and where to start from...if there was the terror and agony of the deadly tsunamis that had brought death and destruction of an unparallelled magnitude, there was also a New year that the world ushered in. If nothing, man lives on hope; the natural human tendency is always to pick up the threads and move on with life--resurrect oneself like the Phoenix. Though a collective sense of guilt engulfed quite a few Indians(sensitive and sensible ones that is!)...it hurts to be partying like there would be no tomorrow, when your country has been hit by its worst natural calamity and thousands of your countrymen wander orphaned, homeless, jobless and hungry. Well, we still had a lot of 'page-three wannabes' who would care any less for anyone's agony and went ahead with their indiscriminate display of wealth and indifference! The world, after all, has and needs some variety!

New year didnt mean much to me this time(it never does in any case!)...over three long days we had the first year ceremonies for Ajji--when, as the priest explained, we bid an official farewell to her and booked her seat in the luxury suite in Heaven! And how do we manage to do this? --by making the most expensive of 'daans' to all those greedy Brahmins who salivated at the very sight of these goodies!

In the middle of the solemn activities of the first day at the Mutt, we were pleasantly surprised to bump into a family which seemed to have been very close to my great grandfather! An old lady in that chatterati kept reminiscing incidents after another about how she used to be played around and pampered by my great grand dad; kept talking of people and characters about whom i had ABSOLUTELY no clue of! And then the obvious had to happen....

I had gone out to get flowers and incense for the proceedings of the day...and Ma and Roopa had to grudgingly give company...one old lady in this muddle happened to be a common friend and she simply couldnt stop raving about "what a wonderful boy Vikram is"...and so fervent were her recommendations that the 5-6 other women folk of the jamboree were already very impressed with this character they hadnt yet met and simply couldnt wait to behold! When i walked in unsuspectingly, i felt singularly uncomfortable at 6-7 middle aged and old women looking at me with absolute awe with the how-long-you-took-to-come-and-we-have-been-dying-to-meet-you look writ large on their faces! Ma went on and on trying to explain the linkages in the process of the introduction and i sheepishly grinned at them all; intermittently touching the feet of a few elderly women there and trying my best to converse in Marathi(literally my mother's tongue!!)...and my fan looked at the others and said 'see, i told you people, such a well cultured boy...who touches elders' feet these days...one in a million..."bla bla bla bla..

Ma signalled me to sit beside one of them--a seemingly sophisticated middle aged woman, whom i later discovered was a Prof at the Bangalore University- the only one among the group who could strike some semblance of an intelligent conversation. " My God...you have THREE degrees to your name? How wonderful! These days chidlren dont study at all...rare to find people like this..even Deepa, my daughter is like this only...always immersed in books..after BCom, she wasnt satisfied, so she went ahead and did Mcom..now been pestering us that she wants to do an MBA...you only tell me, if she goes on studying like this, from where would i get her a groom who is equal to her in qualification.....?" Ahem ahem...woman, why are you telling me all this; i am anyway not going to be spending sleepless nights worrying about how your sweet little Deepa ends up ruining herself a.k.a. getting married!! But then, my old-fan could have none of such innuendoes, she believed in hitting the target straight, head on; no beating around wasteful bushes...she interrupted the lady, looked at Ma and said' what is this? dont you have any conecern for your son...dont you have any plans for getting him married...". Somehow i knew this was coming...the awe on their faces when i gate crashed gave me some incling of the fact that these jobless women were looking at some prospective groom in my poor hapless self. And then the Professor lost her sanity. She put her hand very endearingly around Ma and said -' My daughter is 21..she has finished her MCom...plans to do an MBA now...she is extremely pretty, she can handle things so well you know--both home and workplace...she cooks amazingly well..she is also like Vikram--very cultured, very respectful of elders....'.

I am sure my mother being the wise woman that she is knew this was coming from the beginning...she looked least perplexed or embarassed--in short nothing of what i was feeling:-) She kept nodding, looking at me, even as i tried looking away--totally at unease with my surroundings! Roopa had to barge in and say "wooow...thats exactly the kinds we have been looking for ...i am sure we would like your daughter..why dont we think about this, what do you say Viky"? and gave me one naughty look...Never before in my life have i had as intense a desire to smash her skull, as i had at this temerity of hers! The progenitor of all this nonsense was delighted--" Oh my God! this is absolutely divine intervention...see, it seems to have your dead Ajji's wishes; we have met after decades at her shraddh and we've clinched such a wonderful deal...' bla bla bla...HELLO? Would anyone care to listen to me? I am not some Futures Contract traded on the Bombay Stock Exchange to be bartered away this away and that too keeping someone as dear to me as my Ajji as a pretext!

But my folks were determined to have some fun at my expense; seems to give them some sadistic pleasure seeing me squirm in my seat. Details of that supposed wondrous girl were exchanged...my 'achievements' of the past few years rattled.."oh he sings so well, classical musician he is' and the old lady almost gave out an orgasmic shreik...all this for nearly an hour before which i decided i had had enough. With a stern expression on my hitherto "respectful-of-elders" face, i told them that this was no place to talk about such things, the occasion is sombre and very frankly speaking i am not interested whatsoever in getting knotted up so early in life, and that too with someone i havent even met or spoken to...that i would study more and wedding bells and the like would have to wait for 3-4 years more. A pall of gloom set in...all the expectant and joyous faces, who, till a few seconds back were excited about having successfully ruined yet another man's life, fell to the ground with utter despondency. "But beta, studies is not the only thing you know, you need a companion, life is so meaningless otherwise...moreover Deepa also wants to study you see, you could both study even after marriage..we are not telling you to get married tomorrow, right? you can think, take your time....." Somehow gave decorum a go-by...i had tolerated enough of this for a day! Stood up with this gesture of finality--"I told you i am sorry, and thats IT...kindly dont prolong this any longer; else it will sour your reunion with an old time family friend...i dont intend to be disrespectful of any one of you here, but its just that things that you people suggest arent on my priority list at this point of time..and since its MY life, it is ME and not you people who will have the pleasure of deciding about it. I hope i have made myself amply clear..." and walked off to the room where Dad was performing the ceremonies. I could almost hear the looooooooooong sighs behind me, like some after-currents of a tsunami that might have hit these old blokes.

All through the day, Ma and Roopa had a hearty laugh--for a change even dad seemed to join in the revelry....they ended up finalising the entire course of my life and what twists and turns it should take in the next few years:-) However later in the day Ma told me that i shouldnt have over-reacted that way..should have simply sat back like her and had fun...but come on! you cant continue to have fun when the object of ridicule is you, yourself! Ma has had such sadistic pleasures since a long time and her face lights up each time such crap crops up..invariably since people get petrified by Dad's totally hostile and inaccessible countenance, they choose her as their ultimate conduit and she revels in the confidence people invest in her! Its such a pain to be a 'Marketable Security'...Heart of hearts i knew that but for my outburst, by end-of-day, plans would have been made about how many children iam supposed to have and when and which school would be the best to put them in!

Phew!!

Any wonder then as to why i loathe my relatives' company!?