Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ghajini and Rab ne bana di jodi: the common thread

Could there be two movies more different in style, story, theme and presentation? And yet, there is a thought that is central to both films.

The coin has two sides.
The mirror has two faces.
Every human being has another aspect to his/ her personality, rarely seen.

The Ghajini version is more plausible. The impact of witnessing a brutal murder coupled with a massive head injury literally brings out the animal in Sanjay Singhania.

I HATE violence on screen and even in Ghajini I covered my eyes every time the amnesiac-animal went on a rampage. But I must compliment Aamir Khan for the way in which he played the role.

When he bashes up (or actually just brushes aside) an army of goons in the climax scene, I did not feel this is the typical 'herogiri' of Hindi films. Sanjay Singhania was an ordinary guy with extraordinary power because he had a 'mission'.

The fact that he could not remember what that mission was made for the twist in a tale which would otherwise have been a 'kameene main tera khoon pi jaoonga' kind of revenge drama from the 1970s or 80s.

I was happy to see that Aamir's rippling muscles and even the Ghajini 'hair style' were not mere packaging but integral to the storyline of the film. That's what one expects from this very fine actor :)

Coming to Rab ne Bana di jodi. Here too, we have a hero with 'two sides' although one really has to take a huge leap of faith to accept that a woman won't recognise her husband from two cm distance just because he does not wear his spectacles and moustache.

Aamir ko ek tarah ka short-term memory loss hai to Ms Taani ko uska doosra version hai. I guess that's another (unintended) similarity between the two films :)

Although Mr Aditya Chopra conveniently uses God to circumvent any and all such problems with Surinder Sahni making the observation: "Agar rab chahte to ek second mein Taniji mujhe pehchaan jaati, magar aisa nahin hua kyunki woh meri love story likhna chahte hain." Go figure!

Apart from that of course, Aamir is a case of 'before' and 'after'. He was one person before the haadsa and a completely different one after it. Even after he completes his mission - and especially from the last scene - it appears that he will live in cuckooland, pretty much forever.

Surinder ji on the other hand is leading a 'boring is normal' kind of life. And yet, in a candy floss version of the old Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde routine, he transforms into Raj while claiming to be in office working 'overtime'.

Now since this is a Yashraj production, he is actually trying to romance his own wife. The Anurag Basu (and closer to reality) version would have a Raj making out with some hot chick in the office!

The question that is never convincingly answered in RNBDJ is why Surinder could not be a little more expressive and get a better haircut without pretending to be Raj. But you see Rab ne banani thi teen ghante ki picture. So the Dr Yellow Tiffin Box and Mr Tight Yellow T shirt tale has to stretch on.

In real life, however, you find that even Raj eventually progresses to a Surinder-like state of stupor and the only thing that keeps the average Indian couple is the common ground they find in their children and social obligations.

Moral of the story:

From Ghajini: A haadsa can transform life as you know it. Yes, that is the case most recently with the survivors of the Mumbai terror attack. But is 'revenge' really the answer?

In the film we see Sanjay earn the satisfaction of killing Ghajini the very same way he bludgeoned Kalpana. But will the relatives of those killed in the terror attacks get a sense of 'relief' when Ajmal Kasab is sentenced to death some months, or even years from now?

Coming to term with senseless acts of violence and the evil side of human nature is one of life's biggest challenges. Ultimately revenge is an option but not the 'solution'.

From Rab ne bana di jodi: Men and women are both stuck playing 'roles' in their earthly lives. Okay, but they can either sleepwalk through it all or be fully alive and involved while performing their parts!

There is no perfect partner out there. Just different combinations of Surinder and Raj, Golgappa and Biryani - or whatever you choose to call the yin and the yang inside each of us.

So undertake the physical makeover, mental makeover, spiritual makeover - whatever it takes to 'light up your life, ji'. Rishta nibhana is the Indian solution to the oldest of all relationship problems in the world. And Rab ne almost convinces you that yes, it surely works!

But as I walked out of the hall I couldn't help thinking of the irony in reel life vs real life. Aditya Chopra, director of the film did not see rab in his jodi with Payal - he chose the route of the divorce court.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The next 'hot' career

I promised to post about the placement scene other engineering colleges. But what is there, really, to say? When the going gets tough, the employer finds excuses to postpone joining dates (some software companies have asked 2008 grads to hang on - upto February '09!).

IBM in particular has even taken 're-tests' of candidates it hired and used that to rescind some offers!

So in a 'right-now' sort of way it's all kind of depressing. One can only report yeh ho raha hai, woh ho raha hai. Others are doing this - I can add little of value :)

Instead, I have written a piece on how I think you should actually go about choosing your career. This has nothing to do with today, or tomorrow. Who is hiring or firing. Yes, it is a completely different world view.

The next 'hot' career
- Rashmi Bansal

Many of you write to me asking for career a advice. What you should be doing is consulting an astrologer. Because invariably, what you want to know is how to quickly get a degree which is sure to be the 'next hot career'!

Actually, the large majority has already made up its mind on what those careers are. They're only seeking a stamp of approval from an 'expert'. Or maybe a heartfelt 'All the best - you can do it!'

Sample this question from a class 12 passout. Now this guy is actually preparing for medical entrance exams 2009 yet says:

“if i could hve got the right guidance 2 yrs ago,, thn certainly i would hve been taken the maths as the main nd prhaps now i wud be in an IIT.....”

But regardless of what course of study he takes up he is already hung up on doing an MBA. He asks:

1. wud it be better to do mba with graduation or post graduation or phd in bioinformatics
2. wud it b better to do mba with mbbs..
plz. answer these questions with an outlook over the job prospects and the salaries in both the above case in india as well as abroad....

The question is can you really ‘time’ yourself to match the job prospects and salary scenario which will exist five years from now? That’s like trying to sell your stocks exactly on the day it reaches its peak. Highly desirable but practically impossible to do!

The right attitude
There are two kinds of investors in the stock market – those who are out to make a quick buck and those who seek long term value. It’s the same with careers. Since you are going to be in the working world for several decades, it is much better to take the long term view!

So the class 12 student who is ruing his ‘lack of foresight’ really should not worry. Medicine will always remain a hot career, despite the recent trend towards engineering. In fact, if you ask me, medicine is the only truly ‘recession-proof’ career.

But yes, if you take a day-trader view of the world, medicine can feel like being stuck on the slow train while your friends are travelling by air!

The trouble is that taking a long term view requires patience and fortitude. If you track the value of your stock portfolio on a a day to day basis, you are bound to feel upset in the current market scenario. But if you invest in intrinsically sound companies and hang on to those stocks over a period of time, you will grow rich beyond your wildest dreams.

That is the story of Warren Buffet. And his philosophy of ‘value investing’ is as valuable when applied to choosing a career.

You are the best judge
Value investors, it is said, look for securities with prices that are unjustifiably low based on their intrinsic worth. Now determining this worth is the tricky bit.

In case of stocks – there are different methods to establish worth. According to “When Buffett invests in a company, he isn't concerned with whether the market will eventually recognize its worth; he is concerned with how well that company can make money as a business”.

In a similar vein, I would say that when you set out to choose a career for yourself don’t be distracted by whether the market will recognize the value of that profession, be concerned with whether you can shine in that sphere.

“Ah, but I don’t know… I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I am good at. I am no good at anything in particular.”

I’ve heard enough of these laments, and more.

If you don’t know and refuse to make any attempt to know, then you should be okay with blowing whichever way the wind goes. Aaj retail hot hai, chalo usme ghus jao. You may be one of the lucky ones who manages to catch the headwind and develop skills along the way which help you cope no matter what storm.

These skills are your ‘wings’. If you can identify a God-given talent, aptitude or temperamental advantage, those too are your wings. The more you use these wings, the higher you can soar.

Circle of Life
Oh, this is all very general and philosophical, you will say. So let’s look at some concrete examples.

I think education will be the next big boom sector. Yes, for years it has been a very unrewarding profession in terms of money. But with the rise of so many elite schools and and private universities, that is changing. Teachers are being paid better than before and when foreign universities are allowed entry, that bar will be raised even higher.

But who will be in demand? Those who have excelled in their field, regardless of the hardships. Those who are highly regarded for their knowledge and abilities, their expertise built over the years. These are the people who have stuck to teaching for the love of this profession and the love of their students.

So what if you join teaching next year because you think it is the ‘hot’ thing to do? A few of you may be able to cash in on the boom. But ultimately, because too many are joining this line of work with the thought of ‘cashing in’, there will be a glut. Supply will exceed demand, and we will be back to square one.

Only those who really love the teaching profession and excel in it will be able to command a price. And you see this same demand-supply phenomenon across every possible career.

People entering civil or mechanical engineering were considered ‘bechara’ four years ago. Today they are much in demand as placements on tech campuses veer towards ‘core companies’. That’s not to say computer engineers won’t get jobs but apart from the googles, yahoos and Microsofts (which hire sparingly), right now core sector salaries are higher than in software.

Basically, capital markets are self-correcting. Whether that capital is human, or financial. The wheel will once again turn – who knows where!

Tectonic shifts
Lastly, there is always the possibility that life as we know it changes. And that could bring up whole new kinds of possibilities.

I got an email this morning from Arjun P J. He says:

I am doing my under graduation in MECHANICAL ENGG.The continued recession affecting worldwide i have decided to pursue my Post graduation in AUTOMOBILE ENGG in UK.I have selected UK because it has one year (Msc) course and also my cousins are staying in UK and also i would get a Global exposure.

I wanted to know job prospectus in UK and INDIA after i complete my Post gradaution?? I also confused whether to take AUTOMOBILE ENGG OR MECHANICAL ENGG??...The reason i selected AUTOMOBILE is that my father.He has his own workshops.I have worked with my father. This made me addicted to AUTOMOBILES.

Well, duh-uh! If you are addicted to automobiles can there be a better choice? But I also happened to read this column by Thomas Friedman today which talks about a whole new kind of auto business model being developed by a company in Israel.

It is Shai Agassi’s electric car network company, called Better Place… The Better Place electric car charging system involves generating electrons from as much renewable energy — such as wind and solar — as possible and then feeding those clean electrons into a national electric car charging infrastructure.

Under the Better Place model, consumers can either buy or lease an electric car from the French automaker Renault or Japanese companies like Nissan (General Motors snubbed Agassi) and then buy miles on their electric car batteries from Better Place the way you now buy an Apple cellphone and the minutes from AT&T.

Wow. That is amazing! This may be a pipedream, or the Next Big Thing. Either way, I think Arjun is safe because people will still use automobiles.

But think about what might happen to all the very well paid oil company executives and petroleum engineers... someday!

At the end of the day
I leave you with these thoughts from one of my favourite authors - Po Bronson. In his book ‘What Should I Do with my life?’, Bronson notes:

Individual success will not be attained by migrating to a particular 'hot' industry, or by adopting a particular career guiding mantra.

Instead, the individuals that thrive will do so because they focussed on the question of who they really are, and from that they found work that they truly love, and in so doing unleashed a productive and creative power they never imagined.

Here’s to all of us finding ourselves and unleashing those powers. Here’s to discovering our inner ‘Warren Buffet’!

IIT placements slow down

This report was the first indication that it's not 'business as usual' at the IITs. Four days into the placement season Economic Times noted:

The number of IITians recruited this year has been 60% lower than 2007, when there was a huge response during the first few days. Many companies like Shell, RIL, Credit Suisse, HUL, Transocean, Dell and NetApp had initially said they would be coming to the campuses, but later backed out...

So far, IIT Bombay has had the best opening placements this year, with 32 students being offered jobs on the first day and around 28 on Day 2... IIT Kanpur saw around 55 students being placed on both days, compared to 90 last year...The IITs in Chennai, Delhi and Kharagpur saw only around 30-35 of their students being hired on both Day 1 and Day 2, while in 2007 the recruitments were as high as 90 on both days.

Well, while all the attention so far has been focussed on MBA placements, the Wall Street meltdown was bound to affect IITs as well. Leading investment banks had been hiring students for analyst positions from IITs over the last few years. The numbers they recruited were rising every year - these were the *dream jobs* which put IITians in a different league.

As an analyst at Lehman Bros Mumbai office puts it: "12-15 students from EACH IIT joined this year as analysts and several such companies used to visit the various IITs." Lehman (now known as Nomura) is not visiting any campus this year and neither are the likes of Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch.

Names like Lime Group, Mercer Oliver Wyman and Pimco (which offered a $100,000 packaage last year) are now history. There are a few naam ke vaaste recruitments from HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley and (surprise!) Citigroup.

The other prestigious recruiters at the IITswere consulting companies like McKinsey, BCG and Tower research. They have reduced number of offers. Same with the likes of HUL and ITC. Yahoo, amazon, google, Microsoft, Oracle - still hiring. But it's not clear if the numbers are equal to last year.

So where are students going? "Core" companies or tech as they call it on campus. This morning ET reported: While IIT-Kharagpur saw 140 'core companies' visiting the campus this year — up from 120 last year — at IIT-Delhi, out of 150 companies, 100 were from the core sector.

Companies like NTPC are more than pleased.

“Till now, we have been getting low-ranking students, but this year was different, with better slots and better students,” says NTPC director (HR) SK Srivastava. The PSU plans to hire around 1,000 students this year from IITs and NITs (National Institute of Technology). While the number of students hired from IITs were around 100 last year, it is expected to jump more than 100% this year. NTPC has already sent 400 letters of intent (LoI) to freshers.

However even on the core job front one of the traditional favourites - Schlumberger - has cut back hiring drastically. Last year this company had picked up 35 + students from IIT KGP and IIT Roorkee alone - now it is down to 2-3!

The newer IITs like Roorkee seem to be the worst hit. Prestigious recruiters would rather show up and make a couple of goodwill hires at the likes of IIT B and D.

Anyhow - those are the facts of the matter. Here is what I think of the entire scenario.

* It's all about expectations: Strangely enough IITs are more affected than say, the NITs, VJTIs or DCEs of the world. That's because they had placed a lot of their eggs in the finance basket. These jobs offered glamour and high pay packages - which other companies coming in their place now cannot match. So even though I am sure all students will get placed, there will be a feeling of *poor me*.

Bhai 'ordinary job' lene ke liye thodi itne saal bheja fry kiya tha.
Not all IITians got those glam offers but at least *some* did. And that was a huge boost for 'brand IIT'.

The lesson for IIT aspirants: Instant 'success' in terms of an out-of-this-world job at age 22 may or may not come to you. It depends on factors that have nothing to do with you. So think carefully about what you really want to do in life!

* The dice is dicey: Even within core companies, some industries are affected. Semiconductors, for example. Texas Instruments and Analog Devices are offering far fewer jobs and this impacts Electronics & Electrical Engineering grads.

Civil and Mechanical are in demand due to the infrastructure boom. L & T is now a cool company!

The lesson for those trying to choose a 'hot branch': You can never know! The best strategy is to try and embrace whatever branch you choose, or happen to get. Immerse yourself in it, learn to 'enjoy' it. Because you may need to or want to make a career out of it. Don't sleepwalk through your course and close that door.

* Choosing the lesser of two evils: I felt the NTPC guy was a bit bombastic. But speaking to a couple of NIT students I learnt this interesting fact: Asked to choose between joining an Indian software company and a PSU, junta prefers the PSU. Why?

"Because they pay more (avg CTC of Rs 4-5.5 lakhs) and offer job security."

But the students hasten to add,"If you join an Infy or Wipro you will spend at least 6-8 months on the bench doing nothing... At the PSU the work culture may not be too exciting but at least you get some experience which will count when the time comes to switch jobs."

And that time will surely come - say two years from now. Yes, sadly for NTPC. It can recruit all it wants but it will never be able to retain these 'better students'. They will jump ship at the first available opportunity!

The lesson for those who think they got a raw deal today: Things can only get better. So take a long term view of your career. Wherever you work, make sure you learn, grow and shoulder significant responsibility.

And never mind what the doomsday pundits say. One enterprising BTech who was with Lehman quit and joined an Indian finance company some months ago. They pay less but give him far more exposure. And he is sure his gamble will pay off when markets bounce back, as they are bound to. In due time.

In the meantime, remind yourself,"Life is not a Formula 1 race". Even in the best of times, don't push your career di gaddi too fast or to the limit. Or everyone and everything else around you will be nothing but a giant blur.

Sometimes Destiny applies the brakes but at other times you have to!

Tomorrow: The impact on other engineering colleges. I've been hearing some sad stuff from here as well. To share news and views from your campus drop a line to rashmi_b at

Sunday, December 07, 2008

'Stay Hungry 'crosses 40,000 copies!

And other updates, on Including:

* Feedback from an IAS officer
* Q from a wannabe 'real estate tycoon'
* Stay Hungry reader from Nasik
* An IIM Calcutta grad's compliments
* A couple of harsh reviews to which I can only say,"You can't please everyone!"

btw I love all the feedback from readers and do reply to all emails personally. In case you are wondering!

A wake up call: Jaago re!

Corporate social responsibility or CSR is a buzzword. It generally translates into:
a) Companies supporting NGOs or social causes directly
b) Companies donating a small % of their sales to charity.

For example, P & G linking its brands to Shiksha - a campaign to educate the girl child. And Surf Excel 10/10 which asked customers to participate by buying packs and then sending an sms, with money again going towards childrens' education.

But the recent 'Jaago re' campaign where Tata Tea has joined hands with Janaagraha takes the whole idea of CSR much further.

This is the first time I have seen a brand completely integrating a social message into its ad campaign. Now Tata Tea had started using the Jaago re theme last year (see ad below), but usually these campaigns remain on screen.

It is not clear who (the company or the NGO) came up with the idea of converting this into an actual on-ground movement. But it is a rocking partnership.

You can see this is a genuine movement because it is painstakingly reaching out to young people, college by college. In the first week of December Jaago re held a drive to register voters in Abhinav and Sathaye College (both in Mumbai) . In the coming week they are visiting Mumbai's NSS college, among others.

Campaigns which are naam ke liye only would not even touch these rather unglamorous campuses! Of course you need not wait for anyone to come to your college or workplace, you can register on their website as over 70,000 people have done already.

You have to fill out a 2 page online registration form and then take this form to physically register at the regional election office. In future, the Jaago re team may be authorised to collect forms in bulk from institutions registered in their outreach programs.

I don't know if all these efforts will improve Tata Tea's market share in the short run... But it is a better use of precious money usually spent on ads which look at 'jaago re' literally: "Drink our tea and coffee and feel like the Energiser bunny!"

You gotta have faith, Tata Tea believes it will reap benefits - in the longer run. And so it is with our votes.

We can't lose faith in the idea that each one of us CAN make a difference.

Oops, there is no Section 49-0

I bet you've got that email in your inbox exhorting you to vote for 'nobody'. Because if enough people do that, and 'nobody' gets the maximum votes, the election result will be cancelled and all candidates who stood for that particular election will be disqualified.

And this is all under a section in the Indian Constitution called 49-0.

But sadly, as Shekhar Gupta observed in his column in the Indian Express today:
Any number of illiterate emails and SMSes now float around, not merely cursing politicians, but spreading utter falsehoods about the Constitution and laws... Most of us passed our class X Civics a long time ago, and God alone knows how, so let’s not question anybody’s knowledge of our Constitution.

But none of the thousands of very well-educated, rich, successful, respectable people through whom this silly mail has passed and been forwarded, have bothered to check that venerable document. For, if they did, at least one myth would have been set at rest: Article 49 deals with something very important, but it is not the right of negative vote, but the protection of our monuments.

The funny thing is I actually got to know of this Section 49-0 from a journalist! It was last Sunday and I was on my way to see Oye Lucky when a breathless young voice from DNA called and explained to me what it was all about.

"So what do you think?" she asked.

I said,"Not much... It's just another way to think I have done something when actually you have not. Real change will come only when 10% of the youth who today toil to crack a CAT or GMAT or dream of success in conventional terms change their outlook and devote themselves to the hard task of nation-building."

I have no idea whether a story was published on Monday but a search at the DNA website shows that on Wednesday the paper itself woke up and realised the email being circulated was a hoax.

Goes to show anyone can pull an 'Oye Lucky' ... The mythical section 49-0 expressed an emotion we all felt ("screw those politicians"). And that emotion robbed us of good old common sense!

P.S. Ritesh wrote in with this clarification:

You are very correct in pointing out that such thing does not exists in constitution. But the article being talked about in forwarded mails is actually Rule 49-O of Conduct of election rules. Fact is that there is a "Rule 49-O" in the "Conduct of Election Rules 1961" which is published in the gazette of India which states only that you may decide not to vote even after you have signed the "register of voters". Source:

However, there is still no evidence of revoting if no of people opting out exceeds no of votes secured by the winning candidate. So have really no idea how effective this could be. But at least we can inform people that such a clause exists.

My friend even tried this at recent Rajasthan assembly elections. The booth officer told him to sign against his name in the voter list and write "Not voting to any candidate" against his name.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Dil Kabbadi - some thoughts

There is no such thing as a perfect relationship, or a perfect film. And this one in any case has apparently been ripped off from a Woody Allen classic.

*** warning, spoilers ahead ***

Given the generally poor reviews it's getting I doubt it will get much of an audience. But I still think Dil Kabaddi is an interesting watch and brings up a lot of issues which hit any couple in a 'steady state' (a k a marriage).

Dil Kabaddi is the story of two couples - Meeta (Soha Ali Khan) and Samit (Irfan Khan) & Simi (Konkona Sen Sharma) and Rishi (Rahul Bose). The first couple decides to 'amicably separate' and the second couple (their best friends) start questioning their own relationship.

The question is 'what went wrong'?

Mayank Shekhar observes:
"It’s a little hard to believe that the two central characters here, possibly in their early 40’s (Bose, Irrfan), going through the usual mid-life crisis, would suffer excitement issues with women so young and intelligent (Konkana, Soha)"

The issue however is not how attractive these men or women may be to other people. The main problem seems to be constant criticism.

The very first scene opens with Meeta and Samit in a car, with Meeta rebuking him roundly for wearing dark glasses in the night. "Yeh style hai.." he replies lamely. "What style? Style for people with no style," is her verdict.

Meanwhile Simi says of her college professor husband not once but several times in the film,"You are too critical." Which is why she never shares her poems with him, but with Veer, the cute guy at her office.

We all like to be validated and appreciated. So why DO we become so critical with those who are closest to us and who want our emotional support the most? Well, partly I would say it is the negative side of our much vaunted "Indian culture".

Family hai na, we can take each other for granted. Few of us have seen our parents being affectionate and appreciative of each other. And we follow the same pattern.

And basically we create a cycle. Maybe Meeta is the critical type... but maybe it all gets worse because Samit does not show any respect for the things that are important to her. She feels neglected and unheard and so, a small thing like those dark glasses which she could have remarked about in a more light hearted manner ends up sounding very harsh and critical.

So lesson # 1: Love is not enough. Appreciate, appreciate, appreciate!

The second interesting thing which Meeta remarks at one point is really about the tipping point in a relationship. She muses,"After X incident I had decided in my heart that I am leaving this guy and so anything he said or did started irritating me."

Yes, the truth is that it is not irritations which lead to people breaking up but a small voice inside that has already spoken:"Pssst - he or she is not the right one for you."

And then EVERYTHING about that person starts bothering you.

Remember what they say about rose-tinted glasses? Well many of us exchange them for a pair like Irfan Khan was wearing and then suddenly everything goes dark.

So what is the 'escape route'? The film explores the most common one: hooking up with someone else.

In what must be every 40something guy's fantasy, Samit shacks up with an airheaded aerobic instructor who is happy to have sex and watch mindless films with him. Now this character called Kaya (played by Payal Rohatgi) is a complete caricature but the bottomline is there is NO such thing as a low-maintenance partner. Everyone has some quirk or some control drama which means you will have to 'compromise'.

Samit realises it's better to live with an uptight Meeta and watch art films than eat ghaas-phoos and suffer a socially embarassing Kaya.

Meanwhile Meeta too has 'found someone' but please note that despite the modern packaging she is a bhartiya naari. And so although she has not one, but two guys interested in her she never actually has sex with either of them.

How realistic is that? I guess the director thought the audience would not accept the couple getting back together again if she had her fair share of escapades as well. Remember 'Life in a Metro' (which was of course more sensitively handled)?

Even the men in the film are amazingly inhibited (there is a v funny scene where Irfan does sheershasana when he is first trying to have a fling and starts palpitating).

One of the most interesting characters in the film however is Raga (played extremely well by newcomer Saba Azad). She is a young student Rishi is attracted to. The monologue where she talks about how older men always get the hots for her is both sad and funny. You *know* there are girls like this out there. It's an ego trip as they flit from one such victory to another until one day they wake up feeling empty and confused.

The most complex character of all is Simi - the passive-aggressive type who 'knows how to get her way'. Without actually, directly, asking.

And it's instructive to note that Simi - the one who gets MOST upset about her friends breaking up - is the one who has been suppressing similar issues. Like the guys who shout the loudest against obscenity and Valentine's Day - I bet at some level they are struggling with those issues deep inside!

At the end of the film, there are no answers. On the one hand Meeta and Samit have patched up. They 'never fight' now. When Meeta gets angry she just goes and starts washing already washed clothes again in the machine.

"We have kept a black shirt there - kya pata kab zaroorat pad jaaye", says Samit. The shirt is almost white now, and we laugh, ha ha.

Simi leaves Rishi and marries Veer, whom she manipulates with a smile. Who knows where they will be four years from now? Maybe Veer will keep a black shirt next to their washing machine - to cope.

So although the film is a comedy (and yes there are laughs at several points) it is ultimately a depressing message. Maintaining a relationship on the basis of love and mutual respect is bloody difficult. Don't even try!

Of course, as Mayank noted in his review: Clearly the setting is copiously derived. Marriages in India are instantly a function of families, where parents are most involved. Divorces and experiments don’t come this easy.

Woh to hai. I mean half the couples in this country would probably have been playing dil kabaddi it weren't for the kids and log kya kahenge. And of course, many of them do, while pretending to live 'happily married lives'.

As for the film - for the great performances, some great moments and gags - I give it 3 stars. It's definitely the best of the 3 Bollywood releases on this weekend!

Friday, December 05, 2008

College fests: is the party over?

On the one hand, the mood is sombre with the recent terror attacks. On the other, sponsorship to festivals has been hit due to economic slowdown.

The annual festival of Mithibai college -
Kshitij - cancelled its pro-nite. Instead, they had a concert by the alumni and current students. and the money they had raised will be donated towards treatment of victims of the terror attacked.

Also, Mumbai Mirror notes that the usual celebs were missing on day 1 of the fest as they were busy the peace rally at Gateway of India.

Meanwhile, Tempest, the annual festival of Miranda House in Delhi University received a rude shock when one of its main sponsors (a well known telecom company) backed out a day before the fest was to start.

JAM magazine received an SOS from the Miranda House Students' Union on Dec 3, the day the festival started. At this stage Miranda was willing to offer a special deal with benefits for the next two years!

Unfortunately it was too late for us to rustle up an emergency sponsor. The festival concludes today.

Meanwhile the status of other festivals - at least in Mumbai - is not very clear. SIES college Fantasies' for example, is currently in limbo.

The moral of the story is that the party seems to be over - for reasons of sentiment, security and scarcity of sponsorship. Like the rest of the economy, college fests will have to downsize.

This may not be a bad thing at all because IMHO, in recent years, college festivals had become more about one-upmanship and sponsorship than a platform for talent, friendship and personal growth.

You don't need large amounts of money, media coverage and celebrities to have a rocking festival. Or well, you will have to learn to do without them.

And guess what - you will have just as much fun, probably more!

In fact I personally think colleges should have intra-fests and then an inter-collegiate fest should be hosted by ONE college in a particular locality every year. eg in Matunga-Sion area this Ruia could host it one year, Podar the next and SIES the third.

The organising committee can be from across colleges - whoever the main host may be. Events can be held at more than one college, given the space crunch. Surplus from sponsorship revenue can be put in a common pool and shared.

Is this at all feasible? Well. We talk of inter-department co-ordination in the government, police, armed forces and so on. But when it comes to our own little worlds, we want to protect our turf and declare 'mera fest tere se bada tha'.

We will carry forward this mindset, wherever we go. The time has come to change that, along with all the 'big stuff'.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Did the media overdo it?

We, the undersigned, citizens of India, humbly pray for the following reliefs;

1. That this Hon'ble Court call for the complete and unedited footage from all TV News Channels broadcasting the attacks 'live', starting from 9:30pm on Wednesday 26th November 2008 and until the morning of Saturday the 29th November 2008 and examine the same by itself or through any appropriate agency as appointed by it, to investigate and determine the manner in which sensitive information pertaining to the movement of Counter-Insurgency Operations was broadcast 'live'.

That is a petition from 'Small Change' , started by singer-composer Vishal Dadlani.

And of course we had that outburst from Admiral Suresh Mehta, chief of naval staff. He was disturbed by the 'excessively heavy reporting' during the commando operations

As a member of the media I think:

* Yes, a code of conduct needs to be formulated and it will. In war zones the army can control what the media can see and report on. But we've never seen this kind of urban attack before!

* I thought close up shots of NSG commandos landing at Nariman House were avoidable. But so was the huge crowd gathered on the street outside the operation despite so called curfew!

* Apart from actual coverage during those 60 hours what sickens me is the constant replay of the visuals. Do we need to see the Taj burning for the nth time and have every report prefaced with some 'explanation' of what happened? As if Rumpelstiltskin just woke up and switched on the television??

I think apart from actual death and destruction the terrorists were completely successful in terrorising those of us who were miles away from the guns and grenades.

And THAT is why we must also have a post-event code of conduct. A self-imposed ban on 'oh! we had such great coverage', 'we were exclusive!'. Which gives another excuse to once again loop those disturbing visuals.

I mean all channels had reporters out there, all day, all night, doing the best they could. This is not the time for the 'mera reporter tumhare reporter se tez hai' brand of competition.

Lastly I would like to add that the media - and TV in particular - is the only source of up-to-date information the aam junta has. And it is generally a good thing.

Like last evening, returning from Gateway, I heard there was a 'bomb scare at CST station'. The first thing I did was call at home and ask,"Please switch on the TV and tell me if it's ok to take a train!"

Other options? Well, I did notice this poster in the train. Perhaps it's always been there but I just never paid attention to it before...

Please do note that number but oh, if it is engaged or unreachable I guess you may just have to call home and ask your mom to turn on the television!

Gateway of India: keep the candle burning

The deeper the slumber, the louder the alarm needed to wake you up. That is the only 'explanation' that puts into perspective the recent Mumbai terror attacks.

Last evening at the Gateway of India, thousands of people gathered to say,"We are awake and alive, and we want to *do* something". I was one of them but honestly, I landed up at the rally - if you can call it that - more by accident than design.

I mean, sure I too want to *do* something but somehow I was not moved by the idea of lighting candles... Yet, I am glad I went to Gateway yesterday because the half hour I spent there told me this IS the start of something.

First of all, the NUMBER of people who were there. It was truly mindboggling. I reached there @ 6 pm and by then the crowd was packed thick right upto Suba Palace. By the time I left it had spilled over upto Regal circle.

The second important thing was the KIND of people in the crowd. This was not one of those rallies the NSS takes out in memory of Hiroshima where students have been drafted. No sir, here there were young and old, uncle and dude, matronly old ladies and even toddlers in prams.

Everyone was there out of choice and seething with anger. Anger against Pakistan, against politicians and against the System. But united in their love for this country and the feeling that the time has come to make a difference.

A part of me said,"Hey, they are just chanting slogans. Kal wapas kaam pe - aur sab bhool jayenge". A part of me wanted to join in the shouting... And a tiny part of course wanted to record the moment (blame it on two decades in journalism!)

So I have taken a few grainy pics and videos but kindly maaf the quality. I did not go as a reporter, carrying the right equipment et al. Yes, stupidly, some are even in horizontal mode.

Yet I am uploading one just to give you an idea of the *atmosphere*. I know the TV channels covered it but that was close and upfront - at Gateway. Many like me never even made it to Gateway - but it did not matter. We were all connected and part of a giant pulsating organism.

Chants of Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata ki Jai rent the air even as the Indian flag was held high in the air - every 20 metres or so.

And surprisingly, despite NO policemen at all to control it, the crowd was very disciplined. The road was full of people surging towards Gateway, while the footpath consisted of those turning back from there.

For a brief moment I wondered if all the suffocation and crush was really a good thing... It teetered on the edge for a bit, but did not get unbearable.

Apart from slogans, there were also many people carrying placards. Distributing pamphlets. People who had put down a charter of demands, registered urls and yes of course this is much easier than getting *change* off the ground but it is surely a beginning!

I think there were at least a lakh of people present - maybe more - and for the first time People Like Us have taken to the streets and signalled to politicians that hey,"We are NOT okay with what you guys have been doing!"

The next step of course is to say this through the ballot box, use PIL, RTI and all other means possible and make sure we don't drift back into sleep.

What does this mean at an individual level? Well, it means time, and effort and some pain in your day to day life.

As my friend, owns a restaurant nearby mused,"End corruption is all very well but how will we run our business if we stop giving bribes to the BMC?"

Ten restaurants like him in that area need to get together and say okay, all of us are not going to pay hafta. Ab dekhte hain kya kar loge... The question is, will we see initiatives like this?

I honestly think there can be a revolution if:

# Some of us are moved enough to take up citizen's initiatives and social work as a full time career. Given the current economic slowdown and job losses this is actually quite feasible. Besides, there are enough people with old money and new money who can say I will take out 3 years of my life in the service of this nation!

# The rest of us should support these initiatives by giving our time and attention. By volunteering on weekends, taking responsibility in our area of work or residence. 10-12 hours a week is not asking too much I think?

# The media should continue to support and highlight what can be done, what is being done and how it can be done better. And give MORE prominence to this 'boring' stuff than X ke abs aur Y ka butt. Each media house has its own version of 'let us unite against terror' but let us hope that apart from petitions they simply take forward the task of getting good governance by hounding and shaming errant politicians.

Thousands of candles were lighted but in the weeks and months ahead we must keep that flame - the desire for change - burning.

P.S. If you have started an organisation or movement to bring about on any kind of social change and would like to be featured in JAM magazine drop me a line. The id is rashmi_b at yahoo.

My next couple of posts will focus on initiatives arising out of these attacks - and some unrelated ones - which I think are interesting!

And oh, the video upload option in blogger refuses to work! Shall do the needful in a bit - going out to get some fresh air.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A lot has been said...

but this is one aspect of the bungled-up System which just hit me the hardest.

J Dey @ Midday reports: Every single bullet went through the jackets

Slain encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar had 59 encounter killings to his credit. He was always in the line of fire, yet, he never wore a bulletproof jacket. It was no different when he was mowed down in Wednesday's terror attacks.

But it wasn't the absence of a bulletproof (BP) vest that killed him. Officers close to him believe, he would have died even if he had worn the vest as they provide no defence against AK-56 and AK-47 gun fire the weapons used by the militants in Mumbai's terror attacks.

"In 2004, samples of these vests were sent for a trial at the firing range of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF). They were fitted on dummies, [as is the practice] and sprayed with AK-47 bullets and bullets from self-loading rifles (SLR). Every single bullet went through the jackets even though the rounds were fired from a distance," a senior police official revealed, on condition of anonymity.

So, did a terrorist kill Hemant Karkare... Or was it his own countrymen??

In football it's called an 'own goal'.
In war, it is called TREASON.

A few other thought provoking articles and blogs:

Anyone remember 'Lead India'?
- by Piyul Mukherjee

Reflections on the night of terror - by Rama Bijapurkar (who had a lucky escape from the Trident)

Surprised? by Arun Shourie (He also brought up the same points in a discussion on TV during those 59 hours and it was one of the most fact-based and concrete discussions I have ever seen on the medium!)

As for my own 'original' thoughts, I am not having too many of them right now. There are a lot of people bringing up the right issues and initiatives. The time has come for us to figure out how, and what, we can start doing.

I'll end with an observation Karan Johar made on his blog :

The most common thing I hear from people is, “I want to do something, but what can I do?” The answer to this question has resulted in candlelight vigils and sms’s to wear black clothes or light a candle in our windows to show support and solidarity. It’s all very well and good because it is therapeutic. Our natural instincts veer us towards acting out – or at least towards being more active...

But this is the really beautiful part, a sentiment I echo completely. He writes:

A few days ago the problems plaguing us were issues concerning estranged relationships with family members, that fight you had with your sister or that impending break up with your lover. Our focus has now shifted to something so much bigger than us... The hypocrisy unnerves me. We have issues with political figures, but how are we at home with our parents?

We can’t fix anything on the outside until we fix our equations on the inside.

The universe has given us a body of relationships that we have a right to live up to – and we have no business expending our energies on vocalizing disdain towards the system or typing out petitions for change until we create peace in our individual worlds. Only then can we have peace on the streets. Only then can we truly be fit to fight.


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