Saturday, January 31, 2009

Luck By Chance

In case you haven't seen Luck By Chance yet, and want to see it, be warned, this may contain spoilers.

For the most part, I'd categorize this an an ordinary, okay sort of movie. It talks about the dynamics of the Hindi film industry, in ways that we've already seen in a number of other movies. Farhan Akhtar and Konkona Sen have delivered brilliant performances, as always, but it felt as if the script did not do full justice to either of their roles. And I wonder what Isha Sharvani was doing in a movie like this, among people like Farhan, Konkona, Rishi Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia and Juhi Chawla. Which brings me to another point. I think there were a tad too many characters in the story, and way too many cameos.

Okay, I think I'm sending out the message that it was a terrible movie. It was not. It was a simple story about life, love, and dreams. Something we all understand and relate to. And it had some really good performances, by the leading pair and by the others as well, Juhi Chawla in particular went down pretty well in a role that was unlike any other role that I've ever seen her in.

And I loved the last ten minutes of the movie. I loved the way Konkona tells Farhan that she does not want to get back together with him, because she knows that he's a selfish guy, and that it's not is fault, that's just the way some people are. After that, the way she declares that she is happy with her life and career, even though she did not achieve her original dream of being a Bollywood star, is really touching. She says that, each morning, she doesn't just go to work. She goes out and does something that she likes doing. How many people in the world can claim to be doing that? Those last ten minutes made the rest of the movie worth it all, and made me feel thankful that I did not walk out in the middle of the movie like I wanted to do at one point. I liked Konkona's character a lot at this point, when she realised that a girl does not necessarily need a guy in her life in order to be happy, she basically needs to be able to support herself independently and find something that she likes doing, and do it.

And yes, after watching the movie and hearing the songs, fitted into the right situations, the songs have acquired a fair amount of appeal, especially the O Rahi Re number, which was used in the last ten minutes.

On the whole, an average movie, but if you do go out to watch it, don't walk out in the middle!

Slumdog Millionaire

I finally got my chance to watch Slumdog Millionaire today.

The way a British filmmaker has presented a story set in a Mumbai slum, and depicted the hard hitting stark reality of Indian slums, is really commendable. Of course, it is based on a novel written by an Indian, but to portray things this well, one needs to feel the emotions associated with the events and characters in the story.

I must say that all the child artistes have put forth credible performances, although I think that Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto's performances were not much to write home about.

I like stories where one has to connect the dots in order to fully grasp the plot. Although I don't like ones with overly complicated plots where one has to watch with constant rapt attention in order to figure out whatever is going on. This one was just right.

And, of course, the music is absolutely brilliant. I've already written about that a couple of times, here and here, and I will refrain from repeating myself.

On the whole, I'd rate this movie at about eight on a scale of ten, and I'd deem it a worthy candidate for at least four or five Academy Awards. Fingers crossed.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Moving Day

Where I did my internship, my desk was moved four times in four months. After I took up this job, I had the same cubicle for exactly two years and nine months. So it was a pleasant change for me to have my desk moved today.

The team needed to be moved in order for the floor to be renovated. It's brought about a lot of rearrangement. Bhatti had to move away from my immediately neighbouring cubicle anyway, because he is joining a different team now. But he's still on the same floor, although located at approximately the opposite corner from my desk. My immediate team is now completely in the immediate vicinity. I used to say that I remember the extension numbers of all the people in the team who are not within shouting distance. Now everybody is within shouting distance. There are also a whole bunch of relatively unfamiliar people in the close neighbourhood. Oh, and, of course, the cubicles are a lot smaller. And more brightly coloured. I like the orange coloured insides.

I like this kind of change. It helps break the drab monotony a little.

Of Bhatti And His Welfare

I'm not sure exactly when the words farewell and welfare came to be used interchangeably, but somehow they did.

There's not much I have to write about
Bhatti today, because I already covered most of it in the birthday post I wrote for him. Just a few little things I want to add on this occasion, when he's left the team and has ceased to be my cubicle neighbour.

Bhatti claims that he does not like kadhi chawal at all, but always eats a lot of it when they make it in the cafeteria. Now we actually wanted to organize his farewell lunch in the cafeteria and put in a special request for his favourite dish. But somehow the chef at the restaurant where we eventually went sensed everything, and added kadhi to the buffet.

I think all of us who went to Manali will always remember his rendition of Zehreeley Zehreeley for the rest of our lives. It was just too hilarious for him to even get to the words Zehreeley Zehreeley.

When I was in my first year of post graduation, I was asked to co-host the farewell for the outgoing batch. I was at a loss on how I should start off the show. A senior of mine told me that, being the kind of person I was, it would be well suited if I started off with a few lines of poetry. Now I somehow cannot think of a better way to wind up this post. Here are the lines I wrote (yes, I wrote these myself) for that occasion.

Jo manzilein tumhaari hain
Wo manzilein meri nahin
Hain raahein kahin tumhaari
Meri kahin
Jo lamhe saath guzaare unki khushi hai
Aaj mujhe judaai ka gham nahin

All the best, Bhatti, for whatever you choose to do, wherever you choose to go.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Song Of The Week

Rehna Tu from Delhi 6. I like this number because it talks about loving someone for exactly what they are, and not wanting to change the person at all. I know it's a little too idealistic, but I really like the thought. Because you know, nobody is ever really perfect. You have to acknowledge the other person's imperfections and learn to accept them as they are. In a relationship, you have to complement each other, complete each other.

Haath thaam chalna ho
To dono ke daanye haath sang kaise
Ek daanya hoga
Ek baanya hoga
Thaam le haath ye thaam le
Chalna hai sang thaam le

And of course, it goes without saying that the music is just lovely, as are the vocals. Rahman and Benny Dayal have both done their jobs really well. Worth a listen. A nice, relaxed one.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Back Home

I'm back. In the familiar warmth of my own blanket. The comfort of home. I had a totally wonderful trip. It seemed even better, given the fact that I haven't been out like this since last April. Once I work off a significant portion of the sleep debt, I will write a detailed post (or maybe more than one post) about the whole thing. Right now, I'm off to wash my clothes and my hair and fall right back to sleep.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mixed Bag

My mind is rather restless, and, quite often, it does not stick to a single thought. So here's today's mixed bag of thoughts.
  • I'm feeling really good about A. R. Rahman's three Oscar nominations. Two out of three in the Music (Song) category. That's quite something. I didn't quite think that Jai Ho would appeal so much to international tastes. I think O... Saya is one of Rahman's greatest tracks ever, comparable only to the likes of Vande Mataram. It has a totally awesome feel to it, and great music, but it has about three words in the name of lyrics. The lyrics of a song are generally a major factor for a song to appeal to me, but there are a few pieces that transcend this barrier, like the Rangeela theme, or the Jaage Hain number from Guru.
  • My electrician fixed my malfunctioning geyser, much to my joy. But he interchanged the little lights. Now the harmless looking green light signals danger and malfunction, while the scary, bright red light says that everything is normal.
  • One of the computers in my house was in dire need of an upgrade. Now this used to be the old, short computer, so it was called Yoda. All computers in my house are named after Star Wars characters, as is the network. Now since this one was significantly upgraded, it is no longer exactly the oldest computer in the house. It needed renaming. For the first time, I christened a computer. It's now called Artoo.

I'm off to Manali with some friends over the extended weekend, so this little journal will be on a little break. Catch you after the break.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Little Bit More From Friends

When I wrote about My Favourite Bits From Friends, it was pretty obvious to me that I would add to the list soon.

There's this episode where Phoebe and Joey tell the others that they go out with dinner once a month to discuss the rest of them. Once Joey cancels on Phoebe in favour of a date. She gives him an enlightening discourse on how girlfriends and boyfriends come and go, but what they share is forever. I think that those are words to live by.

A little later, the then love of Phoebe's life, David the scientist guy, shows up in the city. Now Phoebe cannot cancel on Joey because she gave him this long lecture on how you do not cancel on friends. But she rushes through dinner with him and runs off to see David. Obviously Joey finds out. The way Joey consoles her, the way he acts so considerate, so understanding, always makes my eyes misty.

There is another episode where Phoebe claims that she has written five books (I think it was five. It could also have been four or six.) and that she is writing another. She records everything Monica and Chandler say or do, and she calls her characters Marsha and Chester. At one point, Monica and Chandler need to refer to her account to help them resolve an argument. Phoebe demands that Chandler apologize for mocking her book earlier. At this point, he is wearing a pinkish sweater. He apologises, and tells her that she is the queen of everything. She says, "Thanks. So are you."

It's interesting, you know. I have so many Phoebe-Joey moments on my list. And some Ross-Rachel moments. But I can't really think of a Monica-Chandler moment that really strikes a chord.


Chowringhee by Mani Shankar Mukherjee, better known as Sankar, is a narrative set in Calcutta in the 1950s. It tells a story from the point of view of an employee in a major hotel in the city. It talks about his experience with his co-workers, cabaret dancers, bar girls who used to work at the hotel, and a wide gamut of guests whose lives came to be intertwined with his.

The book was actually written some time in the 1960s, but was translated to English relatively recently. It has characteristics typical of Bengali literature of the time, in particular, the element of tragedy. The novel does not really have one story, but a lot of smaller stories which are interconnected in various ways. Almost all of the stories end tragically.

The storyteller tells his stories well, but I think he would have done better justice to a short story collection rather than a novel. In places, you can actually forget about the preceding anecdotes and yet fully comprehend and appreciate the current one. Because of this, it's not quite as gripping or unputdownable as I would like a book to be. But I guess that's the way it would be, given the kind of setting it is based in.

All in all, I liked it, but not in the usual way in which I like a novel.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Be Right Back

Of late, I've acquired a reputation for writing an entry a day, and people start asking me if something is wrong when I don't write anything for a day. So I thought I'd tell everyone before they start asking me. Some things have not been quite right over the last few days. Punctured tyres, deflated, non-punctured tyres, a malfunctioning geyser (Those who know me well know how important it is for me to take a bath twice a day. They'll know how disruptive a malfunctioning geyser in my bathroom can be.), and to top everything off, connectivity issues at home on Tuesday evening. Over the past week, I'd been reading a book called Chowringhee (book review in the offing), which I resolved to finish on Monday night. I decided that I would refrain from blogging that night so that I may be able to finish it off. Given the time I reached home, the amount of time it normally takes me to eat and to take a bath, and given how much of the book was left, I estimated I'd finish the book by 12:30 AM. Managed to do it by 12:28. I wanted to write a review right then, but slumber land beckoned too strongly. I have decided not to take up another book for the rest of this week, in order to catch up on my blogging and sleep. Internet connection permitting, I should be back to my usual ways tonight.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Indian Television And Advertising

The recent Airtel advertisement featuring Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan makes me want to scratch Kareena's eyes right out. Just like the vast majority of her movies. She is back to her overacting and her irritating ways, on the small screen as well as on the big screen.

This makes me think of all the lovely ads the folks at Airtel have come up with in the past. Remember the first few ads that featured the theme that A. R. Rahman composed for them? There was one which featured a lot of people of all sorts, and a large choir holding candles in their hands and lighting their candles from each others'. This was about the time they came up with the tag line Express Yourself. I used to love that one. And the more recent one with two boys playing with a ball at the border. The Madhavan-Vidya Balan series was completely adorable and romantic.

There's also a bunch of Coca Cola commercials that I used to like. The one where Aishwarya and Aamir met online, or the one where Aamir donned his tapori avatar, and I think also introduced the Thanda Matlab Coca Cola punchline. I liked lots of the Aamir Khan ads, actually. Each one featured him in a new look and a new role, just like each of his movies. Speaking of Aamir and Aishwarya, these two also did a Pepsi commercial together, which, I hear, was Aishwarya's first foray into modelling. That one had a pretty interesting story line to it, if I may say so about a TV commercial.

And then there's all the stuff Abhishek Bachchan has done for Idea. The best thing about these ads is that they are cute, and also carry a social message. Like the education for all campaign. Or the more recent democracy campaign. I must admit, some of the stuff Abhishek did for idea was a little weird and not too fitting for his persona, but some of it totally rocks.

And then there are some that date back to my childhood. Can I ever forget the adorable innocence of the I Love You Rasna commercials? Or some of the earliest Cadbury's Dairy Milk ads? Speaking of innocence, there was this Dhara commercial with a little boy who wanted to run away from home and then he was told that his mom had made jalebi at home. The innocent, cute expression with which he echoed "jalebi?" was just unbeatable. We don't get to see that kind of innocence these days. Kids seem to be growing up so much faster.

Okay, now that I watched these nice videos on YouTube, I've moved past the negative vibes emanating from the Kareena ad. Now I can sleep peacefully.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I think almost everyone has a bit of an alter ego which surfaces from time to time. What is different for different people is the frequency and intensity with which this kind of thing happens.

Sometimes I just pick a song which I, in my normal state of mind, would not like too much, and sing at the top of my voice. Often I also dance to the tune. But that's generally just for me.

Sometimes I feel a strong longing for something I really want, but know I cannot have. But that doesn't mean I can't live in a parallel Universe for a while. A Universe where I can have everything I fantasize of, no matter how wild the fantasy is.

Sometimes, letting go of your inhibitions for a while, letting your guard down, being someone you want to be but aren't quite, can give us a lot of joy, renewed vigour, a new lease of life.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Song Of The Week

Okay, I know this caught on with me a little late. But I have really grown to like Ehsaan from Dil Kabaddi. I don't actually recall this song being featured in the movie. Maybe it was there for just a little bit and disappeared in a flash. But after I heard the whole song a couple of times over the last couple of days, I can't seem to be able to stop listening to it. There are these hauntingly amazing words that refuse to find their way out of my head:

Tu nahin raha teri yaad reh gayi
Palkon mein meri teri aas reh gayi
Koi to hoga bahaana bata
Tujhko bhulaa dene ka

The words, the music and the singers fit in just right with each other. And I love the effect they create. Just beautiful.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Little Things

Ever notice, how every little detail of our daily routine, however mundane, however small, becomes so important after a while that we are taken by surprise when we realise how much we miss it, if things don't go quite the same way even for a day?

People walk in and out of our lives all the time. No matter how independent or mentally and emotionally strong we think we are, we're affected by all of those people. Even if it is for the briefest period of time. Sometimes we don't even realise just how much we are affected, just how important someone is to us (not necessarily the romantic love kind of importance), until we miss them for a bit. Or sometimes, until things change in ways that lead to a situation where the other person is right beside you, and yet, you miss them. You miss them terribly.

I just noticed, people, most of whom have been blogging much longer than I have, and used to write pretty regularly, pretty frequently, become so much less regular when I blogroll them. I think everybody I have blogrolled falls into that category. Bhatti arose from his deep slumber for a few days during the shutdown, and then went undercover again. Everybody else is almost constantly in hibernation. What's up, people?

Before people start asking, I'll put my disclaimer here. I was in a slightly philosophical mood today. No real reason for all this, except that I felt like it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Little Love, A Little Friendship, And A Little Misadventure

Before you begin on this one, revisit this post.

Given the background, since Ruchi was supposed to join her new job at my office on Monday, I kind of assumed that my car would end up with a punctured tyre or something that day. That didn't happen. It was pretty likely, given the history and the fact that there were a couple of bomb blasts in the vicinity of our office on the day of her interview. But here's what did happen.

My mom loves me and I love her. But she also dislikes me a little bit and I dislike her a little bit. This morning, she announced that since I was on vacation throughout her winter vacation, she didn't really get to rest too much, so she was taking the day off to relax. Go to work early, she told me, and come back late.

I didn't go to work early. And I left my office at the regular time. A nail found its way into one of my car's tyres. Well, no big deal, that's something you gets used to, when you start commuting such distances. But that was only the beginning. My friend Varun arose from his slumber and did what gentlemen do. He didn't let me help change the tyre at all. But once he was done, we saw that the new tyre was almost completely deflated. So we set out in search of a petrol pump to get some air blown into it. There we saw that this tyre's nozzle was so bent that you couldn't really blow air into it. Didn't leave us with much of a choice, did it? We got the punctured tube replaced. Really big rip that was, by the way. I need to brush up my timely puncture detection skills. I hope I'll be third time lucky here as well. And the guy changed the tyre again. it would have been so much easier on Varun (and on Ruchi, who has very low cold weather tolerance) if we'd just driven to the petrol pump in the first place and let the guy change all the tyres he wanted to change.

But hey, things never go the easy way for my friends and for me. We've started thinking of such incidents as a blessing from above. Now we look out for such things, and feel a little disoriented if things go well on the first try. We've actually begun to like it this way.

Anyway, about time to wind this up. Although Ruchi is not all that regular on my blog, but I will make sure she reads this post, so I'll wind up by wishing her all the very best for her future on this job and the rest of her career.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Favourite Bits From Friends

I have lost count of how many times I've watched the entire series of Friends. I never get tired of it. There are some bits in particular that I really adore.

There's this bit in one of the earliest episodes. Rachel has given up everything, her family, the guy she was about to marry, her way of life. She has no job, no place to live, and she comes to stay with Monica. She really has nothing, but there's this conversation where Ross tells her that she's going to be fine, because she has a whole new life ahead of her. She has magic beans. Later, the credit card company guys call her to ask if she's fine, because there's been no recent activity on her card. She tells them that she's fine, because she has magic beans. I think we all have a few magic beans that we sometimes forget about. It would do us a lot of good to use them every so often.

There's the part where Phoebe is pregnant and is beginning to crave meat. Now she's basically a vegetarian, because she has strong concerns for innocent animals. But it seems that, at that point, that's all she can eat without throwing up. At this point, Joey does two things. One, he offers not to eat meat until Phoebe has the babies, so that no extra animals would have to die, and she would just be eating his animals. I found that really sweet. And he also told her that if she had to do something wrong, she should do it right. If she had to make a sandwich with meat, she should put lots of it and the right kinds to make a great sandwich. I really like that principle. It's what I abide by every time I make an exception on my diet. If I have to eat ice-cream, I will eat a generous helping of my favourite flavour. Not a rationed helping of the sugar free kind. Because if i am going to break my rules, I better have fun doing it. The first time I visited this little donut place near my office, when the guy asked me what flavour I wanted, I told him to give me whatever had the maximum amount of chocolate in it. Abhinav was pretty amused at that, but that's how it works for me.

There was this episode where Phoebe made a list of things she wanted to do before she was thirty one. One of those things was to have the perfect kiss. Everybody was in the coffee house, and Phoebe wanted to go home and be by herself. Joey told everyone that he'd walk her home. He went out on the street and asked her to close her eyes. And he gave her enough reason to cross that item off her list. I think that was one of the sweetest moments ever on the show.

Towards the end of the series, there was a conversation between Ross and Rachel where they were talking about Rachel going to Paris. She told him that she was scared, but it was good scared. Like when-she-first-moved-to-New-York scared. Or like when-she-found-out-she-was-going-to-have-Emma scared. A lot of good things in life scare us, don't they? New beginnings are scary, but we need to distinguish between good scared and just plain terrified.

Okay, I guess this is a long enough list for now. But it is certainly not exhaustive. I will definitely add to this in the future.


There are days when I feel restless for no apparent reason and can't really seem to concentrate on anything or get anything done. Today was one such day. Okay, so maybe there was an apparent reason, but I an unsure that it was in fact the reason and I am also a little scared of admitting it.

Anyway, it is days like these that make me feel a little miserable, lonely, sad... but today I thought I'd think happier thoughts. I'd think of all the stuff that makes me feel like I am in heaven. So here goes.

  • Mom's rajma chawal.
  • An A. R. Rahman composition playing on repeat. Even better if it is one that he has sung himself.
  • A rich, chocolaty dessert.
  • A warm blanket on a cold night.
  • Having time to sleep all I want.
  • Solitude. With just a little something to read and a notebook (dead tree or electronic) so that I can write.

So if you compare this list with an older one, you'll notice that a lot of things have more or less remained the same in these six months, but some have changed. I now love reading more than ever before, and I love spending time by myself rather than with friends. And, I still love it when people appreciate what I write, but the joy of writing itself is so great that it tremendously overshadows that of the writing being appreciated. I'm not sure if these changes are for the better or for the worse, but change is a way of life. Keeps things moving.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Another Feather In Rahman's Cap

If you've been following my blog closely enough, you'd know that I am a huge fan of A. R. Rahman's music, his voice, his patriotism. I think there have been only two phases when I grew to like an advertisement so much that I used to be on the lookout for it, glued to the couch during the commercial breaks, and getting up for snacks and little chores when the movie was back on. One was when Vivek Oberoi did his first Coke commercial with Aishwarya Rai. The other was when Rahman composed the theme music for Airtel for the first time. I think, if I listed out my favourite hundred songs of all time, around seventy would be Rahman's compositions. Okay, I am not actually going to make that list and verify the statistic. But I have always loved his music, from Roja to Dil Se to Bombay to Rangeela to Vande Mataram to Bombay Dreams to Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na to Saathiya to The Legend Of Bhagat Singh to One Two Ka Four to Nayak to Pukar to Taal to Swades to Water to Yuva to Guru to Meenaxi, and to the Golden Globe winning Slumdog Millionaire. Roja was actually the first original audio CD I bought myself, some twelve years ago. I rarely, if ever, watch award ceremonies like these, but I was just channel surfing and landed on World Movies at the exact moment that Rahman was walking up to the stage to accept his award. Obviously I had to stop channel surfing right then. And then David Duchovny walked up to the stage to present the next award, and he got me interested enough to watch the rest of the ceremony. When Danny Boyle went up to receive his award for directing Slumdog Millionaire, Anil Kapoor stood up and did a little dance which was sort of in the style of Bhangra. I was hoping he would do it again when everyone went on to the stage for the Best Motion Picture - Drama award, but he disappointed me there.

For those of you who haven't checked out the soundtrack so far, start with the O... Saya track. It does not have too many words, but it has Rahman's music, his voice, his magic. Dim the lights, relax, and play this one on repeat. If you're more a fan of just his music, or prefer instrumental tracks, execute the above instructions with the Mausam & Magic number. If you're looking for something more Indian, Jai Ho is the track for you. It has the added unbeatable plus point of featuring Sukwinder Singh's voice. And if you're looking for something a little less Indian, check out Dreams On Fire. Suzanne has done a great job with the vocals on this one.

I really want to watch this movie, if only for the background score. I hear only the Hindi version will be released in India. That kind of disappoints me, because I would have liked to watch it the way it was originally made - in English. But I will still go and watch it on the big screen, even if I have to go by myself, because something of this magnitude needs to be enjoyed on a grand scale.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Random Afterthoughts

A mixed bag of afterthoughts I had on a few recent posts.

A Thousand Splendid Suns: A Review And My Afterthoughts: I owe this book a lot. This is the book that helped me rediscover the joy of reading. I did read Lajja before this, and it was a pretty good book, but it was not powerful enough to get me addicted. Now I need a new book to read within an hour or so of finishing one. I think that this is a significant stepping stone on the path to my ultimate dream.

Feeling Safe: A lot of people have told me that I am not a very "girly" kind of girl. No matter how far that may be true, no matter how independent I may consider myself to be, there are some things that are the same for all girls across the city. It's pretty unfortunate, but quite true.

Maa Da Laadla Exits Indian Idol: You know, in the earlier rounds of the show, I used to get some amount of sadistic pleasure when Mohit got fewer votes than the rest, and was on the verge of being eliminated, had the judges not brought him back through a special wild card entry. I was wishing for him to leave the show, so that my mom would stop watching it and we could watch something else and also, we would all eat our dinner at a more reasonable hour on Fridays. But as the show progressed, I grew to like his singing, to appreciate his talent and to see the improvement with every successive round. I felt genuinely sad, and I thought it was grossly unjustified that he had to leave so soon. He had it in him to be the first or second runner up, and if it were left entirely to the judges, he would have been. Well, that's quite enough for me. No more of that show for me. Otherwise every episode will have me writing a post about the injustice.

Happy Birthday, Akash: I also miss having a known, friendly face in the diagonally adjacent cubicle, as opposed to seeing some random guy sitting there!

The Kite Runner

Maybe I should have read this one before A Thousand Splendid Suns. Because it didn't really live up to the expectations I had in mind after reading that one. Almost everyone I know tells me that A Thousand Splendid Suns was good, but not half as good as The Kite Runner. My opinion is in the exact opposite direction. Bhatti did mention that a woman would be more likely to appreciate A Thousand Splendid Suns, but even my female friends have enjoyed the other one more.

Both books are set against more or less the same backdrop, that of war-ravaged Afghanistan. They span the same periods of time. Both begin with a peaceful way of life, and then move on to loss, tragedy, and eventually, building a new, wholesome life after picking up the pieces of everything that was left. But I found that The Kite Runner seemed to deal with all of this in a way that I was not able to feel the adversity, the agony, the anguish of it all half as strongly as with the other book. The book is written in a very natural style, with clarity, realism, accuracy. There are a lot of things that I did like about it. The style, the little metaphors, the story line, the graphic description of every scene... but it does leave something to be asked for when dealing with emotions, the happy ones and the sad ones. Maybe the order in which one reads Khaled Hosseini's two works has a role to play here. Maybe the expectations had been built up too much. Maybe both. But I would pass this one off as just a little better than average.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Maa Da Laadla Exits Indian Idol

After months of my mom (well, initially my mom, and eventually the entire family) being hooked to Indian Idol, her student, who was a participant on the show, was eliminated today. Like I mentioned in the earlier post, I'd become emotionally attached to the show and the participants. There were two participants whom I was particularly attached to. One was the aforementioned guy, Mohit Lalwani, who used to be my mom's student, and the other is my namesake, Bhavya Pandit, who, I think, is undoubtedly the best singer amongst the girls, and among the best three... well, best two, now that Mohit is out. These two have, for long, been the judges' favourites on the show as well, and have been brought back on to the show by the judges when the audience voted them out. And this evening, it was between the two of them. One of them had to go. All the judges were pretty appalled. And I was beginning to feel a little like I do when I watch the sad parts in a good movie or TV show. Both of them sang really well in the last round. Both have consistently been singing beautifully, and improving their performances with each successive round. There were at least four others whom the judges (and I) regarded as more likely candidates for going home after this round. But those contestants did not. Mohit did.

Every time somebody leaves the show, at least one of the judges says a few consoling words about this not being the end of the world and how real talent would eventually be recognized. Today all of them did. And it was quite evident that they were not saying it just for the sake of saying it. They really felt that this guy is talented and does not deserve to leave so soon. Javed Akhtar reassured him that they would meet again, in some recording room, to record a song together. It was all pretty touching. And even I cried a little, the way I do when I watch a movie end in a sad way. I tend to control myself in this regard when my parents are around, as I did today as well.

Strange, isn't it, how strongly you can feel for people you've never met, whom you do not know, or even for fictional characters in books or movies?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Happy Birthday, Akash

People who've been following my blog probably know quite a bit about Akash by now, even if they don't know him in person. I've written a fair amount of stuff about him. But I just want to put down a few more lines here, for the occasion. Here's how things are different, now that Akash no longer works in the same office.

Bhatti is trying his level best to keep his promise to irritate me as much as Akash used to. And I must say he is pretty successful at it. But obviously, it's not quite the same. Bhatti cannot whine in the same way, can he? Can he say "Hadh badtameezi hai yaar!" with quite the same expression?

I miss the random outings for hot chocolate fudge. And the frequent requests (perhaps demands is a better word) for such outings. And all the unfulfilled demands for momos that he used to badger all of us with. The nonsensical blabber at the lunch table, which, by the way, Abhinav has taken it upon himself to make up for. He has gone a little overboard in his efforts to do so.

Anyway, not to digress too much from the main point of this post, I'll just wrap up here. Happy birthday buddy. May the coming year see you smiling, happy, and surrounded by love and warmth.

Feeling Safe

You remember the part in Ghajini where Ghajini's goons were in Kalpana's house, looking for her, to kill her off? This particular scene had me terrified like I've never been, during any movie I ever saw. After I watched it the second time, it gave me a few sleepless nights. That was only a phase. It passed. But you know what continues to haunt me? The part just before that, when Kalpana tells Ghajini that, because of people like him, girls are terrified of stepping out of their homes.

Every so often, incidents ranging from chain snatching to daylight rape are reported, even in the most crowded places, ranging from the Delhi University Campus to the vicinity of malls. The more recent ones have brought home the realization that not only are girls unsafe when going out alone at night, but also when going out with a guy in the daytime. An acquaintance of mine, who often works late into the night, says that, when she takes a cab from work and is alone, she feels safer if they don't send a guard along with the driver. Because if it's just the driver, that's one man to be wary of. If there's a guard as well, that's two of them. I wholeheartedly echo her sentiment. That's what this city is coming to. A place where a girl just cannot trust a man she doesn't really know, where she absolutely cannot be assured of her safety at any time during the day.

How is a girl supposed to feel safe? How is she supposed to get her peace of mind in this city?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Torturing My Grey Cells

The title for this one comes from a comment on a previous post. I kind of liked the phrase, so I thought I'd use it here.

In the last fortnight, I have rediscovered the avid reader in me. After I read three books during the shutdown, on the first day back at work, Bhatti handed me his copy of The Kite Runner, since he knew I wanted to read it. I have been reading it the last three evenings, and it has engaged me to the extent that I feel sleepy, but do not want to put the book down. Yesterday my mom was recollecting how I always used to fall asleep with a book in my hand or on my chest. That happened again last night. And the night before that. After a really long time. So my mom has, once again, added this item to her list of household duties. Keeping my book aside and putting out the light in my room.

This morning, a friend of mine sent me an e-mail mentioning the fact that I didn't write a post yesterday, and asking if everything was quite all right. That pointed out to me that my evenings have become a bit of a battle between my two addictions - blogging and reading, and the need for sleep.

My brother says that, some years back, I used to fall asleep reading something, and if he shook me a little, I would wake up, and not realise that I'd fallen asleep, and nonchalantly resume reading from the same point. He also claims that sometimes I used to wake up in the middle of the night, perform some random calculations on a notepad (a paper notepad) or a calculator, and go back to sleep. I also used to mumble stuff about sequences and series in my sleep. I know all this is a little far out, but I do think that most of it is actually quite accurate.

Guess what? Today I spent around fourteen hundred rupees at a bookstore. That's about as much as I spent on clothes on my last shopping trip. And today's shopping trip bought me a little more satisfaction than the last one. And a reason to look forward to many more odd evenings.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Office Space

Too bad I did not watch Office Space when it was released ten years ago. And too bad I wasn't blogging when I did first watch it, five or six years ago. But I watched a bit of it again on TV last night and I felt like sharing my thoughts on it.

This movie is primarily about software engineers. It talks about their lack of satisfaction with their jobs, their reactions to lay-offs, their attempts at hacking, their attempts to figure out what they actually want from a job and from life. I would have liked to say that this is the kind of movie almost every software engineer will be able to relate to, but I will not say it affirmatively, since my opinions on such things have shown strong tendencies of clashing with other people's, especially in the recent past. But I will say that this is one movie that every one of us, who has ever, even for a brief while, felt that their job is not challenging or satisfying enough, or is monotonous, or has wanted to do something drastically different from their current work, should definitely watch. Check it out, even if it is out of nothing more than general curiosity.

Monday, January 5, 2009

I Am Thankful For...

You know what I really like about the Kaise Mujhe song? The guy fully realizes how lucky he is to have a girl like that in his life, one who is so selfless, always eager to extend help to anyone who might need it.

Too often in life, we don't realize how luck we are in a lot of ways. One of my earliest posts was also on a similar theme.

How many of us remember to be thankful for the fact that we have never had to go hungry? That we have always had a roof over our heads? Clean water to drink. A blanket to keep us warm in cold weather. At least a fan to keep us cool in the heat. There are people who are deprived of all this, who die of extreme cold or of extreme heat. Who die of hunger or malnutrition.

I am thankful for the fact that all my limbs and my mind is in working order. (Guys, you dare not make jokes about this. This is a serious post.) For the fact that I have had both my parents by my side all through my life. That I live in a country where I have the freedom of speech, of creative expression. That I have quite a few amazing friends, some of whom have been by my side for significantly more than a decade and continue to be there for me, when I need them, when I don't admit that I need them, and even when I don't need them, but want them to be around. I am lucky that I acquired a decent education and a respectable job. I am a lot more fortunate than a lot of people in this world, and I will, henceforth, remind myself of all this every time I feel deprived of luck or happiness.

The Elegant Universe

There's this book called The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene that I came across while cleaning out one of my brother's bookshelves. And after reading the last two books that I read, I needed a book of a different genre. I asked him what the book was about. He told me it was about String Theory. I put it right back on the shelf. He told me that it was, in fact, very readable. So I did venture into it.

This is actually the first time I've read a scientific book. On a side note, I've wanted to read Richard Feynman's autobiography for a long time. Since my final years of graduation. And then, of course, there is Fermat's Last Theorem which I felt like picking up once when I was in class eleven. (After today's discussion with Bhatti on this book, I remembered the time when I was in communication with a Professor from the University of North Texas on a related note, and that I wanted to read this book even before getting into an undergraduate course in Mathematics. That was a little over ten years ago. This is actually a pretty long story, and I will write about it some time later.)

Coming back from the digression, The Elegant Universe was definitely a terrific starting point for someone who had never before ventured into a scientific book. The author presents his ideas so beautifully and articulates them so well that even someone who has not studied much more Physics than Newton's Laws of Motion can also hope to be able to get a reasonably clear picture of what is happening these days in the world of Physics. And someone who has studied the subject can look at it with new found awe. With all due respect to all the teachers who ever taught me Physics, I have never marvelled at the intrigue, the beauty of the subject the way I see it now. The analogies the author draws with things like electrons and children are simply marvelous. And he knows that he is addressing a mixed audience, which also comprises of people who have had no formal training in the subject, and ensures that he caters to all of them. I have never before understood quarks, the photoelectric effect, or Young's double slit experiment the way he explains it. Even abstract concepts like more than three spatial dimensions are addressed with a great amount of clarity, although they are a little too abstract to settle down in my mind easily.

Brian Greene begins at the beginning. he talks about the fundamental forces and the fundamental particles and the evolution of our understanding of those concepts. Once the reader has established a firm footing, he moves on to Superstring Theory, or String Theory for short. The way the book is structured and the way things are explained, it could very well have been titled String Theory For Dummies!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Vacation Ends

This was one of the most awaited, much needed vacations I've ever had. Of late, I'd been feeling pretty tired and listless, mentally and physically. I needed a lot of sleep. I needed peace and solitude. I got all that. I am on my way to resurrect reading as an essential component of my daily routine. In the last one year or so, I'd neglected to read even Reader's Digest, let alone a complete novel or a non-fiction book. It feels good to be back in the habit. It feels good to have rediscovered another obsession, another addiction. These days, the blog and the book compete for my attention. I have to force myself to turn of the computer if I want to read the book. And I have to force myself to put away the book if I want to write a post. The latter was particularly difficult during the A Thousand Splendid Suns phase.

I loved spending as much time as I pleased in a warm blanket. Or in a warm bath. I loved eleven days of forgetting all about my diet and pigging out on chocolaty desserts. Of course, I will compensate for that. I loved going out for movies by myself. This will continue after the vacation is over. Interestingly, the two obsessions did not allow me to watch a single movie at home, either on a computer or on the TV. I had planned to watch about ten pending movies on a computer. I guess they will have to wait. At least until I finish my current book.

PS: Two hours of Kahin To..., Kaise Mujhe, Kuch Khaas and Mar Jaawan on repeat, and four posts on my private blog, and I cannot fall asleep. I guess my book awaits me.

PPS: I just checked out the music of Luck By Chance. Seems pretty hopeless to me. But I still have high hopes from the movie.

Friday, January 2, 2009

How Does Your Mind Work?

This is probably the first time I've thought of writing a post based on some thoughts I gathered from the comments space of a post on someone else's blog.

Your mind doesn't work the same way, or equally actively, at different points of time during the day. Or at different places. Or during different phases of your life. There are some things you can do better in the afternoon, and some that are better taken care of late in the night. And then there are some which refuse to let you have a moment's peace until you take care of them.

There was a certain lecturer we had in College, who used to tell us that, no matter where we are or what we are doing, our minds should always be looking for a solution to a Mathematical problem or the proof of a theorem. He used to tell us things like, if you are hanging on for dear life from the door of a DTC bus, and the conductor asks you to buy your ticket, you should tell him to wait until you figure out the solution to the metric spaces problem that's been bothering you all day. He narrated this incident when he, after much effort, came up with the solution to such a problem, and began to dance around in his balcony for the benefit of his amused and startled neighbours.

In those days, I was sufficiently enthralled with Mathematics to be able to relate to all this. There were times when I tossed and turned a problem in my head on the bus ride home. Times when I woke up in the middle of the night with a sudden breakthrough. Or, if my brother is to be believed, mumbled things like a(n) tends to l in my sleep.

You know when I get most of my ideas? When I am taking a bath. It's the only time during the day when I shut the door, literally and figuratively, on the rest of the world, do away with my worries, and relax. And only a relaxed mind can figure out that last remaining step in the proof of a theorem. Or the last line that fits into a poem that I've been trying to write. Or the subject for my next post. This is mostly applicable for my evening bath, because mornings are generally a little rushed, given the fact that I need to get to work, and that I certainly don't like making my carpool friend(s) wait. This is the major reason why I do most of my blogging late in the evening. All through school and college, I made it a point not to study beyond eight or so in the evening. But when I was worked up over something interesting, something Mathematical, it would, more often than not, come to me late in the night.

On the other hand, I can hardly, if ever, write code in the later phases of the day. That, by the way, is, supposedly, what I do for a living. Apparently the relaxed mind works very well at what it does, but it does only things that it likes to do. And the tense, tired mind grows relaxed if it does those things.

I've read a number of articles in Reader's Digest and in other places that tell you to figure out when your mind is most active and when it slumps, and organize your day accordingly in order to maximise efficiency. Tasks that don't need your mind to be too active, like sorting your mail, should be taken care of post lunch, when you're feeling a little drowsy. And code should be written whenever your mind is at its wakeful best.

I think this stuff makes a lot of sense, and I try to abide by it as much as I can. But what I find more important than all of this, is that, each day, everyone needs to schedule some time exclusively for an activity that relaxes their mind, makes them happy, and gives them a sense of achievement. If you're one of the lucky souls who get all this from whatever it is that you do for a living, great. Otherwise, you need to mark some time for this in your daily calendar. It works wonders.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Song Of The Week

Until the Emosanal Attyachaar syndrome catches up with me, I'm all for Kaise Mujhe from Ghajini.

The two tracks from this movie that I heard in the promos, Behka and Guzarish, had left me pretty disappointed. Too disappointed to venture into procuring the rest of the soundtrack. When I was watching this movie, the first song that appeared on the screen, Aye Bachchu, was also a letdown.

But this song, that appears towards the later part of the film, is lovely. The mood it creates when it is played the first time, and then again, as the last scene of the movie fades into the closing credits, is really something. It seems as if, all the love which the here of the story felt for his heroine, is encompassed in these words:

Main to ye sochta tha ke aaj kal
Upar wale ko fursat nahin
Phir bhi tumhe banaake woh
Meri nazar mein chadh gaya
Rutbe mein woh aur badh gaya

There is a certain mood that is created at the end of the movie, that makes me want to listen to this song over and over again. The last time I watched the movie, the first thing I did after I came home was to look for this song. Today, since I knew I had an hour and a half's drive home, I went prepared, with this song copied on to my pen drive, to be played on repeat for much of the journey home. I guess that's the only thing I like about long drives by myself. (Yes, much as I like going out on my own, I don't like driving by myself too much.) Playing my mood of the moment song on repeat, singing along, and not worrying about anyone getting sick and tired of it.

New Year's Day

A day of small celebrations, of little feel-good factors for me.

I watched Ghajini again today. Now there are certain people who did not like it at all, who would go "Grrrrrrrrrr..." if I reiterate that it's good enough to be seen twice on the big screen, but it is. It has a lot of what I would never expect from an Aamir Khan movie, like loopholes, flaws in the story, random, irrelevant, inappropriate song-and-dance sequence popping out of nowhere, but the bigger things that hold the story together are big enough for me to overlook all of that. By the way, in case you are wondering, I did not watch it alone this time. This time I watched it with Akash.

Today I needed to get out of bed at around 10:30 in the morning, since I'd told Akash that I'd meet him in Noida (that's about forty kilometres from where I live) some time between 12:30 and 1:00, and also, I thought I needed to start getting up a little earlier than noon, as I have been doing all week, so as to ease the transition back to my regular schedule at work. I actually needed to set an alarm for myself in order to get up at 10:30, and, as I have almost always done since my school days, I got up a few minutes before the alarm went off.

Had a nice afternoon, followed by a nice movie. Ate a little too much by my standards. Bought some doughnuts for my brother. Realised that, after all the pizza, momos, Ram Laddus and popcorn, and the two glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice that my mother poured down my throat the instant I walked into the house, I was too full even to succumb to the temptation of a double chocolate doughnut.

I took up another book today. This one is non fiction, because I wanted a bit of change. For those familiar with my tastes in non fiction, this one is also a drastic change from my usual Erma Bombeck and Shobha De stuff. I'll write more about it once I'm done with it.

And now I'm back to my warm blanket, after a warm bath, (Yes, even in this weather, I need two baths a day.) back to my beloved blog. Where I belong.