Saturday, November 29, 2008

Who has the answers?

I was on the lonely planet website a few days ago. I needed some information about different countries and preferred to refer to the bright-coloured, simple-language, basically-fun portal than the boring others with mundane facts in archaic language. I checked the homepage to see who the editor was and it turned out to be Vivek Wagle - an Indian! I was so pleasantly surprised. I'm not sure if I should have been. Indians have been doing great things for a long time. But it was just such an an unexpected find in such an unexpected place that it made me smile.

My mind jogged back to the time I had heard news stories reporting an Indian as an Adobe top executive. Ditto with Citibank. My latest finding is Raju Narisetti whose achievements I am particularly enamored with. Indian soil boasts several well-accomplished natives, overseas and at home, in a range of fields, among its many other positives. I could go on and on forever. But the point I'm trying to make is that despite all the "advancement" the country is making, why are some treacherous people inisistent on keeping it in the dark ages? And succeeding at it!

The Mumbai November 2008 blasts are another incident in a steady trail of terror that the country has endured over the past few months. It's becoming really stale but thankfully not stale enough to shock the human senses. The scary part is when people become immune to the violence and cease to react to it anymore. An uneasy feeling tells me that is not far away though. I sincerely hope that is the pessimist in me thinking out loud and not much more.

How many times can a country be battered? How many times will it tolerate its spirit being threatened? How many times is it expected to dip into its fast-depleting reserves of resilience and "bounce back?" The real question is, how many times is it "supposed" to? None. It should never feel the need to.

We don't live in an ideal world and this rubbish continues to persist. What scares me more than numb human senses is the potentially ugly form that the retailiation is likely to take. Why does that scare me, although the majority will agree that it's jutified?...because rather than purge the evil from its own society, the action suggests more damage to an already tattered social fabric. I'm not sure it will hold up much longer. The futility just seems to outweigh the advantage.

Just when we feel like we have so much to look forward to, so much to celebrate about, sadisitic elements are adamant about ensuring regression and its perpetuity. Damn you cowards.

I have no answers, like many out there. And no one's in the mood for lofty claims that can't be translated to action immediately. Innocent men, women and children have paid the price. Men of valor have been extinguished in the line of duty. Visitors on holiday have been killed and those who survive have bitter memories of a land known for its hopitality.

This is getting stale. And I don't want to think of what could ensue in the aftermath.

Here's a great link, commenting on the tragedy, by one of my favorite authors:

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Flashback before Moving Forward

This is the 100th post. I thought it needed to be dedicated to something special. Thinking back, I realized that there is one event that needs mention but hasn't featured on the space because this blog was not created when it happened. The details may be a little hazy but here's the essence of it.

One of the highlights of my undergrad student life was the film workshop that we had with Pradeep Sebastian. It was five days, beginning Wednesday and running all through the weekend, of pure concentrated movie-watching pleasure. Tucked away in the new AV (audio visual) room on campus, with an airconditioner that chose to overwork more often than not, turning the space into an artificial arctic zone, thirty movie-hungry girls devoured every last scene. I could have sworn there were a couple of drool puddles.

It was intended to be a "film appreciation" course, to make us more cultured women and all those shenanigans. Perhaps that's what its long-term effects were. In the moment, the popcorn was the only accessory missing (only because John sir would have thrown us all out if we had eaten the AV room).

The first movie we watched was a Cannes Film Festival winner, The Son's Room. It was the first Italian movie I watched and loved the way the words of the language flowed so effortlessly. It felt oddly satisfying to hear a tongue I didn't understand. The movie was wonderful, setting a serene mood in soft colours and voices. During the five days that we spent in front of the large screen display, we were transported to the eerie tale of Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby by Roman Polanski and got a taste of the film wizard's magic in his explosive movie that explores incest like never before in Chinatown with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.

We watched "Open Water" where a yuppie American couple's tropical holiday turns into a mid-sea tragedy. Powerful cinema on a shoestring production budget that raked in huge collections at the box office. Independent cinema will always remain fascinating. The list grew longer with Mulholland Drive (which had the most bizarre female nudity scene. I guess you never know what to expect from director, David Lynch).

Then came the two Oriental movies of the lineup. When the first one was screened (The House of Flying Daggers), I had to excuse myself to escort my younger sibling to the social do of that generation. I had to be the lame older sibling who sat around obscurely and ate paneer tikka. Little did I know that the North Indian fare was stale. So when the second movie (whose name evades me) was screened, I had to excuse myself again to nurse a troubled stomach caused by the stale snack I had the previous day.

But I was back in time for Falling in Love with Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro. You can't quite figure out whether it's the couple's onscreen chemistry that is genuine or the fact that both are such good actors that they could have you believe they made hot, passionate love to a tree last night. This was the film that I thought Karan Johar's, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna was based on. My loyalties remain divided between a magical hollywood performance and a true Dharma Productions creation that appeals to my Indian sensibilities.

The grand finale was worth the wait with another Italian movie. Cinema Paradiso stole all our eighteen-year-old hearts, who cooed with the young Italian boy and the relationship he has with films and the man who plays movies at his town cinema. No movie that I've watched till date has taken its place and I'm confident no other film will. It will remain special for how "human" it was and how it succeeded in allowing us to believe we were eight-years old again.

At the end of five days, the lights came back on. The last CD was put away in its case. The floor was still remarkably free of popcorn and crumbs. John sir was happy. But the drool puddles remained. Of course the workshop was useful and there was a greater chance that we would now be able to hold a semblance of an intelligent conversation about film noveau and voyeurism. But that would be for much later.

At the time, the immediate accomplishments were that our eyes had dried from watching so many movies continously and we wore dazed grins of contenment. This week could not have gone any better.

To 100 more posts and more!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's not all black and white anymore...and there are more shades than gray

The whole world is screaming about how jorunalism is dying. Everyone is wondering just what the future of journalism really is. That with the advent of technology and more specifically, the Internet, print journlists may as well shut shop and head home. They're doomed without a doubt.

So why did I, like several others, choose to join journalism school, at the price of, as one classmate put it, "The equivalent of the GDP of a small country." Turns out, print journalists are still the majority compared to broadcast students. Could everyone have made the same mistake? Or is there a deeper trend that we seem to be missing?

It's true that the World Wide Web has drastically eaten into print sales, with newspapers being forced to reduce their circulation. Several magazines have abandoned their paper models and adopted a web-only format. So that's it then?

Fortuanately, not quite. I came across an interesting article the other day about how the Internet was inevitably taking over the print world. However, the trade off wasn't quite rewarding. The revelation came to light in connection with Conde Naste Publications which was reducing its web workforce, while leaving its print division untouched. It's argument was that it was essentially a magazine company and would not compromise on that. The new-age media pundits just couldn't understand it. But the logic lies in a Vogue or Harper's that could never expect to earn the same kind of revenue from a website as compared to its glossy pages that are eagerly awaited on the newsstands. The advertisers pay heavily to be featured in the prized space. In reality, if they were to adopt primarily or only an online existence, they would be exchanging pounds for pennies.

That got me thinking that it's unlikely any publication will continue to focus solely on a web-based format, especially when it is not economically viable over a longer period of time. It's the money that counts. If it's not coming in through a particular avenue, alternatives will be drafted. No company is interested in a losing venture, or at least one that is not bringing in the desired revenue.

The matter then rests on "convergence" - a word that a professor used the other day and there doesn't seem to be a better term. It seems as though the print industry is changing, not dying. And there is a mammoth change around the corner that is going to redefine the industry forever. All journalists are waiting to see what that is.

Several media that came earlier suggested that the newspaper was halfway to the grave. The radio. The television. The Internet is the latest monster. But just as radio journalism, broadcast journalism and new media were carved out, a hybrid being will be created to ensure that newspapers and magazines will not disappear forever.

Besides, the web and the all the tools that go with it are ultimately "delivery mecahnisms," not the news themselves. They're the new toys to play with and enjoy, the kinder suprise is hidden inside.

It's a tough time for journalists and the industry as everyone tries to stay afloat. But there is hope. So it seems as though, while we're not completely in the clear, we're not destined for doom either. For now, that's enough to get by with.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Karmic Circle

"There's too much of an emphasis on being nice. Who cares?"

Well, it's true. No one will question why you don't want to be nice. You're not obliged to remember birthdays. Or buy gifts for loved ones "just because." No one expects you to make time out for old friends.

But let's put it in the simplest way possible. "What goes around, comes around," as trite as that may sound. It's a simple concept called Karma.

My friend from China got me Chinese tea in the cutest green box and suprised me with it this morning. I wasn't expecting it and it made me feel good all day. If I can do something that makes someone else feel that way, it's totally worth the effort.

The status of my Karma is not something that I take lightly.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Of the Constants and New

I miss Hebbal and Bellary Road. But I like Brookline and the Massachusetts Turnpike. I miss scootys and kinetics. But I like Vespas and the ocassional Harley. I miss Comm Street, Brigade Road and MG Road. But I like Comm Ave, Quincy Market and Copley. I miss Mainland China, Samarkand and The Only Place. But I like Noodle St., Rangoli and the pizza place on campus. I miss blaring horns. But I like the silence. Most of the time. I miss the autos and surprisingly the din and madness of the traffic. But I like the T. I really like the T. I miss crossing Cunningham Road. I like being treated nicely as a pedestrian. I miss Lifestyle. I like Marshalls. I miss my family and friends. I'm making new ones of the latter category who are some of the nicest people, but there is no replacing the originals :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes, America. With Obama, you can.

Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States.

Thank you America, for choosing to change.

I'm not even American but I got goosebumps and tears in my eyes when I heard his victory speech. Possibly because it's so easy to see Obama as first a "person" before a "president."

Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream has finally come true. The color of a person's skin has transcended political barriers to triumph in the peoples' hearts. This strikes a special chord with me because Martin Luther King Jr. is BU alumni. The American dream has been redefined.

The concerns that Obama is not ready for this post aren't entirely out of place. He is young and has had a comparably short political career when contrasted with that of John McCain. However, his promise for change is convincing and he seems capable of leading the world's most powerful nation into a brand new era. Thank you John McCain for being gracious about your defeat.

Obama's reference to a 106-year-old woman who voted for him in Atlanta, during his victory speech, didn't seem sappy. He wins brownie points for thanking his wife whom he called "the love of his life." Nothing appeals to a girl more than a man who makes no qualms about who his heart belongs to.

The Harvard-Columbia graduate will lead his nation forward - a movement that the nation has been crying out for, heaving under the strain of a crumbling economy and a futile war. The same nation mourns with the new president-elect for his grandmother didn't see this victorious day. The timing is terrible.

This presidential race has been historic. Obama has made history. He will go down in history. Hopefully, he will make some of the country's pressing problems history.

The faith in an Obama-Biden admistration is strong among the American people. Obama is endearing for his power to make a person believe. That I can. That you can. Yes, we can!

Barack Obama, I look forward to your term as the president of the United States of America.

Election Coverage 2008 - Ayesha Aleem and Christine Cassis

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Countdown Begins

The US Presidential Elections 2008 are tomorrow. Who's going to win? Obama or McCain?
I'm at the edge of my seat and biting my fingernails.
Watch this space for an update.