Monday, 28 February 2011

The Annual Union Budget - An Analysis



The Union Budget is being presented today.


Prices of some things will go up.


Price of some things will come down.


For example: 


Cell phones will become cheaper.


Plastic will become more expensive.


But because plastic is needed to manufacture cell phones,
they will not become cheaper.



And so on. 


Such is life.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Inspired rubbish



There is a guy who sends an SMS to me every morning. He used to send one every Monday, but now thanks to being complimented by a rather attractive friend of ours (men will be boys even when they are men), he is much inspired and lets loose daily. Yesterday he was extra prolific and sent me two. (I wonder who complimented him yesterday.) Needless to say, these are not mere text messages, these are pearls of wisdom/essence of humanity/distillations of spirituality (no, the last one does not mean whisky or vodka but you are close, very close). They are designed to inspire me and others to: a. Lead a happy life. b. Be confident. c. Love humanity. d. Be humble. e. Make me call my mother. f. Etc. I wonder what drives people to do this? One reason could be the cellular phone service providers of course – these days you can choose a pre-paid plan where you get to send 500 text messages free every day. I think all of us should buy one of these ‘message packs’ and send 500 messages to Raja every day asking him to confess his 2G crimes. I am sure he will confess just to stop his phone from ringing. Or vibrating, if he is that kind of guy. If the message pack strategy fails, we must all subscribe to the offer from a service provider who is advertising that we can now make calls for zero paise per minute. (How can any service provider afford it? Simple – they bought 2G spectrum really, really cheap.) Armed with the power of free calls we should all call Raja at all times of day and night and ask him:

You: “Sir, yourself Raja, sir?
Raja: Yes.
You: Congratulations sir, we are offering you a black credit card with limit of 3000 crore and zero per cent interest.”
Sorry. We should call Raja and say, “Mr. Raja, tell us all.”

But I am being frivolous, which according to serious people is an ‘f’ word. So let us get serious. These inspiring ‘forwards’ (for me that is an ‘f’ word), are a bigger threat when sent through the thing that will run the whole world soon. Did you say iPad? Wrong answer, Apple will collapse when Jobs quits and Cook takes over. (Corny joke alert: What will the headlines say when Steve quits Apple? A: Steve without Jobs. Corny joke alert 2: What will they say when Apple collapses under Cook? A: How to Cook Apple.)

The f’wards (short form for forwards), are a bigger threat on the internet. If you have been on the internet for long it means your company is footing the bill. Sorry, if you have been on the internet for long you must have received links to inspirational stories, pictures, videos and PowerPoint presentations showing people who have overcome adversity, handicaps, illnesses and generally spread happiness, joy, peace, love, forgiveness, spirituality and AIDS, sorry, aid. These f’wards are usually titled, 'Amazing! True Story!' And end by telling you how lucky you are to have what you have so why are you complaining and to make the most of what you have. Dude, what do you think I am doing? I am taking what I have and raising a family and paying the mortgage and buying petrol for the car so I can keep up with the Joneses who are called Sharmas or Khannas or some such in India. Why, last month I didn’t stop buying onions either! Though I must admit that I have always used the office internet including for downloading disgusting videos like a full Himesh song. I was younger then and everybody was doing it, okay? But the question is, what kind of person sits and makes those inspirational PowerPoint presentations? And where do they get that music from? (Possible answer – they record it on their phones while stuck in a lift.) I mean, what inspires them? Do they get to office and google 'random nature/baby/dolphin pictures' followed by 'random quotes about all of the above' and feed the results to software that automatically marries the words and pictures? And do these guys quickly minimise the browser when the boss appears? “Working on the figures for your annual sales presentation sir- PowerPoint is such a blessing.”  The internet is truly a strange animal and it seems to do strange things to people who have too much free time and free access.

And then, have you ever wondered who starts these chains of video f’wards? By the same logic, it would be guys with really, really fast internet connections in their offices.  “Umm-hmm, everyone’s gone home and now I can claim a dinner voucher and cab fare home! And of course, log on to youtube and make the world a better place. There, I have typed in ‘videos to make the world a better place’ and hit ‘search’! Huh, what’s this? A TV commercial for zero paise per minute calls? Let me try, ‘How to overcome a handicap’. Wow! A ‘Pam Anderson promotes silicon to boost your confidence video!’ I will watch that for a bit; I guess the world can wait for a bit.”

If nothing else, we must appreciate the patience of this guy (or girl). The amount of videos they must be watching to zero in on one that is exactly right for everyone in their contact list must be enormous. Truly, the mind boggles at the mere thought.

Or is there a more sinister explanation? Like men and women collecting and sending f’wards round the clock like Santa’s (no, not the one in Sardarji jokes), elves in BPOs (short form for Bangalore Person’s Offices) set up by channels who have guys curing men and women with a jab of the forefinger on the forehead? Makes me wonder what these miracle men with the Gift of the Gab, sorry I meant, Gift of the Jab are doing on TV channels, jabbing the infirm in jamborees held in large stadia and studios booked by paying high rents. Shouldn’t they sit in hospital OPDs  and cure the world’s health problems once and for all?

And so my bafflement at the ways of this world continues. But I must confess – maybe my friends’ messages and videos really work. After all, they did inspire this post.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Baffled


As I confessed in my last post, I am having trouble keeping the ol' blog alive. The main reason is work and tonnes of it. Thanks to which, I can barely find enough time write a coherent post.  'Wait,' I say to myself, 'you were never coherent.' With that liberating thought, I go on and unleash these unconnected bits on you.


1. "Why don't we move to the drawing room," she suggested. That had me wondering, no, not what you are thinking. I wondered why it is called 'drawing room'. I have never seen anyone drawing in the room in question. Except kids of course. But they draw everywhere - I remember waking up one summer afternoon to find a house-tree-river-hills-sunrise-crow tattoo drawn on my bare back.

2. On a related note, why is a 'chest of drawers' called that? Well, drawers I can understand. Because we have to draw them out. But why a 'chest'? Why not a hip or waist of drawers?

Maybe the answer to 1 is in 2 - A drawing room is where you draw people in. Or out, if you are that kind of host.

3. Taking the same argument forward, why isn't a bedroom called 'lying room'? After all, it is a room where people lie. For example, "Oh god, I am coming".

4. The 2G spectrum was auctioned. That is, the price at which it was sold was public knowledge. Then why did it take so long for the scam to come to light? Don’t we have auditors? Or maybe the 3000 crore siphoned off by Raja is loose change for those in power and doesn't merit attention.

5. The wall constructed to guard the Siddhivinayak Temple against terrorists cost 11 crore rupees. I wonder why a wall should cost that much to build. I also wonder how many kilometres of fence we can put up on the Indo-Pak border in the same amount. Or how many new boots we can buy for our soldiers in Siachen. Or bullet-proof vests for the local cops.

6. Lastly, it is a week since Valentine's Day. I hope you have recovered – if from nothing else, from the overdose of the colour red. Red balloons, heart-shaped our otherwise, cards, shirts, dresses and even sneakers hung around in shop windows. I wonder why red is the colour of Valentine's day (and of love). I wonder why people don't get the connection – Red is also the colour of blood, of the AIDS ribbon and the flag they put up to warn you, 'Caution. Manhole Open.'

Friday, 18 February 2011

News. After the break.



This is the longest I have been away from the good ol' blog since the time I started this gig. The reasons are the usual boring cliché ones - an overdose of work. There are other reasons too - each one is too insignificant to list here but the small bits add up and create road blocks.


There is too much happening in the world too. My favourite butt of jokes - the politicians and bureaucrats are in a race to outdo each other to gain top honours in areas of incompetence, corruption and utter indifference. Not just in our country, but elsewhere in the world too. Of late, I have heard this being said quite a few times, "If things continue this way, soon we will have a revolution like Egypt." I don't think so. We, the Indian middle class, are indifferent in our own way and are not exactly above reproach ourselves. That, and our new-found prosperity will ensure that we will not congregate in, hey, we don't even have a common square where we can meet to protest. On the other hand, mini-revolutions are happening all around us in the country. The Maoists are surfacing in newer and newer places around the country. They were called Naxalites once and I have heard stories about them from my uncle who studied in IIT Kharagpur in the sixties. When I was in college I had attended a concert of the Naxalite-Poet, Gadar, from Andhra Pradesh. The North-East has never been quiet. For anyone who is twenty years old in Kashmir peace is an unnatural phenomenon. One thing that probably stops us from breaking out into protests like in Egypt is probably the size of our country and the lack of a common language and shared culture. (This is my theory and as always, is based on nothing except my opinion.) The danger is that if the economic and social gaps between the haves and have-nots keep widening then these scattered mutinies will intensify and turn more areas of our country into replicas of Kashmir.


This is way too serious. This blog used to be a fun thing to read once. Maybe it is better to recover from whatever I am suffering from and then return to blogging!


But hello! Don't go away! I have news to share! It is about me. Last month, one of the photographs clicked by me was included in an online journal of Asian American Poetry published in the USA. 


If you click here, it will lead to the page in the journal that features the photograph.


One of my short stories had won the top prize in a contest held by an independent book store in Vermont, USA. K.D. Norris, one of the winning writers in that contest is the editor of the arts and literature section in a local newspaper called Bennington Banner. He interviewed me on e-mail last week and yesterday's Bennington Banner carried the interview.


Click here to read the interview.


Now let me go and bury my nose where it belongs - in work. Until soon. Hopefully.