Sunday, November 22, 2009

Babu Narude

Today is a very special day for Babu Narude (Sir). He is my Yoga teacher at the institute where I go to learn and practice yoga. Babu Narude's elder daughter got married today. I am sure he must be a very relieved man; he was planning for it since time immemorial. I just came back from the wedding and the reception, the venue was in the Ram temple at Matunga, very near to the legendary Mysore Cafe where I just recently had the world's best dosas. And I am not even a southie food fan, but still if I really loved the dosas, that must be something.

Anyways, the wedding and the reception was quite good. And very well-attended. Practically every face that i can recognise at my Yoga institute was there. To be honest, I did not expect many of my colleagues to be there. After all, people have jobs on weekdays, you'd think they might want to spend the Sunday with their families. It took me just seconds after I entered to be proved absolutely wrong. I saw many familiar faces; Pravinbhai- our institutes resident stock broker who seems to eat, breathe, drink, live and sleep stock markets (or bajaar as he says) was there since the morning. And Patilsaheb was also there, on the stage manning the presents and gifts, Sir and his daughter got. They were looking like extended family.

I think somewhere today I saw the love and respect that we all have for Sir. I joined Yoga in February 2003 amidst a lot of skepticism. But I was quickly hooked onto it. I think- in a way- yoga grew in me. Thanks to Sir- who took me into his fold (I must have been extremely blessed to be assigned to his tutelage)- I soon took to Yoga as a habit. One without which I felt my day was incomplete if I couldn't go to my classes. The good part of the place where I go to is that there aren't any fixed classes or fixed times. Men are supposed to go anytime between 4 and 8.30 pm. Instructors lurk around, take rounds, keep tabs on students and supervise all of us. Sir is the most senior of all. I find him to be very dedicated. And he is the best part. I have always felt that no matter what the subject is, it can always be made the most interesting if the instructor is good.

At 56, his memory can put any of ours to shame. He must be having atleast 30 people- at any given point in time apart from the occassional dropouts here and there- but he would remember all of us by our first and last names. Since there are no fixed classes, each of us has our own cusotmised itenery. One that escalates with every passing month as we graduate to the next level. Sir would know each of our iteneries at the back of his palm. This, despite staring his day at 4.00 early morning when he wakes up, does his morning ablutions and catches the 6.15 am morning local to Churchgate. He stays at Virar, Mumbai's farthest suburban station the western railway. It's not easy to travel by second class from Churchgate to Virar, at this age. But he's got such will power and stamina thanks to his many years of disciplined living and yogic lifestyle, that at this age he sleeps for only about 5 hours every day and still is fresh at all times.

Today, on this happy occasion, his loved ones and students- such as I- were there to bless him. In a way, to thank him too for the all his wonderful teachings, to wish him luck and join in his happiness. People who bring happiness in other people's lives get happiness in return. Babu Narude is an exemplary instance of this thought.

Kurbaan

I don't remember when I watched a movie the last time around, but thanks to my cousin who got us complimentary passes to the premier show, I caught up with Kurbaan. A decent effort from producer Karan Johar who is always known to make candy floss movies, but I found it to be a very simplistic take on America v/s Islam terror war. A young Delhi college professor Kareena Kapoor meets co-professor suave and charming Saif Ali Khan and falls in love after being briefly pursued. They fall in love and migrate to the US as Kapoor gets a job opening there. Saif Ali Khan too gets a job there and they move into a new house in an Indian neighborhood and life seems to go on Happily every after. Till the time that Kareena Kapoor accidentally stumbles upon a terror plot unraveling- and also a dead woman's body-  in a neighbour's house. The story kickstarts from there as she unwillingly falls into a well of deceit and terror.

The movie, though a taut thriller compared to Bollywood standards- takes a very potboiler, cliche Bollywood route to reach its goals. For instance, I cannot fanthom that a girl who has lived in the US (only to briefly migrate to India to look after her ailing father) does not dial the US emergency number 911 when she stumbles upon the terror plot. Saif Ali Khan gets a job at the university so easily. He also passes through the airport security checks so easily despite being on the US watchlist. Anyone who has been to the US post 9-11 would know that US is a totally different country and how seriously it takes its own security. Vivek Oberoi plays the supporting cast as the boyfriend who loses his girlfriend to terrorism. He decides to not to inform the police even after he gets a credible lead, but instead- and this sounds very Bollywoodish- decides to join the gang to get to the crooks himself. You'd probably expect a home grown character to behave like this, but this sort of approach is a little hard to digest for someone who is shown to have lived in the US and worked within the parameters of the US machinery. He also gets admission in the terror cell without so much as a background check done on him by the members. Also, the plot line of Kareena Kapoor seducing her husband in bed to get hold of the terror plot details sounds- if not exactly far-fetched- very amateurish. And do we really need such close-ups of how a person removes a bullet and also stitches up the skin?

Despite being in the same genre of New York (also produced by Karan Johar) and his upcoming My Name is Khan, Kurbaan is an edge-of-the-seat thriller and keeps you hooked on. The movie scores on good cinematography and screenplay. Unfortunately, there is no chemistry between the lead pair despite good performances.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Black Day for Indian Democracy

It was a black day for Indian democracy, yet once again. Armed with sticks, lathis, and such weapons, the goons of Shiv Sena- one of Maharashtra's political parties- barged into the offices of TV channel IBN Lokmat and not only destroyed office property but also physically and brutally assaulted journalists. Read the reports here and here and see the pictures here. My sympathies to the IBN team and Nikhil Wagle, IBN Lokmat's editor-in-chief and kudos to the staff for nabbing some of the goons and handing them over to the police. This is not the first time that Shiv Sena goons have targeted journalists or innocent civilians. One wonders whether it'll be the last time especially considering the fact that the State Government has so far been unable to tame them and bring them to book. Though I have hope from the present chief minister. I could be wrong but I saw sincerity in his eyes yesterday when the editor-in-chief of IBN Rajdeep Sardesai interviewed him on national TV and the minister reassured that the culprits- not just the foot soldiers, but also the ringleaders- would be brought to book. Let's hope that the Chief Minister stands by his promise.

For a moment though I would like to ponder on the irony as to why such trouble-makers have always thought that such violence would get them to the top. The worst part is that they have been right and proved right time and again. Massive communal riots in1992-93 in Bombay and later in Gujarat in 2002 (both targeted Muslims) catapulted right-wing leaders to the pinnacle of the state machineries. The Gujarat riots were documented as probably one of the worst genocide the history of Indian democracy. Lives were  uprooted, innocent civilians lost their lives, and the fabric of society changed forever. Still, people who openly and brazenly encouraged such violence, got voted and came to power.

Which begs the question: Why does the electorate vote for such people who encourage violence? Why does anyone think that these very people who perpetuate violence, are the ones who can offer a better life, a bettre government? Isn't violence the opposite of governance? Hatred is the core of any riot; it smacks of violence and complete break-down of law and order. Aren't there enough members of the civilised or the thinking society to get up and vote to keep the thugs and goons out of the Parliament? Or it's just that there are enough voters who have the power in the fingers but that they just do not care.

Why is it that in developed countries, any political party that perpetuates violence to gain publicity and power, gets shooed away, does not get elected at all, and infact goes behind bars? Why does it happen in India that the notorious political parties think that such massive tod-phod and strong-arm street tactics would get the voters to vote for them? Why is there such a belief? Is there something wrong with them or with us who vote for them? Perhaps the low voter turnout could throw some light. The anger and agitation that came out in Mumbai post 26-11- largely seen amongst the thinking citizens- fizzled out soon; poor turnouts during the Assembly elections and central government elections.

I wish I could say the cliche:  the time has come to stop them and bring the culprits to book, time has come to disown them and time has come to act. Unfortunately, that time came and went away long ago. What do we do now?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mumbai Traffic

Am I the only one who thinks it's is happening or do I see traffic indiscipline rising in Mumbai with every passing day? Motorists (including 2-wheelers) rarely had any respect for zebra crossings, but then that is old news. Even starting to honk incessantly a good 10-20 seconds before the signal would turn green, as if repeated honking and creating a nuisance would make the signal go green any faster. But I now see many motorists, especially 2-wheelers, jumping signals. It's a little spooky to cross roads these days on buy junctions. You'd feel sorry for the traffic havaldar who has to stand at the signals manning men and cars in such pollution, of both noise and air. But you'd then think it's absolutely necessary for some kind of policing to be around, otherwise traffic discipline goes for a toss.

A little bit of law and order would go a long way and also a bit of common sense. Large poles with new traffic signals- much like those that can be on the Eastern and Western Express highways and also developed countries- have been installed at busy junctions. However, additional signals have been installed on the other side of the road junction. This means that if a motorists "accidentally" crosses the first signal (before which s/he is supposed to stop), s/he can still comfortably stand right on top of the zebra crossing and still keep an eye on his road's signal that has also been installed, as I said, on the other side. The latter is absolutely unnecessary.

Actually signals should be installed before the zebra crossing. There should not be any signal on the opposite side of the road. This would ensure that motorists- if they want to keep an eye on the signal- would need to stop before the zebra crossing itself. Should they cross the zebra crossing, they would not get any cues on when the signal goes green.

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My apologies for not blogging in a long, long time. Some change happened in my daily schedule last month because of which spare time is a rarity these days. Atleast during the weekdays. But I'll try to blog more often from now on.

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