Wednesday, November 27, 2013

You can sing, so can I!

June 16, 2013 was a regular Sunday for me.  As a sub-editor of a daily, I work on Sundays, from 4.30 pm to 11.30 pm. But that day, I was going to sing. It was beyond the humming in my bathroom and the antakshari sessions. I was about to get my voice recorded in a studio. And I did, thanks to techie-turned-singer Sunil Koshy and his initiative, “From Mug to Mike”. 

His idea was simple –– get interested “bathroom singers” to join the community that was set up as a Facebook group in April 2013, provide them a basic introduction to professional singing, and give a chance to record their voice in a professional studio. For those interested to continue, Koshy would conduct advanced training sessions.

He had the support of his associates in the music industry and his loving wife. Sa Studio in Banashankari, Bangalore became the venue, with the first workshop in April 27. I joined the crew in June.

What unveiled in the following months was beyond the dreams of the organisers.

Word spread fast as friends of the aspiring singers took note of their smiling photos taken the studio. “Over 400 bathroom singers have recorded in a studio for the first time ever in their lives, in a span of less than six months. People came from other cities in Karnataka and even from Pune, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram just to attend our workshops,” says Koshy, beaming with pride. 

Participants came and attended the advanced sessions repeatedly, giving Koshy and team the confident to hold a stage show for amateur singers. The first show, on August 18 in Bangalore, became an assembly of enthusiastic singers stepping out of their privacy, receiving tremendous appreciation. 

“There was a stream of messages and enquiries,” remembers Koshy. “Rotary Club of Kochi invited us to conduct workshops there.” Thus, ‘From Mug to Mike’ crossed the state orders on October 19 and 20, 2013. Next year will open with their entry in Chennai, on January 5.

“There have been many people writing to us from around the world, including US, UK, UAE and other countries,” says Koshy with pride. Koshi is yet to acknowledge it, but going by the number of participants till date, ‘From Mug to Mike’ is currently the largest recording platform of amateur singers in India.

I am happy to be one among the hundreds. As of my recording, well, it was mediocre. But, hell, it’s my first recording in a studio. And I am happy that I could sing!

(Illustration: From Mug to Mike)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Hue of You

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Hue of You 

This is my first participation in the Weekly photo challenge. This week’s theme is "The Hue of You."

You have to present a photo taken by you with a predominant colour that represents you, your mood or your state of mind.

I am happy, looking forward for good days. So here goes...

Friday, April 05, 2013

When the dino came in 3D...

This happened 19 years back. We––Achan, Amma, Chinnu and yours truly––were in a theatre. All children waited with bated breath. The first thing that came to screen was a globe, slowly rotating. We were looking keenly to see whether there were any dinosaurs. Instead, alphabets came around the globe. “UNIVERSAL,” I read. The movie was “Jurassic Park”. 

I had seen that movie umpteen times, later in life. The park, the children and the tremors in the glass of water still fascinate, but nothing could match the experience I had years ago. Not until last week, when I walked in to see the dinos in 3D.

Officially, it was the 20th anniversary edition of Jurassic Park, which released in 1993. Not here. In India, the film came a good one year later, in 1994. And what a release! That was the biggest opening ever for a Hollywood movie in India. We just loved the dinos.

It was the pre cable-TV era. We were yet to get used to the graphics dished out by Hollywood. And it became the first ever Hollywood experience for an entire generation. For the first time, an English movie ran for more than 50 days in my small town. In bigger cities, Jurassic Park crossed 100 days.

Jurassic Park cast: then and now

There was an avalanche of change in the 19 years that followed. The children grew up, so did the Indian market for Hollywood movies. 

Like the dinos that tore open the park’s fence, Jurassic Park was a game changer. Many Hollywood studios followed suit. And in 1998, a huge ship sank in our screens, beating every Indian movie in that year’s box office collection. Interestingly, Titanic also released during a summer vacation.
From movies that came a year late, things have moved up pretty fast. Last May, The Avengers released in India before the US. This April, GI Joe did. Dubbed prints of Hollywood productions get premiere release these days. Video cassettes became history. Now, DVDs are facing extinction due to online piracy.

With time, or rather growing up, the charm of the movie has surely faded a bit, like the charm of the logo of Universal Studios. For quite a few years post Jurassic Park, the mere sight of the globe on screen would trigger in my young mind an anticipation of something as grand as Jurassic Park.

Now the child is no longer there, and the adult knows about Hollywood.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Because we do not know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you cannot conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless..."

Saturday, April 14, 2012


"What are you doing tomorrow?"

"Nothing. Celebrating the first Vishu in four years without a Vishukkani."

That was an uncomfortable reminder. The gang was not living together anymore. Tony was right. It would be my first Vishu in four years without a Vishukkani.

During the last four years, I used to set the Kani. Not out of any sentiments, but to give my friends and auspicious first sight of the year; to give them a pleasant surprise. And surprised they were - every time. Even last year, when they got the whiff of my preparations, they acted surprised to make me happy.

On my first attempt in 2008, I missed the konnappoo, the first and foremost ingredient of a Vishukkani. But I managed to place some gold, thanks to Rakesh. It was fun playing the elder for a day. Rakesh went abroad that year, with a better job.

The next year, thanks to the increasing Malayalee population in Thavarekere, I managed to get some Konnappoo. We had two visitors then. Waking up Denny was tough. Thanks to a popular Malayalam film, he was sure that we were up to some prank. For Baabul, it was more than a surprise - it was the first Vishukkani in his life.

In 2009, my plans were almost foiled. The Vishu eve was longer than usual. Aby and Mithun were discussing the changing fate of Indian cricket, with Aby comfortably reclining on the makeshift 'diwan' in the hall, planning to sleep there - where I had to set the Vishukkani up! After waiting till 2 am, I nudged him to a side and pretended to be asleep. He had no other go but to go to the bedroom, to wake up with others to see a beautiful Vishukkani.

He married 'Teacher' (yes, you read it right, Sunayana!) a month later - the first wedding in our Bangalore gang.

Next Vishu came with a surprise. I was chosen as the finalist for a movie contest. I boarded a flight to Bombay on the Vishu day to meet my favourite filmmaker. Being in Bombay, Mithun missed that year's Kani. Career had left him shuttling between Bombay and Bangalore.

Tony went to Udupi in March 2011 and came back with a lovely idol of Krishna. "Make it a part of our Vishukkani," he said, which I did. The surprise element was lost that time, thanks to Jeeson. But that year's Kani was complete - with the idol, mirror, fresh fruits, new cloth and money. And the gang was happy, as usual.

Shortly after that, Mithun left to Calicut, to seal his wedding deal. He came back engaged, without a ring. He married his "sweetheart from kindergarten" (as we say) in May that year. Four other friends also tied the knot in that month.

We moved out of our den a month later. Tony married Charu in August. Jeeson, Lal, Denny, Jacob and I now live close to our workplaces.

Writing about Vishu in this blog three years ago, I had wondered whether I would be in Bangalore for another Vishu. I am still in the city. Something or the other has been pulling me back to Bangalore every time I tried to move away.

It's Vishu again, and I did not have the heart to stay back in Bangalore. I'm off to Vellore, to visit my aunt after a year. Before I left, I handed over the Krishna idol to Jiji - it was her turn to surprise Mithun.

Denny wrote in Facebook: "Happy Vishu to all my dear ones . Let the New Year be a much brighter one. I miss u Chandu."

Miss you, Denny. And our gang too. Vishu will never be the same without you guys.

Sunday, January 01, 2012


Yet another year in history. People look forward on every New Year's day. Let me do a rewind, about a special year in my mediocre life.

The regular drill of wishing my colleagues and friends a merry Christmas, a third prize in an office competition in the form of cakes and more cakes. Beautiful.

Precursors to Christmas, weather turning cold and a trip to the hills to make sure that my best buddy comes back married!

Planned a surprise get-together, only to be surprised. Another round of exams, same results. Indian Rupee.

Onam. Realised that my baby cousins are of my height now. Nephews call me by name. Tony's married. Pranayam.

Waiting to go home.

Calicut trip with Aby to marry off Joby. Empty pocket halts higher education. Salt N Pepper.

On my own now. Boredom drived me nuts, embraces cinema theatres to escape. Adaminte Makan Abu.

Wedding month: Ambi, Mithun, Santosh, Sandip… Marathon trip between Coimbatore and Calicut.

Vishu. Higher studies ambitions soar high. Urumi.

Temperature soars. Starts planning for education abroad.


Defies gravity as the clock struck 12 on January 1. Friends were literally throwing and catcking me! Traffic. Happy New Year.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How stuff works

Tips to a rookie reporter by a veteran:

Something good happens + stock market goes up = Easy job

Something bad happens + stock market goes down = Equally easy job

Something good happens + stock market goes down = Difficult, but manageable

Something bad happens + stock market goes up = You are screwed!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wedding bells, beeps, texts...

(For new readers: All characters involved are my friends, so no introduction. Check the links for more details)

“6 Missed Calls,” flashed my phone when I came back from the terrace with a bundle of clothes. I picked it up, it rang again, and Tony started scolding: “Where the hell were you?”

He had called up to invite for his wedding. In the Netherlands for an on-site project, he could not go for the traditional, wedding-card way of inviting. Mobile phone came handy. A detailed mail followed, with a map of the marriage venue.

Jayadevan, engaged last month, also plans to dial. Getting married in October, he hasn’t printed the cards yet. “Illeda, I’ll call them up,” he said. “That’s easy. All my friends are on my call list. Moreover, my relatives are spread across north Kerala. Where’s the time to go door-to-door?”

Two years ago, for Aby’s marriage, we had scanned an entire street of stationary stores at Sultanpet, Bangalore to find that right card, a month before his marriage. For Mithun, his parents took care of the card business. Our Bangalore Family was the local organising committee for both the functions.

Even Visy, who is getting married to Dev next week, got the card printed from Kerala. She had it scanned, albeit tilted, and mailed to her list of friends and acquaintances. “But I have to go and personally call many in Bangalore,” she said, a week before the card was printed.

A simple update in Facebook also had good results, but limited to your circle of online friends (For health reasons, my buddies tend to keep their family away from their Facebook profile!). Visy updated her status as ‘Engaged’, a good 20 days after the July 13 function. Comments poured in, from “Congratulations” to “Mutants and more mutants!”

Megha was more prompt in updating about her engagement to Vatsa. All her friends commented and got the date of marriage as reply. Sajin did it even better. He put up an event in Facebook on his marriage, giving complete details, tagging all his friends. So did Prem, for his sister’s marriage.

Call, Facebook or SMS, all of them cared to send e-mails – some with “in-house” graphics, some in plain text – most had scans of the invitation card. Back in Kerala, Sreeraj hasn't even started planning for his marriage in October!

With four friends tying the knot till date and many more to follow, 2011 is the “Wedding Year” in my buddy list. Tony and Visy are leaving for Kerala today, both getting married in Thrissur within a gap of four days. Wish you happy days ahead, guys. And the rest of the gang who are getting married soon (attention Jayadevan, Devina, Megha, Vatsa), you are free to call!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Packing time

These cups belong to my family in Bangalore – the original family. These were picked up first when we went shopping for our house; one for each. Those were the days when we used to make tea regularly in the morning. After more than three years, the cups would be off the shelf permanently. We are leaving what was our home in Bangalore; what Thomman called “the base camp of our gang”.

Ours was the best-maintained bachelor pad among our friends and acquaintances, and this is certified by our elder relatives who dropped by. A well-run kitchen, cleaner rooms and, last but not least, properly maintained accounts.

Compared to many of our Bangalore friends, we had a comfy setting. We didn’t have much furniture, but definitely had all the gadgets to make our life comfortable – from TV to washing machine. Being a proper two-bedroom apartment, our house was the nest for all our visiting friends.

The past four years was, in many ways, crucial in our life. The best and the common experience was art of surviving outside your hometown. Managing time and money, learning household chores and – oh yes – cooking! When we moved into the house, the first request Aby made was to keep instant noodles and bread-butter combo away. We stuck to it, and learned to cook. Before coming to Bangalore, all I knew was to make omlette and tea. Now I can cook edible stuff.

New Year eves were the best days at our home. Friends from Kerala would visit us, taking the membership up to even 18 at times. Once, five of us had to take a walk because there was no place to sleep. They came back and slept when the early-morning-shift guys got up and left.

We planned everything – from weekend outings to crucial thing like marriages – sitting in our big hall. Aby was the first to have a debate with us before going home and declaring his marriage plans to his parents. His marriage was a major occasion for us.

Mithun’s marriage followed. He straightened up his decade-long knotty affair two weeks back. A week before, Aby celebrated his second wedding anniversary. Tony’s also getting engaged shortly, he left for an on-site project in the Netherlands a day before Mithun’s marriage. Returning, he’ll land in the red carpet that will take him to the aisle. With that, the party comes to an end. Today is our last day in the house. Sheer coincidence – it’s Jeeson’s birthday.

Mithun and Aby joined us for the party. We’ll hand over the keys tomorrow. The shelf is empty now. It’s packing time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hum Dono

I was the only youngster in the theatre, as expected. The rest was a small crowd of elders. The objective was common — to see vintage Dev Anand in colour.

The movie started with a small epilogue from the evergreen star, about the movie and the restoration process. He recited the famous song: “Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya..”, and the small crowd completed it, “har fikr ko dhuwe mein udata chala gaya!”.

The digitalised title card of Navketan Films was frozen on the screen, unlike the shivering one from the traditional projector peppered with black vertical lines, denoted the restoration. The background music during the rest of the titles were that of newly added — that was easy to detect.

Anand (Dev Anand) and Meeta (Sadhana) came on screen. For a good five minutes, they emoted with their eyes and gestures -- no words at all. Then, when Meeta was about to leave, Anand requested her to stay, breaking into a song. Mohammad Rafi’s divine voice flowed: “Abhi na jaao chod kar, ke dil abhi bharaa nahin..”. And I sat there, with my eyes moist.

Hum Dono. Wakai rangeen!

Monday, November 29, 2010


“Beep beep!” It was her reply.

“Come on, hurry up. It’s already late!” Mom was on the point of losing her cool. He was sending SMSes.

“These roads are pretty bad, aren’t they?” Dad was complaining on the way, as he struggled to drive. He was sending SMSes.

“Welcome! Welcome!” His prospective father-in-law was overjoyed. He was still sending SMSes.

She came, everyone was in smiles.

“Let them talk for some time,” said her uncle.

They left the couple alone.

They stared at each other. There was nothing left to talk.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Goodbye, our Superman!

The rituals were over this morning. With this ends a story of a self-made man. My uncle. Our Superman!

Right from my childhood, I’ve been hearing tales of his heroism — climbing the super-tall coconut palms during childhood; riding his bicycle with six more persons on it as a teenager; fighting with our grandpa and leaving the house to live on his own; writing and topping exams as child’s play; single-handedly rescuing the local cricket club in Gujarat from a shameful defeat... the list goes on!

He was never the Santa-Claus uncle who showered gifts and sweets whenever he visited us. He was the one to be admired, from a safe distance! After all, he was the one who tamed the wild Bombay Poocha (cat) and tied it up in the corner room, which we called Poocha muri! (The Bombay Poocha story was made up by our granny, to keep me away from my injured mother, who was being nursed in that room. And Bombay Poocha became another tale in the legacy of Mr CS Bhamakrishnan, our Mani Vallyachan).

A rebel by birth, he was second son, as well as the biggest nemesis, of our extra-strict, hyper-tempered, disciplinarian grandpa. He was beaten up countless times. Finally, Vallyachan broke the chain, ran away, went as far as Bombay and then to Gujarat, and built a life of his own, on his own.

He lead a free, but disciplined, lifestyle. As always, he stood bluntly adamant on his stances. Elders sure envied his freedom. Once, after a heated debate with his wife, a younger uncle said, looking and our Vallyachan sleeping peacefully, “Look at this man. Anything bothering him? Nah!”

“You are basically wrong,” once his brother-in-law told him. “Even my father used to say that,” Vallyachan retorted calmly.

He played the status of a rocking bachelor to the hilt. By the gallons he used to drink, he could be classified as the biggest alcoholic of the family. But, in all these years, we have never seen him lose his temper or cool under the influence of liquor. Another feat, possible only by our Superman.

His cousin made him say his life story in one of those ‘spirited’ evenings. As a parting question, she asked: “Mani Anna, do you regret anything when you look back?”
“Never!” came the answer.

I visited his lair last for his retirement party. He had completed a meritorious service spanning close to three decades without joining any employee union. Nobody could pursue him to do so.

I was planning to visit him this April. There were many questions to be asked, may thing to be told. And I woke up last Wednesday, hearing the worst, the unbelievable.

My mind was already troubled, but became numb once I reached Kollam. They brought him home in a coffin. I thought I would stay strong, but broke down as we held him — my arms supported his frozen head.

An atheist to the core, he neither believed nor attended in any of the rituals. We cremated him with complete rituals. But we spared him from one thing — the sandalwood paste on his forehead. It was the mark of a Malayalee Hindu, which he scoffed all his life.

Back in Bangalore, troubled by his memories and the realities here, I was restless. I typed out a mail to him, listing the many things I thought about him, asking all the questions unasked, telling all the things unsaid...

Goodbye, our Superman!

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. For me, a necessity lead to a discovery. The discovery was that the old radio was still working, but the need was far more than just entertainment.

Chicken pox had put me under a 21-day quarantine. The first day seemed all right — I was at my home, my condition was OK. By evening, the viruses started showing their might. I was feeling the itch and the temperature, ending up with a sleepless night. The next day was the worst.

All alone in my room, I was desperate to speak to somebody, to see TV, to hear songs. The horrendous onset and irritating advance of the disease, and the discomfort of boils on my face and torso had left me desperately wishing for sleep and relief.

Call from friends were my only solace, but solitary confinement made hours in between extra long. It touched the nadir on the second evening. In a fit of rage and desperation, I dragged my ailing physique up the table and started searching the storage cabinets. There I made a prized discovery — an old radio! A boon in the shape of a red Panasonic two-in-one!

I was so excited that I didn’t wait even to dust the unused equipment. Iplugged it, switched it on, and there it beeped — All India Radio a.k.a. Aakashavaani!

All the effort and the excitement had left me exhausted. I set the tun-ing right and went to sleep. Next morning, at 5.50, my cellphone woke me up. I switched on the radio, and heard ‘Vande mataram’ and ‘subhashitam’ from the Thiruvananthapuram AIR station — for the first time in a decade.

Nothing had changed. The signature tune, the background scores for the programmes, even Baldevanand Sagar who read the Sanskrit news! I can say for sure the most common Sanskrit sentences in Kerala are “Samprati vaartaaha shruyantam. Pravaachakaha Baladeva-nanda Sagaraha.” (You are listening to the news. Read by Baldeva-nand Sagar)

Long back, our days started listening to that. Grandma was very par-ticular about that, and she regularly woke me up to switch on the radio for her. Doordarshan was hardly a competition for AIR, but cable television was. TV channels were evolving by the day, but AIR never bothered to change.

Thank God it didn’t, for I wasn’t just hearing the radio. Familiar tunes, familiar voices, even songs! I was reliving those moments, of home food, before we were spoiled by the fast food served in satellite dishes.

Bahujana hitaya, bahujana sukhaya...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's over, isn't it?

Finally, the verdict is out. The fine print is yet to be out, and it will take some time for the radicals to interpret. But, the embers won’t be burning, at least till then.

I was in my first standard when the incident happened. Three images — some people over the mosque, Lal Krishna Advani, and ruffians with saffron headbands — are still vivid in my mind. The mosque picture was on the paper on December 7, 1991. The rest was in the India Today issue that came next week.

I always craved for a holiday, but I somehow sensed that the strike on December 7 — anyway a Saturday — was not for good. Back in school on Monday, my classmates were animatedly talking about the incidents, giving out their own versions, with no much idea of the actual event. I asked my class teacher and mentor why they did so, and she replied: “People are out of their mind.”

There were riots, and bomb blasts followed. Talks among elders back home, and their reactions on the event and the incidents that followed, galvanised the fact in my mind that radicals are to be kept away from your company, and radical thoughts away from your mind. I still stick to it.

Years went by, and December 6 went past without any trouble. But the skies were turning dark lately. A compartment was burnt, then Mahatma Gandhi’s land burned. But I considered myself lucky, being I Kerala, the heartland of the Leftist-secularist thoughts. I got a rude awakening recently.

A professor’s hand was hacked for using the name Mohammed. The skies have indeed turned dark. Radicals are everywhere.

History proves that their thirst for evil is never quenched. The verdict turns to be an interim relief. At least until the radicals come up with another reason for bloodshed.

Hey Ram...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Onam, me, and certain thoughts

It was 1.45 am when Aral took me to the bus stand. The next bus to Chennai was at 2, which didn’t turn up. The next bus was at 4.30 am. A two-and-a-half-hour wait at the deserted bus stand, with biting cold and mosquitoes testing my fever-hit physique. I can endure things worse than this, but can’t afford the prospects of staying back in Bangalore during Onam

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, they say. I longed for Onam like never before after I started living on my own. Lonely life in Chennai had made me terribly homesick, and I looked forward for the day. To make it appear nearer, a dear friend advised me to count just Sundays! There was another reason also — it had been a year since grandma died, and I had to be there to do the rituals. I couldn’t sleep in the train. Then I heard the sweetest voice I heard that year — that of a railway announcer: “Palakkad Junction welcomes you.” I rolled on, to sleep with a smile…

Four Ms and an O — Mammootty, Mohanlal, Mundu, Moustache and Onam — define a Malayalee, say my colleagues. For a person like me who has spent his first 22 years of his life in Malluland, Onam comes integrated within. It was a part of my life, always.

As a child, anticipation for the festivities would begin in August. Independence Day was a precursor. Then, like the big hurdle before the finishing point, would come the first quarter series of examinations — what we would call Onam exams.

The relief of the exams getting over makes the 10-day Onam holiday sweeter. Each Onam left me with a bounty of bittersweet memories — dressing up to play the leopard and the hunter; toy guns with rolls of fire rounds we call ‘pottaz’; a set of imported sketch pens; an envelope full of stamps; my childhood sweetheart; lonely nights at my grandma’s place; her death; my first homecoming after I moved out… And there was grandpa ready to put the mandatory swing on the big mango tree.

He left us last December. As per matriarchal tradition, my family should abstain from festivities for a year. I still don’t know what got into my head — maybe the growing up part had robbed the fervor for the festivity — but I decided that I won’t go home this time.

Life has taken us, the ‘kids’ of the family, to various places. We were too busy to bother about pleasures of the yore.

It didn’t take long to realise that I was wrong. I was turning restless. Then, my aunt called — an invitation to spend the eve of Onam at her place, in Vellore, six hours away from Bangalore. She was in no position to take a leave for Onam on Monday. My cousin in Chennai too was coming down. So I took the early-morning trip, braving the fever and the cold.

We had a good Onam feast. Onam songs playing from the computer and the special programmes in Malayalam channels did provide an ambience. Then, a call came from Malluland.

“We’re off to the temple. It’s only the two of us here,” said my cousin sister.

I should have been there, but here I am, miles away from what Onam means to me — my village, my home, my dear and near. I painfully realise that I am still a nostalgic, emotional fool. I still crave for my Onam.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Commonwealth or Conman's wealth?

What would you do when your interests are at stake? You will desperately appeal to all those involved, so that you don’t lose anything. The picture is such an appeal, written by some crafty public relations executive and signed by Subrata Roy of the Sahara group, set to come out in papers of tomorrow, August 7.

“All our countrymen are feeling, talking, reacting so negatively to-wards the forthcoming Commonwealth Games at such time when they should be participating in, contributing to and celebrating it as the Grand Festival of India.”

I think either Mr Subrata Roy hasn’t properly read the draft, or he is out of his mind. Loot in the name of sports has been going on for quite some time; and we have superstars like IPL’s Modi; but this is something different.

Those involved in the commonwealth games were looting our money, which includes the four-digit tax I paid last week. India, half of whose population is struggling to meet even their daily ends, spending astronomical sums on such events is itself a crime — yes, I stick to the word. And it’s official that the government has diverted funds meant for the development of the backward classes towards this sham game.

“I am asking in all humility and cordiality whether for the wrongs of maybe a hundred people should the hopes & aspirations of 1.2 billion people be crushed,” goes the advertisement. Whose aspirations? Of the soldier in Siachen, who is fighting the biting cold and death in chilling terrain? Of the farmer in Kerala, who is crying over his flooded lands because our government had no funds to build stormwater canals? Or of the urban youth, who are hooked to their cellphones and gadgets, blissfully unaware of what is happening in the rest of the country?

The advertisement agrees that the media is doing its job, but goes on to say that the “media has already overdone it, causing a very big damage and maligning the image of the country”. My foot! When somebody starts looting your home when there is a function going on, what would you do Mr Subrata Roy? Stop the burglar or enjoy the function? Don’t you feel ashamed to put the blame on the media while the fact is that the ‘babu’s behind the scam are the ones who were “maligning the image of the country”?

We all know that public memory is short. And it is really sorry to see our nation’s image getting a dent, but I sincerely believe that this is the perfect time to bring up the issue. You strike the iron when it is hot. Once the games are over, media will stray to other hot topics, and this too will be sidelined — like Satyam’s Raju displaced by Lalit Modi; and Modi himself by Kalmadi.

As for the proper conduct of the event, those who are really interested in the development of sports and games will relentlessly work towards it, and they will have the support of the citizens. But sponsors are there not for the victory of sports, but for their share in the accounts and newspapers.

“The immediate need is to create an exceedingly positive environment for the present organizers,” goes on the release. I am sorry to say, but my biased mind understood it as “shut up and let the games continue, so that organisers like us can get what we want”. Let the loot go on!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fight or flight

Here is a story about a complex situation of feeling desperation, pain and anxiety together. Ever been in such a scene? My friend did. Yesterday, mid-air!

She was on her flight to Delhi, when a co-passenger war transforming from indecent to bully to groper to sociopath. It started slowly as encroaching her seating space. Then gradually he made the two seats next to her as his personal reclining space. Then his hands began to have certain ‘innocuous’ movements.

Panicked, she stood up and asked the not-so-gentle man to behave properly. He did not. She pushed the ‘panic button’ and air-hostesses came running. Seeing their short skirts, our bully turned even aggressive. He started manhandling them; even tore the shirt of one; and turned to my hapless friend.

His arms were at her throat, when — here enter the villains of the story — she begged for help to a duo sitting in front of her. One was as old as her father and the other of her elder brother’s age. She pleaded in Malayalam, English and Hindi, but the too-gentle men did not move a finger.

Then my friend decided to take the matter in her own hands — literally. With all the power she had, she punched the sociopath on his face. That was more than enough to push him out of the way. She moved out of the place, and demanded to see the captain of the flight. Then she saw another girl, sobbing.

The girl was apparently our bully’s first victim. She silently suffered. Then the groper confidently turned to my friend, but she was definitely not willing to be a prey.

The entire cabin crew came there and warned the guy that they have the power to take the flight back and dump him at the boarding point. They asked the passengers if they have any objection. Only two passengers had problem — you guessed it right — the oldie-youth duo!

She moved to the executive class, but the bully followed her there too. Then the cabin crew intervened, dragged him back and made sure that he will not create any more trouble.

The flight landed safely, but my friend was far from safe. Our bully had turned vindictive now, and started following her. She hid in a cloth store. By that time, the flight operator had him booked.

Now please check these characters.

1. My friend: She valued her esteem and modesty, and decided to speak and act for her. A lesson for all females and a threat for all the unmentionables in the garb of males. I feel proud to be her friend.

2. The sociopath: Hidden among most men, the sex-starved bullies come out when a woman is conveniently close. The ones in costly attire start with lecherous talk, the crude ones believe in action. Products of improper guidance, deserve asylums.

3. The sobbing girl: Specimen of the silently-suffering femininity. Such behaviour often provides the undesirable confidence to the sex-starved bullies to continue their filthy ways.

4. The oldie-laddie duo: They qualify to be the real villains of the story. The greatest deterrent for any bully from misbehaving is the chance of good thrashing from real men. It’s bad enough that these two didn’t care to help a helpless girl, but they were also against diverting the flight to the starting point. They were not only cowardly, but selfish also. A shame for the clan of true men.

Now that you have read the post, please take the pain of typing down your observation on the aforementioned four characters. Now, for all those male chauvinists who would instantly conclude the woman in the picture ‘would have wore provocative clothes’, my friend was in a full-sleeve kurta, pyjama and had a shawl. Now don’t ask her to be tucked up from tip to toe, please.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Akshaya Tritiya, Ads and the stupid YOU

Finally, the season for the biggest farce of the year is here — Akshaya Tritiya. Grab hold of at least 10 persons who turned immensely wealthy because of the so-called lucky occasion, and I bet all 10 would be gold traders. They became rich because they did not buy gold, but they sold it. That is the power of advertisement.

Nobody knew the ‘auspicious’ occasion before 2000. Some wise guy dug up a hidden link of good luck, linked it with gold, and presto! All jewellers were lapping up the bogus. Their greatest weapon — advertisement.

"The process starts with the manufacturer or his agent coming to me with their product for a catchy advertisement. I then look at the product, assess the stupidity of the viewer on a mental scale, and create an ad with a measure more," said Joy (name changed), owner of a major advertising firm. "I make the ads, so know I should keep away from the products that I don’t need."

Going by the ethics, media should refuse to take ads that mislead the public. The saddest point is that it will not happen. Newspapers and channels survive on advertisement money, and they will neglect anything to retain it.

As an intern in a Bangalore newspaper in April 2005, I had filed a report based on a personal survey on Akshaya Tritiya, busting its tall claims of super-luck. The bureau chief of the newspaper took the copy, and it vanished into thin air. "Sorry son, but the editor did not clear it," was the explanation I got from him. The reason was apparent — it was the ad season.

To know how silly advertisements can be, just check any of the ‘male deodorant’ ads. Sadly, most of the men fall for the impossible claim of attracting all women with just a whiff of some chemicals. Yes, there were some painful realisations, LIKE THIS. Even though this is a genuine case of tricking the consumers, the press or the channels will not report this, for they will lose the crumbs fed by the multinational company in the form of ads.

Think. Did that fairness cream make you fair enough? Was that gold pendant lucky enough? Did the fruit drink energise you enough? Did you finally get to see the Bollywood beauty/hunk? NO. But you still buy those products. Advertisements are powerful enough to fool you because you allow them to do so.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kerala Cafe's home!

Finally, I got the Kerala Cafe DVD yesterday. Every week during my elongated stay back home, I never missed a chance to peek into the local video store. Fresh titles, mostly 6-7-month-old films, were al-ready having their video releases, not Kerala Cafe.

I was hooked by the movie the day I saw that. Malayalam movies are usually late releases in Bangalore. So the first feed on any film would be the online reviews and my movie-buff journalist friend back in Pathanamthitta. All were going gung-ho over the movie. We finally saw it in a multiplex, a month after its release back home.

I wished my non-Malayalee friends could enjoy it, and badly wanted the DVD to have good subtitles. I messaged Shankar Ramakrishnan, one of the 10 directors in the project, enquiring about the subtitles. He said the festival version of the movie was subtitled and asked if it’s good. I hadn’t seen it, but I assured him I would at the very first chance.

A month passed, I was in Kerala. My cousins and relatives who missed the film were keenly awaiting the video release. My regular visits to the video stores didn’t yield any result. After 50 days, I came back to Bangalore, into the routine of bylines and deadlines. Before starting the shift that Saturday, I took a walk to a video store in Brigade Road. I was just browsing through the Malayalam titles as always, and there it was: both in DVD and VCD!

Back home by 1am, I hit the buttons of our DVD player. Sleep could wait. Sadly, the subtitles inserted by the DVD-makers were a bit disappointing. Maybe because of the beautiful impression cast by the movie on me, but I seriously think even I would have done a better job.

However, even the average subtitles couldn’t let me stop enjoying the movie. A good work. I love it.