Monday, April 22, 2013

GI Joe- Retalition - Movie review

GI Joe- Retaliation - Jon M Chu decided to move on to action genre from the vertigo inducing world of dance he created in Step Up-2 et al. But sadly, he flatters to deceive in this underwhelming no brainer. The first edition of this franchise worked hard at creating characters and coming up with wonderful gadgets that made the GIs believable yet superhuman. This edition destroys most of the good work of the previous one and falls flat in the face. A triumvirate of GIs take on the might of an entire army and succeed. A city is decimated yet it's business as usual in the lawns of White House as they felicitate their war heroes- which are only a handful. Even the Bond has been humanised off late and no brainers such as Expendables 2 have garnered all the mileage this genre holds with their tongue in cheek brand of action. With limited charisma of Dwayne (Rock) Johnson and diminishing Star value of Bruce Willis, this one is one of those films you'd even skim through even on HBO. 3 Star

Dredd- movie review

Dredd - A sci-fi co-produced by Arun Nayar and directed by Peter Travis, whose most notable venture before this was Vantage Point, is set in dytopian landscape of a post apoclyptic America. The plot is set in a super city that has super skyscrapers, super flyovers, super slums and super crime rates of over 17000 homicides a day. Rest assured, the premise alone was sufficent to take me to the theater.The film is supposedly based on eponymous comic strip and this screen adaptation surely doesn't disappoint. When a judge Dredd and his apprentice get trapped in the biggest crime district, they are forced to take on an entire army raised by the druglord in their own kingdom- a 200 storey monolith. The urban warfare that follows keeps one enagaged with a near ominous feel akin to The 'Dark Knight Rises'. It's a must-see for Sci-Fi fans. 4 Stars.

The day i met a champion

The Tsunami of Dec 2005 had just wreaked havoc in south east Asia and east coast of India. Some of the low lying islands of Andaman and Nicobar had borne the brunt very badly as well. A couple of weeks had elapsed since the Navy and civil administration began the task of rehabilitating the tribes of Nicobar by supplying them construction material and food grains. The islands that had been hit most severely in A&N chain were Hutbay in Andaman chain and Car Nicobar in southern chain. Car Nicobar is an apple shaped island with nearly flat geography. The sandy beaches and flat topography made it ideal for construction of a runway. Indian Air force has a good outpost here with facility to land the biggest aircrafts. But IAF also suffered major damages during the tsunami when waves as high as two storey building swept across the island. People were washed miles into the sea on the other side. My tiny Amphibious ship made the 2 day trip from Port Blair to Carnicobar with the tent, construction material and food supplies. My CO asked me to go ashore and inspect the damages and also meet the villagers. When I returned about 30 minutes later having surveyed the damages which weren’t significant in this particular village, I reported the same to my CO. Having spent the whole night keeping the watch at Bridge of the ship, I wanted to catch some sleep for we were to leave in the evening. That’s when my CO mentioned to me that someone from my school was onboard and sought to introduce me. I was surprised at first and then thought that it might be an Air Force officer from the Base on the island. As I entered his room, I noticed that it wasn’t a man with military bearings but a middle aged man of Mongloid features and stout body. I shook his hand as he introduced himself as Mr Thomas, the village captain (equivalent to Sarpanch). The puzzle quickly fell in place as flashes of school days appeared before my eyes. Several years back, the curious question everyone asked in front of the “Best Athlete” board in the Academic block was, how could this ‘P Thomas’ win the feat for 6 continuous years. The man was right before me and he did look a strong man at an age past 50. Mr Thomas, the school champion of several years had chosen to live in his very village in this quiet corner of the world. It was an overwhelming moment.

Hai Phong to Ha Noi

Hai Phong, a port city of Vietnam, is one of the many harbours that the Me Kong river bestows upon Vietnam. The only Vietnam that I have seen is in the war movies, all of them made in USA. Hollywood, true to its cachet does capture authentic landscapes, as I was reminded of those films the moment I saw the sleepy elephant like hillocks, all verdant and covered with haze- almost symbolic of the pall of war this country has witnessed. The scene changed dramatically as we approached the port terminal. What appeared from a distance as fashionable women walking along the concrete slabs of the port- a place one usually associates with stevedores, turned out to be hired hands for sweeping the area. The dainty women in their high heels and colourful attire, sweeping the wharf off dirt, was quite a unique sight. It soon dawned on me that for every man on the street nearby, there was another woman as well. In some parts of the town, it seemed that women outnumbered men. In my bus ride across the town, I came across street side barbers who were women. It was a coincidence, when a few days later, I ran into a news article in Tokyo times, that spoke of the role that women in some countries like Vietnam had played in bringing their nation up. The streets are lined up with Karoke bars and there are couple of large Night clubs in Hai Phong which play mostly Vietnamese music and a bit of English music. The dance floors are gargantuan by Mumbai standards, and with live music and performances being part of the deal, it was a unique experience. The youth of the city prefer the street corners to such clubs though. They congregate in small groups and sit on tiny stools and consume Vietnamese herbal tea and munch on nuts. This unique hang out is all pervasive in the streets and goes on till midnight. The ride to the capital city of Ha Noi(pronounced Haa Nôi) was not very unlike an Indian bus journey. It presented a visage of the interiors and the people who lived beyond the urban areas. But the 80 Km ride was generally along a highway, which although not too wide, did not have any red lights to slow us down. The driver maintained speeds of under 60KPh even when the roads were empty as the law forbade him speeds in excess. It appeared that the police were ruthless on over speeders as even in the return journey in night, it was excruciating to see the driver not cross the 40 km mark in an empty highway. Ha Noi is the quaint capital town of the Country with many reasonably tall buildings, several eateries and a gentle buzz that’s almost soothes you. Many shops in Vietnam have the houses extending to the rear on a floor above. These shops are a continuation of the houses and at times, one has to call out the shopkeeper, usually a woman, who’s probably preoccupied with tending to her household work. The people of Vietnam have had very less exposure to tourists, much less to Indians, as it has remained a closed nation and has not advertised itself as a tourist destination. The people therefore are warm and friendly most times and sometimes quizzical on seeing brown Indian faces. The prejudice that one finds against Indians in other tourist centres was pleasantly missing here. After having a beer in the restaurant in central Ha Noi, and walking the bylanes for a while, I soothed my tired body with a refreshing massage. The prices are cheap by Indian standards and the cleanliness and ambience is 3 star. Most people in Ha Noi, mind you the capital city, do not understand English and hence having an interpreter is a must. Sometimes you’d wish you didn’t have to repeat yourselves thrice in super slow mode, before the interpreter understood you. In my stay in Vietnam, I came across a small Indian expatriate community who are a business community and deal with import-export of Marble stones. The interesting part is that they import marbles to Rajasthan from Vietnam. The road route from Hai Phong to Hanoi is replete with numerous water inlets along the coast. The magnitude of the role the river plays in life of Vietnamese is apparent. The bountiful water resource and the alluvial soil is a heady cocktail which provides coastal Vietnam with a healthy combination of succulent veggies and sea food alike. The large variety of fruits and vegetables that colours the streets in myriad hues of bright red and green spoke of the clean conditions those vegetables grew in. A trip to northern Vietnam is not complete without a vist to the UN recognised heritage site called Ha Long bay. This bay is natural extension of the elephant like hillocks’ landscape I mentioned earlier, into the sea. And when the landscape extends into the sea, it forms numerous steep green hillocks that project out of water unlike anywhere else in the world. The ticket on a boat trip in the bay is affordable like most other things here. We did finally see tourists of several countries ranging from Camera toting, bunched old men from Korea to carefree young back packers from Australia, here. The famous Dragon caves are a part of the tour. The boat crew were very cordial and sold Beer and pearls in-house on the boat. I bought a few pearls, which the girl claimed were original, on the way back, after having bought counterfeit from the shops set up along the cave trek. My advice; stick to the shop onboard. The trip to Vietnam was heart warming, with cordial hosts and pristine culture that is unique in many ways. The memories that I shall cherish include, a little girl’s astonishment on seeing brown skinned Indians for the 1st time in her life, the Grandmotherly affection from the Soup seller in Ha Noi, the Photo card seller who sprinted across the road from one customer to another, the ATM sentry who kept on smiling when my card was stuck inside, instead of helping me and the really sweet young Guide who took us to Ha Long Bay.

Pusan Diaries

Busan, also called Pusan was my destination next in my pilgrimage of humanity. The last time I had heard of this city was when the Asian games were held here in the year 2002. Prior reaching this country, I had tried out all avenues on the internet to find more about the Korean culture but like other places of Far East, this one too seemed disconnected from the English speaking world. The cause, as I was to discover later, was the advanced levels of computing and sciences that the Korean have developed in native language. Korea as a nation has been at the forefront of Computer technology and internet from the beginning. It achieved broadband connectivity in 50 percent homes back in 2000; well before Europe and America. In the last decade or so, it has also emerged as a technological giant with the home-grown companies viz. Samsung, LG and Hyundai becoming truly global brands. Everything from tiny household appliances to something as large as Ships and Apartment buildings is made by one of the global Korean brands such as Hyundai, Samsung, Daewoo and LG. These are family owned enterprises and have pretty much built the Korea that we know today. The pride Koreans take in using indigenous products could be gauged from the total absence of Japanese brands on the road. Koreans have a huge American influence in their lifestyles but the English language is not among them. They have a reasonable sized film industry and a unique genre of music called K-Pop, which has fan following all the way across till Malaysia and Singapore. Everyone including the formally attired cab drivers carry digital gadgets most notable being the unwieldy large screened digital pads, which were being used for texting and translation and rather amusingly for photograph. The streets are replete with Automatic vending machines for things ranging from Hot coffee to chilled beer. The weather was the biggest winner as the Korean summer had thawed the conditions for us. The temperature for most of the day hovered around the 22°C mark, with a stiff Northerly breeze making it really difficult with two layers of clothes. I observed the Koreans break into sweat when the midday temperatures touched 25°C. The Koreans haven’t just emerged to rule the Business world for nothing. An Indian expatriate student I met there explained to me the strict work ethics with timings laid down by the Government that promulgates 12 Hrs of work every day in a five day week. The party in Pusan starts on Friday evening and doesn’t end till Sunday morning. On the weekdays, the sea front is replete with sparsely occupied eateries and the inner areas with under populated clubs. Korea is one of the safest places to be around, with homicide rates amongst the lowest in the world. Carrying a knife is a punishable offence here. The people of Korea are friendly and warm. A group of students were very pleased to host us in the University street and happy to be spending time with us despite the language barrier. The most interesting places to visit in Busan are the UN War memorial, the Yongdusan park with 120 metre tall Busan tower, the Haidong Yonggungsa Buddha temple, a passage thought Diamond Bridge, an old market called the Jagalchi fish market, and two pristine beaches within the city premises called the Haeundae and Gwangalli. The Asian games village overlooks the Gwangalli beach. Major landscaping of the city of Pusan is underway, which would accommodate more artificial beaches, harbours and promenades. The city presents a picture of regulated growth and a disciplined society. A three hour trip to Seoul (pronounced Soul), in the fast train would cost equivalent of Rs 2500/- and would have been money well spent as the 38th parallel is located in the suburbs nearby. But I was to spend that time window shopping in what was supposedly the largest and in my view one of the most expensive Departmental store in the world. In the end, Busan left me with lasting images of a populace that’s progressive and hardworking, a weather that’s unlike any we’d encounter in the sub continent, and a culture that has imbibed well the positives of west and retained Korean as the lingua franca.

Singapora Singapora

The bustling city nation of Singapore marks the southernmost part of continental Asia, as was mentioned on the plaque reading out the way to the beach on Sentosa Island resort. Singapore is a name all of us have heard of. But, to visit this place meant culmination of a series of figments that my mind had engendered using the bits from the aggressive tourism advertisement campaign that this tiny hub of a nation has unleashed on the world. Singapore, a tiny fishing town of 1950’s is today the region’s most enterprising centre, which headquarters almost all major MNCs. Its strategic positioning in the major Air routes and sea lanes has been the secret to its success. The urbanscape of the Singapore is almost flawless in its methodology and precise in its execution. The planning of roads, walkways, flyover, underpasses and over bridges with neatly landscaped garden almost make the experience surreal to my Indian eyes. The perfection of town planning, aided with electronic surveillance, digital monitoring of citizenry make it the perfect modern town. Some of the first that I saw here was the door bell style Zebra crossing, wherein one had to operate a button to ‘demand’ for a red light, digital updates on the number of parking slots vacant in the town via an electronic board in several place in the town, neatly cordoned off areas around construction sites to prevent mishaps, malls integrated with Subway stations among others. It needs no iteration that one needs a large sum of money to survive in this business centre. Having been invited across town by a friend of mine, I got a glimpse into what it means to live in this city. The rent of his house was equivalent of Rs 80000/- for a salary of about Rs 2 lakh. The cell phone and Cable TV bills run into almost 5-6 thousand INR. Car is an unaffordable luxury here as govt charges a huge tax to dissuade people from congesting the limited road ares. Volkswagon Polo, which costs about 7 lakh in india comes to about 18 lakh in Singapore. Buying a house in Singapore would set you back by several crores. I visited the well advertised Sentosa Island with its underwater world. For the first time in my life did see the trained dolphins dance to the tunes of the instructor. Needless to say that all this comes for a relatively steep ticket and one is forced to admire the value people of Singapore attach to packaging and presentation. With almost no natural resources that originate here, this country has learnt to sell things that are simple, only better packaged. The ‘Night safari’ was a treat as well, as again, the animals though few were well fed and seemed interested in showing off to the spectators. Every time the toy train passed by from the same tract of land, the beast was miraculously replaced by another species of animal. Clockwork precision, good presentation and cleanliness scored for the owners. The local cuisine is a mix of Chinese, Indian and other SE Asian flavours. A significant number of Tamil people who originate in India comprise one of the minority communities there. They confine themselves to an area called ‘Little India’. The perfection in planning of Singapore is almost unsettling and the strict rules might stifle a free spirited Indian. The city evoked words such as ‘quarantined’ and ‘anti-septic’ with its perfect model of city life. In retrospect, I feel we Indians have a lot more bestowed by Nature and a dazzling History as well to showcase.


Like a grenade sterile, if not fused
 is a moment wasted, if not used
 like a smile subdued, if not spread
 are lips prosaic, if not read..

Like a rifle rusted, if not oiled
 are misguided youth, who go spoiled
Like a table imperfect, with shaking base
 is a relationship with an ever opening space.

 Like flowers undone, when they are chopped
are laws shunned, when a traffic light is hopped
 Like friends imperfect, who gloat in your woes
 are drugs that kill, with a chance extra dose

 Like day out fishing in a frozen lake
 is heated dough, that failed to bake
 Like mouths sealed, with words that heal
, is a touch subtle, with the pet's purring feel

 Like energy found in everything around,
 is calming silence, in an endearing sound
 Like curling fingers of a newborn's hands
 is a footprint on love's fleeting sands

Benign Belligerence

This way and that, he fidgets awhile Hiding ill intent behind that smile Innocuous at the start of the spin but it is an inception of another din The radiant face looks a flowery sun making stories of victory and how he won The weakness of his character albeit so clear like morning air and bottled vinegar Equanimity got lost along the way as my inner animal had its growling say Boisterous rebukes piled up in a heap zilch, the number of benefits they reaped? Ill designs and ill will exposed yet an acceptance couldn't ever be forced! A grimace to put up a soulless defence I'd just call it, his benign belligerence


The mind wanders away
 In green steep hills of a foggy day
 Gurgling mountain streams of Guangxi
 Their pristine beauty makes the heart fly

 Rustic old charm of bygone times
 The smell of history in verdant climes
 A great wall, a grand canal and lilting rhymes
 Chinese lanterns of Kunming and wind chimes

The colours of Yunnan as they are
 And pretty girls of Hubei with their charms
The nouveau rich and Shanghai stars
 And the workers of Guangdong in swarms

A bustling metropolis as the iron curtain parts
 Expressways propped up where once ran bullock carts
 Be it Chongquing, Nanjing or a demure Hainan
 The cogs of this wheel are hurtling a revolution

 Chanting a resolve that’s a billion strong
 Stands a wall a thousand mile long
 The terracotta warriors smile in a benign way
 Each with an expression, a million words conveyed

A case for Brothels

Good societies are built on cornerstones of equality, fraternity, justice and transparency. The spate of rapes that have made the headlines in Haryana are but the tip of iceberg as over 80% of rapes go unreported. What’s worse than the rape itself is the attitude of the elders who constitute the khap panchayats, and who go on to justify it by offering solution in form of an early marriage for girls. The solution offered by khap is indicator of the medieval mindset and gross inequality that’s part of the local culture. The rural society it seems justifies the act by viewing it as purely sexual act. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as one hears of gang rapes where the victim is filmed by the perpetrators and videos made public to shame her and announce their own ‘conquest’. The depravity of the act while is mind boggling does make an interesting case study to discover all that is wrong with the Indian culture. One might argue that these are extreme cases, which occur in the wild west of Haryana. But only from a study of an extreme situation can the tenor of human societal behaviour be apparent. An article about a less attention grabbing problem like sexual harassment at workplace, eve-teasing, male bias within families do not anymore rankle the nerves of thick skinned animals that we have come to become. The contemporary Indian culture is a by-product of centuries old customs tempered by marauding Muslim armies, over 200 years of British rule, misinterpreted religious diktats, western influence from mass-media and last but not the least a glossy bollywood selectively reflecting caricatured reality for mass consumption. This potpourri has unfortunately resulted in a set of values that are diametrically opposite of what the original Hindu culture advocated. While the culture continues to call a woman, ‘ghar ki izzat’, the connotations that it has for the society are not of respect but vulnerability. ‘Respect’ it seems is for a woman to lose and a man to snatch away. It’s a heavily loaded dice in favour of the man in the equation with the ‘society’- a collection of you and me, the biggest culprit. Let me hark back on the four corner stones laid out at the beginning. Equality is clearly ruled out as social equality is unlikely to take root until women stand up financially to their male counterparts in an atmosphere that’s hostile for her. Fraternity is ruled out to a large extent as well, as the ingrained biases are so deep that one doesn’t even stand up for womenfolk of their own families in some cases- The honour killings are a point in case. Justice is and will remain a chimera in our highly populated country, a fact often used to their advantage by the perpetrators. The last attribute, Transparency is all our dealings is something that can be gradually built upon with advancements in telecommunication, social media and availability of forums unheard of in an earlier time. A closed society finds it very difficult to open up as acceptance from ‘others’ is primary consideration in any decision. It’s the views of ‘others’ that lead to one live in constant fear. The orthodoxy that we pride ourselves with is unfortunately a result of this sheepish living. In modern times, we have aped the west in convenient ways with no focus on the personal freedom that the western culture affords. So on the surface of it, we have begun dressing and eating western and even adopted the language they speak as our primary mode of communication but the collective soul of the nation hasn’t been able to shed the primacy of our medieval ways. At any other time in recent past, a moot point as the one which I am making would have led to collective finger pointing, allegations of religious sacrilege, whipped hysteria but not today as this is only a corollary of what the billion strong nation readily accepts as its headline without batting an eyelid. My point is of legalising sex trade. This move would protect the thousands of women who already are in this business, from the middlemen and corrupt policemen. It will also counter the skewed justification, such as “early marriage to protect libidinous youth from raping girls” that the elders and khap panchayats of Haryana offer as solution. It’ll also possibly prevent our left brains from lulling our conscience to such grisly news. ©

Sachin Tendulkar- Does he deserve a Bharat Ratna

The following is a response to an online debate regarding Sachin Tendulkar’s Bharat Ratna:- “While I do agree with your points, there is great Joy this man has brought to the nation by being a shining example of modesty and maintaining a squeaky clean image for the youth for almost a generation’s time. He is a poor leader but he’s a superb sportsman. While he is far from perfect like most human beings, he does have a balanced head over his shoulders. Unlike most award winners who make appearance once in a while, this man’s life is under intense scrutiny and one wrong step of his can bring him under the wrath of a billion Indians. So while he surely doesn’t qualify as an achiever for the humanity, he has been a source of pride and joy for a nation of billion for several years. What qualifies as ‘Achievement’ in advanced nations such as US where you are likely to bump into a Olympic medal winner in your day to day life, might not qualify for us, a nation of under achievers. Having poor genes is intrinsic to us and when one of us rules any arena in the world, however tiny and skewed the world view of Cricket might be, it does bring immense joy to the people. And it’s people who make up a nation. So Bharat Ratna to Tendulkar is well, a debatable issue at worst.”

My antipathy for Fancy Phones

The mobile revolution in India began as I joined by first job. It was a good feeling being able to talk to anyone any time. It was a new found freedom and the best part about it was that it was affordable. Then the price wars began and soon each operator was outdoing the other. The consumer felt like a king. The original price war was lead by Reliance and then TRAI stepped in to stabilise the prices. It was an amazing feeling being able to talk cross country at rock bottom (by earlier standards) prices. But soon I discovered that my expenses on phone began to increase despite the low prices as I would talk not only to my near and dear one but find ways to keep the phone engaged somehow. Few years passed by and now it was a different sort of revolution that was taking the country by storm. Mobile phone had become a status symbol. Everyone wanted to flaunt the latest model, the latest ring tone, the latest screensaver. One couldn’t avoid being a part of it as there was novelty involved and soon I was spending large sums of money on new phones. It seemed to have become the single largest drain of my hard earned money. I graduated from a Rs 3000/- phone to a Rs 8000/- one to one costing a whopping Rs 20000/-, which was one and half times my monthly salary back then. When I look back now, it seems an insane decision, as the phone merely lived about two and half years. It was heartbreak when one fine day its screen turned blank. A repair of over three grand gave it a lease of life for another month before it conked off again. Flash Back- My parents worked very hard to save money when we bought out first 21 inch Colour television and a fridge in a Diwali combo offer about some 18 years ago for Rs 20 K. It was the largest purchase of electronic goods they had made in their entire life. It was celebration time as we relished this large TV with latest channels. The TV served us almost 10 years before it was damaged in a house shift and the Fridge continues to serve like a loyal friend. Present day- Youth seems to have been positively blinded under the effect of innovative marketing and a culture of pomp. While I have made my share of mistakes as well, it’s my duty to summarise the wisdom bestowed for others here. So friends, while it’s very easy to lose context with the best in business luring you to buy the most avant-garde of gadgets with fancy features, apps and what not, it’s time you stepped back and tried to harness the true potential of your hard earned cash. It’s understood that peer pressure is vicious in current times and one needs to be accepted in his friend’s circle and so the need to show off your gadgets. My advice hence is to manage the peers rather than be managed by them. How do we go about it? Here’s my plan. Invest in 'substantial' assets. I firmly believe that the life expectancy of a phone today is about a year and whatever the amount you spend can only buy you recognition till the next model hits the market and that’s not going to be long. So if it’s the style quotient among your friends is concerned, why not be a leader rather than follow. For instance, why not invest in a good sports shoe such as an Adidas Carbon shoe (worth Rs 7500), or a Police shades(Rs 8000) or the latest mountain bicycle(Rs 26,000). Trust me, you will grab more eyeballs than your peers and what's better is that such assets will last as many years you want them to. While your friends waste their pocket money on latest gadgets why not outdo them by investing on a guitar (10K), or upgrade to an electric shaver (1.8K), a hiking kit with a Swiss knife(10K) or a pair of in-line Skates(8K). Imagine skating along the Marine drive while the rich duds goggle at their phone along the promenade. You are sure to get more eye balls flashing and more hearts racing. Believe you me, soon you would be leading the way among your friends rather than catching up the self professed technology geeks. This is Just a friendly advice to all my young friends here as I feel that the youth is being cheated by these cell phone producing MNCs. They are making you pay for their R&D for the next phone. In effect, you are financing obsoletion of your current phone model. A comparative study of top fortune 500 companies this year and about 10 years ago will indicate the companies which have ascended the fastest. Samsung, Apple, Nokia, LG are the players who have made hay when the sun shone in this field. Indian entrepreneurs have done their bit too and so names like Micromax, Maxx, Carbonn and others of this ilk, that import cheap electronics from china, have cropped up on the national industrial scene to displace companies that have spent a lifetime building India such as Dabur, Godrej and Hamdard etc. It’s time you pursed wholesome interests and get more out of your moolah.

Roadways Noways- A summary of indian roads

“I’ll provide you roads that are smoother than Hema Malini’s cheeks” so went a famous quip by Mr Lalu Prasad, during the run up to the assembly elections in his state about two decades ago. Hema Malini, the actress of erstwhile, retired, was in her late thirties and hadn’t yet made a comeback in senior roles. So beautiful was Hema in her heyday that an entire generation was besotted by her and her skin, and so dismal was the state of the roads in the country, that such a quip found instant stardom. Fast-forward a decade and half and we have the golden quadrilateral project that has been largely completed, Mumbai-Pune expressway that has been functioning well and the Taj expressway has recently been opened as well. Hema Malini in the meanwhile has got comfortable in her aging skin and made a comeback in motherly roles and Kent purifier ads. A recent visit to East Asia however resulted in perspective change as far ‘counting my blessings’ with respect to state of Indian roads was concerned. Roads in Vietnam, a country that’s just 6 places above India in the UN Human development index, and a country that opened up much later to the world are way better than ours. It is here that I got to see what an art road making or patch repairing is. The ground is first evened up, and then a bed of gravel is laid to provide a foundation. Atop this gravel are laid about 5-6 layers of different material that when completed look like layers of ancient sedimentary rock. Even a minor repair on the road begins with all these deliberate and logical steps. A comparison with China always draws tut-tut but it is in china that one gets to see what is achievable despite a huge population. The roads are well laid out in Shanghai and there are at least 3-4 suspension bridges across the Huangpu river, under which freighters as tall as 45 m can pass. To put things in perspective, the infrastructure pride of the nation, the Bandra-Worli sealink, doesn’t afford this luxury even if the waters under it were deeper. There are also two tunnels built under the riverbed that connect the two parts of the city. The flyovers in Shanghai are constructed with more finesse than what we have here in Delhi and are much longer than those in Mumbai. The city has about 4 ring roads to cater to the vehicular traffic compared to one that exists in our capital city. Talking about developed world for us case is akin to talking about aliens and space. However talk we must. Japan and South Korea are the sole East Asian developed countries. The roads of Japan are made with more finesse and quality than possibly Mr Mukesh Ambani’s drawing room. Over 60 Km out of 80 Km journey from Yokosuka to Tokyo is elevated. These, state of art roads have noise dampeners all along. Lined on both sides along are miles of matte finished Aluminium baffles to protect the residents from Noise pollution. Now you don’t want the baffles to make the experience of driving dreary, so the baffles in the city limits are made of Perspex glass so that you can see through them. Their flyovers construction technology is about 50 years ahead of us. The concrete pylons, on which these towering 6 storey high compact flyovers rest, are cylindrical in shape with a diameter of couple of meters. The neat design is earthquake proof and doesn’t mar the greenery around. Back in our country, all these memories haunt me every day when I travel from one part of the city to another, and notice the pothole riddled road, which has these festering wounds of damage, waiting to go septic. One can almost trace the life history of a broken patch over a few days, as it gets from bad to worse. The pollution levels are so high that women in cities have resorted back to the purdah system that extends to their arms. Every morning, the men in my city, all resolute and prepared dress up in three layers of clothing like a Maratha warrior prior taking up their commute to work. The flyovers fare no better as their cheap construction technique results in a bump every few metres, thanks to the seamed expansion joints. A lip service is paid to road making every few months, when they ineptly cover up this undulations on the road with fresh tar. The undaunted undulations reappear within a week without fail. A nation’s infrastructure must first cater to the weakest and poorest. If that’s done, the rest automatically gets taken care of. 2009 statistics of road accidents shows that the number of pedestrian killed almost equals those killed in two wheeler accidents. Pavements, footpaths and walkways are nonexistent even in developed cities such a Mumbai and the stats are a stark reminder of official apathy. A holistic approach to resolution of transportation safety is must. It begins with the quality that’s part of the road building. Road building unfortunately has become a seasonal business in India. ©

Theory of Reduced Dividends

This intends to be a precipitate of my experience with human beings in the last 10 years or so. The Theory states that, the dividends one accrues out of a relationship or association diminishes vis-a-vis the emotional and physical effort it takes to sustain it, as the relationship thickens. The theory has the following corollaries:- (a) The lesser the depth of association with another person in a relationship, the more one is likely to benefit out of it. (b) A person who has several shallow relationships stands to gain more in terms of emotional and physical satisfaction, than someone who’s deeply committed in a single one considering all other factors remain the same. Now, let me try to explain my proposition with suitable examples. With my several years of association of various levels with near and dear friends and some more than friends, I have had a unique opportunity to get an insight into the human behaviour with regards to a relationship. When we fall in love, or develop a new friendship, the buoyancy it lends to our existence is unmatched in its freshness and energy. The euphoria of this new association is essentially due to the naive hope it engenders in all of us. It shuts down often the part of brain responsible for rational or logical thoughts, and the lust, love or the attraction as may be case, guides our hopes with this newfound occupation. The mystery that’s part of a new relationship adds to its charm as the mind fills up the gaps with positive tidings. For instance, If the guy you are dating drops you early home, you assume he’s going to go straight back to his home and think about you. When he doesn’t call you the whole day, the mystique builds up and creates an aura about him. When he meets you all prim and pruned up on the coffee dates, you assume that is the case throughout the day. When he offers to pay up for the party, you assume it to be his typical behaviour. It never occurs to you that most countries have different policies for tourists and immigrants. Therein lays the folly of all relationships. They paint glorious picture of the involved parties, a picture that one has to either live up to, often at the cost of bearing the pain silently for the rest of your life or in some other cases, result in the relationship deteriorate into a shadow of its former self. In either case, it’s not a happy situation. When the relationship culminates in a marriage, former of the two is the usually the result in closed societies like ours. Now coming back to my corollary No 1 which postulates that the lesser the association the more the benefits one has in a relationship. This can be aptly proved as in the following cases:- (a) When the mystery element remains, the relationship is filled with possibilities and thus the euphoric feeling persists. This euphoric feelings can often trigger a chain of positive events in other aspects of your life such as work and relationships. (b) When we meet people less often, we only carry the good memories of these meetings and it’s seldom that rudimentary heterosexual association turn practical in their scope or execution. (c) When very few words are being exchanged, they are likely to be sweet nothings rather than snide barbs. (d) The knowledge that one is going to be free after a short time being spent with the partner in question makes us euphoric about the association in most cases and in some cases switches off the logic switch of the brain and ups the emotions, making the people involved assess each other in more positive light than they might do otherwise. Now, I think I have done more justice than required explaining corollary 1 and will move to the second which states that, if one has several ‘shallow’ relationships rather than one deeply committed one, he’ll gain more satisfaction. I base this on the premise that every relationship loses its charm one fine day. The drudgery of everyday living, routine existence and dealing with constantly increasing financial targets while fending for the family takes one a long way from the days when there was ‘love’ in the relationship. One soon finds gestures that came naturally earlier such as a peck on the cheek of your spouse, or a small ‘I love you’ note becoming a chore. I am not going to touch the ‘point system’ that couples in committed relationship often maintain as a check on each other. You forgot the anniversary date, she’s one up. She got stuck in the elevator till you rescued her you got your point back. Such are the games people play. The self esteem touches a new low with passing time and when you are over the hill with your youth, one can’t help but get melancholic. Detractors of my theory will try to pulverise your better judgement with titillation of ‘joy of parenthood’ and ‘bliss of committed love’ etc. But don’t you fool yourselves my friends. To me, children are in the ‘cute’ bracket for finite amount of time. The cute little children soon grow into little brats thanks to the hours spent in bad company while you were away trudging to make ends meet. They demand amounts of pocket money that you as a child supported the yearly education budget on. Their demands for gadgets, games and computers outdo every bonus that you receive at the workplace for your overtime. Now, unless you are a true lover of mankind and had children for the pure joy of it, you aren’t going to like this situation. And if you are a mean man whose sole purpose of having children was to ensure care in old age, I don’t need to tell you how wrong you were. With this as background, now this is the groundbreaking reality that shallow relationships afford you:- (a) They afford you the ability to be totally honest with the partner. Every woman will sooner or later begin to appreciate a man who has been honest with her. So even if you lose out on a potential short term partner due to your propensity for hard truths in the initial days, in all likelihood you’ll regain lost ground later. (b) While a man who goes out looking for shallow associations might not find ‘true love’, he will surely find true friends. And friends with benefits are just what the doctor ordered for a joyous life. (c) I believe that all of us as thinking human beings have several layers and one needs to either find the perfect partner, a possibility that’s rather rare or find more ‘friends’ than one to lead a fulfilled life. Monogamy was invented by human beings to assure security to the offspring and is not a product of nature. And so all I am advocating is follow nature- be open to multiple love. (d) Multiple ‘friends’ gives you freedom to love each one in a unique way. We can’t underestimate the buoyant power of love and someone has said sagaciously, always be in love, never get married. So finally, coming back to the stated law- The law of diminishing returns, with its two corollaries, I think now stands explained.

MI-4 movie review

Agent Eathen Hunt takes us on glob trotting journey across 4 continents with a stopover at India. It’s non-stop edge of the seat action interspersed with that human touch just enough to make it a notch above super slick and over the top action movies such as ‘Salt’, ‘Red’ and ‘From Paris with Love’. If you liked the 1st edition of this franchise, chances are that this one will win you over as well. The film follows plot similar to earlier episodes of this franchise wherein it’s all about accomplishing the stated Mission which is delivered to the agents via a module, a cell phone or a random phone booth. In a film, when one knows the brass tacks of the plot, it’s the execution that becomes the moot point and MI-4 doesn’t disappoint on that count. The sequences are innovative and delightfully filmed. The film is almost flawless till the producers decide to include Mumbai in the plot. The climax has been supposedly shot in India (which I have my doubts on) and it surely doesn’t do justice to the chaos of this country. As an Indian audience, you feel a little fake when multi-story automatic car parking is the host of climatic sequence. The film’s journey from Budapest to Mumbai via Moscow and Dubai steers clear of unnecessary clutter through slick editing thus keeping it all very simple. Unlike some of the earlier films, a re-run of the plot is exposited by Agent Hunt on couple of occasions. I felt that was a necessity imposed by an Asian audience and thus convey the growing clout of Asia as a market for Hollywood. The plot is about 5-6 sequences which have each been done in a never-before seen manner. The politics of power has been not even scratched as true to an agent’s world view, it’s the man on field who gets the coverage here and we are spared long speeches or condescending press conference from the White house spokesperson. Well, I would give the first half of the film, which packs a huge punch 5 star and lower the rating of 4 for the second half where things get a wee bit slower. So the film is 4.5 STARS for me.

Life of Pi- movie review

The first half 25 minutes of the film are almost lyrical as they introduce Pi in the backdrop of Pondicherry of 1950s. The stark difference in quality of production between indigenous cinema and Hollywood hits you through this breezy phase of the film, which displays in its resplendent glory, the pluralism of this country. One can’t help but fall in love with India. It’s ironical that it takes a Taiwanese director to do it so beautifully. The brief voyage part of the film which follows next is flawless in its depiction and what follows thereafter is the crux of the film. A shipwrecked Pi, saving himself from the sinking ship, then the tiger and the sea and finally the elements he encounters along the several weeks of cast away is what forms this incredible saga. No words can do justice to the vision of Ang Lee, which needs to be seen in 3D to be appreciated. The last 20 minutes, albeit a necessary postlude, drag on to dampen the experience a wee bit. This is the stuff Oscars are made of. 4.5 Stars

Talaash - Movie Review

No gimmicky effects, no scary background score, Talaash scores by having its heart at the right place. Often suspense dramas are all about solving a high profile case of a famous person or a rich man, ending up in a self defeating process of undervaluing the common man’s life. Such stories end up becoming nothing more than a glitzy game of chess where one couldn’t care less about the characters as long as the killer was found. Departing from such stereotype, Talaash merges beautifully, the internal strife of a person with the pressures that his job puts on him and sets this against the backdrop of an after dark Mumbai. In the end, it goes beyond cheap thrills and emerges a more rounded and humane story. Technically excellent, this is yet another world class product from Aamir Khan’s stable. 4.5 Stars

Commando- A One man Army: Movie review

We have a new action hero and the name is Vidyut Jamwal. Representing the finest form of body building template we have so far seen in Bollywood, Jamwal comes up with extraordinary stunts. The camerawork is superb as well with fantastic aerial shots in wild, something Indian film makers haven’t yet learnt too well. It’s a case of Army commando out to render justice in the civilian world not by choice but by circumstances. Don’t go expecting a screenplay of quality of ‘Prahaar’ or a ‘Lakshya’ here but do expect hand to hand combat and martial art reminiscent Rambo I (tempered for a nascent Bollywood action). The film begins with a lot of promise and is sustained by screen presence of the brooding Jamwal with his good lines till the interval. The distracting presence of songs and the mandatory item numbers undo a lot of good work as the film progresses. Vidyut Jamwal almost did a Tony Jaa (of Ong Bak fame) here had the film been directed a tad better. Nonetheless, it’s a movie that’ll keep you engaged and entertained with well choreographed action and a well meaning message. The negative role has been played to perfection by Jaideep Ahlawat, who blends maniacal power play dry humour as he recites santa banta jokes, to strike fear into the audience’s hearts. 4 Stars.

Life Gyan

Arise, awake, walk and run
Invest every morning in the rising sun
 Renew, remember, recollect and restore
the deterioration seeping in your every pore

Leave that cushy bed, slough that soft pillow
Run the new mile to shed that extra kilo
Service your innards, your lungs and the heart
Your humble servants they are, till death does you part

Eat right, sleep well and embody thoughts nice
unburden yourselves, speak truth and avoid lies
Drink less, if have to, binges a strict no no
but on a social do, do swim with the flow

 Make friends for friendship, not for clout
Work hard at office, yet reserve some for a work out
Experience growth every single passing day
Progress by perseverance because sweet is fair-play

If such be the steps you take
a new beginning you'll come to make
Be at a lofty pedestal or in the sunken pits
to every man this model perfectly fits