July 26, 2012

What ails Team Anna in 2012??

Anna Hazare and his team have started their agitation again! I am surprised by the lack lustre response by the media, this time. India’s channel, as claimed by Arnab G has decided to skip their 24/7 live reporting of the fast and even the print media are not interested.  Funny, how the headlines read this time, one paper even calls it as Anna Hazare’s circus in Jantar Mantar!! This same paper went gaga over his earlier fasts and agitations.

So, what’s the reason for the low turnout to Team Anna this time round??

Here is my take:

Anna Hazare is a very nice and well intentioned man but the movement per se lacks the collective focus and intelligence to carry it through to the logical conclusion of an effective Lokpal. Besides, his team members seem to be having divergent agenda and methodology, right from campaigning for state elections, taking an anti- congress stance, transparency within the Team Anna committee meetings and focus. Besides, formulation of Lokpal bill needs some wisdom, maturity and balance, mere sloganeering and social networking skills aren’t obviously enough.

The media did their bit in whipping up passions and emotions ran high with 24/7 reporting on TV in 2011. This helped them grab TRPs and the media barons were happy with Anna and his team. But Team Anna, instead of consolidating the gains and the ‘free’ support from media and youth, frittered away their chances. Many of the members became as brash and annoying as the congress leaders they were fighting! Thus began the beginning of the end. Today, media is quite apathetic to Team Anna as there is probably something better for them, to grab TRPs. They have realised that Indians like armchair activism and the likes of Satyameva Jayate programmes generate more revenue for the media houses and are easier to support (I mean politically correctJ).

The second theory of mine is that Anna Hazare movement was a media creation, in the first place. Media decided to back him and his team, and got the urban youth to rally around them and when the media didn’t back them this time, the same urban youth have gone missingJ

Prahlad's story - my eternal favourite

Even as a child, I always was fascinated and inspired by the story of Prahlad. I rarely attend discourses but I somehow seem to manage to listen many people speak on Prahlad! Just listening to his short life story of 4/5 years, somehow has an indelible impact on me.

Although, I grew up listening to the story of Prahlad from parents, Shri. Santhana Gopalachariar, mythological movies and Amar Chitra Katha, my understanding of Bhakti and Prahlad’s exalted status among other devotees of the Lord, has matured or rather evolved (or so I would like to think!). Recently, within a span of 10 days, I found myself listening to the story of Prahlad from two people, Smt. Vishaka Hari and Shri. Nochur Venkataraman. Listening to both of them gave me so many new insights about the ways of the CreationJ and quality of Bhakti that Prahlad had. Apparently in the Bhagawatham, Prahlad’s Bhakti is likened to how a fish gasps and pulsates when removed from water, similarly, Prahlad could not be removed from feeling the presence of the Lord, even for a moment! Such was his devotion and unshakeable faith in the Lord that he never experienced fear, even at the ferocious sight of Narsimha emerging from a pillar that brought alarm to the rest, including the mighty Hiranyakashipu. I have heard Guruji, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji say, fear is absence of bhakti or faith in the Lord. Prahlad is probably therefore the best example of Bhakti.

I realised that I really love listening to his story time and again! In lighter vein, I remember coaxing my brother and sister to name their sons Prahlad, with no successJ. I guess none wanted to be the Hiranyakashipu in the family!

July 19, 2012

Can we recreate the magic of the 70s?

As I watched the TV last night, I was surprised by the play of emotion on me, watching the most memorable dialogues and scenes from Rajesh Khanna’s films. I guess that kind of sums up the feelings of Indians who grew up in the 70s, an era of innocence, idealism and romance that Rajesh Khanna carried with great élan. I can hardly be described as a movie buff and yet news on Rajesh Khanna’s passing away took me to those yesteryears.

I certainly have no idea on what kind of person he was, off screen, but he simply was the best we had on screen. He belonged to an era when films did well if people went and watched them in theatres and spoke about it to their friends. There was no promotion of the stars, nor the movie, there was no news programme on “making of the film” by the lead actors, gushing inanities like they do, today. At most, we got to watch the songs on “Chayageeth” for those of us who were lucky to own a televisionJ. The only other exposure was on Vivid Bharathi on AIR where these songs became immortal.

Listening to people who worked with Rajesh Khanna, sharing their interesting tidbits and anecdotes got me thinking about life in the 70s. for these movie stars. I guess if you were successful in the 70s, with very little media at your disposal and not much of brand building and hype, it must be cakewalk for them, in today’s world. I mean, these people, be it the actors, the lyricists, the music composers, directors, had awesome talent and were so original. There were movies that were grossers by the sheer strength of the songs it had. Or a superstar like Rajesh Khanna could carry a movie on his shoulders and deliver a hit.

If only we could get them all back, they can easily push the current stars into oblivion, permanentlyJ

June 27, 2012

The great Indian Olympian Dream

The recent controversy surrounding Leander and Mahesh is a classic case of tardy and shoddy behaviour of officials heading the various sporting bodies. All of them have one unique common thing, irrespective of the sport they represent - all of them don't give a damn for the sportsmen and/or their careers. The officials’ only concern seems to be to continue being office bearers of various sporting associations. Little do they realise that without the sportsmen, they have no job!

Given that the Olympic medal, the ultimate dream for every sportsman, requires some training and preparedness, however accomplished he/she maybe, it is therefore natural for teams or individuals to be formed at least six months in advance, if not earlier. It is therefore shocking that AITA chose to announce the team of their choice, not player's choice, with just a month left for the Games to begin.

I am certainly not privy to the internal squabbles between Mahesh and Leander and/ or the officials at AITA, but anyone with common sense will know that for a team to succeed there needs to be a good understanding and camaraderie between them. Granted that Leander and Mahesh were a great team in the past, but it’s obviously not the case now. From reports in the media, it is clear that Mahesh and Bopanna have communicated to AITA on their plans to team up for the Olympics as early as last year and they were encouraged by the AITA to play together. Therefore, it is extremely baffling to suddenly pull out teams from the hat and shock the players and public. What makes it extremely pathetic is to split the successful mixed doubles team of Mahesh and Sania who recently won a Grand Slam, only to pacify and mollify Leander’s egoJ If I were Leander Paes, I would have retired gracefully than wait for the wild card decision of Sania Mirza!!

What is extremely painful is that such games by officials are being played ever so often and in almost every sport. Often we lament on the reasons for not scoring medals in spite of being a one billion plus nation. The reasons for the poor show are certainly not the sportsmen but the brainless officials controlling the hapless sportsmen! 

March 31, 2012

NGOs and TRPs

I suddenly had this terrible thought of the possibility of activist NGOs being measured by an equivalent of TRPs that are currently being used for TV channels and programmes. This thought was triggered by the headline hogging news from the Delhi based NGO about the harm caused by fast foods and other brands, today.

If we are discussing paid news and biased media houses today, imagine how the scenario will be like with NGOs joining in too?? Being 1/04/12 tomorrow, lets consider a few likely scenarios to start with! 

These are some of the headlines at this hour / today, says Arnab Goswami with utmost seriousness and outrage, all at the same time!!

CSE and ABC, two environment based NGOs have come out with startling findings of the commonly consumed  milk, from state run dairies. Findings from CSE mention alarming levels of fertilizer derived nitrates, phosphates in milk. Staff at ABC also confirm similar findings but the levels of these salts vary between them. The spokespersons from both these NGOs claimed that they used very exacting standards and followed standard and established protocols. The biggest violators were Mother Dairy, New Delhi, Nandhinee, Bangalore, Aavin, Chennai. Consumers are confused and are left wondering if they must remove dairy products from their menu. NGOs that root for organic farming are seen preening themselves on TV, till Arnab dada dropped his bomb. The maximum levels of these pollutants are from buffaloes that grazed on organic farms, said he with a straight face!! This stumped every guest on his show - from the consumer to the different NGOs and certain omnipresent experts on his show like Suhel Seth, Lord Meghnad Desai, Vinod Mehta, etc., except of course, himself!

Another day....
Team India has offlate, decided to target proponents of organic farming. Arvind K has videos of Ms. Vandana Shiva shopping in Wal-Mart for apples from USA and grapes from Australia. Vandana Shiva, on her part, vehemently denies consuming these tasty fruits but bought them to entertain her guests at her home! Her foes were quick to point out her double standards. Realizing that attack is the best form of defense, Vandana Shiva launched a tirade against Team Anna and Arving K, in particular. She said that Arvind K was a plant set up by Monsanto to malign her and her movement and further blasted him for getting funded by them for his anti-corruption movement!

March 19, 2012

The joy and adventures in NH 4

Many many years ago, way back 1983, 29 years ago, our family undertook our first long distance drive, Bombay to Madras. At that time, it was unheard of, to do road journeys across states. One of the reasons was the quite sorry state of roads (only the heavy duty vehicles needed them was the justification:-)), another was also the lack of options in cars - there was the Ambassador or a Fiat Padmini, the only two cars people owned and drove around. But my dad was always ahead of the times, in every aspect. He very ambitiously chalked out the route we would take and decided the stopover places along the way. Mom was apprehensive, at first and then kind of reconciled when she learnt that the cost would be the same if we took the train:-)

And so we set off, my parents and we 3 siblings, armed with a road map and loads of food in an Ambassador. In those days, mineral water was unheard of and we carried water in a Surai:-). Our route was to be National Highway 4, NH4. We also carried a number of audio cassettes, sounds like a dream now:-)

We criss-crossed the countryside and took bypass roads of major towns en route. I learnt a lot about traffic symbols, icons for Ghat section, dangerous curves, river bridge, rumblers, petrol bunks etc., as these were non existent within city limits and I was only in class 9. It was a lot of fun, we would stop anytime, just to enjoy a scene at the Ghats or by a river,  or for nature's call:-). And we would stop just to catch up with some short eats... Often, we would buy the local, seasonal fruits as pass the town, like jackfruit, and gorge on them:-). We stopped at Poona, Kolhapur and halted at Belgaum for the night. All I remember is we had dinner and slept like a log.

As with large families, there are always family functions every summer, either a wedding or 60th /80th birthday, or a thread ceremony! And 1983 was no exception, a cousin had her son's thread ceremony in Sringeri. It meant a detour but we were all game... it was fun, I still remember the awesome coffee we had in a small town called Harihar. We took the State highway and I noticed that the roads in Karnataka were slightly better than Maharashtra. Also, I found all the trees marked around their barks, neatly painted with white and red stripes, maybe aided visibility.

We reached Sringeri and spent 3 days there. Its a beautiful little temple town that is the Seat of the Southern Pontiff of the Shakaracharya lineage. Its such a calm and quiet place, with the clearest river (the Tungabhadra) that the bed  was so clear and visible.

And soon, we set off from Sringeri and reached Bangalore and stayed with a family friend of ours in Ulsoor Road. And the next day, we set off for Madras and reached the city by evening! It was my first road trip and the memories are so clear like it happened a year back!

We then learnt the joy of such road trips and we did 3 Bombay - Madras - Bombay trips and innumerable trips within Maharashtra. We explored the state in our car and also did a fair bit of travel in Karnataka. Having moved to Chennai now, I now do a lot of travel by road within the state and also to Bangalore. Its a completely different experience today, with many conveniences but my first road trip is simply the most memorable!

March 12, 2012

Kahaani, an outstanding film

Doing a movie review after a real long time. Saw the movie, Kahaani, 12 hours ago and I am still mulling over it and piecing some of the scenes together! A real thriller of a movie. I never thought Indian cinema was interested in any other genre other than the tried and tested commerical formula of action, romance and usual masala (read it as 'crap')

Kahaani is simply amazing in that it manages to keep the movie gripping, all of the 2 hours. And Vidya Balan has come up with a fantastic performance and kudos to her, for she has carried the entire film on her shoulders. Can't think of any of the current actresses who could have done this role. Speaking of the rest of heroines of today, I realised that they are all very similar in the way they dress, look, talk and act and very little differentiators between them. However, Vidya Balan is different in the way she looks, dresses and the roles she chooses to play in her films. Also, I like the way, she carries herself with a certain dignity, in her interviews and promo events. The same can't be said of the rest, the Kareenas, Kaifs, Kapoors, Padukones of the world!

There is a certain depth in Vidya Balan which sets her apart. The only other heroine who has this is Kajol. And Aamir Khan is the only other actor who protrays depth in his roles.

Infact, there was very little pre movie publicity for Kahaani, unlike there is for Agent Vinod, Ek tha Tiger or Dabbang 2! And these movies are still getting ready for release or have just started shooting!!

Nett nett, this is one movie that every cinema buff will enjoy and ask for more!

March 11, 2012

Reforms in BCCI, atlast

Well, there has been a lot of brainstorming among officials in the cricketing fraternity and there is now a white paper that appears to be leaked which has some amazing changes to the way the game and statistics would be recorded, henceforth. Very surprisingly, Arnab and his team seem quite stumped and do not seem to have access to this paper, judging by the Newshour programme this week. Election results and nation's politics seem top on the agenda on all news/entertainment channels!

According to reliable sources, this white paper is likely to be taken seriously and many of the recommendations are likely to get approved which maybe bad news for many of the present and past cricketers, says an insider on condition of anonymity!!

Rotation policy at all levels, players, selectors, tour schedules, & BCCI spokespersons! 
Apparently, the who's who in BCCI and players approve this policy. It is felt that selectors can also be 'rested' to infuse new thinking and ideas into the team composition (what it actually aims at, is to remove individual and personal bias of selectors). All stakeholders, players, BCCI officials, advertisers, sponsors, commentators, audience representatives feel that schedules must be such that India gets to alternate between 'strong and weak' teams (this is to boost morale and statistics, obviously). The official explanation given is that such schedules are in the larger interest of the game, to get more non cricketing countries to join the game and make cricket the world sport and displace Soccer's supremacy:-)

GenX reforms are to include how statistics are to be recorded. If a player is near a milestone, plus or minus 10, he would be given a super over, much like the penalty shot in Soccer:-). This will allow players to reach their milestone and also save the game from players who are overstaying their presence in the team.

Official sponsors and sponsors of events and companies that own telecast rights are also to be rotated. This is to ensure nobody takes the game for a ride (insiders know the real reason - more money can be made via rotation)

BCCI has requested the Home Ministry to allow citizenship of foreign players on an annual basis to India. This will keep the Indian team on the toes and infuse fresh blood, yet the annual citizenship is to ensure that complacency, the hallmark of every player of Team India, does not creep into foreign origin Indian players (if we can have politicians of foreign origin, why not in cricket is the argument:-))

Lastly but not the least, players will be given a retainership fee to the extent of 50% and the remaining 50% will be variable pay, linked to performance, much like it is in the corporate world. Performance includes team building efforts, off and on the field, leadership qualities and attendance at training camps, apart from match winning performances:-)

January 27, 2012

Hindu Service & Spiritual Fair - 2012

It was an interesting Republic day for me. I spent most of the day at the 4th edition of the Hindu Service & Spiritual Fair in Chennai. I have always visited the fair each year and always notice that with each year, there are many amazing changes and improvements and an extremely sincere effort by the organizers to bring as many Hindu organizations together.

This year, its happening at the D. G. Vaishnav College, Arumbakkam campus. As I strolled along, I reached an interesting corner that had an artificial banyan tree named as Sanathana Dharma tree! And from its branches, dangled little cards that bore the names of all participating organizations!! It was a lovely idea. And against the backdrop of this tree, were about 10 kids from class V and VI, from SDRF Vivekananda School, Chrompet, that were cutely dressed up as various heroes of India. And as one neared any of them, they would stand and talk like the hero they were dressed up as, with a fervour and enthusiasm that was so cute and infectious! I enjoyed my time with the kids there, speaking like Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose, Katta Bomman, Jhansi ki Rani, M.S. Golwalkar, to name a few.

I realised how as children, we grow up reading about inspiring heroes with such lovely ideals and values, only to be lost as we exit our teens and start out on our professional courses. And such fairs bring us back our old school memories and idealism back. Hats off to the organizers for doing a fabulous job. I only wish I could take time out as many of them, and spend more time.

January 25, 2012

2012 and Earth Axis tilt - part II

Aren't we a lttle bored of the happenings around us? Right through 2011, we saw Arab Spring, US autumn, Occupy Wall Street style protests across the world. Back home in India, we had anti-graft campaigns by Anna Hazare that made news headlines 60% of the year. We did have many other campaigns, the perpetual Telangana stir, anti-nuclear protest, anti- genetic modification protest etc etc.

To add some entertainment, we had shoes hurled at leaders, ink thrown at people, people being man-handled, slapped too:-). No wonder, the song kolaveri (means murderous rage in tamil) went on to become the song of the year, as it kind of captured the mood of the people.

But friends, 2012 promises to be a different entertainer. I think we can brace ourselves for unexpected surprises from Nature! As we near the solar cycle - maximum in the 11 year cycle, we can expect many solar flares and storms. While, NASA has assured all of us that its pretty normal to experience these sun storms, as the sun approaches its "solar maximum" in May 2013, we are seeing very high and intense activity, already. This makes way for many theories to get re-floated and I am doing the same by re-posting the link to one of my earlier posts on the Earth Axis tilt that is doing the rounds.

While, I am a firm believer in the continuity of life, and never will fall for any doomsday predictions, I do think there's going to be some interesting events happenning in the next 12 - 15 months. There seem to be many pointers to this possibility. I would like readers of this post to check out the following stories.

So, lets brace ourselves to an adventurous 2012:-)

January 8, 2012

Arunachaleshwar finally beckoned

Its been more than 10 years since I have had this deep longing to go to Thiruvannamalai, a celebrated abode of Lord Shiva, representing the fire element. Its just a day journey from Chennai, where I live, but it never happened. Finally, HE organized it all for me, and in grand style!

It was all like perfect timing, right from the start. We entered the temple and the deities were being led in a procession, a regular ritual, but it felt as if the Lord came out to give HIS darshan. We took our time to enter the main sanctum sanctorum and before we knew it, a priest led us toward the Lord and took us right there, just within a foot of the Lord. Whew!! We spent precious time at HIS feet and left with our hearts feeling full. Later, I gathered he was the Chief Priest of the temple and had been serving the Lord for the past 60 years! He then took us around and gave us a similar darshan of the Goddess too. It was such an unbelievable darshan, we all felt so special, it was like it was all planned and organized for us. There were hardly any crowds and the temple appeared to have just us:)

Ramana Maharishi spent most of his life meditating in this temple and so we ended our trip by going to Ramanashramam. There too, we were just on time, for lunch was being served and we had prasad. We rested and meditated  at the meditation hall and were thoroughly refreshed with just a few hours we spent there. Such was the calm inside.

The Lord does know how to make us feel special and chosen. What a perfect day it turned out!

Reminded me of what H. H. Sri Sri RaviShankar ji says, "Faith is giving the Divine a chance to Act". Experienced that in abundance.