18 November 2012

Bring the 9 pm bulletin back

Where has it disappeared – the 9 pm news bulletin? After a long day of work, when I switch on the TV for my daily dose of news, all I get is opinion. Frequently, it’s one or two issues that hog prime time space with the same people from the same political parties going at each other’s necks. Does anyone really watch these tired old debates day after day? Where is the national news? And the less said about international news the better.

TV journalism (?) has taken a turn for the worse over the last couple of years and channels have willingly become platforms for political parties to boo boo each other. It works out well for both the TV channels and political parties: the former doesn't have to go in search of news stories and the latter are all too happy to have one issue catch the public imagination rather than have nosy journalists pick up stories from all over the place.

I remember how news bulletins at prime time used to have clearly demarcated slots for national, state, and city or local news. Now, the discussions that last nearly an hour leave no space for real news, except on the tickers. Why is this so? Am I the only one complaining? Or, have the channels assumed that people are anyway going to tune out and into a movie or a reality show, so why bother working hard for a news story?

There are no serious news stories being done, no exposes, no investigations. (But hey, there’s Arvind Kejriwal for that!) Just a passive sitting back with lobbyists from all over the place and let them do even the talking for you. News anchors seem to be present only to coordinate the ad breaks in between the shows.

Real reporting only seems to happen when there is a terrorist attack or some sort of natural calamity or an election, perhaps. Social media can easily take over some aspects of reporting such news events. Mainstream journalism in India is content with giving up its adversarial role and happy to be at best a stoker of controversies. If they have to be obsessed about the same issue, they could at least do less of discussion and more of digging around, perhaps? But that would mean work and making people uncomfortable. 

09 September 2012

Motherhood that looks and smells good

Bhargavi, when she was about a month old. 

Often, it’s the simple things in life that people don’t understand and miss out on.

Recently, I visited a credit card site in the course of some work and saw an image of a young couple obviously in love. The caption used words to the effect that said that the credit card made it all happen or some such thing. It’s an all-too familiar hook that advertisers use to get up close with the customer, but the problem is that people actually fall for this, and sometimes even without knowing it.

We begin to believe that we need the wherewithal to express love. We begin to believe that everything needs to be templatized in a follow-the-herd spirit. Hence, we ‘equip’ ourselves by buying whatever can be bought in preparation for the roles we must play in life, but when the time comes to actually don that role, we chicken out. Because, reality is much more than money can fathom.

Why I am thinking this way? Just today I heard from a friend how someone she knows was following the motherhood template: she had the posh crib from a pricey shop, a 24-hour ayah in place, and so on, but no time or intention to actually be a mother.

Motherhood is a one-way journey: once a mother, you’ll always be a mother. You can’t go back to the place when you weren’t a mother. You can’t expect that your baby will grow up overnight once your maternity leave ends. Motherhood isn’t always glossy. It’s wet, it stinks, and it’s sleepless. Yet, there can’t be a better feeling in the world than to be a mother. Now that I am a mother I can easily imagine how some mothers must feel when their children become uncaring and turn away from them. That’s truly sad.

What I said about motherhood applies in many respects to other roles in life. After the wooing with diamond rings and what not and the grand wedding, there comes the reality of actually having to live with the person – warts and all – day after day. No holiday from that. How many of us are ready for this?

Really, the most important lessons in life are ones that no one’ll teach you, but you’ll learn nevertheless.
If this post sounds like a lot of meandering, that’s because I am. Sometimes, it just feels nice to speak your mind, rather than collect and compose thoughts. Almost relaxing.

27 December 2011

The Black Swan

I saw this movie immediately after watching this clip, which basically warns against falling for narratives or stories. But how do we do that? We are all made up of stories and spew them by the minute. Yet, he (Tyler Cowen) has a point: when we tell a story, we inevitably tell it through our filter. So, any story leaves off something off the 'original' and takes on a little of the teller. A story also becomes in some way 'of' the story-teller.

So, it was in this frame of mind that I watched Black Swan. Saying anything about good vs. evil narratives is quite a self-conscious effort, post-Cowen's clip. But here goes.

The movie The Black Swan is all about white and black; good and pure juxtaposed against evil and sinful/lusty. But only until a point – after which good melts into evil and vice versa.

Nina needs to play both characters – the white swan and the black swan – equally well. She is a natural at playing the white swan, but when it comes to its dark counterpart, her performance pales, freezes. Because, however vulnerable her public, white self may be, it exercises great control over her self-mutilating, repressed side. This side can only come to its own at night, or when she is safe from the prying eyes of her over-protective (and perhaps abusive?) mother.

The role is a challenge to Nina quite simply because in real life, she is the white and black swan. With much difficulty, her white swan-self has kept the black swan out of her public, conscious reality. If she must play the black swan to perfection, she must come dangerously close to her hidden, tucked-away side. And, that’s a risk, and she knows it.

The best stories (hope Mr Cowen is not listening) or at least the ones I fall for are those that leave you with no answers, that meld white and black to an indistinguishable point.

Take Macbeth, for instance. Is Lady Macbeth entirely to blame for her husband’s deeds, or was she just the spark that kindled the murderous rage within Macbeth himself?

It is also a sad commentary on the temporal nature of show business. Youth-beauty-talent-the quest for perfection and eternal fame – and the descent into depressing reality.

Nina, of course, has her cake and eats it too. She delivers a perfect performance – black and white – and then dies – just as the plot requires. She does not live to deliver a lesser performance. Considering the toll that the black and white swans take on her, it’d be perhaps difficult for her to ever play the role again – let alone with perfection. Eternity is perfect, and her role was to remain eternal.

As with most personal, non-work things I write these days (or don't), this too requires much more elaboration than that in this post. But here I must end for lack of time.

31 July 2011

Delhi Belly

I watched the movie a month ago but found the time today to blog about it. I enjoyed the movie immensely and was surprised to find people scandalized and shocked by it. So, here's my quick defence of the movie:

Why do you like Delhi Belly?*
Its spontaneity, creative dialogue, and, of course, its celebration of oral sex, especially that rendered to women. Let the tribe of 21st century men grow!

But, DB is full of swear words! How can you like it?
Grow up. And, if you haven't done that yet, don't go to movies labelled 'A'. And please give adults their space, too!

What if children hear such words or see the movie?
I read my first adult fiction when I was perhaps in Class VI. Many of us have peeped into the forbidden adult world way before we were supposed to. It didn't hurt us, I should think. At least, it didn't hurt me. Children are not supposed to see this movie, of course, but if they do so sneakily and they will, there's no stopping them. It's a difficult world to grow up into, no doubt. But before we get too worked up about children learning adult stuff from a movie, what about the endless violence and mind-numbing zombie-like make-believe world celebrated in our movies? That's family entertainment, eh?

Why is the movie in English?
Why shouldn't it be? But DB has a Hindi version, too, which has done much better than the English one.

There's hardly any Delhi in the movie.
Meaning? Did you come to the movie expecting a quick tour of Delhi? Not that they didn't show any Delhi, either. So, cheapskates, get your free Delhi ride yourself!

*These were actual questions I heard discussed on various forms of media.

16 June 2011

Time is fiction.

Where do the minutes and hours, rolled up into days go?

What is memory, but traces and hints of these mysterious days?

The bane of memory. If not for it, there’d be no search for the absentee days.

If not for memory, everything’s hearsay. Subject to incredulity. For, beyond belief it all seems.

Why such consciousness of the self? Why not be unburdened by existence?

Why is the past such a comfort sometimes? Even when it is inexplicably lost.

Why does the past seem simpler? Definitely more decipherable, more manageable than that to come.

Why can’t the minutes and hours just mind their business and stay where they are?

Get real: time is but fiction. A tragicomedy at that.

17 February 2011

Rajib Das and his death

After a long time of seeing and hearing about killings in Bengal, this one made me really sad, depressed, angry, and restless. Even as I write this, I realize our individual impotencies, my own even. But if all I can do is write out my angst, than so shall I.

Rajib Das, a teenager, died in Barasat, suburban Bengal, sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning, from the injuries he sustained when he was fighting for his sister. He was fighting goons well within the sight and hearing of police constables. None of them helped her, as she wailed and begged. They told her they were on duty protecting the powers-that-be, so they couldn't possibly leave their post to come to the siblings' rescue.

Oh, there's more details to the story than I can bear to fill you in on here, please see the link. This incident is conclusive proof, if you needed any, of systemic failure in Bengal. In fact, now I know what they mean when they say, it is the system.

There is a corruption of morals and minds of the people that has seeped through and through. Forget about elections, people cant take their daily routine lives for granted in Bengal. Newborns can get eaten up by rodents, whole villages can be held at gun-point, lies can be told without batting eyelids... 35 years, and this state is screwed to the core. If you are alive, you should be more than grateful. I usually am not cynical and pessimistic, but this state does surely seem beyond hope.

One night, and it all changed for the Das family. And, people still ask, what is the alternative? I ask them, if this is not chaos, if this is not anarchy, what is?

12 January 2011

From the Elance blog

Something I related to from this post:

"Elance has given me the confidence that my mind is strong and that my education is valuable, that I am valuable... Through several projects I got to use my experiences and fell in love with my career choice all over again."

12 December 2010

Bolpur/Santiniketan sights

Trips to Bolpur help me breathe, literally. I have never really been a big-city person, as I realize on trips to smaller cosier towns like Sirsi or Bolpur. I could trade a lot of the easy convenience and razzle-dazzle of the city for lungfuls of fresh air, any time.

The power cuts in Bolpur are exasperating, of course. So, are the mosquito battalions. Here are images from a recent trip to Bolpur when we had the Navanna puja at home (a sort of thanksgiving after the harvest).

I hope to keep adding to this collection, so check back :)