24 December 2004

Filling in for me

I must take Mr Orwell's help in saying what I wanted to say. He said it in 1946 in an essay entitled Politics and the English Language. I will come back to this later, if I can. Right now my mind's resisting production. But here's Mr Orwell taking over:

I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

I am sure you would have come across such ludicrous shit-pieces. As a cub reporter, I loved to demolish edits by the assistant editor of one of the leading dailies of Bangalore. That's why sometimes I cant help smiling a little when I hear youngsters being asked to read newspapers to improve their English. That's where the trouble starts, sigh.

22 December 2004

Text that glows, smells yummy, is sensous to the touch...

The Voices of Village Square


O, dear, sweet Harry, with your French gangster-movie bangs, your Ski Shop turtleneck sweater and your Army-Navy Store blue denim shirt over it, with your Bloomsbury corduroy pants you saw in the Manchester Guardian airmail edition and sent away for and you sly intellectual pigeon-toed libido roaming in Greenwich Village – that siren call really for you?


Obviously Harry thinks so. There in the dusk on the south side of Greenwich Avenue, near Nut Heaven which is the intersection of Greenwich Avenue, Sixth Avenue, Eighth Street and Christopher Street, also known as Village Square, Harry stops and looks up at the great umber tower at 10 Greenwich Avenue. He can see windows but he can’t see through them. He gives a shy wave and thereby becomes the eighth man in half an hour to get conned by The Voices.


A Sunday Kind of Love

Love! Attar of libido in the air! It is 8.45 am. Thursday morning in the IRT subway station at 50th Street and Broadway and already two kids are hung up in a kind of herringbone weave of arms and legs, which proves, one has to admit, that love is not confined to Sunday in New York. Still, the odds! All the faces come popping in clots out of the Seventh Avenue local, past the King size Ice Cream Machine, and the turnstiles start whacking away as if the world were breaking on the reefs. Four steps past the turnstiles everybody is already backed up haunch to paunch for the climb up the ramp and the stairs to the surface, a great funnel of flesh, wool, felt, leather, rubber and steaming alumicron, with the blood squeezing through everybody’s old sclerotic arteries in hopped-up spurts from too much coffee and the effort of surfacing from the subway at the rush hour. Yet there on the landing are boy and a girl, both about eighteen, in one of those utter, My Sin, backbreaking embraces.

He envelops her not only with his arms but with his chest, which has the American teen-ager concave shape to it. She has her head cocked at a 90-degree angle and they both have their eyes pressed shut for all they are worth and some incredibly feverish action going with each other’s mouths. All around them, ten, scores, it seems like hundreds, of faces and bodies are perspiring, trooping and bellying up the stairs with arteriosclerotic grimaces past a showcase full of such novel items as Joy Buzzers, Squirting Nickels, Finger Rats, …


These were extracts from Tom Wolfe’s The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. No, its not fiction, though the tools that he uses are borrowed from fiction. Most of the stuff from this book is his articles published in Esquire and other magazines. The Voices of Village Square is an article on a detention center for women. He starts the story with the girls’ ‘siren calls’ at a passerby. He doesn’t let go of a detail, no way, not one: be it the feel, smell, or sound of the place. He paints word-pictures, and how!

But there’s more to the New Journalism that Wolfe heralded than just being something different. Language can tell, language can mask; it can clarify things or further muddy the pool. We accept any bullshit language thrown at us, and rarely understand what’s happening or why it is being thrown at us. If you care to look, you will find an agenda. The politics of incomprehensibility. More on that to follow soon.

About blogs, slimes, etc.

I know most of the ways The Times of India 'sells' itself. But what I read today beats it all. I am so sorry this guy has stopped writing. Such detailed documentation of the TOI's ways of journalism (sic). And come to think of it, he's an MBA, and not a journalist. Pasting his blog below:

May 08, 2004

The Times of India
Most of my regular readers know the extent of my ‘love’ for the Slimes Times of India group and those who don’t can estimate the same from the fact that I have an entire damn
category dedicated to India’s most successfull and least professional media group.

Via reader Kalyan Raman and
Kitabkhana and Gouri Chatterjee at The Telegraph comes this gem of a piece about the complete lack of ethics, integrity and honesty at India’s (sadly) most popular media group - the Times of India Group.

On April 23, both the city supplements of Times of India in Mumbai and Kolkata carried a story titled “Sex and the City” on their front pages respectively. The screenshots are attached below(you will have to visit his site for the screenshots) and here are links to the web versions of the stories - Calcutta Times version and Bombay Times version.

The article(s) goes on to talk about the rising infidelity levels in the city(ies) with quotable quotes from people and psychiatrists like “for every four men who cheat, there are two women” and “Infidelity is no longer an eyebrow-raiser”. But this post is not about how the Times of India sensationalizes news items with risque quotes as they’ve been doing that for many years now. This post is about how the Times of India shamelessly reproduced the same article in two cities on the same day by just changing the names of the people in the story!

The articles are reproduced word-for-word with just a couple of minor changes to cover their tracks. Here are the minor changes:
“Ryan” in Bombay Times become “Raghav” in Calcutta Times
“Amit Patil(23)” in Bombay Times becomes “Amit Datta(23)” in Calcutta Times
“Social psychiatrist Dr.Anjali Chhabria” in Bombay Times becomes “psychiatrist Dr.Shiladitya Ray” in Calcutta Times
“Advocate Jai Vaidya” in Bombay Times becomes “advocate Indrajeet Bannerjee” in Calcutta Times.
What really takes the cake is the fact that the even the find-replace job was botched by the Times! In the Calcutta Times version they replaced “social psychiatrist Dr.Anjali Chhabria” with “psychiatrist Dr.Shiladitya Ray” in the first paragraph but forgot to do the same in the very next paragraph! So in Calcutta Times “psychiatrist Dr.Shiladitya Ray” conveniently morphs into “Dr.Anjali Chhabria” in the next paragraph! Sheesh!

Here’s a piece of advice to all those people who are still reading that dishrag…get a real newspaper! If you want gossip buy Filmfare/Stardust and if you want skin buy Debonair/Fantasy!

Note: The extended section of this post contains both the articles in question reproduced verbatim from the Times of India’s archives with the differences underlined.


The latest media take on blogging is by Time. Check it out.

17 December 2004

15 December 2004

Drug alert

Hey guys, Swapna put this information up on her blog. I am sure lot of us have consumed at least some of these. Quite of them are sold over the counter here in India. But please stop popping these pills. Bear a little pain, make some effort to find out alternative medicines, maybe even work out a lil more. The side effects of these drugs are scary. Please stay off them.

ANALGIN:This is a pain-killer. Reason for ban: Bone marrow depression.
Brand name: Novalgin

CISAPRIDE:Acidity, constipation. Reason for ban: irregular heartbeat
Brand name: Ciza, Syspride

DROPERIDOL: Anti-depressant. Reason for ban: Irregular heartbeat.
Brand name: Droperol

FURAZOLIDONE: Antidiarrhoeal. Reason for ban: Cancer.
Brand name: Furoxone, Lomofen

NIMESULIDE: Painkiller, fever. Reason for ban: Liver failure.
Brand name: Nise, Nimulid

NITROFURAZONE: Antibacterial cream. Reason for ban: Cancer.
Brand name: Furacin

PHENOLPHTHALEIN:Laxative. Reason for ban: Cancer.
Brand name: Agarol

PHENYLPROPANOLAMINE: Consumed for cold and cough. Reason for ban: stroke.
Brand name: D'cold, Vicks Action-500

OXYPHENBUTAZONE: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Reason for ban: Bone marrowdepression.
Brand name: Sioril

PIPERAZINE: Used to kill worms in the body. Reason for ban: Nerve damage.
Brand name: Piperazine

QUINIODOCHLOR: Anti-diarrhoeal drug. Reason for ban : Damage to sight.
Brand name: Enteroquinol

13 December 2004

At home ...

One of the most beautiful pieces of prose I have read:

A snowy-white wand lambent atop stood on the table in front of me. Watery wax overflowed from the puddle below the flame. Teardrops glistening in the buttery glow rolled onto the milky mini-stalactites on the sides of the candle.
Was such a bright glow crying? The enveloping gloom seemed to make it cry. Tears of joy. A swaying smile. It lit my face in the darkness. It was six in the evening.
The power cuts in the summers of the late 80s and early 90s in Kolkata were like seasonal rainfall, interminable. They called it load shedding. When the power suppliers shed their load, we had to sit in the dark. The light bulbs seem to set with the sun. Bulbs cannot hold a candle to sunlight but in those days night meant no light. Candles were the staple source of brilliance in the night.
It was the solitary sight during the so-called load shedding. The taper was an ancient but necessary thing I used to think. Why, it was Brutus who said "Get me a taper in my study, Lucius: / When it is lighted, come and call me here/" in Julius Caesar. Homework meant two candles - one for the room and the other for the study table. And when my eyes drifted from the books to the flame I was transported to another world, mesmerized by effulgence of the honey glow.
I looked in the mirror across the room. The reflection of the candle flickering behind me, or was it in my eyes? It was beautiful. The glow brightened. I saw a feminine face. Tears rolling down her cheeks. Like the candle in the dark. Her face looked pale in the candlelight. The flickering candlelight made me strain my eyes to look at her reflection. I shielded the flame with my fingers. The glow brightened. She wasn't there anymore. Who was she?
Did she have a story to tell? The thought disturbed me. Years later I thought I had seen in the reflection of the flame other’s stories. Waiting to be seen. Waiting to be heard. Waiting to be told. I wanted to be a voyeur who desired to see it all. And a raconteur trying to narrate it all…

10 December 2004

How it feels to be hungry

I didn't have a meal yesterday. Not because of emotional or monetary difficulties, but for a religious reason.

It had been years since I felt the emptiness of my stomach. Not that it was totally empty. I ate fruits, drank milk and juice, but didn’t have a solid meal. Yet, my stomach kept rumbling through the day. I kept returning to thoughts of food: when would I have my next meal, what would I eat, etc. By evening, I began to feel a little weak and sleepy.

Most of you who are reading this blog have perhaps never been forced to be hungry, and perhaps will never be. Like me. We may choose to skip a meal because of work pressure, emotional ups and downs, or might even had some monetary difficulties at some point in life. But very few of us are doomed to a life of hunger.

And nowadays, it's like hunger doesn't exist. It's hardly discussed among most people I know. I think I last discussed it when I was in journalism school.

How does it feel to be hungry, to be hungry almost everyday, to be empty and weak all over, with head spinning? And even when you get to eat, it would perhaps be rotten, or just a morsel. Then you see such brutal prosperity all around. Brutal, because it can never happen to you. Brutal, also because it strikes your eye so. Rich buggers are everywhere. Why wouldn't I want to steal, snatch, cheat, kill, if that would mean two square meals a day? Perhaps I would do that even if it didn't mean two square meals a day. Just for the heck of it. Just to get back at them. Yes.

Once in journalism school, a debate was on about why mainstream media sidelines poverty. One bhadralok woman said it was because no one was interested, no one wanted to read about poverty and that not many were affected by poverty issues. I asked, "So is no one affected by crime, congestion in cities, pollution, unemployment, etc?"

I still haven't understood how we can pretend that poverty doesn't affect us. Are we so blind, or dumb? Or are we just inhuman? I don't know. Survival concerns of the poor are being neglected.
Villages are increasingly becoming poorer, unlivable, depressing, and empty. The rich farmers' households are pretty intact. I know a good-looking, well educated boy from a prosperous family in my village who can't find a bride for himself. Reason: every girl wants to marry someone who lives in the city, even if it may be in a one-room hole. These trends are ominous. They are all around us. We can be aware of them, if we want to. More often than not, we choose not to.

We, the educated middle class, have no time to protest about anything, so caught up are we with daily routines, and weekend relaxations. Most of us think that all's well because there are huge shiny plasticky shopping malls coming up all around us; because everything is so accessible, and because there's water running in our taps. Because we can get on to the Net and blog. Because we can end any substantial conversation with a 'whatever.' I don’t want to paint generalized pictures, but it is the default setting.

Hunger is dangerous, for everyone, regardless of your agreeing or your knowing. Recently a slum 'caught fire' in Mumbai. For good reasons, I am sure. After all, don’t you want to build more of those plush apartments where you can cuddle up and watch the TV with your family?

08 December 2004

Passion defined

Warning: very personal blog

I never knew I could be so crazy about an actor until I first watched his movie. The movie was Satya. I was filled with sheer delight to see such talent, but I also remember thinking that this guy had no chance in Bollywood. Reason being I thought he was too good for Bollywood.

On seeing Manoj Bajpai's later films, I realised that he would probably never see a day in his life when he'd have no roles. One doesn’t necessarily have to get roles in big banner films to grow as an actor. Good actors bring to the character more than its conceived capacity. Of course, they can contain themselves within the character, too.

His eyes have an intensity that is so convincing. He just had to mouth the dialogues in Shool: his eyes had done the job for him. It didn’t take Samar Pratap Singh much to woo an already dazed audience.

You can hardly miss his simplicity, on screen or off screen. No nakhras, or attempts at creating colourful personas. And somehow, I have connected so easily with him. I find him so believable. There are things that he believes in that I share and respect. Sometimes, I think, he is too good to be true. Sometimes, it's like this guy could have been in my college, my village, just living across the street.

I have always loved acting and had even thought of choosing it as my profession. I have done very little acting, but whenever I get to see some good acting, I get so involved. Vicarious pleasure. I recently re-visited all but four of MB's movies, excluding the newest one. And I saw something I had missed before: MB had been so consummated by his roles that MB, the person, was seen nowhere. I mean, that in Satya he is Bhiku Mhatre; in Kaun he is this nosy stranger; in Ghaath he is Krishna Patil. When I say, 'he is,' I mean, 'he is.' 100%. Of course, he brings to each role that characteristic finesse. But there is no leftover.

Each character is filled with fresh and unique life, stands on his own, speaks with natural ease, sits and walks as only he would. A good actor would know when to switch on and off her 'self,' and yet retain her core sensibilities that make the portrayal of the character so special. This may be a little dense, but hold on. It's just this: the actor steps out of herself, steps into the character, and comes home again. For this to happen, two things are essential: a substantial knowledge of the self and a total awareness of the character. This is easier said than done.

When I watched Bandit Queen, and then Satya, and then Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar, and then Aks and so on, I saw this happening. MB, the person, had dissolved into MB, the artiste. So I knew MB, so I didn’t know MB.

He has achieved this fluidity, this ease with his self and his characters. I once read in an interview of his that he had spent the night drinking beer in front of a Satya poster the day it released. Nothing can match the happiness you get when you do something that you were born for.

But my fears about Bollywood still persist. Its rarely able to give challenging scripts to a mature actor. I hope I am proved wrong.

01 December 2004

Where Google cant help me

Life is in disarray. Moving too fast. Damn slow sometimes.
Feels like great things are happening outside while I am sitting here typing this. Sigh.
No time to read, nor to write. Yet, I am not doing all the things that I want to.
Just no time. And sometimes I dont know what to do with it.
This too is not complete. How much more patience?
Want to go back to the start point. But am some way from it already.
No, its not that bad as it seems.
But sometimes I want to ..., let it be.
Music blaring in my ears. Cant hear it though.
Circle in the sand. Heaven is a place on earth.
When will I live the life I want to live? Where is it? One thing Google cant search for me.
Cathartic lines ...
Madness subsiding ...