Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tales of Christmas from Far and Wide.

This is how sometimes Christmas has played out for me over the years. Weather wise, Christmas this time has been the best. No snow, plenty of sun, and just enough cold to make one feel it's still the Christmas season. I made so much food that eventually I fell down in exhaustion and went to bed early. Next day, feeling fresh, I called India, where tales of all kinds abide in abundance. The latest one was of my aunt telling me how my dad's brother had gone quite mad; she said that he had made his wife the owner of all his property. Result - the wife promptly threw my uncle out and my uncle was effectively rendered homeless in one fell swoop. Now, nobody can wish him merry or happy Christmas. Still, no disrespect to my uncle, but I thought that it was a smart move, choosing a house over a husband.

I however made a different decision, albeit an early New Year's resolution that I will write one letter every year to no one in specific. This seems weird because just this year, I had chosen to stop sending greeting cards to all and sundry. The ones I’ve been receiving, have been dwindling with each passing year. Nonetheless this good feeling came from me putting up and lighting my Christmas tree, well in time. Most times it had been done when everyone was taking theirs down. I also managed to squeeze in some last minute shopping at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, just when the store closed and I stood pleading with L.L. Bean to let me in. I told them mayhem would result in my house if I did not get their famous slippers for my son. Anyway, not letting me in after the doors had closed on Christmas Eve - would not fly well with the spirit of Christmas. I was let in and let out in 5 minutes flat.

Anyway, in my home, until late in the afternoon, my younger one still hadn't opened his presents, so the older one decided to do the honor. He said ‘that’ was going to be exciting. Eventually two people opened one person’s presents amidst a lot of scuffles. Then on the other side of town, on Christmas day, my Mum's alarm decided to go off at 3 a.m. for no apparent reason. She of course doesn't know anything about alarms and what made them work; nobody does. She threw some shoes at it, then when it hung precariously by some wires, ran and woke up some neighbors. One of them just took the battery out. I told her to leave the alarm alone and come to my place for some good cheer. Thank God, the season is going to be spread out in my house for some more days because my husband’s presents haven’t arrived yet under the Christmas tree; they will after Christmas and perhaps New Year. Should I blame Santa? Thankfully my husband understands I mean well. After all, he’s not transferring the property to me. I am willing to share my presents with him. He can read one book while I read the other. That truly is the Christmas spirit.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Death of a Dear Departed Despot - Kim Jong IL

I saw North Koreans fainting over the news of death of Kim Jong il. Then there were army generals and military officials looking shattered and broken and sobbing. Was the army really expressing sorrow? Have the people known any better or worse than these 'despicable dear leaders'? North Korea is a country where besides a thin sliver of elite, the rest of the population is in a constant state of starvation and death. But what do the dear leaders care? They must fire missiles at something; they must have the marches and drills; they must have every nook and corner of the country plastered with all dead and alive dear leaders' unsmiling faces. 

This is a country where the military presence is seen everywhere and where the unseen secret service and government spies can be felt everywhere. This is a country where if a tear failed to fall in an expression of sorrow over the dear leader, it could easily be 20 years of hard labor; where a nervous smile could fetch another 10 years; where if the dramatics of despondency did not rise to the expected levels, entire families and generations could be shot dead - if they were lucky. This is a country where thousands just fall down and die each day; where for the rare visitor, villages are moved en masse to avoid giving the wrong impression, where stores are routinely stocked with artificial food, where terror reigns supreme and people are just shells of their selves.

Maybe those army generals were really shedding tears of joy at the opportunity for a coup. Just maybe those wretched people were really fainting from hunger and starvation and did not even have an inkling of the death of a despot. Those dear departed leaders were not supposed to die. They were mythical entities, good enough to be worshipped. Perhaps a sincere prayer could have gotten them a few grains of rice. China  will be worried it will have starving masses cross into their land; South Koreans will not want to recognize their brothers in such dire conditions; the world will worry about a power vacuum in the Kim Land and those starving North Koreans - well that tragedy will just go on.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Wanted: Ugly Indian.

The newest fad is Wanted: Ugly Indian!
No longer will advertisements of 'wanted fair and beautiful' be relevant. That is history now. It's the age of the ugly now. Every once in a while, a true people's movement comes along where its participants sweep away not only the rot but old attitudes and dysfunctional thinking. Here are a bunch of true occupiers where they occupy for just enough time to claim what was theirs, do the deed, and move on. These are the true Gandhians where they are truly the change they want to see. Forget Anna and his fasts. Forget all those hollow men and women. Here are a bunch of people who took it upon themselves to get India to shine again albeit in small corners. But it's the corners that have begun to stretch into streets and roads and soon enough the change is going to traverse the entire country. The onus is on destruction and transformation - of the dirty, the filthy, the smelly - to places of beauty, not monuments and Taj Mahals but simple walk ways and roads that people will take pleasure of stepping into and corners they will want to snuggle into.

No, the Ugly Indian did not have marches and protests. They became the protest with their brooms and pans. For most of us, this would have been too lowly. Here is true grit. In the face of the mammoth task, Ugly Indians did not shrivel and retire in their pristine homes,  they did not hold their noses when they stepped in those pot holes and puddles of murky  water, they did not avoid those marked and stained walls of piss and spit. They did not change their path. They altered reality. They made the path decent enough to walk on. Ugly Indian is truly a remarkable phenomenon where the ordinary has been transformed into the extraordinary by sheer tenacity in the face of filth. It is a shame that our politicians and other elected leaders who pay themselves plenty for doing nothing - never saw the need for a clean and healthy country. Street by street, block by block, city by city - the Ugly Indian is making its mark. It's time to claim our land. It's time to belie beauty and become the Ugly Indian.   

Notes: The Ugly Indian is a grassroots community organization; their motto shut up and do it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Obama Pardons a Turkey at Thanksgiving.

At last Obama got something; he pardoned a couple of turkeys for the annual Thanksgiving Holiday. He did this by himself - unilaterally without having to go to Congress. Earlier I did hear him complain about America's unilateral ways but the last I heard, Obama had ordered some kind of action in Libya or Egypt without bothering to check with Congress. Fortunately, with the help of many people, most of the dictators were dragged, displaced or delivered with death. Wasn't Obama adamant about slicing and dicing America's role in the world? But what does a man from Chicago know about the world much less about America itself. Anyway, coming back to the turkey that was pardoned, I saw him lift his hand and make a sign of the cross much like how the Pope does; then in his Thanksgiving address he thanked everybody except the good old Almighty; maybe the atheist-lobby got to the President before the God-lobby did. Nonetheless the nation felt relieved or at least I did at having been spared the cost of the turkey being added to the million trillion debt. To all appreciating eyes, the turkey was not borrowed from China.

I was also genuinely struck by the label Made in USA on the turkey's feathers or maybe there was Made in China stamped on its belly. Anyway with so much turmoil, I couldn't be sure of either. Somehow I do think that Obama deprived me of a turkey this year. The turkey that was pardoned was meant to come to my place but never made it beyond the White House gardens. So I had chicken instead but still managed to say thanks for all I had, have, and will have. Well at least the turkey got to see Obama because the Congress didn't and neither did I. Obama was clearly missing in action when Congress was supposed to be acting on behalf of the country to reduce its debt through cuts in its scandalous spending. It did not happen and the turkey-pardoning-man instead turned noble again and pardoned the whole miserable Congress for their behavior. After all, they had to get home for Thanksgiving Dinners - to give thanks that despite a miserable performance they still managed to keep their seats; and that while the country went down they made plenty profit from nefarious deals and insider trading, enough for many of their own generations to stay plump and stuffed.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Iran's Fanatic Regime

A man is going to be put to death because he chooses to follow a different path to God. They give him a few chances to repent, to renounce his religion, but for the past 3 years the Pastor has steadfastly declined and said that he could not go back, will not go back, cannot go back. His Christian faith is intrinsic to him just as theirs is to them. The only difference is that Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani doesn't plan to kill any of them for practicing or not practicing their own Islamic faith. Just like Pastor Yousef, there thousands of other believers around the world who face a similar fate. Many blame religion and God for the mess. But is it really that or is it the people who force their version of God and religion on others around? Are we living in the 7th century or is this the 21st where disturbing things of this nature are still occurring?

Much brouhaha occurred over ‘draw mohd day’. Just a threat of Koran burning brought out a vehement reaction from the Muslim world joined in chorus by sane people all over the world. Now here we have a seriously disturbing situation in Iran. Ahmadinejad, President of the Iranian theocracy is presiding over plans to put Pastor Yousef to death for apostasy. To that has been added crimes of Zionism and espionage for good measure. This man of Iran comes to the UN in New York every year and denounces America, its ways, its people and ironically gets rewarded for that. He gets invited for lunch to some Ivy League Colleges where he impresses upon impressionable minds the sensibility of intolerance, bigotry, and America's evil ways. Perhaps in passing he also mentions the anathema of all religions except his own.  But of course, he’s not put to death for that. To date, nobody has entertained the idea of throwing his behind in jail for a few years and then maybe beheading him for his despicable views and fatal plans for Jews, Christians, Women, Gays, and everyone who is not like him.

Rogues like Ahmadinejad come to the United Nations, get further emboldened in the company and power of similar twisted thinking, go back home, and happily persecute minority groups or people who may not agree with them; some who may just want a taste of freedom (that Ahmadinejad and others enjoy), people who want to be left in peace with their ways. Well it just doesn't happen that way. Minorities like Christians, Buddhists, Ahmadiyas, Sufis continue to live in abject fear just because they foolishly and maybe bravely continue to defy the apostasy law. They would rather die (alone) than give up something that sustains them. Thousands continue to be persecuted, arrested, tortured, and left to rot in Iranian jails each year. Some pay with their lives while others go underground; still others flee their homeland never to see it again.

This is not just about a brave man Yousef Nadarkhani who is standing up for his faith; this about all people who have to live in fear every day of their lives just because their belief system is different; who have chosen to renounce a religion which seems cumbersome and violent and continues to preach death and destruction to all infidels. Well, many may protest this is not true but to them I say, speak loud and clear, louder and clearer than the ones preaching hatred and intolerance. I was just as disturbed about the destruction of the centuries old - the towering Bamiyan Buddhist Statues in Afghanistan and the 16th century Babri Masjid in India. Religious fanatics razed both to the ground. These were not just structures but icons of faiths and part of our collective history. Fanatics may have deprived us from relishing these edifices but certainly not from solidifying them in resolve of some kind. This systematic putting to death of people who are not interested in following Islam, in Iran and other parts of the world - must stop. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I am what I yam: My Film Days at MassCom, Jamia.

I am what I yam: My Film Days at MassCom, Jamia.: My film days have been sitting quietly somewhere in the recesses of my mind but it was a thesis in the form of a comment from a Jamia buddy ...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My Film Days at MassCom, Jamia.

My film days have been sitting quietly somewhere in the recesses of my mind but it was a thesis in the form of a comment from a Jamia buddy on something I wrote that ignited the memories again. It was Shukul with his dog that got me in the Film School also known as Mass Communication Research Center now known as AJK MCRC formally immortalizing Mr Kidwai, its Chancellor. There were two to four of us scheduled for an interview at this new phenomenon of a film and video school in Jamia University. I'm not quite sure of the politics of it but MassCom was supposed to offer an alternative to FTII, the only school of films known to be of any consequence in a country reeking of a film industry aka Bollywood going back as long as the country's independence. Anyway on the fateful day, I was surprised to see a dog accompanying a prospective student to this school. I heard Shukul say how tense the atmosphere was that even his dog could feel it. I personally didn't see the dog feel anything. When I went inside, there was Mr Beverege, Mr Kidwai and a few more people. Mr B asked if anything spectacular was happening out there. I said yes I could act it out. So I did Shukul's lanky walk, repeated his disgusts, and did the dog as well for good measure. Highly impressed, the company asked me to do the ever ineffable Mr Kidwai himself. I borrowed his pipe and did a Kidwai impression as well. Such were the vagaries of life. I got accepted in the degree course where I spent two years drinking tea, smoking cigarettes, and sometimes discussing film theory. 

MassCom was Mr Kidwai's baby so naturally he remained the most sought after except Mr Kid didn't seem to remember any faces or any order of things. We got used to being looked through by Mr Kid thinking our time to be recognized by the Chancellor (and world) would surely come. In fact Mr Kid seemed to forget things and most people in a very short span of time. Many times his chauffeur had to come back without him because Mr Kid was lost and couldn't be found. It seems when the chauffeur opened the door and Mr Kid stepped in, he also forgot to sit down and just as quietly slid out the other door of the car. These were the times we saw Mr Kid drifting around the campus looking for a place to settle in. Mr Kid reminded me of Einstein especially when he could be seen wandering looking disheveled with his perpetually unlit pipe. Some however claimed to have seen smoking jackets when Mr Kid put lit pipes in there. Not from our batch, but from the first one, Matiur was Mr Kid's favorite besides his own grandson Salim who was the defacto student at MassCom. Salim walked and talked as if he owned the place and maybe his grandfather as well. Many philosophers have recommended this attitude. Anyway, at a time when personal transportation was extremely rare, I got to sit a couple of times in Salim's little red car. While Salim did his strut, Matiur continued in the softest cadences laced with a wit that was caustic at times and sometimes indecipherable as well. He was as close a mentor as I could have gotten and a great poet as well. 

Rahul was the only one who seemed to have his wits about him along with a legitimate Nikon camera with all lenses. Ershad and Mukesh were almost like twins. They looked a tiny duo but were surprisingly the most gallant of all the boys in our class. They flitted in and out of MassCom; nobody messed with them and they didn't bother anyone either. Mukesh in fact walked me home many late evenings when I felt like he needed some protection! Ershad unfortunately had a nasty accident which pretty much left him paralyzed. I wish him continued recovery. We had another duo, an outrageous one - Akhtar and Anu who were good buddies but if given swords, would've drawn them often. Nonetheless Akhtar kept us all entertained with his never ending jokes and songs, teasing the girls incessantly especially Jodha Bai aka Shikha. Anu and I managed to work together on our first audio-visual project on Sahara, a rehabilitation center for drug and alcohol addiction. We got so enthralled by the place that we almost forgot we were at MassCom and had a degree to complete. While Anu grew out of it, Sahara continued to be a big part of my life for a long time. Anu however remains a good friend and dramatic as ever. I cannot ignore Stan the Man who entrenched himself permanently on our psyche with his potty mouth and the mohowk which caused quite a stir in the conservative Jamia University. I think they all let it go because Stan was one of 'those' MassCom people. 

The only formidable lot for me at MassCom was the group of eight girls. Anu and I were not invited to be a part of this group. It seemed juvenile and reminded me of school girls ganging up. The gang of eight talked together, laughed together, worked together. They had the sense to band together under the banner MediaStorm and do their stint with their first documentary when the rest of us were just drinking tea. No boys ever dared come near them barring Pankaj who was their collective favorite and of course Akhtar who couldn't be stopped anyway. I stayed away as much as possible and surprisingly became friends with one-of-the-eight Gadihokee only after 20 years through the 90 year old Homaiji, not in India but in America. Even after so many years Gadi remained pretty and industrious as ever. Kauser however soured my time briefly with her pig headed ways of literally sitting on a required-reading-book for days on end. The Professor's instructions were to circulate the book. Requesting, begging, threatening didn't seem to work. So in sheer exasperation, I was forced to throw in a punch or two laced with some profanity. The inventory staff who heard the scuffle seemed to be less shocked than amused. Now here was a true spectacle fit to be discussed over many rounds of tea. Kauser thankfully walked away from this fracas flushed with dignity and only some hair out of place. I remained book-less for the rest of the term. Sigh, paucity of resources brings about such meaningless acrimony.

Our final film project was a 5 minutes 16 mm film. From a class of 30, only five scripts were going to be chosen which meant the chosen scripts were also the Directorial debuts of those writers. The rest had to work in different capacities in those 5 films. Surely MassCom wasn't expecting us to turn into full fledged filmmakers with not even a final project for film students. Whatever happened to the Canadians who had promised plenty of funds and resources? No wonder some of us found every opportunity to question the Instructors sent specially from Canada to teach those Indian kids. Ah well at least we still received the paltry sum of Rs. 400 or something like that from MassCom. The princely amount was supposed to make us feel like professionals. It certainly paid for the tea and samosas. Nonetheless, I was genuinely happy with the gift. So, what became of us? Some did well and are still in the profession. Some like me digressed into other areas where I continue to tell stories in words rather than pictures; sometimes the words form pictures and that's good enough for me. What I learned about the mechanics of film-making in two years, my 16 year old did in two hours and produced a perfectly fine documentary complete with narration, music, graphics, and story! One of our batch got famous and infamous simultaneously when he sued the City of New York through ACLU and settled for a hefty sum with the promise of never returning to the US again! Some are teaching and others are being taught. A few from our class got themselves husbands, wives, children while others remained content with cats, dogs, parrots, pigeons, and even lions. Abdullah, I am told, is quite happy with a family of humans and some kites.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I am what I yam: Occupy People.

I am what I yam: Occupy People.: It's been months of drums and horns but I am still not sure what the hullabaloo is about or what exactly do the Occupy People want. I am ass...

Occupy People.

It's been months of drums and horns but I am still not sure what the hullabaloo is about or what exactly do the Occupy People want. I am assuming the Occupy People also want jobs and money. Yes, I've heard stories about Wall Street excesses but don't the Occupy People want those excesses for themselves as well? After all, Wall Street is about making money and more money from money. It's called capitalism aka free enterprise aka choices of going and getting some yourself. But of course, it all depends on how you want to go about it and would you rest with just a wing of a plane or would you want the whole jet. A lot of the protestors look fresh out of college and most seem to be in a daze at the injustice of having no job prospects. Were they not promised that with a college education? There are groups and thugs waiting and spurring them on from the wings. The pure of heart could not possibly see the evil lurking around the corner. Or maybe it's the cloud of smoke hanging over the streets of occupation. Wheels of change many times do not seem to move or even fast enough and in fact unexpectedly grind to a halt  No matter what anyone says, Wall Street is not America; its people are but how could the protestors see all this? They have much to trash and burn and follow in the foot steps of their European-cousins-in-riots. Perhaps they are hoping to replace the system with a similar defunct one. 

I also think the Occupy People have the wrong address. I've heard things like 'bailouts' and 'share' and 'inequity' and 'corruption' and all the bad things; is there utopia out there somewhere?  The right address according to me is Pennsylvania Avenue or somewhere where Obama and his administration operate out of. It was they who gave billions in bailouts, took over culprit organizations, promised more billions in bonuses to pitiable performers, gave tax payers money to dying projects, supposedly stimulated the economy while the unemployment rate refused to budge. In short nothing changed and the country went deeper into debt. As I see it, only a few individuals were ecstatic along with China. I heard a few youngsters hollering and hooting about how much fun this occupy thing was till their Blackberrys and iMacs and iPods got stolen. Maybe those items went to the ones not having any. Truly socialism in play. I also heard anti-semitism and other racist comments not quite in line with idealistic and tolerant people. Then there are others in the motley crowd like bare naked ladies and Muslim groups (a safe distance from each other), Tibetan monks, dope heads, poets, drummers, dancers, singers, thieves, crooks, filmmakers (with millions stashed away and perhaps invested in Wall Street), and of course the homeless - generally confused about the Occupiers occupying their space. All in all, Occupy People will continue be a lively crowd till the cold and snow make their way. Wars have been lost because of uncompromising weather.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Salivating on 9/11. (Written on September 12, 2011)

Yes, many around the Muslim countries were seen gloating at the expression of sorrow on 9/11. Other reprehensible characters, the ones known as terrorists may have been salivating and ready in full gear to go out and attack on this commemorative day. Thank God, the Intelligence and the protective forces, America stayed safe on this day. Sadly enough, prayer or any expression of it was absent on this day - thanks to the ultra politically correct Mayor of NY. Who was he worried about offending - Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, or maybe the Islamic terrorists themselves? In fact, the Mayor did a disservice to the Muslim community. This would have been an appropriate time for Muslims in America to show their allegiance to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. Well, that is what is claimed by most of them although that is not what a few are aspiring toward. I suppose the pledge of allegiance didn't mean much. This would have been a wonderful opportunity for the Muslim clergy as well to reassure on behalf of other followers who did not support or harbor extreme views.
What could have been more reassuring than a little prayer service at the ceremony? Atheists, Liberals and secularists could have been a little generous and ignored the majority's whims and fancies for this day; the rest could have just reflected or prayed for peace and strength. But here was a Mayor who made the decision under the garb of being secular. Did he forget that religion was clearly the motive behind 9/11 attacks? No matter what wool anybody tries to pull over our eyes, all thinking people understand the despicable ideology that was the basis of this attack and all other terrorist attacks in the past few years. Radical Islam may have a small percentage of followers but that percentage translates into millions and millions of followers with additional millions supporting the cause. Seems like radical Islam is winning over peaceful Islam. I think it's time Muslims took their religion back or non-Muslims rose up strong to defend their way of life. We all have a right to exist and exist well we must.

Friday, July 29, 2011

When my Sister visits...

No, we don't lock horns. In fact, I'm just too happy to get rid of them for a week, two weeks, two months, two years - whatever my sister Jackie chooses. Yes, she tells me but she adds so many destinations to her itinerary that by the time I finally grasp it, she is eager to get back to her original place. I tell her be like the Indians, ring the bell or better just walk in because you happened to be in the neighborhood. She does not believe in traveling light. Her visit means countless bags and suitcases and more bags and suitcases. I won't be surprised if some day I saw a house parked outside just as an after thought to the bags and my sister's arrival. My mind goes into an endless debate of Nurture vs Nature. I quickly move from horror to resignation and then quietly slink into a state of discombobulation. 

How could my sister be so different from me? Did we not grow up in the same household? Did we not eat the same foods and breathe the same air? She leaves nothing to chance. There is no concept of let it be. She is akin to the shark. If she doesn't keep moving she might dissipate. I believe in doing nothing. What I am trying to figure out is how did she develop this love of the kitchen and cooking? I follow the police advice when they get a distress call - avoid the kitchen; it has lethal weapons. For me, the place is dangerous as well till my sister arrives. She attacks it, reduces it to mush, readies it for consumption. I hear my husband and children sigh with relief. I also detect loud rumblings of awe from them. No more will they starve. I sigh.

Jackie knows exactly what she's doing. The kitchen knows it too. It better do. If it were not my home she were visiting, I would be forbidden from it too. Somehow Jackie condescends to let me linger there, just near the sink, just within reach to pass her the ingredients so she can whip up the magic. I am just a souffle or as the French put it Sous Chef. Those French need their own script. Anyway, between loads of heavenly aromas, stories are exchanged, tears are shed; Jackie has a tendency to dissolve into real and imagined childhood tales of having been mistreated - by her sibling, her aunts and uncles, nuns, the world in general. After we go over the mistreatment and cruelty, she regretfully takes off a few from the list. Her husband gets worried, the dark mood may shift to the kitchen and he may collapse with hunger or inattention. 

It's a good time. For brief moments I am no longer in charge; I like it. I feel the same when my Mum is around; something tells Jackie and my Mum there is a desperate need for them in the kitchen and elsewhere. They are survivors and they see the miserable lot around them survive as well. Heaven forbid if on their watch, anyone decides to take a break from surviving! Is there any thing to eat - is a phrase of the past; it's almost as if the phrase never existed. I feel less than a ghost; at least ghosts have a purpose; I have none. Somebody I know found loads of intentions and purposes while in Timbaktu. Perhaps I should head there. There is no paucity of finding things there. Things are always there. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Einstein's Theory Up for Grabs.

If Einstein were alive, his theory of gravity would be put thoroughly to test by those low-ridin-jeans-and-shorts worn by teenagers and specifically by American teenagers. Sagging is believed to have been started by men serving time in US prisons where belts are prohibited. The style was quickly picked up by hip-hop artists and since then became a symbol of rebellion without cause in a land of limitless freedom! In the sagging world, jeans and shorts are worn so low that it is a preposterous phenomenon representing gravity or no gravity. In the sagging world, jeans and shorts are worn so low that I'm absolutely amazed how they manage to stay up especially around the lower butt area. Considering the relatively hazardous nature of those low lying jeans - underwear comes to occupy a very important position. No longer are men's and boys' underwear a nugatory issue; the under becomes the over in the topsy turvy world of fashion. In fact, any underwear that threatens to remain under will not do. Thus those good old white Calvin Kleins or Fruit of the Loom commonly called tighty-whities or tidy-whities become an absolute taboo. Underpants in fact have to be specifically boxers; must be checkered and screaming loud. Green or purple is highly desirable. Not to be left behind, girls are into the game as well with pinks, yellows, and oranges.

Considering the gravity of the situation,Einstein could've come up with a formula but as the greatest scientist of the century is not around, I came up with my own, after careful deliberations, observations, and calculations. Something must give way and for any change to occur and as change must occur from time to time for survival to survive, the boring must give way to the exciting. After burning the midnight lamp and giving myself some fantastic headaches for which I have strange proclivities, I finally came up with a decent answer. The way those teenagers kept their low riders perched below their butts was by transforming their walk and talk. As far as the talk was concerned - it mostly focused on changing the good old tenses - where you at, where you, you is where, I is here, do she, he do, etc. Regarding the walk, well that gets performed with the legs spread out at by least a foot or more; in short, sagging requires teenagers to waddle. Gone are the days when the mark of a good pair of jeans was seen by how the human butt got transformed!

So, as the purpose of jeans gets defeated day by day, they've now come to have a mind of their own. Unlike the last remaining miserable communist places, jeans are free to travel anywhere they feel like. Sometimes the jeans go way down under and beyond the shoes. So if you see a pair of jeans walking by themselves, you would know there is a teenager somewhere inside them. Cops of course love this fashion; makes it easier for them to pursue culprits at a leisurely pace. They can even have a donut and coffee on a hot pursuit. During such escapades, teenagers forget all conjoining theories of speed and momentum. The faster they run, the better chance the low riding jeans have of falling off completely. Still it'svery rare that teenagers get caught. When facing extreme danger, their flight instinct takes over the sagging fashion; they pick up those jeans and make a mad dash. Even Gazelles look puzzled and question the nature of things. 

Nonetheless, teenagers thrive in chaos and when they discover their own creation ready to swallow them, they lose all hope and descend further into the sagging world of jeans. Trotting horizontally and pretending to talk nonchalantly on their cell phones, they feel a sense of doom with cops right around the corner. Sagging jeans present them with a great dilemma; if they pulled them off, it would be admitting defeat; if they pulled them up, they would fall in the eyes of their peers. As speed adds to the predicament of descending jeans, teenagers begin the getaway by increasing the distance between their legs and feet. The unfortunate jeans decide they can no longer serve the purpose of attire or fashion and slump to the ground defeated. When teenagers sense danger they can put Olympic athletes to shame. Cops walking or cruising provide the perfect impetus. Sagging jeans are quickly abandoned, acceleration is adopted for which the under-rated boxers serve mighty well, and off the teenagers go like missiles in search of another fashion or freedom.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kids and the Bane of Stability.

My husband and I (we hope) have provided so much boredom in the guise of stability for our kids, that we are now officially stuck in the unbearable lightness of invisibility. If not for the stiffness and some wheezing and groaning, we could be the invisible residents of Skokie. Interestingly, this invisibility took on a completely different weight when I was growing up. Erratic as hell, my family left me confused to a great degree. Vacuum was another name for the adrift nature of things that occurred from the absence of direct parental involvement, which consequently allowed me to thrive well and additionally excite the age old debate of Nature versus Nurture. Trying to explore the middle ground, I haltingly asked my older one to rate our performance as parents from a scale of 0-10. I was ready to explode at any number below 5. He gave us a resounding 8.5. Fair enough I said. The other missing 1.5 I could fill in with some groundings. I don't know how he got that percentage but he is a Statistics-Math child and very sharp with numbers and understands those seemingly minute percentages with enormous consequences. It's the exact placement of the dot, whether in the middle of the forehead or before a number or after it that hold the key. 

My parents were invisible too, much more in togetherness. I didn't see them or hear them for periods of time. But in all this, I knew and felt that they were always there and as things would have it, are there even more now with a vengeance. Such is the power of parenthood. There and not there. Something like God. On the other hand, my earthly power comes from owning responsibility for both denial and acceptance. And I do like to exercise that once in a while with the kids. I do not expect them to be happy about it but what is a bit of being upset on their part compared to the vast array of opportunities that I envision for them. I have been called soppy and when angry have been told to stop throwing tantrums! I may not be the perfect parent or find my way in one shot but I am there in the vicinity, lurking somewhere, just like my parents, perhaps like a Bhoot. I like Bhoots (ghosts). 

My husband sighs our kids are not interested in anything. But he forgets how beautifully they play soccer. The older one moves the ball deftly with a purpose; the younger one blasts the ball with his power play. Both styles are admirable. Father forgets how many friends the kids have and how much they love hanging out. They do so in parks and play grounds where kicking and horsing around is as important an activity as any other. They enjoy movies and restaurants and concerts especially if they can sneak in for free. Half the pleasure lies in doing things surreptitiously. They are of the age when halting traffic by putting on emergency lights for no reason at all is the greatest thing on earth; running into unknown neighborhoods and playing a hoop or two on someone's private basketball court is a blast. They enjoy the spectacle of irate home owners running after them with base ball bats and yelling profanity to get the hell off their property. I am glad they do this outside our home.

I understand how many kids are ready, responsible, involved, focussed - but that's them. I was one of those kinds too and narrowly escaped becoming a complete burn-out. Some kids bloom rapidly while others do so erratically. I have both kinds. All I know is my kids are assured beings which comes from being free. They possess plenty sauciness and no visible gratitude for things which I feel should be done in this life at this time at that very moment. They ask why and aren't things supposed to be this way? They know nothing better. They are comfortable in their skin and if ever they feel rootless, I can share some of mine which stretch across many lands and oceans. I do however leave them a little confused with my joys at profanity. Nothing quite beats a volley of curses. For all parents, their child is the best; and so I am at peace with ours as well. They will eventually soar or flap or glide; they will see the world with all its beauty and ugliness; they will hopefully explore and continue to be in shock and awe at the absurdity of it all. I hope life will be kind and they learn to appreciate both the yin, yang, and twang.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gold Finger.

My husband's childhood friend (Sunand) came for a visit complete with his two kids, mother, Macs but sans wife and jackets. Even his child figured out that the further north you moved, the colder it got and she's just 7! Nonetheless, the shifty nature of Chicago weather and and its politics should have been well known. No wonder it's called the 'The Windy City'. The friend lives in Indianapolis, the name a mouthful by itself and often mis-pronounced as Indiana-police by many (Indians and others). There have been many instances of the lost and confounded being sent off to different Indiana police stations when seeking directions to Indianapolis. English is a tough language and unfortunately not phonetic like Hindi or even Spanish. We Indians have a hard time pronouncing some names here in the US.

Anyway, our friend was in Chicago for an Indian wedding where anything less than the color of gold is unacceptable. So in keeping with the Indian tradition, the 7 year old son was donned with shaadi gear and a beautiful gold ring. I'm sure the ring looked perfect with the shaadi clothes except for the unfortunate fact that the ring grew smaller and tighter or the child's finger grew bigger and bulkier as the hours went by. I noticed the finger being red and bulging around the ring; told Sunand about it and from there on our entire house was plunged into a frantic activity going across state lines. Grandma said get oil; I said which oil - almond, sesame or arnica.; my husband said forget all oils, bring out the soap. My evil teenage children suggested a big saw for the finger and the ring. The child screamed and I'm sure the gold ring shrank even further. Sunand quickly got on the phone with his wife in Massachusetts. 

From Massachusetts, Sunand's wife gave some brilliant suggestions albeit one at a time; put the child's hand in hot water which would expand the ring. I protested what about the finger that would expand simultaneously as well. I was ignored. Sunand quickly gathered the confused child and headed off to the bathroom. Some whimpering was heard and within a few seconds before gold could even think of expanding, Sunand came out as quickly as he'd gone in. Grandma cried out in horror. Our friend was back on the phone with his wife. This time she said use ice cold water. The child wailed that he would freeze. Sunand asked my husband for one ice-cube. My husband said one was not going to be enough; three ice-cubes at least were needed for freezing one little finger. I said ice was going to shrink both the ring and the finger thus making everything redundant. I was ignored completely, again.

The only one who cared to expand the conversation at any time was the other non-gold-ring-child, the one mentioned in the first paragraph. She stated in a matter-of-fact manner how difficult it would be for her brother to eat his food with one finger missing! Meanwhile, having run out of options and the ring being stubborn about staying stuck on the finger, I sighed and suggested trying some jeweler who kept special pliers or saws to cut rings off. (Somehow marriage bands also tend to get tighter and tighter as years of marriage go by. My husband and I have both landed at the jeweler's at different times). This time I was heard, my advice heeded, and everyone looked hopeful of finding a jeweler that would be open on a Saturday evening except the gold-ring-child who was completely oblivious to all the whirlwind of confusion and fuss around him. Ah those adults and their incessant worries!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

An Obituary of Sorts.

It is an unnatural phenomenon when the young die young. Even after 15 odd years, my friend Sonali's demise kept hovering on the periphery of my existence; poking me, prodding me, nudging my sensibilities; the phenomenon a complete conundrum to me. More so because the elements seemed to have defeated the impervious youth at their own game. Sonali was bright, beautiful, and kind. She wanted to see the world and she did. She did this with such ferocity that the skies opened for her. She circled the world many times over. I cannot point the way to heaven but do hope her spirit is rested, refreshed, and replenished with all the flights she has taken.  

I never thought she would go away. In fact, I never believed it - for her, for me, for anyone else. There was a cloak of invincibility which was hard to shake off; or perhaps it was the obdurate nature of things that prevented me from seeing. Sooner or later I would have to  let my guard down; I did and it was scary. The water was too when it rose up and swallowed my friend. Was this the rush she desired? Did she have a moment to breathe or did she hold her breath never to take one again. What happened to the gentle rhythm of life? Were we not destined to oscillate; to glide with the ebb and flow of life?

RIP Sonali. 
For years, I've wanted to know what happened. I gleaned bits of information from here and there. I did not say good bye; well I did but not with the intention of never seeing her again. There were some regrets at not keeping in touch. I don't remember life being that full that it allowed me to fail so miserably at reaching out. It's that apathy that we all fall into; that glaze which blocks our vision. I should have allowed chinks of light to penetrate the armor. My friend Anu said let it go. I said it was unfinished business and could not be laid to rest. Other friends like Rohin, Reena, Chhabi and many more never gave up missing Sonali. She continues to come alive ever so often.

Many years ago, Sonali gave me Roget's Thesaurus. I still have it. The web almost destroyed it but words of endearment inside made it almost sacrosanct. She often visits me in my dreams which Doc Samson said was the creative force striving to be unleashed. Another friend Kat made it her mission to seek and destroy all myths surrounding the affair. She said she will find a rock for me and carry Psalm 40 with her; she said we will bury this together. I have to do this for all of us; I also have to borrow Emily Dickinson for the closing: my life closed twice before its close; it yet remains to see if immortality unveil a third event to me, so huge, so hopeless to conceive, as these that twice befell; parting is all we know of heaven, and all we need of hell.

Thank you Kat and all who helped. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Are Pakistanis the highest paid people?

For years, I've wanted to develop the unique style of getting paid for doing nothing. Zen Masters developed this philosophy but it's the Pakistanis who fine-tuned it to an art. Maybe I should have found a house in Abbottabad - the place where Osama had been living for the past 5 to 7 years. It certainly seemed like a good place. Neighbors minded their own business; high walls didn't scare anyone; nobody noticed the growing number of non-school-going children or that no one ever emerged from that house. Pakistanis were so well behaved in Abbottabad that nothing seemed to distract them from their daily affairs; even flying saucers and helicopters were tolerated with good spirit. However for me, the most amazing thing to emerge from all this was how on earth did the Pakistanis ever figure out Zen. They're not normally given to thinking. Scheming, screaming, burning are more their style.

Forget the GDP of China or USA or any other country. These countries have been left far behind in the earning potential of any group of individuals. Pakistan has now surpassed all countries in its earnings, more so for doing nothing. They in fact got paid in billions by both Osama and Obama for sitting pretty and twiddling their beards. Obama thought Pakistan was hard at work and Osama thought the same as well. In all this mayhem, Indians watched the scenario with a smug smile. They knew how to beat Pakistan at their own game even though it was just cricket. The game can excite passions like no other and India and Pakistan can go to war at the drop of a ball or a wicket.

In reality, Abbottabad, nestled within a stone's throw of the Pakistan army, was the perfect place for OBL. There Osama lived and occasionally took time off from porn and having babies to deliver his many diatribes against the evil America and Israel. There was no way any US satellite could have found a point of attack on the crumpled bed sheet that served as the background for his many threatening video deliveries to the world. The world also watched the magic of Osama's beard turning different colors; sometimes black, sometimes grey, and sometimes even a mixed shade of gray. For decades, Americans watched the drama of Osama's beard haplessly. They just could not figure out who was supplying the hair color to Osama! Finally they nabbed the courier, dropped some water in his nose aka water boarded him, sent in the SEALS and voila just like that Osama was dead.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Old Man Osama and the Sea.

Did Hemingway have Osama in mind when he wrote his book? Who is going to write the sequel of the sharks, sea, and Osama now? It took almost a decade to get Osama Bin Laden aka OBL. Taliban is upset at Pakistan because they did such a poor job at hiding Osama. US generosity and their caves had served well, both for OBL and his goats. Even though Pakistan is Taliban's sugar daddy whose grand sugar daddy in turn is Saudi Arabia - OBL's capture, death, and being thrown in the sea, now will have their women throw off those despicable garments with a greater ferocity. More speeches, from all sides of the mouth will be delivered. However, on the financial level, I am hoping that Pakistan will lose millions and millions of dollars, both from the Saudis and the US. Saudis had showered them with a cart load of millions to hide OBL in caves or compounds; the US to seek and destroy OBL. They failed miserably on both fronts. The head is gone but the body will show the world what it can do minus the head. The big fat challenge is out and there will be quite a few rounds of bombings and suicide missions to go around the world. 

So what else can the US do now? One enemy Saddam was vanquished and hanged by the Iraqis. Iraqis got loads of freedom only to turn around and curse the US. The world too joined in the chorus but quickly got distracted and dropped some bombs on Gaddafi's compound. In response one particular friend in Australia raved and ranted about labor issues and the corporate world! Others I noticed revived the issue of propping up OBL in Afghanistan. I got confused. Of course, the US has been senile in its policies. But what could be more insane than OBL starting a world wide movement (WWM) within a stone's throw of the world wide web (WWW). We'll still get to see the finger-wag and threats to annihilate al and sundry and other such blah blah blah. Obama removed the b from his name and put an s in its place, rolled up his sleeves, did a few more rounds of Golf, found some more euphemisms for terrorism, and said, that's it, if I can't get Muanmmar Gaddafi because that name is too difficult, let me try the simpler and similar sounding name of Osama; Obama-Osama. 

Maybe O also lost patience with the extreme myopic vision of the Pakistanis who couldn't see just below their nose even. Boys, Obama said, I'll simplify it more than Bush; I don't want OBL dead or alive; only dead; and let's not get into the drama of embalming the body and all that. Let's bury the body in the sea - another euphemism for throwing the body in the sea. Now the sharks are cringing and complaining from the paucity of meat and like a friend Vandana said, are protesting from all that human poisoning. If the US has to be believed and all the conspiracy theories to be disbelieved - Osama Bin Laden, dead or alive is now swimming in the sea. Considering the mayhem this man caused, he still managed to achieve a nice rhythmic movement - from palace to cave to mansion to sea. I'm wondering if Osama will have the same mesmerizing powers over the sharks as he had over people; perhaps recruit some sharks for a few suicide missions; maybe have them give up the comfort of the box or sea; go out swimming in alien waters; change their shark like habits of feeding on the ones thrown in and become more proactive; don some suicide belts, read some literature, get soaked in the ideology; become messengers of death.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Oh that Spectacle of the Royal Wedding.

Yes, I watched the show and before it was over, I also thought of a quick collective prayer for my girl friends and I. It went something like this: Dear God, please make my girl friends and me (I) some sort of princesses in our next birth, preferably in the British royal family; no not those harem kind of princesses, all covered up and crap like that. Once princesses, we were not going to bother God with other mundane requests like sending a prince to rescue us because we will be hell bent on being absolutely ecstatic about existing as gilded birds. I wish I could make that just 'a one day' thing, but honestly that is not going to work for us. We need this as a long term affair. Also God if we could just enjoy a life of riding in gilded carriages and waving madly at everyone. Amen.

Anyway, now that I have the prayer out and flying to God, I can come back to describing the spectacle. I loved those hats and especially the ones that were worn by the royalty and others pretending to be royalty. I also marveled at the precarious way in which some of those hats were placed. I saw a few resting on top of the nose. There were a few behind the head. Only the Queen's was on top of the head. And being the Queen, God forbid if anyone could have ever taken upon themselves to suggest a different style of wearing a hat. She may have cried, off with his head. There were some hats on one side of the head, actually three quarters down the head. I don't know, maybe they were clipped to the ear. Any moment, I expected a gust of wind to upset those pretty things and go soaring past the gloating crowds. No, this crowd of people was not anything like the raucous soccer crowd - the belly smacking, crooning, cursing, bottle throwing, body smacking sort. This was a motley crowd hoping to catch a glimpse of a commoner turned princess. One who had made it, not by birth but by being in the right college at the right time. Location, location, location.

So, no wind or rain came by. Then too, I half wished for at least a monkey or two to take a swipe at those colorful hats and go bounding across Buckingham Palace. But these mishaps only occur in the world of colonized people albeit past ones. Nothing of the sort happened and all the silks and hats and ducks and duchesses went in - in the most respectable manner. The new princess recited the mile long name of the Prince effortlessly and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The jinx was off. I saw the Prince briefly struggle with the wedding band but then thank God for small mercies; this was the only struggle the Prince would face. The royal couple could now live happily ever after and do nothing else for the rest of their lives. The commoners could go home with a hefty debt but at least they had a Prince and Princess to boast of.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Khichdi of Terrorism.

Come to think of it, terrorism is the most miserable profession in the world. It literally has a dead end. I cannot believe that the God I believe in, is actually the same one terrorists claim their allegiance to or at least to a similar one. How is it possible that this God is not upset at some mortals trying to sabotage his creation? Just for a moment if I could place myself in God's position, I would be extremely upset at the gall of these creatures impinging on the right to life of the human race. Not only this but being hell bent as well on killing people while hoping for a quick entry into heaven! (I am disregarding atheists here because they'll have to come up with better reasons for terrorism-in-the-name-of-God concept). 

By these standards, how dare a few men and women take upon themselves to maim, destroy, and kill  the rest of us. I'd like to see proof of this dictum. The one being claimed by terrorists doesn't hold water. The instructions also happen to be in a strange language which I doubt any of the terrorists are able to read or understand. If the proof is in the pudding, then there is no pudding. In fact this is a case of terrorism being akin to a bowl of Khichdi. In short terrorists ने खुदा की खिचड़ी बना कर रख दी है! (Terrorists have reduced God to Khichdi). Somehow the garbled reasons for terrorism run very close to the Khichdi concept. It then becomes pertinent to state that if terrorists like Khichdi so much, who better to approach about this than the Indians themselves who seem to have perfected this cuisine to a perfect art.

Coming back to the Khichdi bit, whether ill or not, Khichdi is the remedy for all ailments. Have a stomach upset, have Khichdi; caught the flu, eat some Khichdi; feeling blue, make yourself some Khichdi; run out of ideas, whip up a bowl of Khichdi. Maybe God can be found in Khichdi itself. If cooked well, Khichdi can be quite delicious specially when accompanied with yogurt and chatni.  I would say God damn the terrorists but what if the terrorists also call on God at about the same time. That again would be a khichdi of sorts,  don't you think? I am so enamored by this food that I cannot but help recommend a full 4 to 10 years of rigorous study in Khichdi leading to the degree of MoK 'Masters of Khichdi'. This can be achieved from the comfort of their homes or caves or jails or wherever they are or from  universities, some surreptitiously housed in Indian Jails.

Khichdi Expertise will be the newest profession for misguided-terrorist-minded youth. Enroll them in the School of Khichdi and soon the world will have raging bands of bright young Khichdi graduates. Closely following the Khichdi course is a very similar discipline of Bharta, which is highly popular with all the Thanedars who run the show in the dreaded jails in India. Maybe aspiring terrorists can head there. After all, Indian cops are extremely proficient at teaching the minute similarities and differences between Bharta and Khichdi. They may add the 'murga' bit in the initial years of study just to warm up the session of various culinary disciplines. I think this would be a wonderful opportunity for terrorists to emerge from their confusion and venture instead into a world of talent and art.

Notes: Khichdi is an Indian dish cooked and cooked with rice and lentils; Bharta is roasted and mashed egg plant; Thanedar is a constable or police officer; Murga is chicken, and also a popular punishment stance in Indian public schools and jails; chatni is a dip of coriander, green chillies etc.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ms Harley Davidson, my Husband's first Love.

For many days now I've been hearing this low growl. As I am not particularly a dog lover or even a cat lover, I don't think it's an animal caught in the boards. Perhaps it's the kids just being boys and maybe that sound is mere complaining or maybe just joy - I cannot tell. I finally decide to take matters in my hand, find this damn noise and be done with it. This has been the nth time of my sleep-in-Saturdays being rudely disturbed. I decide to roar downstairs to investigate the sound from the basement where my husband aka Bapi does his browsing and works out. There he also drools over various Ms Harleys. I find him sitting in front of the computer watching clips of Harley Davidson on a loop. I cannot believe it - Bapi is watching one particular Ms Harley start up, rumble, die down, and then like the obsessive compulsive disordered being, do this repeatedly. Argh, it's that sight of Ms Harley that gives meaning to Bapi's existence; it's that sweet rumble; it's that thing that throbs between the legs; it's what Bapi lives and dies for; for all I care it's that big black buffalo that permeates the air.

What is with men and these glorious roaring machines? My husband's current love luckily sleeps in the garage. I've put my foot down, the garage or nothing. If Bapi had his way, Ms Harley would be sleeping with us every day. Pre-marital counseling nowhere in the universe includes husbands' first love - Ms Harley eternal, past-present-future. Woe is me who thinks this was going to be a passing fancy. Heaven forbid that I even remotely considered that this affair would fizzle out with time. Time has only added to the menace. It has in fact grown larger and bigger! After all this affair is unique unlike others which often result in divorce, death, or destruction. Harley love is directly proportionate to size. The bigger the beautiful; the blacker the better. On the other hand, the more I hover around Ms Harley Davidson, the better I too feel for me and my size. Not to be undone by such blatant affirmations of love, I too have found a way to get around this conundrum; love the lover better than the love. 

I thought the first Harley, a mere 1200 cc and weighing a 1000 pounds would suffice. Then way deep into our marriage, having survived the 7 year itch, the Harley mania began to surface again. For the past month, the madness has been in full bloom. Ghosts of Ms Harley are being seen and heard around the house; finances are being re-calculated; trade-ins are being discussed; the sounds of Harley growls are being turned into the morning raga as well as the evening ones. That rumble that I mentioned in the first paragraph, well that is our household's newest mantra sound. It is the Fat Boy Low that Bapi is pining for. Bapi now wants the 5000 pound bike, the kinds that would require a truck to haul them up, if they fell. This is what Bapi wants. This is what is going to make him the complete man that he's always dreamed of being. When he gets his Fat Boy Low, oh boy would he feel the veritable HOG. He would finally hold his head high among those insufferable Harley riders who till now have been sneering at him; sniggering at the sight of him riding one of those Sportsters, the kinds that women ride. This mistress I feel is not going away; if Harley is the sweet Sauten, it can stay ...

Saute' the Sauten.
I get a kick
out of sautens
they work so hard
untangling knots
hardly interesting
as other matters
do justice however
to monitoring pressure
inflating one
deflating another

keep things cooking
simmering at best
spicing it
with a battle at rest

don't care
for the cadence
of pretty
it's the intent
of the maiden
that will
saute' the sauten ...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Walk like an Egyptian: Mubarak and other dictators.

Perhaps Mubarak should have consulted Playboy's Hafner on how to continue running an empire and keep everybody happy as well. Now the end result is that Mubarak got booted out seemingly by the Egyptian people but perhaps by his own army of rogues. Reuter's news reported that Mubarak had a death wish. At eighty and beyond, minus the throne, this would be a legitimate wish. With billions stashed away, even death would be sweet, something  Mubarak denied his own people, most of whom suffered terribly throughout his 30 years of dictatorship. Not that dictatorships or suffering masses are unusual in that part of the world, the question for the latter being whether that is stoicism or apathy as usual. 

Obama forgot America's support of Mubarak and encouraged the Egyptians - who unaware of O's leanings, cursed America anyway and for good measure threw in some threats for Israel as well. The Saudi king perhaps livid with Obama's support had a few things to say to him. Perhaps the king saw a similar fate in the ugly demise of Mubarak. Then as quickly as his pristine white robes would allow, congratulated the Egyptian people on taking to the streets! Immediately after that he got his own army and religious police to crack down on any stirrings of protest in his kingdom. He's also planning to step up funds for more universities in America, print more hate and propaganda literature, build more houses of worship around the world especially in Pakistan which seems to be the pet breeding ground for practices in terrorism.

A little distance away, Iran's Ahmadinejad declares from the ramparts how wonderful it is to see the events in Egypt. Now Iran could send in its ships of rockets and bombs and other deadly stuff to support the Brotherhood and Hezbollah and of course push Israel in the Red Sea. Simultaneously, Ahmadinejad also gets Iran's dreaded police to speedily prepare to beat and kill its protestors just like a few months ago. The world which is ever ready for any action around the globe is left scratching its head as to who or what to call. It's business as usual in the middle east where talk from both sides of the mouth is routinely carried out. Not a good foundation for a free society. 

At any given time and in any land, women are more or less 50% of the population which means by taking them out, the world loses 50% of its efforts at progress and ingenuity. This simple concept is willfully ignored and abandoned in the name of religion. Women's rights and equality; freedom of thought, writing, and speech; focus on learning in the arts and sciences; spirit of innovation; love for life; personal responsibility, right to liberty and happiness - well these have been forgotten in the desert lands. And the ones who've dared to remember have ceremoniously disappeared. Nonetheless, awakenings however meager are good. As long as the process is not hijacked by radical thought, attempts for change are commendable. For the young and restless - it gives them something to do. After all, millions of them are impressionable, oppressed, fearful - just ripe for change from within. 

In a land of millions and growing, what are a few thousands protesting in the streets of Cairo? In the other places of the Middle East, thousands of other protestors too met up, screamed, and were quickly squashed by hundreds of thousands of various regimes' police force. The Egyptians escaped the wrath of the army because Mubarak was too old for them too. Perhaps he had lost some of the ruthlessness, the kind that armies like. The apparatus of capture and torture is well enconsed in these lands. Why would the concept of democracy suddenly take root in the Muslim lands? It will not happen simply because this is an alien concept not in tune with their political, religious, social systems. Whenever the people, women included, are ready ready for a genuine change and growth, the land will be ready as well. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Indian Consulate of Confusion.

One would think, baahar ki hawa (foreign soil and air) would help the Indian government get rid of its asinine ways. Not so. My husband has been trying to understand the visa application process for almost a week now. Every day I hear him say let me start afresh and every day I hear his frustrations loud and clear. It should be easy to get a visa to one's home land or so one would suppose. As this seems akin to a non-earthly task, I might as well set up a system of prayers solely geared for seeking help in getting a visa from the Indian Consulate. Perhaps a special god for visa could be identified. Maybe some bells and prashad would come in handy or better still the Gandhian fast could work once agin. It worked beautifully to free the country; surely one Consulate could collapse under its magic.

There are a million forms for de-coding one's identity before one can even dream of applying for a visa. Embedded in the land of confusion are various ideas and suggestions like if you are a person of Indian origin, use form A; if you are the third descendent of Indian origin, use form 505 (A); if you are of Indian origin and want to visit India numerable times within 15 years, use form 6006 (T); use form 6006 (TN) if you want to visit innumerable times and to contact RAW or IRS; if you are of Indian origin and reside in the US and want to visit India for pleasure, use form 15,001 (Z), use form 15,000 (ZN) for non-pleasure and contact the Indian Embassy directly; if you are of Indian origin and do not reside in the US, use form 420; if you want to visit India and have US citizenship, use form 521 for renouncing your Indian citizenship; if you have already filled form 3 and are an Indian of Indian origin, please submit birth certificates of father, grandfather, and great grandfather - complete with 'good name' and 'good name of village'; if you have dual citizenship of US and India, use form 420 (D) for renouncing US citizenship; use form 420 (D-420) for renouncing both Indian and US citizenship and do not seek a visa; if you want to permanently visit India, use form A (1); use any form to get out; do not use any form to contact the Consulate. 

While the sifting through the Indian visa process goes on, I get on the phone to ask friends how they did it. I feel a spirit of exhilaration but that is quickly quashed because the forms the friends had filled have all been changed. Rules have been changed, fees have been hiked, phones have been permanently disconnected and the on-line process has been morphed drastically to accommodate or rather confound the weak, weary, and feeble of heart. The web site doesn't warn that the entire application form (or forms) has to be filled out in one shot or may take up to a year to fill out. There is no concept of saving. Use it or lose it. As far as the Indian Consulate is concerned, their people are here on a vacation and to hell with the Indian visa seekers or seekers of any kind. They can go elsewhere maybe try the British Consulate or the Khazakstan one. From the way things are, I hear the refrain of the Indian Consulate 'baad main aana' (come back later) loud and clear, everywhere. 

My husband has given himself three months to figure out the mystery/confusion/manic temperament of the Indian Consulate. He also has to figure out the stringent army like times of operation of the Consulate's elevators between 1500 hours and 1600 hours, and mode of payment of fees with directions of no cash, no check, no credit cards accepted! I'm left floundering as to what exactly would be acceptable to the Consulate! To make matters simple, why doesn't the Indian Consulate just go ahead and inscribe in gold the motto  'abandon hope all ye who come here'. It certainly is the house of misery.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Facebook ka Kamaal.

Has anyone come up yet with a word for Facebook addiction? Well there are some legitimate ones for other web addictions but not specifically for Facebook. This definitely needs its own name. How about faddiction? But what exactly was Zuckerberg thinking when he came up with this idea with his other buddies in their college dormitory? Did he check with people outside Harvard if they were interested in getting in touch with others after having turned themselves into something like sleeper-cells? It's just like the Harvard crowd to think everyone must be looking in the direction they were looking in. Perhaps some of us were deliberately hiding in various closets and the back boards. Maybe we didn't want to come out. Maybe we were ensconced in our own little world and were happy with the world flitting by. Perhaps we were blissfully ignorant and oblivious to the state of others and how they were doing. Maybe just maybe some of us were not interested in sharing and comparing ourselves to others and inducing self-destruction.  Perhaps we believed that Destiny had it all figured out for us and what could a web site with a name like Facebook do to foil our plans for this life and and after-life. This is a classic case of Zee chose not to see. On the other hand, few of us who would've died pining for people we never contacted, FB saved us from this trajectory.

The 26 year old Zuckie baby is the CEO of this great upheaval which woke people around the world enough to be damned forever on his social networking site. Zuckie rests easy in the 35th place on the list of 400 richest people in the USA. Thanks to us suffering fools, Z's wealth has grown 245% to $6.9 billion. He is one of those young entrepreneurs who has breathed the free air of America and allowed that to lift them anywhere they have wanted to go. Along with him are some more lifted dudes responsible for this global phenomenon called Facebook. There are hardly any humans on this planet that have remained un-touched by this social light. Even the hate mongers have been affected by the FB experience despite their unnecessary hatred for the Jewish race on a pure ontological basis. My advise - create something, build stuff, invent tracks of beauty not blow up paths of progress. For such pitiful beings and as one belonging to this race,  Zuckerberg may have single handedly shown better ways of communication and inflecting change. Aren't you on FB - is the new age question. It is with shock and horror when one hears that so and so refused to be a part of the madness or he or she threw this marvelous life line away. You wonder why. Ah well, they're not with the times and like it or not leave them alone and they'll find their way home to Facebook.

On FB, I find people and people find me without looking. I am led by this invisible force to check out Facebook every day. I hear stories about people who live on FB, in fact they are so much at home that Facebook has become the party state. These are people completely committed to the network. Unfortunately even devotion of this kind doesn't tempt Zee to share any of his wealth with any of the FB addicts. And why should he, it's all his after all. I have tried to mark my days as 'FB off' ones but so far the attempts have remained sadly unsuccessful. The genie is out and we are compelled to find out who is doing what and saying what to whom and why. FB has given rise to passions of a kind not seen in a while. Everybody has something to say; most have things to display; there is art, poetry, photography, prose, sightings, sighings and ruminations, and it's all here free on Facebook. The entire human race is discussing politics, economics, global warming or cooling depending on one's political leanings, philosophies, memories, births, deaths, and what not. Revolutions are being planned while protestors are being squashed and Facebook coming under strict scrutiny. While North Koreans may not be aware of FB, the Pakistanis, Iranians and Chinese are definitely looking into throwing a whole bunch of FB friends into prisons and labor camps for at least 10 to 20 years or maybe even a lifetime, that is if the poor souls survive the no-food-no-water-no-air captivity. 

Forget the friends-since-school saga. It is now FB friends time. I have a few friends who are pure FB material. Others I considered friends have been hastily un-unfriended on FB by just a click of this beautiful feature called 'delete'. I am not the only one to experience this strange high from a mere click. I see the 'numbers' of friends running into thousands. How is this possible I ask myself and others. No one knows. I think there may be a semblance to the rat-race occurrence. Could this be a keeping-with-the-jones syndrome on FB as well? All kinds of groups have taken birth on FB. Some exist merely to force others out. Then there are others who take root to flush the ones trying to flush others out. There are groups against humanity and then groups anti-against humanity. Some seriously threatening ones are quickly removed by Zee and his company only to re-surface under different names and threats. The blue logo is everywhere and nowhere is everywhere. This is the largest extended family where everyone knows someone connected to everyone and nobody truly knows anyone. Even junk mail has given up trying to compete with the volume of Facebook replies and mails.  And so the zuckerberg tree continues to grow and bear fruit some sweet and some bitter. However in all fairness, judging by its growth, Facebook is fast on its way to transform itself from a tree to a celestial planet and beyond. It may have to do with its ever evolving and revolving nature.