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.