Monday, December 28, 2009

The Inequalities of Equality?

The recent surrender by the Indian government to KCR's "fast-unto-death" raised a lot of fresh questions in my mind about the purpose of the Indian Constitution and the relevance of fundamental rights and the selective applicability of certain sections of the Indian (Ranbir) Penal Code .
Fasting unto death is by no means a new form of political agitation. The earliest and most quoted and probably the most inspiring of such fasts was that of Mahatma Gandhi. The British who wrote-in section 309 of Indian Penal Code back in 1860 did not deem it fit to imprison MK Gandhi because they maintained that his purpose was justified and the law should be employed judiciously. Over the centuries, our law makers have regularly debated on whether an attempt to suicide is really a criminal offense or whether it is a law meant for political misuse. The supreme court's verdict in 1994 making section 309 unconstitutional was reversed in 1996. Over the decades, a number of civilians and politicians have attempted the 'fast-unto-death' blackmail for various political reasons and very noticeably, while the politicians get their way, the civilians have been arrested and tortured even when critics have maintained that their causes remain just. I am talking about the likes of Medha Patkar and Irom Sharmila.
Irom Sharmila's case to me is particularly shocking and cruel. Her protest ,unparalleled in world's history of political agitations has evoked nothing but world wide horror at the treatment meted out to her. Her 10 year fast to protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act has been acknowledged just simply because of the excesses committed by the army in the state of Manipur under this act's protection. She has been imprisoned for the last 10 years under section 309 of the RPC (released periodically every year as required by law and then re-arrested), secured in a high security vault and has been force-fed through pipes and tubes. Even with support from the United Nations and human rights activists across the globe, there have been nothing more than empty promises assuring changes in the vague future from every prime minister since she began the fast in November 2000.
The issue of whether or not Irom Sharmila's treatment is humane is wholly different, but I am a little confused about the relevance of Article 14 in the Indian constitution, known to the common man as "Equality before Law" as part of every Indian citizen's right to equality."Article 14 of the constitution guarantees that all citizens shall be equally protected by the laws of the country. It means that the State cannot discriminate against a citizen on the basis of caste, creed, colour, sex, religion or place of birth." Is it a deliberate loophole that the constitution does not mention that a citizen cannot also be discriminated based on his/ her political influence?
Why did the government not only not arrest KCR for his attempt to suicide but also "gave-in" because they were "concerned" for his health. If they were indeed that concerned, why did they not force-feed him through tubes like they do to Sharmila? Can Irom Sharmila or anyone else on her behalf file a petition with the court for the upholding of our fundamental right to equality before law? I do not think there are any answers to these questions...but we can indeed draw some conclusions. This is just another glaring example of how we are governed..it is not true that all citizens are equal before the law. Some laws like section 309 appear more to be for the protection of the state than for the individual.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Three Idiots- No Spoilers

Its entertaining, emotional, outrageous, heart warming, no skimpily clothed heroines and no sexual vulgarity. Above all, it brings a sense of hope and euphoria.
After a long time (Taare Zameen Par), I would actually like watching a Hindi movie a second time, albeit they are not in the same league. The movie had an almost perfect script, with the right blend of comedy and emotions and an interesting combination of both. Of course to laugh amidst tears is one of the underlying messages of the movie.
For three hours I could completely forget my worries and grudges and if I am called an idiot for needing 3 more idiots from Tinseltown to feel this way, I dont care. It was worth it. It was NOT a "5 Point Someone " movie barring occasional similarities. The subtle mockery of Indian education system could have probably been less subtle. I doubt the issue of suicides among students in the movie will drive home the point in a way that the message on dyslexia in TZP did.
But, in the end, it is definitely worth at least one watch and, even if you don't agree, All is Well ! ;)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ride through Wonderland

Chim chim cher-ee, non stop applause and periodic foot tapping...I cant believe that my only motivation to go to this extravaganza was the memory of my first Broadway show, Lion King. I was sitting tired after an 8 hour exam and a 24 hour empty stomach tossing my mind between sleeping and watching Mary Poppins, when I suddenly knew that if I did not go that day, I wasn't going to go at all.

Toe tapping music, catchy dances, beautiful sets, playful lights, lovely costumes , heart warming dialogue delivery, cute kids..I could go on... The show would have been very endearing for any single element, for each was done to impeccable perfection but the culmination of all these perfect renderings in every scene made it an absolutely stupendous and unforgettable experience.

Bert was easily my favourite character. His familiarity with both reality and the impossible...his closeness to Mary and his approach to life beneath all his act was something beautiful and thought provoking. Mary of course had the best dialogues to deliver..some hilarious, some serious and some reminiscent of grandma's tales. One scene where she sets the audience roaring was when she measures each kid with a tape and gives his/her character verdict. When one kid asks for Mary's measure, she breaks into this song of how "I am practically perfect, from head to toe". Mary tells the kids how anything can to happen to us if we let it happen. All we should do is not question the possibility. I thought it was a beautiful thing to say to kids and encourage them to expand their imaginations. I was reminded of how old the Mary Poppins's story was when she tells the kids to be careful about what they wish for. My grandmother used to tell me the same thing adding that there are spirits in the air making rounds and if you happen to make a wish when they are around, they get granted!
And yes, the audieince never failed to appreciate it each time she flew in and out of the stage.

The continuity and the complicacy of the sets made me wonder how this could be happening live without even a single curtain drop. Although it was obvious to the mind that Mary was held by a rope, the fairy tale effect was inevitable when she flew in and out of the stage with wind and lightning and kites. I was even toying with the idea of a hologram (after all the show was produced by Disney) until she actually flew(glided rather) into the audience waving at the end and alighted among the stands. Much more mouth opening was Bert's dance on the walls and the roof, never skipping a beat even when dancing upside down! I had to keep reminding myself that this was part of no elaborate video manipulation scheme. Some sets were so surreal that I forced myself to look away from the actors and focus on the background to discover why. On one particular background I noted that although the background itself was only painted, the clouds alone appeared to be gently moving! It made me want to stand and clap.

What good is discussing a musical without discussing the songs?! Like everyone else, my favourites were Jolly Holiday, Never Need a Reason and of course Supercalifragilisticexpiadilocious! I loved "Jolly Holiday" for the imaginative sets and the beautiful colors. I haven't tapped my feet as much as I did for "Never Need a Reason" in any recent memory. "Supercali..." was enjoyable purely for its outrageousness :). The play of lights in each of the songs is definitely worth mentioning. I can never forget how the angle of the lights kept changing in perfect synchrony with the music during "Never Need a Reason" such that not only were two dozen actors dancing but their shadows were dancing separately as well! Just two days before I watched the musical I was thinking to myself how sometimes no words in any language I know are adequate to express some emotions in full. I was delighted in the least to hear Mary give the same excuse to make up a word like supercalifragilisticexpiadilocious rather than browse through one lexicon after the other!

For all these reasons and even more intangible ones this show was a truly magical experience. I think that what made it truly magical was not just the world of fantasy it was set in but the underlying heart warming story. It reminded me of whats really important in life and the values we seem to have forgotten in this fast paced money oriented world we have built for ourselves.
To sum up...Mary Poppins was supercalifragilisticexpiadilocious!!!

Update - April 15, 2012:
Watched it again at the Bass Concert Hall in Austin with two friends...loved it ! Again! :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fire the Gun

A friend of mine recently enlightened me about the seriousness of certain constitutional rights in the US and the inability of the federal government to ban the right even when they wanted to. I am referring to the right to carry fire arms allowed by the second amendment of the constitution of United States of America.
The subject of guns has always been sensitive with me. I am apalled that there are so many men and women who feel that there is need to carry a gun for any reason other than shooting at dart boards. Now every state in the US has minor variations of the laws pertaining to guns. I am not sure how many states have similar laws, but the state of Arizona allows the citizens to carry firearms without a license as long as it is visible and they do not use it. I believe no federal law can over ride this. Okay, this seems all hunky-dory on paper but Obama's recent presence in Arizona just emphasized how risky this law is.
A few people who attended Obama's health-care conference openly carried guns. One person even carried an AR-15 rifle. These men said that they were just trying to uphold their second amendment rights. One man's explanation was" If you do not use your rights, you lose your rights". All of these men also incidentally happened to be protesting against the new health-care policy. Other people in the gathering viewed it as a clear act of intimidation and a threat to people who were there to uphold their first amendment rights. Eventually, people will forget this incident because nothing eventful happened.
The non-occurrence of a fatality was sheer luck I would associate with first time events. But now, this right has been so well publicized in a manner that it clearly opens up new vistas to potential troublemakers. I am afraid of future repercussions. Even a not-so-well informed man can guess how easy it is for a crazed terrorist (who has no fear for his life) to wreak havoc and further destabilize the world. While I am nervous that the possibilities for chaos are enormous, I am even more distressed that the federal government cannot even do anything about it. The Supreme Court ruled last year that an outright ban on carrying firearms is a violation of the second amendment!
I have heard similar arguments from the law-makers of other countries which revolve around an obsession to uphold constitutional laws written many decades ago. In this particular case, over two centuries ago. I doubt that the authors of the Bill of Rights envisaged the blood thirsty world we live in today two hundred years back. In those lost ages, while the law and order mechanism was not as well regulated, the inherent goodness among men was more prevalent. There weren't so many fundamentalist groups warring for causes they even don't remember.There was not such a clear hierarchy of power among different countries of the world. Globalization which brought different countries to war as much as they brought lucrative friendships amongst others did not exist then.( I pause to mention that I believe that the common kind of friendship among countries is the lucrative one). Well anyway, the point I am trying to make is that we need not trust the wisdom of our predecessors on every issue. their lack of foresight need not prevent us from having any. There must be a way for the Congress to bring in an amendment to get around the second amendment and various state laws at least so a national leader can travel in a weapon free environment.
On a personal note, even though I am not important enough to be assasinated, I would feel extremely uncomfortable to be among a group of people openly displaying weapons. I am sure there are a lot of people who share my feelings.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blue Blues are Not Just Blue

Another Indian celebrity visits the US.. Another airport detention..another media circus. Somehow some people never tire fuming about how their favourite celebrity was once again humiliated and some others never tire idolizing the impartial and 'extreme'ly committed spirit of the men in blue.

I am definitely no great fan of SRk but I deinitely tend to look at this incident as another one of those unexplainable unjustifiable acts by the TSA. Let me first narrate a perosnal experience with the border patrol guards in the USA. I and a bunch of friends happened to be travelling near the Mexican border without any photo identity or documents to prove that we were legal immigrants in the country. As luck would have it, we were stopped and questioned by the border patrol and were detained for about two hours until they could completely verify our identities and our stories. I had no complaints against the border patrol then. I knew they were only doing their job.

I would not be complaining against them now if they had just pulled SRK out of line to verify his identity and let him go. The tricky part to gloss over is the fact that he was detained for two hours inspite of having all his documents in order, with ample proofs of his identity and his purpose of visit and without any apparent provocation. I am at a loss to understand why common people fail to have self respect enough to see that this was not an incident of common protocol.
Here is a frequent visitor of the US, claiming to be famous in his country. Is the claim so difficult to check that the Indian consulate needs to intervene to secure his release???

In my opinion, this was clearly not an incident of purely obssessive security measures. The official in question could have had any number of motives. He could have been one of those naive americans set out to teach the world who is boss...or he coild have an aversion to the growing Asian population in his country..or he could have just have left home after an argument with his wife.

In the end it just boils down to flouting of power which is a common probem worldwide. Only, the classes of affected people are different in different places. Although SRk would never have been detained or questioned in India, how many Indians feel as strongly about the numerous poeple among the low income groups in India being harassed by the Indian police for no valid reasons. Much like most other problems in today's world, we never try to resolve problems at grass-root levels and talk about meaningless isolated incidents. Why do such incidents occur? What is the pattern among all such isolated incidents? Even if we identify the problem, is there a solution?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Omnipresent Irksome Human Flies

This post comes out in an hour of frustration but this recent incident in my life only re-emphasizes my dislike of people of a certain kind and my dislike at the fact that the world is full of such people. I know hate is a very strong word, but I hate it when people have no respect for another person's time and efforts. I know for a fact that most people do not think it is a big deal to tell a friend that they will meet him/ her at a particular time and come 20 minutes/ half an hour/ one hour late without a moral justification. The only thing they could say is that they never thought it to be a big deal. Its just a meeting with a friend and not an interview for a job. I HATE THAT ATTITUDE. My time is more valuable than sitting in a coffee shop or standing in a bus stop looking at my watch. You might have nothing better to do..but I most certainly do!
Now that that is out of my system, I will come to the incident that makes me disbelieve that there are a lot of fair minded people in this world whose thoughts and responses take into account people other than themselves.
I have been looking to move out into a 2 bedroom apartment (living alone until now) for various personal reasons. I have been looking for room mates for almost two months now. I stoppped when this seemingly nice girl agreed and it did not looklike we were going to have major unaccepatble differences. I was willing to look for an apartment with her, but she made excuses (at the time I thought they were genuine) about not having enough time to spare, and when she did she made not just me but my mother wait for her for 40 minutes as well (No respect for time or for someone's age either!). Then she went on a two week vacation out of the country. Meanwhile I braved the texas heat, spent days and weekends looking for apartments, sending her pictures detail information, floor plans, making international calls...all because I did not want the apartment to be my own choice and make some one feel like they had no say in the matter.
She agreed to one apartment, I signed the application. Next day she wanted me to change the apartment to a different flloor in the same complex, I took timeoff work and went there to get that changed. Everything seemed to be going fine until she came back to Houston. She took a week to go see the apartment, she wanted me to go along (I waited half an hour for her in scorching heat although her commute was less than half of mine). She saw the original one and the one we got it changed too...she decided she likes the original one better..I sayd it was ok with me whatever she decided (Was I being too nice? ). She dilly dallied for quite a while and decided to keep things unchanged. I was relieved and I went home. I got a call the next day saying she had decided to continue the lease in her current apartment for a lot of personal reasons she had no wish to be vocal about! Awesome great!!!

I have invested a lot of fruitless time and effort for some one else too so far and have less than 5 days to find another room mate(extremely unlikely) and less than 10 days to find another apartment to move within 2/3 days after finding it (I also work rememeber?). And I am going to have to pay twice the amount I am currently paying in rent because Miss. Inconsiderate left me with no time for anything...Ok, I donot blame her for coming up with personal problems..after all they might be genuine. All I am asking is she atleast pay the penalty for her change of mind by bearing the deposit that I gave at this apartment complex..and we can still be friends...

Is that fair or what???? But, no..it so happens that Ms. Inconsiderate is also Ms.Amoral. She says she is just being professional about the whole deal and I am getting carried away by asking her to do what is only fair!!!
I am at her mercy because I was physically present here and made the payments? What if she was here and I had allowed her to make the deposits???
Oh hell!!! I hate this whole lot of people...if you are one such person too, then please do not incur a person's righteous curse by neglecting to do the right thing ...all for a paltry some of money. Please do not be late without reason no matter what the purpose of such a meeting is!

I do not have to curse her..my experience with life has taught me that nothing good you dont deserve never peranently stays with you..She thinks she is saving herself a couple of hundred dollars..haha, but I know she is going to lose it in some other form along the journey.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Joy of Small Things

This is something that happened to me almost a month back but the incident is still so vivid in my memory that it acts as a tonic to my soul when it is not in it's best spirits. I parked my car and headed towards a doctor's house. Before I finished crossing the breadth of the small front lawn, something (turned out to be someone) hurtled towards me and gave me a squeezing hug. I wanted to look at him and I bent down (his head did not even reach up to my waist) . Before I could take in his bright smile fully, he gave me a kiss on each of my cheeks! I tried to hold on to him because I badly wanted to kiss him back but he was already running away from me. This three year old kid was running round and round the garden and each time he passed me, he would make it a point to kiss my cheek or forehead or my fingers( I was seated on a swing) and not once did he let me hold him and return the favor. I just could not get enough of him and was really disappointed when his mother came out and took him away. I went after them (leaving my doc waiting) for one last kiss, and he obliged.
I felt a little sad that I would probably never see him again( for I heard that he lives in Alaska) but am extremely happy about the memory that was created in five minutes. People come and go in our lives, and every person leaves an imprint on us however light it may be. I wish Sammy all the happiness in his life and I hope he lights up the lives of all people who are fortunate to meet him.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Eyes Wide Shut

Ram Sena- are they hypocrites or simply misguided fanatics? All their recent 'moral' policing has evoked a lot of outrage and indignation but in the midst of it all, I find that the crucial point is missed...by all parties. The whole 'Pink Chaddi' campaign reminds me of the hindi movie ' Asthithva' of which I whole heartedly disapproved.
The movie disgusted me because of the moral it was trying to preach and the justifications given by Tabu for her perfidy and the expected sympathies from the audience towards her. I could see a whole bunch of other reasons to feel sorry for her but not the one point which formed the crux of the movie. Her extra-marital one-night stand was preached to the world as a pardonable offense. The reason? Simply that a man is pardoned for the same indulgence. The point the movie failed to make was that the act itself is unacceptable irrespective of whether a man or a woman performs it. One cannot justify the morality behind any offense stating that someone else is being allowed to perform it.
Ram Sena as well as the ' Pink Chaddi' supporters are in my opinion manifestations of the same hypocricy and badly reasoned arguments. What is Ram Sena actually opposing? Drinking itself or just women drinking? The later is obviously a hypocritic cause while if it is the former I would still find them objectionable. My reservations are against their methods no matter what their beliefs are. Let them make speeches or print booklets or host TV shows to reach to people. I doubt if modern men and women will be swayed by any of this but what have the Ram Sena achieved anyway? They may have provoked fear but not reformation. As for my objection towards the 'Pink Chaddi' brigade...well, I have already explained why I found Tabu's arguments inappropriate. Each of those women who said their cause was 'women liberation' or 'equality of men and women' could have donated 20 or 30 Rs or the cost of a pink chaddi towards the education of a poor village girl than indulge in this immature and pointless response.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The (non) Terminal Spirit

This is the first time I am writing about a movie I watched but "The Terminal" was so rejuvenating that I feel the need to share my experience. The entire movie is shot in the International lounge and terminal of the John F Kennedy airport in New York. The first 20 minutes of the movie made me wonder if I really needed to watch something so sad and spoil 2 hrs of my weekend. I felt sad not because of on screen tears or terrors but because of what I anticipated from the rest of the movie. How wrong I was!
Tom Hanks in the lead role instead of stirring sympathies with his plight (which the audience would have readily given) through his actions gave me food for thought. His unbeatable spirit and his unwavering sight on the purpose of his life is hard for me to expect from anyone I know. At the end of the movie, I questioned myself how I would have reacted to every situation this man faced and had to accept the hard truth. I have an uphill climb towards high spiritedness.
My reaction and my co-audiences reaction to the movie also reinforced my belief in a fact of life. The reactions that one gets from friends or people around depend to a good extent on how the person handles situations. A show of self pity and bad tempers can evoke only ridicule or rebukes which will in all probability pull down one's self confidence even lower. On the other hand, any display of a fighting spirit bring more people to lend their moral support in appreciation of the true effort one is making. This encouragement can take a person 10 times farther than they would have originally done so.
A very thought provoking and highly enjoyable movie. If you havent watched it in all these years like me, then I highly recommend it!

And The Oscar goes to...The Mozart of Madras?

Tomorrow may well be one of the biggest and most important nights to my favorite music composer, A.R. Rahman whom other writers of wider reading audiences call the Mozart of Madras. I am not sure if that title is entirely deserving considering that there have been other musicians in the land of Tollywood who have produced immortal music too. I am not sure if he is going to win anything tomorrow, though the chances are quite high(2/3?). I am not even sure if this is the best music he has ever produced ( I am no authority on music). All I do believe is that this man most definitely deserves to win.
He has most definitely made some revolutions in modern Indian music..or should I say was the cause for the phrase "modern Indian music" to be coined? I know there are a whole lot of people out there who think this man has no creative talent, but we all know , and they do too (deep down) that they only say that in order to appear different from the band wagon. He has not been afraid to experiment although I have noticed that his experiments are fewer in bollywood unlike in the southern films. I somehow associate that with the stereotypes who rule the national film scene than attribute that to his faults. (Or it may just be that he is more comfortable with music in his mother tongue?(nah..I don't really believe this :) ). Ok...I am digressing...I really think this man is a genius.
The fact that you can recognize copied music implies that this man's music was original. More endearing is his humility, enthusiasm and the roaring fire within him that critics cant seem to douse. I really hope he wins tomorrow, not because I think that the Oscars necessarily decide right who the best among everybody are...but because most of the rest of the world seem to think so. I adore his music and want it to be put on a pedestal. I adore music and this award would reinforce my belief that music itself has no barriers.