Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mothers can never be friends

Mothers can never be friends! Yes that is an assertive statement without any questioning and introspection.I'm like what 20 years but my mother still thinks I'm in High school. They will want you to be frank with them and tell them everything. But is that really possible? Their sent ism and constant worry will freak you out at times when you need to be comforted. And when they figure out that your hiding something, the drama begins. I get to hear stuff like "You don't need your parents anymore" and "You have lost your head, your on the wrong path" and also "Because of you the name and honor of the family is going to go down the drains" AND THE LIST GOES ON. There are times when the situation gets even freakier than this.
In my house strangely my mother who is in her 40s is more romantic than I am (have mentioned my age on the top). She loves watching those really senti romantic scenes in films and serials and I would enter the room at such times and say something nasty about how illogical and stupid the scene is and spoil the fun (I love doing that). And then she would start off like a 16 year old would, "Your such a bore, you don't behave like other normal girls, why can't you let me enjoy the film?"and I would tell her "Mummy I'm out of high school, puhleez give me a break"
Just a few days ago a crazy episode happened. I was upset regarding something and it was very much visible on my face. My mother tried real hard to find out what had gone and I refused to tell her. After a lot of persuasion when I continued to keep mum, she threw a bomb. She was like, "If it is not a guy problem... Oh My God!!! Are you turning into a lesbian?". Surprisingly that comment made me laugh so hard, I actually got distracted :) but poor mummy was restless for a very longtime thinking that I'm actually turning into a homosexual.
Another problematic topic that she loves to talk about is marriage. Yes that's right Marriage!!! If I give her a go ahead right now, I'm so sure within the next 3 months she would get me tied to some stupid mallu muchad businessman abroad (yes its a very scary thought for me).
But everything said and done I'm aware of the fact that whatever she does is because she is worried for her unusually crazy daughter. That sense of insecurity that I have grown up and I can think for myself must be difficult to handle for her who has held my hand taught me how to write. I do try to understand her point of view as well but even I'm just 20 right? So yes mothers can never be friends and I guess that's the way it should be and I don't think that's going to change even when I turn 40.

The idea of God

The other day someone very proudly told me, "I am an atheist you know, I don't go to the temple and all" I smiled and told him the same. It is interesting to know how people nowadays are increasingly moving away from religion and irrational beliefs. With more and more people reading and learning new things about whats happening in the world the importance of prayer or so called 'irrational beliefs' is vanishing. Mind you here I'm not trying to take a stand on prayer and religion but just trying to understand the psyche people.
An atheist Someone who does not believe in the existence of God, the creator of all. Why do people pray? To get their wishes fulfilled or to rid themselves of the burden of sin or to thank the Almighty. Reasons are many if you go to see. For different people God means different things. The other day I was waiting outside the Mahalakshmi temple and I happened to befriend a young girl who had travelled for six hours to get a view of the Devi and ask her for blessings. "Mai toh kuch nahi maangti apne liye, sirf devi ka ashwirwaad hum sab ke upar rahe bus..." said Ankita. It was obvious religion was something that had been ingrained in her ever since she was a child. As she grew up she didn't question any of those teachings and continued with her religious practices.
Last year during one of our cultural studies class, we were asked to write down what God meant to each one of us. We got to hear all sorts of things from God being "A Santaclaus" to "A Moral Police". Someone said something that struck me, she was like," God is something to hold on to, like when your upset and there is nothing to rely on, God acts like that support system" . The idea of God being a support system is indeed central to a whole lot of us. No matter how pressing the situation might be "There is always a way out", "God is watching you" . Not necessary that always one is strong enough to withstand the pressures of life. At those moments when one tends to loose their sense of rationality, the illusion of security of God taking care of everything/everyone really helps.
On Wednesdays it really amuses me to see the thousands of devotees flocking at St.Michael's church. People come barefoot, take rounds of the altar kneeling, walk backwards from the church altar to not show their back to the idol and the list goes on. None of the above practices are listed in the bible. But still people do them, their sense of belief makes them do all of it. It is believed that if you intercede to the Mother of perpetual Succor (Mother Mary) your prayers will be heard. Most of these people don't question their belief and continue praying with the hope that their wishes will be granted. Are the wishes always granted? Mostly yes sometimes no. If yes then God listens to their prayers and if no then "This was not God's will".

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Incentives or Bribes

The other day we had this interesting discussion in class on ‘Are incentives Bribes or vice versa?’ It was interesting to know that both words-incentive and bribe, meant almost the same. As per the oxford dictionary an incentive is a thing that encourages someone to do something, it is something that incites whereas a bribe means to dishonestly persuade someone to help you, especially by paying them; something offered in an attempt to bribe someone.

So you see the dictionary meanings for both are the same but still the context in which each of these words are used is different. As they say everything is a matter of perception which defines reality.

Bribe is mostly used as a negative word, something that is evil, and something that makes life easy and is used as a matter of convenience. Paying the traffic police on being caught after breaking a signal only to save our self the trouble of doing the rounds of a government office is an easy way out, isn’t it? So let’s look at this situation, here is the cause is breaking the law and the outcome is going scot-free. So isn’t unlawful behavior being reinforced over here, “If one law can be broken, who cares even the others can be”. Both bribe and incentive are very result oriented.

On the other hand an incentive is considered to be a boost which results in outcomes. Incentives form a major part of various internal PR plans. An employee working for a multinational company anyways gets his/her salary and phone bills paid is given a free executive weekend trip every three months. The motive behind this is to de-stress the employee who probably works five days a week, 15 hours each day. Here the management not only shows that they care for their employees but also increases their productivity. Now this is an example for an incentive designed for a positive outcome.

Having looked at concrete examples for both let’s try to confuse the two by taking a few more examples. Are incentives always designed for positive outcomes? If TATA Photon plus comes with a new plan where in if we take a Tata phone connection then you get a photon plus internet connection free with no monthly rentals for the first five months. Now will this be a bribe or an incentive? As mentioned earlier an incentive when properly designed for a positive outcome is not a bribe. Through this scheme Tata manages to promote its brand in a market which is filled with n number of brands offering broadband connections. Now if we look at the flip side of the same example we get to learn a different aspect. Out of ten clients being offered the scheme, all ten of them might not require the free connection for various reasons. There are possibilities that someone is not a netizen and does not require the connection or someone already has a better plan in hand. Thus different people respond differently to the same incentive that is offered to them.

Everything said and done are incentives bribes or are bribes incentives? I guess I would continue pondering over that till I come to a resolution.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

“You play God that is the most difficult task and the most exciting”

Kiran Rao, the director of Dhobi Ghat, has indeed made a mark in the industry with her debut film. She knew from the very beginning that film making is all she wanted to do. In conversation with her she reveals what film making means to her.

“I think I’m here to talk about films as that is the only topic I can talk about with confidence”. She went on to talk about the history of the art of film making. Humans in general feel the innate need to express themselves and make the world aware of their existence. They have always felt the need to create an identity for themselves based on their thoughts. It is the outcome of these needs that takes the shape of various art forms. Let it be painting, singing, poetry and even photography and film making.

Today there are numerous genres of film making, art house films, avant-garde films, ad films, documentaries etc. “Film making is a unified process” she says. It involves five stages, the first on being the development stage. It is the beginning, the birth of an idea. If this is not there then there would be no films made. The idea is then written as a story, it is given a basic structure and broken up into scenes and chapters. This stage involves giving the story a colour, a perspective, and an angle keeping the audience in mind.

“You play God that is the most difficult task and the most exciting, living your dream, living your work, living your art”

The next stage is pre-production, this involves selection of locations, casting, budget and all the technical aspects of the film are decided. The technical aspects include visual texture (cinematography), costumes, sound, choreography etc. Each of these technical aspects is divided into separate departments. The whole unit of the film is finalized.

The next stage is production; this stage majorly depends on the preparation and planning done in the previous stage. Production takes place within a set time limit, limited resources. One gets to see their characters in live space. This is the actual making of the film.

The fourth and the most important stage is post production, here the main player is the editor. The editor has to carry the burden of meeting expectations of not only the film unit but also the audience and the censor board.

“Editing is mining your own material” she says. It involves compiling all the loose scenes, characters. All the unwanted or extra scenes and characters are removed. After the editor is done with his job the final cut goes to the sound designer, he decides which track goes where. He decides on the ambience track, effects track.

After all this is done the film is ready and now comes the final stage-Distribution. A film distributer is usually a company or an individual responsible for releasing the film for theatrical viewing or home viewing. This again is a time consuming stage, depending on the production house of the film, the actors, the label, distributers purchase the film.

On asking her why she makes films, she smiled and said, “The reason to make films is to make films, it is the process that matters nothing else”.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Relic's Journey continues...

The Relic of Saint Don Bosco has been on a worldwide pilgrimage to prepare for the celebration of the 200th Birthday of the Italian Catholic Saint. The relic of St. John Bosco, the right hand placed inside a metal box and embedded in a wax replica of his body was brought to the national capital on 28th July. It was brought to Mumbai on 13th August and placed at Don Bosco Matunga.

The relic was brought to the shrine of Don Bosco with great joy and Pomp and the road from St.Joseph Wadala to Don Bosco Matunga were lined with students excitedly waiting for the relic to come. At around 5:50pm, the relic arrived in a procession led by a motorcade of flag waving past students and an ensemble of highly energetic drummers. Since then pilgrims from every nook and corner of the city have been flocking to the shrine to pay a visit to the remains of the holy Saint.

Waiting on the steps of the Shrine to receive the Relic were Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Provincial Fr. Michael Fernandes, Rector of the Shrine Fr. Edwin D`Souza and a host of Salesians. With them were also leaders of other Faiths who were present to welcome Don Bosco to the city of Mumbai. As soon as the casket was lowered from the vehicle, a short moment of inter-faith prayer was held, during which the different leaders prayed “the pilgrims who would visit the Relic may grow spiritually and that through the intercession of this Saint, harmony may reign in our city”.

St. Don Bosco was an Italian priest, educator and writer of the 19th century. He founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales which further went on to form the Salesian congregation of priests, seminarians and co-adjutors. He had dedicated his life for the well-being of the street children and disadvantaged youth. His teaching methods were on the basis of love and not punishment; this was known as the preventive system. He died on 31st January 1888. Soon after that on popular demand he was blessed in 1929 and canonized on Easter Sunday of 1934 and was given the title of ‘Father and Teacher of Youth’.

The relics of Saint Don Bosco were recomposed in 1929 when his body was recovered from the grave for his beatification and canonization. The bones and tissues of the right hand and arm have been taken in and placed within a wax replica of St.John Bosco’s body, which in turn is enclosed in a large urn.

The pilgrimage began on 31st January, 2009, the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Salesian congregation. It prepares for the 2015 celebration of the 200th anniversary of Don Bosco’s birth near Turin, Italy on 16th August, 1815.

The shrine will be open for public veneration till 16th August 8:30am after which the relic would be prepared to be taken to Goa on the same day. It was brought to India from Hong Kong on 22nd April, 2011, from where it was flown to Dimapur in Nagaland. The tour of the relic started from Nagaland. Conducted by Salesians in India, the relic will tour across the country and come to Chennai by October.

Nineties Nostalgia

The other day as I was getting rid of old junk from the loft I found a carton filled with cassettes of all the Indi pop songs from the nineties. I looked at them for an instant and recollected how crazy I used to be to buy each of those albums. From breaking piggy banks to religiously doing all the Math practice sums to convince daddy to buy me a ‘Made in India’ by Alisha Chinai or a ‘Colonial Cousins’ by Leslie Lewis and Hariharan.

Pop music from the nineties had a unique charm of its own. Going down the memory lane these are a few songs that I still cherish.

‘O Sanam’- This one is from Lucky Ali’s debut album Sunoh. Back in 1996 this song was a big hit. I still remember listening to this song after coming back from Bharatnatyam class. MTV used to play the song on request. The video of the song was shot in Egypt and his first wife Meaghan McCleary had acted with him.

‘Sa Ni Dha Pa’- I still can’t remember whether it was Hariharan’s weird long hair or Leslie’s rendition in the song that got me hooked to this one. This was their debut album together and they called themselves the ‘Colonial Cousins’. This was one of the first music albums to have fused Western classical and carnatic music. The song begins with a prayer to Lord Ganesha (Vakratunda Mahakaya) and then picks up with Leslie singing the English lyrics,’ Something about the way you smile…” This song was a major hit back then and the duo also won the MTV Viewer’s Choice Award for this album.

‘Made in India’- This song by Alisha Chinai was one of the highest selling albums in 1995. It instantly made her a household name. The dreamy concept of a princess looking for her tall, dark and handsome ‘Indian’ Prince was able to catch the fantasy of all girls out there. Especially if the prince ends up being the dashing Milind Soman who would not want to get lost dreaming about the song???

(P.S. I’m no longer mad about Milind Soman, I’ve grown up)

‘Pal’- This is a super romantic song by K.K. the video says it all. Like all other K.K’s songs even this one is about young love. It was an award winning composition and is till played and sung in many reality shows.

‘Maine Payal hai Chankai’- This one is another personal favourite, it has been sung by none other than our Dandiya Queen, Falguni Pathak. The song has a cute video of a group of college students preparing for a talent show. They use puppets to tell their story and this song is sung in the background. The misunderstanding between the girl and the boy in the song is something all teenagers can still connect to.

‘Dhoom’- I guess this one requires no description; it was a high energy number by Euphoria, one of the first popular Indian bands. Palash Sen and Shubha Mudgal have done a fantastic job with this track. The song begins with beat boxing; ‘Dhoom pichak dhoom pichak dhoom..’

Apart from these there were many other hit singles and albums by artists like Sonu Nigam, Shaan, late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ila Arun to name a few. The music of the nineties was something completely different from what we get to hear nowadays.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Idea of India

The phrase “idea of India” was once used by Rabindranath Tagore in 1921 in a letter to his friend stating “the idea of India is against the intense consciousness of the separateness of one’s own people from others, which inevitably leads to ceaseless conflicts”. My idea of India is based on the actions of Indians that are seen as various factors causing this separateness.

Those factors include: Hindu fundamentalism, Ethnic Separatism, Inequalities, Perils of privatization, capitalism leading to unholy nexus of politicians and the corporate and that in turn leading to political and economic corruption.

The right-wing Hindu parties (BJP, RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena) have a very narrow/bigoted definition of India, as they call it Hindu Rashtra. This Hindu fundamentalism is responsible behind the Ayodhya carnage, their beating up of women if they are seen to behave immorally, seen in pubs drinking, opposition to celebrate Valentine’s Day, etc. This has to a great extent shaped the idea of India.

The second factor shaping the idea of India is the ethnic separatism in which we see, different states claiming independence from the Indian Union or from an India state, for instance, the demand for a separate Telangana, Kashmir, Mizoram, Nagaland, Assam and Manipur.

In India today, there are gross and apparently growing inequalities of income, wealth, consumption, property, access to quality education and healthcare, and avenues for dignified employment. These diverse disparities in turn run along diverse social axes, among them caste, religion, ethnicity, region and gender. . Upper caste people go to better schools and better hospitals, and are massively over-represented in the professional and entrepreneurial classes. In economic as well as social terms, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians are significantly better off than Muslims. The tribes of central India, as we have seen, may be even worse off than Muslims. Those who live in the west and south of the country have more regular sources of income than those who live in the north or east. All across India, per capita income is much higher in cities than in the countryside. Finally, in every social strata, men have easier access to education, healthcare and employment opportunities than do women. . The life chances of a Dalit remain grossly inferior to that of a Brahmin; of a Muslim to that of a Hindu; of a tribal to that of a Hindu or Muslim; of a villager to that of a city-dweller; of an Oriya or Jharkhandi to that of a Maharashtrian or Tamil. After 61 years of the Republic, can we name one dalit icon, in the domain of popular culture (music, arts, cinema, and cricket), business, and the private sector that has captured the imagination of India? The fact that we cannot shows the horrendous record of the idea of India. But we can always comfort ourselves saying that it could be that there isn't anybody who is talented enough from among a dalit population of nearly 18 crores, large enough to constitute the sixth largest country in the world! And meanwhile we always have Karan Johar's idea of India to fall back on, the India that lives in New York and London and populated by the Khannas and Kapoors, and the Sharmas and Pandeys. This is how the inequalities have caused separateness leading to constant conflict and therefore this stands as main and strong factor affecting the idea of India.

There appear to have been three, overlapping, phases in the evolution of political corruption in India. The licence-permit-quota raj of the ’50s and ’60s was the first stage. Favours were granted to particular individuals or firms in return for a consideration. The second stage, inaugurated in the 1970s, involved the ruling party taking a cut off large defence contracts. The third stage, which began at the same time but really intensified only in the 1990s, has rested on the abuse of state power to allocate—or misallocate—land and natural resources to friends and cronies. . With public policy overwhelmingly determined by the desire to achieve 9 per cent growth, we have handed over peasant and tribal lands for the most destructive forms of industrial and mining activity. By making that one number the sine qua non of national pride and honour, the central government has encouraged state governments to promote corruption, criminality, social strife and massive, and possibly irreversible, environmental degradation and thus we witness land grab cases of Nandigram and Singur, Posco, Lavasa, Noida, scams of 2G, Adarsh society, etc.

For this level of mounting corruption we also see the civil society raising its voice and becoming more politically vigilant of the government’s plans and actions, which, no doubt is a good sign. But this society in recent time, in the wake of Lokpal Bill agitation had shown a disinterested, ignorant and arrogant behavioral pattern towards democracy. The agitation was compared to that of Arab Spring, which is not only unrealistic but also ridiculous as ours is not a dictatorial regime. The government was seen bending towards the demands of the civil society. In this whole episode what was more disturbing was the fact that a bunch of citizens of the same country who are tired of dealing with the government’s level of corruption, formed an association and gathered/ assembled at a place to protest receiving full police security and media attention and on the contrary, the same citizens of the country living in Kashmir and North-east do not have such an extensive freedom of movement and forming assembly and moreover law and order there is governed by Military.

Despite all these commotions and disruptions that shape our idea of India with a bit of critical connotation, it is a great miracle/surprise to our amazement that India has still managed to remain a democratic, republican country. Such factors may have shaken the pillars of democracy but have not caused its fall; rather, it has only made the county more close, united and strong. It is this fact; by and large that is the idea of India – A Pluralistic Democratic Country.

Facebook or Google+

Abigail Menezes.


It doesn’t seem appropriate to start talking about Google+ as if it just started, even though it was opened up for everyone just a couple of weeks ago. And after they recently announced they had reached 20+ million users, it doesn’t seem like it could have escaped anyone that Google+ is the now a hyped player in town, in a good way of course. But then there is this little thing about Facebook and how some people say Google+ will completely destroy Facebook from its throne. Is it true?

Well, we’ll just have to wait and watch to make up our minds. Facebook certainly has an advantage, and that is in its sheer number of users, and also in the way that they always innovate. However, lately they have been slacking on the bugs a bit, at least I think so personally. I have been frustrated many times about the site being wonky and slow, not to mention features that worked perfectly before yet at the moment don’t even show up. So who will be the winner in this fight? Is there space enough for these giants to share the social networking throne? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see because the battle is on.

With more than 700 million active users worldwide, Facebook proves to be hard to surpass. But other critics point out that Google's large user base across its different products and its proprietary technology will make Google+ an alarming opponent.

Google reached a billion unique visitors in May, but Google+ alone has about five million users as of today, according to Paul Allen, the founder of Ancestry.com, who estimated Google+ members using US census data and the number of Google+ members with certain last names. Allen has also noted that Google+ is "growing like crazy."

The Circles innovation is the key feature that distinguishes Google+ from Facebook. It allows the user to fine tune which group of friends to get what information update. Users can share something with one circle, while keeping it hidden from others. You can put anyone in a Circle, and they can choose to reciprocate or not. Huddle allows users in specific circles to group message each other. The Location feature gives users the option to include their current location to each post. Sparks lets users notify Google+ of their interests, and in return, Sparks will send the user information on the topic in the form of movies, articles, etc., on a regular basis. Google Alerts has the same function, but Sparks allows users to share information with their friends more easily.

Google+ however, has a disadvantage to its mobile users. The applications that are available on Google+ aren’t free for those who login to Google+ from their mobile phone, one has to buy each and every application. Whereas on Facebook, all the applications that it has are absolutely free. Hence, Google+ might be at a disadvantage because it might lose out on its mobile users.

On the other hand, what might turn out to be Google+'s real amazing application isn't a feature inside Google+. It is the new black bar that sits atop every Google property including the Google.com search page and Gmail accounts. But the real key is that on the right side, you have a box that turns bright red when you have a notification from Google+. If someone has commented or re-shared your post, or added you to a circle, the box lights up. When you click on it, a dropdown box appears and in case that someone has added you to a circle, you see their profile picture.

With a single click add them to one or more of your circles, hide them or outright block them. One more advantage, if someone comments on a post you have made or comments after you do on someone else's post, you can reply directly from the notification drop down window, without ever leaving the other Google page you are on.

Facebook's biggest advantage is its ubiquity. Asking people of a certain age if they have a Facebook account borders on the absurd. Of course they do. And many a friendship has been rekindled via the service. Facebook currently has about 700 million users, and this is its main asset. Facebook users have already created their own networks of friends on the site, and it is a pain for some to switch over to another social network site. Since early July, all Facebook members, and gamers in particular, are able to use Facebook Credits, a virtual currency. This is Facebook's another advantage that will boost its membership and loyalty. Facebook Credits is a virtual currency that enables fast and easy transactions across games on Facebook. With Facebook Credits, people enter their payment information once and can buy, earn and spend safely across lots of different games.

It is still not clear as to who will win the social media war, but one thing holds true, social media users are the ultimate beneficiaries as the two rivals continue to improve their products in order to win over customers.