Jul 29, 2007

Place of Pride

i discovered this pic. tucked away at a remote corner of the UN’s visitor’s lobby, nesting un-praised, unsung beside several other pictures of the peacekeeping forces that the UN deploys across the globe. This is the only pic. of an Indian peacekeeping force; more notably, the caption informs that this is the first all-woman patrol team to be deployed by the UN. Formed on Jan 2007, the Indian team is stationed at Liberia.
I am not naively patriotic & like everyone else, am skeptical of the UN’s role in really providing aid, support & succor to an increasingly fragmented & divided world. In fact, it was disquieting to see our guide mouth a stream of banalities justifying the existence of the UN as an international organization that looks out for every nations’ best interests. I really wasn’t in the mood to get into any political debate but her continuous “Pls feel free to ask me any questions that u may have” finally broke any sense of political correctness I was striving to exhibit. In ans. to my query regarding the absol. breakdown of peacekeeping & lack of UN intervention in countries like Rwanda & earlier during Amin’s rule in Uganda, I was primly informed that the “UN has to work within the parameters set out by member nations & also follow a democratically approved manner of operation that imposes several restrictions on it, which may not be immediately apparent to outsiders.” I realized then what wonderful cover the English language provides for covert operations that ppl like me r to dense to comprehend!
Anyway, as I saw this pic, i wasn’t aware of any conscious sense of pride. However, happy I was at finding this small token of India & indianess in a place thousands of miles away from home. Also, an overwhelming feeling of being connected to India, of being strangely moved, of gratitude that it is thru. the efforts of these men & women that nations write off international debts & any political party who attempts to arrogate such credit to its share shud be kicked. My camera was acting up & despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to keep the flash from exploding. Yet, I wanted to share it with those who visit my blog.
This is seemingly unrelated but made me happy. Just read about Prez Kalam’s pan-African E-Network Project. If Africa has to progress with the rest of the world, this is the manner in which it must be done – by linking commercial interests with progress. For India, this is a magnificent opportunity to foray into the dark continent's ICT development before China sets shop. India will have a ready market to sell its telecom apparatus, IT services & peddle its expertise in long distance education & tele-medicine. For Africa, this is a unique opportunity to connect its 53 countries thru. a fiber optic network to enable better access to healthcare, education & technology at supremely affordable costs.
With the traditional concept of armchair charity being replaced by a more healthy & competitive idea of charity generating revenue for both the recipient & the giver, the E-Network Project seems a much better alternative to Africa’s woes rather than the UN’s doling of aid to the starving masses of sub-Saharan Africa.

Jul 25, 2007

Notes on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind y’day again & was surprised by how much it still appealed to me. Most films that offer a twist in the narrative seem tedious on second viewing (a beautiful mind, memento, fight club, the usual suspects). Add to this the fact that Eternal Sunshine belongs to the ‘maze film’ tradition where seemingly disparate & random set of events r connected by either the characters or incidentals that change their life. While I enjoy taxing my grey cells occasionally, for me films like ‘memento’ r better understood than experienced, more interesting than appealing; Eternal Sunshine is both.
Jim Carey as Joel Barish, an introspective, shy guy who is more at home penning his thots in his journal than voicing them, who believes that Valentine’s Day is “a holiday invented by greeting card companies to make people feel like crap”, who falls for the wild & completely unpredictable Clemetine (Kate Winslet), is a surprise to all those who remb. him as Ace Ventura or a dumb moron. He decides to have memories of Clementine erased after he learns that she has had enuf of their tumultuous relatnship & has erased him from her mind. His doubts, fears & irritations r all our own as is his desperate endeavor to reverse the process of erasing memories, once he realizes that tho. it all ended badly, memories are all he has of Clementine, that even her memory is better than losing her completely. And that lends some meaning to life, for Barish at least.
In an age of fast divorces and the even faster need to move on, one wonders if totally erasing all memories of failed romances wud really make us happy? Isn’t acknowledgement of these memories essential for us to grow, evolve and accept?
Kate Winslet is spectacular & it’s a wonder that she comes across as refreshing and as alive as she does here. She is that lil girl who wants the candy, the daisies & a prince charming who will stand up for her, no matter what. She wants to be loved for her blue hair, bizarre clothes, outrageous comments, and the fact that Joel often finds her pedestrian, hurts her. She loves Joel but is frustrated by his avuncular bearing and dull lifestyle. I especially loved her in this scene where Joel says, “I don’t see anything I don’t like about you” & she replies, “But you will! You will, and I'll get bored with you and feel trapped, because that's what happens with me.”
Rarely has a love story been more tenderly told or in a wittier, racier manner. The pain of relationships ending forms the core of all great romances (love story, brief encounter bridges of madison county) & yet Gondry uses none of the stock motifs that abound in these films. No death-bed monologues, no teary farewells at the railway station & hysterical outpourings of a mind ravaged by the lover’s separation. There r even times when u do feel that Joel is better off without Clemetine, that he’s too much of a stuck-up prick for a woman as vivacious & uninhibited as she is. Not once does Gondry suggest that these 2 r perfect for each other, comprise 2 incomplete halves of a whole, yada yada….. They have as much reason to stay tog or part ways as any of us & it’s the film's peculiar genius that it lets them make that choice without resorting to the usual ploys of romantic comedy. After all, Clementine does erase Joel frm her mind & both are unaware (at least initially) of their shared past & its joys & pains. There is no apparent reason for the 2 of them to be together, they even decide not to, & yet, inexplicably, try again. To look for reason in matters of the heart wud be a travesty of love. Love isn't built on reason, just like Russel Crowe says at the end of ‘A Beautiful Mind’:
“I've always believed in numbers and the equations and logics that lead to reason. But after a lifetime of such pursuits, I ask, ‘What truly is logic? Who decides reason?’ My quest has taken me through the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional -- and back. And I have made the most important discovery of my career, the most important discovery of my life: It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reason can be found. I'm only here tonight because of you. You are the reason I am. You are all my reasons.”

Jul 12, 2007

Shrink-ing Self

The guys @ blaugh are getting better day by day. This one's a real howler. Enjoy!

Big Apple Difficult to Digest

Just back from a rather exhausting east coast trip. A lot to see, absorb, learn & be shocked at. In retrospect, California seems rather laid back & a far friendlier place. From downright rudeness, unfriendly demeanor, uncooperativeness (Holiday Inn, Queens), to unabashed racism (Madame Tussauds, River Inn (Niagara), I think we glimpsed all this in the last 10 days.

Of course, it’d be absol unfair if I didn’t mention the M42 bus drivers & pedestrians who helped us with directions; the sweet young couple at central park who wanted to gift a ‘free’ balloon to my daughter & whom I unwittingly refused (rather primly), driven by my suspicious mind that there had to be more to their apparent friendliness; the kind old lady at the airport who offered snacks to my lil one after AA deigned to let on that our flight was cancelled (without as much as an apology!)

Thing is, NY left me angry & I can’t shake off the feeling of resentment at the hostility that I sensed there. It’s akin to what one might feel in a city like bombay/delhi if one were accustomed to the genteel & refined ethos of a Bhopal or a Calcutta. I remb how i'd shudder, when I’d 1st arrived in bby, at the way women in crowded local trains behaved for a wee bit of space. Forget kindness, they lacked basic etiquette's & decency. They’d even jostle & push a blind kerchief seller to get to their ‘reserved’ seats. Much later I realized, when ur commuting close to 4 hrs daily, chopping vegetables in the train to save time at home, working ur mind crazy trying to figure out ways to book that 1-BHK at kalyan & wondering whether ur teenaged daughter is hanging out again with the shady guy on the chawl verandah, things like etiquette & kindness take a backseat.

I sensed the same desperation, anger & mind-numbing fatigue in the rush hour NY subway & streets. A walk down canal street on Bronx which is lined with shops & itinerant vendors selling everything from smuggled electronic goods to perfumes & purses, where pimps, beggars & hawkers will accost u every 2 ft, where pedestrians r forced to walk on the streets (which causes an eternal traffic jam) as the pavements r clogged with hawkers & their small stalls, will take u readily back to good ol’ gariahat in Calcutta or lokhandwala market in bombay & give all those who wax eloquent abt Times Square & Lexington avenue a much-needed reality check.

Take away the mid-west with its vast open spaces, multiply the black population in Bronx a good 10 times & sprinkle them across the country & US wud not be entirely different from any other crowded city in India. What irks me is when ppl behave as if traffic snarls & dirty streets r relics of starving, developing nations & have no place in the higher order of things that exists in civilized places like NY, London, etc.