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Round 2 – Manmohan May 28, 2009

Posted by astralwicks in Election, Government, india, Opinion, People, Politics, Thoughts, Writing.
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I before you

I come before you – in the family, in the queue at Andheri or at the theater. I just hate to stand in the line and await my turn. I miss those wonderful days when I just jumped the line and did what I felt like – just like my favourite Sarkaar.

After all to repress is to regress. I spit frequently sitting in my car and auto. I After all, what are a few diseases. They make us stronger – unlike those whiny white or black Europeans weaned on cleanliness.

You think I am all of warts. I am religious – doesn’t that count? I pray day in day out and dump the garbage in the nearby Arabian Sea. Once it was clean, now its black, no make that soot black. God’s will I say. Kalyug at the corner.

I am a large – hearted person you see. I’ll show you. I love my religion and my caste also. People from ‘my’ region are treated with respect when they visit my house. People who pray ‘my’ god fare even better. All my friends eat what I like. Makes for a harmonious dinner table experience. We even – oh let it be. I am not like that.

I am an extremely fair person. After I hoard for myself and my family I distribute largesse to people who are faithful, who fawn and touch my feet. I like these customs – that make people bend down and touch my feet. Such powerful feelings of love overcome me then I cannot tell you. I write poems and scripts based on these.

Karan Johar was right. I correct myself, is right. Its all about loving one’s family – blindly. The country can go up in smoke but my family should be the 1st. In cabinet births, in getting plane and train tickets, in coming out of jail at the earliest, in getting admission to a school or college, lineage is all.

Karunanidhi – the DMK supreme is a man of many quarters. He doesn’t believe in God, has a sense of humor by asking whether Ram and his monkey cohorts were holding engineering diplomas while constructing the bridge to Lanka, writes poems and scripts. You get the picture. He goes on to blackmail the nation and its people for a full week after the elections. Why? Because his blood are not in the cabinet. Or people who suck up to him.

They bargained hard and cost the nation dear. What is 10 days you say? Government formation is as big a task as winning the election. It is but natural for allies to seek their pound of flesh. So not having a working government when a cyclone is marauding through a part of the country is par for the course. Post victory when the entire country is looking for signs of stability and positive cues in times of recession one party goes for the jugular.

By standing firm Manmohan Singh has carried on from his electoral victory in Round 1. Don’t take me for granted – is the message. Respect me, respect the verdict and lets set an example – that the nation is waiting from us. Let us chart a new path. Let us at least try – young and old. The answer as one minstrel said is…


Rev September 2, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in Blogging, india, Personal, Poetry, Random, Thoughts, Writing.
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the traffic signal

the cat at home

everybody waited

5 August 27, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in Blogging, fun, india, Personal, Poem, Random, Thoughts, Writing.
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who is she?

a poem

where there is none

24 August 25, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in Blogging, fun, india, Personal, Poem, Poetry, Random, Thoughts, World.
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Evening sky

Evening smoke

Evened out

India’s Almost Independence Day August 14, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in Blogging, Culture, freedom, india, Personal, Politics, Thoughts, World, Writing.
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The 62nd Independence Day is all around us in India and abroad too I guess. There will be glossy specials in magazines of all sorts discussing why inspite and despite of all the problems that plague us as a nation and people, we are happy to be Indians etc. How the spirit of India is more than the sum of all it parts. Reams will be written about the mystical spirit that imbues this ancient land and how it guides us all in a subtle and eventually benevolent manner.

Mr. Manmohan Singh will address the nation from the Lal Qila and kids would still hate their teachers for making them practice some inane dance routine and making them stand in the sun or rain; all of it for some meager 5 marks in the unit exams.

The flavour of the season is of course Abhinav Bindra. I heard his bytes after the victory – sarcastic, patiently impatient and wonderfully poker faced. Would he have succeeded without his industrialist father? Debatable. But it’s strictly a personal achievement. The nation can and will milk it forever – always on the look-out for new icons to bask in their reflected glory; of people who have won inspite of all the obstacles and with no help from the establishment. If he or they can then so can I.

Will India get earnest but dull leaders. We like Manmohan Singh but does he inspire? NO. We can hardly hear his voice. A leader and a good person have nothing in common. We have a xenophobe like Modi on one hand and Mr. Singh on the other.

Is it just me or can everybody feel that inspite of all the self-congratulation India is a country that doesn’t perform to its potential. That we are still a nation trying to sort out our differences…of region, caste and religion. 62 years has not been enough to know and understand each other. At best we just tolerate each other.

Any incentive to flare and it’s a conflagration. And violence is the only weapon we know. Shiv Sena and now MNS in Maharashtra. The Gurjars in Jaipur, the Gorkhas in Darjeeling etc etc…forget the perennial J&K and Naxals.

Shouldn’t we stop, pause and discuss this defining national trait? Where does this violence come from? How has it become ingrained in our psyche? And who is going to acknowledge first?

What else then since the last hoisting…

Binayak Sen – state terror at its best. Imprisoning a doctor who was working for the common man.

We should lower our flags just for Mr. Sen.

Inflation at 13%, growth to around 6%…

State sponsored violence – this time in Nandigram by the Communists

Nuclear Deal – we all know what happened when the sardar of India decided enough is enough and took on the mighty comrades in arms.

Trust Vote with unashamed display of money, followed by a sting followed by another shoddy sting and…

Terror – Jaipur, Bangalore and Ahmedabad. And no arrests or convictions. We have wonderful investigating agencies that arouse no confidence at all.

Naxals / Maoists – almost everywhere in central India and Andhra. See how small a reference it is. We have become immune to it. It is not a platitude that India is a dual economy. Everything in India is dual and never shall the twain meet.

Jammu and Kashmir – it’s a return to unprecedented levels of polarization between the twin regions of Jammu and Kashmir. 62 years and no solution. Haven’t people heard of something called ‘consensual divorce’.

Saina – yes not Sania. Saina came agonizingly close to move into the semis. Lost focus. But you are 18 so…her semi-final berth would have been a giant leap but it’s a great beginning and not at all a loss.

Celebrity Blogs – at least sometimes the true feelings of our stars come out on the net

Nano – nobody other than the company officials have driven it but a definite achievement.

Yash Raj Phormoola – it sank and sank and now even the people who hate the banner have developed some sympathies. If Bachna Ae Haseeno tanks…?

Sallu and Shah Rukh fight – they sure do make life interesting and people at Stardust…remember that magazine…extremely happy

Akshay – he is the biggest star in India. Period. Bigger than Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir.

Rise of Mayawati – for a moment it seemed that her time had come. In fact it has just begun.

Relationships – Saif almost going the Tom way but thankfully being upfront about it.

Media – the biggest loser this year. It is now proven that they can do anything to get a byte. Having no respect for anybody’s private or public space, no self-regulation – it is time to set up strict guidelines. It is not just the clean and sanitized environs of the studio that contribute to your image but also how you gather your material.

Channel Wars – new GEC launches. Does India have that many eye-balls? Of course they do and everybody wants to have a pie. Bouquet’s were launched from NDTV Imgaine, 9 X and now Colors. Turner is all set for end of this to early next year. Not to forget UTV’s Hindi and Foreign films channels and some from BAG too!

Aarushi – a couple of generations will remember this case. The adults for the shoddy, corrupt and inept police investigations and the kids for losing anchor, love and trust in family and friends

The Police – we should have the right to prosecute them.

Reality Shows – they are everywhere and have made their own space. Friday and saturday are reserved for Non-Fiction programming across channels – thought unthinkable till some months back.

IPL – a money making machine has been launched by Mody and Co and the hard-pressed-for-time fans are only too happy.

SEZ – special economic zones to brutally exploit capital, labour and resources so that a few can earn a lot and many can suffer. Doesn’t matter even if a State doesn’t want it – like Goa. Why? Because the center has entered into agreements. And a bomb blast in the state is the local government’s responsibility. Is somebody on some serious drugs here?

Scarlette & Goa – the murder of the British teenager in the ex-hippie Mecca ended a dream…but Fiona fought back and there is hope yet…for justice and for the hippie as well

Oil – need I say more.

Hybrid – It’s the way to go.


Van Morrison has a song called ‘It’s almost Independence day’. When you hear it you realize the promise of that day and the reality of its aftermath.

10 things I smell… July 18, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in Blogging, Experience, india, Mumbai, Personal, Random, Thoughts, Urban Life, Writing.
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Some days back I had written a post -10 things I see everyday in Mumbai. Somebody suggested why not 10 things that I smell more or less daily! So here it is.


It is actually a list of the various things that I consume or see other’s consume…even the garbage, mud combination


  1. Tea or Coffee (go for the tea, warm water and honey combination. It is a great start. Coffee ratio – 75% water 25% milk and a little sugar and lots of coffee without chicory)
  2. Soap while bathing. Another tip – never use any soap on the face.
  3. Deodorant.
  4. Chyawanprash.
  5. Fishes – early morning sellers. In Versova it was an all-pervading smell, because it is a fishing village but in Amboli you get it only when you cross the few that sell.
  6. Mix of garbage, water, mud. Can’t put a smell to it though.
  7. Freshly fried wada and bhajji for folks on the run.
  8. Smoke. Different kinds of smoke in fact.
  9. Cigarettes. You can smell them better after quitting.
  10. The air conditioned room has a different smell – depending on how well it is functioning. Mine gives a musty, dusty smell.
  11. The masala in the office tea so strong that it kills all tea in it.
  12. All autos smell differently – a mix of various smells of the people it transported.
  13. The smell of the season – it’s a confusing mix of sun, humidity, rain and clouds and the hidden omniscient smell of fish.
  14. Last but not the least…milk!

10 things I see everyday…20 things… July 16, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in Blogging, india, List, Metro, Mumbai, Personal, Places, Thoughts, Urban Life, World, Writing.
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…in Mumbai in the month of July 2008

  1. Helmetless driving
  2. Infants hanging precariously from their mother’s lap as the father overtakes…from the left, from the right, from the center
  3. School-kids hanging to dear life in over-packed autos
  4. Half the population spitting from autos, taxis, trains, buses, windows, sitting
  5. Jumping the red light at crossroads
  6. Breaking the queue at bus stops
  7. Fudged vehicle meters
  8. Garbage
  9. Digging…and more digging
  10. Plastic
  11. Accidents
  12. Abuse after accident
  13. Spilling trains
  14. Umbrellas (it’s the rainy season here in Mumbai)
  15. People moving on…and ahead
  16. Puddles
  17. Cracked roads
  18. Construction
  19. Unfinished construction
  20. Mud/stains
  21. People talking on phones while driving an auto, car and bike!

Thats the Way…I Like It June 13, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in Blogging, india, Personal, Random, Thoughts, Tourism, Travel, World, Writing.
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I was away for a week. Away from my cat, my computer, blogs, downloads, morning newspaper, 24 x 7 television, home made food, Mumbai and job. I was away – in Munnar.

3 of us took the Netravati Express from Kurla Terminus. It’s an almost 26 hour ride to Ernakulam. From there we took a cab, which is another 4 hours roughly to the Pallivasal estate where we planted ourselves – having an uninterrupted view of the Nilgiris in front of us for miles, as far as the eyes could see. Clouds played truant with us morning, evening and at night. We had a great cook. I don’t eat non-veg food but whenever the cook came with his savories I could smell quality and taste. His veg too is great and I tipped him.

What did I do in Munnar. Nothing. Yes, sometimes that’s what one should do. This was the routine. Get up by 6 or 7. Have your morning cuppa without the noise, paper and humans. Watch the clouds come in from nowhere and disappear reveling vast, green hills dotted with Tea plants and forests. Go for a walk with umbrellas in hand to no place in particular. Come back a bit breathless, sometimes a wee bit wet. Have more tea. Listen to music at low volume, eat lunch, talk a bit, sleep a bit, wake up in time for the gorgeous evenings.

Most evenings were confusing and chilly. It reminded me of my stay in London. Misty, cloudy, hint of rain and an unobtrusive drizzle. The clouds would take birth in the middle earth section of the valley. Yes, we had to name this part because it looked like a cauldron where clouds used to take birth, disperse, creep in, overwhelm the entire valley, make everything invisible and cold.

We used to sit silent in the silence watching this misty dance choreograph itself with the wind and chill and animal sounds as props. Have more coffee. Sometimes we had wine and to break the norm peach Vodka. Everybody liked that.

Food brought us back to our senses. The chill making us hungry. We gorged to satiety and didn’t care about calories or kg’s. We did this for 5 days. Away from all the murders, wars, victories and defeats playing out in the battlefield outside.

I came back to traffic, horns, water-logging, metro construction and other forms of viral competition.

I liked Kerala. They keep it clean. It is not foreign-clean but has the right discipline that is suited to us Indians. There is a certain finished-ness about everything that is not German-precision that many Indians hate and probably cannot emulate. As Radiohead sings ‘Everything in its right place’. I liked the Munnar weather, the food, the touristy places and the clouds. I listened to ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ a lot here. It’s a great track. Also Underworld’s Dark and Long which hinted at the underlying mystery of the place.

I had thought I would not write about Munnar. Because my praise will make more people go there and probably…

Enjoy and preserve.

Memories of Unemployment May 31, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in comics, F&B, Food, india, Media, Personal, Politics, Random, T.V, Thoughts, World, Writing.
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I am without a job in more than a year. Yesterday was the last day. A bunch of 4 people paid for my lunch; gave a short speech and presented me with 2 Oxford books. I was touched and will remember it always.

More than 1 year is a long time. 14 months in a television production house to be precise. So what do I miss? The obvious is the bunch of 4 people who paid for my meal etc. There are a few others too.

The first cup of coffee made by Ramu, our head pantry guy. When he joined the office still had nothing. So they used to make the worst coffee in the world, similar to prisons all over the world, I guess. And then came the Coffee Day machine. We thought our days of torture are over. But it was not so.

Ramu and others are illiterate; they know Hindi but who cares about Hindi, not the Coffee Day instruction manual for sure. Again quite a few of the pantry guys hail from Bihar and U.P – the pantry is on the 1st floor, a stylish wooden staircase leading up. There are on good days 40 to 50 people working. The pantry strength is 5 at best. Mine was an open office, for the free flow and mingling of diverse creative juices. Well…

40-50 people having 2 or 3 cups of tea or coffee per hour, breakfast, other knick knacks before lunch hits them; receiving orders, serving them, washing dishes, in the meantime the coffee / tea orders still attacking them, again the hunger pangs of afternoon and evening as they keep traveling up and down, down and up, balancing food and beverage. They work hard and don’t get salaries on time and have to send money back home and are threatened by political parties and their goons.

Coming back…so he as a rookie had initial problems; the mixing was not right. The coffee and I both probably hated him.

But over the months Ramu figured out exactly how I liked my morning cuppa of cappuccino – strong with the sugar on the lesser side. The right mix of bitter and sweet. A good wake up call after the hateful journey to Saki Naka.

I don’t know if he will miss me but…making good coffee is an art.

The Cafeteria is another place that I will miss. Our bunch sometimes 5 leading upwards to 10 on good days…and I was the only guy!!! Most of them non-vegetarians and a couple of us veggies. Many a time one couldn’t eat to one’s hearts content, the food falling short. But it was fun as most good meals are; lots of talk, gossip, some creative talk and sometimes silence; the hunger making us focus only on food.

The Conference Room. Not the most popular of choices but it is for me for a number of reasons. Made great friends, had interesting discussions, ideating sessions and it was one place that gave me silence. I hated the open office settings. Many a show was thought, debated and presented. That was the womb.

My chair and computer. The desktop was on a long table that belonged in the dining room of a faux-castle. For the first 12 months we had the worst chairs in the world and it is being kind to the chairs; ergonomic, physiological, construction disasters. In the initial days I had Linux OS. Good, stable machine but not very good to make power point presentations. I was too used to windows. Finally windows was granted to me and I sat there almost forever; people wondering what I did.

And I will miss my desktop display.

the jouney

Tashan – A Late Review May 5, 2008

Posted by astralwicks in art, Blogging, Culture, Directing, Films, india, Movies, Personal, Reviews, Tashan, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Writing.
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I watched Tashan a few days back. Since then some people have been waiting for my review of it. Not that people are dying to read it but general friendliness I guess. Also they want to save a few hundred bucks, I feel.

Anyways I was accompanied by very generous friends. 3 of them had already watched it and encouraged me through the week to watch it, so that they can accompany me. Strange, but I am grateful to them.

It was playing at Chandan. Everybody in Mumbai knows about Chandan. A mammoth single-screen theater with close to 1300 seats per show. If it runs at Chandan we know it’s a hit. Simple.

I was told that the film was not doing good at the window. It has a stellar cast. The twosome of Saif – Kareena, Akshay and Anil Kapoor. Nowadays you either love or hate the Yash Raj banner and their kind of films.

The grime, angst and violence of papa Yash has been replaced with the aesthetic of an India shining. Papa Yash also liked white chiffon, which has been updated with you-name-it yuppie Brands of a shrinking world. There stories are of a successful India or of an emerging India. India of the small town or village with dreams in their eyes. A Kanpur here or an Indore there. Lovable rascals from small town India whom you can laugh at initially and then laugh with is the new Yash Raj formula. Banti aur Babli being the zenith.

Coming back to Tashan. Tashan means ‘attitude’. Tashan’s one line is ‘attitude’. It is also the sacred ‘one line’ of the film. The one line that runs through and through the script, from beginning to end, through the 3 Acts. Therein lies the rub.

A film about attitude still has to have a story. Here is the story. 3 people each in love with the other, have to cheat each other to survive. Interesting! Very gripping in fact. Could have been fodder for great cinema. But doesn’t happen in this case.

Tashan doesn’t work because – it is not a story of lost and found love (Akshay and Kareena).

It doesn’t work because it is not even a buddy movie (Akshay and Saif) in the mould of Main Khiladi Tu Anari. Saif in Tashan is reduced to a side-kick.

It is not a revenge drama (Kareena’s story).

It doesn’t work because it is not even a ménage a trios (Saif falls for Kareena; Kareena cheats Saif; Kareena wants to cheat Akshay; Akshay falls for Kareena; Kareena realizes her love for Akshay; Saif realizes that Akshay and Kareena are old, childhood lovers).

Why does this happen? We as audiences in the dark are always sympathetic to people, in this case, heroes and heroines, in love. But not in this case. Is Tashan projecting a world view where there are no morals, only self-interest. Yes. We cannot deny that the world we currently inhabit is ruthless. Is it a nihilist film? Obviously not. Because the film makers don’t know what nihilism is!

The realization of love in a selfish world is a great moment in the sacred dark of the cinema hall. Akshay Kumar, in fact, moves us, briefly, in the boat scene, because, he makes us see his humanity, his weakness. It never happens again.

That is the fatal flaw of Tashan. Attitude has to have an audience. And Tashan has none. Because Tashan’s attitude is borne out of the film maker’s conviction that ‘attitude is all’. It has no reigns, no dynamics, no parameters, other than the Yash Raj paradigm of glitz, glamour, oomph, pyrotechnics and loudness.

Growing up, we believed in heroes and villains. Even the cardboard kind with their ‘addas’ and molls. In Tashan the over the top is defined as ‘attitude’. It is so over the top that it becomes spoofy. You don’t believe in any of them. Not the heroes or the villains. Till the end the audience might be fooled that all of them, including Anil Kapoor are on the same side or playing a stupid game to fool us – the stupid audience.

Mr. Acharya had previously written the two immensely successful Dhooms. Films that have no semblance of a plot, movement etc. Star driven vehicles that work because of no particular reason.

Well there are reasons – Aishwarya in a bikini, Bipasha in a bikini and the two of them in a semi-naked state in the rest of the film. Not to forget the males – Hrithik and Bachchan. Then there is action, which is good by Indian standards and bad internationally and the ever-present songs. These hits don’t stay with you. It is not even like Jab We Met, which still makes you smile, laugh or cry honestly.

In one way Yash Raj has perfected the art of the emotionless Blockbuster, just like Hollywood. No memories after the exit and popcorn.

Tashan might not even be a success. Time to evaluate the stable’s weaknesses. Time to step down from the pedestal. Time to realize that small and subtle can have attitude also. Time to realize that attitude doesn’t need to be rammed down. If it’s real, it will stick.