Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Fare Thee Well Grand Parent

Over the last year or so, I have had two deaths in my family. My grandfather on my dad's side and grandmother on my mom's side both passed away. Baba died suddenly on the night of September 1st, while Ajji passed away due to late stage Parkinson's disease yesterday. Her last days were slow torture for her, and we can definitely say that she went to a better place, where she will not have to face any pain. I have reconciled to her passing away a lot better than I did for Baba's. That was very sudden and I think everyone was stunned by that one. He died in his sleep and it is said he looked very peaceful, so basically he faced no pain. In the matter of death, the two cases were about as antipodal as it possibly could get. What was common was the innate sense of loss that I felt.

The more I think about it, the more I feel miserable that I could not be there for the last few moments of their lives. In a way, they may be happy up there, that my last memories of them are those of smiling faces wishing me good luck, hoping to see me soon and not those of their mortal remains. But it is tough. I probably have yet to get over Baba's death even though it is almost 10 months to the day it happened. I can't get over the fact that the last time I spoke to him, he actually mentioned that he couldnt wait to see me next time I was there. I have not gone back to India yet, but it will be very emotional for me not to see him there. As it will be when I go to Ajji's place. For years it has been Ajji's place. Now she is not there, I wonder what it will be. For me it probably remain Ajji's place. 27 years that's what I have been calling it. It's like one by one my links to my childhood are going away and all I have left is memories.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

NRIs hijacked

As a reading member of the Indian diaspora, I often think that the NRI is an overrated human being. If one were to read a majority of the Indian news websites, (Rediff, TOI, HT) we would be the most talented bunch of people in the world. Case in point is the Rediff USA front page. There is daily news on some NRI kid who has progressed in some field. There was a time, when they were derogatorily known as ABCDs but now there are so many of them that we call them NRI / PIO (Person of Indian Origin). The latest are the achievements of Kyle Fernandez .

Kyle's story is an extraordinary one. He is a member of the winning NCAA Gymnastics team. Well, winning in gymnastics by itself is an extraordinary achievement, but what makes his story even more movie-like is that he had two career threatening shoulder surgeries. Not just that he also suffers from an asthamatic condition. By itself this is a great feat and Congratulations are in order to Kyle for doing something even doctors may not recommend. What riles me up is that headline on top out there. "Indian-American gymnast beats injury to win" .. Nowhere further down in the article is there any mention about the Indian origins of Kyle. No one even knows if Kyle even considers himself Indian since there is no quote attributed to him in this regard. By phrasing this as an Indian-American achievement, hasn't rediff somehow taken some gloss off it?? Gymnastics after a shoulder surgery is way over creditable for anyone. Would this story have been reported in the same news column had Kyle Fernandez been a Kyle Smith from Bethesda, MD? It should be since it is a story of courage and dedication. But it probably would not be reported. We call him one of our own, because he won. But for every Kyle Fernandez in the US, there would be tonnes of cases in India that have not been recognized. I bet Kyle may not be able to catch a running local from Dadar, but I have seen people on crutches do that. Is that not a victory by itself? The fact that courageous people brave the odds to defeat their handicap is something we should celebrate without deciding on their nationalities and origins?

Another fact that gets my blood boiling is that many of the folks who we gloat over for being Indian, do not even consider themselves Indians. Why can't we think of them as normal day-to-day Americans / Brits / Whatevers?? Why do we have to call them Indian when they are not, and that the only connection they have with India is that their parents were born there (but obviously not spent much time there, else they would not be in the US, would they?). The funny part is there was this one guy called Nasser Hussain. Half decent cricketer of the guts and glory school. Was born in Madras (now Chennai). His dad played Ranji Trophy for TN. Migrated to the UK. Nasser grew up to be Captain of the English Cricket Team. For an NRI kid, that's mighty impressive. Enough to warrant an entire batallion of Indian media, right? But there was none. For the Indian media, Hussain was English. His Indianness got much less of a mention in the Indian media than Anurag Kashyap who won the recent US Spelling Bee. Heck, there were articles on his relatives in India!! Try doing a google on Shikha Uberoi (an Indian Tennis Player) and I bet there are more articles from Rediff or TOI than even the standard Tennis Magazines. Is it that the Indian media only highlights those who probably we never would have heard of had it not been for the media outlets and who therefore are not going to deny them the chance for their 15 minutes of fame. I bet if Nasser Hussain's nationality was hijacked, he would have categorically stated that he was English first and foremost and those who think he is Indian go see a shrink.

Heck, what the hell am I complaining about? It's equally likely that my kids would be born here too. Maybe we should register our kids for the Santa Clarita Ichthyology Bee. Maybe they will get their 15 minutes in the Indian sun!! Till then, I'll probably stop reading the NRI mania.

Bye for now,


Monday, June 06, 2005

Sandgroper's Movie Blog

Due to my new-found loneliness, I have now rediscovered my movie watching touch. In the last 6 days, I have rented 5 movies, watched 3 of them with the plan of watching the other two sometime this coming week. Also, watched 3 movies on the telly so that makes it a total of 6 movies in 6 days. Reminds me of the times in college, when the standard mode of entertainment was movies. Cinema has always fascinated me. My likes in movies are almost wierd. Dulhe Raja was about as good a movie to me as Citizen Kane since it kept me equally engrossed. It definitely was a better movie according to me than Titanic. In fairness though, I should mention that watching Dulhe Raja was fun also coz it was on Cable, so I could avoid the songs. Had I watched in the theatre, it probably would have been a different decision.

This got me thinking, I should publish a list of my favorite movies. To be fair to the movies, the basic criterion was that I should have watched the entire movie at one sitting (no bathroom breaks, no songs forwarded) and the movie should have captured my imagination at the first sitting. In other words, that I have watched number of times and they are part of my all time best lists, but I honestly was not a huge fan of the movie at the first sitting. There are some that I have watched millions of times and loved them each time, including the first time. So here goes:

Pulp Fiction -- Well there's this passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee." I been sayin' that shit for years. And if you ever heard it, it meant your ass. I never gave much thought what it meant. I just thought it was some cold-blooded shit to say to a motherfucker before I popped a cap in his ass. I saw some shit this mornin' made me think twice. See now I'm thinkin', maybe it means you're the evil man. And I'm the righteous man. And Mr. 9 Milimeter here, he's the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could mean you're the righteous man and I'm the shepherd and it's the world that's evil and selfish. Now I'd like that. But that shit ain't the truth. The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be a shepherd.

Need I say more? Whoever thought of a line like that deserves the honor at the top of my movie database.

The Shawshank Redemption -- An excellent excellent movie. Can't think of why it never won the best movie Oscar. Beaten by Forrest Gump (not a bad movie, but it was definitely not gripping enough. And turns out I am not the only person to complain. 52%of the world apparently agrees. The flow, the pace, the narration was top notch. Frank Darabont has struggled ever since to create a movie anywhere close. The Green Mile and The Majestic were noble efforts, but let's keep them to that.

The Best Man -- Every time I watch an English movie (or I should phrase it differently, a non-Hindi movie) I look at how it could be made into a Hindi movie. Considering most Hindi movies are borrowed subjects I am surprised how this never made the list. While billed as being loosely based on Republican politicians Richard Nixon and Adlai Stevenson, I couldnt help but think of it being on the lines of Madhavrao Scindia and Sitaram Kesri. I love watching political movies, and honestly I could not find a better one than this one.

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King -- Hey, I am a geek. Of all the geek movies in the world, I liked this one the best. Simply because it all seems to fall in place. Even though you know that Sauron is going to lose, you are engrossed to the screen from the starting credits. There's hardly a point where it drags on (though the end could have been cut a bit, but everything before that compensated it.) For geeky movies, it was run close by the original Matrix but unfortunately the sequels messed it up for that franchise. If you notice, this is the only movie sequel on this list.

The Godfather -- Speaking of sequels, I have not watched Godfather Part II in its entirety. Hence that is not on this list. But the original of the trilogy was easily the better one for me. Kept it engrossing from start to finish, and what can I say?? Been a long time since I saw this one though. About six months. This the movie that irritates the life out of my wife. Coz everytime I am at Blockbuster, I am willing to pick it up!!

The Usual Suspects -- Sanjay Gupta should be shot for copying this movie and then flushing the story down the toilet. I don't mind copying the movie. It is the conversion into Reservoir Dogs is what piqued me no end. Keyzer Soze is the ultimate bad guy to my mind beating even the likes of Darth Vader. Excellent script, excellent cast (even though Steven Baldwin irritates the shit out of me with his smile everytime I see his face).

Dr. Strangelove (Or How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb) -- Any movie with a name like that, deserves to be on this list. Peter Sellers movies were generally a bit over my head, but this one was right on the money. The scene where the President in the war room is speaking on the phone to Dmitri Kissoff (that is the Soviet Premier) about the BOMB is probably the most ridiculously funny scene I have seen. The idea that the Commies are polluting the water supply or the "precious bodily fluids" as Gen. Ripper explains to Mandrake is high up there too. But the very fact that somebody could think of a comedy of something as scary as a nuclear bomb is beyond belief. This movie was run close by "Life is Beautiful" in that category. I don't know why this one won. Probably the fact that this was a pointed satire and was made during the very times that the ridiculousness was going on, is where I would say DS(OHILTSWALTB) wins !!! (and also since this is a list for English movies)

Airplane -- Leslie Nielsen should have stopped at his first movie. Slapstick with a straight face. The doyen of the spoof genre, is so good, that it could have been construed as a serious movie if you take the dialogue lines out. Everyone in this movie is just great including the side artists who probably have a line each. Wonderful comedy, excellent movie to watch even without any drinks in you!

Dogma -- This movie came quite a few years before The Da Vinci code was published, but had the same idea. And it had a lot more to be considered sacrilege. At it was. And I loved it. Conventional wisdom is something that we have learned to assume as correct without questioning it. Which is why I love this movie.

Good Will Hunting -- My favorite school-based movie. The fact that the janitor at MIT is smarter than most students there is something every Stanford graduate will love!! And an awesome touching movie.

There.. I'll probably complete a similar set for Hindi / Indian movies .. Till then,


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

A Thousand Random Thoughts

As I sit here, a thousand random thoughts spring to my mind .. It possibly has more to do with the fact that I have nothing to do these days .. Shouldn't actually term it these days, since it's only been a day since my wife left for India for a short 5 week vacation .. She is to be there for 2 months, but the last 3 weeks of her trip, I shall be there too.. So for her, it is only a 5 week vacation ..

Anyway, I am digressing from the point .. One of those thousand random thoughts that came to my mind in one of those thousand or so moments that I have spent by myself is how in hell am I going to pass this time by myself .. I lived by myself before Devika was here, but I guess I am now spoilt .. Spoilt by her, spoilt by all the times I had somebody to talk to, spoilt by just about everything .. Last night as I went to bed, I actually had no idea what mood I would be waking up..

Turns out it wasn't so bad .. I mean it still took some getting used to the fact that there was no one beside me.. but then in my rush to get ready I really ran through my entire routine for the morning .. It was only when I was making my breakfast that it struck me as something out of the ordinary .. It also helped that since I had no idea how much time it would take me to make breakfast (the heavy task of cheerios with milk) and water the plants and clear the dishwasher, I woke up at 5.50 instead of my usual 6.50 .. The good side of all this was that I got to watch Roger Federer play at the French Open .. Once I got to work something else also struck me .. The first words that I uttered today were about 3 hours after I woke up !!!

On my drive back home something else came in my mind .. For every life changing event the first night is the most important .. Before sleeping for the day, you have no idea how you going to feel when you wake up in the morning .. how you will pass the night .. Coz all the previous nights of your life, you have never had that feeling .. But when you do wake up in the morning you find that life is the same, even though you have that feeling still bugging you at the back of your mind .. However you at least have the confidence that you can last one night.. Also, most nights hereafter are going to be similar .. Unless similar life changing events occur .. In which case, the cycle continues ..

So there people .. That's my philosophy for the day .. As you can see, I am now able to write longer stuff .. That also could be coz I have nothing else to do and need an outlet for my thousand random thoughts per minute..

Anyway, will be writing more often to this blog .. That is my half yearly resolution ..