Sunday, January 10, 2016

Why the Mum-Ahd bullet train is a bad idea

Last week, I read the piece of news with increasing bewilderment - the Modi Government has put the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail project on some kind of fast track (pardon the pun), and has set up a panel for the same. This extraordinary rail project basically involves building a dedicated high-speed elevated track for trains that can run at speeds upto 350km/hr, thus reducing the 550km Mumbai-Ahmedabad route to just two hours. Of course, the train is expected to have around 10-12 stops as well, which would probably bring down the average speed of the train to around 200 kmph over the length of the journey, and thus increase the actual travel time to around 3 hours.

For most of us Indians, the term "bullet train" sounds like some kind of futuristic technology, the kind that supposedly catapults India into the big league of advanced nations. Nothing can be farther from the truth. High-speed rail has existed in many nations for several decades. In fact, Japan's first bullet train started services in 1965. Yes, FIFTY years ago. THAT'S how old the concept is. And therein, also lies the problem.

You see, bullet trains were introduced in Japan at a time when commercial aviation had not taken off (pardon the pun again) as much as it has today. Flight tickets in the 1970s were unreasonably high.  Hence it made a lot of sense at that time to have high-speed trains giving a relatively affordable means of quick travel. Today, airfares have hit rock-bottom and are hence the preferred mode of high-speed transport over long distances, where even high-speed trains would take several hours.

A flight ticket from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, if planned properly, costs around Rs.2600, and takes about 2 hours including the check-in and checkout procedures. The proposed bullet train is expected to cost 1.5 times the 1stAC fare, which works out to around Rs.3000 bucks for the same two-to-three hour journey. As a passenger, why exactly then would i want to travel by this train, except for a one-time joyride experience?

Let's look at this from the other side. The cost of this project has been pegged at Rs.98,000 crore of which Japan is funding around 81%. Going by the past track record of most infrastructure projects in the country, this will surely balloon up further, but I will still hope for a miracle and assume that costs do not exceed. How will this cost be recovered? It's a no-brainer that one would need multiple services a day to actually make this successful, so I will be ambitious, and hope that there is one train every four hours daily, which means 6 services a day in each direction, or 12 services in all. Let us assume that each train is of 16 coaches (again an ambitious figure, as 350kmph is a bit risky for very long trains). Assume each bogie seats about a hundred passengers, and with 90% occupancy (again ambitious), each train could carry around 1440 passengers, thus reaching 17280 passengers a day. If we hope that the Railways earn a 40% margin for each passenger ticket at 90% occupancy, that works out to a profit margin of Rs.1200 per passenger for a ticket worth Rs.3000. Thus, the railways would earn Rs. 17280*1200 = Rs. 2.07 crore per day, or Rs.756 crore a year (around 0.8% of the cost). At that speed, it would require 129 YEARS to recover the entire cost of the project. Considering the rate of inflation at 8%, it is mathematically impossible to recover the entire cost at all. In fact, it would require some outrageous assumptions (like jacking up the price of each ticket by 300%) or running a train every one hour, in order to realistically break-even in around 25 years.

Other Countries

The fastest train in the US, the Acela Express, touches a top speed of 240kmph. While that is much quicker than Indian trains, it is nowhere close to the definition of "high-speed" rail. Yes, the technologically most powerful country in the world, hasn't even bothered to increase the speed of its trains beyond this. The Shanghai Maglev, considered to be the fastest train in the world at a speed of 430kmph, is being termed a white elephant and a major flop

The Alternatives

Today in the year 2015, commercial aviation has become a mainstream mode of transport. Not even the fastest train in the world can beat the speed and affordability of air travel. Rail travel, is today considered as a cheap, comfortable, and reasonably brisk mode of transport. Yet it lags way behind in speed and comfort. Cleanliness and hygiene inside the trains still have a long way to go, especially in sleeper class compartents. The speed of trains is a major drawback. For example, the fastest train connecting Mumbai and Bangalore (two metro cities) is the Udyan Express, which runs at a leisurely speed of 47 kmph, taking a royal 23 hours to cover the entire journey. Most buses do it in around 16 hours. This is true for many other trains. In fact, several trains which are designated as "superfast", in reality have speeds ranging from just 55 to 60kmph. 

Most experts have agreed that semi-high-speed rail (160-200kmph) is the best solution for India's transport requirements, costing just 10% of the cost of building a high-speed rail. But, if implemented across the country, travel times could drop by half. That would be an incredible improvement. Imagine travelling from Mumbai to Delhi in just 9 hours by train!

To be fair, the main reasons why trains in India are slow, is not because of the top speed possible - most trains in India regularly touch speeds in excess of 100kmph, but because of 
(a) slow railway switches leading to forced reduction in speed 
(b) too many stops at irrelevant stations for political reasons. 
(c) sharing of tracks with much slower freight trains

Indian railways would benefit far better if this 98,000 crore ws spent on building dedicated freight corridors, and upgrading the railway switches to eliminate the need for slowing down at each switch. Coming back to the Udyan express example, if the train's average speed could be increased from 47kmph to even 70kmph, it's travel time would decrease from 23 hours to around 16 hours. Increase it further to around 90 kmph, and it would take just 12 hours - just an overnight trip! 

The Duronto series of trains launched a few years back is a welcome step towards increasing the speed and comfort of rail travel. It is no surprise that the Duronto, Rajdhani and Shatabdi always travel with nearly 100% occupancy, with tickets getting sold out several days before the journey date. It merely shows that most passengers would dont mind spending a few extra hours if they get comfortable and affordable travel. If these trains could be further speeded up by fine-tuning the above points, they would be a much more viable option for both the Railways as well as the customers insetead of spending obscene amounts on high-speed rail. For the minority who really need extremely high-speed travel, air travel is always available at a marginally more expensive price.

I can only hope that someone in the Railway ministry sees the futility of this project and utilizes the taxpayer's money in a better way!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Debunking Hindu Tradition Myths

There are a slew of articles recently floating around on the Internet, claiming "Scientific reasons" behind Hindu practices. Here is a link to one of those articles:

Nothing infuriates me more than someone claim to pass off some quackery as science, hence I got down to analyzing each one of the claim. Here are my findings, to each of the claims in the above link:

1. Joining Both Hands to Greet

While it is surely a more hygenic way of greeting someone that shaking hands, there is no scientific basis for the theory of fingertips being pressure points for eyes, ears and mind. The whole concept of pressure points is derived from the chinese practice of acupressure or acupuncture, which in itself is a pseudoscience.

2. Why Indian women wear Toe Ring

Anyone with a basic knowledge of the peripheral nervous system would know that nerves run various parts of the body to the Central nervous system, and not between two organs/limbs. There is no data to prove the existence of any nerve that connects the toe ring and the uterus.

3. Throwing coins into the river

This could be true, however, during the time of copper coins, cooking vessels were also made of copper. It would have just been simpler to eat out of a copper plate rather than throwing coins into the river.

4. Applying Tilak and Kumkum on the forehead

The explanation given has no scientific reasons in it. Rather it relies on vague terms like " believed to..", " said to.." etc.

5. Why temples have bells

This one, apart from again being unscientific, is plain wrong. The best ambience to retain concentration is SILENCE, not the noisy clanging of bells. There are no "seven healing centres of the body". Would like to see atleast one scientific study which proves the existence of seven healing centres. Also the part about creating "unity in the left and right parts of the brain" - is just pure hokum. 

However, due to being conditioned as such from childhood, most of us associate the ringing of a bell to a temple/church - it is similar to how adults immediately get a feeling of concern when we hear the sound of a crying baby.

6. Why we start with spice and end with sweet

This one seems quite true, however most Indian meal customs require one to serve a small helping of a sweet as the first dish on the plate. Hence while the logic may be true, it doesn't seem prevalent in most cuisines. Also - the concept of dessert after a meal is a western tradition, no Indian cuisine keeps the sweets at the end.

7. Why we apply mehendi on hands and feet

Nerve endings are present across the entire surface of the body, not just the hands and feet. Mehndi is usually darker than skin, hence it would absorb more heat, thus heating the body instead of cooling it. Also, a wedding, even if considered stressful, should be the same for both bride and groom, then why doesn't the groom wear mehendi? Also, why do the rest of the girls in the function wear mehendi? Surely, they are having a party time! Lastly - mehendi is worn only on weddings - does that mean that a wedding is the most stressful part of a woman's life? Why wouldn't you wear mehendi when someone in your family is sick/dead? Surely that is a more stressful situation!

8.Sitting on the floor and Eating

Again this one uses vague terms like "is believed to" rather than any scientific fact. The body position while eating, depends on what a person is habituated to. Westerners usually struggle to eat comfortably while sitting in this position. Moreover - prolonged sitting in this sukhasan position can lead to numbness in the legs.

9. Why you should not sleep with head towards North

First of all, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease are caused due to nerve degeneration, and has nothing to do with iron in blood moving to the brain.

Moreover, the human body has no magnetic properties. This was a hoax that has been perpetrated by a few tricksters. Read this for more details:

10. Why we pierce ear

Yet again, the vague babble of what Indian philosophers "believe", rather than any medical/scientific fact. Enough said. Also, if piercing the ear develops intellect, why is ear piercing done primarily for women, rather than men? Do they think men are born smart?

11. Surya Namaskar

While it is true that exposure to the morning sun is good for the skin, it is utter rubbish that looking at the sun is good for the eyes. In fact, looking at the sun at ANY point of tinme is dangerous for the eyes, due the the ultraviolet rays of the sun.

12. Choti on the male head

Examples quoted from Indian history and religion with emphasis on religious ideas, rather than any medical proof. Als, the scalp and the brain are separated by a strong layer of bone called the CRANIUM, hence there is no connection between the scalp and the brain.

13. Why do we fast

This is probably the only one which sounds sensible, however, this is still a point of intense medical debate as to whether fasting is beneficial for the body. 

14. The scientific explanation of touching feet

More religious theories, rather than any medical science. There is no proof for existence of any such "energy" that can flow only from an old person's foot into a younger person's hand.

15. Why women apply sindoor or vermilion

It is true that vermilion contains mercury, however what is also true is that mercury, is in fact HIGHLY TOXIC to humans. Even inhaling mercury vapour or absorption of mercury through skin can be potentially fatal. In fact, mercury-based thermometers are gradually being phased out due to this reason.

16. Why do we worship the Peepal Tree

No, the peepal tree does not produce oxygen at night! It is true that some plants intake CO2 during the night through a process called Crassulacean acid metabolism, but very few of them actually give out oxygen. A list of plants that do so, are in the link below:

The peepal, also known as the sacred fig tree, is not one of them.

17. Why we worship Tulsi plant

Yes, this was an obvious one - Indian Ayurveda makes multiple uses of this plant as a medicine. (Note the stress on AYURVEDA here, not modern medicine)

18. Why we worship idol

Would like to see which researchers said this. I couldn't find a single scientific paper which said this. Moreover, a true worshipper or person practicing meditation would usually close his eyes, hence this logic sounds very dubious to me.

19. Why we wear bangles

Bangles have been wrn since the 6th Century BC. Bio-electricity (concept of electrical signals passing through human nerves) was discovered in 1776. Case Closed.

20. Why we visit temples

For one, copper is non-magnetic. See below:

Also: How can an object both ABSORB magnetic waves AND RADIATE it? Surely that isn't physics, or even science for that matter!

I am not opposed to Hindu traditions and customs. However, I am strongly against the practice of back-fitting bogus scientific claims to religious practices in order to gain credibility. In fact such hoaxes merely serve to even further downgrade the rationale behind these practices, as it gives the indication that those who started these practices had all their concepts wrong.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Raanjhanaa - Quick review

The first half is riddled with clichés, but is watchable if you are a fan of romantic flicks. In fact there is a point just before the interval where it looks like everything has worked out well, the movie can end here. But then there comes a twist which leads to a convoluted second half that is just pure torture. Pivotal characters are conveniently disposed off in abrupt ways, forcing the viewer to switch loyalties back and forth. In fact, each of the four main characters have so many shades of grey, that it fails to make you root for any of them. By the time the end arrives, you are yourself unsure who should end up together. That conundrum is again overcome by a rather convenient ending.

Dhanush is brilliant in his emotional expressions, but dilutes some really great lines due to his accent. A character speaking such profound lines with a heavy Tamil accent comes across as very artificial. Sonam Kapoor fares better than expected. Abhay Deol is charming, but gets limited scope. Swara Bhaskar gives a strong performance, that actually has you rooting for her character. Actor Zeeshan Ayub, as the hero's sidekick is hilarious, and provides for most of the laughter.

Thunbs up to the dialogue writer, he comes up with lines that are profound and witty. Beyond that, the movie just disappoints on multiple levels.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Rationalism vs Emotion.

There was this intriguing article by Chetan Bhagat some months ago, titled "Home truths on career wives". Here is the link for this article:

An irate response by a housewife has gone viral as well. Here is the link for the same:

Here is my reply to the responder, Richa Jha:

Dear Ms. Jha,

I read with great curiosity, your response to CB's article about Home Truths on Career Wives. While I admire your articulate writing skills, I am not so impressed with the content.

Besides the obvious point that you are over-reacting to the article, what is unconvincing is the 10 "rebuttals" that you have come up with. Closer examination of each of these 10 points reveal them to be mostly a mix of emotional rants and needless feminism.

(1) "I am a housewife by choice." - Irrelevant to the point, there was no mention by CB on whether women become housewives by choice or by circumstance.

(2) "Career Discussions…" - A woman who has an experience of working in the corporate world or pursuing a career, WILL ALWAYS be a better companion to have a career discussion with. Having a career discussion with a woman of no corporate/career experience, is akin to having a discussion with your parents - there may be pearls of worldly wisdom, but they may not always be grounded in the current realities of corporate life.

(3) "Petty office politics is not something we should waste our evenings and weekends on." - Typical statement from a housewife. It merely proves my point above, without adding any weight to your argument. A working woman understands the pressures of corporate life, and hence will be more empathetic of her husband's professional responsibilities. In the absence of such a partner, office politics is mostly discussed only at the office water-cooler, cafeteria or at the smoking zone, with colleagues whose advice is usually clouded by their own vested interests in the organization.

(4)  "Housewives with skills that help them earn while still being at home.." - The conventional usage of the term housewife refers to a woman who is not directly involved in any kind of income-generating activity. Going by your definition, Agatha Christie or JK Rowling should be called housewives who earn additional money by writing!

(5) Irrelevant remark. There is no debate on whether housewives are happy or unhappy with their lives. On the other hand, the extra satisfaction and confidence of being financially independent is true for anyone – male or female.

(6) "Knowledge and information..." - I would really exhort you to go take a survey of the average Indian housewife and test her knowledge of "Bach and Bahrain, Benin bronze work and bunions, Berettas and bhajis or Buchwald and Burke" and then compare it with a career woman and see who fares better. This is nothing more than a arrogant self-laudatory remark, which shows that you have no idea about the concept of a sample size. We all understand that  people (both men and women) fall at different points on the spectrum between utter ignorance and total awareness. Exceptional people like you may exist, but they account for less than a miniscule fraction of the entire population.

(7) You've merely rephrased point 4. Hence, refer my point 4 for the counter-argument. Again you seem to be unclear on the conventional usage of the term housewife.

(8) "I prefer travelling alone, whether backpacking abroad or exploring the lanes of non-touristy India. I plan most of them myself.." - Considering that you are a married woman with two kids, I sincerely hope that this is a lie, because if it is true, it merely raises concerns on the level of bonding and togtherness in your family more than anything else. I pity the woman (or man, for that matter) who makes most of her/his recreational trips without her/his spouse or kids.

(9) "Dependent mollycoddled kids..." : Nice to know that your kids have learnt to be self-reliant and disciplined - It's quite evident from your article that you are a hard taskmaster in real life. I will be neutral on this one - while on one hand, a child who gets less attention from his parents goes on to become mentally stronger and self-reliant (that's one of the reasons why parents put kids in a boarding school), he/she also runs the risk of falling into and getting influenced by bad company, if left unsupervised.

(10) Now you gotta admit, you wrote this one just to reach the figure of 10 :)

While I disagree with CB's idea of polarising women as either career women or phulka-making brides, it's absurd to draw unreasonable inferences from an article whose intent seems to be an entirely different one from what you construe it to be. I'm not particularly a fan of CB's writings, but I don't see that as a reason to get drawn into a futile debate which sidesteps the primary point put forward in the article and digresses to an unrelated train of thought.

By the way, the article by CB which went viral, was forwarded mainly by women.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The beginner's guide to making an item number.

(1) The Item Girl.

The star of the show. The one who is going to carry the song (or in some cases, the entire film) on her shoulders. Typically, A-grade dancers do not qualify for this job. It is usually given to dancers of grade C, grade D, or ideally, grade DD. Willingness to shed clothes should be proportional to her lack of dancing skills.

(2) The Lyricist.

This is the easy part - It involves two basic steps:

(a) Come up with a cheesy sobriquet for your item girl. It must be sufficiently obscene, yet amply titillating to ensure curiosity levels. Popular examples include Munni, Sheila, Anarkali, Chikni Chameli, Chhammak Challo, Jalebi Bai and so on.

(b) Use the keywords - Jawaani, Kamariya etc to form the base of your song. Further, you can use the following optional add-on language packs:

- 'Chak de', 'Soni', 'kudi', 'Shava Shava' etc to make it a bhangra-style item number
- 'Maula', 'Ya allah' etc to make it a sufi-style item number
- Chyayla, Aila and AiGa to make a Lavani (Marathi) Style
- "Baby", "Chill", "I wanna..", "love" to make a Western-style item number

(3) The Musician

This one requires some luck. If you get a good director and a good item girl, then your job is purely ornamental. Just bang a few utensils together, insert a few grunting and moaning sounds at strategic positions, and your task's more or less finished.

Later, add monotonous thumping rhythms and some alien sounds (Call it a "dubstep" to sound fancy). Get someone to mumble "Yo babay", "Oh Baby", "You baby" like a black rapper and you can convert the song into a "Club Mix", a "Lounge Mix", a "Dhol Mix", a "Rock Mix" and so on.

(4) The choreographer/cameraman

When you have a girl whose movements are worse than a stampeding buffalo, these jobs become slightly challenging. So here are a few thumb rules:

- The worse the dancer, the more the need for skinshow.
- The shot angle change should happen along with the beat, to provide the illusion of rhythmic body movement
- No shot should last more than three seconds. The objective is to expose the girl, not her dancing skills.
- To make the girl look enticing, surround her with a dozen ugly male extras who sniff hungrily around her body to simulate passion.

And with that, your item number is ready to be stuffed into a movie. For best results, stuff it in just after the interval, to keep the audiences from running away after the first half.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Top 10 ways to look busy at work.

(10) Create random reminders on Outlook and set them to flash every now and then. (This works especially well if you frequently use your laptop to give powerpoint presentations)

(9) Set your office chat client status to "Do not Disturb" every now and then.

(8) Always hold a pen between your fingers wherever you go, as if about to write something down

(7) Keep a notepad handy with some business jargon written on it. When you scoot off for coffee/cigarettes, leave this open notepad on your desk for anyone walking by, to see.

(6) Walk around in office wearing your phone's bluetooth headset all the time. When talking into it, gently press your fingers against it, like the cool blokes in Hollywood movies.

(5) Walk up and down inside the washroom, talking loudly on the phone.

(4) Add the line "Sent from my Blackberry/Mobile device" to your Outlook email signature on your computer as well.

(3) *ALWAYS* keep a complicated Excel sheet open in minimized mode at your PC. when someone walks by, Hit Alt-tab and press random buttons on the Excel ribbon.

(2) Conclude telephonic conversations with clients/co-workers by saying  "Can you drop me a mail on this?"

(1) When in the midst of an uninteresting conversation, whip out your smartphone and stare intently at it. Press the Menu key, scroll around to each icon, then press the Home key. Repeat.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Tirunelveli Life

Early to bed and Early to rise.
Bucketfuls of Sambhar and tubfuls of rice.

Idlis and dosas for breakfast and lunch
Murukkus and Seevals for that occasional munch
"Tirunelveli Halwa" that's softer than butter,
A cup of Filter kaapi never tasted better!

Veshti-clad Annas and baniyan-clad Thambis
Racing on Pulsars wearing nothing but lungis
Pedantic maamaas and gigantic maamis
Well-suited Ayyaas and ill-suited Swamys

Memories that send my mind into raptures
Images so vivid, no camera ever captures
Where life always seems to crawl in second gear..
Can't believe I've already spent eight whole months here! 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Microsoft Office 2010 Review

Just tried my hands on the latest Office 2010 beta. Yes, Microsoft has improved! Three things that I found better than Office 2007:

1. It actually loads faster. Yeah, it does! It took less than three seconds for my files to open up in Word, Excel or Powerpoint.

2. A handy little tool called Insert Screenshot, allows you to clip out pieces of a screenshot from any application, and directly insert it into your doc or ppt. Sure, the Snipping tool of Vista/7 can do the job, but this does it better and faster.

3. Powerpoint simply rocks!! The transition effects in Powerpoint are just super-cool. Of course most of the effects have been blatantly inspired by Apple's Keynote, but what the heck.. Windows users couldn't use Keynote anyway. So all those cool transition effects actually make your slideshows look very sleek. My favourites are the Vortex - each slide kinda explodes to reveal the next slide, and Gallery - each slides moves like an image in a picture album - see it to understand it!)

I haven't used Outlook yet, but from what I read on the net, it does a nice little job of bunching emails into conversations, just like Gmail. So I think that's a major improvement too.

So, is Office 2010 worth the upgrade? I'd say yes, for the increase in speed, handy little tweaks and the snazzy transition effects in Powerpoint. Microsoft has delivered, finally!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Who the heck is Confucius?

Search for Confucius on Google, and you'll find that he was some Chinese wise guy who lived a few thousand years ago, and who loved giving advice. Serious advice, that is. (By the way, that is the one thing in this world that everyone wants to give rather than receive - ADVICE!).

But the Confucius who gives advice on my facebook profile, on my gtalk status, or on my other blog, is not a person. He is an idea, a way of thinking, a facet of life. A force that is unseen, yet pervades the air all around us. An entity without a face, a being without a form. He transcends all man-made barriers, and strips the truth down to its birthday suit. He is Uninhibited, Unrestricted, Uncensored.

He thrives on word play, and absolutely loves making statements that can be interpreted in more than one way. Some people think that Confucius says things that are, shall we say, below the socially accepted standards of decency. But mind you - Confucius has never, ever made any comment that is overtly obscene. He merely speaks in double entendres, statements which may have a meaning other than what is obvious. In short, you need to have a perverted mind to understand the naughty side of Confucius's advice, and hence the allegation of Confucius's quotes being obscene do not stand ground.

Confucius looks all around himself for inspiration, which sometimes does include the internet too ;) However, the biggest inspiration is real life, and you would notice that Confucius usually says things that reflect the latest happenings all around us. Be it Diwali, or New Year, or getting a job, Confucius always has the first word. And the final say, as well.

Lastly, Confucius just loves the appreciation that he gets from all quarters, and would like to express his deepest gratitude to all those who egg him on. It is what pushes him to keep spreading his type of knowledge all around.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Riding the Wave...

So the current buzzword among technically erudite circles is Google Wave. And the not-so-tech-savvy people are feeling left out, so they're looking for Google Wave invites, just to "be among the elite". Of course, for a first-order geek, it always gives a strange kick to be among the first adopters of any new technology. It kinda improves their "tech quotient" among social (read geeky) circles.

I tried Google Wave too. For all the hype surrounding it, it disappointed me, to say the least. Even a tech-savvy person like me took some time to understand the concept, so I wonder whether ordinary users would be able to appreciate the significance of the concept. And even if they do, the point is it doesn't give you any earth-shattering improvement over good old Gmail. In fact, unless you explicitly "play" a wave, it looks like what programmers call Spaghetti code - a highly convoluted email chain with random insertions, completely devoid of any kind of sequence. Our eyes are accustomed to reading a mail conversation sequentially, so as long as conventional mail services exist, Google Wave would stand out as sore thumb. And as I mentioned before, most users are more than satisfied with what Gmail provides, so there is no need really, for a concept that's as drastically different as this.
Today, when the aim of technology is to spread itself as far and wide as possible, the focus should be on simplicity, rather than pathbreaking concepts. In such a scenario, I feel that Google Wave is destined to suffer a disturbingly rapid demise.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hit Wicket

The current spat between Bal Thackeray and Sachin Tendulkar reminds me of a scene from the movie Chak De India. As the girls introduce themselves to Shahrukh Khan as "Balbir Kaur, Punjab!", "Komal Chautala, Haryana!", Shahrukh says - "Mujhe states ki naam na sunayie dethe hai, na dikhai dete hai. Sirf ek mulk-a-naam sunayie detha hai, I-N-D-I-A!!".

We Indians are unabashedly patriotic when it comes to sport. With all due respect to state teams, I think no one gives a damn when the Tamil Nadu cricket team defeats Maharashtra, or vice versa. But the international arena is one area where all of India unites together to support the team. Sachin is as equally loved by the rest of India, as is by Marathis. An achievement at the international level in any field, be it sport, literature or science, should be celebrated across the country. All of Sachin's achievements have been as an Indian batsman, not as a Mumbai batsman, so I think it is perfectly right for Sachin to say that he is an Indian first.

In today's pluralistic society (or is it?) such regionalism by Shiv Sena is a shame for Indian politics. I can only view it as a last-ditch attempt by the Sena to regain its stature, as it approaches its inevitable demise, caused due to a not-so-charismatic scion, as well as a super-aggressive rebel who's snatched the Sena's positioning from right under its nose.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Learning Consumer (Mis)behaviour

One thing that I've learnt during my MBA is that Marketing is an amazing ego-killer. You may be a student in a premier management college, with seven-figure salary prospects, but when you stand outside a store with a survey questionnaire in your hand, you're no more than a pest for people. You see the rude, harsh side of human behaviour, as lowly college students shoo you off with a dismissive wave of their hands, saying "Don't bug me, I have no time for you". You feel like telling them, even my chaddis are more expensive than all the clothes you have on your body, but you have to swallow your pride, and manage a smile. I got a stark reminder of this when I went to conduct a small survey a couple of days ago, at a posh apparel store in Pune. During the course of my survey, I got to observe several kinds of people. And their shockingly rude manners.
For some reason, all the shoppers seemed to rush out of the store as if a fire had broken out inside. If you tried to stop them midway to ask a couple of questions, they would impatiently ignore me and say, "jaao yaar...". There were the 40-plus uncles and aunties, who avoided me like a plague. I thought I was smartly dressed, but it seemed as if these people regarded me as some drug peddler trying to sell marijuana. Getting female respondents was an even more enlightening experience. Before the survey, I thought that a survey is a good pretext to talk to pretty girls. Then I found out the hitch: Girls rarely go alone for shopping. They are invariably accompanied by either their boyfriends or their husbands. The moment I get close enough to a girl to greet her, her guy suddenly springs forward, casting suspicious glances at me as if I am going to run away with his girl. I got no chance to redeem myself. Then there are some overenthusiastic college grads, who interrogated me with more questions than what I have on my questionnaire("Where is your college?","How much fees did you pay?","How can I get admission there?").
Finally, after five patient hours, I managed to get 20 respondents. But I got to learn more about how the world can be, if you aren't a recongnizable figure. As Dalton Russell from Inside Man says, "Respect is the ultimate currency."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chennai Chicken..

These two months in Chennai have cleared many misconceptions of mine about Chennai. Or Tamilians, to be specific. 

Northies generally perceives Tamilians as devout, mild-mannered, religious, strict vegetarians, who consume idli-sambar for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On landing in Chennai, I was in for a surprise. People do eat idlis and dosas here, but the most popular dish here is chicken biryani! I swear there are as many biryani outlets here, as there are vada-pav stalls in Mumbai!

Probably one reason is that the Tamil Brahmin - the quintessential "Madrasi" has moved out of Chennai, to settle in more prosperous areas like Mumbai, or even better, the US. What is left behind in Chennai is the non-Brahmin, who gobbles down biryani and chomps on meat.

So all Northies, who sneer upon Tamilians as sissy pushovers, beware. The Tamilian is reborn!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bollywood truths...

I was reading today's newspaper (TOI, Chennai edition), and had a glance through Chennai Times (the Chennai equivalent of Bombay Times). There were three interviews of newcomer actresses/starlets, and I noticed that there was one question that was put forth to all the three actresses : "What is your stand on doing nude scenes/kissing scenes?" The actresses gave the same, hackneyed answer: "I am not comfortable doing such scenes, but I will do them if they are 'aesthetically shot', by a good director".

This is not the first time. Over the past few years, I've read umpteen interviews of newcomer actresses, and ALL of them have been asked this question. Now I don't really have a right to profess morality, considering that I'm no saint, but this according to me is the lowest ebb of decency. They are just indirectly asking the girl, "Will we get to see you nude?". A reputed newspaper like Times of India stoops to this level with alarming regularity. And we talk of "Indian culture".

I sometimes pity the condition of actresses in the Indian film industry. There are some very specific expectations from them, as they enter the film industry. They all enter the industry with aspirations of becoming top actresses, without the skin show. Their role models are Kajol, Preity Zinta, and Rani Mukherjee. After a string of flops, they gain some wisdom and lose some clothes. Classic examples include Mahima Chowdhary and Diya Mirza. They entered the industry with a bang, and claimed that they wanted to become top actresses, without the skin show. Mahima Chowdhary, in fact, has stated in many interviews in that she is not comfortable revealing even cleavage or leg. Today, after six-seven years of consistent flops, you can see her in some b-grade movies, revealing more than just cleavage and leg. 

Diya Mirza's case is even more pathetic. A certified beauty (winner of Miss Asia-Pacific 2000), she is said to have rejected several roles because they involved kissing scenes and skin show. Several flops later, she had to do roles of a stripper (Tumsa Nahi Dekha) and even an item girl (Phir Hera Pheri). Other cases include Yukta Mookhey (Miss World 1999) and Hrishitaa Bhatt, who have long faded into oblivion after claiming to have Kajol and Rani as their role models. They were last seen doing item numbers in obscure Bhojpuri movies.

If Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi brought forward the sensuality and oomph factor in the Indian actress in the late 70s and early 80s, then you've got to credit Mallika Sherawat taking it a dozen steps further. With just one movie and 17 kisses, she gave all the leading actresses a run for their money. Her antics made it mandatory for almost all other leading Bollywood actresses to become sex objects, being known only for their looks and curves rather than acting skills. And that trend is increasing with each passing day.

As I mentioned before on this blog, I get mostly Southie channels on my TV here. And I noticed that almost all South (Tamil/Kannada/Telugu) movie trailers have a more or less fixed pattern. A typical 30-second South movie trailer goes like this : It starts off with a shot of the hero making a grand entry somewhere, followed by a grotesque close-up of his facial features. This is followed by fleeting scenes of him bashing up some goons, after which you see him mouthing some emotional dialogues in a melodramatic scee. Finally the trailer ends with a brief shot of the heroine dancing vigorously. They've showcased all the ingredients that are supposedly part of "entertainment" - The hero and his fight-scenes for the action lovers, the emotional scene, and finally the heroine for titillation. The actress, hence, has nothing much to do, other than dancing vigorously and looking pretty.
And we talk of women's empowerment..

Friday, April 24, 2009

Chennai Chapter...

And so, out of the blue, I have been flung far away from my cosy Mumbai home to distant Chennai, for my summer internship. Thankfully I can speak the local language, so life is manageable. Just that I have to now adjust to a very limited range of options for my food, specifically four  - Idli, Dosa, Medu wada and Uttappa.

The positive point is that my office is airconditioned, and so is my guest house. Which is very comfortable, give the hot and humid Chennai weather. The downside is that the the TV in my guest house screens mostly southie channels, and I have only recently realized that there were so many south indian channels on air in the first place! 
Sample this:
Sun TV
Jaya TV
'K' TV
Surya TV
Udaya TV
Gemini TV

And to add to it, there are also some Southie music channels (SS Music, Gemini Music, and some more that I can't remember), mostly beaming corny south indian music videos where oversized females heave bosom and pelvis with great gusto. Occasionally you find a few cute-looking girls, but mostly you feel pity for them coz fat, old and ugly men being passed off as 'heroes', move their hands and mouths all over the helpless girls.

Fortunately, SET Max is available, and so I enjoy most evenings glued to IPL.

Coming to Chennai, the transport system seems to be surprisingly well-organized (or maybe I had a wrong notion about Chennai). The buses are good, the trains aren't bad either. Neither are too crowded, and I generally have a comfortable journey to my office. Project work hasn't started off in full swing either, I'm just getting my bearings on the telecom industry.

Hopefully the good life will continue for the next 40 days...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Windows XP Genuine Disadvantage

Hmmm.. It's been nearly five months since I last posted on this blog, primarily because i'm getting too lazy, and secondly because I am (actually) quite busy with college life. Most of my time goes in looking around for an opportunity when I can scurry back to Mumbai and spend an evening at home :)

And when I reach home, the very first task that I do is to switch on my PC and troubleshoot all the problems that the enterprising members of my family have either found, or created on my PC. I'm like the hardware engineer that you call every month to your house to fix your PC if its broken. Normally the problems that I need to fix are rather simple, requiring only a few minutes of thinking. But this time, I got something new. My dad had unknowingly tried to auto-update Windows XP, and the sneaky bastard that Microsoft is, it managed to detect that my version was a pirated one. Since then, it had started throwing up nasty warning messages about me being a "victim of software counterfeiting"

Pretty normal, you would say. Everyone knows how to turn off the Genuine Windows Advantage notification. Not so fast. This time, the error messages was accompanied by an inky black desktop with a notification on it. Everytime you change the wallpaper, it reverts back to the same irritating black desktop, with the same stupid message again. On googling, I found that this is the result of Microsoft's recent drive against piracy - an update released on 20th October 2008, which has caused a lot of controversy. Read an article about about this here :

I found a solution on the net. The solution was to kill the WgaTray.exe process using the task manager, and then delete the WgaLogon.dll and WgaTray.exe files from the System32 folder in Windows. However, there was a problem here. The moment I kill the process, it automatically restarts immediately. And since it is not possible to delete a file when it is running, I was unable to delete the files. What do I do?

Then I had a brainwave. This is what I did :

1. Insert a Windows XP bootable disk into the drive (Ha! Using the venom as the antidote!!)

2. Restart the PC and boot from the CD.

3. Wait for the program to do its mandatory loading processes, to initialize Windows installation

4. In the screen where it asks you whether to install a fresh copy of Windows XP or to repair an existing installation, select Repair. A command prompt screen opens.

5. Navigate to the C:\Windows\System32 folder.

6. Use the commands "del WgaTray.exe" and "del Wgalogon.dll" to delete the two culprits

I guess one could use any bootable disk to do this, but I derived a special pleasure doing it using Microsoft's own CD.

Computer back to normal.The human intellect triumphs over the computer! Muhahahahaha!!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Living the MBA Dream

As they say, life's what happens to you when you have other plans. Nothing sums up the story of my life more aptly. Dealing with rejects from various colleges on one hand, and thinking of CAT-2008 on the other, while at the same time balancing my work at TCS, I suddenly find myself out of TCS and into a management college within a span of ten days!! Destiny sure has rather innovative ways of proving that it is indeed unpredictable.
It's no secret that the most beautiful places in the world are those that haven't yet been touched by man. One such place is where I have landed up, my college campus. As I sit near the window of my hostel room and write this, a cool breeze blows past my ear, causing me goosebumps. This truly is one amazing place! Situated on a hill overlooking Pune, my college campus at Lavale is nothing short of a hill-station. The view in every direction is simply breathtaking, and there are times when, walking down the road, I just stop in my tracks to admire the view, even though I've been seeing it all through this week. It feels almost stupid to be studying in a place which looks like a picnic spot!

So, college's started, and I'm back to being a student after two years in the corporate world. A strange feeling, to sit and listen to four-hour long lectures, and experience that familiar drowsy feeling after lunch, when the lecturer's rhythmic cadence gradually puts you to sleep. A weird feeling, when I have to pay for tea and coffee (I am so used to drinking several cups of coffee during the day, from the coffee machine at my office). A realization that I'm no longer earning money, but instead spending it!

So here starts a new phase in my life.. new challenges, new opportunities, new avenues... and my career is now (hopefully) traversing through a warp zone..

Sunday, May 4, 2008

And Words are all I have...

Right from our childhood, we constantly hear new words. And then, as we progress on in our education/work/daily life, we learn words specific to our education/work domain, and these words start making a conspicuous appearance in our normal conversations. Hence, if you are a software techie, you would find nothing abnormal about this conversation:

“Hey, look at the message written on that birthday greeting card.”
“Yeah, that's such a beautiful font!”
“The font is nice but the font size is too large.”

As an engineer, my vocabulary is largely influenced by technical and software jargon, and I frequently use terms like “writing in caps lock” to imply using block letters, try to “undo” pencil marks with an eraser, and use “default” modes to refer to normal settings for gadgets.

Lately, I'm finding that technical words apart, a new class of words is creeping into my vocabulary - CORPORATE jargon! And at times it irritates me when I myself end up using bombastic words where simple, terse words would have been enough. So the loo (I just love the simplicity of this word) becomes the formal-sounding washroom, the canteen becomes the cafeteria, the watchman becomes a security personnel, the guy who mops the floor becomes a housekeeping staff, a customer complaint becomes an escalation, problems become issues or concerns, meetings become conferences, and so on. And the more senior you are in an organization, the more imperative it is for you to be aware of such heavy-sounding words, and use them liberally in your everyday speech (even if they sound utterly fake).

I am thankful I’m not a lawyer, for I am told that legal jargon, has some even more scary words! I’ll sign off with this old one :
One day in Law class, Professor Jepson asked one of his better students, "Now if you were to give someone an orange, how would you go about it?" The student replied, "Here's an orange."

The professor was livid. "No! No! Think like a lawyer!"

The student then recited, "Okay, I'd tell him, 'I hereby give and convey to you all and singular, my estate and interests, rights, claim, title, claim and advantages of and in, said orange, together with all its rind, juice, pulp, and seeds, and all rights and advantages with full power to bite, cut, freeze and otherwise eat, the same, or give the same away with and without the pulp, juice, rind and seeds, anything herein before or hereinafter or in any deed, or deeds, instruments of whatever nature or kind whatsoever to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding..."

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Gunda Ka Funda

YES!! I finally managed to lay my hands upon a Bollywood classic named Gunda. I had first heard about this cinematic gem after I noticed several Orkut communities dedicated to this movie. Apparently this relatively unknown 1997 Mithun Chakraborty starrer is rapidly becoming a rage in today’s times (The Economic Times had a detailed review of it in 2007!!) .

So, when curiosity got the better of me, I decided to hunt for a DVD. After searching for several days, I finally managed to get a DVD from a roadside vendor.

There are several unqiue things about this movie. For starters, the main characters have some really innovative names - Lambu Atta”, “Lucky Chikna”, “KafanChor Neta”,“Ibu Hatela”, “Bulla”, “Potey” and “Chutiya(Yup, you read right). Compare these with the hackneyed names that Karan Johar dishes out in his movies – Raj Chopra, Rahul Singhania, Pooja Malhotra… how boring!!!

Further, each character has a unique introductory line (‘Mera Naam Hai Bulla, Mai rakhta hoon Khulla!!’, ‘Mera Naam Hai Ibu Hatela, Maa Meri Chudail ki Beti, Baap Shaitaan ka Chelaa. Khayega Kela?, etc etc)

Almost every character speaks in rhyming verses, that (supposedly) adds to the drama. Most of the verses are unabashedly double-meaning, which adds to the fun if you are watching it with your friends. I bet you and your friends will be repeating all the lines for several days after watching the movie! Sample some literary gems from this movie :
'Mera Naam Hai Potey.. Jiskey Baap ke bhi nahi Hotey!'
'Tu ne Gundagardi me bahut naam kamaya...
Dushmano ko kabhi faada, kabhi kaata...
Dikhne me to tu naataa.. par naam hai Lambu Atta!'
'Kaam ki baat bataa.. jiske liye tu Billi ka doodh peeke Dilli se aaya hai!'
'Roti hoti hai Khaane ke liye,
Boti hoti hai Chabaane ke liye,
Bulla ki behen ho ya Fakeer ki Peti,
Ek na ek din aati hai Mard ke neeche bajaane ke liye!'
(I just loved the last one!!)
There are some outrageously choreographed numbers with male extras clad in lungis executing steps that you need to see to believe. And of course, the mandatory rape scenes, the most integral part of any B-grade Bollywood flick.

And then, there is the one and only Mithun. This is a movie that simply underlines the sheer magic called Mithun Chakraborty. It makes you realize why even Rajnikanth pales in comparison with this deity. As the Coolie Shankar who works at an airport(!), he is the undoubted star of the show Check out the scene where he blows up a politician’s Ambassador car, with a single shot from a tiny pistol. The car is thrown as if it was hit by a tank rather than a bullet. Equally memorable is the scene where he destroys a hundred autorickshaws (the producer probably couldn’t afford cars, so he settled for autorickshaws instead) with a hand-held rocket launcher (I guess rocket-launchers are easily accessible in Mithun’s world – you could probably buy one at the local hardware store). Yet another gem of a scene is one where Mithun kills some goons at a brothel which has got cots hanging in from the roof. Sure gives a new meaning to the term ‘love in the air’. Spooky, but innovative!

The movie is currently rated 8.3 on IMDB. That’s a phenomenal rating, considering that even Titanic is rated 7.2. Watch it! You’ll know what innovative cinema is all about. And you’ll become a Mithun fan for sure :)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Music Phone vs MP3 player

A recent trend that has caught up with today's generation is music. It is nowadays the 'in' thing to have musical inclinations, and such people are frequently the centre of all attraction in peer groups. No surprise then, that we see most people spending a large amount of their time listening to music. With the advent of the MP3 format, the good old casette player is out, and what we have today are smart, sleek MP3 players that are as small as matchboxes, and can store songs equivalent to hundreds of casettes.

Evidently, the mobile industry has noticed this and come up with its riposte to music players - music phones. And I must admit, they have actually done a great job! In fact, today many of us contemplate having a personal music player, and are unable to decide whether to go for a dedicated MP3 player or buy a phone that can play MP3 songs.

So, how does one decide? Let's look a few aspects regarding music players.

1. Sound quality : Till recently, the most important edge that an MP3 player had over a music-enabled phone was the sound quality. The sound quality of an MP3 phone never came even close to a dedicated MP3 player like an iPod. However, today, with the advent of music-branded phones like the Walkman series by Sony Ericsson and XpressMusic by Nokia, this gap is rapidly closing. Most music-enabled phones in the market today can be a decent substitue for a music player, and in some cases like Walkman or MotoRokr, can actually rival an iPod in terms of sound quality. No doubt, most audiophiles would swear by their iPod - undoubtedly the best music player currently available. But that's why they are called audiophiles - they are so obsessed with technical terms like acoustics and sound clarity, that they fail to really appreciate music. They tend to forget that the objective of buying a music player is to listen to music, and not to get tangled in acoustic jargon.

While I certainly do accept that an iPod does give a (slightly) better listening experience than a phone, the sound quality of most phones today is fairly acceptable, and in some cases excellent. Hence, I conclude that this advantage that an MP3 player had over a phone is now nullified.

Score : MP3 Player - 0, Music phone - 0

2. Screen : Many of the MP3 players in the market (Read iPod Shuffle) lack a screen for viewing the song list. The only way is to manually scroll through the songs one by one, till you reach the song of your choice. What is the point if you can store several hundred songs in your player, but can't play one specific song of your choice at any point of time? In comparison, even the cheapest music phone has a screen where one can see a list of all the songs, and select the one that he wants to listen to. MP3 players with screens are available, but most of them are slightly on the expensive side - the iPod Nano costs nearly 7000 bucks.
An additional advantage of a screen is that it enables you to create new playlists, sorting playlists by album/singer/title, changing equalizer setting. Thus the phone wins here as well. Score : MP3 Player - 0, Music phone - 1

3. Charging : This is a point that is frequently missed by most buyers before buying a music player - most music players need to be charged via the PC USB port, so the only way you can charge the player is by connecting it to a PC. A mobile phone can be charged anytime by connecting it to a electric point - and you charge your mobile phone regularly anyway, so charging is not a concern for phones. Score : MP3 Player 0, Music phone - 2.

4. Memory capacity : Okay here's a point where MP3 players win by a huge margin - the 2GB or 4 GB available in music phones is peanuts compared to the 80GB monster called iPod Classic. However, a word of caution here : 80GB is actually overkill. A player with a capacity of 80 GB can actually store 16000 songs at good quality (128Kbps), and I bet you don't have so many songs to fill up the player. A phone with a 2GB card is sufficient for storing around 400 songs - a decent count. 400 songs, assuming each song to be of around 5 minutes, would mean a listening time of around 2000 minutes. That's more than sufficient, unless you have absolutely no work to do from morning till evening. Moreover, technology is fast working on building larger memory cards, and it won't be uncommon to see 8GB memory cards by the end of this year. Anyway, I'll grudgingly give the MP3 players a point here. Score : MP3 Player - 1, Music phone - 2.

5. Convenience of carrying : Ah this is one thing which I have always believed - Why do you want to carry two gadgets in your pocket, when you can do with just one? You carry a cell phone to office/college, so with a music-enabled phone, you will be carrying a music player wherever you go. Score : MP3 Player 1, Music phone - 3.

6. Cost: This is surely an important issue - Will buying a music phone be cheaper than having a phone and a MP3 player? Doubtful. But the difference in price is going to be very less - An entry-level music phone would cost under 5000, and with a 2GB memory card, will end up costing around 5500. An iPod Nano with a video screen costs Rs. 6900. Decide for yourself.

**Final Score : MP3 Player 1, Music phone - 4.**

So what do we see? If you are a person who is particular about avoiding unnecessary expenses, it makes a lot of sense to buy a entry-level music phone like a Sony Ericsson W200i or a Nokia 3110 Classic or even the upcoming MotoYuva W230, rather than a dedicated MP3 player. On the other hand if you are Mr. Moneybags with tons of cash to spend, you may look at mid-range music phones like the SE W810i or Nokia N70 music edition. Either way, the music phones defeat the MP3 players by a HUGE margin.. So
Musically yours,Vivek.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Aaj ka GundaRAJ

There was a movie by this name, released sometime in the 90s. Somehow this title aptly sums up the current political situation in Maharashtra. The recent attacks by the MNS on the North Indians, followed by the retaliations by the Samajwadi Party, coupled with a spineless government that is scared to hell about taking strong action against the offenders, have made a complete mockery of the world's largest democracy.

Why is the government dithering so much about prosecuting Raj Thackeray? It is scared that this will turn him into a 'hero'. And how was he granted bail so easily? The whole drama is just an eyewash. The government is under pressure from both ends - the MNS supporters who threaten violent consequences if Raj is arrested, and the prospect of it losing its credibility in front of the general public if it doesn't go ahead with the arrest. So it finds an easy way out - arrest him temporarily to "show off" its courage, and then release him on the same day to avoid any violent aftermath. It is an attempt to fool the gullible public.

Taking a holistic view of the entire situation, it becomes disturbingly clear that each and every political party involved in this issue has it's own political agenda. The actions taken by each political party reeks of votebank politics. The MNS obviously wants to get noticed among the "Marathi Manoos" and is resorting to this extreme political stunt which seems to have failed miserably, as Raj has been made out to be a villain, by a large part of the media as well as the general public. The Samajwadi party is trying to cash in on this situation, trying to get the support of the substantial North Indian population in the city. The Shiv Sena has been taken by surprise by this sudden aggressive development, and is trying to work out a strategy to get the support of the North Indians, while at the same time trying not to lose the support of it's loyal Marathi-speaking populace. The Congress government is the one that looks completely clueless - right now it resembles a lamb caught in a rhino stampede.

Ultimately, the people who suffer are the general public - The exodus of people from Nashik has let to a drastic increase in the prices of fruits, vegetables and other such commodities. Damage to public transport vehicles will ultimately be borne by the common man in the form of increased taxes and cesses. And will the offenders be made to pay for this? No. They go away scot-free, their mission accomplished. That's the dirty game called politics.

After the 1993 riots, people indulged in bouts of self-praise, claiming that Mumbai has now become more sensible, it is now unaffected by trivial issues like caste-based or mothertongue-based politics. But the recent events have only reconfirmed that Mumbai has learnt nothing from its past experiences. It is still like the Diwali bomb that needs a single spark like Raj Thackeray to explode.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Aah.. should have waited more before posting the previous blog.. coz I just finished listening to another equally weird track. Check out the lyrics :
Zara Zara Touch Me, Touch Me, Touch Me
Zara Zara Hold Me, Hold Me, Hold Me
Zara Zara Love, Love Me, Love Me
Zimbblly amazing!!

Words Worth

It feels funny to write a post that criticizes a lyricist, just after a post that praises another. Now it so happens that, I constantly keep having arguments with my dad over the quality of today's music. Though I manage to put a strong argument in favour of today's music, I have to admit that when it comes to the quality of lyrics, contemporary music has taken a beating. Because apart from an occasional poetic gem by Javed Akhtar or Prasoon Joshi, we are now frequently subjected to horrendous Hinglish lines being passed off as lyrics. The modern-day dominance of Western instruments like the electric guitar and drums over traditional Indian instruments has only aggravated the situation. The nature of music in Hindi movies is predominantly Western, and to compliment that, most songwriters - Javed Akhtar being a noteworthy exception(thank god) - lose all their poetic instincts, and come up with gross lines containing a mix English with Hindi, and a bit of Punjabi (mainly the staple words like chakde, shava, etc) thrown in for added misery.

Sample these lines from a song in the recent movie 'Race' :

Teri baaton se mila Temptation (!),
Tere pyaar ne diya Vibration (!!),
Ye mere dil ne kiya Confession (!!!),
Chori Chori akhiyaa ne dil tera le jaana (somebody save me)

Now that's what I call absolutely uninspiring, emotionless lyrics. Probably the lyric writers ran out of words that rhyme in Hindi, so they had to go overseas searching for words.

A popular romantic song from Boyzone goes -

"You think that I don't even mean
A single word I say
It's only words, and words are all I have
To take your heart away!"

Well, if words were anything to go by, the hero in the movie Race has scant chances of taking away someone's heart with lyrics like that.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Music Review: Taare Zameen Par :: A heart-tugging album

It requires an unconventional film to come up with unconventional music. Taare Zameen Par seems destined to be added to the list of such films. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, after a recent string of mediocre offerings, have finally come up with a stirring album that is melodious, soulful and moving. None of the typical thumping beats that you normally see in their tracks - this one concentrates more on emotion and expression.

The bonus here is the beautiful lyrics penned by Prasoon Joshi. I have always been a diehard fan of Javed Akhtar and his Urdu poetry, and have never found anybody else even remotely close. But I have to admit that this time, Prasoon has come up with lyrics comparable to Akhtar's standards.

Two songs stand out in the movie. One of of course, the title track - Kho Na Jaye Ye Taare Zameen Par. The subtle likening of little children with dewdrops, that forms the opening lines of the song, is simply breathtaking. Each line of the song draws beautiful analogies. My favourite lines are at the end of the song

Mohalle ki raunak, galiyaan hain jaise
Khilne ki zid par, kaliyaan hain jaise
Mutthi Me Mausam ki jaise hawaayein,
Ye hain Buzurgon ki Dil ki Duaayein!


The second song is again another emotional ride, this one simply titled "Maa". If you can listen to this song without a single tear coming to your eyes, you've got to have one of the hardest hearts ever. Lyrics that are amazingly simple, yet so stirring. True music lovers will surely find their eyes wet when they hear this one.

The importance of the singer's voice in soft songs can never be understated. The tenderness in Shankar's voice does ample justice to both the above songs, as he sings them soulfully. What you get in the end is a treat to the ears - Two emotion-filled songs with melodious music, touching lyrics and top-notch singing.

The rest of the songs (Bheja Kum, Bum Bum Bhole, Kholo Kholo) are mainly meant for little kids, and sound reasonably okay. But it's "Maa" and "Kho na Jaaye" that are the life of the album. Enjoy!