Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yum T V Toadies

Pix courtesy Bryon

I hate Yum TV Toadies. Somebody please duct tape the Dysphoric Maniac who produces the show and the wimp he hires as anchor to compere the show!

I do not understand this show…so please bear with me here. We first have the channel advertising auditions for the Toadies show. After which we are put through a prolonged serial display of Dysphoric Mania with the Dysphoric Maniac (DM) and another wimp who apes him, selecting participants for the show in front of the camera.

The selection process does not allow anyone with balls to stand up to the DM and only people who the DM can intimidate are selected. But not before he humiliates kids half his age in front of the camera because they are so desperate for a break on television. Pathetic and absolutely abusive. If he thinks that Toadies is about toughness then he needs to kick himself out of the show and get some real men to select the contestants!!

After careful selection of the Toadies, the DM begins the show where a toy boy called Ran V Joy puts the toadies through various tasks. The Toy Boy looks ill at ease and stands like an emasculated eunuch when the Dysphoric Maniac walks into the show from time to time and abuses and scolds the contestants for the most weirdest reasons and walks out like a coward. After which the Toy Boy picks up the pieces and conducts the competitions and eliminations.

In between the tasks the Toadies face the camera and bitch about each other in Hindi. Just when you are settling in to watch the competition, in walks in the DM stand in front of the camera and scream his lungs out at the Toadies for silly reasons like failing in the tasks. His voice is weak, tinny and irritating and he screams like a spoilt toy dog at a dog show snugly sitting in his rich mistresses arms away from the big dogs. His eyes bulges out, the veins on his neck stand out and you wonder if this guy is addicted to anger! A most unpleasant sight.

And if anyone from the ranks of the Toadies has the temerity to stand up to him, he is summarily dismissed from the show. “GET THE F&%K OUT” are the eloquent words used to remove a contestant from a show because he dared to face the bully. The DM then walks off with a look of supreme satisfaction like a man who has just had his fix after a long bout of cold turkey.

If you must know I watched the show out of curiosity the first time and the next time recently as someone urged me to watch the tamasha. I don’t know when the publicity starved populace of ours will realize the difference between opportunity and abuse.

Watch ‘Dance India Dance’ on Zee TV Mr. Dysphoric Maniac and learn from the judges how to conduct a show.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Degrees of separation

It is Friday morning and I am sitting at the Bangalore airport sipping a horrible Cappuccino and catching up on blogs and news. The airport is quite with sleepy passengers nursing their coffees, teas and hangovers in silence. Thanks to airport car pooling I have arrived very early for my flight to Mumbai. It was just a few months ago that we had individual cabs for airport drops. Sheer waste of fuel, I used to think then. Recession seems to have bought my snobbish company to earth with a gentle thud. Gentle thud…because many other wasteful practices still continue.

I am so engrossed in my laptop that I do not see nor hear a young girl sitting next to me. She is a really good looking Tambram girl. She looks very conservative though from her clothing. She carries a toddler in her arms. She seats the toddler on the chair and goes to get the trolley with her luggage. Before she goes she asks me politely if I will keep an eye on her son. I nod smiling at her. She smiles back reassured. I see her pushing a trolley with numerous bags which she parks near me. Then she glances at the airport entrance and gazes with some desperation at an old couple standing out side. The old couple is dressed in very traditional clothes of Palghat Brahmins. They look so nice and homely that I feel at tug at my heart for the girl who is obviously leaving them for another shore. A young man, perhaps her brother gently guides the old couple away from the door towards the car park. A very tactful move I think. The girl gazes at them till they are out of sight. She swallows hard, wipes her eyes surreptitiously and turns to me and thanks me for looking after her son and luggage.

“Are you the only daughter” I ask.
“I have an anna” she said smiling in relief. She is glad for the conversation.
“Are you married” she asks flicking her eyes at my neck and ring finger.
“No” I say with a smile.
“Don’t marry too far away from your parents okay?” she says turning her face away. She seems to be battling some emotions for it is a while before she looks at me and gives me a polite smile.

She asks me about my college and school and we find quite a few people we know in common. She had studied in a college in Malleswaram and then went on do her Engineering in Coimbatore. We talk about Bangalore and familiar hangouts in Malleswaram, M.G Road and Majestic area, the idiosyncrasies and eccentricities of the people of Malleswaram and Rajajinagar and the numerous book fairs that we attended in droves. She tells me how intimidated she is of girls from my college and how surprised she is that I was normal in spite of being from “that” college. We talk about the eateries in Malleswaram and the movie theaters near Majestic. We realize that we had haunted the same places as college girls though a few years apart. She was senior to me by five years. She was married at 21 on the last day of her Engineering exam and left for the US with her husband soon after. In the US she spent many a boring day confined to the house till her husband returned home late in the evening. She never saw the town she lived in till the snow melted and they were able to go out. Then she was pregnant. She had her baby in the US and her sister-in-law came and stayed with her as her parents were too old to travel to the US. This is her first visit to India after her baby was born. She had apparently had a wonderful time and now a lonely home in the US awaited her after a tumultuous and eventful visit.

Out flight is announced and I help her board with her numerous pieces of baggage. In the aircraft I am surprised to see her heading towards me and asking the gentleman sitting next to me if she could sit next to me. The gentleman obliges. She settles in with a sigh of relief. We talk some more about her life in the US and her loving but rather busy husband. At Mumbai I find her a trolley and help her deposit her baggage.

At the gate we part promising to keep in touch. I spy my cab. Before I get in, I look back to wave good bye. She is standing near the door child in hand gazing at me with some desperation. I wave and quickly get into the car. A tactful move I think. Perhaps she will find another me on the next leg of her journey. I pray that she does.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

View from the other side

An open letter to Gen Kayani by Col Harish Puri (Retd)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dear Gen Kayani,

Sir, let me begin by recounting that old army quip that did the rounds in the immediate aftermath of World war II: To guarantee victory, an army should ideally have German generals, British officers, Indian soldiers, American equipment and Italian enemies.

A Pakistani soldier that I met in Iraq in 2004 lamented the fact that the Pakistani soldier in Kargil had been badly let down firstly by Nawaz Sharif and then by the Pakistani officers' cadre. Pakistani soldiers led by Indian officers, , he believed, would be the most fearsome combination possible. Pakistani officers, he went on to say, were more into real estate, defence housing colonies and the like.

As I look at two photographs of surrender that lie before me, I can't help recalling his words. The first is the celebrated event at Dhaka on Dec 16, 1971, which now adorns most Army messes in Delhi and Calcutta. The second, sir, is the video of a teenage girl being flogged by the Taliban in Swat -- not far, I am sure, from one of your Army check posts.

The surrender by any Army is always a sad and humiliating event. Gen Niazi surrendered in Dhaka to a professional army that had outnumbered and outfought him. No Pakistani has been able to get over that humiliation, and 16th December is remembered as a black day by the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani state. But battles are won and lost – armies know this, and having learnt their lessons, they move on.

But much more sadly, the video of the teenager being flogged represents an even more abject surrender by the Pakistani Army. The surrender in 1971, though humiliating, was not disgraceful. This time around, sir, what happened on your watch was something no Army commander should have to live through. The girl could have been your own daughter, or mine.

I have always maintained that the Pakistani Army, like its Indian counterpart, is a thoroughly professional outfit. It has fought valiantly in the three wars against India, and also accredited itself well in its UN missions abroad. It is, therefore, by no means a pushover. The instance of an Infantry unit, led by a lieutenant colonel, meekly laying down arms before 20-odd militants should have been an aberration. But this capitulation in Swat, that too so soon after your own visit to the area, is an assault on the sensibilities of any soldier. What did you tell your soldiers? What great inspirational speech did you make that made your troops back off without a murmur? Sir, I have fought insurgency in Kashmir as well as the North-East, but despite the occasional losses suffered (as is bound to be the case in counter-insurgency operations), such total surrender is unthinkable.

I have been a signaller, and it beats me how my counterparts in your Signal Corps could not locate or even jam a normal FM radio station broadcasting on a fixed frequency at fixed timings. Is there more than meets the eye?

I am told that it is difficult for your troops to "fight their own people." But you never had that problem in East Pakistan in 1971, where the atrocities committed by your own troops are well documented in the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report. Or is it that the Bengalis were never considered "your own" people, influenced as they were by the Hindus across the border? Or is that your troops are terrified by the ruthless barbarians of the Taliban?

Sir, it is imperative that we recognise our enemy without any delay. I use the word "our" advisedly – for the Taliban threat is not far from India's borders. And the only force that can stop them from dragging Pakistan back into the Stone Age is the force that you command. In this historic moment, providence has placed a tremendous responsibility in your hands. Indeed, the fate of your nation, the future of humankind in the subcontinent rests with you. It doesn't matter if it is "my war" or "your war" – it is a war that has to be won. A desperate Swati citizen's desperate lament says it all – "Please drop an atom bomb on us and put us out of our misery!" Do not fail him, sir.

But in the gloom and the ignominy, the average Pakistani citizen has shown us that there is hope yet. The lawyers, the media, have all refused to buckle even under direct threats. It took the Taliban no less than 32 bullets to still the voice of a brave journalist. Yes, there is hope – but why don't we hear the same language from you? Look to these brave hearts, sir – and maybe we shall see the tide turn. Our prayers are with you, and the hapless people of Swat.

The New York Times predicts that Pakistan will collapse in six months. Do you want to go down in history as the man who allowed that to happen?

The writer is a retired colonel of the Indian army who lives in Pune.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter!

Summer is here and the trees and shrubs in my house are a spray with blooms in myriad colors. This year we've had a semblance of a "Bangalore Summer" of yore...comparatively mild compared to the summers we have been having for the past seven years or so. I took some pictures of the flowers and trees in my house on a pleasant summer evening some time last week. Here are a few pictures.

Wishing you all a very Happy Easter!!

May the Lord continually bless you with heaven's blessings as well as with human joys. Psalm 128.5

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

What's the good name?

What is the height of adventure? For some people it is jumping from a plane...for some it is bungee jumping or scaling a steep cliff. The thrill and the adrenalin rush it gives you is a heady feeling. For me the ultimate adrenalin rush comes with flirting with grave danger a.k.a calling my mother “edi leelamme.” The thrill it gives will beat sky diving with an umbrella any day!!!

I come from a family where calling elders by name is forbidden even if the elder is elder by a couple of months only! If you were to ask me what my grandfather’s youngest brother’s name is I wouldn't know and he is my favorite grand uncle too! He is called Kunjitappan (Kunju + chittappan). His eldest brother is called Perappan and the guy after him Chittappan. The wives also follow the same naming logic and that is 8 pairs of names that we kids memorized by habit by the time we were 6 or 7 years old. I have to call both my elder brothers "chetan" even though one doesn't deserve it at all :p Even cousin brothers who are elder have to be addressed as “chetan” and cousin sisters are “chechi.” It is more or less a habit now and as a kid I amused elders by calling cousin brothers close to my age as “eda cheta

Luckily for us we are allowed to call my Dad’s five brother as “uncles”. However there was a hitch. Every person in my family both from my mother’s side and father’s side has a nick name…sigh. And remembering my uncles nicks was really tough. My Dad is called Kunjunju, the next Kunjooty and so on. We could never tell them apart and to the usual question as to which of the brothers kids were, we usually messed up royally :p My family is 500 strong so you can imagine the number of names we had to know. It came naturally as we have heard them being addressed with their nick since we were lil kids. But there is a hitch here too. We do not know their “real names” It was very recently that I came to know that two close friends and cousins called “Kunjumon” and “Ciby” were Mathew and Sebastian respectively and the revelation came when they came here for their interviews and my Dad was going over their papers. For the past 21-22 years I had never known that they were Mathew and Sebastian!!!

So this Saturday I sat down and got my mom to tell me the “real” names of people I know so well except for their ‘real’ names of course. And out tumbled the Antony’s and Abrahams and Korahs and Thomases out of the family closet. I just couldn’t believe that these people had normal names! :-O

What is more surprising and somewhat miraculous is that my Mom and Dad married into almost identical families as far as nomenclature traditions are concerned! Else they are as different as chalk and cheese :p

Coming to the height of adventure….now you can imagine the grave peril I subject my life and limbs to when I dare to call my mom “edi leelamme”. And it is the absolute faith in my ability to outrun my mom and stay out of sight till she cools down that makes me take the chance! :|