From India to… India?

March 29th, 2006

Here I am in Dubai. Or rather, I have been in Dubai for the last ten days on work. But it seems like I’ve not left home (Bangalore)!

I get off the flight and the immigration officer at passport control speaks to me in Hindi, the cab drivers pushing and shoving to get my attention are speaking Hindi. I walk into the hotel and the receptionist and the manager are speaking in Malayalam. The room next to mine seems to have Tamil music on at top volume. Everyone seems to speak an Indian language, even the Arabs themselves!

Where have I come, I think to myself!

But the comparison doesn’t end there. Especially when you know what Bangalore is like nowadays. Two words! Traffic Jams.

With endless road improvement and a huge number of new complexes coming up, it feels just like home. In fact, two hour commutes to work (in Jebel Ali) are the norm rather than the exception.

But there are differences. The primary one being cleanliness. For a city in the middle of a desert you might expect it to be dirtier, but it’s quite clean, except in certain parts where the red tobacco stains line the walls! The other is the obvious wealth. Ferrari’s and Porche’s are seen regularly, while the idea of a small car is a Hyundai Accent!

There are the obviously beautiful things too, like the Dubai creek, which you can see above. But then you have the really, really weird. At the Mall of the Emirates – a new shopping mall designed to look somewhat like a Middle-Eastern palace – you will find a ski-slope! In the middle of a desert country! But that’s not the weirdest. The weirdest thing about this, is that the ski slope is the shiny metal structure sticking out of the palace building, complete with changing lights! You can’t see the lights in the picture, but trust me, it looks like Steven Spielberg crossed with Lawrence of Arabia!

But I still miss my home. I still have another 4 days to go, but I am counting down the days!

Categories: personal | No Comments

Strongly rising anger…

March 28th, 2006

despondent recently had an entry Open Your Mouth and Die about the shooting of Meher Bhargav. When I was writing about the furore about Rang De Basanti (see earlier posts), what I was most upset about was the fact that there could be very few things in the world that would make people take up arms and kill a defence minister. I felt that people couldn’t be more wrong. What about Meher Bhargav? If I were her husband/son/daughter, I would very strongly like to take a gun and… Okay, maybe I am more prone to violence than other people. But I still feel outraged about the lack of anger for her and her family. It’s like people don’t care anymore.

Coming back to Rang De Basanti, there were those who came out of the movie saying that it was too idealistic. But is anger against the shooting of Mehar Bhargav too idealistic? Was she being ‘too idealistic’ when she tried to stop the b***** eve-teasers? Or are we expected to sit back and say Chalta Hai or Let it go?

While I have pretty radical views on what to do with rapists and eve-teasers (castrate the bloody b********!), I think the law is still far too lenient with such individuals. And in the case of Meher Bhargav, I would still like to shoot the perpetrators in the b***s even if I don’t kill them.

Stand up! Make yourself heard. Change the attitude because of which people can get away with such an atrocity!

Because Meher Bhargav stood up for what she believed in, she was killed. But there are only 6 bullets in a revolver. If we all stand up, at least the 7th person will still be able to make a difference. In a country of a billion people, that’s not too big a sacrifice to make for what’s right.

Categories: india, movies, politics, riots | No Comments


March 27th, 2006

A long time ago, I was tagged by anjaan. I started this post, and then didn’t finish for whatever reasons. Now I bring you my tag!

The Rules of the game are:
1. The tagged victim has to come up with 8 different points of their perfect lover.
2. You need to mention the sex of the target.
3. Tag 8 victims to join this game and leave a comment on their comments saying they’ve been tagged.
4. If tagged the 2nd time, there’s no need to post again.

My 8 points for a perfect woman! Wow, that’s tough! It got me thinking – why eight? Why not 5 or 10 or 50? Hmmm…. anyway, leaving all that aside – and without further ado –

  1. She should be slim (but curvaceous), shorter than me (so that she can rest her head on my chest while we’re watching a romantic movie). She should have large expressive eyes and a cute face (I know this is subjective, but my decision is final!).
  2. She should be able to give and take space. I hate clingy people. I should be able to get some time to myself during a day without having to fight for it.
  3. She should be able to stick with me through vast jumps of thought from Kafka to Rang De Basanti, to Mexican Food. I think like that. If you can’t keep up, too bad. But she should still keep me focussed when neccesary.
  4. She should be willing to experiment in bed… nothing weird, just different. Maybe the word bed is too limiting?
  5. Wine, long walks on the beach, starry nights. If she doesn’t like them then she doesn’t like me.
  6. Books – that’s a biggy – Shakespeare to Dan Brown – brilliant to time-pass; even if she’s not read everything, she should know what’s what.
  7. Writing and speaking good English. I don’t want or need perfect Queen’s English, but I can’t deal with people who have too strong an accent, or translate from some other language when speaking english.
  8. And most importantly, she should have her own personality. I don’t want a shadow. But I don’t want a dominating partner. Someone with her own identity with whom I form a new entity – bigger (and hopefully better) than either of us.

Now, about the tagging 8 other people… well, all the people I’d like to tag have already been tagged, so… I will avoid for now. If I feel the need to tag someone, I will edit this post again.

Categories: personal | 1 Comment

The Pulp Templar

March 25th, 2006

What is it with the Templars and bestsellers? Currently three out of the top ten hardcover fiction works on the New York Times bestseller list have to do with the Templars. Heading the list is of course The Da Vinci Code followed in sixth and eight places by The Templar Legacy and The Last Templar respectively.

Most of us have heard about the Knight’s Templar. We’ve read about them in school and we’ve seen books and movies either denigrating them (remember Ivanhoe?) or making them objects of intense curiosity, as in Dan Brown’s most famous book.

I seem to have been interested in the Templar worlds for as long as I can remember, well before the latest fad. (This may of course be largely due to my thirst for lots of bits of useless facts!) I had done my reading and one of my favourites was Umberto Eco’s brilliant tragic parody of the Templar legacy in Foucault’s Pendulum.

Short Recap about the Templars:

Here were these bunch of guys who went out around the world fighting the enemies of civilization (read: Christian Church). Now, the thing is, although these guys were supposedly monastic, they decided to accumulate a whole lot of wealth. They took money from Kings to fight the Arabs; they took money from the church because they were upholding Christianity in a Pagan part of the world; the took money from traders, priest and other sundries to protect them while they travelled to the Holy Land. And then they became the world’s first truly international bankers. Give them some money, they’d look after it, and give it back to you when and where you wanted, for a fee.

Now, King Philip IV of France wanted some of the Templar’s money, so, he said that they didn’t believe in Christ and were guilty of a dozen odd crimes against the Lord and his Church and he had them all rounded up and tortured.

Of course he never found the money. The then Grand Master Jaques Molay was burnt at the stake apparently not having breathed a word as to the whereabouts of the great wealth of the Templars (which also supposedly included the Holy Grail – another topic of great literary value – also included in DVC!).

End Recap!

The big thing among writers nowadays is the great treasure hunt. Find the pot of gold at the end of the Templar rainbow!

But it doesn’t exist!!!! That’s my point.

Ok. Assume that there were a few million gold coins or whatever among the remaining Templars. They needed to live, so they spent a few. So over the centuries there’d be a hundred thousand less left. And you’ve forgotten inflation. The equivalent of 1 gold coin in the 15th century might be equal to 1 US Dollar (though unlikely – far less to buy beyond food and clothes!) but look around you today. Even if there were half a billion gold coins (highly unlikely to start off with) there are enough people with far more than that nowadays. And that money had to be split up among the few templars! So it has almost no value today!

But coming back to the books themselves. Ok, fine, you’ve got yourself some sort of idea as to how to go about finding the money. If your idea was really practical, would you spend five years writing it into a book that other people would read? No. You’d get on the next flight to Israel and dig up the money with your grubby little hands and tell as few people as possible!

Unless you know that your ideas are a crock of s**t. So you put them down somehow into a 500 page or more page-turner (hopefully) and send it out to the publishers to earn your 10% per book royalty! That’s the good way to make the money.

The only people who suffer are the long-suffering readers. On one hand you’ve got those who buy the book as a way to pass time in hotel airports. This kind of book is okay for them because it’s better than staring at the blank airport walls or at TV screens filled with people speaking in a language you don’t understand. The second kind is the people who read pulp. Whether they read only pulp or whether they also read pulp is besides the point. They know that what they’re reading ain’t exactly literature. So it’s time-pass (as we Indians say!).

The third kind of reader comes into this thinking – Wow! A LITERARY thriller! Now I can boast to all my friends about my LITERARY reading habits. I can talk about the HOLY GRAIL and the KNIGHTS TEMPLAR and can be well read like that show-offy Aditya down the hall!

These are the people I feel sorry for. Because these books are junk. Pure and simple. Da Vinci Code was passable as a thriller, but had nothing great style-wise. The Templar Legacy, which I have the good(?) fortune to be reading now, isn’t even that good. In fact the writing is so bad it’s hard to not put down.

In the second chapter of the book, a bookseller is being questioned at gun point:
He picked up his mug and savored another gulp of beer.

I mean who savors their beer when they are afraid of being shot? And does anyone savor anything when you gulp it down? Wow!

One of the main protagonists, Stephanie, is supposedly someone high up in the US Justice Department. But she is so stupid, that she never listens to any advice, always manages to get into trouble, depends on the help of the man (Malone) she never listens to, and is rude to people she meets even without having met them before!

Also, the classic bad pulp elements are there- two sets of bad guys, or rather one bad guy out to get the money and one bad/good guy out to save the church, the supposedly clever but actually dumb heroine, the ex-SAS type hero who always forgets just the one important thing which would compress the story into just 40 pages, the rich helpful friend, the dying master and the helpful servant.

And the events are so unimaginative themselves. I’ve got to a point in the book where the hero and the heroine are asking the rich for information at his isolated house in Europe. He lives austerely and has few servants. There is no guard at the gate. The bad guys just walk into his compund and start listening to their conversation through the window. Sounds familiar?

Of course I am going to finish the book, if for no other reason than the fact that I’m travelling on work and prefer reading crap to staring at blank hotel walls in the middle of the night.

But unless you are like me, or have a good understanding that this is not even good pulp, I really suggest that you don’t read it. Read Eco instead, or if you don’t want something so heavy, Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown is far more entertaining.

Categories: books, reviews | 2 Comments