Vantage point

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Media's Laziness or Convenient Ignorance?

Out of curiosity, I checked out the anachronistic edit to the Chris Benoit wikipedia page I mentioned in the previous post. Now as some might know, there is a record on wikipedia of all the edits made by a particular user or from a particular IP address. If you check the edit history of that particular IP address, you will notice that each and every previous edit was what is called in wiki terms as vandalism. And vandalism that is abusive, racist and sexist in nature. Unless it is a dynamic IP address, chances are it is the same person making all those edits, because they follow a pattern.

It is thus very likely that even this supposedly mysterious edit was a vandalism attempt and the fact that it mentioned the death of his wife was just a coincidence. It is also likely that this isn't the case. Who knows.

Whatever the reality, the fact is that anyone in the news channels or news websites could have done this very thing - checked the user logs and spoken about the vandalism history of the IP address. But no one apparently did. Is it laziness, or is it convenience of ignoring information that could possibly dilute the sensationalism of the edit revealation?

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Bizarreness with Wikipedia thrown in

The Benoit murder-suicide case is probably not big news in India. It is already as bizarre as can get. Chris Benoit, a pro-wrestler, apparently murdered his wife, then he murdered his 7-year-old son almost a day later. And then hung himself. Bizarre facts keep emerging. For instance, there were several needle marks on his son's arm. And an autopsy revealed the 7-year-old was killed using a choke-hold.

But the latest piece of news is as bizarre as it gets. And it involved wikipedia. Apparently, someone edited the Chris Benoit wiki to include the mention of his wife's death more than 12 hours before even the police found the dead bodies. The edit was made from Stamford, Connecticut which is also where the WWE is headquartered.

The WWE is already is serious hot water over this case, and the deaths of dozens of wrestlers over the past decade. Now if it is revealed that someone in the company knew of the deaths beforehand, but delayed informing the police, it could mean a world of trouble.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Best Sequel Ever?

Recently I watched Before Sunset for a third time. And that viewing only strengthened my conviction about the movie being the best sequel ever. More so in the year of the threequels.

While Before Sunrise itself was one of the best conceived and best written movies ever, what makes Before Sunset a lot better is the poignant realism. Sunrise was optimistic, romantic, cheerful, with everything going right. Sunset, which takes place and was shot 9 years after the first movie, also has room for disappointment, rigmarole, unfortunate coincidences as opposed to fortunate ones, and a greater emotional maturity.

Yet, the core quality which made the first movie so special, is still present, and as fresh as ever - the flippantly profound and seemingly effortless conversations. Just like one of points made in the movie says -

Céline: And, what really surprised me, is that I was feeling with life, the same way am now. I was much more hopeful and naive, but the core, and the way I was feeling things, is exactly the same. It made me realize I haven't changed much at all.

Jesse: Yeah, I don't think anybody does; people don't want to admit it, but it's like we just...we have these innate set points.

Céline: Uh-huh.

Jesse: You know, it's like...nothing much that happens to us changes our disposition.

Céline: Really, you believe that?

Jesse: I think so. I read this study where they followed people who had won the lottery, and people who had become paraplegics, right. I mean you'd think know, one extreme is gonna make you...euphoric, and the other suicidal. But the study shows that after about 6 months…

Céline: Uhum?

Jesse: soon as people got used to their new situation, they were more or less the same.

Céline: The same?

Jesse: Well, yeah...Like if they were basically an optimistic, jovial person, they're now an optimistic, jovial person, in a wheelchair. If they're a petty miserable asshole, OK, they're a petty miserable asshole with a new Cadillac, a house and a boat.

And that is what is needed to make a good sequel. Where the story and characters evolve organically, but the core remains the same. And no other sequel has managed that so well.

Which is why, in my opinion, Before Sunset is the best sequel ever.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

The Safest Americans

From watching the TV news channels in this country over the past year, I have discovered that black women are safest of all Americans, while white women are at the greatest risk. White women keep getting raped, kidnapped, murdered so frequently. These incidents are covered by the conscientious and compassionate media. But I have hardly ever heard of black women suffering from something similar. The only black woman I heard of being raped was in the Duke lacrosse team case, and even she was a stripper who lied about getting raped.

It is surprising how safe black women are in this country. Obviously, law enforcement agencies are biased and take extra steps for protecting black women, while paying no attention to white women at all. This injustice must stop. We must demand that white women also enjoy the same level of safety that black women do.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

This is interesting

Six Islamic seminaries in Hyderabad have come out with fatwahs against... yes AGAINST the AP government's proposed ordinance giving reservations to backward caste Muslims.

They feel dividing the Muslim community into castes goes against the tenets of Islam. Now what?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wanted - Some Real Offensive Stuff

As an Indian in America, I am disgusted at the utterly weak insults flung our way. A host of NRI organisations and bloggers at Sepia Mutiny night be content feeling offended at some of the pseudo-insults flung our way. But my expectations are not as low as them. I demand something more sunstantive. Until a real insult is flung our way, I am afraid Indians will never feel part of the mainstream.

This recent memo by Obama. It was insulting to Hillary, to that Chatwal dude, to Cisco, and possibly a couple of Indian companies. But come on! I need something real. Hillary joking that Mahatma Gandhi ran a gas station will not do. Nor will Joe Biden saying Indians run a lot of 7/11s and Dunkin Donuts suffice. And that Macaca thing by George Allen? What in crap's name is that even supposed to mean?

While we have to be satisfied with these weak and half-hearted insults, other races are getting their due. Blacks are being called niggers and ho's by Michael Richards and Don Imus. Chinese are being ching-chong-ching-chong-ed by Rosie O'Donnell. And Mexicans are being called wetbacks by Bill O'Reilly.

Indians like me felt left-out. Please, someone throw a real insult our way. Haven't we contributed enough to this country to deserve that?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

One of my Meccas

This place

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Saturday, June 16, 2007


Gandhi camp loyalist Pratibha Patil, who is set to take over as President of India from Abdul Kalam, has already become a source of great mirth. She says, "I will not be a rubber stamp President".

Your Excellency, please get hold of a copy of the job description of India's President. You don't even need to read between the lines.

And here's another newsflash. India's current Prime Minister is a rubber stamp. What chance do you have?

By the way, this means all three arms of the Indian government will be run by a woman. The same woman. Sonia Gandhi.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Kabul Express Review

When formulaic Bollywood film-makers like Yashraj Films try something off the track, I guess they expect that just by the virtue of trying something off the track, they are creating cinematic gold. In case of Kabul Express, nothing could be farther from the truth. Other than stunning visuals of the Afghan landscape, there is nothing remotely acceptable about the movie. It is boring, defies logic, and worst of all, is ignorantly insensitive. The kind of ignorance that only formulaic Bollywood folks are capable of.

When the part about the Hazaras came on, I could not believe the way that group was being described. If Bollywood folks had expanded their reading beyond Paulo Coelho and Dan Brown, they might have come across a book called The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini. Anyone who has read the book will realise the stupidity of characters in the film calling Hazaras bandits, dogs and worse than Taliban. The Hazaras have been persecuted for years, and they were given special mistreatment under Taliban. Portraying Hazaras like Kabul Express has done, especially in these times, is like casting a modern day version of Shylock in a film set in post-war Germany. Yashraj Films would be well advised to stick to peddling cleavage shots through trash like Dhoom 2, than to make something pseudo-intellectual.

Needless to say, the film was banned by the Afghan government and a lot of protests and demonstrations were held against it.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why Can't Sainath See The Forest For The Trees?

Dear Mr. Sainath

I write this addressing not just you, but all those bloggers, journalists, columnists, activists, politicians, thinkers and even citizens who feel apalled at the growing inequality in this country after the 1991 liberalization. I address all those who show concern for the other India.

I found this excerpt from your recent article in The Hindu very interesting -

This week's big news is that Mumbai has topped Maharashtra's HSC results with a pass percentage of 76.67. That should not surprise us. The metro's schools and facilities outclass those of other regions. True, even this time, the State toppers are not from Mumbai. They are from Wardha (in Nagpur division) and Amravati. Both in Vidharbha. But at 47.5 and 51.08 per cent, the overall pass percentages of those divisions are dismal. They are way below the State average of 64.25 per cent. And both have fared worse than they did last year.

Here's one reason why. Vidharbha, always electricity starved, saw 12- to 17-hour power cuts at the time the children were studying for their examinations. (It's a region where schools re-open weeks late to avoid exposing children to excessive heat.) The great metro of Mumbai was spared this "power crisis." (Some of the well meaning did write articles on how to be a good citizen and use your air conditioners more efficiently.) In one estimate, a 15-minute power cut in Mumbai could give Vidharbha two hours of electricity. Half that would have helped the students with their examinations. Further, malls and multiplexes lead Mumbai's biggest power guzzlers. But this is the city of 25,000 of India's 83,000 dollar millionaires. Not only home "to the largest number of affluent individuals," as an American Express study puts it. But also having "the fastest growing affluent population in the world." So the darkness is banished to zones such as Vidharbha — which produces more power than the other regions of Maharashtra.

Inequality in the context of growing commercialisation of education means that millions of bright and talented students are shut out from a better future for want of money. That rubs in an old truth. Merit = accident of birth + electricity. (And maybe a dash of geography.)

Now I am not one of those blind champions of 10% growth who will tell you that it makes sense to give preferential treatment to Mumbai because it is our "financial capital". Neither am I, by the way, one of those who feels it is OK to steal farmers' land for building SEZs so that we can "catch up with China".

I agree with you that this injustice is despicable, and this inequality is unfortunate. And yes, it would be more just to divide the load shedding equally among rural and urban areas.

But here is something I don't understand. And I don't mean this as a rhetorical question, but as a genuine query. Why don't we see you or people like you demanding that we solve the problem altogether? India has a 14% shortfall of power, and Maharashtra, literally the great state, has a shortfall of 26%. Should we not look at ways to at least boost the capacity?

I know, power capacity can not be boosted overnight. But dude, 12 to 17 hour power cuts in rural India did not start last night. At least in Maharashtra, they started 5 years back. And nothing serious has still been done to add to the capacity by the government. The only initiative in that direction has comes from the CII in Pune last year, pooling together excess capacity from their privately owned captive power plants to make it a practically no-load-shedding city. But no steps from the government.

Let us say, there is equality in power cuts. Suppose we implement 6 hours of load shedding, in villages as well as cities, including Mumbai, starting next year. Egalitarian load shedding. What do you think will happen?

Well, us citifolk are rich. We will buy inverters. We will buy generators. We will buy special high luminosity emergency lamps. We'll get by with a little help from our wallets. Our kids will still be able to study. And the kids in Vidarbha will still be at a disadvantage. I know that 6 hour power cuts are still better than 17 hour power cuts. But wouldn't you rather that there be no power cuts?

And yet I hardly see any of you making any serious noises about adding capacity. Even now, I don;t see anyone saying "Ensure equality in power cuts in rural and urban areas immediately, AND add enough capacity by 2011 to make sure there are no power cuts at all."

Why is that?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Better a Lesbian than a Shrikhand Hater

In response to my shrikhand posts (english, marathi), I got arguably the funniest feedback mail ever. Nidhee Kekre writes -

I am also a maharashtrian (and no not a drop of any other kind of blood) but i hate shrikhand with a passion. Shrikhand puri is a full meal as far as my parents as concerned...and at times i am sure it would any day be easier for them to think their daughter a lesbian than a shrikhand hater.
For so many years there has been this cold war with them looking at me disapprovingly when i put the vati (bowl) out of the plate. But the joke is my mom still puts the vati in my plate. I think in every satyanarayn puja she wishes that i start eating and keeps the vati for the miracle to happen.

I don't know but i think shrikhand haters is a strong community... as strong as dog lovers i guess.

Though the reaction to my shrikhand post has largely been "This guy doesn't like shrikhand, what's wrong with him?", it is heartening to see that there are like-minded Maharashtrians all over. Maybe we should start a support group.

Nidhee has requested that I also write about another Marathi favourite - puranpoli. Yes, I have a similar story about puranpolis. A story that involves a sadistic best friend who derived a lot of Brutusian enjoyment watching me eat a meal composed only of puranpolis.

But I shall let a few days pass before I launch a frontal attack on another rampart of the Maharashtrian culinary fort. Don't want the Shivsena taking offence to it and banging on my doors. I am not safe even in USA. As Shivsainik Abhijit Panse said - If that person is even sitting in America we will go and thrash that person. We want to catch hold of such culprits who do such things and thrash them.


This is just awesome. Watch the whole thing.

P.S. - Those of you living under a rock, yes, that is House.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Does The Human Species Really Deserve To Survive?

If Darwin was right, do we really stand a chance at long term survival? A mail I recently received on a desi students' yahoogroups suggests otherwise. Without any further preamble, I present the mail -


I ll be staying at Vairo Village apts from Aug 15th.Before that i ll be buying a laptop.

It would be really helpful if the seniors can point out any specifications in the laptop i have to look out for that ll be suitable to vairo village etc...



I read. I re-read. I re-re-read. Words failed me. Even if, one is to give the kid the benefit of the doubt and assume he meant to ask about whether he should get a wireless card... come on! This is 2007. Who doesn't get a laptop without a wireless card?

As any compassionate individual who has been taught the values of sharing in pre-school, I immediately showed this mail to anyone and everyone on my list who was online. Anantha (the blogger formerly known as Anti) came up with an excellent response, which I tinkered with a bit and sent to the guy at once -

Actually I do have some specifications. Please make sure the screen is not more than 30" wide so that you can make sure that the laptop will fit through the doors in your apartment at vairo village when you carry it from the hall to your bedroom. Doorways in Vairo are seldom more than 30" inches wide.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Bhurjee is back

The anecdote I narrated in the last post has to be narrated in marathi. So after a gap of a year, my marathi blog is back. Presenting - माझा पहिला सत्याग्रह



Suneetha asks by mail - this post is extremely surprising coming from a pucca maharastrian like you where amrakhand is one of the delicacies.... How do you explain it considering that its major ingredients as i know are mango, yogurt and sugar!!

My response -

Interesting you should mention another satanic concoction - amrakhand. Actually I am not a fan of shrikhand either. Never liked it. And your question brought back the repressed memories of the troubled childhood I had as a Maharashtrian kid who hated srikhand and amrakhand. Though I am not one to feel bashful about stuffing my face even if I don't know the host's name, whenever I turned down any of those khands, the host would assume I am feeling shy. And then they would literally force me to have it, thinking they were helping a kid overcome his shyness.

I particularly remember this one function my grandma took me to as a kid. I was 9 or 10. Grandma was meeting all her bhajan group friends, who had also gotten their grandkids along. They started cooking a bit late, and even at 1 pm or so, the only items ready were puris and the dessert which was.... groan... shrikhand. All the other sabjis, pulao, etc, would take some more time.

Now one of the grannies had a bright idea. She said, well, puris are ready and shrikhand is ready. Let us get the kids' lunches done with. So all us kids were sitting there with plates in front of us. The grannies came and served srikhand and puris. Everyone else happily started digging in. I sat there, looking at the kitchen, hoping for some "real" food, throwing disdainful looks at the other kids who actually thought sreekhand-puri was a meal.

When no real food turned up, I enquired of a granny, "where is the rest of the food?". She asked me why I needed anything else. I could get as much srikhand as I want. I refused to eat it. Soon the news spread amongst the granny-folk that Mrs. Sabnis' grandson is asking for sabjis and does not want to eat sreekhand-puri. One by one, each granny came out and confirmed if that was the case, staring at me as if I were a recently discovered prehistoric man.

Finally my own granny came and commanded me to be a good boy and eat what all other kids were eating. I, probably inspired by the overdose of Gandhi in history textbooks, defiantly refused. Then she said I would have to wait for another couple of hours to eat. Though I was intensely hungry, I prefered to stay hungry for 2 hours and eating "real food" than eat what was in the plate in front of me.

If I dislike sreekhand so much, you can imagine how much I hate amrakhanda.

So as pucca a Maharashtrian as I am, here I part ways with my clanfolk.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

We Shall Overcome

I long for a day when I walk into an Indian restaurant in the United States, open the menu, and find it to be free of that ghastly bastardized abomination called mango lassi. Mango lassi represents all that is wrong with Indian cuisine served in this country. In nature, looks, consistency and taste, it is as ghastly as the desserts one strives to avoid at other restaurants.

In fact, probing at an even deeper level, the mango lassi is symptomatic of the kind of Indians you meet in this country that you want to bash over the head with a blunt instrument. The kind that are ever so eager to pander to the stereotype as long as it is non-offensive in nature. The kind of Indians who are intellectually and creatively bankrupt enough to make videos like "laddoo shop"(to the tune of candy shop) and "curry and rice girl"(to the tune of hollaback girl).

People call second generation Indians ABCD... American Born Confused Desis. I don't find ABCDs to be even fractionally as confused as these people... IBCDs. Either stick to the original. Or embrace the West wholeheartedly. No shame in either. But what is the point in coming up with something like mango lassi?

Lassi by itself is a work of art. One of the great concoctions to come out of our country. The Swiss and the French.... and even the Wisconsonians can ferment at the mouth preparing different types of cheeses. Their efforts are appreciable and laudable, but they do not come close to bagging title of the "best dairy product" which squarely rests with the lassi. While purists will prefer the sweet lassi, it's lesser known cousin, the salty lassi is delightful in its own way.

And the Indian mango is undoubtedly the king of fruits. Its aroma, colour, pulpiness and the fact that it has just the right level of sweetness is unmatchable.

Whoever had the satanic idea of mixing those two together was definitely an IBCD who should be tied to tree in the middle of the woods and be forced to listen to "laddoo shop" and "curry and rice girl" on loop till he pulls all his hair out. The mixture negates the best of what each ingredient has to offer and is nothing but a frothy, viscous, and overly sweet monstrosity that only a sugar-starved diabetic will relish.

No wonder you hardly ever find it back in India. Forcing those two regal food items into a congress and then ingesting them as such would amount to high gastronomical blasphemy.

There is no doubt in my mind that the vile drink enjoys popularity primarily among non-Indians, as they form a majority of the patrons of an Indian restaurant in this country. But one day we shall be numerically more powerful in this country. And while influential Indians presently amuse themselves by lobbying for trivial matters like H1B visas and nuclear agreements, one can only hope that future generations will have their priorities set right.

One day in the not so distant future, we will rise as one and expunge mango lassi from the menus in Indian restaurant and send it to a lesser and more fitting place.

Denny's maybe?