Wednesday, July 12, 2006

You cant rock me!

I get knocked down, but I get up again,
You're never gonna keep me down!

You can bend me, but I wont break! I will bounce back. 17 years living in this city, and this is the biggest lesson I have learnt from the metropolis. Mumbai, one of the largest cities anywhere, was rocked once again with a series of blasts targetted at the public transport system.

Horribly sly

One can just see through the cruelty of the planning.
-- The western railway carries over 2 million people a day.
-- 6pm is the time when the trains are packed not to capacity, but well past it.
-- First class is the only compartment where one can deftly move in and out through the scores of commuters.

7 blasts go off at various points on the railway line leaving close to 200 dead and over 700 injured. Purely insane lack of respect for innocent human lives.

Rising like a phoenix

I wasnt surprised this morning though when the very railway that got hit by the blasts started services early this morning again - less than 12 hours after the explosions put a spanner in their works. Nothing gets affected here. Schools, offices, colleges, shops - everythings back to normal. The city simply bounced back like I counted on it to.

Indomitable spirit

Of course, it isn't the city thats remarkable, it is the citizens. New York, London, Madrid; we have seen them taken down by terrorist attacks. And we have seen how they took it. I cant meet enough New Yorkers, or Americans for that matter, who show how badly 9/11 impressed their minds. I cant forget how panicky London police got and had some scorn left over for me at London airport. When every other citizen would have hibernated to a shell, or should I call it a nuclear holocaust security cell in their basement if they are really paranoid, the Mumbaikar will take the blow, goto sleep and wake up the next morning like nothing happened.

There have been innumerable instances where the city was brought down to its knees - the 13 serial blasts in 1993, the massive flooding from last year, intermittent terrorist incidents every now and then. Nothing could even stir this spirit. It is the fact that people fight everyday. To make ends meet. To travel from home to schools and workplaces and back. To make time for friends and family. They have seen how hard life can be. So much that they have become kinda hardened. The mumbaikar is still passionate, but they dont have the time to get bogged down and cry. Life, they know, must always go on.

My Salute!

I can never forget what this city has taught me. Which is why I feel so relaxed, so happy to return to its throes. The streets may be filthy, the traffic snarled, the stress levels steep, the crowds mangled. But, getting through it all unscathed is what makes one realise how strong they are. Damn yes, I salute this city, one like I've never seen. Although I may not want to settle down with a house there anymore, I will always remember what it has meant to me. The city never gets rocked!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Air-Tale : A Story About The Monarch And I

Boy, do people know how to piss me off. And as is obvious for readers of my blog, it typically gives me something to vent right here. This is a tale of woes that was initiated without me having the faintest of hints when I left for StrangeLand. Sachin and Shah Rukh might promote Airtel, but I'm sure they never had to face up to the so-called Customer Support system. Let's Rant...


Airtel has always been my first and preferred service provider when it comes to cellular service. But, that was definitely before I switched from pre-paid to post-paid. I had to, cos I was one of those users with heavy outgoing traffic. My monthly bills went through the roof - on average more than what my colleagues spent overall on their living expenses. Of course, that still doesn't buy you any privileges as a well-paying customer. I've had tiffs about them not raising my credit limit, even though I've been paying always on time and they had a copy of my salary certificate to prove I can afford to pay them. This always meant, they forced me to come pay event other week.

Before I was to fly off to StrangeLand, I had a suspicion that my stay would be atleast 3 months long, if not more. The friendly Airtel customer care guy at Monarch Technologies in Aundh, Pune, said all I need to do to ensure my number is safe and not disconnected, is to pay 100 bucks a month toward holding it in 'safe custody'. When I informed him how long I expected to stay away, he simply said, even if its 6 months, all I need to do is ask a friend to show up and pay the 100 bucks every month on my behalf. I paid all my remaining dues plus the 300 Rs for 3 months of safe custody and happily strode away.

3 Months Later

My room-mate informs me of bills that are still arriving back home for unpaid dues, and they seem to be rising every month. I tell him that my stay could last upto 3 more months and request him to pay 300 Rs. further toward the 'safe custody' extension. The friend at Monarch tells my room-mate the bills could be a mistake and accepts the 300 bucks. Smile back on my beloved number lives on.

Return of the Harrassee

On day 1 of my return, I turn up at Monarch to explain my situation and ask them to restart my number. '24 hours' is the friendly reply. After 48, I march back in, still calm and collected. 'It's been off for a long time, sir. Give me 48 more.' I give her 96. My earlier friend, the one who put my number in safe custody, is nowhere to be seen.

After a 3rd trip and another failed promise, I finally ring up the Airtel Customer Care number, only for him to ask for 2 more days. 4 days later, I ring them up again, only to be told, my number has been permanently disconnected. Its been 15 days now, and this is how long it takes for me to realise this. Im advised to take up the issue with Monarch again.

This time, I walk to the manager cos the minions obviously have no idea what they are doing. He patiently listens to my story and breaks another surprise to me - '6 months? But the safe custody can only be used to hold numbers for 2 months'. Duh??! Why the hell did my friend say that to me then? Was he the Court Jester for Monarch? After he makes a couple of phone calls, the manager promises to get my number started by dusk. I tell him I expect it to be broken.

Voila. 48 hours and still nothing. On the 3rd day, I march in with a huff. There's a new friend, who seems to know how it's done, better than the rest. 'Your number is permanently disconnected. I will waive off the rent that's accrued on your bills, cos you weren't here. And the amount that you paid toward safe custody actually went toward repaying dues. So, your number was never in safe custody'. One shock follows another. After 21 days, there's no respite with the news flashes. Finally, I regain my senses, and I ask him a single straightforward question calmly - 'Tell me what you want me to do'. All I hear is - 'Goto this other place, check if you can still get your number back, pay this due, blah blah blah!'. Dude! All of you incompetent morons have screwed me up big time, and now you want me running around even more? After you have finally understood all the injustice that was dished out? WTF~! Screw Airtel. "And I'm sorry to have wasted your time. Cos you never felt sorry for wasting mine".

Silver Lining

Now that I've switched service providers, I get a legal notice from Airtel. More like a threat. Asking me to cough up more dough. For the rent they added on my account for the time I thought it was in safe-custody. This period of course also includes the time it was disconnected by them for non-payment. Plus, my safe-custody payment went toward part-payment of that rent itself! So, technically, they didnt put it in safe custody, charged me rent, used my safe custody payment to pay off that rent for a couple of months, then disconnected my number and kept piling up the bills.

And what am I gonna do? Nothing, but pay up and pen my frustrations in a blog. Cos I can't afford a lawyer or spare time to run around. I'd rather think of the 400 bucks as charity toward the impoverished Bharti Tele-Enterprises. I'm giving something to the needy here, of course.

Makes you wonder..We give such excellent world-class service to the rest of the world. Everyone marvels at the Indian service industry and its talents. But, when it comes to serving its own citizens, there's complete apathy. Customer is not king, its the Monarch and his court jesters who are kings. As RATM would never say - 'FU, I WILL do what you tell me.'

Monday, February 27, 2006

Pretending to be Pune

A warning at the outset, to all those who call themselves Puneris, Punekars, Puneites - basically take pride in the town that's called Pune. Yes, you heard me right, it's a town pretending to be a city, and yes, this is a slugfest against the pretentious town, so keep out, if you adore it.

First brush

I have lived 17 years of my life in Bombay. Wait, 9 in Bombay and 8 in Mumbai. But, I never got a chance to see this neighbouring bustling township they call Pune. My mom still rues the fact, but I wonder why. As I grew up, more and more of my friends started telling me about the pretty femme-fatales that crowd Pune and that I should desperately seek a job there (or here, cos I am here now). So, when as fate would have it I landed a job in Pune, my friends were evidently more excited than I was.

I leave behind my parents and my bro, all my bosom buddies, and move to Pune to earn my living on my first job. Its raining (record rainfall that year actually) most of the time, and the weather strikes me as pleasant. False first impression that. Later that year, the summer records desperate highs, and the winter records temperatures almost ready to freeze your veins, and all year long dust billows around riding on hot winds like you are in a desert. The journey hath only begun.

The earth is round, not flat

The folks in Pune are said to be well-educated and smart. I am sure even the guys who direct road construction here know that the earth is round, and not flat. They carry forward this knowledge blatantly, ensuring none of the roads here are flat. How can you have flat roads, if the earth itself isn't flat? The roads are filled with both intentional and unintentional speed-breakers. A tiny pothole gets filled overnight with tarry goo, and becomes a mound next morning. I have been used to potholes from my rainy days in Mumbai. But, the healthy mixture of ups and downs in Pune's roads reminds you that life is not just about downs.

I bet my bike has aged thrice as fast since I came here. You can only slow down so much for every bump, and there are too many around. A ride in the auto-rickhsaw, sans the shock-resistance of course, is most definitely a break-test for the spinal cord. Damn, I have seen better roads in a lot of other cities that Puneris like to compare Pune with. Pune is a town, with roads that deserve a place not even in a town.

Public transport - Two-wheeler

Everybody, and I mean everybody, owns a 2-wheeler. Public transport system? Conservation of fuel resources? Duh...Ok, there's a so-called PTC bus system. The buses are so filthy from the outside itself, I haven't dared step into one of them. I'm used to the more cleaner buses I have seen in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad...Hell, even the buses in Calcutta are more inviting. Plus, its not like the bus system is flawless and efficient and has a good span or coverage. Walk a mile to the bus stop, get down at some unknown place, and ask for directions during another mile hike toward where you really wanted to get. I know comparing with the BEST in Mumbai is pointless, but how bad can one get? The only semblance of public transport then becomes the auto-rickshaw, which is hell by itself. City or town?

Weird alarm system

I don't use an alarm to wake up in the morning. Precisely at 8am, the power is cut-off and I am woken up by the lulling hum of the fan being suddenly withdrawn. This is one of the ways mom used to wake me up when she thought I'd had enough sleep. But, I live alone now, and its plain rude! Damn, what worse time could one choose? People have their bath, prepare to leave for a day's work, and they gotto do it without power? The philosophy behind this of course is an attempt to 'hit where it hurts'. Try to cut off power when people need it the most. Thank god they haven't realised yet we need it most in the nights actually.

Femme Fatale

Yeah..women that kill. Of course, that was meant in a poetic sense by an arduous French admirer of women. But, my first venture into the streets of Pune made me rethink - perhaps Femme Fatale was meant to be taken literally here. Women may not be killers, but boy, they do dress like one. Bombarded with those images of militants and terrorists covering their faces with elaborate pieces of clothing, one can only help but relive those memories when they see the women here walking around, driving around, in exactly the same garb. You wonder if they will pull out a gun if you say a meek 'Hi'.They say it protects them from the sun and the dust. They even have some wrinkled horrendous polka-dotted thing they call a sun-coat to cover the rest of their exposed skin. And with the stereotypical arranged marriages that happen around us everyday with the groom seeking 'Pretty fair-skinned girl', how can you blame them? The only quirk of course is, when people ask me about the girls in Pune, I come back with, 'I am yet to see them, really'.

Afternoon slumber

Another annoying bit I hate is the fact so many of the shops and services shut down for a whole 2 hours in the afternoon. No, it's not a lunch break, its more like a siesta break. People simply shut shop at 2 to re-open at 4. I've never seen somebody run a business like this anywhere. The shops shut early at night too, if this isn't already bad enough. It took one long trek at 10pm to find an open pharmacist before I realised, I should ensure not to fall sick at night, or stock up my home like a little pharmacy.


Everything about Pune is pretentious. A town pretending to be a city. Riding the IT-wave that has now hit most of the country anyway. Pune may have started early, but believe me, its not keeping up. With infrastructure in shambles, that's no surprise.

A town is made by its people. And that's where the pretending begins. You only have to speak to the youth here to know what I mean. So many of them carry a fake American accent. I don't know where they picked that from, unless the TV is their only friend and they have healthy conversations with it. 'Pune is a fashion conscious city'. People are obsessed with how they look, how they present themselves. They build a facade to hide the real 'them'. The less I speak about this the better. Cos I will be called judgemental, but in my view this is where all the make-believe and pretention starts.

At best, Pune is still a cantonment, tempted to blow into a city, but this really looks set to implode if the governance doesn't wake up and take note.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Made In Heaven

Last week, I attended a special function - the wedding of one of my best buddies Jigesh. I have been skeptic about attending marriages as they've always felt drab and massively over-elaborate. After this experience, they arent really drab, but still massively over-elaborate. But, with Jigesh involved this one had to be extra-special. Especially, cos I had met his better half in Los Angeles, and loved her pleasing personality and her kind, but savvy attitude. One thing she excels in is having the tolerance to stand a bombardment of bad jokes from me and Jigesh at the same time.

I havent written what I like to call poetry on my blog ever before. But, this occasion definitely calls for one. And I dont care what you think of my poetic skills! And don't think Woodsworth, think Mike Myers.

Buddies in college, sharing the 371 bus,
If there were two in a lecture, had to be us.
So kind and helpful was he, people exploited him too,
But then he made friends, only to stick like glue.

(Stop laughing..I am serious!)
He wrote all the assignments, coded all the programs,
All we had to do, was wait till he gave away the alms.
We silenced our conscience by saying "Damn, he lives so close",
"While we travel for hours, he takes a refreshing doze!".

Giving rides in his car, companionship for where you wanna go,
Tons of support and tutoring, helping you keep up the score.
When you wanna stay awake, even when the teacher sings lullabies,
Bet on him for a timely nudge, right before you close your eyes.

Always gives, hardly ever takes, he's a bag of joy and fun,
Little did he care that's not the secret of being number one!
I secretly told myself, there aint a girl good enough for him,
The ones out there are smitten by me, hell, what's left for him!

No wonder then, I was surprised to meet her the very first time,
I sensed it in minutes, better than this poem they shall rhyme.
One a gujju, the other a punju from gujarat,
That's where the differences ended, take my word for that.

I promised myself to make it to the wedding,
Had to see them both smile together in a divine setting.
As the day approached, the celebrations increased,
Hundreds, preparing, swarming around like bees.

Oh, it was a sight to behold, when his parents danced together,
Rejoicing the occasion when their son ties himself with a tether,
To the most suitable girl, they could never have found on their own,
And to see them rejoice, made me thrilled to the bone.

I, who never dances, pranced to the obnoxious and loud music,
I had no idea what I was doing, cos dancing makes me sick.
Who gives a damn if the feet and hands are never in synchrony,
We celebrate the couple and dance to the cacophony.

The two descend from the clouds, at the altar they take their place,
All eyes on them, no one cares for my pretty face.
Around the sacred fire, they do the seven auspicious revolutions,
With him following her, the trend for the future is set in motion.

Bless the couple, for a life together in peace and sanctimony,
Have the little tiffs too, to keep things in harmony.
May you always get the very best in life for each other,
And God Bless, someday you will make an excellent father and mother.

With Love,
Satwik. wasnt Mike Myers good...give me atleast Ben Stiller.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Mum's the word...

Its late in the night - closer to daybreak, than to midnight. I wake up with a start. Im not sure if it’s the mosquitoes bothering me. Then, I start wheezing and my chest doesn’t seem to be able to expand to its full capacity with each breath. I sit up and try to find a position that would comfort me and make it easier. My brother shakes around in the bed next to me, as I start coughing slowly to clear my bronchial tract. Then, I hear light footsteps walking toward my room, and from the dark my mom emerges, bringing instant relief with some of her quick-help remedies.

Since I was little, I've had this problem of developing breathing complexities when trying to sleep. The doctors gave it technical recognition with names like ‘Bronchial Asthma’ and the lot, but couldn’t really cure it. It turned out to be one of those things that gets cured on its own with age, and now its simply a rarity, only rearing its head on the occasional exposure to extreme amounts of dust or pollution. But, the part I remember about all of this, is how my mom always managed to feel my pain and rush to my assistance. I am certain my dad got woken up too. But, he realizes that in such scenarios, it is definitely the mom’s touch that makes the difference. And he won’t arrive until it’s absolutely necessary – to dish out some medicine because it’s pretty severe, for example.


Of late, I have been living away from my parents and my brother, and I have learnt that it is the distance that finally gives you the realization of how important they were in your lives. When they were always around, you take them for granted, and give more importance to your television, sports and friends. Not once have I ever done anything special for my mom except for hand-made birthday cards once a year. I have of course, picked arguments almost on a daily basis, criticized her cooking even though I reckon she’s the best and never told her so, never appreciated her sacrifices – the ones she made so me and my brother could have a peaceful life and everything would be taken care of. Now that I live alone, all that comfort is suddenly gone, and I can clearly see what a great effort she put in everyday for me and my brother. And how thankless I have been.


If you tell her that you are sorry you never thanked her or appreciated her or even helped her out once in a while, she comes back with – “Well, you have atleast ensured you have a stable career ahead of you and learnt to live on your own. That is all I ever wanted for you anyway.”. Its like shes saying – “Mission accomplished”, but I cant get over the fact that I haven’t been the greatest of sons. However, I am glad I left home. Since then, I have developed a new-found level of relationship with her. I understand her more clearly now, I can talk to her about almost anything, I realize the gaps in my life she managed to fill so easily without me even knowing. Of course, I despise missing her cooking. Another thing I took for granted, cos good food was always just a few footsteps away - in the kitchen.

Mum is the word

So many of us search for God in idols, temples, peaceful surroundings, bearded people (?). None of us have really ever seen God. I think the closest I have come to seeing The Almighty is in my parents. Mum’s the word..the word I would use to describe God. Even though I gave her immense pain since the day I was born, she has shown great resilience and ensured that I have an unparalleled upbringing. That I can be proud of the human being she has moulded me into. Now, my visits home are more like a pilgrimage, where I look back at the times I was always in a temple and never realized it! Where I savour the sumptuous Prasad everyday, before its time to go back. Back to the material world, where I live with penny-chasers and become one too. Someday I will realize that chase was a waste too…will I?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

India Whining

Its what they are all talking about - India and China taking over the world. And it isn't China that adds the spice in these heated discussions, its the dark horse Homeland I belong to. Not many saw it coming. The land of spicy chicken tikka and lamb vindaloo, of beggars, of the Taj Mahal, of cheap software engineers (read job robbers) - which is how the average westerner sees India - was never one slated to make the big splashes. I've been seeing this all around me during my stay here in StrangeLand. My high point was actually when the cop that gave me a speeding ticket, not in the kindest words suggested - "So, you are from India, huh? I hear you are taking over the world economy". The unsaid words there of course were - "Getting rich by taking our jobs, huh? You wouldn't mind paying this ticket here, I'd imagine."

Why the hoopla?

The "India Shining" campaign was kicked off toward the end of 2003, when the incumbent political party decided to shine its shoes by showing how the country is shining. They pulled out all kind of statistics to show the progress the country had made during their rule. Sadly for them, the Indian electorate was smart enough to realise that the actual wheels had been put in motion before the government even came to power, by the outgoing party. Guess who won then?

Well, the economy hasn't let up its 8% annual growth, and the media, which plays such a major role in stirring things up, hasn't let up either. Just to give an example, visit the Rediff web portal. You will find a brand new news item or article by an "expert" either highlighting India's growth or comparing it to China. One day "We are 20 years behind China", and the next, "India and China economies will control the world market in 15 years". It just doesn't let up. The media quotes Forex reserves, GDP growth, the rising number of shopping malls and cellphone users, whatever it takes to make a mountain. And the whole world is hooked.

What's the hype and what's the truth?

The truth is, a country of India's size and rich heritage could never have been stopped. It was always an economy waiting to explode. And I believe it still is. We are getting excited at the first openings of a blossom. The question really is whether this bud will blossom or fade out like one of those overnight blooms. And right now either is equally possible.

Ok, so we have 140 billion dollars of forex reserves. But, aren't we forgetting the massive trade deficit we still have? Its definitely eclipsing this forex reserve figure. We are still primarily an importing economy.

IT rocks..We rule the software world. My brother has already written an interesting post on this fad. Yes, we absorb the largest chunk of all out-sourced software work. But, does it map to the revenue we make? Outsourcing as a business concept, in my view, will never cease. But, does it in anyway ensure we build a foundation to keep us going even when people decide to move to other havens of outsourcing? And to all those that think Indians are superior in intelligence, and smarter at work ethics and skills, well I have just one thing to say - God meant for all humans to be equal. Until we breed enterpreneurs out of our young software engineers, we will be slaves to others, and that takes us nowhere.

Shopping malls, multiplexes, branded clothes, faster cars - signs of prosperity, yes. But, by what scale? The Western scale again, isn't it? I wonder when this 'White man is superior' mental-block will be erased from our psyche, when we will stop embracing all things western as good. It is the west that must embrace our ethics. After all we are the ones with thousands of years of well-scuplted culture and heritage, whereas the western ideas are just flashes of brilliance, destined to fade out like our diwali fire-crackers. Instead, we are going out of our way, the other way.

My silver lining

When I see companies like TATA motors sealing bus production deals for South Africa, making their mark in the Eastern Eurpoean market, and looking for newer economies to venture into, I feel proud. When I see ONGC competing for oil fields in Nigeria with the big guns from the west, I feel excited. When I see so many more of our farmers getting access to advanced technologies to improve agricultural output, I feel happy to eat that extra roti! There are such stories all around us. Indian pharma companies using their low manufacturing cost, but equally good research background, to win contracts to make cheaper AIDS medicines, also comes to mind. But, they have all been overshadowed by the media hype surrounding the outsourcing industry.

Did you know that investors from the west shy away from venturing into Indian IT start-ups cos they require such a low investment, which in turn means lower returns? Where is the Indian investor in such times? Out of 10 enterpreneurs we conjure up, 1 ever manages to get funding, and mostly not to the extent she would want. 5 will lose hope immediately at the lack of excitement from investors. The remaining 4 will fight a losing battle and try putting in their savings and hope for the best. It's a sad story, where the typical Indian mentality of not taking risks, also shields them from all the good projects some enterpreneurs come up with. Any wonder then that all our best enterprenuers are in the Silicon Valley? And most of those here are into slave-work, the stable business - no matter how demeaning it is. Before you accuse me, you should know that I am in the same industry too.

Wrap up now, please!

India is a work of art in progress, poetry in the making, but we aren't firmly established to make it. To truly rule the world, we ought to ensure we can sell to the world first. We just keep buying. We ought to advance our technological base and our intellectual property a lot further to ensure we don't feed off foreign technology, and for this to happen, jobs like those of ISRO and BARC have to be atleast more appealing than the jobs at Infosys and Wipro. I could list a lot more, but these are good places to start. Everything else frankly seems to be pretty much in shape.

Yeah, and ensure we don't run outta gas, literally, in our push for industrial superiority. I cannot stress enough that India will have to take the lead in moving toward alternate energy resources, and not wait for the rest to take the first step. And stop bragging! To the west, we are coming dudes, just wait. And to all of us Indians, it's gonna be a heck of a ride, so hang on!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Teachers or Preachers?

Guruh Brahma Gurur Vishnu, Guruh Devo Maheshwarah,
Guruh Saakshad Parabrahma, Tasmai Shree Gurave Namaha.

One of the first shlokas I was taught when I was young. I think it was because it was so simple to remember as a kid. Later in life, I understood what it meant. A Guru is the teacher, the one who shows us how to live life, who sets us on the right path when we are young. In ancient India, it was a sacred occupation, and some of the great sages have also been the greatest teachers. Hence, they have been compared to Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh in this shloka.

My first Gurus

In my first years in school, apart from my parents, I had the utmost respect for all my teachers. I used to look up to them as some of society's greatest protagonists, as people who would shape how I live and quench my thirst for knowledge. Unlike now, when I couldn't care less about learning about diverse subjects, as a kid I was into the quest of discovery, exploring the unknown, and basically learn something new everyday. None of this holds true now, and I wonder if it has something to do with the teachers I have gone through in my 20 years of education. This is not a blame game I'm gonna play to clear my conscience; just trying to analyse what role my teachers played in my life.

As a kid, it was natural to look up to elders, and not just literally cos I was so short. I also perceived them as all-knowing and interacting with them gave me great joy. I was the quintessential "teacher's pet" too in school, atleast till the 7th grade. I think teachers always fall for the guy who tops the class most often. How shallow! I repaid them by almost worshipping the best ones, and someday wanting to be like them. Oh, how smart they were when they taught me about far-off countries I've never seen, about legendary kings who ruled our lands centuries ago, about how to find the square root of 27843, about how to convert a sentence in active voice to one in a passive voice, about the fact that light splits up into a rainbow when it passes through water. I was overawed.

Teacher, or a talking text-book?

Now that I think about it, I realise all they did was present bookish facts, most of them. Very few would actually perform experiments, force us to think on our own and question, and inspire us to dig deeper. They kinda got away with half-baked knowledge cos us kids wouldn't question. It was something inherent in a lot of kids - we don't question the elders, it might be a show of disrespect. Now, if someone taught me all that over again, I'd ask them back - Why do I need to find the square root of a number ever - what good is that? Where would I need to change a sentence from active to passive voice - I have no clue even now. Why does white light become multi-coloured when it passes through water?

I am reminded of the tale of one of my friends, Harsha. The teachers laughed at him when he was asked to add two numbers, and he neatly arranged the digits of the two numbers, and added them from left-to-right, instead of right-to-left. Come to think of it, I never asked my teachers why I need to add them from right-to-left. I just did it. How can the teachers even have it in them to laugh at little Harsha? When all he had was an innocent young mind that didnt see the difference between adding in one direction as opposed to the other.

I got the answers to most of the questions I'd never raised on my own, later in life. Life has its own way of teaching you - when you observe what's happening around you more carefully. In my case, I usually just observed the encyclopaedia. But, it drove home the point that all my education was just glaze on top of a doughnut. I had to mostly bake the doughnut myself, and my parents had a great big hand in that. What did teachers really give me then? The degrees I hold?

My ideal guru

I now see teachers who simply pass some stupid tests and start teaching young and eager minds, who have no idea what they are being fed. From all my years in school and university, I know that clearing the hurdle of a test is not the hardest thing in the world to do. More so, it is not the best guide to judging a person's aptitude. Teachers should know they are some of the biggest servants to our society, the ones who shape a child's future. And take some responsibility in what they do and how they do it. They shouldn't just cram our heads with facts and figures - we have the newspapers for that. They should realise the enviable positions they are in and utilise it to motivate young minds, to make them arrive at the answers to their questions instead of giving half-baked replies to hush them up. A true guru doesn't bring the water to the horse, he points the horse in the right directions so it can find water itself. And a really good one will ensure the horse notices the abundance of flora and fauna and natural artefacts around the water source, so that next time the horse can find it on his own, without needing a guru.

In their defence, I am sure the teachers will point to lousy salaries they take back home, and lack of adequate support from the establishments, and sometimes from parents themselves. I can't argue with that. However, I have seen a handful of good examples of excellent teachers, who have worked their way around all of this. I can still remember some of the really good teachers I had as a kid. To me they did invoke the thirst to seek more, although I quenched it elsewhere. Until the point, I realised I could no longer look up to them, and had to seek asnwers on my own, always.

What is then, the difference between a teacher and a preacher? They remind me of the modern preachers who grow beards as a sign of their sainthood and dress in simple clothes as a mark of enlightenment, and captivate audiences with talks about religion and how to live life. They never give the rationale behind anything they say, and people don't question them either. It would be disrespect to a sagely human - after all he knows it all. It is our lack of knowledge and the readiness to grasp blindly what comes our way, that makes sucess stories out of unmotivating teachers and haughty preachers. Can something be done?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Wake Up!

That's a call to myself, for sleeping around and not posting for a long time..or so you think. I'm all stirred up right now - I just heard one of my favourite ground-breaking songs..It's called 'Wake Up'. By Rage Against The Machine. Pure exciting guitar riffs and awesome rapping by Zach. The song kicks off with a heavy riff that sounds like Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir'. After that it only rises in tempo toward the end, where he screams out and insists we wake up!

Those of you not familiar with the song, please look back to The Matrix, where at the end, Neo calls up from a phone booth and doles out a threat, before flying away to this song. Those of you not familiar with the movie, life ain't worth living right now, is it!

The Message

Yeah, there's a message. Most of RATM's songs carry a message. The song wouldn't have been great without its motivatingly penned lyrics. It's about how the governments use their authority to muffle the protests, to sideline the obvious and to simply hide the truth. In particular, they stick to the example of the American government.

'Movements come and movements go,
Leaders speak, movements cease
When their heads are flown'.

Not scared to take names either -
'You know they went after King
When he spoke out on Vietnam
He turned the power to the have-nots
And then came the shot'

And one of the most powerful statements -
'Networks at work, keepin' people calm
Ya know they murdered X
And tried to blame it on Islam'

It's not just love

For all those of you still leading life with an ear only for the pop divas and the boy bands, you have no idea what you are missing out on. You obviously do realise that life is not just about love and heartbreak, right? The real life has problems, wars, politics. Hell, these mushy crooners don't even sing about humanity or the environment. How hard is it to write a song that goes - 'You are my fire, my one desire', and then 2 lines later - 'Am I your fire, your one desire'. I used to write better poetry when I was in 2nd grade. And even then I wrote about emporers and heroes.

Music as a weapon

I've heard statements like - 'Music is a really strong tool. You can use it carry any message through' - many a time. Then, why do so many of these cacophonists choose to send only one message through? Love, beauty, weeping after a heartbreak, sex? Ok, that's 4, but eventually it amounts to nothing, just a few mushy females and their sad boyfriends who go through this hell just for the sake know what!

Why doesn't anybody sing about the environment and the extinction of rare species? Oh, wait, Megadeth did, with Countdown To Extinction.

Tell the truth, you wouldn’t dare.
The skin and trophy, oh so rare.
Killed a few feet from the cages,
Point blank, you’re so courageous

Why doesn't anybody sing about the treacherous stupidity of a war being fought in Iraq. Oh, wait, System Of A Down are already nominated for a Grammy with B.Y.O.B (Bring your own bomb).

Why do they always send the poor?
Why don't presidents fight the war?

Why doesn't anybody write about dreams and deja-vus, stuff that happens to us everyday. Oh, wait, Iron Maiden has Dream Of Mirrors dedicated to this freaky feeling.

Have you ever felt
the future is the past
but you don't know how...?
A reflected dream
of a captured time
Is it really now, is it really happening?

Why doesn't somebody write out against dictators that still rule some parts of this world. Oh, wait, Sepultura have penned Orgasmotron in their honour.

I Twist The Truth, I Rule The World, My Crown Is Called Deceit
I Am The Emperor Of Lies, You Grovel At My Feet

One last why doesn't. Why doesn't somebody write about the soldiers who defend our borders, goto war, blindly obeying the decisions made by superiors who sit in the comfy interiors of their palaces. Oh, wait, Metallica have already penned For Whom The Bell Tolls on that pretext.

For a hill men would kill, why? They do not know
Suffered wounds test their pride

Morons all of these to waste time and creativity to write about real stuff. Who listens to this crap? Without love, there's only wars, bad presidents, and nightmares. Boy Bands rock! Britney rulz.

Wake Up!

Whadda I got to, whadda I got to do to wake ya up
To shake ya up, to break the structure up

It's sad to see that all the song-writing credits goto mushy or latino or hip-hop singers, while these other artists really churn out creative and meaningful stuff. I'm gonna be like the Missionary and try to convert every friend of mine to give these artists a shot, and see for themselves what they are missing. Meanwhile, you go and grab these songs I listed and give them a deserved hearing.

'It has to happen sometime,
It has to happen somehow,
What better place than this,
What better time than now!'