Thursday, February 26, 2009

8 Oscars to Indian Poverty

Posted by Varun | Thursday, February 26, 2009 | Category: , , , , , , , , | 25 comments

A lot has been talked and written about Slumdog Millionaire already but I would like to add a few cents of my own. I am mightily pleased that three people from India managed to win awards and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate AR Rahman, Gulzar and Resul Pookutty. All three of them richly and truly deserved their awards.

Coming to title of the post, I read this in one my friend's (Maneesh) Orkut status message and felt it was so very true. Why do you think the jury gave this movie an Oscar? I think it was due to the mass appeal that this movie was able to establish. Every person everywhere in the world somewhere dreams of winning that ten million in a day and hence related with Jamaal (Protagonist of Slumdog Millionaire) the very moment they saw him. It is not only a Slumdog who would want to win that money after all. And If we talk about the feel good factor or the romantic angle (Latika) of the movie, I have seen better movies that leave a lasting impression than this one. What could and would have turned the tide towards this movie is the portrayal of Indian poverty. Westerners have seen this movie as a guide to Dharavi.

As far as showing Indian poverty is concerned, don’t you think there are no beggars on the street on New York or London? Don't you think there are no petty thieves on the street of San Francisco? Leave alone thieves, there are murderers roaming in college campuses of UK and USA with a gun shooting any random guy or girl they see. Why not portray it in a movie and win an Oscar? Why only Indian Poverty?

Indian government somehow markets itself as poor and a country full of slums and makes it easy for people like Danny Boyle to come and show whatever he wants to. I have seen and talked to people in UK who come to India to only see its poverty. Take my word for it; Dharavi will soon become a hot tourist spot in Mumbai. Maharashtra Government has gone a step ahead by gifting two slum kids a flat each. Every second kid in Dharavi would now want to act in a Hollywood movie and get a flat. They would be ready to do anything they can to please a white person. This movie has ignited false hopes in all kids who live in slums.

Felt great to know that a movie shot in India and a movie which has Indian actors in it won so many awards but at the same time felt bad that it won these awards at the cost of poor people living in slums of India and portrayal of their life. I just hope Danny Boyle and his team don't forget the people who made this movie possible and help them if not to become a millionaire at least to lead a normal life.

This post is more of a rant and not a dig at anyone. And please don't get me wrong; I liked the movie!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Best Friend's Wedding

Posted by Varun | Thursday, February 19, 2009 | Category: , , , , | 35 comments

I still remember that day, when my friend (Mimi) called me up all excited, a lil tensed, a lil nervous to tell me that the boy she was seeing has proposed for marriage. The conversation went on for about 1 or 2 hrs with no end result. The call was not a decision making call coz she had already made her decision but she simply wanted to speak to someone with whom she could share all the thoughts that was ringing in her head at that point in time. For calls like these, you need great listening skills and logical thinking ability. I am proud of both these skills of mine and I guess even she knew about it. We spoke about everything from compromises, shackles and every thing that a marriage brings with it. She seemed to be ready for all that but not ready to blurt that 'Yes' out. She was scared to the core. After a few nail biting weeks for the boy she finally said the magical three letter word.

Discussions at both homes followed the affirmation and a date was fixed for marriage which was 1st Feb 2009.

Fast Forward six months, the marriage was a great grand success. It gave me an opportunity to visit the Mishti(Sweet in Bengali) city called Kolkata(Calcutta).

I could not get a clear view of the city until the flight touched down. It is a very dusty/polluted city. I am not sure how the pilot was able to spot the runway. My friend Chandan who had landed in the city a day earlier came along with his friend Arnab to pick me up from the airport.

First thing that strikes anyone who comes to Kolkata is the way in which people drive. Drivers are rash and reckless to say the least. They have absolutely no concern about people who are in other vehicles or on foot.

Kolkata Darshan for me started the moment I stepped out of the Airport. This is my second visit to the city. First visit was way back in 1993 or 94 and I remember nothing from that trip. Not even the correct date :)

I landed on a holy day. It was Vasant/Basant Panchami (Saraswati Puja) in Kolkata. It is supposed be Desi Valentine's Day (I am sure the Ram Sena did not know about this). There were more girls on the streets of Kolkata than fishes in Hoogli river that day. All of them dressed up in their best costumes. It was as though all of them were dressed to welcome me :). There were lot of guys too but I did not have time to look at them.

Our first pit stop was Gouranga Das's (Goru - Chandan's Friend) flat in Dum Dum. Dropped off the luggage there and set out to try our Basant Panchami luck! :). Second pit stop was Salt Lake. It is a locality's name and not a lake. Even though I was not interested in visiting any malls in Kolkata we went to one called City Centre. Goru was supposed to meet us there. Waiting for him, we had Kachori with Alu ki Sabji and the famous Puchka (Pani Puri). One of the best pani puris i have eaten in recent times! Belgique chocolates then gave our burning tongues a much needed relief. My Kolkata crash course began here. First it was Victoria Memorial. It was closed by the time we reached but never the less I got a view of the amazing building from outside. It felt as though I was somewhere in UK. Right outside the Victoria Memorial is the Birla Planetarium and an old St Pauls Cathedral about which I had read in the Spice Jet's guide book. Felt good to see something I had read about just 4 hrs earlier.

Next stop was Sriram Arcade and new market. Jumped in and out of Sreeleathers (A famous shop for all leather needs) and finally settled in Barista(Park Street) waiting for few friends to arrive. One my way to New Market I saw the world famous Eden Gardens and the palatial building that houses the Indian Museum. By the time everyone came, small group had turned into a large group of around 18 people.

All of us headed to Tangra (Pronounced Tang-Da. Another locality in Kolkata. It is also known as China Town) for some Chinese food. I was the odd man out in terms of eating vegetarian food and drinking alcohol but that situation was a 'been-there-done-that' kind of a situation for me and I didn't mind eating veg fried rice and drinking coke, when other people were enjoying lobsters, chicken and vodka. One often doesn't gets to see 17 drunk people in one place. :) It was fun. I enjoyed their conversations and pitched in whenever the situation demanded.

After Tangra, the large group split and 8 of us decided to go to a Discotheque. Unfortunately for us, there was only one girl in our group. Even though the girl was very beautiful, her charm didn't work on the disc manager and he refused to let us all in :(. This prompted the group to think of an alternative and I was very quick to select home as one as I was tired and wanted to sleep. Moreover I had to attend a wedding next day(which was why I was there in the first place). Luckily for me everyone(even though a lil miffed) agreed and came along.

By the end of first day, I had boarded a taxi, city bus(dog van), shared auto and shared taxi. There are more modes of transport in this city like the tram, underground metro train and rickshaw which I had plans of boarding the next day.

Day 2:
Since wedding was in the evening I had whole morning to continue my sightseeing. The places we visited were Dakshineshwar's Kali Mandir and Belur Math. Both are on banks of river Hoogli but on opposite sides. Kali Mandir's architecure is marvellous. The colours used to paint the building are amazing. There's a multi-threaded (I am in IT. Couldn't help using this term) queue system which converges near the entrance for devotees to get a closer look of Kali Ma. Sanctity of the temple is maintained beautifully but it was disheartening to see Pundits accepting bribe to perform what they were supposed to do.

Right outside the Kali Madir, there are numerous restaurants that serve hot Kachori (Puri) and yummy Dal for breakfast. We had our share of Kachori and took a boat to cross the river. Once across, we went to Belur Math. Belur Math is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda. Beautiful place to spend time. Cool, calm and peaceful. Khichdi and Payas(Kheer) was served as Prasad. It was both delicious and filling. This meal cum prasad didn't stop us from having our lunch. Goru's mummy had prepared special lunch which we couldn't refuse.

Even though the heavy meal was asking me to sleep; excitement of attending the marriage kept me awake. Chandan and I packed our bags, got ready and took a taxi to Sodhpur. Sodhpur is where Mimi's house is and that is where the wedding hall was too.

Mimi was looking beautiful in her wedding attire. The dulha without any doubt was overshadowed by the pretty bride. She was looking like a goddess. Wedding was supposed to start at 7.00 pm but started a little late due to the enthusiastic Baarati. First it was registered marriage. Traditional Bengali marriage rituals followed it. Marriage went on till 12.00 midnight. Food looked very tempting but my stomach didn't allow me to eat too much. The best part about the dinner was, you guessed it right! Sweets! :). Didn't miss having them. It was fun as I had never been to a Bengali wedding. It also gave me an opportunity to meet my best friend's other best friends about whom I had always heard from her. One meeting and I knew why she had picked them! Spent the rest of the night chatting with them. Came back to Goru's place at around 5.30 am and slept like a log.

Day 3:
I know very few people in Kolkata and one of them is Pavitra. She is my friend from Tech Mahindra (My ex-organization). We decided to meet up for lunch. By the time we finished our lunch it was 2:00 pm and both me and Chandan had to catch a 5:20 pm flight but to different destinations. Since we had seen how bad the traffic was while coming to this place, we decided that the fastest mode of transport even if crowded was the metro train. Luckily it was not crowded and the ride was really good and fast. It reminded me of London's Tube. We reached airport at around 4:15 pm picking our luggage on the way from our friend's place.

Both our flight's departed on time. I had all plans of sleeping in the flight. But since the seats were so cramped up I couldn't sleep for even a single minute. Moreover I got a severe back ache due to those stupid seats. It takes around 2 hrs to reach my home from the Bangalore airport, This time was enough for me to remember and cherish each and every moment spent in the lovely city.

It is always easy to find an excuse for not attending weddings. Try attending one! You'll not just make the other person happy, you will come back home rejuvenated and with a feeling of satisfaction that you were part of something BIG.

Since this post is already a mile long, i'll not be posting any pictures with it. Here's a link to my picasa album and orkut album. You'll need a gmail id to view my picasa album and you'll have to be my friend in orkut to view my orkut album. Enjoy!!