Friday, August 21, 2009

Moments in Life

Incorporating multiple scenes from the protagonist's life with a song in the background is a classical movie-making technique, to show friendship, romantic love, or even tragedy. The title song from 'Dil Chahta Hai', where the friends go to Goa tries to represent youthful friendship, 'Sajna aa bhi jaa' from Waise Bhi Hote Hai shows romantic love, and Up! shows a life loved together.

There are countless more of course, and every time I watch one of these, I feel happy for the people on screen, but it also makes me feel empty. My life seems so slow in comparison, without such intense moments, where you make silly faces to see your shadows in the sun or put atta on the love of your life. It seems full of classes, and experiment running, and cooking and eating out at random places, and planning and grocery shopping.

But last week, I sat and visualized the "high points" of my life - times spent laughing with friends, planning surprise parties, traveling together, playing antakshari, and I realized that "my song" was much bigger and more intense and more fun than the stuff I saw on screen - its just that putting the video together takes so much more time. In fact, the New York trips alone made for enough footage for an entire movie - I just wish I could have recorded it and kept it in my memory forever. :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

12th Standard / 1st Year

Samosas at Gurukripa. And a single gulab-jamun.
Coming out of the LCC to see your friends waiting there.
Watching Pinky apply eye-liner. Learning tips from Chandini about make-up/fashion/life.
Matunga roads. Phone conversations.
That first crush - of that first crush.
Mom shouting that "its 2 am, who are you talking to?" Replying "noone, its the television noise".
The sofa, the red sofa? Monginis pastries.
Truly, madly, deeply.
Srihari, Horizons, and the rock band.
The park with the kids and the little boy who pulled his pants down.
Spring dosa.
The sitting place under the bridge at Matunga station.
Missing the rain dance.
Missing the gang of 14.
"Forgetting" the trip to Lonavala. Getting thrown into the pool in jeans.
The extremely dumb Valentine's day gifts. The 45 minute wait.
Agrawal classes. Not eating Monginis pastries on the way back.
The queue in SIES for paying fees with Shawn.
Physics lab. Chemistry lab.
Shopping at Bandra.
beautiful_18f. McDonalds, and my purple stripe tshirt with dark blue flared pants. My soft toy?
Singing Eminem in engineering admission lines.
That horrendous brown gown. The first (and only) spaghetti.
The HN forest.
The end of innocence. It all starts with a smile :)

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Yes, Mohan is educated, and American-returned, and (presumably) Delhi-educated, and he brings about a real difference in the lives of these vilagers.

But why can't Geeta ? She is Delhi-educated too, she believes in equality of the gender, and abolishing the caste system, she believes in making a difference, trying to improve the country etc. etc.

Then why can she not be the person to get new students to school, convince the village elders to let lower caste children study in the same school or anything useful in the village? Why does she have to be a side-prop, who does nothing more than give speeches to potential husbands? He even has to save the school that she runs !

Its a good movie, but this fact annoys me too much to enjoy the movie.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Yesterday night, I attended a party that ended when the police showed up and asked us to shut the music. That was a first for me :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Facebook Government

Apparently, facebook is letting "we, the users" vote on their new site governance policies - the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Facebook Principles. Woah ! Thats like the online equivalent of a constitution, ain't it?

If the vote gets accepted, maybe kids in school will be taught the 10 Facebook principles of:
  1. Freedom to Share and Connect
  2. Ownership and Control of Information
  3. Free Flow of Information
  4. Fundamental Equality
  5. Social Value
  6. Open Platforms and Standards
  7. Fundamental Service
  8. Common Welfare
  9. Transparent Process
  10. One World
In 1989, we began this new world of the world wide web, in 2009, we begin to govern it as a world wide democracy?

P.S. : I voted for the new statement, simply because it states that the IP of content posted to facebook will belong to the users. It bothered me though that the new site governance policies also say that facebook reserves the right to not acknowledge that some content is a paid-for service or an advertisement, even though I have no clue whether this is a standard practice for all websites.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Revolutionary Road

Hope. Dreams. Want. Emotional Intensity. Revolutionary Road was one of the most involving movies I have seen for a long time.

You can't help but feel for Kate Winslet as she wishes to get out of her current life, as she hopes that Paris will be the thing that will revive her life, her marriage, bring her and her husband closer to the destiny they deserve.

You can't help but wonder whether Leonardo DiCaprio deserves all of this, as he tries to get out of work, sleeps with some other woman, complains about his job, and generally gets disinterested in making more out of his life.

But then he gets a chance to be inspired, a chance to be something bigger than who is he right now, and unfortunately, his chance is not Kate's chance. She will remain there, in the same place, with the same things, the dream of Paris just a dream.

And it hurts. On so many levels, that even 10 days after watching the movie, I can still cry for her.
I'm sorry Kate that things didn't work out as planned. You were a free spirit, you deserved more of life than you got. I wish this was just a story, I wish that as I watched the movie, I didn't feel for all the people who's lives this must have been, wanting, deserving, but not getting.

Revolutionary Road is truly a must watch.

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted is a "feel-good book" that I picked up by chance in the Carnegie library.
Its a short story book, and the title story is about a woman, who walks out of her weight watchers meeting, and decides to eat whatever she wants, the whole day. She gets a dozen donuts (each one described in exquisite detail), hot dogs, a bacon cheeseburger with fries, malted chocolate, cheetos, icecream, steak, apple crisp and crumb topped cherry pie, a martini, baked potato with butter, bacon, and sour cream; and every piece of food she puts in her mouth is described with wonder and happiness. She even describes the joy of eating unhealthy food as almost sexual (but more yeasty and better).

I suddely realized what kind of a story it is - its like food porn - you watch someone fulfilling your deepest desires, and wish that you were getting some of that action too. And it struck me how just imagining someone eat all that awesome food made me happy, even though it really should have left me wanting it myself.

I really liked the story, really liked the idea, but then I reached the end. Unlike sex, food cannot be just celebrated in a story without regret. You eat, you enjoy, but then you cry.

She said "I would like to end this by saying that it felt really good to cheat all day, to eat whatever I wanted. But it didn't. All that happened was that I felt hollow-eyed."

I'm sorry Elizabeth Berg, but there have been many many days in my life when I have eaten without regret, and I have been happy at the end of it. Happy to finish the entire chocolate bar, happy to sit with a pack of red-spicy banana wafers and finish it, happy to order a cheese pav-bhaji with extra butter pav and top it off with kulfi and falooda.

For someone who writes feel-good stories, how could you end your first story with a moral that eating good is bad ? How could you leave your readers with the guilt of that woman, with the shame of not being able to control themselves ? Do you think we are not mature enough to be able to recognize a fantasy for what it is? It felt like watching a porn video which ends with the stars regretting their ways and deciding to stay faithful from now on. Disappointing.

Friday, April 03, 2009


I love it when it rains. But not just for hot tea and pakoras, or for the smell of fresh wet earth. The rains come and wash away all the pain, sorrows, and sins accumulated through long, never-ending days in the bright harsh glare of the sun. They give new life, being hope, add color to the world. They even dim the skies, so that the bright green of the grass and the rainbow colored flowers get their chance to shine. Even the barren empty branches of the trees seem to have a freshly washed and happy look about them.

But best of all, the rains let you look up at the sky, without fear of being blinded for your arrogance. They make the sky seem a little more in reach, they let you hope for more.

Its raining here in Pittsburgh today, and I start afresh, with new promises, and new excitement. Maybe spring will be here quickly after all.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The SuperBowl

It was an awesome awesome match ! The Pittsburgh Steelers took an early lead when they scored a field goal in the first five minutes of play, and a touchdown in the first minute of the second quarter to make the score 10-0. The Cardinals got a touchdown soon after, and just before half-time, the ball was right at the goal line, with the Cardinals about to score. 17 seconds on the scoreboard, and the quarterback throws the ball, but one of the guys from the Pittsburgh defense, James Harrison, caught the ball, and he starts running towards the Steelers goal line, and he actually ran the entire 100 yards without being stopped, converting an expected Cardinal touchdown to a Steelers touchdown instead !

This was when we thought the match was over - the score was like 17-7. But it wasn't. The cardinals went on to make another touchdown in the 4th quarter, and then another in the last 2 minutes of play and pulled ahead to 23-20 ! And again, I thought the game was over - there were only 2 minutes left ! And again, it wasn't. With 35 seconds to go, the Steelers scored ! By then, all of us here were jumping and praying and screaming at the top of our lungs ! There were 35 seconds, and the Arizona Cardinals had to advance 60 yards, and they almost did - but not quite. (This time I didn't assume anything!) Till the last second, the fight was on for the championship, but a lucky break gave us the win !

The game tonight was really played right till the end - it was all about not freaking out about the clock, or about the huge lead the opposing team had. It was about the 100 yard sprint by Harrison, and the 64 yard sprint by Fitzgerald, the almost-out-of-the-line-but-not-quite catch by Holmes, and the really good defense that the Cardinals showed when the Steelers reached the goal line 3 minutes into the game, stopping them there for a field goal instead of a touchdown.

After the game, we went to UPitt, and watched the crowds go wild ! Lots of screaming and fireworks and bonfires, and totally wild stuff. There were like a million people there, waving their terrible towels, singing, blocking the roads, screaming, celebrating the win ! A lot of people broke road signs, and at least one guy climbed the traffic signal post, and upturned the traffic light. The police turned up eventually, and stood in front of the celebrating crowd, asking them to go off the road. But the people kept screaming, and eventually, the police had to back off ! That was one sight I had never imagined seeing in the US.

It was like an impromptu ganpati procession on the roads, all the noise and dancing, but unlike the ganpati crowd, this was a very well-behaved crowd towards other people.

Tonight was totally an awesome night ! I hope I get to see the steelers play again at the superbowl every year :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Apparently, eating lunch at a pub is cause for outrage.

Fear. Anger. Shame. I'm tired of feeling all of this. And more.

Is a sense of security in your own country too much to ask for? To know that even if people don't approve of your behavior, they will not attack you in the middle of the day? Even worse, that you will not be made an example to all other "people" of your kind - "lets beat five women up for talking to Muslim men as an example to all other women out there? "

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Carnegie Library

I get 3-4 books from the Carnegie Library every couple of weeks, and invariably the books I want are already checked out. So I put a hold on the book, and get it 2-3 weeks later. It works out well for me because I always have books being requested, and books being delivered. And it makes me feel so good that other people in Pittsburgh read the same stuff as I do... even if I don't know who they are.

Q&A : Vikas Swarup - Requested by 32 people
Things I learned about my dad in therapy : Heather B. Armstrong - requested by 2
Waiter Rant : requested by 124 people
Brisingr : requested by 231
Dreams from my father : requested by 33
Daughters of India - requested by 2

I'm so glad the Carnegie Library is right next door - and I wish there were such libraries in India as well.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I am listening to George Michael right now and remembering my "Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael" cassette(s) bought way back in 1999. Singing along to these songs, in the balcony of our "new" house, which had not been renovated then .. feeling guilty about not studying for 12th exams, and thinking about "life" instead.

Singing aloud, pretending to be performing at a concert, slow dancing with an imaginary partner, dreaming about dreams I knew were going to be shattered very soon. Dreaming them cause even then, I could see that it would be the last time I would be thinking such thoughts, making such plans, knowing that one day I would look back and smile at my childish hopes and fears. They seemed so important then - I felt so misunderstood then. Life seemed so complicated, centered as it was around 12th, friends and love.

I think there's something you should know
I think it's time I told you so
There's something deep inside of me
There's someone else I've got to be
Freedom indeed.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Center Left?

Its been 5 days since I have been working out, and I am totally in love with my Jane Fonda video - "center right, center left, center right, center left, piston!" Its fun to jump around and laugh when you miss the steps, and the exercise really makes me feel good, like I'm on a high or something. I never took this endorphins/anandamide thing seriously, but it seems to be totally working.

I'm glad I started this, and I hope I continue for a long time.

Practice Makes Perfect

New York Times has an article on how top athletes, chess champions, violin players and other famous people from all walks of life are better only because they practiced more, and started younger. Further, they pace themselves - training arduously for say 4 hours a day, and making rest a part of their training schedule. I know the importance of continuous working in research as well, but I wonder if the rest part of it is important as well. A lot of the people I know work continuously, because working makes them happier than doing other things. And this is especially true of the more successful researchers and faculty members. Is the need for a life outside of work really unimportant in research?