Saturday, July 28, 2012

How far within are we willing to look?

There is a favorite quote of mine "If you look hard enough, you can even find God". The deeper meanings of most of our problems are right there where we are looking, just a little bit out of focus may be. Some call it experience and others call it wisdom. But it all boils down to adjusting the focus of your thoughts.

I happened to be born a Brahmin (the uppermost strata according to India's caste system). Growing up, somewhere along the line, I carried my mother's ambitions of becoming a doctor and in the course of time, I digested it and made it my own dream. I had written make-believe prescriptions, heavily dramatic and influenced by movies. When I had 291 on 300 for my college admissions, I was dejected! There is no way a Brahmin student can enter a medical college purely on merit with anything less than 298. Now isn't that gross injustice, especially if you belong to the highest caste? It would logically appear so. I ultimately got a very good education but the hurt was still there. That my birth decided my destiny and snatched my dream. And what more, a student who studied with me, in my class who got less than 270 was in a medical college, because he belonged to a backward caste. That individual had access to the same education and same opportunities as I did. Only that I wasn't fortunate enough to be born into that family. As years passed, I moved on because after all, I did make good.

Ever since, whenever I've had discussions about reservations for education, I've come to recalibrate my perspective. Time is not as short as you think it is. Answers for some questions are not sought within one's lifetime. Sometimes, not even a few generations. Just by virtue of my birth, I've had access to so much more than most others. I have also had forefathers who weren't well off, but none that had no access to education. Simply because I belonged to the caste of the learned. Folks who were relegated to be scholarly advisors, authors, priests. If not science and math, everyone who was a Brahmin was educated in something, anything. So sending me to school was anything but natural. And of course when the scholars are denied opportunities, they are unhappy. But the other side of the deal is easily forgotten or is deliberately hidden to keep our conscience clean. While today, I feel bad that I did not get the opportunity I deserved, over several hundred generations, other sections of the society have been systematically made to believe that their destinies are pre-made. Indians feel strongly about Western imperialization. But we hardly look into the factions that were drilled into the Indian society by its own people. It comes as no surprise, since it is always comforting to find a reason to blame that is not you. I am not sure you can even find much evidence  on the dark side of how this system came into existence. It is amazing how clinically this practice has been upheld for centuries. Logic would dictate, there would have been some sewer-cleaner's son who wouldn't have wanted to become a sewer-cleaner. Isn't it too easy to accept that every one of cobbler's children wanted to become cobblers? But that's what history textbooks imply. "India had 4 castes- Brahmins (the scholars), Kshatriyas (the warriors), Vaisyas (the merchants) and the Sudras (the labourers)." This is the simple one-line description you'll get to see. Being in Science, I am trained to look for logic and reason, to formulate hypotheses and validate them. I'll put my money on my theory that some degree of force, I am guessing brutal, would have been necessary to quash the dreams of generations on end.

Today, when I read that a Dalit student in India's premier medical institute found it easier to end his life than to face the institutionalized discrimination, I do not judge him. May be he did have a frail mind. But what I do know? If I was the first person in my family, from three or four generations that I can remember, to come out to a city and study, may be I would succumb to pressure as well. It is truly unfortunate though, for that one success story would inspire thousands of others to dream. With this sad end, may be 5 others who had the hunger in them would settle for something less.

What I could see as black and white is not the same today. The apparent injustice I faced may have been a way of restoring balance of centuries-old neglect for the other student. Is this a sustainable system? Why shouldn't everyone get equal opportunity? Does the reservation system really benefit those whom it was meant for? These are obvious questions. But the answers aren't straightforward. These questions are again raised only by those people who have been suddenly denied of the opportunities they have been conditioned to. Obviously it feels wrong. So what do they do? Look down upon students who enter institutions based on reservation, isolate them, exert social pressures. Some have the heart to fight and some others just wilt. In fact, we feel vindicated at their defeat. But, Nature has its own way of settling issues. Again, one lifetime may be too short to answer. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Recap..

Submitted thesis, graduated with Masters, had parents over for the first time, got a job, got a car, missed a dear friend's wedding, missed by nephew's birth, another diwali away from home, small reunion with grad school friends, distant dreams realized, went to disney world, keeping up the tradition of annual india trip, drove through sheets of rain, the last few grains of sand in the hourglass slipping away ever-so-slowly, fun at work, got my H1B and the anticipation of a bigger and better 2011!! 2010 was not bad...not at all :) :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How can you hang yourself from a pedestal fan??

Special committee comprising of three professors and a student, appointed to probe the reasons for the growing number of student suicides, following the eighth such incident in 5 years in IIT Kanpur, comes out with one spectacular conclusion:

REPLACE THE CEILING FANS IN THE HOSTEL ROOMS WITH PEDESTAL FANS!!



Are you confused? Don't be! Laugh your heart out at the hideousness of the whole issue and probably spare a thought to the eight people who decided to call it quits!

How much ever I try to find a rationale behind this splendid inference based on the pattern of student suicides, I am struggling to give this committee any benefit of doubt.

Okay...you think single rooms are keeping students isolated and mostly in touch only with their cyberspace. Correct!

You think by making them stay with another person, probably based on their preference, you create a companion to talk to when they get back to their rooms, to ease out pressures of the system. Correct!

But you'd think three professors who are qualified to teach in one of the premier institutes in the country for technical education, would have more perspective than to identify a solution which is a shame to the word 'solution' in itself! And to top it, there was a student in this committee. If I were to be sarcastic, I'd assume he was busy downloading porn on his smartphone when the above mentioned discussion was taking place. That brings me to the other possible 'solutions'. Reduce the speed of the server between midnight and 8am so that the internet addiction reduces. Oh so thats the problem! If at all in some way its related, it could be because the students are frustrated by the turtle-defeating speed of hostel internet and get into depression at having to click the refresh button a thousand times before reading a mail! Alternatively, you are setting off the trigger for further such cases especially among boys as their gaming and movie downloading freedom is further restricted! Okay to give them some respect, yes the access to internet has reduced the time devoted to interpersonal relationships, has encouraged people to isolate themselves and get into a world which is anything but real and the glamour of it all is very engaging and has kept students away from books to some extent. But suggesting that as a solution to improving student discipline as a whole might be sensible rather than proposing it as a possible way of preventing suicides amongst students.

And the pedestal fan...ah the magical suicide-abettor!! The breeze from it is so soothing that you just forget that you were not meant to be an 'ENGINEER', that you have never really appreciated why you do a course, that you never did well at the rat race and as if rubbing salt to the wound the marks were displayed on the notice board to make you feel smaller! How much ever cool you try to be, it's hard to say 'I got a D in this course and I am happy about it!'. Because you know you slogged at least for two years to win this precious seat at this heavenly institution, you know that you have no clue what you are doing or why you are doing it and its freaking scary, you know that whether you want it or not your parents are already proud that you are an ENGINEER, and in many cases your career (read getting a decent job in campus placement) is your family's livelihood. And the human mind can only take so much.

It's time we really let the students decide their careers and not have it handed to them and then shooting in the air to start the race. When the finish line is not yours, you just stop running sometimes!



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Endhiran - in my eyes...

Well.. the blog title wouldn't have left any doubts as to what this post is going to be about. With less than 72 hours before the movie storms theatres worldwide, I want to share my thoughts about endhiran...what it has been and what it could be...my two cents!


A whole lot has already been written about its never-heard-before budget, the awe-inspiring star cast, the master at the helm who has had the highest success rate (mightve been a 100% if not for the debacle that was 'Boys') in Tamil cinema (on a different note...for the love of God please refrain from calling it Kollywood) both commercially and in satisfying the so called 'class' and 'mass' audiences, technical crew comprising of prominent names from Hollywood etc, etc.,

I am a Rajni fan from childhood (who is yet to forget the disastrous Baba). As much as I enjoy his style, screen presence, smile, charisma and comical sense, I hate to see him do stuff that insults the viewer's intelligence. That is not because am this super sensible person who looks for logic in everything. My threshold is a bit higher. I can happily watch him thrash ten thugs, can understand how he always gets back on top, whose anger (and in some cases violence) is warranted. All this because those that he beats, defeats or shows his anger on are bad, bad people (according to the script!). Bad men ought to be beaten up...I am elated to see that someone who looks just like another stranger-uncle on the road has the courage to do that. Thats to me heroism!! But of course stopping bullets in mid-air, sparks flying off his shoes, etc., are too much. Sometimes ONLY because it is Rajni I just smile them off even if not in complete acceptance.

Coming back to Endhiran, never before has such a hype been created before the release of any Rajni movie..of course goes without saying.. not for any other Tamil movie either. In 2007, the same thing mightve been said about Sivaji. But one thing is for certain the furor that Sun pictures has managed to create wins hands-down as compared to the scale of publicity undertaken for Sivaji. Just to drive my point home, audio-launch in Malaysia for which 200 odd people were flown on the producer's expense, a trailer release function which was ticketed, footage being allotted to any news related to the movie on prime-time news are things which Sun family alone (or one of the few people) can generate. Agreed that all this banked on Rajnikanth's star value...but no other producer until this date has utilized its potential to the fullest. For all commercial purposes, the movie will gross its production cost in 3-4 days easily..but the bigger point is whether post-release Endhiran will remain the phenomenon that it is pre-release. As a Rajni fan, I am excited and nervous! Excited because this euphoria is unmatched and I am very happy to be celebrating my matinee idol...and nervous because it is very difficult to match up to the amount of buzz that is currently being generated.

Firstly, I would like to take a dissectional approach at the trailer...

video

0:04 - Credits of 'Superstar' Rajni - BGM extremely mediocre - heavily lacks any power whatsoever...
0:12 - Endhiran says ' Hello world' - why use such a cliched first line? shud the first thing the robot speak be programmed to match the first-ever program? Doesn't spell excellence...mediocrity again...Again it might not matter as much as the BGM!
0:26 - Title credits - whatever happened to Rahman?! where is the music man?!
0:41 - The mosquito character is classic Shankar - HAS to show his creativity - and ONLY by spending money..am sure those 10-15 frames wudve taken 2-3 months of CG work...but i can argue on the other side too...creative attempt which overall adds to the technically and visually rich experience of the movie..hence the cost and time intensive CG is warranted!
0:50 - 'nakkal illa nickel'- mokkai of the century!
0:54-0:59 - good dialogue! shows pride and admiration in equal measure :)
1:19-1:27 - crisp line again!
1:28 - really...what was the necessity?! if the robot had to have a pistol in its finger how wud it be loaded? am sure...in certain scenes it might be disarmed when it'll forget about its built-in pistol...its accepted that in a rajni movie all this adds to visual pleasure but even in sivaji the gravity-defying bullet trick featured only in a dream sequence...but from the looks of it this bullet shot is definitely a part of a fight sequence which is supposed to happen in real-time...why intentionally include such a flaw that is bound to attract criticism Shankar?!
1:30-1:40 - very very good line! i am tempted to think this was written by the late Mr. Sujatha
1:47 - good work there..
1:53-2:02 - this is gotta be the equivalent episode to the Rajni trying to become fair one from Sivaji...this is bound to be well received by the audience
2:03 - superb dialogue delivery! Villainy comes naturally to Rajni! that laugh is what is called evil+vain
2:07 - Finally Rahman wakes up!!
2:18 - Adhu!!
2:21- Finally we got a dialogue which is not just contextual to the movie
2:23-2:35 -most likely to form a part of the CG-intensive highly imaginative and technically accurate climax...that is touted to be the toughest part of the movie to film and is definitely gonna redefine technical standards of movie-making for quite some time..thats the Shankar stamp!
2:38 - Again when the title appears...there isnt enough support from the music department
2:40- 'an one man army' - worsht english! Shankar shouldve known better...afterall this isnt expected of a man who is renowned for his perfection
2:42 - style i say!!

Next, my prediction of what the movie could be. I wanted to give it ahead of release cos if I say something after the movie releases, critics may cry foul. The movie of course begins with Vaseegaran (what a name he had to choose!!) all unkempt in TR like hairstyle! (from the stills) working hard on developing this robot (pudhiya manidha song)...first few seconds of the trailer+ all those portions which show the robot speaking, dancing (chitti dance showcase..might just be a small bit), doing karate etc. In parallel, Sana character is introduced. Seems like shes a doctor. This would be followed roughly by Vaseegaran getting Endhiran to read books, etc and formally introduces him in the conference where villain (Vaseegaran's mentor) gets to meet endhiran. Endhiran's capabilities will be showcased following this - all the cleaning, pedicuring, cooking, grooming Sana, etc. (boom boom robo da song..background only) Endhiran further interacts with Sana, they go out to this slum-type place where there is a fight probably (train chase sequence)..and that night endhiran sneaks into Sana's house to see her. Slowly emotions that were programmed into him are being realised. He probably even visits her at her hospital. On the other hand, things go steady between Vaseegaran and Sana...(kadhal anukkal song). By then endhiran is head-over-heels in love and the three have to get to a party before which endhiran dresses up, tries different get-ups etc., At the party may be it becomes official that vaseegaran and sana are a couple and endhiran is distraught. The interval block is the altercation between vaseegaran and endhiran with Sana in the moonlight and endhiran won't take no for an answer and leaves with anger. Thats when he encounters the villain and hes taken. Post-interval is the engagement of vaseegaran-sana (kilimanjaro song). Villain reprograms endhiran and is involved in making a clonal colony of endhirans. Sana meanwhile fearing endhiran might harm vaseegaran plays along with endhiran and pretends to reciprocate his feelings (irumbile oru irudhayam song). Further yet to decipher events happen and finally endhiran abducts sana from the marriage hall which will presumably followed by an elaborate fight sequence (mercedes benz) and gets her to villain's den (arima arima song). Endhiran creates havoc in the society (anaconda, drill, firing ball etc etc). Villain now makes Sana a captive to get whatever he wants to be done by Endhiran. Now the colony of endhirans, mostly with some help from Vaseegaran finally destroy the villain and endhiran gets destroyed in the process?! Sana and Vaseegaran live happily ever after :)

This is completely my version....how much the movie may/may not correlate to this is not guarenteed ;)

Anyway...statutory warning to hardcore fans: this might not be an out-and-out Rajni entertainer...for other viewers, the endhiran effects might look a bit too exaggerated to accomodate for the Rajni image. If indeed Shankar manages it this time, it definitely deserves a pat on the back!! Thalaivar seems to have immense confidence in this movie, for its technical and visual content..going by his body language in the trailer video. Lets have our fingers crossed and above all lets enjoy the moment... for Rajni movies have become few and far in between!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

where are you when i need you?


how ironic is it that the things you want to get out of your system happen to stay the longest within you....how often are you geographically and emotionally disconnected with the people whom you thought you could confide everything into...how hard is it to find someone who will understand the complexities and the multitude of the layers involved in your thought process....how many times have you wished for someone/anyone to understand you despite knowing that their understanding has got nothing to do with the predicament itself...why is it that some situations have no way out of them...how difficult would it be to own up to your choices....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

now we're talking!

this is not a post as such...just an apology for the long hiatus of 8 months....well at least this time i took it for a reason! :)

you are looking at (virtually) Nithya B.E., double M.S :) :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

The little red Reynolds pen

I remember the day I stepped into 6 'A'. There were these array of new subjects- Physics, Chemistry, Biology, History and Geography that I had to cope with. Little did I expect that the slender, spectacled, prim-looking lady entering the class was to have such a long-lasting impression in my mind and to an extent even influence my opinion of a person.

My English teacher came with a big package of rules! Mondays and Wednesdays would be prose & poetry classes, Tuesday and Fridays- grammar and Thursdays non-detailed stories. All of us had to get our cursive handwriting notebooks everyday to class and write a page of the same sentence with each and every word without a break in between (b,l,k,h,d,f should have loops; t should not). How I used to crave to get a 'good' and not 'fair' remark from her! And I almost forgot...Wren and Martin was like her Bible. To all the grammar classes we HAVE to get a red ball point pen (to highlight adjectives, adverbs, mark clauses, etc., depending on what that particular class was about). And whoever does not comply with these rules had to stay kneel-down for the entire span of the class!!She would not care if it is the top-ranker or the 'makku' aka poor performer. The punishment was the same!

Also, she made it a point that she would not speak to anybody in a language other than English in front of her class. It used to be a rare sight (that we gush about) to spot her talking to the peons in Tamil. She does have her 'favorite' students but also makes herself harder on them when she corrects their exam papers. From class six, she never once wrote down answers on the blackboard but dictated them orally...unlike others. And was the most regular teacher...she would not take a sick leave, for crying out loud!! All of this put together made some students dislike her, obviously.

But it was also true that her English was impeccable! A fraction of her obsession with grammar has over the time transcended to some of her students, inclusive of me. Her classes were less about finishing up the portions and more time was spent on word-based exercises. I still remember the different words to describe sound and light which we once discussed as part of class activity. Shimmer, shine, glare, glisten, flicker......
For us, Thursdays was the fun class...with the least rules. Her way of story-telling was so much fun and it was even more enjoyable as we see that rare glimpse of a lighter side in her.

Ever since secondary education, I have been a sucker for grammar and writing. If today I feel, I express my thoughts much better in a written medium, it's all because of her. I could be biased in my opinion about her (also I was one of her 'favorites' ;) )..but she is like the ideal English teacher one can get. I strongly believe teachers bear a heavy influence on what a student thinks of a subject....and I am happy that I had her as my teacher.

To...JP ma'am!