Wednesday, June 15, 2016

On democracy

A conversation at lunch, a few weeks ago. Three Indians, one American.



Indian #1: What are you people doing? Trump actually became the nominee!

American: Yeah, I don't know what people are doing!

Indian #1: You need to get it together.

American: I have it together. Politically, that is. My personal life is a bit of a mess. My point is, I'm voting the other way!

Indian #2: But, there has to be some safeguard, right? Don't you people have some safeguards? To prevent such a crazy person actually winning?

American: You would think.

Indian #2: I mean, what if a mass murderer decided to suddenly run for President? Would you let him?

Indians #1 and #3 turn to Indian #2.

Indian #3: You do realize...

Indian #2: Yeah, I just realized what I said. Okay, never mind.
Indian #3: Because this is democracy.


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Here's my thing, okay? When general elections in India happened in 2014, I was vocally, and consistently, against the BJP. We all knew they would be coming to power, and Modi would end up Prime Minister, but a part of me held out hope that it wouldn't happen, and wanted to bash my head against the wall when it did.


But my thing? Is this. I could see why people supported the BJP, and voted them to power. Because the alternative sucked. I didn't agree with it, because even though the alternatives sucked, I didn't think voting the BJP to power was a good idea. Two years later, my opinion hasn't changed much. I still don't see a viable alternative, but I still don't see the BJP as a good idea. But I see why others do, or did.


They seemed less corrupt. They talked of "achhe din" and all the progress they would bring. The social side of them, which is the scary as hell side of them, was ignored for the idea of all the economic development that people thought would come. And since social stands are more important to me than economic stands, very obviously I was in the minority (not that I was able to vote, but still).


So here's my thing. I don't get the Presidential election campaign going on in the US right now. I haven't got it for the past year. I don't see how, or why, the Republican primaries have gone the way they did. I don't see how this country can choose the Presidential candidate they have.


Again, in my view, if you are a Republican, your choices were, granted, all horryifying to me. But not to you, surely? So the fact that Trump is the candidate they went with, out of the 11 options (or more?) they started out with, is something I am not able to fathom. At all.


I'm so very terrified for November.



Monday, June 13, 2016

On how the news hits you

One of the continuing arguments I have with my mother is that she refuses to stop worrying about her children. When the brother and I travel, and now the sister-in-law too, she wants to know when we take off and we land. I'm very sure she has news alerts set up for whatever city or country we're in at any given time, because she usually finds out about any shooting or tornado warning or any possible type of calamity within, I don't know, a 1000 miles of me before I do.

Case in point, this Sunday morning. I received a text asking how bad the shooting in Orlando was. I had no idea, because between getting up late, realizing I had to wash my hair, and rushing out of the apartment to meet people on time, I hadn't really glanced at the news, twitter, or Facebook. But just as I typed that text back, saying I hadn't seen the news yet, I caught sight of a TV screen playing CNN. And stopped dead in my tracks.

I could go on and on about how the news these days makes me feel sick to my stomach. The Stanford rape case, the Orlando shooting, the US Presidential elections - none of it is pretty. And I can't blame my mother for worrying about me when I've written in the past about going crazy with irrational worry when anything happens back in India.

A few weeks ago, after yet another exasperatingly frantic call asking about my safety, I had snapped at her, "do you realize, if something had happened to me, calling or texting me would be useless, because I wouldn't exactly be able to respond if I was dead?" After a second of pin drop silence, I was witheringly told never to say anything like that ever again. The fact that I was already feeling the pangs of guilt for having snapped didn't count.

This afternoon, one of the tweets making the rounds about the Orlando massacre that hit a little too close to home was this screen grab of someone's post:
"as investigators are inside the nightclub, where many of the bodies are still where they fell, they have to tune out the nightmarish sound of all of the deceased phones' ringing constantly as loved ones try to reach them."

Shudder, indeed.



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

On Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War has been watched. Thoughts are tumbling around my head. So, y'know, post. Hopefully largely spoiler-free, but y'know, insert mandatory warning here.

  • How perfectly cool is Black Panther? I mean, how perfectly cool is he?
  • How utterly adorable is Spidey? I've never been a Spiderman fan. I've seen only one of the gazillion Spidey movies that seem to have come out over the past decade or so, and was bored. But this Spidey - I think I will end up watching his return.
  • I mean, the minute they showed Bucky and that car, we knew who was in it, right?
  • MARTIN FREEMAN! How did I not know Martin Freeman was in this movie?
  • Is it a Marvel rule that when you introduce a new female character into a movie, she must have just a couple of random scenes that could be played by anyone, and then have it grow in the next movie? Natasha Romanoff seemed to feel that way in Iron Man 2 before the rest of the movies, and then Sharon Carter felt that way in Winter Soldier, but progressed to maybe five meaningful scenes in Civil War.
  • Is that why Marisa Tomei played Aunt May? Because she'll have a bigger role when Spidey returns? Because otherwise I cannot comprehend why Marisa Tomei played Aunt May.
  • Speaking of Sharon Carter, that kiss was totally forced, right? And we're sick of couples taking a moment to FINALLY realize they want to kiss just as they have to head off to battles and time is of the essence, right? But Sam and Bucky were totes adorbs in that scene, right?
  • Also, speaking of Sharon Carter, Peggy Carter! :( BRING THAT SHOW BACK FOR SEASON 3.
  • Chatty superheroes are the best superheroes. Give me wise-cracking Ant-Man and Spidey to watch all day long.
  • Vision is very... blah.
  • Did anyone else think the big cave like place they went to in Russia looked a lot like the prison in Guardians of the Galaxy?
  • This was a long movie. And had too many people. Lots of fun, and I loved all the people, but there were moments when yet another dude popped back up on screen and I'd think, oh yeah, we needed to get back to him too.
  • Can we go back to Martin Freeman and ask why he was there? I'm assuming he's going to pop back in for subsequent movies? This needs to be read up on.
  • And now for my favorite thing about the movie. I tend to whine, very often, that a lot of movies will introduce kick ass women, only to have them end up getting rescued due to some scenario or the other when it's crunch time. And so, I found it completely entertaining that during the main fight scene between all the superheroes, it was Wanda who kept roaming around and saving the various dudes. Although if someone can explain how she seemingly changed outfits from the scene in the garage to when the fight started, I'd be grateful.
This was such a fun movie.



Sunday, May 01, 2016

On weekends

I tend to whine that I end up having overly social weekends because I'm terrible at saying no to people. And I always tell myself I need to get better at saying no.

Turns out, if I'm asked to give up my Sunday to watch an SRK movie, I'm perfectly capable of saying no. No matter how great the reviews may have been.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"You have smartphone, no?"

I was at the doctor's office a few weeks ago, sitting in the waiting area, and watching in fascination whatever home improvement related reality show they had on that day.

The gentleman next to me, who was at least 60, if not older, suddenly turned to me and said, "you're not very good at this waiting thing, are you? Don't you know you're supposed to be on your phone?"

I went for an Indian play this past weekend. The gentleman next to me, not that much older perhaps, but least a decade older than me, struck up a conversation with the opening words, so did you grow up around here? No? What visa are you on?

And having established that I was in fact on a visa, he told me all about the immigration reform advocacy group he is a part of. "You have smartphone, no? Open Facebook - I will tell you what to type and you can find our page."

I always rue the fact that too many of my relatives from the older generation know a little too much technology for my liking - not enough to be completely self-sufficient, but just enough to be dangerous. But what is with random strangers telling me how to use technology, yaar?

Thursday, April 07, 2016

On making wishes

Once upon a time, I was told that if you're passing under a bridge while a train is going over it, you could make a wish and it would come true. So on my way to college, when I would pass through Chanakyapuri and go through this underpass that occasionally had trains going over it, I would make a wish.

A decade later, I can't remember if any of those wishes actually ever came true. But what is there in trying?

I now live and work near an airport. And sometimes, I pass through the airport on my evening commutes (well, the service road of the airport - I'm too stingy to pay $2 every time I want to take a faster route). When you take this route, it also means you're driving under the runways of the airport, and every so often, driving under them while a Boeing 737 is taxiing on the runway.

So when I'm not wondering what would happen if the runway just collapsed with me under it and the airplane over it, I make a quick wish. Because why should planes not be given the same wish-granting opportunities as trains?


Thursday, March 31, 2016

March musings

The parents left to go back home yesterday, after visiting me for a month.

That first evening alone, walking into an empty apartment, always feels the weirdest. And the hardest, even though you've spent a month rolling your eyes, complaining you can't find anything in your kitchen, and generally wanting just 30 seconds of me-time.

I'm never going to be able to live with anyone again, ever.

**************

Does it feel, after a point, that your parents kind of turn into your kids?

I mean, don't get me wrong, I was pampered for a month, being woken up with a cup of tea every morning, having oil applied to my hair, etc. But when you find yourself exasperatedly glancing back while driving home in the evening, and hear yourself saying "don't eat any more chips, you won't be able to have dinner otherwise!" it kind of makes you wonder when the tables turned.

**************

Just once I would like to be able to complain out loud that the mother is turning into the grandmother without the father or brother promptly pointing out, very helpfully, that I am turning into the mother.

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A couple of years ago, I wrote about, among other things, how I love flying, and love looking out of the window of an airplane. A month ago, I sent the father a link to an article I came across linking a certain medicine given to patients of epilepsy with birth defects when those patients become parents.

I sent the article to the father because I had epilepsy, as a child. And was on medication from the age of 8 to the age of 13. And while my medication was changed several times over the years, I faintly remembered being on the aforementioned medicine for some time at least.

I received a note from the father after I sent him this article, which said, among other things, the following:
I was in an airport. Hong Kong. Returning from a PRC trip - my first. And I got the news that the doc has finally stopped the medication. Glad I had a window seat. And always love flying out of that airport..... One of those positive memories... there are some things always, to be thankful for....
**************

I was going through old posts, trying to find the one where I talked about my love of window seats, and found an older post, from four years ago. Where talk about the things I don't like about flying.

And given my current life, and the fact that I travel by myself every other weekend these days, I find that post so very ironic on so many levels.

Oh, if we knew then what we know now...


Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Thoughts on Neerja, and a gazillion other things

I've liked Sonam Kapoor since her first appearance on Koffee with Karan; that episode, incidentally, is also when I started warming up to Deepika Padukone. I've continued liking what Sonam Kapoor has been up to in the years since. Don't get me wrong - I don't think she can act. I was horrified when I heard she might be playing the lead role in the movie adaptation of one of Anuja Chauhan's books, although on further thinking about, she'll probably do justice to the sheer silliness Chauhan's heroines tend to display.

But I like her because, among other things, she refuses to let her inability to act well limit her options. She continues to do the kind of movies I want to go and see. It's a different matter that I don't see most of them, because I'm very lame when it comes to movie watching, but that's not the point. She does movies that, on the whole, have female characters and story lines I feel I can approve of. Most of the time. Prem Ratan Dhan Payo notwithstanding.

I read an article a year or so ago comparing her with Sonakshi Sinha. The latter did Lootera early in her career, and was lauded for her acting ability, but seems to be quite content being the eye candy in Akshay Kumar or Ajay Devgan movies ever since. And then there's Sonam, who insists on playing characters with agency, even if she can't play them that well. And even if she has to produce them herself to get them made.

What's not to admire about that?

************

Which brings me to her latest movie - Neerja. As is happening with most Hindi movies and me these days, I had no clue this movie had released, what it was about, or who was in it, till a friend asked if I wanted to go. I couldn't, that day, but I looked up the music, and fell in love with two songs. Then I looked up reviews, and decided I wanted to see it, even though I usually avoid movies with dismal endings or really anything requiring thought.

But I wound up going to see it anyway. And sat on the edge of my seat throughout. For someone who usually covers her eyes at the slightest scary or gory scene (yes, shoo), I don't think I blinked even once while watching the movie. And of course, towards the end, when Neerja's mother places the birthday gift, I started crying and didn't stop till the end credits started rolling.

The movie was extraordinarily well made, and Sonam Kapoor was surprisingly good in it. As were every other actor and actress in the movie.

On a more personal note, the movie was also utterly terrifying for someone who travels as much as I do, and for the reasons I do. And I'm not at all surprised the mother didn't like the movie - her imagination must be going crazy ever since she saw it.

It also struck me as interesting that having watched the movie in Amreeka, I got subtitles. So when the hijackers spoke among themselves in Arabic (at least, I assume it was Arabic, since they were supposed to be Palestinian?), I knew what they were saying. Folks I've spoken to who watched the movie back in India did not get subtitles, and so had no clue what those conversations were about.

************

Since I mentioned Deepika Padukone, I have to say, her movie choices are no less approval worthy - at least the ones I've watched. I've watched Piku and Finding Fanny in the past year or two, and not only were those movies excellent, but she was excellent in them.

Also in both movies she says "mad or what?!" exactly how I say it and it makes me very sad I can't find a gif of her saying this phrase.

The day we went to watch Piku, my friends and I had an intense discussion just before the movie on why she was playing a Bengali woman, and not an actual Bengali woman. (I will point out I did not have a problem with this; my non-Bengali friends were the ones questioning this.) And it struck us that the current generation of actresses in Bollywood has no Bengali women left. I mean, yes, Rani Mukherjee and Konona Sen Sharma are kinda still around, but you know what I mean.

This makes me a bit sad.

I will however say Deepika Padukone made an excellent Bengali woman.

************

This post was supposed to be about just Neerja, but as usual, it got me thinking about other things.

Who are the other actresses in Bollywood doing relatively sensible movies? Kangana Ranaut, obvs. Anushka Sharma and Parineeti Chopra to a large extent I think. Alia Bhatt manages to do fairly decent roles too, and is a really good actress. Huma Qureshi, I think, is a name I keep hearing, but I haven't seen enough of her movies. Is that it? Priyanka Chopra seems to have been appearing in fewer movies, and in any case is being lauded by NRIs on Whatsapp for Quantico.

I feel like I don't even know who else are in the current crop of actresses in Bollywood. When did this happen to me?

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When I say characters with agency, I don't necessarily mean serious movies, y'know. One of Sonam's other movies that I quite enjoyed was Khoobsurat. Not as much as the original Khoobsurat, because obviously no one compares to Hrishikesh Mukherjee, but enjoyable nonetheless. But how unabashedly unapologetic was Sonam's character in the movie? Right till the end. I totes approve.

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Switching gears just a little, if the Marvel Cinematic Universe could just get it into its head that we don't need to constantly see a story arc where a woman finds out she can never have babies, I would be totally approving of Agent Carter's second season.  Because it gave me the almost all the things I've been wanting from a show - it had kickass women, it had men who didn't have a problem with kickass women, it even had one man who starts out being a chauvinistic idiot, and then grows as a character. It had women being friends, and it had one of the most beautiful platonic friendships between a man and a woman I can remember seeing portrayed. Also it helps that the pair I was shipping seems to have ended up together. Bring it back for a third season, I say to TPTB.


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This post has been in the works for a week or so, so it really wasn't planned as a Women's Day thing - especially since the construct of Women's Day does nothing more than infuriate me these days, because all it does is remind me how things just don't change. So the timing of this post finally being ready is purely coincidental. But as I glanced through other posts in the labels applied to this one, apparently I have been prone to writing in a similar vein around this time of year. What is there.

Monday, February 29, 2016

On Fuller House

I used to be a huge Full House fan when the show ran on Zee in the 90s, so when they announced a revival last I was tremendously excited. The new season dropped on Netflix, so obviously I've spent the weekend watching all of it. And I have thoughts. Tiny little thoughts, which needed venting.

*insert mandatory spoiler alert here, for those who haven't watched it yet, and plan to*


  • The show is bad. There is no other way to say it. I really, really wanted to like it, and it's not terrible. It's just... not great.
  • It's like they had ideas for a number of scenes, and wanted to insert them in somehow, and wrote scripts that made sure these scenes were inserted in somehow. But the thread running through a lot of those scenes don't always make sense. 
  • I was not a fan of the acting. The kids were cute, and the former kids were stilted (except Kimmy Gibbler who was pretty amazing, as always), and the former grown ups who flitted in and out were trying too hard.
  • I don't know how much of the show would click with people who didn't watch the original show. There were so many inside jokes, not just about the characters in the past, but also about the cast, that I had to keep looking up to check if they were talking about what I thought they were talking about.
  • I am so sick of the trope where a woman who is single and living the good life has to find out she can't have children. 
  • I kinda saw DJ's choice in the finale coming a mile away. 
  • Having said that, #teamsteve, always.
For nostalgia's sake, if they come out with subsequent seasons, I will probably continue to watch this show. But maybe, just maybe, they shouldn't?

And this makes me very, very nervous about the Gilmore Girls revival.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

On sports I know nothing about, and employee morale

I'm the first to admit I know nothing about any sport that is not cricket - and there too, interest has dwindled over time. If it wasn't for Google Now's helpful alerts that we're losing another match to Australia or Sri Lanka, I wouldn't even know we're playing any more.


So usually, when I see any headlines or tweets that appear to be related to sports, I ignore them, apart from the occasional wondering which sport they're talking about. But there's one type of sports-related headline/tweet that tends to make me think a little more.


I saw a tweet just now that some team is open to trading one or more of its players - and I think the players were named, but I'm not sure. I also think the sport in question was basketball, but again, I'm not sure. Let's just say there a lot of words that I did not recognize in that tweet.


AnyWAY. The thing I always wonder is, what do announcements like this do for player morale? To have the world know the team you play for is willing to let you go so that it can find someone who might do better than you? I mean, I'm sure very often the players are willing to be traded as well, and I'm sure there's plenty of money involved to make them happy-ish about the trade, but... still. Doesn't it create some kind of awkwardness and/or tension among players?


Can you imagine this happening in any other type of job? To come into work and see a company-wide or department-wide email from your manager saying they're perfectly happy to be rid of you if another manager offers them someone better from their team in exchange? (This may or may not be something I have occasional nightmares about.) As someone who worked in HR in a previous lifetime, I'm not sure I would recommend this.


It just... makes me wonder. Y'know?