May 18, 2007

YouTube's Bachelorette?

Where's old fashioned romance gone I wonder? Hanging around the phone for hrs, darting surreptitious glances to check if mom was watching, feeling on top of the world when he complimented ur essay or hair, whichever was tolerable .. is THIS what technology has enabled?

May 16, 2007

On Nandigram

Disclaimer: Supporters of the Sardar Sarovar Dam project and all those who believe that beauty pageants are actually hunting grounds for goodwill ambassadors, kindly read no further.
For the past couple of years, my ears have been regularly assaulted with phrases like ‘outsourcing hub’, India shining’, ‘fastest growing economy’ & other similar hopeful prophecies that almost convince me that 50 years from now, unmetalled roads will be a thing of the past and TB and malnutrition will not be the biggest cause of infant mortality in India. Hubby being a part of the dollar-churning IT industry, I am forever privy to discussions about how rapid economic development is only a few steps away & that times are indeed a changing. Setting up of SEZs, attracting foreign investment from Singapore and UK and a growing base of skilled knowledge workers will be the weapons that will finally realise our dreams of achieving 10 per cent GDP.

And then …March 14th happened, the Red letter day that marked a tipping point in the history of West Bengal.

This blog is by no means a defence against the killing of the protesting Nandigram farmers by a militant police force who followed the dictate of the state’s political machinery. This is merely an attempt to rationally analyse that such incidents & the media reports that follow in their aftermath, are usually the machinations of opposition parties (read Trinamool Congress) & an increasingly irresponsible media who will go to any lengths to milk any story to emerge as winners in the weekly TRP war.

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen recently voiced his tacit support for the measures CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has taken in driving the state forward in its path of economic revival. Speaking to the The Hindu in an exclusive interview he advised journalists against reading too much into the Singur & Nandigram protests, dismissing them as “politically motivated”.

What was alarming for me was to witness the baseless slander and blame game that was levelled at Buddhadeb Babu. He was made out to be one of the greedy, land-grabbing thakurs that abound in most Prakash Jha films, who didn’t stop to think twice before resorting to any level of murder & mayhem to get what he wanted. For all those like me who grew up watching the CP(I)M sweep election after election with resounding victory & yet offer little by way of employment opportunities or economic development, Buddhadeb babu offered the much needed oxygen to the people of the state, most impotantly, its youth, who had begun to realize that there had to be something beyond the Centre’s discriminatory & fractious polices that had brought WB to its present level of economic destitution and industrial doom.

Most of us who are sitting away from the place where the Nandigram saga unfolded are quick to condemn the ‘shedding of innocent blood’ and the ‘depravity of a state who wishes to undo decades of irresponsibility in a few hasty steps’. Blog sites are replete with conscientious citizens quoting Article 21 of the Indian Constitution that upholds the power of individual citizens in a democracy. Scores have expressed outrage and some myopic, ill informed & truly demented souls have even given the example of our friendly neighbor China & said that if Communist China could develop its SEZs without resorting to such violence, (laugh riot) why can’t we? I have a few things to say to these guardians of our democracy and pundits who laud china but would nary take a single leaf out of that nation’s march towards rapid industrialization.

First, all those who are after the CMs ass should keep in mind that the villagers were armed & not as innocent as the media & the opposition (led by the histrionic and eternal saviour of the underdog, Mamata Banerjee) would like us to believe. The villagers attacked the police and those of you who believe that the police should have turned the other cheek or met this violence by Gandhian principles of ahimsa, better head for the Himalayas, or closer still, Ranchi.

I want to ask all those who expressed their anguish at the March 14 incident, how outraged are you when you learn that the number of registered unemployed in WB is over 10 million? How are we going to address the fact that the state is crippled by a fierce Naxalite movement & large scale infiltration from Bangladesh that further debilitates its already toppling economy? How many of us even know that when China shot innocent students in 1989 for staging their peaceful protest at Tiananmen Square, they charged the cost of the bullets from the victims’ families? With savage will and force, China has uprooted, starved and killed its own people to build its SEZs and further its commercial interests. Not only that, its media is largely state controlled and quick to crush any dissent or criticism. Even the Internet is a victim of its obsessive watch dog policy.

We are grateful that we live in a nation where such informed debate is possible, & therefore, I think we should be that much more responsible & aware of facts before passing judgement on such stray incidents.

Given the size of our bourgeoning population, to speak in numbers is often misleading. There are a billion people in our country. Even the most efficiently & harmoniously executed projects inconvenience at least 0.001 per cent of the total population. This entails putting 10,000 people at a disadvantage. Readily human rights activists and NGOs will denounce such projects (ahem! Ms Patkar) & try & put an end to them despite the fact that lakhs of people actually benefit from them. Bottom line is, in a democracy you cannot please everybody & only the most vote currying government will stop from taking unpleasant measures that ultimately promise a better future.

It's time to wake up & smell the coffee. Its one thing for the illiterate farmers to fall for Mamata di’s rabble rousing techniques and quite another when we, who have glimpsed a better world and believe in equal opportunities for everyone, who know that this is what true democracy is really all about, demand the CMs resignation and condemn the setting up of the small-car factory at Singur.

Ode to Joy

In 'Immortal Beloved', when the young Schindler is asked by Beethoven, ‘What does music do?’, he ans, ‘It exalts the soul’, only to be scoffed & dismissed by the maestro. Beethoven retorts, 'Utter nonsense. If you hear a marching band, is your soul exalted? No, you march. If you hear a waltz, you dance. If you hear a mass, you take communion. It is the power of music to carry one directly into the mental state of the composer. The listener has no choice. It is like hypnotism.' And it is hypnotism indeed that the film achieves. To say that the music is brilliant would be banal – but of course. What's imp is that the pieces are not chosen simply because they happen to be famous. The always complement the action & emotions on screen. Both haunt the viewer long after the film has ended.

There’s no particular reason to blog abt IM save to talk abt a scene that seems to depict for me all that is best, worth striving for & rare in a man-woman relationship. During one of his recitals, a completely deaf Beethoven is confused & gives wrong instructions to his orchestra. The music turns discordant & as the audience starts to laugh & jeer at him, we can see the rage, anguish & terrible helplessness that were Beethoven’s lifelong companions, qualities which, frankly speaking, disabled & distanced him further away from his fellow men than his deafness. Openly ridiculed, he shouts repeated instructions to the accompanists who have now abandoned any attempts at playing & are equally disappointed.

From amidst this jeering, laughing crowd, arises the Countess Anna Maria Erdody (played with remarkable restraint by Isabella Rossellini). Using a cane, she limps her way to Beethoven, takes his arm & gently leads him away. This is the first time the 2 have set eyes on each other & no words r required.

Her thoughtful understanding of the composer’s torment & decision to risk the ire of the others present there, are for me the most sustainable basis of any understanding b/w two human beings. In a world, where all women claim to be Beethovens IM after his death, she is the only one who openly admits, he never loved her though she ‘loved him with all my heart’. She is that perfect friend who provides him with a home, a peaceful environment in which to compose again after deafness, debt, a broken heart & public scorn have all but driven him to the edge of madness. And she asks for nothing in return. But mind you, this is no weak woman. She lives through Napolean's invasion, the loss of her son & stands up to Beethoven when he deprives another mother of her son. After all, true love is never afraid to lose the object of its affection.