August 19, 2007

'Chak de India': Makes you feel good

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Ah, I can't seem to avoid the India theme for the past few posts. But believe me, it's unavoidable. After watching Chak De India I knew this was an unusual movie, for many reasons. One, it's about hockey - our, so to say, national game. Second, it's about women...playing hockey. Third, it's a Yash Raj production starring Shah Rukh and 16 women. I mean, it sounds over-ambitious right from the start...

But fact is, Chak De is a movie which you can't overlook because it has a very real message: A game can be dead serious. And it takes all your dedication and determination to get to the top. Shah Rukh as Kabir Khan plays the coach of the Indian Women's Hockey Team considered the last option any coach would choose. But then, Kabir has his own reasons. Shah Rukh is wonderfully subdued in the film and the actor in him comes out in full bloom and you actually forget his star status. These are the kind of roles one would want to see more in. He's proven himself to be a reigning star and we know he didn't get there without calibre, but it's roles like these which really drive home the point. In fact, it's only after Swades that I have seen only the actor in Shah Rukh and he looks like the role was written just for him, though it is based on a real-life coach's story.

Of course, Shah Rukh is only one half of the movie. The other half consists of 16 very determined girls who have their eye on the ball. Because Chak De is also about the Indian women who are breaking glass ceilings everywhere. It's about changing tradition while remaining true to yourself. It's about firing ambition which is the only way to get to the top.

The point to note is that these women are not just fighting their foreign opponents on the hockey field. They are fighting the system which thinks that cricket is the only real sport. They are fighting the male chauvinism that women do not belong to sports. Overcoming all these hurdles is probably a feat unique to women sports persons in countries like ours. It makes you look at all these women with a new respect and pride.

Overall, Chak De is about feeling good about yourself as an Indian. About a country which can produce heroes like these. It's about knowing full well that any miracle can happen in this country.

August 18, 2007

No silence please, we're Indians!

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Indians have always been averse to silence. No wait, that's an understatement...they have a morbid fear of it! Put two Indians together (well, most of them anyway) and they'll find something to talk about because they are just not programmed to be seated in silence. So, whether it's a doctor's waiting room, a railway station, a bus stop or a box office queue - you'll find lots of yakking. I use that term because people speak about the most absurd things...a liver operation...a broken water tank...the neighbour who parks in front of their house...the good ol' days...you must hand it over to us for filling the air with words.

And my theory is, Indians do this because they fear quietude and silence. To us, silence means something is wrong (Itna sannaata kyun hai bhai? is the perfect example). That's because we are brought up either in a joint family structure or a closed neighbourhood environment. Your house was always full of relatives. their relatives, neighbours, their neighbours and so on. You probably shared your room with a sibling and never had a moment's peace. Even if you were an only child, there are always cousins...you get the drift.

Now, take places like gyms, joggers parks and beauty parlours. These are the places you go to rejuvenate, not talk. In fact, these are the places where you want some peace. Go to any Western country, and these places are fountains of calm. Everybody goes about their business and no one bothers you with their gall bladder story. Take a beauty parlour (and this is from personal experience!)...you go there expecting to relax, but end up between a crossfire of gossip among women of all skin types. Even if there are no customers, the beauticians share their domestic lives over your head as if the fact that you have a face pack on also makes you deaf, and rather non-existent.

Take our movies. Mainstream Bollywood has never really exploited the power of silence to convey the gravity of a scene. Even if there are no dialogues, be sure there will be some heavy 'background' music that nearly deafens you.

I am sure a lot of people enjoy these conversations and count it as one of the better traits of Indians. But I have always savoured silence and I hate speaking just for the sake of it...especially when the subject is yawningly absurd. But like everything else you get used to it...part of being an Indian, you know.

August 15, 2007

Ten reasons I am proud to be an Indian

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I admit that I am prone to be negative and critical when it comes to my country. So, for a change, on the occasion of Independence Day, I will attempt to look at the positive side and list the ten reasons (that come to my mind at this moment) I am proud to be an Indian. Here goes:
  1. I can criticize the State without fear of being picked by the Thought Police. I can voice my political opinion freely and openly.
  2. I can communicate with every other Indian so easily - everybody has a mobile phone. Soon, everybody will have a PC with an Internet connection.
  3. I can travel from one state to another without any formalities. Think about it, in NCR, people live in one state and travel through another to reach yet another state where they work!
  4. I don't have to conform to any standard definition. Any Indian has so many stereotypes even, that you can't even fall in one category! I claim to understand many languages that I have acquired only by interacting with other Indians.
  5. I have never seen a lapse of democratic ideals, even if it's only heard in the voice of the Opposition!
  6. I have such a rich history that I can never stop learning something new about the past of this country.
  7. I can watch a range of films made in my own country - from the entertaining to the thought-provoking to the downright touching.
  8. I can hope for a way out, no matter what the mess we be in - Indians are the masters of jugaad (quick-fix solutions).
  9. I can count upon my fellow Indians to stand up for any injustice - Indians are never known to be put down, and are never short of numbers.
  10. I can hope with confidence that India will get there...somewhere...someday.

August 14, 2007

At your own risk...

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When you step out of your home in Delhi, do so at your own risk. Everyday, at least one person dies under the wheels of a private bus on Delhi's roads. And that's the end of it. Don't even think about justice, because this is the kind of justice the victims get:
A Delhi court today fined a private bus driver Rs 2,000 and sentenced him to two years imprisonment for running over a person waiting at a bus stop 11 years ago.
This is from a report in The Indian Express today. A man whose only fault was that he was waiting at a bus stop expecting to get from one place to the other, was run over and killed. A man lost his life. A family lost their support. And what does the murderer get? Two years in jail, a meager fine of two-thousand rupees and just two years in jail. And after eleven years too. What sort of justice is this?

This sentence is the very reason more people die on the roads everyday. Because nobody really cares. The government started a mighty drive against errant drivers, caused much trouble to the commuters of Delhi and today, things are back to 'normal'. Normal in the sense we know from everyday. We know that we are responsible for our own safety and there is no state mechanism looking out for us. We know that we can't expect justice, except a token sentence decades down the line.

August 2, 2007

Waterways of Delhi

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One night of blissful, hearty rain in Delhi, and what do you wake up to? A mock flood, that's what. And I use the word 'mock' because that's exactly what it is: a totally unnecessary exaggeration of things as they really stand. So, today morning there was chaos (again!) as people were caught in freak traffic as they maneuvered the waterways of Delhi that connected one place to another.

But the unfortunate part is that it was 'borne' with such a fuss, as if a little water here and there was the end of the world. I say, how typically pretentious of Delhiwallas. Especially at a time when most parts of our country are really flooded. Not to speak of the local TV channels who played looped footage of water flowing across in some gully and mohalla of the city.

Of course, I say all this with an undercurrent of sympathy for commuters who were actually delayed by hours (many of my friends were hostage to traffic jams).

Traffic in Delhi is really strange. It's like that scene in The Truman Show where Jim Carrey is driving down an isolated road, and suddenly a host of cars just appear out of nowhere. Believe me, it is as exasperating as that. And the reason for these traffic jams are stranger - whether it's an increase in diesel prices or a little bit of rain. All the same, it's usually inexplicable.