Sunday, August 31, 2008

Post 391 : The quest

This post is heavy, I have struggled to put in words what is not even essentially conveyed via spoken words. So bear with me, read this when you have some spare time to contemplate, I promise you if I manage to convey (a bit) what I want, you might start off a "riot of rumination"....


The jackshit-pyschobabble guy that I am.....recently, with a friend of mine (Vivek Menon), I was postulating the concept of "quest". What is the "quest"?

In my head, from time immemorial, all living (and non-living) beings have constantly been in search (actually more of a "finding" kind of search, than a gold-digging kind of search). This search is for what I call as the "truth", the "reality behind the facade".

Not exactly the matrix kind, but almost similar. Why is it not the same?

My "quest" is not the sexy matrix variety, where all world reduces to maya (and some numbers dropping on a green screen), My "quest" is the search for the "resting place" the optimum balance.

When a goldsmith, strives for the perfect smoothness, he is in search of the quest. When a carpenter is irked by the lack of "absolute straight line" (while to the naked un-trained eye it is already straight) that is the quest. When a musician listening to Bhairavi, detects a false Struti (the in-between notes which are difficult to detect, especially to us gross human beings, who cannot even fathom the difference between a SA and a PA) that is the quest. When your mom makes chutney using a hand ladle than the 600W grinder, that is the quest. When your tiny baby seeks the mom's bossom, rather than the comfort of the crib, that is the quest. When the plant seeks to have its roots deep into the soil, in search of a possible water table, that is the quest.

In short the quest

1. Is driven by pursuit of a natural instinct. A desire to find joy in everyday karma (strangely this might be construed as perfection - but in my opinion that is only but a side effect).

2. Is not driven by a material or social desire. Your mum does not strive to make chutney with the ladle because she craves for your slurps of appreciation, instead, she believes it to the "way", the "path" to reach an end. Money, fame, recognition, is not even passing through the minds of the folks who are executing the karma.

3. Is usually the path of least resistance to those who have find it. The river flows in a particular path not because of randomness, but because it has found the path via the quest.

4. Is not a choice, but an internal drive forced upon us by our fundamental foundation. An atom is constantly seeking the orbit of the "right" energy. It does not do this out of choice. Its an irrefutable law that does not have a compromise.

The last point also means, that "the quest" is not just limited to living beings, even inanimate objects seek quest - the only difference being.....they have already arrived and found it. E.g. a rock has already found its quest, it is in a stable resting state.

100 years ago, my great great grandfather who probably was a farmer or a priest, was driven by this quest while he went about his karma. He was closer to his fundamental nature in that sense. He strove to be a better blacksmith - to make a more round sickle - not because someone would pay him a few more annas but because it would show him a small glimpse of the "gigantic truth" which we all naturally gravitate towards.

But today.....? The contrast is out there.

What we have done is, replaced the quest with a single demi-god? Wealth and material success. That is the new poster child. Hence we see today everyone abandoning his/her internal quest in search of wealth. That was one of the drivers, even 100 years ago, but today, it is the only driver, and on its altar are sacrificed a billion "dreams" (a dream is nothing but a quest).

One might argue, is not a desire for wealth a "quest" as well. It could be, but it is not, simply because today it is fundamentally driven by peer pressure by the "poster boy" of the new world order.

Still not buying the drift?
Well, how many people you know tell you that they stopped writing poetry because studies took the time away? Don't friends ever tell you, I used to play good flute, but stopped it, once my promotion happened, "now who has time?" How many times do you encounter a couple, where both are "still working" and leaving the child with a nanny, not because they both love their job, but because the money is essential and they feel that their child might be deprived of a Honda Civic. These and many more are the straight-cut examples of ignoring your own desire for the "quest".

Now comes the weird bit of my theory? (Prepare for heavy work again :-))

I sincerely believe "the quest" is like a journey you undertake - you can alter the route many times, you can read the signboards wrong a few times, you can miss road signs a few times - but sometimes you are so far away down a particular road, that driving back and correcting a "wrong route" is almost impossible - because you have run out of fuel/time, and more importantly you have now entered a land-zone where "location services - GPS" are absent. You no longer can plot your position on a longitude-latitude axis and hence you have lost the plot. Present location is "unknown" and hence tracing back to the "quest" is impossible unless randomness gives you a freak chance.

In short, you have now in what buddhists call as the "gross" territory. Your mind cannot fathom anything beyond the most inane and basic thoughts. Complexity be damned is the new mantra. ADD (attention deficiet disorder) is the new diet.


1. Remember "The Quest" is the "natural level" where we can all find our steady sailing. Its never a choice, its a journey of the spirit, every animate(and inanimate ) being must traverse.

2. If we lose our way due to blind-side, we can usually correct the course. But if you ignore the path of the journey for long enough and drive long enough on a different trail - finding the calling again is usually impossible.

3. "The quest" is none of the below:

- Good to have

- Materialistic in nature

- Has any social consequences whatsoever

- Has affiliation to any desire

4. The quest is an intensely personal journey of the spirit. You have no audiences to play to, no one to make good-bad judgements, no "ideal state", no landmark, and there is never an end to the journey. You end only when you have found the steady state - a position of rest, until the next journey begins - very much like the Atom in its Bohr Orbit. It is what the scriptures call as Nirvana - a river which has found the path of least resistance, has found Nirvana.


Vivek did not get much of this at all. Not because he is a Duhh, but rather because I was trying to explain this abstract topic to him in a very un-intelligible way. I don't think I have done too much justice today, but I must remind you, I dont think I can do any better. Its difficult to explain Nirvana to others, especially when you are still questing for it, and have only felt the butt of the elephant :-)

Post 390 : Weight Watcher 15 - August and still very irregular

10 out of a possible 31.

Total since 5th Feb 2007, 279 out of 573 days. Not a good sign. Need to get more regular.

Post 389 : Learning my swansong -2 (Thaats)

I come to the close of August. I started on 7th of August. Have practiced for 30 minutes daily except for 2 days when I missed my practice.

Of a total of possible 24 days, that makes it 22 days.

Without looking at the keyboard I can now play the 11 Thaats' basic notes(with my left hand, since that is my natural hand for the harmonium). Also, I am happy with the fact that my hands have started moving fairly smoothly on the keyboard.

The 11 Thaats are (in no particular order)

1. Bhairava S r G m P d N S'

2. Asavari S R g m P d n S'

3. Bhairavi S r g m P d n S'

4. Kalyan S R G M P D N S'

5. Khamaj S R G m P D n S'

6. Kafi S R g m P D n S'

7. Bilawal S R G m P D N S'

8. Marva S r G M P D N S'

9. Poorvi S r G M P d N S'

10. Todi S r g M P d N S'

11. Kirvani S R g m P d N S'

Yeah, I jotted this without looking at a book. How good must that feel? (Very much I must say).

Hoping to be playing for years to come :-)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Post 388 : FF 8x >>

My children have long grown up and relocated to China (China is today, what US was in the early 2010s). My parents are long gone, they died 20 years ago.

All the new movies are from China and are in Chinese. The average Mumbaikar can understand Chinese better than he can grasp English. Whenever my daughter and I watch television/movies together (which is not often, maybe once in 2 years), she invariably finds it ironic, that I need to have English sub-titles on. For the life of me I cannot understand the cantonese jackshit. (Years ago, when I watched Seinfeld, my Mom and Dad used to watch me with mouth agape. They understood English, but they never understood American English - spoken with a Seinfeld Twang).

Obviously my intestines are screwed and beyond f***ked. They are just broken, which means I cannot eat Pizzas, Dumplings and meat. My daughter has to take great pains to find a restaurant for me where they serve salads. If we ever go out together, its invariably a compromise for her culinary tract. I cannot but remember how I used to hunt a place for my dad and I to eat out together. He would need a place where they served good idli-sambar, which in the case of a fine dining place in 2010 was almost impossible to find.

My wife who died 5 years ago of cancer (yeah, thats what they all say, but I know what killed her, it was loneliness). She could not meet our children one last time, they flew in 30 hours after her last breath. They blamed it squarely on me, "Papa, had you informed us on time we would come in 2 days earlier, then at least we could have spoken to her. Getting tickets at such a short notice was impossible. You robbed mom away from us."

My two grandchildren, speak cantonese with an intimacy that one usually reserves for their diapers, but cannot speak Tamil, Gujrati or Marathi. They speak English but with such an accent that makes me wish real life had subtitles too. ("Yeye", (grandpa in chinese, actually it should be gong gong (mon's dad) but who will correct them- my daughter wants them to grow up in a politically correct sexless society) "wei nid to heve sum nuddle for lunche"). Probably they only look upto me because I get them a lot of gifts and deliver dollops of hugs. I meet them once every couple of years, so everytime I see them, they are 12 inches taller, 2 years wiser, and (add) another 1000 miles away. (We seem to relate lesser and lesser as time flies.). While I am allowed to crib, I must add, I sense, my daughter is very happy to have her children of my reach, she believes I will corrupt them, she feels I will slow them down, teach them useless stuff. She definitely does not approve of me influencing her kids beyond the 1 week I spend every 2 years with them, and even there, its like she has to be always around to protect her fledglings.

My skills primarily that of a technologist and a banker are no longer useful in the recent times. Infact, as early as in the past 20 years, my increments and promotions had stopped, usurped by younger hotshots. I finally quit 5 years ago. I spend quite a bit of my waking time listening to old hindustani music (Amir Khan, Bhimsen Joshi). This genre of music and its records, both have no currency in today's times. I might as well say I am listening to Mohenjadharo music, and the snigger will be the same. In terms of taste in music and movies, I am archaic. Period.

Thankfully, I have a roof and enough money to indulge in little things. My house-keeper, a burlesque man who comes in with an army of robots (literally) lets them loose on the house. They clean up quickly and constantly feed info back to his laptop, which he monitors on the couch, telling him (and me, if I want to know), exactly how many minutes are left before my house is clean. This happens twice a week. In addition to this, my neighbours, a young couple, who are not from Mumbai, treat me with respect and dignity, as if I were a old grandpa (which I am). I continue playing a music instrument for over 2 hours a day, a practice I started 30 years ago, just as a habit, on a whim, more like meditation. I used to play 30 minutes them, now I play around 2 hours. I teach a few kids in my area, classical music (the little I know if it). The kids obviously are least interested, its the parents who want to beef up their kids resume ("learnt to play the grand piano for 3 years"). This gives me a meager steady income, which I dont really need, and some contact with the outside world, which is essential for my sanity.

Sometimes I look back and wonder, is this my parents experienced in their last days as well? I still question the purpose of such a life, where all I have done is run from one goal to another. Birth, school admission, education, college, engineering, work, career, marriage, kids, their school admission, their education, my own failing health, death of my elders, and before you know, you are at TODAY. And YESTERDAY seems so far away, a waylaid memory, a parched piece of photograph - one dimensional and faded.

It appears to me that all my life I tried to run a race in order to avoid feeling empty, and today when I have run miles from the start, I look back and wonder, was I infact emptying my well, while I infact thought I was filling it up.

School (Moral Science) made me rote - Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, what once was, is no longer. OR. You are born defenseless and weak, and you die vulnerable as well. I never got the joke then. Today, having lived through my prime, I cant help but see, life is a full circle. I am just like my dad. My daughter is just like me. I still define this life as "mine", and she still defines her life as "hers", just like my dad did. The wheel of karma keeps on rotating. This is what they probably mean when they say, what goes around, comes around.

Its year 2040, and I am 65 years old. I am waiting for my life to come around.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Post 387 : Learning my swansong -1 (C#, Komal Re)

Swans supposedly sing while dying.....

I have always wanted to learn music, since my earliest childhood. Have started 6 times in the past (without a guru) and stopped. This time on 7th August, I have started it for the 7th time. I have promised myself, I will do it like a ritual till I can. So far so good.

Have invested into a few books, a good harmonium, and have started practicing. For the nuts of me, I still cannot distinguish between a C and B (which are the broadest ends of the spectrum), but when I was 3 I could not do the same thing, and today I can coin a few sentences, make some sense of words and alphabet-soup loosely studded together.

Hopefully the journey to make senses of C and B should not be 30 years long, but even if it is, I hope to live long enough to make it, and secondly I hope to sing a swansong before I die.

Wish me luck, and perseverance, and wisdom (to know that there is more to life than the next designation at work & scratching your balls at a mall). At this point I am starved on all three counts.

Post 386 : Chetan Bhagat (Symbiosis Speech)


Everyone pontificates once he/she has arrived in life. The only difference with Mr. Bhagat is, this indulgence seems to have a heart. Take a bow. I am told he made this at a Symbiosis BBA student convention.


" Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates - there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.

Where do these sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park. A story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for birthday party – several months in advance –just for the day they will cut their own birthday cake.

I see students like you, and I still see some sparks. But when I see older people, the spark is difficult to find. That means as we age, the spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull, dejected, aimless and bitter. Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab We Met vs the second half? That is what happens when the spark is lost. So how to save the spark?

Imagine the spark to be a lamp's flame. The first aspect is nurturing - to give your spark the fuel, continuously. The second is to guard against storms.

To nurture, always have goals. It is human nature to strive, improve and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is possible for you. It isn't any external measure - a certain cost to company pay package, a particular car or house.

Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where money constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a big achievement. But it isn't the purpose of life. If that was the case, Mr. Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay at home and not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won't be working hard to make a better iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions of dollars already. Why do they do it? What makes them come to work everyday? They do it because it makes them happy. They do it because it makes them feel alive. Just getting better from current levels feels good. If you study hard, you can improve your rank. If you make an effort to interact with people, you will do better in interviews. If you practice, your cricket will get better. You may also know that you cannot become Tendulkar, yet. But you can get to the next level. Striving for that next level is important.

Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which we were born. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of nature's design. Are you? Goals will help you do that. I must add, don't just have career or academic goals. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.

There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.

You must have read some quotes - Life is a tough race, it is a marathon or whatever. No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those races in nursery school, where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same with life, where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die.

One last thing about nurturing the spark - don't take life seriously. One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the yoga practice. The teacher said - don't be serious, be sincere. This quote has defined my work ever since. Whether its my writing, my job, my relationships or any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my writing everyday. There is heaps of praise, there is intense criticism. If I take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? It's ok, bunk a few classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We are people, not programmed devices.

I've told you three things - reasonable goals, balance and not taking it too seriously that will nurture the spark. However, there are four storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame. These must be guarded against. These are disappointment, frustration, unfairness and loneliness of purpose.

Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the expected return. If things don't go as planned or if you face failure. Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out stronger. What did this failure teach me? is the question you will need to ask. You will feel miserable. You will want to quit, like I wanted to when nine publishers rejected my first book. Some IITians kill themselves over low grades – how silly is that? But that is how much failure can hurt you. But it's life. If challenges could always be overcome, they would cease to be a challenge. And remember - if you are failing at something, that means you are at your limit or potential. And that's where you want to be.

Disappointment' s cousin is frustration, the second storm. Have you ever been frustrated? It happens when things are stuck. This is especially relevant in India. From traffic jams to getting that job you deserve, sometimes things take so long that you don't know if you chose the right goal. After books, I set the goal of writing for Bollywood, as I thought they needed writers. I am called extremely lucky, but it took me five years to get close to a release. Frustration saps excitement, and turns your initial energy into something negative, making you a bitter person. How did I deal with it? A realistic assessment of the time involved – movies take a long time to make even though they are watched quickly, seeking a certain enjoyment in the process rather than the end result – at least I was learning how to write scripts, having a side plan – I had my third book to write and even something as simple as pleasurable distractions in your life - friends, food, travel can help you overcome it. Remember, nothing is to be taken seriously. Frustration is a sign somewhere, you took it too seriously.

Unfairness - this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful faces, pedigree find it easier to make it – not just in Bollywood, but everywhere. And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few opportunities in India, so many stars need to be aligned for you to make it happen. Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in the short term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately things do work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than you. In fact, to have an opportunity to go to college and understand this speech in English means you are pretty damn lucky by Indian standards. Let's be grateful for what we have and get the strength to accept what we don't. I have so much love from my readers that other writers cannot even imagine it. However, I don't get literary praise. It's ok. I don't look like Aishwarya Rai, but I have two boys who I think are more beautiful than her. It's ok. Don't let unfairness kill your spark.

Finally, the last point that can kill your spark is isolation. As you grow older you will realize you are unique. When you are little, all kids want Ice cream and Spiderman. As you grow older to college, you still are a lot like your friends. But ten years later and you realize you are unique. What you want, what you believe in, what makes you feel, may be different from even the people closest to you. This can create conflict as your goals may not match with others. . And you may drop some of them. Basketball captains in college invariably stop playing basketball by the time they have their second child. They give up something that meant so much to them. They do it for their family. But in doing that, the spark dies. Never, ever make that compromise. Love yourself first, and then others.

There you go. I've told you the four thunderstorms - disappointment, frustration, unfairness and isolation. You cannot avoid them, as like the monsoon they will come into your life at regular intervals. You just need to keep the raincoat handy to not let the spark die.

I welcome you again to the most wonderful years of your life. If someone gave me the choice to go back in time, I will surely choose college. But I also hope that ten years later as well, your eyes will shine the same way as they do today. That you will Keep the Spark alive, not only through college, but through the next 2,500 weekends. And I hope not just you, but my whole country will keep that spark alive, as we really need it now more than any moment in history. And there is something cool about saying - I come from the land of a billion sparks.

Thank You."

Post 385 : Something about something (from

For years, all Zen has taught us is - words are inaccurate tools to describe thoughts, and lesser said the better. I stumbled upon Vikrama's blog saying the same thing in a very haikuish fashion, (No there is 5 syllable, followed by 7 and then 5 again...thats not what I meant), yet there is such a neat raw beauty in his play with words. My only point, Vikrama, sometimes even lack of words (as in your case) can churn out beauty. I dont know you but take a bow.
Reproduced below for easier reading
Thursday, August 14, 2008

Something About Something
Bear with me for a while. This is just a ramble. A bunch of thoughts that are better off out of the way of more to come.

There is no literary value to this piece, and there is a higher probability you will not enjoy reading it. Read on if you're still curious. Or skip it now.

Language has...No. I meant speech is....No. That's not what I was saying either.......

What's the word for it? you know, those things you use to make another person see the world the way you do?

Ah! I have it. Words.

Words. I have always been intrigued by words. I don't think I will ever understand how to use them the way others usually do.

I know, I know, everyone has their own way of using words. But there's this general fear or respect or love towards these things, whenever they're used. All I can feel, is incredulity.

You see, I don't understand how words work. At least, they don't work that way with me, so I'm not sure. The same words that were offensive at one time are used in completely normal parlance now. And I wondered both at the feeling of offense and at the normalcy they have gained over time.

But the strangest thing about words? The more words I know, the more sparingly I can use them.

I find that to everything I am about to say, every opinion I construct in my mind with the words I have, has a counter opinion, an opposite viewpoint.

What I think is wrong is somehow right to a different set of eyes, or in a larger perspective. I think words have no absolutes. Try 'giving' words to something absolute, and it stops being so.

Throw a statement at yourself that you think is impossible to refute. And very soon, you will argue with yourself, and refute it. Now here's an absolute statement : Maybe.

No matter how much you know. You will only know something about something.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Post 384: Ustad Amjad Ali Khan (My inspirations)

In the late 90s used to possess quite a few tapes of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. As usual, it got destroyed with time (in a humid place like Mumbai, tapes never lasted beyond a few years).

I never replenished my collection (again) with the Sarod Maestro. Lately, in the past 3 months have picked up quite a few of his albums, realised that I am very biased towards Hindustani Vocal, need to balance it out a bit; also just picked up his book from the library. Loved the book by Raghava Menon.

One of the albums I picked was "My Inspirations" where the Ustad covers famous compositions by his inspirations - Faiyaz Khan, Abdul Karim Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Amir Khan and Kesarbai Kerkar.

The format he chooses is, he sings the composition, announces the artist and the raag and then proceeds to play it on Sarod. (The Ustad was trained by his Guru, his father, Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan - by the father singing a part of a song, and then asking his son to repeat this on the Sarod. The father would sing in his mind before he played it on the Sarod himself.)

My point, listen to Ustad Amjad Ali Khan - he can sing as good as he can play the Sarod.

I am falling in love with the Sarod again.

Post 383 : Too far from escapism by Allen Barra

Allen Barra wrote recently in WSJ, "Too far from escapism" - an article which questions, why Batman eventually does not kill the Joker.

I was mighty impressed with the insight. I can't agree more than we have become a fairly nihilistic society. My own tastes in fiction and art is fairly black (like for e.g. I still rate Kafka's Metamorphsis and "The Trial" quite highly). Maybe it is a product of the kind of society we live in. My own saving grace, in music, I still am deep into the classical stuff, which is never bright/dark, it just is.


Article titled "Too far from escapism", in a column called "In the Fray" by Allen Barra

Director Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight," currently on track to be the biggest box-office smash of the year and maybe of all time, crosses a line that perhaps did not need to be crossed, the fantasy-into-reality line.

Nothing illustrates how much movies have changed over the past 20 years than to compare Tim Burton's "Batman" (1989) with Mr. Nolan's "The Dark Knight." The Burton film, starring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker, was photographed in garish, neon-noir colors in a gargoyle-infested neo-gothic city designed by the late Anton Furst. The action was highlighted by Danny Elfman's rousing pop-Wagnerian score.

In contrast, Mr. Nolan's movie drains the fantasy element from the material. Gotham City bears a striking resemblance to Chicago, where some scenes were filmed, as photographed in shades of black, green and drab industrial gray. Gone are the Batcave and "stately Wayne manor." Bruce Wayne lives in a penthouse, and the closest thing to a cave is an underground garage where he tests high-tech weapons with his armorer (Morgan Freeman). The Batmobile is banished, replaced by an assault vehicle -- a high-speed tank, really. The minimalist score by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer evokes not exhilaration but dread.

All color, lyricism, and virtually any humor that doesn't partake of the macabre is gone from this Batman story. There isn't even a hint that this PG-13 film might be suitable for youngsters, as many parents of distraught preteens have discovered. The Joker's psychotic brutality -- he impales one character on a pencil and in a shocking scene blows one of the franchise's leading female characters to smithereens -- makes a mockery of the rating system.

What, then, is "The Dark Knight"'s near-fanatical audience responding to? To Heath Ledger's Joker, of course. Mr. Ledger's character has clearly touched some national nerve, and it will be interesting to see how the rest of the world responds to the film after the initial wave of hype has passed.

"The Dark Knight" isn't simply another superhero movie. In fact, taken on its own terms, it's really not a superhero movie at all: It's a supervillain movie, and the many critics and fans who are calling for Mr. Ledger to be nominated for an Academy Award are reading the film correctly -- they want him nominated for best actor, not best supporting actor.

This Joker is the most thoroughly principled and incorruptible character in modern movies. He doesn't care about money -- he contemptuously burns a pile of cash containing millions of dollars -- and, unlike Mr. Nicholson's Joker, he doesn't even care about power. He consolidates the various mobs of Gotham City merely as a means to his end, which, contrary to numerous editorials we are seeing, isn't terrorism. Terrorists, in their hearts, believe that they are really the good guys; Mr. Ledger's Joker has no such illusions. He's a nihilist whose avowed purpose is to disrupt society by corrupting and destroying its heroes -- Batman and Aaron Eckhart's straight-arrow D.A., Harvey Dent.

In the most unsettling scene ever presented in an action movie, Christian Bale's Batman is left to interrogate the Joker in a police lock-down room while the police simply watch. Mr. Ledger snickers, leers and goads Batman into beating him up -- thus violating his civil rights, which is precisely what the Joker wants Batman to do. It's a stunning victory for the villain that makes Batman seem helpless and foolish. This is the first time I've ever seen a superhero humiliated like this in his own movie. "The Dark Knight" seems to be telling us that, ultimately, we're completely helpless against any characters as ruthless and ideologically pure as the Joker. We can't even win by becoming vigilantes -- that's what the Jokers of this world want us to be.
Although pop-artists such as Frank Miller (creator of the "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" series) and Mr. Nolan (who also directed the previous Batman film, "Batman Begins") are undeniably gifted creators of images, the film is a bleak reminder of the limits of comic-book literature when it comes to dealing with serious themes. "Some men," says Michael Caine's Alfred the Butler to Bruce Wayne, "aren't looking for anything logical, like money. Some just want to watch the world burn." Is the only alternative to become as merciless as your opponent? It's a dilemma that leaves Batman and his fans in the dark.

The mania that "The Dark Knight" has touched off in a certain segment of the movie-going audience -- and it's not hyperbole to call it mania when people are going to eBay and paying up to $100 each for Imax tickets and $229 for action figures -- is reminiscent of the nuttiness exhibited by American teens in 1955 when "Rebel Without a Cause" was released after James Dean was killed in an auto accident. Media pundits who ask if Heath Ledger's death has anything to do with the obsession surrounding this movie know that the answer is yes.

But there is another, more troubling, aspect to this part of the story. We know that Mr. Ledger died of an overdose of prescription drugs after a period of insomnia and acute depression. What we see on the screen in "The Dark Knight" -- as we are plunged into a netherworld that provides no escape from its brutal realities -- may well be a projection of Mr. Ledger's inner torment as he tried to fight those afflictions: a portrait of a Method actor who could not keep a proper distance from his role, an artist who stared too long into the abyss and saw a twisted, drug-addled death mask staring back at him. (This past weekend, Christian Bale was arrested then released on bail following charges of assault from his mother and sister; "The Dark Knight" must present one heck of an abyss.)

We know enough about how involved actors can be in their roles to see that this idea is not far-fetched. Does that make "The Dark Knight" a $180 million-plus snuff film? Give that a thought before you plunk your $229 down for that action figure.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Post 382 : Hazrat Inayat Khan Pir (oral communication is only words...where is the music?)

Once again from "The world of Amjad Ali Khan" by Raghava Menon

Hazrat Pir Inayat Khan, living at the time in his Paris retreat, had said, "It is an irony how language and the need to rely for communication on the use of words alone is, in fact, the principal obstruction to communcation between human beings. Thre is a pathethic human reliance on words as the only means by which one man may know another, but you cannot know a subject without knowing its teacher. Words can only convey facts. Truth is in roun, the facts are flat. Words reach the outer stretch of facts and then stop. They then repeat themselves like a broken record. This is the reason why men fight wars and make written laws that have always got to stick to fact alone, not the truths of which the facts just a part."

Post 381 : Cheeky little google

If you turned up on 8th August, this is how google's logo would show up. Google, take a bow. (In case you still dont get, remember today is the start of the China Olympics.)

Post 380 : Maybe we are all prospective migrants

Mohsin Hamid, author of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" is one of the newer authors I very much definitely like.
Here he is penning a very insightful note in Hindustan Times on 8th August 2008. Reproduced below.

In my second year as the bearer of a British passport, I have come to the perplexing realisation that many of my fellow citizens are departing. Just the other day, a friend of my wife’s announced her impending move to New York. My own inner circle of buddies has been decimated by defections to Dubai. The first friend I made at work when I arrived here back in 2001 now calls Melbourne home.

On a radio programme last year, the host asked me where I lived before coming to London. When I said Manhattan, he seemed shocked. “And you moved here?” was his pitying response. Similarly, during my stints in various British workplaces, I have found myself the recipient of nomadic confessions from even the most outwardly unlikely British colleagues, my own mongrelised status evidently marking me out to them as a trustworthy, or at least sympathetic, confidant. Perhaps I ought not to be so surprised at this. After all, I consider leaving Britain fairly often myself. And the very existence in their current demographic forms of nations such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand should have alerted me to a long-standing British fondness for emigration.

But having spent the first five years of my life in Britain navigating visa applications, residence requirements, and citizenship tests, I am only now confronting the reality that many people no longer wish to belong to a club that has accepted me as a member. My first instinct was to take this personally. But I had to concede that this trend predated my arrival, indeed the arrival of anyone who looked anything like me, and, moreover, that many of my own friends were caught up in it.

At this point another interpretative avenue presented itself. I was reading about British expatriates in India, specifically in Goa, on the BBC website. Apparently these people, who had come in pursuit of the manifest benefits of a sunnier, lower-cost lifestyle and a spicier, more coconut-infused cuisine, were confronting all sorts of problems. Their visas were not being renewed. Their sales and purchases of properties were being interfered with. In short, they were being treated as immigrants are routinely treated all over the world.

And I sympathised with them. Knowing nothing about the politics of the situation or the legitimate concerns of the local population (who undoubtedly have good reasons to want their elected officials to make life difficult for the foreigners settling in their midst), my reaction as a brown-skinned man of South Asian origin was to feel a bond of empathy with these pink-skinned people of North Atlantic origin chasing their dreams of new lives in a place far away.

Maybe we are all prospective migrants. The lines of national borders on maps are artificial constructs, as unnatural to us as they are to birds flying overhead. Our first impulse is to ignore them. If we stay where we are it is not because the instinct for migration is entirely absent from our nature, but because friends, family, home, opportunity — or fear, laws, inertia, laziness — keep us from moving. For me, as an immigrant, recognising that those already resident in the place to which I have immigrated often themselves wish to emigrate suggests a giant circle of human motion and potential motion of which I am a part.

Perhaps, then, the resentment towards recent arrivals felt all over the world is not entirely unrelated to the feelings of a captive songbird for a wandering sparrow who alights on his cage. Of course, this does not rule out the possibility that the songbird is simply thinking, ‘There goes the neighbourhood.’

Post 379 : Where does the Guru reside?

Am reading this book called, "The Life Of Amjad Ali Khan" by Raghava Menon. Amjad Ali Khan is a Ustad, an expert exponent of Sarod.

I have just started and am going to capture stuff from there which I like.

" the face of the young Amjad Ali Khan an expression of infinite tenderness as he leans towards his father, that the father is transformed in that instant into the unattainable guru, which the Shastras say, resides in the heart of men, not in space and time. "

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Post 378 : Weight Watcher 14( Still on the run...)

Month of July is gone by....14 out of a possible 31
Total since 5th Feb 2007, is 269 out of 542 days. Finally I am below the 50% mark.
I can still burn around 1300 cals in about 100 mins. I am assuming that serves to act as a front for some level of fitness.
Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi

Post 377 : 'Giving up' means...

You usually 'give up' on something that you want to do....which means, you cant use the term 'giving up' for 'stopping' something you did not want to do in the first place.
Was speaking to Kishor (Rao) a colleague yesterday, and we philosophically agreed that the point of 'give up' is usually when the 'negative' (yin engergies) overpowers the 'positive' (yang) within your life force.
Extrapolated it also means, you continuing 'living' (not existing) till the yang life forces continue to reign within you. The minute they are overpowered the process of 'dying' has started. Of course the yan and yang can keep their game of whip-saw going through infinity and all through these you could be switching being 'living' and 'dying'.
To me this conversation was fairly insightful.