Sep 27, 2007

Things that made my devilish mind chuckle recently

Sign near GTB station on a shop: “Made to order, Ladies and Gents”
Ah ha, went my mind! I started dreaming about ordering for myself a nice, beautiful 36-24-36 doe-eyed beauty…
I went closer to the shop, only to read the line above: “Jeans World!”

Remark by my colleague: “I am planning to go to Kutch to visit the Wild Ass Sancutary”.
I’m not adding my smart(wild?)-ass comments on this one.

Comment from a relative who is seeing me after a long time: “You look healthy now”
Once upon a time, I could run, jump, skip and hop. With a waist size of 28. They did not approve. Now, I am out of breath before I climb two floors. I am afraid to jump lest I cause an earthquake. And, my waist is the same size as Pamela’s chest (ok, Rakhi Sawant's, for all the swadeshi obsessed guys!). And they call me ‘healthy’.

But, you know what made me laugh loudest?
“T20 World Cup win is an example of Sharad Pawar’s leadership qualities” – quote by a NCP worker. (I tried to find the link to that newspaper, but couldn't...)
Guys and gals, please note… If you want India to win in hockey, football or Olympics, pls start a campaign to make Sharad Pawarji the chief of all Indian sports bodies. After all, we can’t be content with a solitary bronze or silver every time right?

Sep 22, 2007

Picture Imperfect

Long one, and definitely not intended to be funny. Hopefully will make you ponder, but if it doesn't, you would have wasted some 15 minutes of your time.

I am amazed by the advances in digital technology. Gone are the days when you bought a film roll, loaded it on your camera and carefully clicked, keeping in mind that after 36 photos, you will have to change the roll, careful not to expose it etc etc. Too cumbersome…
Now, you have the digital revolution… click away 1000s of pics, keep the good ones, edit the bad ones and delete the positively ugly ones. What’s more, you can store your whole wedding/child’s birthday/Swiss vacation etc on a device no larger than (as a techie-challenged uncle put it) a ‘nail cutter’. Even impressive, you can upload these pics on a web page and share it with friends who are on the other side of the globe. How very convenient!

Now, while I love the way technology has made life easy, I (being the eternal cynic) want to raise a few issues to ponder about.

Number 1: If you click my pic, with my consent, who owns the ‘right’ to those pics? Is it you, as the person who clicked the photo (with your camera, your skills etc), or is it me as the ‘subject’ of the photo?

Now, before you wonder what kind of crap issue am I raking up, let me give you some situations.
Scenario 1: You invite me to your wedding/party. I agree to come. I know you will be clicking pics of me (though I may not be photogenic, you just want a reminder of the good times we had together… or you just want to prove that I attended your wedding after all, and hogged like the glutton I am). I agree to pose for your sake. (ok, some people pose because they like to be clicked at… but then, it doesn’t matter for the sake of this discussion).
Now, after the ceremony, you decide to put up the collection of pics on some web page (picassa etc) and send a link to people you know (basically, people who you know want to share your happiness, but could not make it to the ceremony etc).
Now, suppose, just for the sake of academic discussion, that I don’t want my pic on the Net. I don’t have a valid reason for it, just one of my strange whims. Can I object to your uploading my pics?

Scenario 1.1: Now, imagine the same scenario, except that instead of me, you have invited the real SRK. (the only minor difference is that he is some 100 crores richer, owns a bungalow in Bandra, has half the nation’s girls drooling and has a six pack, but still…). He also comes to your wedding and poses for your pics. And you upload it on the web. Can he object?

Scenario 2: Now, the reverse. I invite you to my wedding. (before you start starving yourself to hog at my expense, let me clarify it is some 5 years away, but this is an academic discussion). You come with a camera and click my pics, with my oh-so-beautiful wife (mom, pls note the word 'beautiful'). I happily pose for your pics, since you happen to be my close friend. Now, if you decide to upload the pics (with the caption “my best friend’s wedding. Just to make it senti), can I object?
What happens if I happen to be a celebrity? Does it make my case for objection any stronger? How come AB Jr. made sure those guests at his wedding did not happily post pics of his wedding on the Net? (now, don’t tell me he didn’t allow anybody to click pics… I don’t believe that).

Scenario 3: the case of Paris Hilton/Cameron Diaz and countless actresses/models…
Let me recount two well known incidents. The first was when Cameron Diaz successfully prevented a photographer from selling her nude pics to some tabloid/magazine. She had posed in the buff for the guy, when she was a struggling starlet, and apparently, willing to bare-all to get her break. When she did get her break, and became a big star, she (unfortunately for me) did not want any of ‘those’ pics floating around. And she sued the photographer in court saying he should be barred from selling those pics. Now, I don’t know whether she had signed any agreement as to how the photographer can use those pics or where he can publish them. I mean, if you did not want anybody to see them, why get clicked in the nude in the first place? To show it to a select (lucky?) list of movie producers? I am not passing any moral judgment here. (though I would have loved to see those pics... I mean, after the near bare-all in Charlie's Angels and the Mask, I'm drooling for more)

Scenario 3.1: Next is an even more interesting case of Paris Hilton. The dumb blonde (she proves the stereotype) goes out and has a ‘rocking’ time with her boyfriend. The guy (much wiser) also manages to film their ‘act’. After they break up, he releases the video on the net, and it becomes an instant hit. Suddenly, the dumb blonde wakes up to the fact that it is an invasion of her privacy (forget the fact that it actually revived her sagging career, and that she has given us enough glimpses of her privacy even otherwise), and sues the guy for damages. I think she won, but I am too lazy to research it out. (find out for yourselves, if you are so interested in her). Here, the video was shot without her consent and she could sue. But, what if some other dumb blonde doesn’t mind being filmed in the ‘act’, assuming that her boyfriend wouldn’t do a ‘show and tell’ later, after their inevitable breakup three days later. Can she object?

On the face of it, there are some similarities in the three scenarios. There is a person who clicks the pics (call him A). There is another person who is being clicked (call him B). Now, who owns the rights to these pics? Assume that, like normal people, A and B do not bother to sign a pre-click agreement stating when and where these pics can be used.

Does it matter whether the event is organized by A (and hence B, by being present, gives away his rights to object)? (as in, if B organizes the event, he can debar people from either clicking pics, or allow them to click, but claim to have a right over the pic?).

Who should be liable if the pics are misused? Let’s say A innocently uploads the pics on his website. There is a third person C, who hates B (let her be a lady for this example), and copies that pic and puts it up on a ‘different’ kinda site… with the caption “Hot chick feeling lonely. Please give her company. Call …” or some such crap. I can come up with more suggestive captions, but for once, I refrain. (yeah, I can hear your sigh of relief, but I promise you it is short lived).

Anyways, now, this C cannot be traced, but it can be reasonably proved that the pic was lifted from A’s site. Does this make A guilty in any way? Or does the lack of ‘mens rea’ let him off?
Comments invited…

Disclaimer: I am not a very big fan of photography. I have never understood the compulsive need of people to ‘capture’ every sundry event and stash it away for posterity. But then, that is my personal prejudice, and has hopefully not taken away my right to raise the issue.

Sep 20, 2007

Hey Ram!

“Ram didn’t exist” said the Congress, before Madame Sonia made them retract; “How dare raise such an issue?” roared the BJP/VHP/Saffron guys. “Who is this Ram? Which engineering college did he pass out of?” asks TN CM Karunanidhi.

Enough people, much more qualified than me, have raised enough opinions on the issue. Then, why am I bothering to put up this post? Maybe because I have a vested interest in this issue. After all, ‘Rama’ makes up 25% of my name… how would you feel if the Government suddenly tells you 1/4th of your name is invalid? Not to forget that according to them, even the remaining 3/4th is myth. What do I do with a mythical name?

People have raised serious issues:
Who is the government to question the existence of Ram (be it myth or history)? Why can’t they just concentrate on the basic issues of governance?
‘Rationalists’ thunder – “How can you oppose a development project on the basis of some mythological character?” Believers have their own reasons to object and they make sure they do it.

I intended to write a serious post on it, but then better people have put it in better ways. So, I decided to goof around as usual.

Let’s analyze the Ramayana from two different points of view – to understand how anything, fact or fiction, can be twisted around to suit your purpose.

Believers (me included) believe that ‘Rama’ is a symbol of ‘ideal living’. (not for nothing is he called ‘maryadapurushottam’). The epic, through the story of Rama, teaches mortals like us, how to lead a life of virtue. Although there are countless instances, a few top-of-the-mind ones are:
Rama walks away from power just because his step-mom wanted – if only our politicians could learn from this and not use the same Ram for their political power games.
Rama remains loyal to one wife – in an age when the measure of a king’s stature was the number of wives in his harem. Although I do not fully endorse monogamy (after all, I am an MCP). This also shows why Mr. Karunanidhi mocks Rama – after all, he has two wives.
Rama offers Ravana an offer of peace, and not war – in spite of the fact that the demon king abducted his wife.
Rama sends back Ravana after disarming him once – gives him one more chance for a peaceful settlement.
Rama accepts Vibhishan when he defects from the enemy – shows great judgement of character, by not stereotyping a person just because he happens to come from the other side.
After conquering Lanka, he crowns Vibhishan the king – not keeping the throne for himself.
And so on and so forth.
In fact, when I was a kid (read: brain-washable age), my parents and grandparents narrated the Ramayana and Mahabharata repeatedly, just so that I may pick up some values from them. The fact that I didn’t pick up much reflects more on my corruptness than the failure of Ramayana. In fact, the whole appeal of Ramayana to me was that this is an instance where ‘God’ comes and lives as a ‘human’ and does things as a human, not by magical powers. I mean, if I were God, I wouldn’t be building bridges to cross oceans.

Now, the non-believers will say:
This is the same guy who walked away from his father when he was in his deathbed.
The same guy who shot Vali from the back – and who taught politicians the idea of back stabbing.
The same guy who asked his chaste wife to undergo a ‘test of fire’ – the original male chauvinist, the feminists would scream.
The same guy who accepted an enemy's brother into his camp – and initiated ‘horse trading’.
The same guy who left his pregnant wife alone in a jungle just because someone passed some lewd remark – male chauvinist again.
And so on and so forth.

And a third view... To my vanar dimaag, this is the original bollywood story-cum-Ekta Kapoor soap… I mean, just look at the script yaar…

Old man has 3 wives and 4 kids. Second wife wants more power, so schemes to send eldest son to the jungle for 14 years. (I have always wondered – why 14 years? Why not forever?). Eldest son is the epitome of virtue – he agrees to walk away from his rightful throne. Younger brother is no less – he follows elder brother into the jungle, leaving behind his newly married wife. Another younger brother, not to be outdone, carries elder brother’s sandals on his head and offers him the throne.
Eldest son (hero) has a beautiful wife. Even though some devil-turned-sex bomb tempts him with an item number, he just gives her a nose-cut. Devil goes mad and informs her brother (the villain), who is more interested in the heroine than any revenge motive. He kidnaps her, not for ransom, but for keeps. But, he is decent enough not to rape her, but wait till she forgets the hero and agrees to marry him. (they had such nice villains then).
Villian has a virtuous brother, who cautions him first, then defects to the other side.
Meanwhile, hero goes out in search of heroine. On the way, befriends a gang of monkeys, who turn out to be loyal soldiers. Sends one super-monkey to Lanka, who returns after burning the entire place. He offers to take the heroine back, but heroine wants a more dramatic climax scene with the villain dying at the hands of the hero. So, she refuses.
Hero goes to Lanka, by building a bridge with stones, and fights a larger army and returns victorious.

I mean, this epic has romance, family drama, action, even an item number (Soorpanka). Which modern script writer can come up with such imagination?

So, u see, the same story and the same guy can be viewed in ‘n’ different ways… some people believe, some don’t, and others like me believe but have learnt to take life a little less seriously.
And, finally, did Ram exist? I don’t care. He is an inspiration to many, and that’s all that matters for now.

PS: I know, I have not provided any serious insights, but then, with politicians like ours, how can you be serious?

Sep 10, 2007

Big Brother!

Caution: Long, Boring Post ahead... slightly nostalgic, mostly nonsensical

Last week, my younger brother joined an engineering college in TN. Even though the college is close to home, he decided to stay in a hostel (ok, mebbe I ‘brainwashed’ him into it, but then, it was his decision).

The day when he supposed to leave, I called him to wish him the very best. My dad asked me to have a ‘talk’ with him (sort of elder brother giving ‘gyaan’ to younger bro).
People who know me reasonably well know that I am a very awkward communicator at the best of times. And this time, I did not have a prepared rehearsed sheet of paper full of advice to give him. What do I tell him?

I wanted to tell him lots of things – study well, make us all proud, concentrate on your goals, don’t let distractions get in the way of what you want to achieve in life, beware of friends who come to you when your pockets are full and do their best to empty it, be an outstanding student but don’t stand out in a crowd, adapt yourself to the environment even if it is inconvenient, change the environment if you can, get a good job 4 years down the line, don’t be afraid to smoke or drink as long as you are confident of you being in control, go out of your way to make new friends and meet new people, learn something about how to lead a life from every good guy you meet, and how not to mess it up from the not-so-good ones, respect your teachers for their knowledge (not merely for their age), don’t be afraid to question things, but learn when to shut up and leave things as they are…

Countless phrases from long-forgotten ‘How to…’ books came rushing to my mind. Nice anecdotes about hardwork, initiative, resourcefulness etc etc were swirling in my mind.

Just as I was about to launch into this long winded sermon (as described above), something stopped me. I knew that Dad would have made sure my bro speaks to all the elders in the family (and I mean ‘elders’ in the real sense, not a twenty something still-searching-for-who-I-am-and-what-bullshit-am-I-doing-here guy who happened to be born some years earlier). I knew he would have been subjected to the same sermon countless times before I got through to him on the phone.

Why I knew it is because I was subjected to the same several years back, when the very same ‘elders’ cautioned my dad against sending his son to a big, bad city like Mumbai (where, in their esteemed opinion, every teenager happens to fall into bad ways and does nothing but smoke, drink and bang chicks… ok, I made up the last one!). I knew it because I was so fed up of that sermon, and remember being thankful that my dad and mom never said a word regarding all this. They trusted their parenting skills enough to send their son over, confident that the son would make his own decisions and live responsibly.

I don’t know whether I was worthy of that trust. I didn’t smoke or drink for 7 years in Mumbai. Never went to a movie hall. Studied like crazy and topped most exams (can you hear a brag-piper in the background?). Never had a girl friend, leave alone banging chicks (ok, I wouldn’t have got a girl even I’d tried, but let’s not get into that. You don’t expect me to pull my own leg in my blog).

But I soon started enjoying a drink or two (ok, maybe more). But, the only chicks that I managed were the ones on my dinner plate. And bang they went into my stomach. But, while I was wasting away my sacred ‘brahiminism’ by indulging in such evils that were sure to send me to rotten hell, I found that I was in no way a lesser human than what I had been all these years. The best thing was that I chose to do what I wanted, and it was I who had to live with those decisions. Not those ‘elders’ who did nothing but what their ‘elders’ in turn advised them.
So, when all these stupid thought clouded my mind, I couldn’t bring myself to give him another lengthy sermon on ‘How to live life like a typical TamBrahm’ and the ‘see no evil, hear no evil, do no evil, eat no evil, screw no evil’ dialogue…

So, I just told him, “Enjoy yourself, bro.”