Saturday, December 18, 2010

Of Dreams

I’m currently in a small town called Sifwe in upcountry Ghana. I’m supposed to be learning the buying model for cocoa in this country and see what I can implement in Cote d’Ivoire. But really it’s just me whiling time till the political impasse in IVC comes to a better solution than direct conflict. The situation on ground there is tense with the entire international community watching closely the acid test for democracy. An important moment for a continent that is slowly losing grip on the dream for a rule of the people.

In a more absurd dream, last night I was walking around in my company’s office in Ghana in shorts and looking for the twin brother of my boss from my previous company, who works here apparently. And he asks me to stay in Ghana for good but I say I can’t discuss this now. I have to attend a play in 5 minutes where I have an important but not the lead role. For which I clearly hadn’t rehearsed enough.

Incredible waves of WTFness greeted me at waking up on the following morning, my first as a 27 year old. An Indian Electronics Engineer, who was coding in Java and J2EE three years ago in his hometown and who had never stepped out of his country till six months ago, now dreaming in the middle of Africa.

Speaking of dreams, I strongly recommend Neil Gaimon’s Sandman. A brilliant Graphic Novel series, like most of Gaimon’s, it lifts from various myths and legends in a modern context spinning tales around the Endless God of Dreams, Morpheus.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Death of the Band

There was a time when a few good kinsmen, would gather around a drumset and a few guitars, maybe even a keyboard, and jam the hell out of their garage. These same people would then go on and form iconic bands, creating a trademark musical identity for themselves for years to come. Of course, there were those who tried on solo careers and even succeeded but I'm talking about general trends here. Be it ABBA or Metallica or The Beatles, most of them have grown from similar patterns. That is how they rolled. That was how they rocked.

There were those who stood on their own on merit of voice and charisma like Eric Clapton or George Micheals or Tori Amos and they stayed that way. Solo Artists as The Grammys would call them.

But now, as I have begun tracking more contemporary music that comes on MTV (I haven't doing so since quite a few years until recently), I see a new trend. There aren't any new bands among the chart toppers. There are only single artists featuring single artists. In fact, 8 out of the top 10 were all 'ABC feat. XYZ' format songs. Various combinations of recipies from among a fixed standard set of spices. And I say standard because each song seemed to be from two or three of the same set of 10 odd artists. This is currently a phenomenon pertaining to the pop rock and club genre but I see it expanding.

I see a couple of key reasons for the same:
The voice still matters, but the instrumentalists have become redundant. There are no more 'only a handful of amazing guitarists or drummers'. Slash and Keith Moon have no place in modern day bands. Pure market dynamics. Blame Guitar Hero or youtube drumming lessons for their abundance, but none are those special few anymore. Videos drive music more than ever and videos seek out the lead singer predominantly.

Musical trends now vary at a much faster pace than in the 80's or 90's. While a band might find it difficult to keep pace and switch genres, an individual finds it much easier to find another kindred soul who can give his/her own touch to the piece. Besides, as there is no need for commitment of any sorts, each song can be a with a 'new band' so to speak. 'And if I don't like you today, I can always find Timbalind to rap with me tomorrow and rehash my song from ten years ago into a new age offering.'

Is this something good? I think it's too soon to say. We'll probably know in a few years. I only wish, for now, that at least the pool of the 'standard set of artists' expands bringing in much more variety from all the possible combinations.

Friday, October 22, 2010


I want to sell some memories
That I can live without
So I can buy back
What I used to be.

Monday, October 04, 2010


My learnings from the last three months that I have spent in Africa and the feedback from some of my friends from college who are pursuing a career in the west, have established one thing: Indians have no established identity on a global scale. I am not saying that it's a bad thing necessarily, but the facts remain.

Who are we? We're not blacks, nor whites. We do not speak the same language. Face it, for the amount of hoolah that we guys make about 'culture' and 'tradition', we hardly know them, stand for them. We have no single stand on anything for that matter. We aren't communisits nor are we right wingers. We aren't even as neutral as the Swiss. We have no globally important contribution to science. And get over the whole 'we discovered zero', guys! That was centuries ago! We don't even have a patent for it. Pisses me off when someone shows off this trivia.

We have no great atheletes and excell at all the laziest games like snooker, chess and cricket. We go crazy about Pankaj Advani when the rest of the world doesn't give a shit about it. And I'm telling you, wait till some countries pursue snooker seriously and we'll be replaced there too, like we have been in hockey. We are neither the developed world, nor do we need foreign aid.

Ask a chinese guy what he thinks of Indians, and picture the answer he might give. There will be a lot of 'hmmm'.. or 'that depends'. Whereas we would hardly wait before yelping 'COMMIES!' or 'slit eyed' at them.. among other things. Sure, we all know they work real hard too. I'm thinking hard to figure out what is it that the world associates with us, correctly, that is. I'm not talking about snake charmers and call centre guys. Are we really relegated to the role of 'middlers'?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

A life ordinary

Living upcountry alone for the first time. After a life spent among several friends or in big cities. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Indian Soaps are International too!

For those who do not know, Vaidehi is a very popular soap in francophone African countries like Ivory Coast and Senegal and is telecast here in its french dubbed version by the same name. Pallavi Kulkarni, the protagonist is a celebrity here (she has been to both Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire to meet her fans) and teenage ivoirian chicks walk around the streets here wearing her face on their T-shirts as often as wannabe teenagers in Bangalore wear Che Guevera T-shirts.

Sad but true.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

First Impressions

Coming from an erstwhile British colony, I can’t help but compare Cote d’Ivoire, a French colony, with India. I’m yet to figure what exactly went wrong but broadly it could be attributed to the lack of strong leadership at the moment the mantle was handed over. The civil war lasted till 2005, but the damage was done. It had stopped short a tremendous surge of growth that the country had never witnessed before.

My last four weeks here have been amazing. Abidjan, as a city, was pleasantly surprising with regards to the infrastructure and development that one wouldn’t have expected from this part of the world. I’ve picked up quite a few French words already and can make my way around the city. The traffic can get heavy during peak hours but the road sense and lane discipline here is brilliant. Cops and the army stop vehicles here regularly in hope of some quick money which makes me, as an Indian, feel at home in IVC (Ivory Coast). The night life is particularly interesting provided you have the right company. On your own, there are temptations galore, for all the vices of life are dead cheap in this country.

The locals are really friendly and particularly with me. Reasons being a) My name, Ali, is much more familiar a name to them than any other Indian name, since almost 50% of the population here is Muslim and b) Those of you who have seen me recently would be able to imagine me blending into this environment with the look and hair crop that I carry (or don’t). Almost everyone is bald here including the women. Hence you can understand when I say that hair salons and the wig markets are big in Africa.

There is a calm among the Ivoirians, and Africans in general, that commands respect. One can’t help but be polite to them and they, in turn, maintain the highest standards of courtesy, which probably has been augmented by the French culture. The sad part of this is that a large part of the local culture and traditions that existed before colonisation have more or less been wiped out of their memories. Hardly does anyone speak the local languages in public anymore except for isolated pockets.
Lebanese form the largest non-native community here as in most francophone countries across West Arica. Indians are found in larger numbers in the Anglophone countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania. The Lebanese are reputed to be hard bargainers and sometimes ruthless in their trades. Most stay here for ten to twenty years before moving back with their savings.

Culturally, it is much more open than India. Sex as a topic as well as a trade is commonplace and multiple partners is not something that is looked down upon. Marriage is not as integral to one’s life here as it is in India. Polygamy is rampant and no legal binding on any action that seems like a divorce. The extended family concept is unique. If one member of the family earns well, he is obliged to look after every relative of his who seeks help. Any random cousin can come and stay in your house if you’re earning well, and you must provide for him. At the same time, you are not forced to go out and work by your family and are free to choose when and what you work.
The greenery of the countryside never ceases to amaze me. Dense bush swallows the landscape showing nothing but the colour green around you. As you move further north it starts becoming more of a Savanna-ish landscape.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Cote d'Ivoire

Yes, I've been here for the last 2 weeks and I have tons to write about. I plan to cover my experiences in Africa extensively on this blog in addition to the regular eclectica. In the process I hope to give a more accurate picture of the place as compared to what gross misconceptions people hold about this much neglected place.

So I shall speak about my process of learning french, of brilliant dishes at the Makis (local dhabas) of Ivory Coast, the vibrant night life here and the most interesting characteristics of the people here, their hopes of a better life and how the rest of the world strives hard to prevent it.

More in due course. Watch this space.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Mortal Kombat - Rebirth

Woah! This is the real stuff. It's not clear whether the following clip is a promo video for a new video game or an extended trailer for the new movie that has been in the Warner Brothers pipeline for long, but it kicks ass. A totally new take on the characterization of the legendary warriors we all grew up with.

UPDATE: Thanks Nikhil for the update in your comment. Turns out it is actually a pitch by some Director to Warner Bros. for a new movie. All those in favour, say aye.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Songs that Boy-Bands actually got right

I'm talking of the years around 1996 to 2001 where boy-bands arguably ruled the charts displacing most of the erstwhile popular bands. Now, don't mistake me. I have no one particular genre of music I claim to endorse. I like/liked them all. This was when I was a teenager. I liked these clean shaven, emotionally loaded, sharply dressed boys who seemed to have their way with women in their videos. Even if my elder sisters snubbed them for Bon Jovi, I remained a fan of their adolescent charm.

I always thought these guys have been discredited for any form of music they brought to the forefront because they were only the voices and not the instrumentalists behind the song. My argument is, that as the audience, if I'm getting decent music, and they're the face of it, I might as well appreciate them.

Also, keep in mind that these songs were associated with some kick-ass moments of my childhood. Hence this compilation. Here Goes:

Backstreet boys - Everybody
Face it. It was catchy as hell. It was on everyone's lips and established the band as a a pop icon. A regular beat at dance competitions in school.

Five - We will rock you
Yes. I like the original. But if you're still stuck up enough not to admire the improvements, screw you.

Boyzone - Words
It's a cover. But it's good. And remembered.

NSYNC - Bye Bye Bye
No really. It was fast and catchy and the song was a boost to the 15 year old me in getting over a chick I used to ogle at. Truth.

Backstreet boys - I want it that way
Ah. Cheesiness redefined. And with style. So popular that I will post below an infamous take on this song:

Blue - One love
This was their biggest hit to start with. And an extremely popular tune found everywhere in early 2000s.

Other notable mentions:
Westlife - Seasons in the Sun
MLTR - Someday (Technically they were a regular full time band, but somehow have always been thought as a boy-band)

PS: For all the truly Metal/Hard Rock fan who wear Jimi Hendrix T-Shirts and are tearing their hair apart at this post: Up Yours.
(And on a related note, what's the big deal about Hendrix anyway? I really tried to figure out what all the holler was about. All his music sounds like a mish mash of multiple cymbals and a ruined throat)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

IRONMAN 2 - Review

The makers of Ironman 2 had no delusions about what made the first movie click. While the creative ways of introducing the costume and action sequences are not as bad, Robert Downey Jr. yet again steals the show with an excellent performance of the eccentric and narcissistic Tony Stark.

Perhaps what makes a difference is also the fact that Tony Stark loves his costume. So much, that he wouldn't dream of not showing off to the world who he is, rather than sulking behind mansions suffering from daddy issues. The wit is good. It keeps the movie light helping it maintain a pace that Dark Knight missed out on. Well, to each their own.

Mickey Rourke, playing Ivan Vankov, the son of a corrupt soviet scientist who worked with Howard Stark, is disappointing. Firstly, the plot is too weak when it comes to him. His reason for the expressed desire for vengeance is rather silly. He seems to sleepwalk throughout his scenes. Which is surprising especially after some really good performances in The Wrestler and Sin City. He apparently, is making it very clear that the producers haven't paid him too well for this one.

The other downside I see in the script is the lack of creativity among the bad guys. I do not see the necessity in having the negative characters of both movies don a metallic armour. With a glowing generator stuck to the chest. Not when plenty of other Marvel characters were available.

Anyhow, it's a decent watch. I recommend.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Influencers of Insanity

I've discussed my opinions on patriotism here and with several of my friends before. Watching the entire Kasab episode on national television everyday reinforces my belief that what usually seem as the best principles to embrace are what usually influence insanity among humans. Insanity, in this context, is depicted by the breach of the fundamental right to exist.

Kasab was brainwashed by a political power who sees economic benefit in fueling instability. Constant inflows of funds to fight terrorism actually strengthen a fighting machine bent on capturing back a land it feels it is entitled to. American soldiers are brainwashed into killing recklessly in order to 'restore peace' by powers with vested interests in oil.

In one case, a man is asked to fire in the name of Islam. In another, he fires in the name of his country. In both cases they know very little about why they do it. They follow orders. It's not as easy to just risk your life for another person's whims, hence God and Motherland are called upon to emotionally blind logic.

Can we do without both?

Since patriotism is used by every other nation, it simply has to be accepted as a necessary evil to balance order. A deterrent. Like nuclear stockpiles. "You have madmen who will die for lines defined by you, well so do I!". Face it, we need an army. Not a very well paid one, but emotionally charged nevertheless. Can't work any other way. A party aspiring for national power calls upon it's people to love it. A party seeking Mumbaikar votes seeks hatred towards all outsiders as a polarizing factor.

As for religious extremism, well that needs to be and can be curtailed. By ignoring ignorance. Understanding that it, like patriotism, is used by men interested in retention of power. As an emotional trigger. It is not the source. By understanding that no bloody religion calls for random holy wars on innocents. By accepting the the LeT kills to claim an independent piece of land and has no actual interest in spreading any faith by force. Stop publishing ridiculous articles on 'Muslim terrorists' and calling their acts as 'Jihad' and you'll make it easier for the 1.5 billion strong Muslim population, minus the few thousand dumbasses with guns, to fight by your side.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spank Spank

41 year old wife of very rich industrialist. Runs in to celebrate victory of battle won by slaves bought by rich hubby. A slave really good at spinning his weapons (all possible puns intended) grabs butt and lifts her up. Witnesses galore.

Something happens after that battle.

Wifey conspicuously absent in the next and final battle. Very funny it is.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


You know you're down and out when you google for inspirational quotes.

PS: They don't work.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Abandoned

I’ve tried to recollect a few Indian actors who have, on more than one occasion, been hired to play the role of the guy who gets ditched by the heroine. Classic members of the L-Club. The ranking is based on certain parameters listed below. Higher points are given to the one who has:

a) More movies in which he has been ditched in

b) Box office insignificance of the movie in which he has been ditched

c) Hotness of heroine ditching him

d) The alternative chosen by the female being a bigger loser

And here is the list:

6. Shah Rukh

Devdas, Darr

The guy charges way too much to play the character who gets ditched. Even when he does, he is still the protagonist. Hence.

5. Salman Khan

Hum Dil Sanam, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam, Saajan

Admit it. He has style.

4. Tarun Arora

Jab we met, Pyaar Mein Kabhi Kabhi, Hawas, Men Not Allowed

Loser. Total. But due credit must be given to the way he makes himself so forgettable in whatever role he plays. Actually he is the reason I thought of this post in the first place.

3. Tushar kapoor

Mujhe Kuch Kenha Hai, Gayab

Spoilt Brother. Loser. Gets ditched in movies. Makes Sense.

2. Akshaye Khanna

Hungama, Race, Humraaz

Somehow I don't see this guy fitting into any other role.

1. Saif Ali Khan

Yeh Dillagi, Kal Ho Na Ho(Yes, although he marries her, it’s a regretful one), Rehna hai tere dil mein, Na Tum jaano na hum, Kya Kehna, Arzoo, Imtihaan

The official Nawab of L-Club. Yes. I titled him so. Wins on account of sheer numbers and for actually being a momma's boy but pretending to be a tough dude.

Feel free to comment with your own nominations.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Delhi - From the eyes of a Southie

Extravagance redefined.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Needless Wants

For the past two academic years, we've been grilled about how marketing is all about converting human 'needs' into 'wants'. Apparently there reside, deep in the recesses of our mind, unstated needs that promotions prod us to acknowledge, want and satisfy. I beg to differ.

The human mind, to me, is too complex, irrational and in a constant state of confusion to know what we really need. But it wants everything. Wants are the essence of our character, behaviour and purpose. Needless as they might be, they explain lucidly a life wasted, and define our aspirations that we continue to foster after repeated let downs. So much for Pavlov's Classical Conditioning theory too. Seriously, the man used a dog to explain what I might do at the repeated ringing of a bell. WTF?

Anyhow, what I intend to describe is the futility of seeking reason to one's behaviour. There is a dense bright ball of madness that drives our mental faculty at any point. It wants us to break systems that cannot be broken, to walk the longer road home, to ceaselessly call out to that one person who wont turn back and because there is no need for it. To let that song playing randomly on shuffle to affect your mood and turn an erstwhile well structured blog post into meaningless babble. Yet, we refuse to learn.

Lesson: We're all mad. Admit it.

Friday, January 22, 2010


It's ironic that the recent Aman-ki Aasha campaign is coupled with the news of IPL teams abandoning Pakistani Players. It is also ironic that Iqbal (aka Allama Iqbal), who wrote Saare jahan se achcha hindustan hamara, was a key influence in Jinnah's decision for demanding a separate Muslim state. Seeking commonality in the two ironies, one of Iqbal's works, popularized by Junoon's song 'Khudi ko Kar', inspires me like nothing else:

Khudi(Self) ko kar buland(mighty) itna
ke har taqdeer
(fate) se pehle
bandey(person) se khud pooche
Bata teri raza
(agreement/wish) kya hai

Tu shaheen
(Royal falcon) hai, Parvaz(flight) hai kam tera, kam tera
Tere samne Aasman aur bhi hain
Tu shaheen he Basera
(dwell) kar
(mountains) ki chattanon(rocks) par
Tu shaheen hai tu Shaheen hai tu shaheen hai
Song available here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Passing out

Reflecting on what seem to be the last few days of my student life, I can't help seeing patterns from my past experiences of passing out of college.

Be it undergrad or postgrad, it's always the same. College seems to be a lot more dearer. All the things that you hated about your hostel are exactly what you can't stop raving about to your friends outside. Women seem prettier. Girls of the senior batch suddenly adopt straightened hair in a bid to pass out 'unsingled', while senior guys seem more keen on bagging a junior girlfriend.

Careers are discussed and so are failures. Failure of systems, aspirations and interviews. Parallels are drawn with peer institutes and faculty is dissected and blamed for. Reasons for education are questioned with a few interjections from reasons for existence. All this over experimental experiences of alcohol and other substances. And in this elevated state, resolutions are made: of a life that will be led the way it should be lived.

Getaways are planned with friends that have survived, singing antakshiri en route to boring destinations that never really were. The journey is all that will be remembered. And before you even begin to read all these patterns, your time runs out. Faster than you ever imagined. Damn I'll miss this place.