Monday, April 30, 2007

This Is My 501st Post! Shortly I Will Cross 10,000 Hits!

This is my 501st post, dear readers. And, uncork the bubblies, because I am moving towards the 10,000 hits marks soon. Sure gladdens the heart, makes me go all mushy and gushy.

Friend and fellow blogger John Baker had asked me to list the reasons why I blog. Thinking back, this is what I should have written then:

To think aloud, reach that point when my writing style matches my thought flow, achieve certain subtleties of prose.

To create links to my scattered writings on several forums and networks.

To create a community of friends, who also like literature, writing, reading, same as I do.

To create an online diary, which, on my deathbed I can revisit and know exactly what phases I went through in my life.

To create reference material when writing my next big novel (provided I can get my first one into print!).

To be a citizen's journal and document things that no newspaper would consider worth publishing.

I don't know if I have achieved any of these things. Friends do read my blog but seldom comment. What would it take you to comment. To slightly play with the words of an Elton John song, "What do I do to make you read me? What do I do to make you comment?" and then, "Blogging seems to be the hardest work. It's sad, so sad, it's a sad, sad, situations. And it's getting more and more absurd."

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Two Limericks I Wrote!

Two limericks for two friends:

There once was a Professor,
Who everyone called Vasudev Sir,
His dear friend was one Yamashita,
Who was trying to learn the Sitar,
Alas, Yamashita was tone deaf, oh Dear!

------

There once was a guy named Ravi,
Though good friends he had a bevy,
But baffling him was friend Yamashita,
To him only was invisible in Tea Center,
For, of this mate's identity he wasn't privy.

Friday, April 27, 2007

"November Rain"

I crowed here before about how much I love the guitar. That's also the reason why I like Guns and Roses, especially the guitar work of Slash their guitarist. Though I don't agree with some of the explicit lyrics of their songs, I like their music, it's my kind of music.

Listen if you can to this song by GnR, "November Rain." Lyrics are here. Unfortunately, in 1996, Slash had to resign from the group as Axl Rose, the lead singer and leader of the band declared that he could not work with him as he wanted to produce another rock album while he, Rose, wanted a new direction for the band.

I like the way the guitar chords rip through the song giving it that edgy feeling, the rumbling, tumbling, screeching, rolling feeling as if something is ripping inside one's guts, the queasy feeling one gets when one goes down a fast elevator. I was trying to sing "Novemeber Rain" in the bathroom today and the feeling of rain (which is yet to come) and water was, shall I say, exilerating.

Grapes of Wrath, and Suicide!

Why are Indian farmers commiting suicide? This lead article in the Times of India (April 26, 2007) may have an answer. I scan yesterday's papers which state that Indian farmers receive only one-fifth of what the consumer pays and the rest, four-fifth, is eaten away by the middlemen, the dalals. What a crying shame! Poor sods (excuse the bad pun), they produce 110 percent of the world's vegetables, and 15 percent of the world's fruits and, if the article is to be believed, the production cost here is virtually negligible, if at all anything.

And surprise, surprise, India acccounts for not even 1.7 percent of the world's trade in vegetables and 0.5 percent in fruits. The article points out that Indian farmers - the world's lower than susbsistence level agricultural producers - are debt-ridden, frustrated, and feeling cornered by the agent mafia. Also transport is costly and it cost three times to transport grapes from India to Netherlands than it does from Chile to Netherlands.

No wonder that suicide remains the only alternative open to these beleaguered class, the class from which you and I originate. Loans are available now to farmers, and what if they aren't able to pay back these loans? There is so much talk of waiving loans but is it an alternative? A government that distributes free money is doomed to failure, and again the UP government is moving in this direction in the run up to the elections.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

DNA Links to My Abhishek-Aishwarya Blogpost



Yesterday was a watermark in the annals of this blog. I got around 250 visitors on this blog (as against 20 daily) as the above graph would testify. I am now 9600 hits and progressing towards the 10,000 five-letter mark (this number should have been much higher had I put a counter much earlier). Thanks to all ye visitors, do keep coming back. As someone who started blogging in 2003 at the very start of the blogging craze, I am proud and privileged.

The reason for all the hits is that DNA has featured my blog on the Abhishek-Aishwarya wedding on the front page of their online edition (click this link DNA India. See the "Flippant Looks" link.). Love you guys at DNA (I have added you to the "websites I envy." See My Bloglines), thanks for the link and do keep linking, mua, mua, mua....

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Attack on my poem “Let’s Get Mad”

Someone attacked my poem “Let’s Get Mad” saying it is a “rather poor” poem, in this thread on Shakespeare and Company. I had written it in the omnipresent “Rap” style and, being my first-born “Rap” song, had hoped (rather fervently), that it would click with Shakespeareans. Some grammatical issues have been corrected in this post on “Poetecstasy” – my poetry blog. Ho hum, don’t have the making of a rapper for sure (sniff! sniff!).

“Anil your comment is rude and not in consonance with a literary forum which is open to all sorts of experimentation and interpretation. I mean, where else can one try out something that is so omnipresent in the media today except in a literary forum? I was trying out a "rap" sort of song; obviously the "rap" genre isn't one of my strengths. As you may be aware (am I assuming too much here?) rap songs employ syncopation using 4 beats, which I have used throughout the poem. And believe me, as a member of a choir (and as a person who reads poetry in five languages including Marathi) I know what beats and syncopation means.

“But the use of the word "Rather poor" is what rankles. You have shown your lack of tact here. Some of the other threads where you have commented also bear witness to this. Your understanding of poetry is based on what sounds good to your ear and what sounds bad. This is being judgemental and for someone who is so judgmental I don't mind being judgmental myself.

“Srinivasan, you can't make someone who doesn’t discern fundamental distinctions understand finer concepts like repetitions, beats, chorus, refrains and reprise. So, let it be.

“Ravi thanks for stating that my words resonate. I have deliberately used the syncopation of Rap music and it's four beats to show my anger with a service provider. Recently I changed my credit card service provider and was almost instantly inundated by calls from their competitors. Go ahead with your website I will support you on this.

“Rupa, I will do as you suggest. I will swat this one and get on with my life!”

Amen!

Monday, April 23, 2007

My All New Blog!

It's time I raved about the new Blogger. Well, the changes I had done in the earlier version of Blogger had screwed up my functionalities and my blog could hardly be read on some browsers, especially Mozilla Firefox. Horror of horrors, it showed up as html code on Mozilla and I had to lose a lot of hits and visitors.

So when the new Blogger came along I began experimenting with it and would give up at the last minute without committing all the changes. This went on for a few days. Then I fully realized the full potential of the new blogger and what it meant to my blog. It has "Change Page Elements" that accepts anything from html/Java code to videos and such like.

And changing code or page elements is a dream! I can click on the spanner and hammer sign on my blog (if I am logged in) and change the code immediately. Besides I can choose font color, layout (I am using a stretch layout which I have wanted since don't know when) and play with fonts (I am using Courier for it's simplicity).

So, as they say, keep watching this space for a great blogging experience. Oh, do comment, please! I know you sweet people read this but don't comment. How sad! I need your comments to see how I am doing.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Abhishek-Aishwarya Wedding, and Lusty Lina

Two things on the front page of today's news sheets claim my immediate attention. The much written about Abhishek-Aishwarya wedding and Lusty Lina's escapades.

How is it that Abhishek (Amitabh Bachchan's son, if you don't already know) didn't shave on his wedding day? Is it plain laziness, a fashion, or merely ego. Shouldn't his parents have asked, no, dictated that he do the basic decent thing a man should do on the most important day of his life? If at all it is important, that is. The actor who wears women-style hair clips and doesn't shave is sending mixed messages to his fans and the entire world on his wedding day, don't you think? If it's ego my sage advice to this young man, you haven't been through the struggles your parents have been through, so don't be too flippant. Or, are you cultivating that look for a role that you are playing?

A broken hearted girl tried to commit suicide outside Bachchan's house. She claims Bachchan junior had already married her. Then where's the marriage certificate? Fans can get a bit hysterical, I know. Obsession is a manic, dangerous thing. Amitabh has had his share of such women, that too, I know. Nothing is a secret in the glamor industry, is it?

Now Lusty Lina Sinha (that's what the media calls her aside from such obvious names like "bed-educator"), is heart-breakingly beautiful, intelligent, well-raised, hardworking... no, God! how then can she be a sexual predator? At this point I stopped reading the paper for an unusually long time and imagined all sorts of nauseating things. Must confess my sins tomorrow in church.

That well-bred, intelligent women could be predators too, is news to me. I thought, disadvantaged men, scarred by too many rejections, dragged in the gutters of society's disapproval and belonging to the economically poor classes were the preadators who raped and molested women, leered at them, and did funny things to even minors. Lina is the exact opposite of all these, I mean she is beautiful, rich, accomplished and could have had a harem (or, a marem) full of men waiting for her to say the word. And, for almighty's sake, she's a woman! No wonder Americans are saying "Where was she when I was in school?" But only the traumatized know their trauma.

Her picture in the broadsheet had me drooling. She could have had any man she wanted, she just had to winkie wink. But she chose teenage minors to have sex with, boys just in the throes of getting facial hair. The gory details are here. Upto 18 years in jail, was she aware what she was up against, this beautiful woman gone bad? When she comes out what epithets would she face? Cradle snatcher? Predator? Cunning woman who performs cunnilingus on teenage boys? Urgh! Retch!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Something to warm the cockles....



Something that warmed the cockles of my heart. This comment came from a total stranger who posted this on my ryze.com page after, maybe, I am guessing here, reading my website: johnwriter.com. You can read a sample chapter of my novel The Love Song of Luke Varkey here, a a synopsis can be read here.

Publishers, are you listening?

The Online New Yorker - Drool Over it

For those who love the New Yorker and it's unique style of humor, fiction, poetry, and cartoons, here's the online version (The New Yorker Blog). I used to read it regularly at the David Sassoon Library, that quaint Gothic library at Kala Ghoda of which I am a member for life, or, life memeber as they like to call it. Alas, no more, as I don't work thereabouts anymore. I used to work in the adjacent building, i.e., in the Army and Navy Building (where Westside now is, there used to be a huge lobby, and stairs to the basement of what once used to be the Army and Navy Stores, ah, how I wish for old times) when I was editor of the Bombay Management Association. I would sneak down and spend entire afternoons poring over its pages, in those pre-internet era when life was a lot simpler.

So the online edition comes as a great relief. I didn't realize how much I missed the magazine till I chanced on this rather well designed website. So I can now hope to go back to mulling over their longish, almost novella length short stories, chuckle-able cartoons, poems, reviews, and what not. Take a look, there's enough stuff there to keep you occupied for entire days.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Shakespeareans Meet Pragya




Pragya Thakur, of Shakespeare and Company network on Ryze.com, came to Bombay to meet us Shakespeareans. So I organized a meeting of Shakespeare and Company members in Bombay. In attendance were Archana Kombrambail, Jane Bhandari (who runs a poetry group called Loqations), Shilpa (a television script writer), Anil Siqueira (my former boss), Prabhakar, Ravishankar C, Maya Sriram (who is working on a novel), Pallavi Bhattacharya (a freelance journalist), Pushpa Moorjani (a writer and teacher), Raamesh Gowri Raghavan (a research scientist and writer), besides my own inflated self and Pragya's husband Anil and her pretty daughter Anoushka. (Sorry, if I missed anyone). Well, the whole thing was worth agonizing over.

Was a bit nervous how the event would go, as the venue we had decided upon, the hotel where Pragya was to stay, was shedding chunks plaster from the ceiling. So Ravishankar, in charge of Pragya's hotel bookings (to save Pragya from falling plaster), had her booking shifted to another hotel, and since that wasn't convenient for all, I had to shift the meeting to our favorite haunt, the cosy and cool Tea Center at Churchgate where we usually meet. It went well, reinforcing the belief that these things take an energy of it's own, if one is set on doing it. Hardly four people confirmed their attendance and the rest had to be cajoled and persuaded to join.

After the meeting we made it to the nearby Sundance Cafe (no coincidence that our guests were American, it just happens to be nearby Tea Center), just across Oval grounds, for "One for the Road" or "Nightcap," or whatever. Conversations flowed, and so did the drinks, and I had to hurry to Victoria Terminus to catch the last train home. A great time, as the cliche goes, was had by all.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Reverse Dictionary, Go Ahead, Use it!


I was racking my brain. I wanted a word to express “Make the most use of.” I couldn’t get the word. Scratch my head some more and still it eluded me, the word, the exasperating word. This happens very often. You are in the middle of work and you want the word, the exact word and your brain is all messed up with a hundred different things.

Then it hit me “boom.” I typed “Reverse Dictionary” and entered “Make the most use of” in the search box. Bingo. There it was, the word, elusive, slippery word, “Maximize.” Go on type “Reverse Dictionary” in your URL box and see for yourself. Or this URL: www.onelook.com/reverse-dictionary.shtml.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Failed World Cup!

Statistics can be a bitch, or a witch. Following are some stats associated with the Cricket World Cup that would make you go, "What?"

Firstly, corporates had lined up Rs 1000 crore for advertisements during the matches.

Secondly, the matches had an audience of 1.5 billion viewers throughout the world. Sadly, with India's exit it would stand at .5 billion, my guess.

Thirdly, the winning team will take home $ 2.2 million, that is 9.9 crores.

Fourthly, for commenting Kapil Dev would have got Rs 2 crore, Siddu would have got Rs 1.5 crore (for what? Sidduisms?).

An Pepsi ad running on the networks show a couple of boys at a tailors asking for world cup uniforms a couple of inches longer and wider. Why? "Char saal baad world cup hamara hoga," they say.

Smirk, smirk, so Pepsi had to spend their money after all the media hype and some whizkid must have come up with this story board. Too optimistic, eh?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

More on Kurt Vonnegut on Britannica Blog

Here's this beautiful obit to Kurt Vonnegut in Encyclopaedia Britannica Blog (by the way, this blog has the best designs I have seen so far, and the writing is subtle and flawless, check it out). Read here: Kurt Vonnegut - Britannica Blog.


"...He had a gift for names of characters. Who can forget Diana Moon Glampers ("My mother was a Moon; my father was a Glampers") in Rosewater? He even invented a character that stood, consciously or not, as his own self-rebuke, the completely unsentimental science-fiction writer Kilgore Trout. 

"Some of the commentary following his death mentioned his fascination with suicide. Many of us have considered, in the abstract at least, the idea of suicide, as when, at 14, you were not invited to the party of the year; or when, at 18, the love of your life left you. But Vonnegut evidently kept on considering it, right up to the age of 84, by which time surely one ought to have outgrown the Romantic solipsism of youth. 

"I recommend the early novels to all young people who have just graduated from Harry Potter. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll get some small sense of the crazy world you are about to inhabit. Just don't stop there. "

Friday, April 13, 2007

Author Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84

Kurt Vonnegut author of such books as "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Cat's Cradle," has died. He was 84.

Read more inin this CNN article Excerpt follows:

""He was a man who combined a wicked sense of humor and sort of steady moral compass, who was always sort of looking at the big picture of the things that were most important," Joel Bleifuss, editor of the liberal magazine In These Times, told The Associated Press. Vonnegut occasionally contributed to In These Times."

The Beatles on Britannica India

Britannicaindia has an interesting article on the Liverpool quartet that took the music scene by storm in the fifties, sixties, and seventies, and was the dreams and aspirations of a generation of young ones, including yours truly. Who remembers "Seargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Band," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Hard Day's Night," "Back in the USSR," "While my Guitar Gently Weeps," "Strawberry Fields for Ever," and songs like that these days?

"Formed around the nucleus of Lennon and McCartney, who first performed together in Liverpool in 1957, the group grew out of a shared enthusiasm for American rock and roll. Like most early rock-and-roll figures, Lennon, a guitarist and singer, and McCartney, a bassist and singer, were largely self-taught as musicians. Precocious composers, they gathered around themselves a changing cast of accompanists, adding by the end of 1957 Harrison, a lead guitarist, and then, in 1960 for several formative months, Sutcliffe, a promising young painter who brought into the band a brooding sense of bohemian style. After dabbling in skiffle, a jaunty sort of folk music popular in Britain in the late 1950s, and assuming several different names (the Quarrymen, the Silver Beetles, and, finally, the Beatles), the band added a drummer, Best, and joined a small but booming “beat music” scene, first in Liverpool and then, during several long visits between 1960 and 1962, in Hamburg—another seaport full of sailors thirsty for American rock and roll as a backdrop for their whiskey and womanizing."

Read more in this article: Britannica India: Did you Know?:

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Poem "To Shakti Bhat"



Here's a picture I shot of Shakti Bhat when she was a panelist at the Kitab Festival (she is seated second from left to the right of PM Sukumar of Harper Collins. Others in the picture are Peter Gordon, Antara Dev Sen of Little Magazine and poet Arvind Mehrotra.). To our great grief she is no more. I had interacted her when I had gone to Delhi to see if my novel The Love Song of Luke Varkey could be published. She was very warm and welcoming and didn't have any airs.

At a Caferati workshop she spoke of creating "Welcoming Spaces" for writers in publishing houses. What a nice thought, what a nice idea, I think now in retrospect, if publishing houses had warmth and charmth and welcoming faces such as she had. (I am not saying there are no welcoming spaces. There are. But they need to publish me first, to make me reveal their names, wink!) The first person I contacted, or, rather, I found approachable when I arrived in Delhi was Shakti and she invited me right over. Ah! I thought, what about those horror stories I had heard, about, "Leave your manuscript at the reception, and scoot, we don't want your ugly face adorning our offices, least of all our book jackets," that I had heard from fellow writers.

I guess she had that rare quality of compassion, which may be because she was a writer herself. I heard she was working on a novel, which I would dearly want to read, whatever the stage it was in. I guess she was one of us and I feel the loss all the more. Her successor (at the publisher where she was then working) wasn't, well, as kind. I received the manuscript back with some internal stationery attached, and when I enquired if the editor would like to discuss the manuscript, the curt reply was, "There's nothing to discuss." Ahem, but that's another story.

She put me completely at ease on all the occasions I met her in her office at International Trade Center at Barakhamba Road. At the Kitab Festival also I had a brief conversation with her and she remembered me and asked about the fate of my novel. I didn't know she was married to Jeet Thayil, which I only came to know through Kitabkhana. My condolences to Jeet and Shakti's immediate family in their hour of need.

Here's the poem (To Shakti Bhat) I wrote for her based on our meeting at the Kitab Festival. As I was entering the little door of "Little Theatre" and she was exiting I said "Bye Shakti" and I didn't know that was to be our last spoken words. So this poem. Shakti Bhat, RIP.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kudos! I Am a Certified Search Engine Marketer!

I have been certified as a "Competent Search Engine Marketer" by WEBCEO University, the guru of Search Engine Optimization and Marketing. My certificate appears here(My Competent Search Engine Marketer Certificate from WEBCEO University).

What this means is that I would now be able to write copy for web sites and also market them to Search Engines like Google using appropriate keywords and meta tags, and use special techniques to attract traffic to websites. Unlike what is generally perceived, you just don't put up a site and put your feet on the table and wait for visitors. You have to work hard to bring those lovely beings [such as you] to websites, and, forget not this, love them, love them all the while so that they come back.

Sounds interesting doesn't it? Well, go on, congratuate me!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

War of the Sexes, is it?

Can a man and woman be friends? The war of the sexes, the whole “Men are from Mars and Women Are from Venus” syndrome came to me as if I had belly flopped into a pool. Oh God! In these times of brittle internet relationships, I had forgotten to insulate myself, to “harden my heart and swallow my tears,” as an English song goes.

Well, it happened thusly. I have, or, rather, had this beautiful friendship with a much younger woman on the net, so warm in fact that I could joke, tease, and even say risqué things. “Sorry, no names” as another friend and confidante says. We even promised to meet each other if we were in each other’s cities. No, nothing romantic, but this feeling of kinship, the expectation of each other’s messages in the guest book and in the email. Yes, she is beautiful in a grudgingly acknowledgable way, which, I know is beyond the reach of less endowed guys like me. But I liked her in a brotherly sort of way.

And, last week the relationship went “pop.” The internet is playing a role in understanding life, the primal human need to share and empathize that must have driven men like me into the attic to write masterpieces on platonic love. Also called the novel, that very chronicle of life that fills the need to share in another’s life, the feeling “this is the way I felt,” that we feel often, also, the thing that elevates man’s need to express through pen, brush, or, for the computer savvy, keyboard. It seems literature has been replaced by chatrooms and message board which is where the current crop of best writing can be found floating. Our friendship had grown in such a message board through mutual back pattings for good writing and such like. I was sort of mentor and familial brother combined.

However, last week I had made a careless remark, and she wrote me a nasty email and blocked me from ever writing to her again. Well, I was “ignored” in short. I deserve to be, I never knew women can be so touchy, that among men we can take a few liberties, but the same liberties may not apply among women. Mea culpa. I had only remarked that a friend to whom she is attracted may not be interested in her because he is very much in love with his wife of twenty five years. This is the way we men usually tease each other, and she found this very offensive.

What I had meant in jest she found offensive, and hurtful, indeed, the reason for my royal “ignore.” I wrote back stating how sorry I am and how I am a nervous bundle of contrition, alas, to no avail. I now dread what has gone wrong and how much I should curb my speech with my other women friends.

Do women perceive men differently, or, are men and their crude familiarity incorrigible? I know I don’t deliberately do things that women may find offensive, such as dig my nose, scratch my backside, adjust my crotch, the sort of things that turn men into the abominable cave-dwelling type. But what made me forget my manners in that instant that I wrote the message that offended her? What made her so hurt that she cut off all relationship with me? Is it my age, of which I made no distinction while we were friends?

There is more to this than seems. She is happily married, in fact, she got married only recently. I am completely lost. What error in judgement made her so mad with me? Sure every woman wants to be a princess, at least, be treated like one. But what exactly went wrong? I don’t know. I am dazed. I shouldn’t be so sensitive. Accept it as the truth, and move on back to my own life.

Meanwhile, the song that has been going through my head the past few days is, “Hum se kya bhool huyee.” Meaning, “What could I have forgotten?”

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Cricket and The Mad Dog Show - The India Uncut Blog - India Uncut

I guess Amit Varma of India Uncut is right in calling Indian cricket a mad rabid dog with it's tail on fire. The fire is set by none other than the media, which he likens to a "gentleman," a cranky one, nevertheless. ReadIndia Uncut article

He further goes on to say, "It is a cliche that cricket and Bollywood are India’s two great passions, but perhaps there really is just one. The media presents cricket like Bollywood drama, not sport. There aren’t winners and losers, there are heroes and villains. If India wins a game, they have lifted the nation. If they lose, they are traitors. Every act is wilful." Couldn't agree more.

That's a straight-on-jaw sock for Indian cricket. Bravo, Amit! But one crucial difference, may I add? Fans of Bollywood don't die of a heart attack watching the match, and Bollywood heroes always win.

Monday, April 02, 2007

My school buddies. We were in school together and still meet!

Me and my school friends

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This is a ritual with us friends from around forty odd years ago. We meet once in a month and remininsce, tell anecdotes, rememeber our friends who are too busy, eat, drink and have fun. I posted it on my account in myspace. So, click and have a look.


Looking at us you may find it difficult to imagine that we were small children sharing a desk and enjoying a game of football during our "Physical Training" class. Ganga was the class monitor and is still called "Monitor." I was the captain of the Green House so I am still called "Captain."