Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Vroom … Vroom …Vroom …under Flood Lights in Singapore

From my office at the 21st floor of Suntec Tower in Singapore, it looked like a pearl necklace strewn over a beautiful black velvet blanket. It was not an imagery from the top of the skyscraper but the reality down below of the first night racing of Formula 1 cars in Singapore. The necklace was a string of 1600 white lights - four times brighter than used in soccer - fitted on the aluminum truss that run parallel to the either side of the circuit spanning 5.06-kilometer track that encircled the down town of Singapore over few sharp bends and a run over a bridge without causing any sign of penumbra.

Things started fitting into the playing arena as the D-day approached. It began with the relaying of street tops, putting up the facilities, arrival of equipments, fitting of night-lights. We walked through the streets adjoining old parliament house. Final touches were being given to search lights, alternating red and yellow plastic bucket seats and the safety barricades. As the
DHL chartered planes started descending Singapore airport unloading the Ferrari, Mercedes, BMWs, another one ferrying Bridgestone tyres, I realized the enormity of the task and the money power involved. My journey from the office to home in the evenings did pass through the part of the racing circuit. As I drove my Honda through basking of white lights- I felt thrill even at 60 Kms/hour. However, thoughts did persist ‘how is it possible for racing cars to overtake in three lane narrow downtown streets of Singapore’?

A day before the event, road were sealed leading to the track. Even residents of glitzy hotels like Conrad and Ritz Carlton had to travel by taxi with approved stickers. I had to know about rules of Formula 1. The help came from Formula 1 website that answered most of my questions. I was amazed at the pricing of the tickets and amount of money splurged by the sponsors. Nevertheless, question remained in my mind ‘How a person sitting on a bucket seat can capture a car whizzing past him at 300 Kms/hour”. I asked a colleague of mine who is big aficionado of racing cars. His answer was’ Just smell the engine and hear the noise ‘. I kept wondering if I would spend S$600 plus to just vet my nose and ear?

On Friday afternoon, noise started emanating from my office window. A whirring sound with increasing frequency. It sounded more as if it came from a diesel generator in action. From the window, I could see pygmy cars going one behind the other. They looked like colorful toy cars and their speed appeared ordinary. I guess they were just sizing up the bends of the track. Next day, we reached office to feel the noise but we were in for a big surprise on our return. When we reached the beginning of Benjamin
Sheares Bridge – a thunderous roar ruptured at the breakneck speed from one side of the bridge to the other side. Racing track passed just below us. As the reverberations of the first car receded second one would come by. And there it was. Our first true experience of deafening noise as cars raced to secure pole positions for the final race.

On final day, everything was centered on 5 Km circuit with loud noise of
vroom... vroom at deafening decibels. In no time, cascading of noises filled up the whole arena. It was an amazing experience. The power of the sound was at its peak. This time it was not diesel generator humming – it was full-blown mastery of machine speed with man’s precision and courage. 3/10th of a second was the gap between number two car by Hamilton- McLaren and third car by Räikkönen -Ferrari with unbeatable lead for Massa Ferrari at number one. At this speed taking 60 laps in two hours, I wondered if car driver could even afford to battle his eyelid. However, within 12 laps, all the pre-race predictions and calculations started going haywire. Mishap of fuel hose pipe getting stuck up in his car, caused Masa to relegate from Number 1 to Number 16 in just few seconds. A dangerous collision of Piquet - Renault made him bow out of the race and so was the situation with Räikkönen-Ferrari. Barrichello Honda went out due to engine trouble. My fear of sharp bends being deterrent proved wrong as Alonso- Renault and Rosberg-Williams raced away overtaking others at high spends and grabbing number 1 and 2 respectively . A conventional wisdom of ‘Driver in pole position becomes an eventual winner’ proved wrong at Singapore Night Racing.

When I look back at this event, it appeared more like an opulent wedding than a mega spectacle of any sports event. Deafening roars of noise combined with high speed soaked under white lights amidst 100,000 spectators transformed the event into Kaleidoscopic entertainment .This must be the only sport where performers can silence the spectators forcing them to acknowledge the ‘man -machine’ excellence by wide mouthed ‘awe’ than ‘act of clapping’.

p.s : all pictures are taken from Boston dot com

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Sanjana and ' Bedroom at Arles'

When I saw my niece, Sanjana's painting; I felt a lot of similarity with ‘Bedroom of Arles’ by Van Gogh. Her choice of bright and vibrant colors and portrayal of room in sharp and pointed form have strong semblance.

Sanjana's painting was selected from her school for auction to help raise funds for scholarships. Her painting was sold for $175.00.

Bedroom of Arles was painting of Van Gogh’s bedroom and the way he described it to his brother Theo: I simply reproduces my bedroom; but colour must be abundant in this part, its simplification adding a rank of grandee to the style applied to the objects, getting to suggest a certain rest or dream. Well, I have thought that on watching the composition we stop thinking and imagining. I have painted the walls pale violet. The ground with checked material. The wooden bed and the chairs, yellow like fresh butter; the sheet and the pillows, lemon light green. The bedspread, scarlet coloured. The window, green. The washbasin, orangey; the tank, blue. The doors, lilac. And, that is all. There is not anything else in this room with closed shutters. The square pieces of furniture must express unswerving rest; also the portraits on the wall, the mirror, the bottle, and some costumes. The white colour has not been applied to the picture, so its frame will be white, aimed to get me even with the compulsory rest recommended for me. I have depicted no type of shade or shadow; I have only applied simple plain colors, like those in crêpes.

I must check with Sanjana what thoughts she must have had while drawing it and opting for her choice of colors.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

India and the Corruption

India has a reason to rejoice !!! It is still way ahead of Pakistan and half the world is still down the ladder. India Ranks no 85 (though slipped from no 72 of last year but that’s okay!!) while Pakistan is at 134 , China at 72, Israel at 33. Newspapers in Singapore proudly pronounced the retaining of their country rank at No 4 just below New Zealand, Sweden. Denmark stood out at No 1.

The above number is not the ranking based on quality of live or GDP. This is an index of corruption. CPI stands for Corruption Perception Index (Not communist party of India).

Law defines CORRUPTION as ‘An act done with intent to give some advantage inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others. It includes bribery, but is more comprehensive; because an act may be corruptly done, though the advantage to be derived from it is not offered by another’. Wow… exhaustive definition indeed. CPI used the same definition and focused solely on public servants. India must be unfortunate to have taken thorough beating on this front with our political and bureaucratic system.

I remember two examples of 'Corporatization of Corruption' in India. All other incidents of Traffic, Customs, Ration card bribes pale in comparison with these two.

First was not an incident but a story narrated by my lawyer neighbor who is now no more. When legal arguments were over, He told his client ‘All the hearing and cross examination that you have witnessed was a farce, Real verdict would be decided when we go to the Judge’s house and accede to his demand’. His client was shell-shocked – after all, he had spent considerable amount of money on this lawyer and invested precious time. He dithered for a while wondering if this could indeed be true. Finally, he relented. On one evening, both my lawyer friend and his client went to Judge’s house but only to be confronted by the opposite party walking out form Judge's house. My lawyer friend proclaimed the inevitable “We are late by few minutes. We lost the case".
Second was the incident that I witnessed at the tender opening at one of the big public sector companies in central India. On that day, there were other bids to be opened. I became friendly with the reputed industrial product manufacturers reps that were with me in the same room. They had come from other metro cities. What struck me was their devoid of any anxiety or excitement as they diligently noted down the tender bids. I asked them the reason for this. ‘ Oh !! This is just a drama. Everything is pre-decided by our higher management. They continued ‘It is a cartel that shared the Govt business at pre-arranged prices and profit. Undercutting is not beneficial to anyone”. What a profound philosophy and sound business practices based on consensus and harmony !! . Company is happy, employees are happy, shareholders are happy. This incident happened when India had not opened its economy and Public Sector business was the major segment for any company. Things may have changed by now.
I wonder if corrupt practices are inborn in a person or they are symptoms of the society in which he lives. Some one has said, “Power corrupts, but actually it's more correct that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.” Does a person become honest and incorruptible because of the values instilled at young age or is it because of fear of law? On the other hand, does he become corrupt because his needs are not adequately covered by his means and only as a last resort, he becomes corrupt. In India, we get high dosage of moral values at early age. We have enough laws to work as a deterrent. Therefore, as a natural corollary our means to raise resources must be woefully short to become corrupt. Is that the reason for ranking so low in the CPI ladder?
When Rajeev Gandhi in his initial years of his being PM made a statement that in India corruption is prevalent only at lower wrung of bureaucracy I too felt that he was right But as I saw specter of corrupt practices among high and mighty section of the Indian society – I realized Rajeev Gandhi was as naive as me . I am sure his views too must have changed as he garnered more experience at the helm of country’s affairs.
In Hindi movie 'saaransh' -सारांश- , director Mahesh Bhatt hammered at the insensitivity of corruption with a telling effect when he depicted a customs burocracy making life difficult for old man who has come to collect his son’s ash urn from customs . Its tragic but true that I have become immune to corrupt practices of Indian society- in fact sometimes I prefer if my work is done faster and treat this as an additional tax. But I still writhe in anguish when I see crooks in dialysis department wants their pound of flesh from a poor patient who has not just lost a kidney but also his wealth, land, wife’s jewelry and peace at home. I am disturbed when district office staff keeps old men/woman waiting for hours just to take his share of bribe from meager monthly pension he doles out as a part of his duty.

The transformation of Singapore at No 4 happened very swiftly when Lee Kwan Yew while cleansing the corrupt society made one big change “any person living beyond his or her means or had property his or her income itself is an admissible proof and evidence that is deemed for punishment ’. When he and his ministers took their oath of office in June 1959, “all wore white shirts and white slacks to symbolize purity and honesty in our personal behavior and our public life. He said in his autobiography ‘The people expected this of us, and we were determined to live up to their expectations’. Singapore gives India a hope that we too can climb the ladder and not take solace in a fact that there are still as many countries below our rank.

p.s. Rediff.com dated sept 26th reported that Cee- Jay House, a landmark office complex in Worli is owned by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel . That would make it min 5000 crores. So is the case with Kohinoor Mill Real Estate owned by Manohar Joshi/ Raj Thakre. But in india it wont be considered admissible proof of ' living beyond known source of income' or ' abuse of power'

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Akshta in July+ August+ September 08


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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

One never grows old...........

Y’day, September 15 was a national holiday in Japan to honor the elderly with 'Respect-for-the-Aged' Day. It’s noble idea to express the obeisance to long-time contributors to our society, celebrate their longevity and pray for their health .
Bodybuilder Ray Moon, who will turn 80 this year is living illustration how the respect for the elders can be won. He has turned 80 but instead of giving up on his health after being crippled by polio, undergoing a open heart surgery and fitted with pacemaker , he chose to march to Gym and become a champion bodybuilder -- the oldest in Australia and perhaps in the world.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Amitabh Bachchan - A man of many talents

Dear Mr Amitabh,

I wonder which are of your many avatars you have donned are more alluring? As an actor with brilliant histrionic skills or as a presenter with deep bass voice quality or as a human being with your intrinsic ingrained modesty and humility or as a blogger with your effortless narration of articulating your innermost thoughts and impressions to various stimuli that affect you ?

I must say that I am overwhelmed by your writings on your blog. Do you write all this yourself – with spell check, grammar etc? How do you get time to do that and even to respond to the comments of your avid readers? Alternatively, do you narrate your thoughts to your editorial blog team who structure it in the form of ghostwriter? This does not seem possible. Those who have seen you interacting in the media realize that your writings on the blog are genuine mirror reflection of your thoughts and expressions. Perhaps you are seeking to reach your roots, to your rich legacy that you have inherited from your father- a sensitive, prolific poet and writer.

I have met you - rather seen you closely - in your most difficult and trying circumstances. It was at Bed no 1 in ICU of Breach Candy hospital where you fought a herculean battle to escape from the jaws of death. I was trainee engineer then and was involved with a team of engineers that were responsible to equip ICU with new monitoring systems. Your bed had an extension to accommodate your protruding legs as you lay helplessly at the mercy of medicine, machines, doctors, nurses and countless blessings of your fan followers. Your room window faced Arabian ocean and had Ganesha idol placed on its sill. The image of this benevolent almighty, protecting and surviving you must have stayed with me. It was ironical that after nearly 25 years, I had to return to the same settings when my father was admitted on Bed No 1. Everything was the same including the team of doctors under Dr Faroukh Udwadia, and nursing staff under strict discipline of Sr. Amaria. I was too naive or just helpless to believe that Ganesha placed by me on the windowsill would again come to our rescue but alas, it did not happen.

During your recovery phase, I again happened to meet you in the pulmonary function laboratory where Dr Jamshed Sonawala had brought you to test your lungs. I was shocked to see you as a frail person with shrunken body mass with beard that had more salt than pepper. Your throat still had the dressings to protect you from the infection due to Tracheotomy procedure. When you uttered the words, only faint feeble echoed voice came out of it. Very different from the movie setting where your voice would charge the audience. Despite all this, your eyes reflected a glint – your curiosity to know about the technology was admirable. You were amazed with the technological marvel of the computing machine that sketched power of your lungs. You asked Mr Shetty -technician of the pulmonary function laboratory to explain the machine. I was standing at the back wondering if you would ever be normal healthy person and work to regain your status of a movie star. You were about to be wheeled outside the room when you realized of not acknowledging my presence. You turned around and shook my hand with smile. Subsequent days, I saw you progressing rapidly. By now, you were sitting reclining on your bed enjoying frosty waves of Arabian Ocean on black rocks while Ganesha was still at the windowsill.

If you suffered physical agony during the days of Breach Candy, its mental suffering that you are facing in recent days. I could feel your pain and anguish as you wrote about your financial succor to Marathi people in need or your leanings towards Maharashtrians. You are an embodiment of humility and it must have been tough for you to state your philanthropic acts to douse the raging fires of ' anti Marathi' by insensitive individuals and media.

Your writing on your 'mother' reflected subtle and sublime qualities that were nurtured by your parents to make you a fine individual endowed with spectrum of skills. Your writings reflect how powerful and important is the 'parental upbringing and how crucial is the 'home ambience' to shape raw qualities of children and enrich them with qualitative nuances. When Michelangelo Buonarroti sculpted David, the white marble of Carrara too must have felt the pain and endurance as it was chiseled to carve out an exquisite masterpiece. Today, you too, must be gratified for your parents who used all the tools in their harness to make their son a model for millions.

My friend Mr. Chandurkar is lavish in his praise of your family. ‘A cultured family to the core'. He sums it. I agree with him. Those who are not fortunate to have interacted with you are those unfortunate souls who have subjected you to calumny, slander and denigration of character and deeds.

I am happy that your blog is a window for all those who wish to peep in your heart and mind. I doubt some of them would ever do so as they are blinded by their own goals of self-aggrandizement using violence, torture and mayhem. Mr. Amitabh, your blog is part of my existence as has been with countless others. I look forward to reading your cherished experiences and your thoughts as they pour like a streak of honey - rich in contents and consistent in quality.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ahmad Faraz to Nida Fazli

Almost 10-12 years ago, on the eve of India/ Pakistan independence day, ZEE TV had organized a show by inviting people from both the countries. Participants comprised of Poets, Journalists, Politicians and General people. The program started in very cordial atmosphere but ended with utter confusion and chaos. Spirited individuals bitten by jingoistic national spirit started trading charges against each other. Amidst all that din, there was this poet from Pakistan who captivated me with his lines of अब के बिछडे हैं तो शायद कभी ख्वाबों में मिले, जिस तरह सूखे हुए फूलकिताबों में (After this separation, we may meet only in our dreams, like wilted flowers within the pages of a book). He was realistic to identify himself with Pakistan yet felt strongly about his Indian connection.

I didn't read much about Ahmed Faraz except seeing him occasionally in the media। The news of his death made me read some of his poetry but it also led to another poet who made huge impact on me with his simplistic yet profound writings. His name is Nida Fazli. Poetic verses of Nida Fazli and Yogesh does impress me as they both write in Hindi than chaste Urdu and I don't need any help in understanding their words. Some of his hindi movie songs that impressed me are :

कभी पलोकों में आंसू हैं
भी लब पे शिकायत हैं
मगर ये ज़िन्दगी फ़िर भी
तुजसे मोहब्बत हैं

दुनिया जीसे कहते हैं , जादू का खिलौना हैं
मिल जाए तो मिटटी हैं , न मिल जाए तो सोना हैं
Here is a poetry ' The Morning After Curfew'। Conveys an eerie silence of the environ after the curfew।
It is morning
the sky humbly bows
its head to the earth
for children are going to school...

Bathing itself in the stream
the sun dons itself
in a turban of spun gold
and stands smiling by the road
for children are going to school...!

Winds sing out blessings
on verdant green branches
jingles by fragrant flowers
wake up the sleepy paths
the shady peepul from its
corner of the old street
waves out its hands
for children are going to school...!

Angels of light come out
every trail is sparkling
at this moment
every pore of the earth
throbs like a mother’s heart
time sits happily
on a rundown rooftop
flying pigeons in the sky
for children are going to school
children are going to school...!

A vivid description of city 'Bombay' is another hallmark of his expression. Those who have been part of Mumbai and felt the steady deterioration and degradation of this city can easily identify with Nida Fazli's expression.

What kind of place is this,
This settlement where I find myself ?

A thousand echoing voices fill the air,
Countless breathes seethe in the breeze.

As far as the eye can see
There are shoulders, hips, shins, legs,
But not a single face.

In the morning, each one, young and old,
Removes his shining eyes,
His cheeks and his smiling lips
From the hollow of his head
And puts them in his pocket.

It is a strange city,
There is no day, no night, no dusk :
The sun rises from the bus seats;
The moon rests in a dark hovel.

There is nothing here
But trains and buses,
Insensible seas crawling over the earth,
Buildings swallowing buildings.

How can you awaken this grave island ?
You will be broken struggling against yourself,
There is not a single face
To be seen।

This what Nida Fazli said in his obituary to Ahmad faraz " He was known not just for mushairas but as a significant poet of our era. After Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Sahir Ludhianvi, Ahmed Faraz took the Urdu ghazal to new heights".

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Akshta and Dadi

For Akshta, she was Dadi, her house next door was Dadi and everything in that house was Dadi. Last week, Dadi left Akshta as sudden as she came into her life . But during that short span of few months, Dadi instilled a definite impression of her deep unflinching devotion to the God and the spirituality. Dadi must be pleased that Akshta took to the chanting of "Hare Rama Hare Krishna" as naturally as she did for Dadi's specially made sweet dishes .

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