Friday, October 28, 2016
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
My Satirical Article, Published on Faking News.
Hafiz Saeed, the chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), has announced that he and his followers will literally lay eggs for Pakistan. He said that this decision was not borne out of frustration or fear, but out of love and gratitude towards his country.
It is well known that a Pakistani lawmaker had called for action against terror groups in Pakistan. Amidst a growing chorus, the lawmaker questioned the Pakistani government’s failure to act against Saeed. There is an increasing concern in Pakistan that harboring non-state actors like Saeed and Masood Azhar is only pushing the country towards diplomatic isolation.
Hafeez already is a UN-designated terrorist and has a $ 10 million US bounty on his head. The growing demand to disown him has reportedly put a lot of pressure on him. He reportedly meditated a lot on the lawmaker’s statement about “not laying any egg for Pakistan”. After a lot of deliberation with his aides, he came up with this plan of literally laying eggs for Pakistan. He is very hopeful that Pakistani government and civil society will find his egg-laying plan very useful.
He is supposed to have told his followers that until now he capitalized on the animosity and hatred of Pakistanis towards India. In their hatred, the Pakistanis overlooked the damage religious extremism has been inflicting on their own country. However, in the wake of the surgical strike by India and the subsequent cancellation of the SAARC summit and further diplomatic isolation, the Pakistani civil society seemed to be slowly coming to its senses.
Very reliable sources informed Faking News, on the condition of anonymity, that Saeed became very worried and restless after the backlash from the press, political parties and the government. He was not sure how long the military will be able to protect him. He discussed with his aides about all the possibilities and probabilities of him laying eggs. He had set up a committee, comprising of experts in medicine, and entrusted them with the responsibility of finding a solution to his predicament.
Saeed is supposed to have expressed his willingness to undergo any kind of treatment or surgery to be able to lay eggs for the Pakistani people who had given him so much love and support so far. And to his delight, his team has come up with a solution to the crisis. He is reliably learnt to have undergone many painful surgeries and hormonal treatments to be able to lay eggs.
He has announced that he will demonstrate his newfound ability, of laying eggs, outside his fortified home in Lahore. Along with the national and global press, he has also invited the PML-N lawmaker who had mocked his then inability so publicly. He is confident that his eggs will put to rest, for ever, all the unnecessary talk about his being of no value to Pakistan.
However, critics argue that nothing worthwhile will come out of Saeed’s eggs. They say that even if something does come out, it might turn out to be very dangerous and will further push Pakistan to the brink.Meanwhile, there is heavy speculation going on in Pakistan and Dubai about the outcome of Saeed’s eggs, after the customary incubation of 40 days. Heavy betting is going on in the notorious streets of Karachi and illegal betting sites online. However, odds are heavily in favour of an armed-to-the-teeth terrorist. Highly-enriched uranium is a close second.
Wednesday, March 02, 2016
My travelogue on Udaipur city, published in the web edition of Hans India. Here is the link:
The word Rajasthan conjures up a montage of images in my mind. I associate the state with royal families, forts, the Thar desert, camels, colorful pagdis, enterprising businessmen, and a history that was replete with instances of valor as well as suffering of Rajput warriors and their womenfolk.
As a tourist destination, Rajasthan is more popular with foreigners than it is with Indians. We, Indians, are more after temples and hill stations. The colorful folk, royal palaces, forts, camels and the desert together might be luring the foreigners, with the promise of quenching their thirst for the exotic. It seems, the cities Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Pushkar are popular among foreign tourists. On their radar, these tourist hotspots of Rajasthan are as important as Agra, Delhi, Varanasi, Goa, Hampi, Khajuraho and Ajanta. The Indian experience is not complete without the customary trip through the land of Maharajas!
This interest in Rajasthan is not lost on the tourism and hospitality industries. Rajasthan boasts of some of the best hotels in India. For the rich, Rajasthan is a traveler’s delight in terms of luxury and style. The itinerary of the Maharaja Express, the luxury train operated by IRCTC and patronized mainly by foreign tourists, is mainly centered on Rajasthan. However, many backpackers flock in too, travelling sleeper class in trains and staying in cheap hotels and hostels.
I had long wanted to travel through Rajasthan. I found that the nearest place of significance from Mumbai is Udaipur. It is 16 hours away by train, which just means a night journey and then some more. I finally take up the gauntlet and on a fine late January morning, land in the city of lakes and palaces.
With the image of the desert in my mind, I was expecting the weather to be hot and so did not bring any winter gear. To my surprise, the days were cool and the nights were cooler! It was not that the Sun does not shine bright. It does, but still, when you are in shade, it is cold. The day temperature hovered between 17 and 230 C while the nights saw 11-140 C temperature. I observed that people, who were required to be out in the open because of their professions, lighted fires to fight the night chill. However, I was told that summers are unbearably hot. The best time to visit Udaipur is between September and March.
Desert is nowhere near Udaipur. For that, you better go visit Jaisalmer or Bikaner. The outskirts of Udaipur have a rustic feel, with crops grown and cattle reared. It feels like any other tier-two Indian city, except for the distinct paintings on walls of most houses.
The heritage of kings and warriors dominates the cultural landscape of the city. Popular local handicrafts such as paintings, marble art, silver art, and terracotta are dominated by the motif of the royals and their lifestyle. On the walls of every house, one can see the paintings of horse and elephant mounted men, ushering visitors. This is not surprising, as Udaipur city was the seat of the kingdom of Mewar. Until the princely state of Udaipur joined the Indian Union in 1949, it had been ruled by the Chattari Rajputs of Mori Guhilot Parihar and Sisodia dynasties for over 1,400 years.
One can clearly see that even after nearly 450 years of his heroic resistance, Maharana Pratap remains the city’s favorite son. The Sisodia warrior king refused to bow down to the imperial might of the Mughal empire that was at its peak with none other than Akbar at the helm. I feel Pratap is to the Mewar region what Shivaji is to Maharashtra, a symbol of resistance to Mughal might and upholder of the local religion and culture. The places, events, and people related to the life and struggle of the brave warrior king are revered and remembered. The majestic and beautiful Maharana Pratap Smarak is a loving and respectful tribute to his memory. One can see that the royal heritage has an unmistakable imprint on the spirit of the city and Pratap, along with his loyal horse Chetak, occupies a special corner in the hearts of the people!
Lakes together with the backdrop of the Aravali hills dominate the landscape of the city. Lake Pichola, Fateh Sagar Lake, Udai Sagar Lake, Rajsamand Lake and Jaisamand Lake are the five prominent lakes of the Mewar region. While the first two lie inside the city, the later three are spread across a radius of 66 km from the city. All of these lakes are artificial lakes, developed over the last few centuries by the rulers of the times to serve the water needs of the people. Of these, Lake Pichola is the most picturesque and lies at the heart of the city. Because of its beautiful lakes, the city is called Venice of the east and acclaimed as romantic.
City Palace, lying on the banks of Lake Pichola, is the most visited tourist attraction in the city. The downtown area of the city developed around the various entrances of the palace complex. Most of the tourist attractions like within a radius of 4 km from the City Palace. Hathi Pol, Bada Bazaar, Chetak Circle, and Palace Road are some of the popular shopping arcades.
Udaipur cuisine is mainly vegetarian because of the influence of Vaishnavism and Jainism. Udaipur is famous for its Dal-Baati-Churma, Gatte-Ki-Sabzi, Kachori and Mirchi Bada. Many restaurants serve unlimited Rajasthani thali. Rajasthani cuisine is spicy as opposed to the neighboring Gujarat where everything is supposed to be sweet. Natraj is perhaps the most famous thali restaurant and rightly so. Your trip is not complete until you have tasted Dal-baati-churma and the thali!
List below are the important tourist attractions in and around Udaipur:
• City Palace and Lake Pichola
• Monsoon palace and Sajjangarh sanctuary
• Maharana Pratap Smarak
• Bagore ki Haveli and the Dharohar show
• Fateh Sagar lake
• Jagadish ji temple
• Sukhadia circle
• Chetak circle
• Srinathji temple – 48 km
• Eklingji temple and Sas-Bahu temple – 22 km
• Kumbhalgarh fort – 100 km
• Chittorgarh fort – 130 km
• Ranakpur – 88 km
• Mount Abu – 158 km
• Monsoon Palace is situated atop a hill inside Sajjangarh sanctuary. The views, of the Aravali range and the lakes, from the palace balconies are simply breathtaking.
• The darshan timings of Srinath ji at Nathdwara change every day and updated on the temple website.
• Sas-bahu is not dedicated to the sas-bahu relationship! It is a corrupted form of Sahasra Bahu. Strangely, you won’t find any idol in this temple now. Though known for its intricate carvings, it is not a place of worship now, but maintained well by ASI for preservation purposes.
• Ranakpur jain temple is known for its magnificent architecture.
• Sukhadia circle is famous for its street food served by a never-ending line of stalls.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
My travelogue of Daman, one of the districts that make up the Union Territory, Daman & Diu. It was published in the web edition of Hans India. The link is here:
My travelogue on Aurangabad, published in the web edition of Hans India. Here is the link:
I went to the famous Tara Paan Center, with the help of Google maps. On asking, the guy told me about the three varieties on offer. I went for their special. It was yummy. But then how can I leave out the usual, so I had that one too. And then I took a few steps, content having tasted what I wanted to. To my shock, on the other side of the road I saw another Tara Paan Center. Now, I was not sure which one between them was the real deal. I looked back at the old shop and it had a small post fix "old" on its board. Still not convinced, I set out to try a paan at the second outlet. There was far more variety there. I chose an attractively-named variety, munched it and went on my way, happy.
I like maxims that don't encourage behavior modification.
I like tourist destinations that don't test one's fitness levels.
Most of the tourist attractions near Aurangabad seriously test the fitness levels of the visitors. The Ajanta caves were carved in a horseshoe-shaped mountain. One has to climb hundreds of steps and walk hundreds of metres to view all the caves. Ellora caves are spread over a wider stretch!
The nearby Daulatabad fort was not thought impregnable for nothing. It is hard enough to climb it while taking rest and refreshments in between. Imagine trying to go up and inside with a fort full of hostile army, pounding you with cannons and waiting to drown you in hot oil if you reach anywhere near!
However, all that effort invested to visit the places is very well worth it. Most of the paintings have faded and most of the sculpture is broken, but the places are too important historically and provide too good a view to think twice about the physical effort involved or the current state of the art on display.
Some of the caves in Ajanta pre-date Christ! Ellora caves track the changing fortunes of Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism over the medieval period. It was because of his shifting of capital city from Delhi to Daulatabad that Tughlak became such a laughing stock!
Aurangzeb, one of the most powerful men on earth during his time, lies buried in a humble grave, in a nearby village called Khuldabad. On the other hand, Bibi ka Maqabra, the monument that houses the tomb of Aurangzeb’s wife and built by their son Azam Shah, was intended to be another Taj Mahal. However, it could only be a poor replica because of budgetary constraints! It provides proof of some practical thinking on the part of the emperor who ordered it to be built, and maybe also the emptying coffers and declining architectural skills.
The city has many gates and aptly called the city of gates. However, out of the 52 gates, only four main and nine subordinate gates have survived. Bhadkal gate and Delhi gate are amongst the more important gates. The city has something not only for history buffs, but also for Hindu pilgrims. Grishneshwar, the last jyotirlinga on earth, lies on the outskirts of the city.
The local culture is supposed to be close to that of Hyderabad. Many areas of Aurangabad reminded me of the old city. Dakhni, the Hyderabadi Urdu dialect, is dominant here too. Akin to the river Musi of Hyderabad, river Kham flows through the city. What’s more, it looked equally thin and dirty! On the whole, the city looked like a poor cousin of Hyderabad. It appears to lag behind Hyderabad by at least a decade-and-a-half. There is very less of the hitec part. Public transportation is rickety. The city starts shutting down by 10 pm. Street lighting is poor in many areas. The lakes are not well maintained.
The local cafes remind you of Hyderabadi Irani cafes. In restaurants, Mughlai and Puneri cuisines co-exist peacefully here. Naan Qalia is a dish that is associated with Aurangabad. It is a concoction of mutton and a variety of spices. Naan is the bread made in tandoor (hot furnace) while Qalia is a mixture of mutton and various spices. Tahri is similar to pulao–biryani and is very popular here. Tahri is prepared by adding the meat to the rice, as opposed to traditional Biryani where the rice is added to the meat. This reminded me of the dispute between the kingdoms of Lilliput and Blefescu, in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. The dispute was over which side of the egg should be broken, the smaller end or the bigger. Thankfully, there is no such quarrel between Hyderabadis and Aurangabadis!
I tried the most famous thali restaurant in the city, Bhoj. It seems to be locally very popular. Their Rajasthani food is good and the ambiance is great. I saw people waiting for their turn, like for our Bawarchi. But my favorite thali restaurant still remains Gopi's of Ahmedabad, for their hospitality is as good as their food. Bhoj reminded me more of Pratikashram of Gandhinagar.
Prozone mall, in Aurangabad, is one of India's biggest malls. Its miniature model, situated in one of the corners of the actual mall, is a treat to the eyes. Kareem's, famous for Kathi rolls, have an outlet in the mall. I had their chicken Kathi roll. Now I know why they are famous! To my disappointment, even the mall started shutting down around 10pm!
Friday, September 04, 2015
Discovered recently a beautiful movie, titled The Family Man. Loved it!!
Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni play the lead roles. To my disappointment, I found that the movie is underrated and under appreciated. The movie is about what we lose out on in life in our relentless pursuit of success and a better material life.
My thinking is running totally in opposite direction right now, at this stage of life. But I liked the movie nevertheless. The plot, screenplay and performances were terrific.
Always liked Cage.... and been thankful to him for encouraging Johnny Depp to pursue an acting career. If not for Cage we would have lost out on Depp, who was trying his hand at various things until that time...... like selling pens over phone..... to stay afloat while dreaming of a musical career.
Cage rocked in this movie. And Tea Leoni was superb as usual. I just loved her in another underrated movie "Fun with Dick and Jane" in which she co-starred with Jim Carrey. Tea effortlessly plays again a wife other men would give their left nut for!!
And this movie helped me discover two awesome actors - Don Cheadle and Jeremy Piven. Don hogs your attention like a magnet! Want to discover more of his movies apart from the Ironman series. Jeremy is now playing the famous Ari Gold.
Thursday, July 09, 2015
Finished reading Maugham's "Of Human Bondage" yesterday. I had long wanted to read it. Finally found time over the last weekend to start reading.
I identify with many of the emotions, experiences, insights, disillusionments, and realizations of the protagonist. It is an autobiographical novel that draws much from the author's life.
I doubt if reading such a book would prevent anyone from taking a course of action or following a path that would eventually turn out to be a waste. I guess things can only be analyzed logically in hindsight. Therefore, even if teens read it, they may not benefit. They would nevertheless go on and make their own mistakes.
You only explain the decisions, mistakes, and thought processes of your first youth only after you have passed it by. I guess this is a book meant for people who passed their first youth.
As the protagonist shows, introspection helps you discern patterns in life and learn from your experiences. I feel there are no failures in life; there are only experiences. And how you use them to become a better person and make the most of the situations in life is all that matters.
Monday, July 14, 2014
My review of the movie, Dawn of the Planet of Apes was published in the web edition of Hans India. Here is the link:
Finally, the studio executives, writers, and the director get it right with an apes sequel. Most of the apes sequels had nonsensical names, and were terrible with utter lack of creativity. They were dished out only to milk the fan base of the original. Even Tim Burton could not get it right in 2001. It was a good decision to reboot it in 2011 instead of trying to explain the ape statue at the Lincoln Memorial!
Most fans of the apes movies loved only the 1968 original. The fact that most people rented the original and ignored the sequels bears testimony to its popularity. The original had a great premise and it had Charlton Heston! The climactic shot of a buried Statue of Liberty shocks as well as informs the audience that the ape evolution happened not on some distant planet but on earth itself. However, one wondered about the lousiness of the space mission that was actually aimed at some distant planet. The astronauts traveled light years, probably in circles, to land back on earth a few thousand years into future! The space vehicle was actually a time machine! How stupid is that?
When one learns that popular actors of the time played the apes in all the five original movies, it does not make much sense. Anyone could have played the roles and it would not have made any difference to the audience. It looked like the actors were wearing masks though it was actually heavy ape make up.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes was perhaps the most dim-witted apes sequel. It had psychic humans who survived a nuclear apocalypse and lived in a forbidden zone while apes grew dominant everywhere around them. When conflict ensues between the dominant apes and the humans, the humans detonate the Alpha-Omega bomb that destroys the earth for good! No wonder Charlton Heston was not even a wee bit interested and wanted his character to be killed off for good so that the franchise would not need him in further sequels.
This latest apes sequel does not have such illogical stuff as some obscure gas that inexplicably increase the intelligence of apes overnight, electromagnetic storms that push you thousands of years into future, or a space vehicle that travels light years only to land in the same place. It is a great story about the difficulty of leadership in turbulent times, how a handful of bigoted individuals can scuttle peace between two warring communities, about how fear and hatred fan distrust, and about discovering that members of your community are equally capable of betrayal and are not above your enemies in moral stature. The director Matt Reeves says that the premise of this movie is what happened when there was a chance for peace between humans and apes.
Ceaser is the leader of the apes who revolted against humans in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the launch film of the rebooted series. The apes take refuge in a California forest and thrive. It has been ten years since the human race infected itself with the fatal simian virus. The virus decimates the human race.
The apes have not spotted a human in years and almost presume that the human race is extinct. A small band of human survivors then arrive to locate and repair a dam that may provide power to their dilapidated San Francisco camp. Humans and apes reach a fragile peace. However, fear and hatred fan distrust on both sides and conflict ensues.
There is no question on who wins the war between humans and apes. After all, it is supposed to be the planet of the apes and not of humans ultimately. “Dawn” documents the moment when humans struggle for survival and the apes take their first step towards dominance.
The main and supporting cast all did a great job. Andy Serkis, who is known for his motion-capture roles, returns for the role of Ceaser. Jason Clarke does a good job as the benevolent human leader. Keri Russell plays his wife. Toby Kebbell plays the motion-captured role of Koba, an ape who had been a lab rat and develops hatred for humans as a result. Gary Oldman plays Koba’s human counterpart, a leader who lost his dear ones to simian flu and has only hatred for apes.
“Dawn” is perhaps the best movie of the franchise so far and with the same director returning to action, fans can’t wait for the next sequel.