Tilak Rishi's weblog

Musings on writing, expression, world politics, journalism, movies, philosophy, life, humour...

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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Beware mosquitos, I have the mobile!

"Shoo mosquitos with the mobile" (IndiaTimes Sept. 29). It is the most heartening headline to read amidst some scary news the same day on the deadly mosquito-born deseases, spreading all over the world, from back home Alwar in India to Contra Costa County in USA. The buzz of my cellphone can now buzz off the mosquitos. The application, when initiated, produces some sounds that are silent to my ears but loud enough for the mosquito to leave me alone. And the application is almost free, though worth a fortune as far as the relief from repelling the mosquito goes. The residents of Contra Costa County no longer have to remain in qurantine on account of the West Nile Virus caused by infected mosquitos. The people in Alwar and alike towns also do not have to worry about the perpetual danger of malaria from the mosquitos that breed in billions in stagnant rainwater and choked drains, especially after the Monsoons. They simply have to shout to the mosquito, " Stop! Or my mobile will shoo." Even that may not be necessary, as the mosquitos and all the similar species are equipped with natural sensors. T-mobile, iTunes, Java games, slash-dot mobile and tux-mobile are all very fascinating. However, the first to go for the residents in the mosquito infested areas is the mosquito repelling application. It sure will be very helpful, at least till mosquitos invent an immune strategy against this application too, as they have done for all the other devices man has developed against the invicible mosquito.

Talking about mosquitos, I cannot resist telling about the belief that the residents of Alwar have living with Mosquito Menace. According to them the one who has lived in Alwar is assured of an entry to heaven because he has already served his term in hell for whatever sins he might have committed in his life. A word of relief for them- have the new device and forget about living in hell.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Naming the storms

"Katrina causes NO ENTRY sign on the road to New Orleans"! A movie buff as I am, reading the news heading I instantly thought of our own Katrina Kaif, and the latest Bollywood blockbuster NO ENTRY. However, being hammered by the minute to minute reporting on the devastations caused by hurricane Katrina, I immediately realized that the report was all about not allowing residents to re-enter New Orleans until announcements to the contrary are made by the authorities. But I was still curious to know why they had plagiarized the name of Katrina Kaif in naming their hurricane? Was it to pay back our producers in the same coin, who are all the time borrowing from the Hollywood blockbusters without ever acknowledging it in their credits or something unrelated. So I went to Google to get to the bottom of the matter. As was expected of Google, it opened floodgates of all the information on naming the storms.

In early 20th Century, an Australian meteorologist was the first to have a brainwave to assign names to storms and cyclones as an easy way of communications between the forecasters and the general public. His idea was immediately adopted. It would be a wonderful opportunity to name the destructive tropical cyclones after people whom the men in authority despised. After World War II, the U.S. meteorologists followed suit and started naming storms after their ex-girl friends or wives who had destroyed their lives of love and happiness, by dumping them. This kicked off another storm, this time by the feminist activists who protested against naming of destructive storms after women. This led to World Meteorological Organisation choosing a list of names that included men also.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2000, tropical cyclones in the North-West Pacific basin got Asian names after flowers, animals, birds etc. There is a move to give names to North Indian Ocean cyclones also. Tropical cyclone PYAAR is the first to hit the Bay of Bengal coast during this Monsoon. It is not yet clear how the name was chosen- from a Bollywood movie which might have bombed at the box office and destroyed the director's career or by a digruntled meteorologist whose life was devastated by unhappy ending of his love (pyaar) story? Whatever it may be, the big question will come when the full list of names for all the five years upto 2010 is to be decided, as is done for other regions. In a democracy as big as ours, it will be all the more difficult. Officers having authority to select names of storms will have their chance to settle scores with their ex-bosses. If they decide for female names, those alligned to Congress may come up with names such as Sushma and Uma, and those favoring BJP may go for Indira and Sonia. An officer with Marxist leanings may opt for Mamta and yet another from U.P.may suggest Maya. The religeous minded may dig into mythology and come up with Menka, Kaikayee or Dropadi. Anyway, it will be interesting to see the complete list when it is completed. Till then let's pray for SHANTI on our shores.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The world I wish to rediscover

I was watching on TV, President Bush, standing in Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter, New Orleans, was addressing the nation. The square was empty, not a soul seen anywhere. The city had been cleared earlier of the last of the residents remaining there after evacuation in the aftermath of Katrina. Those who still might have been there were not to be seen. Imagine a slightly different scenario. The city still had some life left, with the residents wishing to hear the President right at the Square. Would the President be still addressing the nation, standing in the heart of the city with the people? No way, am I crazy not to know that it would be not at all safe for the President to attempt any such mis-adventure? Even if he wanted to act brave before his people, his security would have jumped in to prevent such a move for security reasons.

This is the present scenario for not only the President of the United States but all the world leaders. I feel sad and I recollect the action of overzealous security of the Prime Minister of India, late Rajiv Gandhi, not very long ago. The place was right on the picturesque road along the Aravali Hills leading to Alwar and further up the famous Tiger Sanctuary at Sariska. The wayside wooden shops at Nuh and other small towns displayed colorful items handcrafted by village craftsmen, and were a great attraction for tourists. Suddenly something happened that changed the entire scene. The Prime Minister called a conclave of Cabinet Ministers and their aides in the scenic surroundings of Sariska Tiger Sanctuary, on the lines of the US Presidents making news at Camp David or the presidential ranch. The plan promptly put the Prime Minister's security into action and all those wayside shops were literally lifted hundreds of yards to the interiors, not visible from the road, as long as the VVIPs were enjoying serious deliberations at the Tiger Den. The Ministrial meetings may have lasted for a few days, but the ordeal suffered by the people living along the way lasted much longer. In fact, the place never came back to its original lively form, the people having lost confidence, not knowing when another Prime Minister or President may decide to spend a day at Sariska.

Down my memory lane comes another time, of another Prime Minister and a President, and a set of shops which were also situated on the VIP route but had a different story to tell. The year was 1959. Pundit Nehru was the Prime Minister. He had just received President Eisenhower, on a state visit, the first US President to visit India. As their motorcade arrived near the downtown Connaught Place in the heart of New Delhi, it stopped in front of the flourishing fruit and vegetable market. Both, Pundit Nehru and President Eisenhower came out of their cars for the traditional welcome with flowers and garlands by the vegetable and fruit vendors, the common people. They got themselves photographed with them and some lucky ones even shaked hands with the world's two great leaders. This was the scene whenever a foreign dignitary, a President or a Prime Minister passed that point on their arrival. And this is the world I wish to rediscover, sans the threat of security that separates the peoples' leaders from their own people.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Bollywood romance-then and now

The director of "Chocolate" adds on the deleted smooch scenes in the movie, succumbing to popular pressure (read distributors and actors). In this context I recollect the golden era of great movies when Dilip Kumar would be seen playing an antique piano while wooing his ladylove with lines, somewhat like, "Tu kahe agar to jivan bhar mein geet sunata jaoon". In movies then the proverbial tree proved safe bet in courting scenes to keep the lovers at decent distance from each other. Still safer, lovers in some movies remained separated in much of the footage of the film, content to call from long distance, "Awaz de kahan hei, dunia meri jawan hei". And yet the movies celebrated silver and golden jubilees. Then came along Raj Kapoor's 'Bobby', along with it the new trend of youthful romance, with plenty of hugs between the lead pairs. From then on there was no stopping, especially after the liberalization in the Censor Board policy, and singing and dancing "Choli ke piche kya hei" and the sexier numbers that followed, the films have reached a stage where lead actors compete in the smooch game on the silver screen. Why not, the youth today is far more liberal and fun loving than in yester years and looks for a free life style of unrestricted entertainment in films. Taking no risks or rather playing to popular demand, producers fill their films with bold scenes and daring songs and dance sequences. Hopefully, the present trend of sex overtones in screenplay and songs in films is only a passing phase, which will end when the audience taste changes and it gets fed up with too much sex in films. And it won't be too long a wait, as the super success of films like "Black" and "Parineeta" shows.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

From Bollywood with laughs

The image “http://im.rediff.com/movies/2003/jul/29johny1.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The image “http://im.rediff.com/movies/2003/aug/01hung3.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The image “http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/images/24_7_2004_mehmood.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The common man, living most of the time in stress and strains of the day-to-day drudgery, has always looked to comedies for respite and relief. Hindi cinema has carried on the tradition of discovering and rediscovering the comedians from the bygone era till today, who excelled in evoking laughter with their talent and perfect comic timing.

The conventional comedian came on the screen as the hero's companion and clicked in a big way when Lal Haveli, made in the early '40s, became the biggest hit of the year. Yaqub, the great comedian of yester years, played singer- actor Surendra's friend in the film. Followed another hit, Ustadon Ke Ustad in which Mukri, the shortest comedian with longest innings, played companion of the tallest hero, Sheikh Mukhtar. And the formula for the hit film was ready. Playing the hero's friend in film after film, comedians Agha, Gope, Johney Walker, Mehmood, Rajendra Nath, Deven Verma, Jagdeep, Keshto Mukherji, Asrani and others became increasingly popular. Tun Tun and Shobha Khote deserve special mention for their heartwarming performances. Later many of them even turned producers.

Comedian-turned-producers had shown that they could be explosively comic when they had all the freedom to handle the script. Bhagwan, a versatile actor and director besides being a comedian, produced some very successful comedies including a super hit, Albela, with Geeta Bali giving a great performance as the leading lady. Kishore Kumar, the hero-cum-comedian produced the all time hit comedy Chalti Ka Naam Gadhi. If comedy is the populists' art, Mehmood was one of the greatest of populist artistes. He made his movies not for the award committees or critics but for the masses. Perhaps, it was to please his fans that he started depending heavily on double-meaning dialogues for his comedies, an inspiration for many present day producers to make similar movies. I. S. Johar, a journalist-turned comedian-cum-producer, caught the audience imagination with his biting, at times juicy, satire. Of the many hit movies he produced, Shrimatiji and Hum Sab Chor Hein were more popular. At the peak of his popularity, Johney Walker also produced some slapstick comedies, including the hit Joru Ka Ghulam.

The comedy team clicked in a big way when Johar Mehmood In Goa with I. S. Johar and Mehmood became a big box office hit. Padosan, another all time comedy hit, owed its astounding success as much to teaming the two great comedians Kishore Kumar and Mehmood together, as to the superb performance of Sunil Dutt. Although new comers then, Asrani and Paintal proved quite a hit comedy team in Aaj Ki Taza Khabar. Dhoomal and Mohan Choti received better audience response when they appeared together as a team. Sundar, the comedian with the largest number of movies to his credit, was at his best when teamed with Majnu.

Character artistes-cum-comedians had been often cast in important roles in Hindi films but no one ever reached the heights Om Prakash touched in his long career. Right from his Dassi days in Lahore to Aye Bahar, Pehli Jhalak, Chaman, Ladki, Azaad, Namak Halal etc., he dominated the Hindi cinema for decades. The only other actor who came close to him in comic timing and innovative humour was David. His long list of hit movies included Kismat, Naya Tarana, Dharti Ke Lal, Chandni Raat, Ladli, Samadhi, Sargam, Hamara Ghar and Boot Polish. Jeevan, Ajit, Shakti Kapoor and Kanhaiya Lal, the veteran artistes of long standing, used their comic talents to turn their negative roles into comedy. Jokes revolving around Ajit's lines have ever remained popular. Radha Krishan was another bright artiste who was able to make audience roar with laughter by his peculiar way of using his voice. He was also the luckiest comedian whose every movie was a hit.

Growth of star system in the '70s and increasing popularity of thrillers in the '80s sidelined the comedians for quite sometime. With the arrival of Johney Lever on the big screen, there is a welcome revival of the comedians' role in Hindi cinema. Paresh Rawal, Arshad Warsi, Rajpal Yadav joined in to steal crucial scenes from big stars with their bright comedies and super timings. They are in great demand and deserve long innings like their predicessors of the bygone era, but it is not that easy for them. They are facing big competition from stars turning comedians, especially after the super success of situational comedies sans conventional comedians, such as Dhoom, Mujh Se Shadi Karogi, Babli Aur Bunty, Maine Pyar Kyon Kiya and No Entry. Still, with their outstanding talent in comedy they have created a fan following of their own and likely to keep coming for us in film after film from Bollywood with laughs.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Brain-drain to brain-gain (2)

Thanks to all the readers who made my earlier blog of the same title a big hit, I'm motivated to write this sequel to my blog, like they do it all the time for blockbuster movies. I hope the readers, especially the critics, will find answers to most of the questions that were raised in comments on my earlier blog. The main thrust in this blog is to dispel the notion that there is anything like IT engineers in US v/s IITs in India- they are both on the same side and working hand in hand to make India shining.

Initially, hardly any Western executives would dare explore India for IT outsourcing- what, isn't it just a land of snake charmers and fables where corporate westerner would feel lost in the culture, people, bureaucracy, red tape and get scared off by food poisoning and lack of infrastructure. They were the Indian- born, successfully integrated IT professionals in the West, that paved the way to and for India- built the first partnership with Indian outsourcing firms, helped open the Bangalore offices for their US IT firms. They were the perfect and trustworthy bridge for US companies to send back to India to set up shop there. Check out the bio-data for all the Indian heads for IBM, Microsoft, Sun, HP, Intel,..., all studied in US, worked for parent companies in US, then helped open up their offices in India. Ofcourse, great brains existed within India itself from IITs and elsewhere that started Wipro, Tata, Satyam and the likes. This Indian success was the result of the perfect marriage of those engineers in India and the Indian-born engineers settled in the West, together influencing and convincing the West to take the first chance, the first step offshore in India, the land of the high-tech brains and top software engineers, and not the land of snake charmers.

This blog is to bring positive ANAND only.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Brain-drain to brain-gain

The year was 1982. Our son, Alok, had just completed his schooling and was keen to go to USA for undergraduation courses in computer. So were we, but our application to Reserve Bank of India for permit to remit fees in foreign exchange to a university in the U.S. was outright rejected--"There is no need for computer engineers in India." However, thanks to the timely intervention of a Member of Parliament, the RBI relented and issued the permit. We must now cross the mother of all hurdles, the US counsellor for visas, to make it to the US--"There is no automation in India, why would you want to spend so much money on computer courses in U.S.A.?" Alok's presence of mind saved the day for him-- "Sooner or later computerization will come to India too, I want to be fully qualified for it." And he joined the University of San Francisco for majoring in computers.

Thanks to India's most modern and computer savvy Prime Minister, the late Rajiv Gandhi, computerisation came to India. Alok was in his third year at the USF, when to his greatest surprise, his room-mate in the hostel gave him a message from Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi-- "India is all set to start computerization in a big way, and awaits your coming back after completing your courses in computers." The room-mate was son of Morocco's Prime Minister, who on official visit to India had mentioned to his counterpart that his son was doing computers in the US and his room-mate was from India. Rajiv Gandhi requested him to convey the message to the student from India through his son.

That was in the Eightees when the US embassy was very reluctant to issue visa to Indian students for studies in computers. Now after two decades, Fortune 500 headhunters are always on the lookout for Indian computer engineers-the hottest commodities. American universities love the kids from India, and so do the American companies. Thousands of Indian engineers have come to the U.S. in recent years to work in computer and software companies. "Microsoft, Intel, Sun Microsystems-you name it, I can't imagine a major area where Indian software engineers haven't played a leading role. How many jobs have Indian entrepreneurs created over the last 15-20 years, hundreds of thousands, I would guess,"says Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and one of Silicon Valley's most important venture capitalists.

From India's perspective, the best part of the presence of Indian engineers in the U.S. is that each one of them is very sincere in saying the same thing-"I may be in the U.S., but my heart is in India." They have contributed to India's economic progress by the regular remittances of foreign exchange back home. The time has come, most of them are ready to return home to participate in India's ongoing leap forward in the Information Technology. The biggest brain-drain of the last two decades has become the biggest brain-gain for India in the last two years.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Put gadgets in their proper place

Not all tools given by modern technology, however magnificent they may be, can replace conventional methods which in many cases are more reliable, colorful and effective. This was amply, though inadvertently, proved at the world's high-tech capital, the Silicon Valley in California, USA. A college there, preparing to reopen after long summer vacations, continues to employ a contractor every year who brings his herd of goats to graze on the wild growth of shrubs, for days till the grounds are cleared of the wild growth. In the same high-tech Silicon Valley, a sewage-line plumber relies on the smelling power of his pigs to locate the leaking spot in the underground sewage line. Donna Karen, the world renowned fashion designer, has her home-gym in New York equipped with the latest high-tech fitness accessories, but the exercise she enjoys doing is to send her car and driver to office with her bags, while she walks to work. Indeed, there are innumerable examples where men and women have access to numerous high-tech gadgets, but they are happier doing things the traditional way. Can a pullover produced on the most modern knitting machine match the warmth and beauty of a hand made sweater, knitted with love and care by a loved one? Fax may be the fastest way to send your communication, but it is certainly not meant for men who make reading and writing a romance of life. Hands and human endeavor cannot be obliterated by computers, microwave ovens and the rest. Let us put gadgets properly in their place before we become all too willing slaves to them.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

What price progress

There was a time when I felt very concerned for the man on the road who was talking aloud to himself. Poor man, I thought, must be under too much stress or worse still, a victim of nervous breakdown. No more concern or compassion for the man now. Not that I have become callous or insensitive, but because I know for certain that the man is not sick, he is only using his cellphone, discreetly designed to be invisible to others. And he has company, most others on the road doing the same thing, talking to themselves while walking or driving. To them it is the best way to shorten the distance to their destination, even if it may shorten the life of others on the road. A survey conducted in California (USA) concluded that cellphone users made a major contribution to road accidents and a bill is under consideration to ban the use of cellphones while on the wheel. Till then men like me, who are conspicuous on the road for not talking to themselves, need to be careful from those who do. Ironically, most of the time we all talk to ourselves when talking on 'phone. It is because of the prevailing trend not to pick up the phone, but to let the caller keep talking to the answering machine. Incidentally, answering machine is actually a 'no answer machine'. It loses its voice after the beep. You may keep talking into the machine but without expecting it to answer your queries. The right to answer rests with the owner of the machine, who may respond to your call at his will, or may not call back at all, depending on your identity as a caller. Unlike servants of the old times, the machine is too smart to to give a hint that the called one is very much there and listening to the caller's message on the machine. Gadgets like this motivate the modern man to play games with another man, rather than have the joy of reaching out to him with a warm response.