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.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Workout the Stress

After media blizzard of Shah Rukh Khan's 6-pack workout for the stunning 'Darde Ishq' number in Om Shanti Om, there has been a craze for workouts amongst not only the stars but also the youth all over. Here I'm not intending to discuss the 6-pack workout, which is designed to help you develop your abdominal muscles. Nor am I going to elaborate other Performance-workouts which are primarily designed for the fitness of film-stars, sports-persons, dancers and so on, for them keep fit and perform better. This piece is essentially addressed to all persons, in whatever profession or whatever age, the owners of the incredible machine called the human body.

Most machines don't improve with use. Old pickup trucks don't gradually become Ferraris just by driving them fast, and a pocket calculator won't change into a super computer by crunching lots of numbers. The human body is different. The more that people use their muscles, the stronger they become. And unused muscles do not remain preserved, the neglect causes them to waste away. Heavy use doesn't wear muscles out, instead they grow bigger and stronger.

Exercise can alleviate stress and improve mood. When anxiety takes its toll on the body and mind, rather than turning to rage, remember the stress-reducing benefits of physical activity and determine what best suits you. In a new survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, roughly three-quarters of respondents said they experienced physical and psychological symptoms of stress. Many reported suffering from fatigue, muscle tension and headaches, as well as from irritability, nervousness and anger. Stress also interfered with personal and professional lives; about 45% said that stress negatively affected a relationship with a spouse or partner and detracted from job satisfaction. Physical activity, experts say, has the ability to counteract stress at its source. A 2005 study in the Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that symptoms of depression and bad moods were mitigated after just 30 minutes of walking on a treadmill at 60% to 70% of an individual's maximum heart rate. Studies have also shown that exercise can improve psychological resistance to stressful situations. Swimming, biking or brisk walking are excellent low-impact, beginner exercises that will yield physical and mental benefits. Cross-training, or varying a workout with different activities like weight lifting and resistance exercises, prevents both boredom and injury. It's also important, however, to avoid over-exertion, since fatigue taxes the body and can depress your mood.

To further reduce stress, think creatively about exercise options and choose a personally fulfilling activity instead of resorting to the same three machines at the gym. Try rock-climbing if you enjoy achieving a set goal, a dance class if music is your passion or a few hours at the swimming pool if your second calling is swimming. The idea is to practice a form of exercise you find engaging. With stress, you're either worrying about something that may happen or obsessing about something that already has. If instead you're present in the moment, it's a lot harder to be stressed out. And that is when you workout the stress.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Blogging A Cultural Phenomenon

Blogging is changing the media world and could, I think, foment a revolution in how journalism functions. Blogs have become a cultural phenomenon because they offer a simple, cheap way for anyone with an internet connection to start their own global publication. The result is that the spheres of journalism, politics, public relations – to name a few – have been changed inexorably by the rise of bloggers who offer alternative voices that hadn't been heard before. Blogs are more compelling than the old style of news-writing because the bloggers have a voice and emotions and are speaking direct to you. Celebrities, specially movie stars, enjoy the chance to communicate directly with their fans. Unfortunately, most of them don't stick with it long enough to make their blogs compelling reading. But a few do it very well.

Blogs do two things. First off, blogs are personal. Almost all of them are imbued with the temper of their writer. This personal touch is much more in tune with our current sensibility than were the opinionated magazines and newspapers of old.

The second thing blogs do is - seize the means of production. It's hard to underestimate what a huge deal this is. For as long as journalism has existed, writers of whatever kind have had one route to readers: They needed an editor and a publisher. Even in the most benign scenario, this process subtly distorts journalism. You find yourself almost unconsciously writing to please a handful of people - the editors looking for a certain kind of story, the publishers seeking to push a particular venture, or the advertisers who influence the editors and owners. Blogging simply bypasses this ancient ritual.

Over the past few weeks I have found myself addicted to reading blogs. The best ones offer a wonderfully brainy, personal and irreverent way of seeing the world. The way many of the blogs become part of the media as a news or a feature, my guess is that someday soon, blogs will be the backbone of print media. So while I have got lots to learn from blogs, I am always eager to be part of that conversation. I observe a big part of blogs is to encourage readers to turn the blog into a running dialogue between the bloggers and the readers.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

God is He or She?

God's gender has been a hot topic for approximately the last two decades owing in large part to the impact of women's liberation movement. Books with the titles like 'When God was a Woman', 'The Feminine Face of God', 'Woman Spirit Rising', 'Beyond God the Father', are leaping off bookshelves. Religious writers have capitulated to the signs of the times in attempts to make God 'gender neutral'.

God is beyond any comparison to human form or gender. Accordingly, the issue of whether to refer to God as He, She or It does not arise. Many people believe that Man was created in the image of God and that is good. Many people believe that God is a female and that is good. Others believe that God is an amorphous spirit without shape or form and that is good. Some believe that the omnipotent spirit of God may assume any form at will while still others believe that the face of God is to be seen in the sun, the moon, the stars, the birds, the trees and every part of Creation and that is good.

Whether God is He or She or Spirit makes absolutely no difference at all for God is God and as long as we give thanks to God for the blessings bestowed upon us and all other living things, God is happy.

Traditionally God is referred to as 'God the Father' or 'He'. However, God is satisfied with being called by any name or believed to be of any sex or no sex at all so long as there is love and respect in the heart of the worshiper.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Kolkata's Rickshaw Pullers

Among the great cities of the world, Kolkata, the home of nearly 15 million people, is often mentioned as the only one that still has a large fleet of hand-pulled rickshaws. The conveyance most identified with Kolkata is not its modern subway – a facility whose spacious stations have art on the walls and cricket matches on television monitors – but the hand-pulled rickshaws. Stories and films celebrate a primitive-looking cart with high wooden wheels, pulled by someone who looks close to needing the succor of Mother Teresa Home. The most famous scene from Bimal Roy's highly acclaimed and awarded movie, Do Bigha Zamin (1953), is when Shambhu (Balraj Sahni), the rickshaw puller, pushes himself to the limit pulling a rickshaw. The rider on the rickshaw offers Shambhu more money to pull faster because he is probably chasing his girl friend who is in a horse pulled carriage. Shambhu cannot resist the temptation and he keeps pulling faster in anticipation of getting more money. However, his wealthy customer is not worried about his plight. In Rollen Joffe film City of Joy (1992), the human horses of Kolkata are both reviled and revered.

Hand-pulled rickshaws have been a feature of Kolkata streets for more than a century. The rickshaws were first introduced in Kolkata in the late 19th century by Chinese traders, primarily to carry goods. But British rulers made them the cheap mode of transportation in 1919. It is a sad and offensive scene on the streets of Kolkata, even after 60 years of independence, to see one man sweating and straining to pull another man. People in the lanes use rickshaw as a 24-hour ambulance service. The steadiest customers are school children. Middle class families contract with a puller to take a child to school and pick him up, puller essentially becoming a family retainer. In monsoon Kolkata gets torrential rains, when the rickshaws are pulled through water that is up-to the pullers' waists.

Thanks to the mounting pressure from humanitarian agencies, the hand-pulled rickshaws of Kolkata could soon be a thing of the past. In a city which loves its traditions, the authorities and human rights groups want the rickshaws phased out. Sooner it is done, better it will be for eradicating the human disgrace and plight of Kolkata's rickshaw pullers.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Golf Balls Come First

A professor stood before his Philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar.

He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full.

They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.

Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full.

The students responded with a unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.

The students laughed.

"Now " , said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life."

"The golf balls are the important things - your God, family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions - things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full."

"The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car."

"The sand is everything else--the small stuff."

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls."

"The s am e goes for life."
"If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you."

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness."
"Play with your children."

"Take time to get medical checkups."

"Take your partner out to dinner."

"Play another 18."

"There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal."

"Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter."

"Set your priorities."

"The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked."

"It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a cup of coffee with a friend."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Street Performers/ Buskers

Busking is the practice of performing in public places for tips and gratuities. People engaging in this practice are called buskers. Busking performances can be just about anything that people find entertaining. Buskers may do: acrobatics, animal tricks, balloon modelling, card tricks, clowning, comedy, contortions & escapes, dance, fire eating, fortune-telling, juggling, magic, mime and a mime variation where the artist performs as a living statue, musical performance, puppeteering, snake charming, storytelling or recite poetry or prose as a bard, street art (sketching and painting, etc.), street theatre, sword swallowing, or even present a flea circus.

Busking can be the bottom rung of the entertainment industry. Some of the most famous groups and superstars started their careers as buskers. Examples include Joan Baez, Roni Benise, The Blue Man Group, Pierce Brosnan, Jimmy Buffett, George Burns, Cirque du Soleil, Eric Clapton, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Stephane Grappelli, Bob Hope, Jewel, Steve Martin, Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Page, Dolly Parton, Penn & Teller, Gerry Rafferty, Carlos Santana, Simon and Garfunkel, Rod Stewart, Stomp, and Robin Williams. Many other buskers have also found fame and fortune.

Interestingly, San Francisco City Administration has given full recognition to street performers as no other city might have done. Here is an extract from their notification on Street Performer program:

The Port of San Francisco welcomes Street Musicians and Street Performers to Fisherman’s Wharf. Live performances make a positive contribution to the culture and ambience of the Wharf. The Fisherman’s Wharf Pilot Street Performer Program will be in effect from November 1, 2007. The Program covers the Port’s public access areas between the western edge of Pier 41 to Hyde Street and from the southern side of the Jefferson Street sidewalk to The Embarcadero and the Bay.

The purpose of this Program is to manage the time, place, and manner of use of the 12 designated performance locations. The Guidelines and are set to ensure fair and equitable access for all performers while not interfering with the safe day-to-day operation of the Wharf. It is not mandatory to obtain a license to express yourself on Port property.

This Program encourages all performers to participate in the Program. Street Musicians and Street Performers (“Performers”[1]) are not required to audition or obtain a license to perform at the Wharf

The Program serves Street Performers including musicians, mimes, magicians, jugglers, human statues, dancers, and other forms of expression and any other activity protected by the First Amendment. It does not include non-permitted merchandise vendors. Nor does it include Street Artists who already have a permit program with the SF Arts Commission.

Two films, one produced in England (The Street Singer – 1937) and the other in India (Street Singer – 1938) have done the greatest honor to street performers:

The Street Singer: In this British musical, the trouble begins when a performer has a tiff with his singing partner during a show and ends up running away. He is costumed as a beggar and in this guise encounters a kindly orphan who has been raised by a former magician. Seeing his ragged clothing, she pities him and brings him home for a hot meal. The performer realizes that in the face of the poverty she and the magician suffer with daily, he is truly a lucky man. Later he falls in love with the orphan girl and makes her his new partner.

Street Singer: New Theatres, Calcutta produced film tells the story of two childhood friends, Bhulwa and Manju, who grow up to become street singers in Calcutta. Bhulwa dreams of becoming a stage star but it is Manju who succeeds. At the height of her fame Manju almost forgets Bhulwa until at the end – in an obviously symbolic landscape (literary showing a boat washed ashore in a storm) the two are united.

The two films have one thing common, they both had the greatest singers of their time as their leading men – Arthur Tracy and K. L. Saigal. The celebrated Street Singer on radio and recordings in 1930s and 40s, Arthur Tracy, reading about Fraderick Lonsdale play called The Street Singer, decided to adopt that as his identity. In 1931 he made his radio debut under that name and his autobiography is also titled The Street Singer. K. L. Saigal was a legend of his time whose every song in 1930s and 40s was a super hit song. His all time hit song from the film Street Singer – Babul mora naihar to chhuto jaaye – achieved immortality.

Hats off to the street performers. May their hats be full of money when they take them around after their performance.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Open Letter To Prime Minister-in-waiting

Dear Advaniji,

Writing to you on the eve of special Parliament session to discuss and vote on Indo-US Nuclear Treaty can only have one motivation – either to support you on your decision to oppose the treaty or convince you to support the treaty. In either way, I am not qualified and powerful enough to influence your decision. But as a common man of our country, I have the right to know why the Prime Minister -in-waiting would want to deprive me and my next generations of the nuclear energy which is so essential for our economic progress. I can understand the Left parties opposing the deal tooth and nail because of being blinded by their anti-US obsession, but you and your party has no such disability. As a matter of fact, BJP has always been more pro-US than even the Congress party. It is, therefor, all the more mystifying what makes you deadly against the deal, and why would you be following the blind so blindly. If you oppose the deal knowing well that the deal is in the nation's interest, you are definitely doing it to take political advantage of the situation to defeat the UPA government by siding with the Left. Please Advaniji, before you go to sleep today, put your hand on your heart and try to listen to what your conscience conveys. I am certain it will stop you from ditching the nation to defeat the government only to hasten your chance of becoming the next Prime Minister. If you still go ahead and side with the Left in opposing the nuclear deal, you will only be doing it at the risk of damaging the country's interests for which the nation will not forgive you. This is your last chance, tonight before you go to bed, to decide whether you want to rise above politics and take the Right decision for country's progress, or want to blindly follow the Left ignoring the national interest. You are wise enough to know how the nation will react to your response to the voice of your conscience. Any wrong move now, you may have to remain Prime Minister-in-waiting for all your life. The Left will not come to your help then. They will only have the last laugh.


Tilak Rishi

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Solar Energy for Bachchans' "Unforgettable Tour"

The media greeted announcement of Bachchans' “Unforgettable Tour” with front-page photographs of Bachchans holding solar lanterns. It not only symbolized the solar energy the Bachchans and the troupe will have to make their shows unforgettable, but also showed how passionately Sr. Bachchan has been promoting initiatives to improve environment and check global warming. Adopting Green Carpet instead of the traditional Red Carpet at IIFA inaugurations, as its ambassador, was a unique and very effective way to demonstrate the importance of working to offset environmental impacts. Having solar lanterns in hand is yet another way to attract public attention to this energy resource that is practically limitless with minimal impact on environment. Assured low cost energy is the key for improving the quality of life and for economic growth and prosperity of nations. With the spiraling growth in global demand for energy, driven by ever rising economic activity and growing population, more of coal, petrol and gas are being extracted and burnt, dumping billions of tones of Green House Gases into the atmosphere. The fast depleting fossil fuels put our future energy security in peril even while snowballing environmental impacts like global warming threaten us with more frequent and more devastating natural disasters. Both as individual users and as responsible members of society we need to address the twin challenges that can no longer brook delay. Under these circumstances, clean and sustainable energy technologies like solar offer the best solutions. Amitabh Bachchan's initiative to promote the adoption and wider use of this energy resource must be applauded.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

How Real Is Reality TV?

Reality television has the potential to tern its participants into national celebrities, at least for a short period. This is most notable in talent- search programs, which have created music stars in many countries in which these have been aired. Millions watch reality for the fun of it. Which other genre can encompass unscripted dramas, makeover sagas, celebrity exposes, talent extravaganzas and just about any kind of competition you can think of, and a few that you probably can't. Come finale and your heart starts beating faster and faster till at last, after a lot of dilly dallying, the celebrity chief guest announces the winner. For a moment your heart stops beating. The winner's name spells shock for many. How come it is not the one who was a winner throughout the contest. Judges had always put him on top and he consistently remained ahead with viewers' vote -count. Then what went wrong ? No one can give a clear answer. You have to content with the vague one – luck was with the winner. And that is when you start analyzing the reality show you really loved.

Just how real is reality TV. While it certainly varies from show to show, consider this: All of the concepts were created by someone (usually the producer), the people who participate in the show were auditioned or hired in some way, and while the footage may be real, it is unusually extremely edited. Reality shows typically don't have scripts, but there is often a shooting script or an outline that details aspects of an episode or part of the show. Ultimately, reality producers and editors have a lot of control over what happens on the show just by the sheer fact that they have put the people together in certain situations, and they are controlling what footage gets aired and what doesn't. Reality TV shows are supposedly populated by real people, not actors. But in reality, a lot of real people auditioning for these shows are out- of- work or would be actors trying to get screen time. You can go on and on with your analysis till you come to the conclusion that reality shows are in reality a hoax on reality and the winner of the last show, who shocked many, might not have been the real winner. Even many of the contestants, eliminated earlier in the show, could have lasted longer. And much of the fight amongst the judges during the show might have been fake and staged as per the invisible script to push up the ratings of the show. Even their rebuke of the participants might not have been real nor an imaginary triangular affair amongst the participants in one of the most popular shows, which was played up by the judges for the same purpose. But as long as it's interesting, no one seems to be complaining – people will keep coming back for more. Love them or hate them, reality shows are here to stay, and growing in number each year, it seems.