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, October 30, 2008

Trick Or Treat!

My wife and I were visiting our son in USA. Halloween, mother of all festivals, was due in a few days. There was ghostly excitement all around. We saw it right from the sunrise when we went for our morning walk on the sidewalks on the city streets. The skeletons of ghosts seemed to be guarding the homes or enjoying themselves dancing in the front lawns or just lying there, as if dead tired after all night duty. The only new additions which were not ghostly were the large and small pumpkins placed on the stairs to the entrance. Our curiosity to know more about this strange and scary but fascinating festival was all the more aroused when we went browsing in a nearby departmental store during the day. Store was full of different type of fancy dresses and scary masks displayed prominently which were being picked by enthusiastic children accompanied by their mothers. On way back we stopped by at our neighbor, who had become our best guide on the U.S. ever since we arrived in her neighborhood, and she was so happy to quench our curiosity on Halloween.

The origin of Halloween is amongst many of the different customs that were taken to the United States by Irish and Scottish immigrants in the nineteenth century. It was believed that the spirits of the dead rose out of their graves and wandered, trying to return to the homes where they formerly lived. Frightened people tried to appease these wandering spirits by offering them gifts of fruit and nuts. They began the tradition of placing plates of the finest food and bits of treats that the household had to offer on their doorsteps, as gifts, to appease the hunger of the ghostly wanderers. If not placated, people feared that the spirits would kill their flocks or destroy their property. The only thing the superstitious people knew to do to protect themselves on such an occasion was to masquerade as one of the demonic hoard, and hopefully blend in unnoticed among them. Wearing masks and other disguises and blackening the face with soot were originally ways of hiding oneself from the spirits of the dead who might be roaming around. In many parts of Britain and Ireland this night used to be known as 'Mischief Night', which meant that people were free to go around the village playing pranks and getting up to any kind of mischief without fear of being punished. and they developed into 'trick or treat'. Over time the custom changed and the town's children went from house to house, the housewives would give them candy to keep from being tricked when the children would shout "Trick or Treat!".

The Halloween evening was, indeed, a very interesting experience, when one after the other, batches of children in their bewitching fancy dresses kept coming to knock on our door and shout with one voice “Trick or Treat”. Our son and daughter-in-law were well stocked for the onslaught and said “Treat” while filling their small halloween handbags with the finest candies. Some of the children extended the “Trick or Treat” to its full version:

“Trick or treat, Smell my feet
Give me something good to eat!!!”

The entire scenario seemed familiar, reminding us of the scene during the festival of Lori in Punjab, India, when children went around the neighborhood collecting money and sweets, and singing some folklore that ended somewhat like this:

“Long live your jodi
Cry or howl, Give us lori!!!”

Scared to death, within some days following the grand festival of ghosts, we actually had a close encounter with a real ghost. My wife and I were on our usual long walks on trails in the hills around El Granada, our town, when we saw a beautiful lady wearing a blue skirt approaching us at a lonely patch of our path. As she was close enough for us to greet her with a “Good Morning”, we were flabbergasted to find she had vanished without a trace. With memories of the ghostly festival fresh in our minds, we got scared and turned to return home without completing the distance to our usual destination. As we turned, we again saw the lady, walking away and disappearing in the dense fog. Returning home, we straight went to our friend and guide to solve the mystery of the vanishing beauty in blue:

The Blue Lady is the ghost of a woman reportedly seen in and around the Moss Beach Distillery Cafe in Moss Beach, California; she is so-named because she usually dressed all in blue. According to the ghostly coast-side legend, some 72 years ago a beautiful, young woman met by chance, a handsome dangerous man and fell in love with him. This sophisticated ladies' man was, say some, a piano player in the bar. The naive young woman, always dressed in blue was already married to another but her unsuspecting husband and young son never knew of the illicit affair. She made many trips to the restaurant to be with her lover. The beautiful lady in blue died in a violent automobile accident and it is here at the Distillery you will now find her searching for her lover. Many strange events have been documented since that time that can not be explained such as mysterious phone calls from no one, levitating checkbooks, locked rooms from the inside without any other means of entry, women diners losing one ear ring and then several of these are found in one place weeks later, date tampering with computers, sightings by several stray walkers in the area, and continue to hear of new events that cannot be explained.

We did not dare to go for a walk on that trail again, even though “this ghost was not destructive with her pranks”, as our friend put it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Age of the People Paparazzi

This blog is inspired in its entirety by Big B's blog (184 (i) dated October 24, 2008), wherein he shows a video of a crowd of cameramen surrounding the ambulance that carried him to hospital in an emergency relating to his recent illness, and writes:

“It will be observed through the video that has been posted, the manner in which an invasion of one's privacy even in a moment of grave emergency is violated. There is scant respect for the occasion or a compliance of ethics. It is in fact a desperate need to get that one image or images that shall seek satisfaction from your station head. It is business for them and a medical emergency for us.”

It is ironical that the incident occurred on the day Amitabh Bachchan was to be honored with award for being the best Citizen Journalist by the media, the same people who also encouraged the paparazzi to invade his privacy that day. The media, print or electronic, need not necessarily be involved directly with such a despicable scene as none from the camera-clicking crowd might be on their payroll, but they cannot absolve themselves from the blame. But for their offering big money to buy such images, the age of People Paparazzi would not have been ushered in. The age in which no celebrity in the world is safe from becoming victim of the people paparazzi. There are four billion mobile phones in the world today with cameras which have led the way in selling the public's images to websites, magazines, newspapers and TV around the world. Some of the biggest scoops include –

Karina Kapur kissing Shahid Kapur in a Mumbai Pub - Rs.10,000.
Ash-Abhi wedding – Rs.100,000.
Karina Kapur romancing Saif Ali – Rs. 20,000.
King Khan-Salman Khan fight – Rs.50,000.

How do the paparazzi sell their photos? Its very easy too. Anyone can email pictures from their cell phone or computer to the celebrity photo agency within minutes, which in turn sells them off to the highest bidder. (Some paparazzi do work independently or start their own agencies.) A typical deal gives 60 percent of the proceeds to the photographer and 40 percent to the middleman. If the photographer used information from the agency—such as, say, "Big B suddenly taken ill and will be taken to hospital immediately from his residence"—the agency might take an additional 10 percent. That extra money often goes toward paying off inside sources such as bodyguards or personal assistants.

Paparazzo was the name of a news photographer in "La Dolce Vita," the famous film by Italian director Federico Fellini. That name soon turned into a noun used to describe the buzzing hordes of shutter-bugs who earned a living by stalking out the rich and famous. In recent years, and especially since the death of Princess Diana, the term "paparazzo" has received a negative connotation. Today, the term is often used to distinguish between reckless star-chasers and more conservative photographers who work official events and studio shoots. There are plenty of agencies that represent paparazzi. Agencies try to sell pictures within 24 hours. The agency crops the images, adds captions, and wires them in digital form to publications around the world. A publication will typically buy exclusive rights to print the photo. Celebrity magazines and tabloids will also commission agencies to get certain pictures. If the editors at Mid-Day wanted a shot of Amitabh Bachchan coming out of the hospital, they might offer photographers a few hundred rupees a day. Exclusive shots net a great deal more, it doesn't bother the media whether they're taken by the most aggressive paparazzi. It's a tragic sign of the times, when someone actively hires a paparazzi to follow a celebrity even inside a hospital where he may be fighting for his life.. Really, really sad.

As a solution to the problem posed by paparazzi in Malibu City, an ocean-side enclave of Los Angeles, where Hollywood stars freely move, local government officials are considering regulations that aim to protect the privacy and safety interests of celebrities hounded by the paparazzi. Earlier this year, Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine proposed creating a "personal safety zone" that would require paparazzi to stay several feet away from the celebrities they photograph. Some such law needs to be enacted by the Government for the safety of our own beloved Bollywood stars. That may not be politically practicable, or if feasible may not be easily enforceable. Thanks to the invention of anti-paparazzi sunglasses, celebrities have another recourse to save themselves from the onslaught of the paparazzi. They work by mounting two small infrared lights on the front. The wearer is completely inconspicuous to the human eye, but cameras only see a big white blur where your face should be. Who knows, these glasses are already in vogue amongst our stars, some of who are always scene wearing sunglasses!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Live-in v/s Marriage

My grand father married my grand mother without knowing her, seeing her in person, or even in a photograph. The family priest, or was it the family barber, who brought a proposal from bride's parents, the boy's parents approved it, and they married and lived happily thereafter. My father was shown my mother's photograph before their marriage, not to get his approval but only to let him know how his would-be-wife looks. They too lived a very happy married life as long as they lived. My elder brothers were given the opportunity to give their approval for marriage after seeing their would be wives in person, but in the presence of family members from both sides. By the time my turn came, the parents had become more liberal to let me marry the girl of my choice. Still they liked to see the girl, know her family and, in fact, take the marriage proposal themselves to the girls parents. Then came our son's time, when love marriage became the norm, though parents' blessings before or after the marriage was still considered a must for an auspicious beginning to a new life, or as a gesture to show respect to them. That was it, no more modernization of the wedding wows, at least not amongst the traditional Indian families. Live-ins were unheard of in earlier times, accept in the context of a random filthy rich cohabiting with a concubine for extra-marital flick.

In India, live-in couples are still comparatively rare, confined mainly to celebrities in the movie world. Though people enjoy watching films like Pyaar Mein Twist and Salaam Namaste, which are quite open about live-in relationships, Indian culture still considers the concept sacrilegious. Yet, the trend seems to have caught on. And it is more prevalent among people going abroad for studies or work. These young men and women who are away from home without any family or local guardians are forced into such arrangements by circumstances. Apart from emotional support, they get to pool up finances for accommodation. They are not hesitant as the country encourages an open culture and there is no family to question them on the issue. In this context there was an eye-opening anecdote in my neighborhood in the U.S. An Indian woman in her early Thirties was living-in with her American boy friend for quite sometime. Suddenly the couple split. Reason, the woman's parents were to visit her on vacation, and she did not want to shock them with her live-in relationship.. My wife and I came to know the parents while on our walks in the nearby park. Their only topic of talk was their daughter - “We are very concerned for her remaining single for the sake of her career; our only purpose of paying her this visit is to put pressure on her to get married and to present her with several suitable matches from India to chose from, but she has no time to even look at their photographs; she works very hard, working till wee hours at her work”, and so on. Poor parents, they remained worried for their daughter's wedding till their departure, not knowing she would be reunited with her live-in boy friend as soon as their flight took off. In another case, the live-in American girl friend of an Indian boy was keen to see his country. He informed his family that he would be bringing with him a female colleague on the trip, to seek their approval of her as a match for him. Unexpectedly for him, the family was overexcited in not only giving their instant approval but also in insisting on their marrying during that very trip. The couple was in a fix, they were not ready for the commitment, and somehow saved themselves from the situation by making several excuses, short of revealing their true relationship. The couple continued their live-in relationship after returning to enjoy it while it lasts. Poor Indian youth abroad, they have not only to bear the brunt of cultural explosion, but also have to keep it hidden from their families back home.

Live-in came into their lives in the West as an arrangement of convenience vis-a-vis commitment in married life. Most men opt for live-in to avoid marital responsibilities and obligations in divorce related settlements if the marriage fails. On the other hand, women enter live-in relationships to trust and hope it may lead towards settled life in eventual marriage. If disappointment comes, they will be the first to walk away. Live-in is never meant to be life long, it either ends into a happy marriage or a sad split for the couple. At best live-in relationship is just a match practice before a match. It can never replace the real match, the system of marriage in the society.

Results from research by eminent professionals pronounce married men and women derive satisfaction from their spouse's happiness unlike those people who live together without marriage; a married person is significantly happier in life if his/ her partner is leading a cheerful life; there is no sign of such an effect on couples who are cohabiting; the institution of marriage induces the habit of sharing among spouses who not only share their material belongings; they also try to be part of every aspect of each other's life through smooth and rough times. The concept of risk sharing between individuals in a non-marital relationship was found to be almost negligible. The level of commitment in a live-in relationship tends to be less because when you are married, your family is also involved. A common reason for wanting to get married is security. Sooner or later, those in live-in relation learn that married life is blissful. Not that married couples don't have tough conversations every now and then, but it doesn't feel like marriage itself is hard.



Sunday, October 19, 2008

Smoking Strictly Prohibited!

Long before the world's largest smoking ban, with a nationwide edict prohibiting smoking in all public places, came into effect in India on October 2, 2008, to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, we have been used to seeing the “Smoking Strictly Prohibited” sign in public buses. The 'strictly' part of the sign was applicable only while the conductor was going from seat to seat to give tickets. Once he completed the round and settled on the front seat to share a smoke with the driver, several of the passengers followed suit to have the pleasure of smoking a cigarette or preferably a 'bidi', the common-man's smoke in the countryside. This was the norm except when the driver or the conductor or a passenger belonged to the Sikh community, who religiously stopped smoking in the bus. So, the smoking ban in the buses was usually enforced by a stray presence of a Sikh in the buses. I wonder how the new countrywide ban will be enforced, especially in the most parts where Sikhs' presence is minimal. Of course, the enforcement agencies like the local police force is there to see the new regulation is rigidly complied with by the public. Wow, what a windfall for them! Another source of income added for the resourceful policeman, may be more lucrative than the long ongoing ones like committing driving offenses or indecent behavior in public places. Anyway, if we can really enforce the smoking ban, like they are already doing in many countries, it will go a long way to ensure better health for the nation. Research shows that bans decrease the overall number of cigarettes people smoke and in some cases, actually result in people quitting.

With smoking ban, India joins the vast majority of countries who have a smoking ban already in force in one form or another. In the 1990s, California became the first state in the U.S. to issue a smoking ban, and this was in restaurants. Since that time, many cities have taken up the drive to ban cigarette smoking in public locations, particularly restaurants. Interestingly, for the first time in the 30-year history of legalized gambling in Atlantic City, gamblers aren't allowed to smoke while playing the slots or table games. The Belmont City Council in California is breaking new ground with a smoking ban in multifamily buildings. In Palo Alto, you have to keep walking if you want to smoke on the side-walks. Less than one year after France imposed a nationwide ban on smoking in most public places (including hospitals, schools and offices), it will extend the ban to bars, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs - and the most cherished of all spaces: the café. Ireland and Italy show that countries with long-standing smoking traditions may introduce bans fairly smoothly, as they did in 2004 and 2005. In Germany, where regulations vary locally, Berlin will join France on Jan. 1 in forbidding smoking in its beloved coffee houses, as well as all other enclosed public spaces. The English smoking ban came into force on 1 July 2007. Smoking is banned in almost all enclosed public spaces, including pubs, restaurants and on public transport.

Banning what could be the world’s biggest addiction or industry is an extreme measure, so extreme positive and negative responses are normal expectations. To present it more pleasantly to people and to generate more favorable results, some countries slowly implement the ban through compromises. The government cannot altogether remove personal freedom. It can only do so much as to prevent non-smokers from suffering the ill effects of actions they did not commit. A ban on smoking in public places, or other alternative measure, might just enhance one’s awareness of the rights of other people, or improve the use of one’s freedom. It might be far-fetched to imagine smoking becoming obsolete in India, a country where 'bidi' smoking is a countrywide culture. But the smoking ban does seem to signal a cultural shift toward a more wholesome, modern and adaptable image.

Before concluding, a breaking news for smokers. The new E.cig smokes like a real cigarette and users get a shot of nicotine every time they inhale. The device even produces a cloud of water vapor with every puff, though causes no harm to non-smokers nearby. "While we are completely supportive of the smoking ban, we are still very conscious of the needs of our smoking customers”, says the selling company in U.K.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Press The OFF Button Please!

Press The OFF Button Please!

In today's information age, we are inundated with negative news churned out by TV channels day and night. It is rare to see something on the television news that talks about a good event; it happens, but it is rare. Instead, we see images of war-torn countries, people fighting, political corruption, arrests, wrecks, murder and the like. On any given day, one can open the newspaper or a news channel and see that some guy murdered his wife, a mother is lacking food in an urban ghetto or a study appears saying AIDS infection rates are skyrocketing. All their statistics are satanic, all prophecies pronounce Doomsday approaching. Nothing works in this world, even the marriages end in divorce or dowry-deaths and all love stories end with “... and they lived miserably thereafter till suicide”.

Negative news is seen having a significant influence on viewers and has been attributed with the ability to create a gloomy outlook. People have a perception that the world is going down the drain, but it's not as bad as it may seem. This saturation of the news with violence and depressing stories is a mischaracterization of the world that is poisoning the minds of our children. They need to learn that for every bad and disheartening story, there are truly uplifting ones that go ignored every day. I'm sure we do not want to pass a completely violent outlook of the world to our children. By continuing to present the world as a wholly dark and scary place, we are raising children in a one-sided view of the world. This is a tremendous disservice to them.

Why all the negativity in the news? It is interesting to note that one of the guidelines for so-called successful-news-reporting states:

"Negativity: Bad news is good news. Bad news has many of the other (guideline) characteristics as well - it may be unexpected, unambiguous, consonant with our general expectations about the world, it may be 'big', e.g. a major catastrophe etc. So, it is no real secret that the big news channels prefer to push negative or bad news stories...because, for some reason, it sells better!”

The Romanian Senate unanimously voted a law requiring the media to provide their audiences with minimum 50 per cent positive news. The creators of the bill believe the law will help fight the harms of negative news and its effects on people's life. We cannot wait for the governments in the rest of the world to be as sensitive and follow suit. Nor do we have to just sit back and soak in the negativity! We can make the decision to press the OFF button on the remote, or switch to another channel where the news is not being aired...or do something else entirely! That small first step of choosing to shut out the negativity can be the beginning of a journey into a much more blissful existence, where the balance of negatives and positives are in harmony, and where the best things in life can be appreciated and favored and promoted!

Sometimes, my wife and I choose to shut out the negativity. Instead of having our lunch in front of the news blare, we will eat on our front lawn-porch, where we can enjoy watching the hummingbirds come and go at the plants we have in the lawn. We watch in amazement, as they zig and zag...up, down, over and under, all the while chirping their little giggles. When they land on the flowers, their true size, daintiness and fragility become apparent, as they bob up and down at the flowers. Then, they're gone in a flash! It is so richly rewarding to recognize that they are capable of such things because of the love of our Creator.

Of course, there are so many other more positive and healthier things we could be choosing instead of the negative news reports. It is certain that we all have our own best other-choices. When we truly take time to figure out for ourselves, walk out on the street, walk around and look with open eyes and open mind, we find true miracles are all around us, and they are to reassure us that the same love which is so evident in the natural world is at work on our behalf as well. Not to speak of our country where family pride comes first in our priorities, even in the West, old family bonds are back. The youth who have been experimenting with 'live-in' arrangement are overwhelmingly outnumbered by couples with commitment to make married life a lifelong experience in sharing love and affection. And the family norm is slowly returning to 'extended family' formed of couples living together with parents. Indeed, all old values are still alive, only the news media is blind to their existence.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Turning Lawsuits Into Lottery Tickets!

I am in USA, or is it United States of Attorneys? Statistics show that 70 percent of the world's attorneys are in USA, with only 10 per cent of the world's population. A lawsuit is filed every two seconds. With lawyers eagerly lining up to save the world from injustice, it would not only be demeaning to yourself, but rude to these brave men not to sue. The fact that court shows up half of daytime television’s lineup is proof enough that Americans are fascinated with lawsuits. People here are sue-happy, with 'Sue-me' stickers common on their cars. The second most common sticker seen on cars is 'Hit me, I need money'. The flimsiest excuse is enough for them to file a suit, if it promises plenty of money. And it does not cost them anything to go to courts when the attorneys are ready to fight for you for 'No money now--pay if paid'. Lawsuits such as personal injury and wrongful death are becoming a very lucrative business for Americans and their attorneys. In one year alone, plaintiff winners were awarded an estimated $4 billion in damages in civil trials with 442 awarded $i million or above. People are treating lawsuits like some sort of lottery tickets. Many a millionaire's rags to riches story has started in courts, ending with rich awards in compensation. Suing people is awesome. Spilling hot coffee at McDonald's not only made 81-year-old Stella Leibeck a millionaire overnight, but famous too. Stella Awards are named after her. These are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S.

Here are the Stella's for the past year:

Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas was awarded $80,000 by a jury after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son.

Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles, California won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps.

Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pennsylvania , was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open. Worse, he couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut. Forced to sit for eight days on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner's insurance company claiming undue mental anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish.

Jerry Williams, of Little Rock, Arkansas, garnered 4th Place in the Stella's when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door neighbor's beagle - even though the beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.

Third place goes to Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania because a jury ordered a Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.

Kara Walton, of Claymont, Delaware sued the owner of a night club in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000 plus dental expenses.

This year's runaway First Place Stella Award winner was Mrs. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home from an OU football game, having driven onto the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich.. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the free way, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner's manual that she couldn't actually leave the driver's seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her $1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home.

Self-indulgence and greed have swept through the nation at lightning speed over the last few decades, making frivolous lawsuits a part of their growing compensation culture that promotes the idea that individuals deserve outrageously large settlements for sometimes ridiculous injuries inflicted upon them, often times from their own actions. People everywhere are coming out to join in the feeding frenzy of draining corporations and small businesses out of much needed funds, making it more economical for large and small businesses to simply grant out-of-court settlements rather then fight frivolous lawsuits in a long, costly court battle that could take years to solve, and millions of dollars. They also bog down the already-overwhelmed legal system and prevent legitimate cases from being addressed promptly. It would be a nice turn of events to see a nation work things out the old fashioned way, and prevent the sue happy people turning lawsuits into lottery tickets.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Magic Of Music!

From Kashmir to Kanya Kumari and Maharashtra to Meghalaya, we are a nation of music lovers who can drown all our differences of cast and creed, political and provincial, communal and cultural, and live together as one people, playing or listening to the same music. Whether it was the verse of sufis and saints, or the melody of Lata Mungeshkar or the folk-lore of Ila Arun, or Indi-pop of Daler Mehndi, music has been the biggest binding force for all times. Music has also helped bring together India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, even in the most tense and troubled times of their relationship. Many in India did not go to sleep without listening to Mehdi Hussan or Ghulam Ali of Pakistan and it was left to Runa Laila of Bangladesh to bring out the best of “Jhoole Lal”. Reshma always remained a rage in India whenever she came from Pakistan to perform here and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, from Pakistan, produced one of his best albums in India. And of course, melody queen Lata Mungeshkar has always remained a household name in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The list goes on and on. Music is something that is essential to our living. Not something ornamental, not only something enjoyable, not only something exciting, but something essential as a unifying force in the terrible conflicts that we live in and to live daily with so many horrible things that happen.

Lately the magic of Bollywood music has cast its spell crossing all boundaries and nationalities. As a rule connoisseurs of Latino and Spanish music might not enjoy Hindi film music. That is till you meet Leonard, Stella and Paola of Ecstacy, a three-piece band from Columbia. “We love the Bollywood music. Kajarare kajarare, Dhoom macha le and Bidi jalaile… We can’t pronounce the words correctly but we love the melody and rhythm,” smiles Leonard while Stella explains the nuances. Their liking for Hindi music shows in their performances too when the band incorporated these fast-paced numbers while singing Spanish numbers during their tour to India.. In U.K., USA , Middle East and South Africa especially, some of the biggest chart-busters include Indi-pop and hit songs from Bollywood movies. Unimaginable at one time, some of the most successful movies from Hollywood, released in recent years, seem inspired by Bollywood musicals.

Indian film music lovers have always appreciated and applauded the haunting evergreen pieces of music of the great masters. Some composers with their unique distinguishing features in their styles have left an indelible impression on our minds. Since music has always been an integral part of Indian cinema, particularly Hindi films, composers of the past to the present give it their all as they compose songs to cater to the demands of innumerable listeners across the country or make tailor-made numbers to suit the situational settings in films. From Alam Ara, the first Indian talkie, to the current releases, Hindi film music has produced thousands of unforgettable hit songs, an endless stream of singers, composers and lyricists and more than its share of super hits of Hindi cinema. The Indian cinema has elevated the song-and-dance sequences to a rare art form. Film songs serve a variety of purposes. Studded at judicious intervals all through the story, they can make a more telling statement than mere dialogue; they can be both entertaining and illuminating; they can, of course, leaven an otherwise flat story with spice and color. The following email from my daughter-in-law is an example how with the help of internet radio, Indians abroad are “transported to another time and place in India that you thought you had lost in your memory for ever”, through the magic of music:

“Hi Papa and Mama

Could you please, please, please, please do me a favor? Go onto the
"Bombay Beats" internet radio that Alok set you up with, and let it
play for an hour, or more, if you like. I promise you, it will change
your daily life. Your subjective experience will be magically
transformed--the space around you will be light and incandescent, the
air will sing melodies you never imagined . . . you will hear olden
goldies as well as current hits. When the older songs come on, you'll
be transported to another time and place in India that you thought you
had lost in your memory forever. Other times, recent tunes from
current Bollywood movies will sound, and you'll surely revisit the
pleasure of watching the movie all over again (it's made for a film
buff like you )!

Trust me: you know how much I love Indian music and I have it on
almost 24/7, and never tire of it. It makes my life richer, full of
sensory riches and rhapsodic delight. Sometimes I almost swoon and
giggle . . . I feel like I'm walking through India, where the radio
always blares Indian music. The exciting thing is that the radio is so
unpredictable inasmuch as you never know what song is coming next--
it's spontaneous gift after unexpected gift . . . feels like birthdays
and Christmas and every other holiday rolled into one--the presents
keep coming, song after treasured song.

In fact, as I type this, my fingers are flying over the keyboard, like
a spirit possessed, because Bollywood beats is playing in the
background--and the songs buoy me and lift my drive to introduce you
to all these songs, literally lying at your feet, waiting for you to
discover them and pick them up. Please don't ignore them any longer--
they have been waiting at your doorstep long enough.

Happy Listening :-)