Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Five Point Someone

Good book.Especially, if your college life had been as messy as that of Hari,Alok and Ryan, you may enjoy it more while trying to relate their experiences to that of your own.You may scold and curse yourself for screwing up what is arguably the best four or five years of your life.Its all about how you react to the newly acquired freedom in the college.Alok says this:(Beautiful lines,I may not exactly reproduce, but its somthing like this): "I have been the topper all throughout my entire school life. I have not seen anything other than first rank in my school. What has happened to me here in college?". Well, a good question.You are living in this protective environment with your parents to support, take care, constantly remind you of your life's goals, correct you and bring you back to the track if you digress from your goals,while you are at your school. You come out of that secure life and you are put in a college, where you have absolute freedom to choose and do anything you wish to. You can do things which your parents have always warned you about, you can do things which you have always fancied about in your school and in the process of doing that do you take care that college life is not affected?

Well, if you think about it, its all about getting mature. There are people who handle this situation better.They know exactly what they want out of their life and nothing, not even this newly acquired freedom would deter them from attaining what they wish.They work constantly towards their goals and be successful in their life. And there are people who make a complete mess out of it,they either dont know what they want out of life or they get carried away from the newly acquired freedom and put themselves in a tough situation. In my opinion, there are more people in the second category than the first. Life does takes a long time in teaching few people their best lessons. 'Five Point Someone' is about three IITians of this type,whose mediocre grades come across everything in their life and how it ruins their friendship, health,love,trust etc. Nice book to read.Go grab it.

I have a question to the readers of this post: Where do you get information about the latest best sellers among the books?. I never came across this title until a week back and when I said that I am reading this book, people just seem to know the existence of this book.("Aah, that one,how do you find it?"."Hey,it was published way back in 2004!!") Its a worse situation to be in when you are ignorant of things happening around you. And I dont want to be in that place a lot many times. So if you can throw some light on that, I would be thankful.

Friday, February 10, 2006

One night @ the call center

The first thing few of my friends asked me when I said that I am doing a 'Fluency in English' training was that whether I intend to join a call center. I had to shrug them off saying that I am not learning some fake American accent but just trying to learn to speak good neutral English, which I am pretty sure that almost 95% of the English learnt Indian population does not know how to speak.Anyway,I pity these nocturnal creatures aka Call Center Agents who have to bear this accent torture('T' is pronounced in four different ways by Americans) and I pity them more after reading the book.If you are wondering which book, refer to the subject line of the post.Thats the name of a book.No,I did not experiment my newly acquired 'accent' at any call center and hence I am not going to talk about my experiences at one such places.Came across this title while generally browsing through an edition of 'India Today' where it was mentioned that this book was at the top of the charts.So I wanted to try it out.

Most of us do not even care about such a class of people living amongst us, which the author, Chetan Bhagat too echoes in the prologue of the book. The book talks about the experiences of six call center employees on one night when they apparently receive a call from God himself. Each of them have some problem or other that had engulfed their life, they also have some common problems to tackle with and this call they receive changes their life for better forever.

Call center job is something that attracts people of different ages and varied profile and the author aptly captures that. Apart from young unmarried guys and girls,you have as one of the main characters, a married woman who attends to all household chores and to her mother-in-law all through the day and works all through the night at the call center. You have an old man who served the country in Military(hes called 'Military Uncle' by his team members) and he is ignored by his son and daughter-in-law.And they all have an evil and stupid boss to tackle as well. The book in good measure talks about having such bosses with their so-called MBA terms.Chetan actually highlights in bold letters the typical managerial terms these bosses use(he calls it 'Managenese') and it is great fun reading these terms.You would actually relate the terms to your workplace.If not from your manager,atleast others use them as well in your workplace. Chetan then talks about how these managers take all the credit for something you sweated like hell for many months.They also suck your self-confidence out as you become a sycophant in the fear of losing your job and gradually become a big loser in life.He also portrays the situation where they all face lay off at their company and we get to know how ineffective bosses are one of the reasons for such a situation and what the employees in the story did to save their jobs.

The book talks about many other things. Relationships in the making and also in the breaking.We actually get wonderful insights from the author regarding the typical reactions of women who are in a relationship or women who are considering about a relationship.We get to know what some actions of women actually mean and why do they do it.For a guy who has never been in a relationship with a woman before,this a bounty.So,guys who want to get a girlfriend and guys who have a girlfriend may check them out.You would find them useful as you get to know when you need to be careful.Also guys who have been dumped already, may correlate their experiences with the one you find it in the book.

Chetan also touches upon specific problems pertaining to call center employees.Starting from the racial slurs forced upon them by their customers to having a social status crisis.He beautifully explains the latter through the flash back he takes us through,of different dates the two characters:Shyam and Priyanka have had for the last one year. He gives the flash back as five different parts,that is, one year back to this night, 9 months back to this night etc.As we get to four months back to this night, we get to know that one of the reasons Shyam and Priyanka have to split was because Priyanka's mom doesnt think being a call center agent is a well settled job.We also get to know about the pressure on call center employees to handle more calls. Everything about their call handling is noted: average time to handle one call(there is a target to be acieved here) to the politeness and the way the calls are handled.

And with all these things happening around in the book, Chetan also blends patriotism and a bit of spiritualism in it. He is strongly against America and the Americans.He portrays America as a nation succumbed to fear and majority of Americans as dumbasses with their mind not working at all.He talks about how the rest of smart Americans take advantage of people at a cell center in India by paying them less and extracting huge amount of work at weird hours of the night.He explains why the youth in this country still take up the job with so many negative factors around it.Though Chetan narrates the whole story through Shyam, and though I identify myself with Shyam a lot(may be I am 60% Shyam and 40% Vroom),I liked the character of Vroom more (yeah,thats how Varun Malhotra is called at the call center by his team mates).Vroom is the main protagonist of the book and he makes you laugh like hell as well with his sense of humor.One thing is sure,majority of the dialogues in this book is comical, you would laugh a lot. And in between that we have other things:couples split,bad boss,anti-America,job cuts,patriotism,new relationships,husbands cheat,cheaters,God calls! Whew! Thats too much and all these happen in one night.

The message out of this book is following your dream. Its about self-confidence,prioritizing your goals,meeting failures with courage and not fear about unimportant things in life.At the end, felt like reading Rang De Basanti through a book.And like RDB, people might not like the way it all ended. Man, how many movies and books would be read on the same topic and the same message being told in a similar fashion.At one stage you are going to say: "What the heck!How many more people have started with the same idea?".And the thing about God calling these guys in the night: Well, Chetan tries to rationalise that in the epilogue and he explains why its good to have God in our life. May be readers might not like this part of the story,which otherwise seems so real and rational.But, what the heck, the story is topping the fiction charts and in a fiction God can of course call you on your mobile!I read the book in a true Call Center fashion. I started it around 8.30 in the night and when I finished it at 1.52 AM to be perfect(This I have to, because call center guys are so particular about telling time, they tell it to the exact minute).So around five and a half hours of nonstop reading to start and complete the book.Considering the fact that I am a slow reader, thats quite an achievement in itself!

Do I recommend others to read it? Yes, I would, for the plot and for the comedy in it. But yeah,you may not appreciate certain things like God calling you on the mobile or as I said earlier you may get bored with movies and books already on 'patriotism and following your goals' being narrated in a similar fashion.After all in the end,its your call to take the call or not!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Mendicancy, New Ishtyle

Should have been a good piece for 'Just for laugh, Gags'.I am even forced to think whether a hidden camera was there at the bus stop. A woman with a wooden basket, nothing unusual so far, except that in this case, the basket had a living snake.It was funny to watch people's reaction as the woman went on asking for alms.Thinking about it, its a nice way to threaten people, isnt it? 'You dont throw me a rupee or two, I would throw the snake at you'. Few people dropped coins out of fear.Fear of the snake that might rise anytime out of the basket,fear of getting bitten to death did the trick with a few atleast.Very few things work well with people like how 'Fear of Death' works.

Few were still reluctant: Nothing would stir my resolution of not giving anything to a begging person, not even a snake. They just gave a look at the snake, and the next moment motioned the woman to go away.They had nothing,nothing at all, to offer her. As I met the snake's eyes,I could feel a tinge of fear rising inside, but it was lying like a sadhu inside the basket, without any movement, unaware of what is happening around, unaware that its' mistress is using him/her as a means of making money,not through some snake show,but by begging.Had it known that, would it bite the mistress out of shame and for the indignity caused?

I was watching the people still. One person asked the woman with the basket to go to the other side of the road and start begging.Though he was afraid of the snake,he did not want to offer her anything. One person pointed his finger towards another guy so as to mean that the second guy, his friend, would give her the money.The second guy was caught unaware. Trembling after seeing the snake, he dropped the coin with his hands still shaking. The best laughing moment for the onlookers came when the woman went to these two girls. I think those girls should be in their PUC or in college. We expected them to scream, but they did not. But they closed their mouths like how a newly crowned "Miss Universe" would do and were of course shaking inside. They quickly walked away from the woman with their mouths still closed. It was fun watching this sight.

But,it's a depressing sight to see people who are hale and healthy(like our woman here) begging. People who otherwise could make a living out of any other work but not begging. May be they are:
a) lazy to work or
b) they could not get what they wanted and not ready to pursue for something else or
c) they tried every other option before resorting to this.

Sad sight. This case, it was more of a scary sight rather than sad.But people are adamant,isnt it?We have to appreciate their will power here.Do whatever you may want, threaten me with a snake if you like to,you would get nothing out of me.Ah,my bus arrived then and I left the bus stop after a nice little period of fun,scare and sadness.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Rang De Basanti

Note: Spoiler ahead. You may want to skip this post until you watch the movie 'Rang De Basanti'

I think we watch these types of movies:
a) The one we have to watch for the heck of it. Example, Harry Potter films or Lord of the Rings films. We have read the books, we liked it and we would want to see how well its picturised. I can also add any Johar or Chopra movie. The other day my colleague remarked: We know that it would be a SRK starrer and there would be bundle of emotions and aimed at nothing but making people cry. We know what to expect, but we still watch them.
b) The one where we leave our mind out of the theatre for a rental, watch the movie for two and a half hours, come out of theatre and take back our mind. Example: Movies of the type Thirumalai, Thirupaachi(any Vijay starrer for that matter) and Aaru. Two and a half hours of non-stop nonsense.
c) The one that really leaves an everlasting effect on us. It might be a comedy or a tragedy. It might be preachy, sentimental or 'dishoom dishoom'. But something about the movie strikes a cord with each of us and these are the movies in which we search when asked to make to make the list of all time favourites.I would put Rang De Basanti(RDB) in that list of mine.

Where do I start? Ok,before going to the film, from the music. Listened to all the songs only once before watching the movie. Didnt like any of them. Told my brother(who incidentally hears them all atleast 10 times a day these days) that the music isnt that good. 'Roo baa roo' song was little ok, but rest,not good, didnt like it. He said thats so typical of Rehman that you dont like them when you hear them for the first time and asked me to hear them a couple of times more. I wouldnt listen to my brother, obviously. I never watched any of the trailors, and had absolutely no expectations out of the movie.I had no idea about the theme or storyline.I only knew that Aamir Khan was there. And Madhavan in a small role.Some MIG 21 controversy around the movie. Soha Ali Khan was there("Is she Saif's sister?"."Yes, she is". "Oh, Achcha, didnt know that either.").I did hear from few people who watched it before me as to how they felt about it and thanks to them, none of them revealed the story line to me.

"Its a different kind of film. The first half is too good. Second half equally bad"

"The songs are too good. Picturised well. Aamir Khan has acted very well. Overall, I did not like the movie, as I think what happens in the second half is way too impractical".

And there was this person who called me up late in the night and said this:"You would fall love with this movie. I loved it so so much. You should watch it definitely".

I lost count as to how many times that person told "I fell love with the movie" in a span of 11 minutes call that we had.I told that person at the end of the call that I would watch the movie and tell whether I also fell in love with RDB or not.

Read the last line of 'The Hindu' review as well. It said "Go and watch the movie for sure".I know I would.RDB has become the topic of discussion in Indian blogdom as well.Bloghopping lead me to many Indian blogs where RDB review/discussion was a sureshot post to find out. So that ends my pre-RDB experience.

It was a 1 o'clock show in the afternoon and I was having lunch till 12.55 pm. Never have I ran to a cinema theatre like what I did for RDB. Didnt want to miss a single dialogue with the mixed response I had for the movie.Had to cover a distance of more than 200 to 300 meter within 5 minutes I had and thats not easy job for a fat person like me who seldom exercises. Panting heavily, entered the theatre at 1.02 PM, and Thank God the movie had not started yet. Just as I entered the UTV banner flashed on the screen. Still panting and scrambling, found the seat at last and sat.Now to the movie!

The first half was amazing. It was hilarious. Starting from the auditions Sue has to "Yeh tho Hindi Boliti hai yaar"(That was too good from Aamir, isnt it? Not to mention, we had rowdy girls at the theatre who would scream as loudly as they can: "We love you DJJJJJJJJJJ" ).The screenplay was amazing. I think that was the greatest strength of the movie.And we didnt have complete songs picturised in the movie. I liked that. Some perople dont.Common guys, we had something different. People are used to hearing the whole of the songs in the movie and may not like this. But I did. And songs were not forced into the movie. They all mingled wonderfully well with the story and with the scenes. They were more of a BGM than songs.I liked the way the songs were picturised.

The theme of the movie was so relevant. And the youth in the movie represent the typical Indian youth and their mentality towards patriotism.Its a pity that what a foreigner appreciates about Indian history and freedom struggle, we people rarely care.For example, Bhagath Singh and his group fasted for more than 100 days in prison demanding paper,pen and newspaper for they were political prisoners. John Mckinley says this in his diary that never ever before in a freedom struggle has the world seen grit and determination like what he saw in these young guys.(Its a beautiful scene in RDB. This prisoner guy goes to Mckinley and the British expects him to break down finally. But he goes and taps his bowl with the tumbler and Siddarth would give a naughty,mocking laugh at the British. Wonderful acting Sid!).

While we also laugh along the initial dialogues of Aamir and Co. towards freedom, India etc, thats the first time RDB makes us think about our leaders of the past.As the movie progresses and as the characters change, I felt the same change inside me which the characters undergo. But that happens with every other movie of the genre of RDB, isnt it? We watch the movie, get inspired, think about what the movie wants to convey, do something or not do anything about it and after sometime we completely forget the film and things return back to the old ways. But in my case, even after two days of watching RDB, I am still having the 'RDB hangover'. The first few hours after watching the movie was too bad, I couldnt think anything apart from what the movie wanted to say, but the 'movie effect' lasts only for those initial few hours usually, but in case of RDB, the thing has kept on coming back to me again and again. That means RDB has made an effect with respect to me atleast! I hope I do something about what you wanted people of this country to do RDB crew.You were amazing!

Now to the actors and acting. Great acting. Aamir was too good with his comedy and with sentiments equally. That scene where he breaks down to Sue over the dinner table was very well done. Aamir, hats off to you. Another person whom I think would play a major role in Bollywood after RDB is Siddarth. Great job Sid,didnt know that you could act this well.All others, I dont know all their names, Atul, Soha and group, great job done. You all lived your characters.

Next to music.I change my stand completely on this. The music feels too good to hear now, especially 'Luka Chuppi'.God damn it, a person has died and you open the song with a guitar sequence, where have we seen something like that in an Indian movie song!?It would be a typical sad song or with grand moms in their 70's and 80's wailing and screaming, but you see something so different here. And the guitar is followed by the sequence thats typical of a Lori song, amazing to hear the song now. One of the reasons I would wish to see RDB again is 'Luka Chuppi'.(The other reason being the dialogues. I couldnt follow them at few places, especially the Punjabi dialogues for I dont know Punjabi :(.I missed a few jokes as well because of this. So next time, I would like to follow the dialogues in a better way)Waheeda Rehman and her expressions in 'Luka Chuppi', amazing, she has lived her character as well. Guitar feels so good in 'Roo baa roo" song as well. 'Khalbali' and 'Paatshaala' songs rock and the latter's lyrics are too good and funny if you concentrate. Today, I have been hearing only RDB at work :)

Next to the feeling "How many more times would we see story of Bhagath Singh, Azad and et al on a movie screen?". I have never watched a Bhagath Singh movie before, but I dont think that matters.I think RDB's main intention was not to tell that story, it was just used to co-relate the situation that existed some 90 years back and what it is today and how a group of young people responded in the same way as what those guys did 90 years back.We had people fighting for Freedom with Ahimsa, and also with guns. Today, cant someone fight against corruption with guns?For people who havent seen any Bhagath Singh movie, we might appreciate both parts, others would appreciate what these guys do in RDB.

And to the famous criticism about RDB that the climax was sloppy, I think there is nothing wrong with the climax. Initially, I also got a feeling that we are having an over exaggerated climax, but after thinking over it for some time, I feel that nothing was wrong with that. It has happened in this country isnt it? We lost a Prime Minister in this country in a similar fashion because a section of people thought what the PM did was totally outrageous and seeked a revenge. If it can happen to a PM, why not to a defence minister? I think that when you lose a person whos so close to you in a way that happened to Maddy in RDB,your mind might think in a similar fashion and you might do the same thing. But, do I ask you to do the same thing? No, am not. But whats potrayed in RDB can very well happen or is happening already; many people might be forced to take a similar path to seek injustice and revenge and the message of RDB is to just prevent something from that happening to this country. Few people even say that no one would kill college students like that. I ask you,why wont anyone do that? You barge into AIR with guns and take control of it, make an announcement that you have killed the defence minister, why wont anyone not think that you are from a terrorist organisation? Of course, you would be shot dead like those five guys. Nothing wrong with the climax, I believe.Totally acceptable, to me atleast!

One more great thing about RDB is that it is not preachy. It doesnt have long and lengthy sentimental dialogues. It conveys the message through a lot of comedy and entertainment.Thats what would make it a great movie and a 'must watch' movie.And to people who feel that the message RDB wanted to potray is not clear, here it is, its crystal clear through this dialogue of RDB. I might not repeat it verbatim, but the gist is this:"There are two kinds of people who live in this world, one who see things happening bad around them, take no notice of it, live with it and keep moving on. And there is this other kind which takes the responsibilty of changing things in the world on their shoulders and lead their life fulfilling these tasks which they have set themselves".

While you think about it as to which category you are in and what are you going to about it(if at all you want to do something to about), let me go and make a phone call to certain someone that I indeed have fallen in love with Rang De Basanti.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Bosun and Putty

Those are my words of the week. I have been doing Deccan Herald Crosswords these days religiously, for almost two months now. I do it on all weekdays,Monday to Friday.I am so passionate about it and there is this urge to complete the crossword everyday. It has proven to be a good exercise. I do the Easy Crossword, not the Cryptic one. This habit started due to my English teacher, and Thanks to her. As a part of the Fluency course, she insisted that we do this everyday, an exercise to improve the vocabulary.Apart from words, we get to know many things like places,animals,plants,rivers,wine varieties,army ranks, etc...

This week came across this clue:Petty Officer(5). Initially considered them as two seperate words:Petty and Officer. So was thinking on the lines of an officer who's petty. Was breaking my head and couldnt get an answer. Then found out that I need to consider the words together:'Petty Officer' is a rank in the navy. Went through the navy insignia of U.S,U.K,NATO and what not and still no answer to the clue. Finally, took the crude way of solving.Going through the dictionary for five letter words with second letter as O, 4th and 5th as U and N respectively and got BOSUN. Almost an hour's fight for this word.

Yesterday, it was the same with PUTTY.The clue was Stiff Paste(5). I had got the first two letters as P and U.And the fourth letter was initially wrong for me. Got it as 'I', while it should have been a 'T'.So after much of brain racking and back tracking, got the answer changed for the word that was causing the 'I' to be there where it should have been a 'T' and finally, got you PUTTY.The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear PUTTY is the utility software which we are so familiar of. Now I know what PUTTY can also mean.I almost gave up on this yesterday, but somehow pulled it off. Now you all know how much hardwork I do at the office!

Anyway,if you havent noticed it yet, I started compiling the words I learn from everyday's crossword and am updating my word blog everyday. This, I have started from Feb 1. I am planning to do it on all weekdays as long as I solve the Deccan crossword and as long as I have enthu to post the words on the blog. As with everything else,things start off well, slowly the enthu goes down and completely disappears one day. Lets see how long this goes on. There might be some common words in the daily list as well, like USHER for example, from yesterday. I know what the word means, but when I was solving the crossword,the word didnt strike my mind when I saw the clue:Guide (5), and I knew that the second letter of the answer was 'S'. So I am compiling those words as well, I mean the words which are so common but dont strike your mind when it matters!