Saturday, October 30, 2010


The wife and I have a new addiction, if one could call it that. Every night, at 10:30 pm, after putting the little one to sleep, we sit down in front of the idiot box and catch Highway on My Plate on NDTV Imagine.

Rocky and Mayur, the co-hosts of the show, are delightfully quirky and keep cracking one liners and pulling each others' legs. (e.g. of a typical throwaway line: If God did not want us to eat animals, he would not have made them of meat!) The food on display invariably looks yummy, and typically is described very alluringly, and the wife and I have a tough time trying to control our hunger pangs. The icing on the cake is that the dudes travel to exotic places which more often than not, are very scenic. For example, the last 3 shows that we have seen have been set in a remote tea stall in Leh while a blizzard rages outside, Kumarakom, with delightful views of Lake Vembanad from atop a ferry, and breakfast of toast and kahwa overlooking snow clad peaks near Srinagar.

After watching today's episode describing chettinad crabs, I'm salivating and waiting to dig into some crab next week in Goa!!

The court should ask Manmohan Singh this question...

From a news article (emphasis mine) - good questions all. The real question however is - why did the PMO allow this to happen? And why are they not doing anything about it till date? I'm confident the CBI probe will not yield anything till at least 2014, when it will be time for a new election.

The Supreme Court on Friday slammed CBI for its "slipshod" investigations into the 2G spectrum allocation scam, in which the alleged role of Telecom Minister A Raja has come under the scanner, saying "the same minister is still continuing today".

"You (CBI) have not done anything. The matter is serious. The same minister is still continuing today. Is that the way the government functions?

Do you follow the same standards in respect of everyone? One year has (already) gone by," a bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly said. The remarks of the bench came as soon as Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Haren Raval began responding to the submissions made by the counsel for an NGO which has brought the issue before the apex court.

The ASG said the enormity, complexity and volume of the documents involved in the issue required some more time to complete the investigation. "We have so many phone calls to examine," Raval said.

However, his submission was cut short by the Bench which said "it's only slipshod. You are dragging your feet". Raval then resumed his submission and said the complex nature of the issue was the reason the investigations into the scam has taken some time. He said that to maintain continuity, the investigation is being carried out in right earnest and senior officials of competence are conducting the investigations into all aspects of the matter.

At this point, the bench shot back "will it take another 10 years?"

A Case of Exploding Mangoes

After quite a while, I read a book which made me stay up late in order to finish it. It had been lying around the house for quite some time, bought by the wife who never got around to reading it (and perhaps for good reason too! - but more on this later)

The novel tells the (probably fictionalised - but you never know!) and utterly gripping account of the tales surrounding the death of General Zia ul Haq, Pakistan's military dictator of the 70s. Full of black humour, the writing is very terse and takes time to build up tempo and atmosphere, culminating in a page-turner of a climax. It is a very male oriented story with bald recitals of great brutality and oppression, which makes me think the wife would not have liked it a bit. However the treatment is not unlike Catch 22 or some of the other great books. Definitely an author I would want to read again.

General Zia comes across as a bit of a buffoon, which all dictators probably are, and the ISI comes across as a loose weapon, which again is probably true. The Americans come across as double faced snitches, which they definitely are. There is a hilarious (and disturbing) chapter in the book about a certain bearded gentleman named OBL 'of Bin Laden Constructions' trying to hobnob socially with the CIA and Afghan mujahideen.

So finally, who killed General Zia? Was it a krait's poison? A son's revenge? His own colleagues from the army? Poison gas? Or a crow? Or all of them?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

They don't make 'em like the old times anymore

On a super short and totally unnecessary trip to the US, which involved a total of 32 hours of flying time (and 10 hours of transit time) in a total period of 94 hours, I have seen 7 movies so far. I’m typing this on the aircraft, trying to relieve my mental inertia, and I have 5 more hours of flying time to go. I may watch some more. The list so far includes Iron Man 2, Shrek Forever After, Wall Street (the old one), Robin Hood (the new one), Badmash Company, The Untouchables and Clash of the Titans.

Most of these movies are just a pile of junk. Iron Man 2 is so juvenile that its funny. Robin Hood (and I had great expectations from Russel Crowe) is no Gladiator – it is just dull and dreary. Irony - the merry men are somber and depressed. Badmash Company is puerile and Shrek is just repetitive and boring. The less said about Clash of the Titans the better – it is a shoddy attempt to make a Lord of the Rings type movie – it just falls flat. The only two worthwhile movies are the golden oldies. Wall Street, which I’ve seen umpteen times but which still captivates with its voyeuristic glimpses into the world of glamour and serious money, though the events in the movie seem quaint now in this age of derivatives and algorithmic trading. The pick of the lot is certainly Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables. It tells the story of the capture of Al Capone. It also tells me why America is a great nation, and will remain the foremost nation in our generation, never mind recessions, double-dips or Sarah Palin. Power packed with Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro and Andy Garcia (the pick of the lot, I thought), it depicts the power of the individual over the system. I cannot see such a thing happening in India (nor any other country).

I wonder why new movies are just not in the same league as the old classics. Is it because we have moved away from the dramatic core, powerful scripts and simple ideas into animated wizardry? The top grosser of all time – Avatar – was so bereft of any emotional core that I was left wondering if I really saw the original. Give me Casablanca any day!

Now for number eight – perhaps Juno for the 2nd time? Or Rocket Singh?