A Punctured Soul

What do you look for on those empty walls?
Why don’t you turn when you hear my call?
Why bygone happy days you fail to recall?
Tell me, what demons make you feel small?

Why do you look so lonesome and cold?
The grey streaks of hair make you seem old,
Your pent-up feelings throw you out of control,
That fine spirit within which you constantly withhold.

Don’t you see any meaning in your precious life?
Why can’t you forget your earlier strife?
Oh, looking at you makes me cry,
Coz’ you live through your days half alive.

And I sit next to you, trying to console,
But your stubborn yet beautiful mind is already closed,
All my words, they just keep draining down a hole,
Oh there’s nothing more painful than a punctured soul.

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A Sister’s Dreams

He fondly cuddles her when she’s still a baby,
Pampers her with boxful of candies,
Watching his every step when she’s in his arms,
Careful to protect her from any unmeaning harm.

As she blossoms out of her childish wonder,
It takes her sometime to muster,
Why he never looks her in the eye,
Why he is always so silent and shy.

She holds his hand when they go for a walk,
Describing aloud the things that they cross,
The bright sun and the clear blue sky,
The dancing trees and birds flying by.

She fakes the excitement in her words,
Watching his face for every jerk,
Inside her heart, there is playing a melody,
Trying to push away the pain and reality.

And she pores herself into his incomprehensible books,
Glad that he can’t make out the boredom from her looks,
Patiently running her fingers through the world atlas,
Listening to tales from history with astonishing aptness.

She watches him silently fumbling for the door,
Stumbling over something lying on the floor,
With the mickey-mouse radio tucked close to his ear,
Songs from a bygone era that bring him cheer.

As she strokes in her arms his broken guitar,
Her restless mind travels deep and far,
Searching for answers that hide away in disguise,
After endless hours she is still unsatisfied.

She draws the conclusion, feeling resigned,
That she must be the light to those eyes that are blind,
In her prayers everyday, she begs for a miracle,
That one day he would see her, fully able.

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Battling Political Corruption : Mission Possible ?

Calvin : Do you believe in the devil?You know, a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation,corruption and destruction of man?
Hobbes : I’m not sure that man needs the help.

On the eve of 2011, Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar,announced that he was mandating asset declaration for public servants including ministers in the government.Since then, the personal assets of all the ministers has been uploaded on the Bihar government website. While political adversaries have termed this as an eyewash, neighbouring states which are mired in corruption, have started advocating the same formula to their government for battling corruption.

Acquiring assets that are disproportionate to one’s known income, is the most apparent outcome of any case of corruption.Which is why, mandatory decalartion of one’s assets by public servants is definitely a step in the right direction.Public scrutiny of their wealth and assets, will surely keep our babuwallas on their toes, and ammassing wealth will probably become a more difficult art.Asset declaration is already a compulsory step for politicians when they run for elections; however doing this on an annual basis will be more effective as at the end of 5 years, the damage done would probably be too huge to undo.

But the cynic in me tells me to take this development with a pinch of salt. Firstly ,having minister’s declared assets available as public information, lays the onus on vigilant citizens to uncover any discrepancies.Are we not lacking a statutory independent monitoring agency dedicated to keeping an eye on assets of public servants?Secondly, asset declaration although made mandatory has not been made a constitutional law ; so nothing prevents the next government from doing away with it and likewise nothing prevents the current government from breaking their own rules if political opportunism demands so.Thirdly, the announcement is silent on punitive actions for the guilty.For if we were to look at history, then for all we know, either the tainted politicians will escape jail term or would be out on bail and once the public memory fades would be reinstalled in the cabinet.Isn’t legislation that bans corrupt politicians from being inducted in the government , the need of the hour?

The announcement is a baby-step at best and hence should be welcomed with gaurded optimism.There have been too many corrupt politicians, too many scams and too many coverups in the history of independent india ;public confidence in the government’s sincerity to take strong anti-corruption measures has reached rock-bottom.Instead of clamouring for one another’s heads as is the political fallout of any corruption scandal, it’s high time that political parties of all hue and faith come together and enact strong legislation to combat this monster.The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 can do with much needed reforms. The LokAyuktas and the CVC can be given more muscle eg. suo moto powers to look into cases of corruption and power to ensure that their recommendations to the Government are acted upon.At the end of the day, it’s anti-corruption legislation that will help to nip the problem at it’s bud and not simply lip service or political blame game.It’s high time that we changed the debate from “Who all are guilty?” to “Why don’t we reform our ancestral anti-corruption laws to take stock of today’s realities?” This indeed would be the ultimate acid-test for judging the sincerity of our politicians.Because the people of this country have tolerated the political soundbites following any scam for far too long.

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The great IPL tamasha

For $2.4 million, to Kolkata Knight Riders, he is (gap) sold (followed by a bang on the table).Thank you!

This was the first time that the IPL auctions were being telecast live (the IPLwallas have no dirth of ways to make some easy moolah) and even though I am not a IPL diehard fan, I coudn’t resist the temptation to waste some hours watching the tamasha.Of course, my curiosity arose not from the game of cricket, but all the headline grabbing controversy surrounding IPL in the last season. And yes, I also wanted to see what a live auction is really like.

As the auction progressed, KKR bought Gambhir for a whopping 11.04Cr, Yusuf Pathan and Uthappa attracted some aggressive bidding, the dashing Dhoni lookalike Saurabh Tiwari created a mini ruckus between RCB and Punjab, our very own dada found no takers and The Wall almost went unsold, not to mention that highly reputed pardesi players went either unnoticed or got sold for comparatively paltry amounts.This was an auction that defied well-established norms and logic regarding player selection, but most reputed cricket jounalists and commentators actually managed to find a method in all the madness, saying that IPL4 was a vote for youth over experience.

The fact that IPL bidding prices are disproportionate to player ability and reputation is something that is well known and extensively debated since the first season.The twenty-twenty format of the game does not require strategists, experience, survival capability and a flair for good shots as much as agility on the field and the rudimentary ability to hit the ball hard.With it’s loud marketing and hired bollywood glamour, the IPL brand and business model , that relies heavily on fanbase strength for it’s profits, has already started spelling the death knell for the Test and ODI formats.

Entertainment over cricket, glamour over fundamentals, youth over experience;one cannot but help asking whether or not this is sustainable in the long run?Won’t the constant brouhaha surrounding IPL ultimately lead to fan fatigue? And what kind of culture are we endorsing by paying astronomical amounts to youngsters while brushing aside experienced elders?Are we nurturing genuine cricket talent or are we too preoccupied in conferring celebrity status on match-winners?The million dollar question remains, is the game of cricket going to be the only casualty in the long run?How much would have been lost by the time the glitter and shine comes off?

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Culinary Recognition in India

Today afternoon I was watching the repeat telecast of the NDTV Food Awards that was being hosted by the funny highwaymen Rocky and Mayur.The event was brief and classy, and had some enchanting song performances by Shafqat Amanat Ali.It was the first ever food awards being organised by NDTV (maybe it was high time as the channel has a significant number of excellent quality food shows) and awards were given away on a total of 10 categories, including Best Bar, Best Dhaba and Best Regional.

Although it was an excellent initiative on the part of the channel, I was slightly let down by the rather paltry number of award categories.Some categories like “Best Asian” and “Best European” were very broad-based and could have been classified further along the lines of Italian, French, Mediterranean,Oriental etc. cuisines.Some categories sounded incomplete, e.g “Best North Indian”, but no vis-a-vis “Best South Indian”.Similarly, the Best Regional category could have been broken further into Punjabi,Avadhi,Gujarati etc. as it’s probably not fair to compare say Bengali food with Punjabi food.With New Delhi restaurants bagging most of the nominations, it left room for doubt on the nature of restaurant coverage that was considered by the jury.

With increased curiosity, I then scoured the net for similar culinary achievement awards, but could only find the Times Food Guide and Nightlife Awards that deserved any mention.The Food Forum India awards were another noteworthy awards, but they are focussed on excellence in food retailing, in other words the business aspect of food and not the food itself.With India having such a rich culinary history and considering the rapidly expanding food business in the country, it is really appalling to see the lack of platforms for recognising culinary achievement in India.

When watching Masterchef Australia episodes on tv sometime back,  I learnt about the restaurant grading mechanism that is prevalent in Western countries ,most prominent being the Michelin Stars (Europe), Mobil (US) and Chef Hats (Australia).Once again, I couldn’t find any similar grading mechanism for Indian restaurants.Although, there are a good number of food guides published annually, these guides generally talk about everything under the sun , like the restaurant ambience,service,value for money, food quality etc. but stop short of grading. A standard, widely accepted restaurant grading scale is thus, currently lacking in the Indian food industry.

Culinary recognition initiatives by NDTV and TOI are indeed very promising starts. However, having a more comprehensive recognition and grading mechanism would go a long way in raising restaurant standards, which would ultimately also benefit the regular restaurant goer.Because as Jamie Oliver said in one of the Masterchef shows “Life is too short to eat crap“.

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India’s foreign policy : Is it in trusted hands?

A secret US diplomatic cable titled “Iran manipulating Indian elite opinion-makers” exposed by Wikileaks reveals that K.V Rajan, then Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board(NSAB) had requested an urgent meeting with the US embassy Charge d’ Affaires to apprise him of an all expenses trip that Iran was organising for Indian “politicians,scholars and commentators” to which he too had been invited. Rajan suspected that this trip was part of an Iranian Government effort to encourage anti-American, pro-Muslim scholars and think tankers in India to influence PM Singh’s supporters to take a more pro-Iranian and anti-US view.Fearing that his own presence in the delegation would hand Iran a PR coup, he cancelled his visit at the last moment. The cable says that to counter Iran’s efforts, Rajan proposed that he visit US in his NSAB capacity and hold talks with officials, think tanks and intelligence community to discuss ways to better understand US assessments of Iran which he expected would later feed into NSAB discussion on Iran policy options.

The NSAB consists of persons of eminence and expertise outside the GOI who provide inputs to the National Security Council (NSC), which is the apex agency looking into the political,economic, energy and strategic security concerns of India.The National Security Advisor (NSA) is a member of the NSC who is also the primary advisor to the Prime Minister, the Indian Cabinet and the NSC on internal and international security issues.

Since then Rajan has rubbished the US cable.Considering that the cable is correct,it clearly indicates an attempt by Rajan to manipulate opinion making in NSAB by deliberately trying to create grounds for allowing US assessments of Iran to creep into India’s Iran policy making.His request for security discussions on Iran with US officials were prompted not by genuine security concerns but in order to negate any influence Iran’s soft power might have on Indian opinion makers.

Personally , I would really doubt that this is a one-off incident and if one looked deeper, probably many precedents would be revealed. Also, it’s likely that foreign policy crafting in any country would be vulnerable to such lobbying acts.This begs the questions, Are our policy makers acting solely in the nation’s best interests or Are they proxies trying to influence Indian policy making with the interests of another nation? Can we really pin our hopes on them to do an unbiased job? Can we trust them?

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And yet another year goes by…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”

I guess there’s no better way of describing Twenty Ten.In the beginning of the year, I decided to explore what others will tell, the ominous experience of ‘staying alone’, by renting out a beautiful 1BHK apartment overlooking Indiranagar 80ft rd.In case you are wondering how I manage (everyone asks me this :) ), well it’s really not so difficult…if, hmmm let’s see…… if you have a job that makes sure you are at least 100% utilized…..if you find yourself pre-occupied with your deadlines and bugs even when you are at home, despite being very much aware that you can find better ways to fill your time……if you are addicted to the innumerable food shows aired on the idiot box, even though you know that cooking isn’t exactly your cup of tea……..if you like watching Barkha Dutt,Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab Goswami shouting their lungs out……..if you both like and despise watching reality shows……..if your favourite verb is googling, www your primary source of information, and your home is blessed with a broadband connection……..if you have a comfortable laptop running Windows 7, a boxful of movie dvds and an ipod to hold more songs than you will ever hear in your life……..if there are a bunch of malls within a 5-6km radius, where you can go windows shopping, er sorry  gazing…….if you like enjoying your movies in the comforts of a multiscreen theatre, a bag of popcorns and a glass of pepsi……..if you like to snug under a warm blanket with a good novel and an apple to munch on………if you feel there’s nothing demeaning about staring emptily at the ceiling…….. well, I can still go on, but I don’t want to bother coz’ I think my dear Reader, you must have got my point by now :) .All in all, the experience has been enjoyable most of the times and depressing some of the time, but something I will cherish forever, something that has helped me come out of my shell, something that has really made me grow as a person.

Well, now on to more important things. 2010 was a year dominated by eye-boggling political scams (just when you think it can’t get worse than this, some more skeletons come tumbling out), although what captured my attention more was the Madhu Koda mining scam(Jharkhand is my home state) and the 2G scam(for the corporate+goverment+media nexus that got exposed for the first time).The Indian media has been blamed for many things in the past, but never for being corporate proxies. I will be looking forward to more developments on this scam next year, and I hope the media will give it the coverage it deserves (2G scam is biggest scam of independent India). Sadly though , as a fallout of this scam most of us will start doubting the authenticity of our daily news feeds.Apart from this, the Telangana uprising and the Maoist insurgency also grabbed headlines for a long time, and they will definitely be on my radar next year.

However,by far, what I found the most interesting development this year was the Wikileaks revelation of U.S diplomatic cables.The Foreign News page of the newspaper was what I would read first even when I was in school.International relations and world affairs is something I find extremely engrossing and one of my childhood dreams(there’s countless) was to get into IFS (oh, if only it wasn’t so difficult and my conversation skills not so terrible). The diplomatic cables are like a treasure trove , and there’s too much of juicy information to digest fast.So I guess, I will take my own time in going through it.Hopefully, I will even post about it.

Here’s welcoming a more prosperous 2011, and a Happy New Year to all my readers :) .

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My First Time

“My only hobby is laziness, which naturally rules out all others.”

 My attempt at blogging is partly to fight this menace, partly to fulfill my this year’s New Year resolution, partly to get back my old flair for writing, and I think partly to just have fun writing about things that I love or find interesting. This blogpost would be dedicated for topics like movie and book reviews, food and gourmet exploration,music,sports,politics and international affairs.And of course, the list is flexible.

Since procrastination is my childhood pal, I am not sure how regular I will be in my posts. However, I will certainly try to make brief posts on a weekly basis.

So, let’s do it!!

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