Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hai hai Hindi serials

I am always fascinated by why we watch TV, and what makes shows popular. I remember having been mystified by the success of Wheel of Fortune and the celebrity status that Vanna White attained just turning over missing letters in a phrase.  Today I have a new preoccupation. Following people's comments in chatrooms about one popular Hindi TV serial ipkknd ( iss pyaar ko kya naam doon?) There was one recent comment where a viewer threatened to fly down to India to kill the villain in the show if he followed through with his plot to murder a popular character!  Talk about merging real life and fantasy.  The TV producers of these popular shows have to carry the burden of people's emotional well being even as they make decisions to pursue certain story lines.  For eg, recently two plot lines were scuttled as a result of public outcry over their unpopularity! The soap opera industry in India,  still in its infancy, is a victim of its own success.  Too much audience involvement curbs creative independence of writers and results in actors working long hours to record different plot lines because of decisions to can unpopular themes.  Also ruining the show are the inappropriate use of body doubles given these resultant time pressures.  And get this, life can become downright risky for folks who dare leave a show when they have become the darling of their fans.  Barun Sobti the popular protagonist of ipkknd is a case in point.  He is being mobbed and reviled just because he has decided to take a break and pursue the silver screen.  There are some wonderful elements to this show - great acting and aesthetics, wonderful music and clever gimmicks, whereby musical scores are tied to characters and moods, making for layered appeal and comforting familiarity.  However a good show can become great only if maniacal serial watchers lighten up.  So here is a call to them, in the interest of improving the quality of the fare being served up.  Allow these serials to happen without becoming emotionally entangled.  There are life lessons here in deferred gratification and remaining intellectually and emotionally curious!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Diwali Memories

My fondest memories of Diwali are from 1973 the year my sister Jai had her Thalai Deepavali (first after her marriage). I was eleven and discovering bell bottom pant suits, which my parents could ill afford to purchase ready-made. So when our dashing brother-in- law took us on Diwali eve to one of the few Sindi owned ready-made children's clothing stores in Trivandrum, Children's Corner, insisting he buy them for us, we were over the moon. Mine was lime green, long sleeves with an inner vest and tassels that tied the vest together in the front and my younger sister Suja's purple with puffed sleeves. We could not wait to get home and try them on. However Amma insisted we wait till after our baths early the next morning. We did not sleep a wink that night and after the obligatory oil bath, donned our clothes uncaring that we would have oil stains on them by the end of the day. What was it that made those clothes so special? Really it had nothing to do with the look! Picture us in those pant suits, with oily hair and flip flops. Well it was just the fact that we had been to a classy place to buy our clothes and no matter how they fit, they beat out our ill tailored frocks or skirts, any day. Those clothes commanded instant credibility for us among our class-mates who had lived abroad, smelt of perfume, chewed bubble gum and wore fancy lace dresses and shiny black shoes with bright white polyester socks. We wore those pant suits, till we outgrew them, to special events at school, wedding receptions or to the homes of our parents' wealthy relatives and friends so as not to feel out of place. When you come from fixed income, middle class moorings and are self-conscious that everything about you is likely to give away your class status, you yearn for the casual ease that comes from wearing "imported" clothes, and a fancy suit from Children's Corner is the next best thing. I am grateful that this Diwali I had three new sarees to pick from. I am also happy that I am at a time and place in my life when maintaining an image is no longer a priority.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Go Obama - thoughts on election day

A co-worker at my office said to me – Obama has fixed the election. Knowing his politics I hope this is an attempt by him to save face, while projecting a Romney loss. How does the average unemployed American relate to Mitt Romney? Are they so delusional that they believe he will somehow serve their interests by picking them up and helping them out? He will not because that is not his intent. He believes they are where they lie because they are lazy and need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. He will not level the playing field for those who come out of schools with huge student loans and no jobs, for those who get disabled on their jobs and for those who are struck down by illness while riding high in their careers. He will not because he cannot, given his politics and given America’s place in the world. America is now part of a world economy where the division between production and consumption is so ordained that things get made where it is cheapest to make them, thus offshoring jobs. How can such a society be sustainable in the long term and build local communities if there is no role for government policy to shift that paradigm? A role to level the playing field for young graduates who find themselves at the short end of the stick due to no fault of theirs but of the consumerist world order? Or for those folks who are made ill by a country that does not regulate what gets sold as food and does not focus on preventative health measures as a part of social policy? How is Romney’s trickle down politics of more production for consumption at the cheapest price really going to grow the American economy in a world where things can be made cheaper elsewhere? How is he going to stimulate the economy to create more jobs here? The details are missing because there are none. He has a good rhetoric but his analysis is not based on the present world context, which is different from the one Reagan presided over 30 years ago. That train has long left the station.

Monday, November 5, 2012

From the ridiculous to the sublime

So I was filling gas and saw before me this incredibly gorgeous male specimen. I was twice his age for sure and have a daughter his age. So the rational mind kicked in and said "so suitable for Uttara". Of course I glossed over the fact that Utta has a poor opinion of my taste in men. So I ogled on. The right height, physique and color - but most important of all his suit was slim fitting and well tailored. And as if for the benefit of his singular audience he undonned his suit jacket to reveal broad shoulders under a crisp white shirt. I had this urge to lurch forward and tell him "do you actually know you are wasting your life driving around in a Toyota Corolla when you could be on the silver screen somewhere with a bevy of swooning women fans! " Which in a long winded way brings me to my topic today. Only in Canada have I seen Adonis and Helen of Troy cleaning shop floors or managing cash registers at the 7/11s. How incredibly sad that these perfections of nature for a good 10 years of their young adulthood live in obscurity only to soon become nondescript- looking in sweat pants and oversized shirts, covering oversized bodies, like the rest of us. In a metaphorical sense, it is true of all of us that we dont see and therefore unleash our potential. We have a jaundiced view that focusses on our inadequacies, trivialises our strengths and wallows in "what could or should be but not what is". Our moments are thus frittered away in negative ruminations and yearnings or escapes into other realities, the present moment forgotten and scorned. Sadly for us we will never see that man on the silver screen and we will never all be our absolute glorious selves.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Beautiful philosophical text from China translated by Jack Xu

何谓求诸人?人同类而智殊,贤不肖异,皆巧言辩辞,以自防御,此不肖主之所以乱也。凡论人,通则观其所礼,贵则观其所进,富则观其所养,听则观其所行,止则观其所好,习则观其所言,穷则观其所不受,贱则观其所不为,喜之以验其守,乐之以验其僻,怒之以验其节,惧之以验其特,哀之以验其人,苦之以验其志,八观六验,此贤主之所以论人也。论人者,又必以六戚四隐。何谓六戚?父、母、兄、弟、妻、子。何谓四隐?交友、故旧、邑里、门郭。内则用六戚四隐,外则用八观六验,人之情伪贪鄙美恶无所失矣,譬之若逃雨,汙无之而非是。此圣王之所以知人也。 What does it mean to depend on others? We are all human, but our intelligence levels vary greatly. The wise and the immoral, although different, all use rhetoric to sweet talk and defend ourselves, which is why the unwise leaders become muddled in their judgment. To assess a person: When he’s successful, observe who he respects. When he’s powerful, observe who he recommends. When he’s wealthy, observe who he helps. When he’s given advice, observe how he reacts. When he’s not busy, observe his interests. When he’s learned, observe what he says. When he’s impoverished, observe what he would not accept. When he’s ill-fated, observe what he would not do. Make him ecstatic, to examine his conduct. Make him overjoyed, to examine his demeanor. Make him angry, to examine his self-control. Make him frightened, to examine his integrity. Make him sorrowful, to examine his character. Make him endure hardship, to examine his resolve. These are the eight observations and six examinations wise leaders use to assess a person. But there are also six direct; and four hidden relationships that must be considered. What are the six direct relationships? These are the father, the mother, older brothers, younger brothers, wife, and children. What are the four hidden relationships? These are friends, acquaintances, neighbours, and confidants. To assess a person’s inner character, use the six direct and four hidden relationships. To assess a person’s outer character, use the eight observations and six examinations. Then a person’s sincerity, hypocrisy, greed, awfulness, virtue, and wickedness will all be captured without error – as if he were running through rain, where it is impossible to avoid the raindrops landing on him. This is how sagacious leaders value a person.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Conditional Status for Sponsored Spouses – “Is the Jig Up on Marriage Fraud”?

The Minister of Immigration tells us that the new amendments to the Immigration Act will ensure “the jig is up on marriage fraud”. The changes to the Act which are ostensibly intended to deny permanent status to persons who abdicate their marital obligations soon after they land in Canada on a spousal sponsorship may appear reasonable to some. The law will require spouses to cohabit for a period of two years for their conditional status to be commuted and made permanent. There are several problems with this amendment. We now have a situation where there is a presumption of guilt. All couples have to endure one spouse's conditional status, just because a few may have married for the purposes of obtaining their immigration. There is no empirical evidence as to the numbers of these fraudulent marriages for the Minister to back up this amendment to the law. We also dont know whether the perpetrators are the sponsors, the sponsorees or both. I just know it will inhibit bright young professional men and women with busy lives and international careers from moving here. They usually meet through dating sites and start their relationship upon marriage. I have nieces who are professionals and will choose not to court men from Canada or to move here now just because of the risk to them, or their spouses, of giving up a promising career for what would be for them tentative status since it is not clear if an employer will invest in someone with conditional status. Potential immigration status in the destination country ranks very high among criteria to enter into marriage because lack of connectedness and insecurity around career prospects impact both parties’ commitment to the relationship as a whole. From a policy stand point are we inhibiting Canada’s ability to attract and keep the best and brightest? Rather than put in foolproof measures when assessing applications for genuineness or following up on those who abused the system, the Minister has taken the radical measure of shifting the burden of proof on the immigrant. The end result is a stratified society where immigrants once again start out as second class citizens. Immigration to Canada may be a privilege. However, we need bright young men and women to move here as much as they need Canada and by creating all these barriers we do ourselves a huge disservice, shunning human capital that will help transform an aging society into one that is young, vibrant and viable.