Sunday, April 13, 2008

Man Vs Machine - Who will win this race?

It was a beautiful evening and after doing all my chores it was time to relax a bit. I had the evening to myself as my brother had gone to his college, preparing for his impending exams. I prepared my lunch and played the movie, Naya Daur, the Dvd of which I got from the library yesterday. This was the new colored version of the 1957 Dilip Kumar-Vyjayanthimala classic.

My favourite song from the movie, Uden Jab Jab Zulfein tere

The movie was released 10 years after India's independence, when the country was going through a transition phase. India was struggling between the Industrialization of the country vs. the human factor which is the main resource of this vast country. The story like most Indian stories was also about friendship, love, jealousy, family and faith. But like most stories of that era, the movie raised some questions and surprisingly most of those questions are still relevant. The questions about man vs. machine, growing India vs. forgotten India, progress vs. human cost of that progress. As India is growing these questions are becoming more and more important. Questions which cannot be ignored if the progress has to be real.

Uden Jab Jab Zulfein tere in Black and White

Recently there have been lot of news about vegetable hawkers and small store owners threating the new organized retail sector to close down their stores. In some cases they have been successful because the Government is worried about their vote bank. The question is, who is right? Are the big corporations like Reliance ethical in opening vegetable marts across that country, where they can leverage their power to bring down the prices? Or are the vegetable hawkers wrong in closing down these big chains rather than competing with them on equal terms? What about the consumers, do they prefer buying their vegetables after some bargaining and getting some dhania for free or do they prefer to go into air-conditioned shops and buy the freshest vegetables at lowest prices?

The movie is about two friends who get divided by the same girl they fall in love with. The movie takes a dramatic turn when the village which is solely dependent on the forest industry and tongas (horse carts) for taking the passengers of the local train to the villages nearby, encounters machines. In the movie, son of the landlord of that area returns from the city and brings with him machines to replace people in sawmills. Suddenly half of the village is unemployed and the rest of the village, the tonga-wallas, face the same fate when the landlord decides to ply a bus to take train passengers to the village. Protagonist of the movie, Dilip Kumar's character, goes to meet the landlord's son to settle the isue.

Rest of the story surprised me for a very different reason. Second part of the movie was eerily similar to the movie Lagaan. Replace the Britishers in Lagaan with landlord's son, replace the Aamir Khan's Bhuvan with Dilip Kumar's Shankar, replace the cricket match with race between a tonga and the bus, and there you have essentially the same movie. I am surprised that not many reviewers were able to catch the similarity. The scene where Bhuvan accepts the bet is exactly same as Shankar taking the bet from landlord for the race. The climax cricket match with the whole village watching is again eerily similar to climax race between tonga and the bus. Ashutosh should be commended for taking the story and moulding it very smartly. But the credit for the story should goto the original writers and B R Chopra for portraying such a forward-thinking story with the backdrop of rustic village life, which brings me to another related question. Why have the so-called Bollywood moved away from the story of villages.

For a country where 70% of the population is still living in villages, its an irony that only two significant movies, Swades and Lagaan, have been village based in recent times. Is it because 30% of India is now earning more than the 70%? A cinema which had its heart in the villages of India is now catering to the NRI audience while conveniently forgetting the same people that supported it all this while. It seems the progress in Hindi Cinema has left behind the forgotten-ones. The thought makes the movie Naya Daur even more ironic. It seems men (and women) with money, foreign visas and machines have left behind the men with the plough once and for all.

Monday, April 07, 2008

...and a blackout

...the first thing that I noticed was a familiar picture taken by Marlee inside the bookshop, the shot of an older lady reading the book "nudes". My eyes started wandering for a familiar face that I had never met. And there she was, sitting in red against a red background and almost meshing within it except for a beautiful smile that greeted me. I wouldn't lie but there was an initial awkwardness from my side but it all vanished by the time we sat on the couch. We started talking where we had left in our chats, smses and phone conversations. My first impressions of Marlee was that she was a beautiful girl with a certain innocence about her that reflected in her writings too. She gave me a wonderful scarf from her native Assam while I didn't got her anything, not even the damn red roses. After some iced tea, we decided to go for lunch and I left it onto her to decide since Delhi was like a strange dream to me after so many years.

We decided to go to a Chinese place, Bercos, where I had been before once, long time back. The place was crowded like anything but we managed to find a table for two. I told Marlee to order and almost wished she wouldn't order any kind of dish with silkworms in it (just kidding). Jokes apart, the food was delicious and we were full in no time. Marlee had told me about a Delhi Blogger's Meet that she had been invited to the same day and we decided to join them in the evening. We still had an hour to go, so we decided to goto the Central Park and relax under the winter sun. We called our common and dear friend Mehak from there and it was almost an extension of our chatting sessions together.

Blogger's Meet was in Blue's pub and we walked into some really good music. Marlee met and then introduced me to Lalit, the blogger that had invited her for the meet. There were about 10-15 other bloggers that we had never met online or otherwise. We found a seat at the corner of the table beside a journalist from a national newspaper. We introduced ourselves to few bloggers but were almost feeling out of place as most of them knew each other and were also serious bloggers. It has to be said that Lalit really took very good care of us and in no time we were mingling with bloggers and having the Blogger's meet cake.

It was surprising that couple of bloggers knew me as Seventeen tomatoes but had never commented on my blog and vice-versa. The most surprising part came when one of the bloggers asked me if I knew Harry and I said that I have a cousin named Harry. As it turned out my Bua's son was one of the founders of Delhi's Bloggers Meet. Suddenly everyone was referring me as Harry's cousin. We had couple of drinks and it was almost time for us to leave. We made short videos about blogging and what it meant to us, for the organizers and left. My parents had to pick me up while Marlee's friend had to accompany her. So, we called them at a common place where I introduced my parents to her and then it was time to leave. We had made some plans to meet again but as I said earlier my plans never turn out as planned.

I don't remember when I met Neetie online but its like I have always known her. She used to write poetry but would change her blog-address every time. She would come to my blog once a month and tell me the link to her new blog. With time I was able to convince her to stick to one blog and she eventually did. Suddenly we were chatting everyday and despite of the fact she was very shy, we opened up to each other. It has been a wonderful journey to not only see her grow over time but become a confident and independent girl. Although, with time she almost left blogging and would meet me online once in a blue moon but our friendship remained as strong as it ever was. We would talk about our lives where we had left the last time and the conversation will always flow. I had promised her that I will meet her whenever I would come to India. She would ask me everytime, "Tu kab aa raha hain?" And here I was in India, but again like all my plans, something or the other would come up. First time even though I was in her area since my Bua lives there, it was pretty late when she returned from work and we decided to meet sometime else. Other time she took a holiday to meet me but I had a Doctor's appointment and that plan was canceled too.

It was my last week in Delhi and my Uncle from US was visiting. We once again went to our Bua's place and I called Neetie. She was leaving work and it was late-ish evening. She told me that she will try to see if her cab-driver can drop her near my Bua's place. She called again when she was near our place and told me that she was unable to find our street although she was very near. I told her to wait and I would come to the main road to meet her. As soon as I left, the city blacked out. Here I was, who had no idea about the place, had never met this friend and looking for her without any lights on the streets. I was running from one corner of the street to another, talking to Neetie on phone when she suddenly asked me what I was wearing. I turned back and there she was accompanied by one of her cab-mates who left as soon as I waved her. I crossed the road and met her where she gave me a shy smile. Again after a second of awkwardness we were talking like we knew each other since ages. By the time we reached my Bua's place we were very comfortable with each other. I introduced her to my extended family, including my parents, bua, chachi and even Marshaal, bua's Labrador. This had to be the most awkward way to meet a Blogger, with your whole extended-family in toe. But I was more than impressed with how Neetie handled herself. I could not believe it was the same shy girl who wouldn't even go out of her house for days. It helped that she had met my parents even before she had met me (Post: Meet my parents). We ended up talking mostly about stocks as she is in the stock industry and my Dad has invested in some stocks as well. It was already late and her fiancee was at my Bua's place to pick her up. We bade good-byes and she was away within only half hour of meeting me. Next day she called me and said that never for a second she felt that she was meeting me for the first time and I told her that the feeling was mutual. My only regret was not to attend her wedding which was in two weeks time. Few days back when she showed me her wedding snaps, it was like I was there with her during her happiest hour. As she would always say to me "God Bless !!"

I wish I had met some more bloggers but am sure there will be a time and place for each one of them. I am just thankful that all my blogger friend's made me feel so welcome back home. I can't wait to be back among them soon but this time there will be no plans.