Monday, March 27, 2006

Being Yao Ming...

Simple... amateur ... delightful!!

Whats wrong with me!!

Golden Gate, San Fransisco

Inner Harbor, Baltimore

View from UMBC ITE Building

San Fransisco from the sky!!

4733 Aldgate Green... good times!!

Once in a dozen years, I go to sleep before midnight. As if thats not enough, I get up at 4.30 am realizing I have not had dinner. And then, what do I do? I spend the next two hours decking up my orkut album... and glug a mountain dew to quell the not-had-dinner-last-night pangs... And then, finally, I decide this is important enough for people to know, so I blog all this and even upload some pictures here for good measure!! Seriously, whats wrong with me!! Ok, that was rhetorical, I already know whats wrong and NO, you may NOT send me a detailed list!!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Where wrong is right ...

There have been umpteen times when I have been part of never-ending, pointless discussions on corruption in India. While lots of us know this really well, in our heart, that a miracle alone will help us change this 'national' habit, I have been thinking a bit about what makes almost an entire nation close their collective conscience and join in the fun that goes on everyday.

If you are from a middle-class background in India, like me, chances are that somewhere or the other, you have seen corruption, even been a part of it. Even the most chaste of us will certainly have at least contemplated tipping off that annoying policeman who stops you at the signal for no apparent reason and demands to see your PUC.

I was thinking about this for some time now, having knowingly or unknowingly been part of this culture, on whats wrong will all of us. (Yes, all of us. We have to accept responsibility for the system we are living in.) I realized that somewhere we have stopped thinking that there is anything wrong with doing this. That we own our money and what we do with it is nobody else's business.

A particular incident comes to mind. I worked for a software firm for two years and was given a tax-benefit if I could submit medical bills for the entire amount allocated. When the time came to submit this, I realized I had not really purchased any significant medicines, and so would not get the tax benefit. When I talked with several colleagues about this, some of them told me that neither had they. They explained to me that many medical shop owners would give you a bill for any amount, if you paid them some percentage of the money you got.

What disturbs me now is that how easy it seemed. At that moment it seemed such a routine procedure for many of them that I did not even feel there is anything wrong with that. It was just another thing that people were 'getting done'. They did not want to give away that money to a government which was not repairing their roads, which was not promising them electricity, which was not affording them security. In their enormous 'wrong' was a small 'right', which overrode any conscientous appeals.

I had almost made up my mind to do the same. Never once thought that there was something wrong with it. When I came home, I was discussing something with my Mom and the topic came up. I casually told her what everyone was doing and that it was a great way to save money. Suddenly my mom's expression changed. A look of disappointment came over her, and she said in a low tone, "Thats a nice idea you have there." She did not say anything more, nor did she try to stop me. But she was disappointed with me, and for the first time, I felt I was actually doing something wrong.

The more I thought about it, the more I couldn't believe, that all this while I was actually going to do this. That it never struck me that it was wrong to do so. And I wondered why... Because it seemed like the normal way of life. Everyone was doing it. I had failed my mother's expectations that day. Needless to say, I paid the entire amount.

But the incident taught me that not everyone who engages in corruption really knows he is doing something wrong. So many things become a way of life, we stop thinking about them. I remember a distant friend from a small town, who was trying hard to become an inspector. When I asked him why he was opting for this career, he said that the job would give him a way to earn from many 'sources', apart from his salary. He said it with the ease and innocence that only a small-towner can. For years, he had dreamt of the good city life, and had seen friends settle from the little lanes to the big houses. And they were seen as huge successes back home. What they did was a model. They had overcome the fate that the ignorant goverment system had relegated them to. They had 'conquered' the city, they had brought happiness to their old poor parents, they were good people. And so, when someone grew up with dreams of being like them, the notion of wrongness did not even exist. This was something right, this 'felt' right...

There will be many more examples. And through all of them, corruption has become a way of righting the wrongs that have been happening to us. There will be other levels to corruption surely, things that are plainly wrong and are done in the knowledge of them being wrong. But what disturbs me is the corruption of the other kind, where people have been given to believe that what they are doing is actually the right thing to do.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Prequel to Florida trip...

It's been a long time since there has been any controversy in our utterly self-important lives. In another unrelated incident, I haven't blogged for almost the same amount of time. So I decided, it's time to please my five readers (I found another one). I am about to write down inciting stuff, but ultimately YOU have to decide how much you want to trust someone who has been living off just fried noodles for two days...

Well it all started with everyone coming up with plans for Spring Break, and it seemed like everyone and his brother were going somewhere. As usual, we were extremely quick to pick upon the going-ons in our surrounding. For about a week, J and I repeatedly discussed a possible trip. Mainly in the following set of words:

J: Kidhar jaane ka hai kya?
Me: hmm... Dekhte hai...

This would often keep us satisfied for the day. Both of us were happy in the knowledge that we agreed on going somewhere, and when the RIGHT time came, we would decide where to go. In the meantime, we decided that N would be an excellent companion to make this trip even more fun. Apart from someone to share the rent, and fun, we also needed someone who would plan the whole thing for us. To that end, we set up a conference call with N.
J: Kidhar jaane ka hai kya?
Me: hmm... Dekhte hai...
N: Jaa sakte hai ... Plan karna padega...
Me: Jaa toh sakte hi hai...
My patient approach was misunderstood by my potential tripmates as laziness and unenthusiasm. While I came to know about their opinion soon, I once again avoided an angry response and opted for an even more patient approach to calm the waters. This was labeled as more laziness. The sad story of my life is that many of my great qualities have symtoms that match activities of lazy people. Of course, it doesn't help that someone as indolent as J calls you lazy. Almost like Ganguly calling Kumble a bad fielder. Jeez.

Finally we decided to make a Florida trip. We made animated discussion about the trip in front of K. He listened in midst of watching Naruto and Becker. N decided to call the trip a Dil Chahta Hai trip. It was a firm reply to all sceptics who relentlessly expressed surprise that N and J were going together, and that I was going anywhere.

J and I discussed this many times, wondering what the deal with people's reaction was. We realized in the end, that people make quick inferences about other people from random and short pieces of information. We form opinions about others without considering so many reasons which may have caused a person to be who she or he is. And that's a bit sad.

Sometimes, when I talk to J, I feel I am talking to a wall. J is a man of few words, and does not always bother to explain his statements. He also makes curiously interesting face expressions, like showing extreme interest when he is not at all interested, or vice versa. J has earned a reputation as a entertainer in the house and tries hard to keep up with this reputation. K and I bear the pain, but perhaps it's because we incite him in the first place. I am acutely aware, that K will not be with me to share this pain during the trip, as he will not be part of the trip.

Of course, some people raised the question of whether we had invited K for the trip, and J informed them that we had made the discussions in front of him, and he had never shown any inclination or interest. This was, of course, a brilliant cover up!! First of all, Dil Chahta Hai cannot have four people. More importantly, neither J nor I, wanted to listen to K pontificating to all of us for the whole duration of the trip. We were also tired of his stories from Canada, with which he bored us to death in the first year of our room'ism'. In particular, both J and I seemed to agree that a vacation by definition is one, where you can be assured that noone in a radius of 123 meters is allowed to say "Ek Kaam karega kya?" to you.

Even as celebrations of this fact were going on, we made plans to spend 5 days in Orlando. The responsibiliy of booking a hotel was given to me. I was efficient in the job. It took only two days of threatening, namecalling, and humiliating insults to get the adrenalin flowing, and then, in a magical 5 minute phone call on the third day, the job was done. We were set to go!!

Or so we thought. Whilst this booking drama unfolded, J had, during his usually fruitless talks with fellow desis, uncovered some important information. When he came back after a talk with Kammo, he told me and N that only fools would spend 5 'fool' days in Orlando, while the world was busy having fun in Miami and Key West. While we always knew we were fools, when J calls you a fool, you feel doubly foolish. Meanwhile prices were rising, and fearing another 'patient' performance from me, I requested N to book the new tickets.

And so, we were set! Some of you may feel that this post is heavily mis-timed, since we are leaving to Florida next week. But I post this in the knowledge that all the payments are already made, and the trip will happen under all circumstances. Having got such a wonderful start, readers may rest assured that the trip will see us reaching new levels of friendship, and provide memories for future when we will fondly remember our time in Florida Spring Break 2006.

The dullest blog in the world

Worth a look, but does get kinda 'duh' after a while :P