Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Bombay Dreams

This past weekend was Thanksgiving, and boy, do I have reason to give thanks! Some reasons (the two which explain today's title will be dealt with in some detail):
1. Meeting my cousin in New York City. Hung out with her and her friends for 2 days. Never before (and probably never again) have I been in the company of so many UDCT-ians and IIT-ians and engineers of all kinds and worst of all - they were all younger than me!
2. NEW YORK CITY!! However much I visit NYC and Chicago, they will never cease to excite me..You can take the girl out of the city, but not the city out of the girl!
3. Meeting my old roomie in Virginia
4. Museums (why isn't it "musea"?!) in Washington, DC
5. Food (and drink!) in Virginia
6. Finding out that my car and I did perfectly fine driving all the way to NY/New Jersey, Virginia and back..neither of us ran out of food, enthusiasm, steam or consciousness
7. Desi's Parade all over NYC trying to catch Macy's Parade
8. Staying with people I didn't know but who were indescribably nice and hospitable. The one couple (my friend's uncle and aunt in NJ) in fact, got so chummy that they made me watch their wedding video, complete from engagement onwards!! They went out of their way to make me comfortable and supplied me with directions, bus schedules, dinner, stories about their children and a comfortable bed.
9. Watching "Bombay Dreams" the Broadway musical in NYC. It was every bit as glitzy, dramatic, unrealistic and exciting as I thought it would be, and then some. Nowhere else have I witnessed a full-scale fountain spurt out on stage soaking the cast completely! The splendid larger than life sets, the moving stage,Rahman's music in American accents, and the hopelessly cheesy plot, all added up to a complete Bollywood experience. The only disappointment was a different cast from what I was expecting (e.g. no Ayesha Dharker, no Madhur Jaffrey). Manu Narayan still stole my heart, and American Idol Tamyra Gray was a lovely very desi-like surprise :)
10. Real-life Bombay Dreams...one week from now I will be in the air somewhere over the Atlantic flying home to Bombay for 3 weeks. YAY!! This time, I get to witness my brother get engaged and one of my best friends get married (I am a bridesmaid..once-in-a-lifetime chance!!). Can't wait for the road-side chat and vada-pav, bargaining on Fashion Street, reading India Today and watching Channel V, eating Amma's cooking and sleeping in long-distance trains, listening to loudspeakers, watching the neighborhood kids play cricket on the streets, doing "up-down" in the local train to ensure a seat, catching up with friends and family. Like I said, you can take the girl out of the city but...

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Soon I'm gonna be a Jedi!!

Here it is, folks..the results are out! After long years of thinking I am R2D2's female version, turns out I am Han Solo. Try the cheesy quiz, and see what character you are!! And if, like me, you like parodies and spoofs, check out Weird Al Yankovich's version of Don McLean's "American Pie" - it's a Star Wars tribute called ""The Saga Begins" from which the title of today's post originates.
While I have not watched the 'prequels' (except for some parts of one..the one where Anakin-the-kid enters a race), and have watched the *real* Star Wars movies just once (SHAME ON ME!!), something about the saga fascinates me. Maybe it's the fact that it fascinates millions, churning out nerdy fans and collegiate quizes dedicated to it, maybe it's the fact that it appeals to our basest archetypes (good versus evil, adventure, beautiful princesses and mysterious enlightened creatures, Oedipus complexes and all the rest!) , maybe that it is a simple, almost simplistic mix of drama, adventure, romance, war, humor, etc. Just a fortunate blend of ingredients that make good cinema. Enough analysis paralysis! May the force be with you!
You are Han Solo.

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Friday, November 12, 2004

Darwin who?

Having almost finished reading "Angels and Demons" one thing the book mentions surprised me, and I read a couple of other things recently that have combined to shock the hell out of me. One of the characters in the book mentions in passing that half the schools in America teach Creationism (basically, that God created man in six days), and not Evolution as the method of origin of humankind. While I took that with an enormous helping of salt, I cannot do that with the following two news items:
1. There is a trial going on in Georgia (heart of the Bible Belt of course) right now as to whether textbooks with a disclaimer sticker that evolution is a theory and not a fact (which was introduced after 2000 parents DEMANDED that evolution NOT be taught!) should be removed or not.
2. In rural Pennsylvania a school board today passed a ruling that students be taught the doctrine of "intelligent design" which holds that 'the universe is so complex that it must have been created by an unspecified higher power'. Basically, creationism in non-Biblical terms. Today, in the year 2004, in a day when commercial space trips are possible, schools are going to TEACH that God made us, and we did not evolve from apes. Science and all of that is just, well, wrong! We would rather believe the Church's politically motivated interpretation of ambiguous writings about things that might or might not have happened, recorded decades after they might or might not have happened! Even if I didn't have a problem with the idea of God making us, what's wrong with the idea that God could have caused evolution? Why can't people live with compromises like that? I just don't get the reason for this Evolution versus Creationism debate...(by the way, brilliantly portrayed in the movie/play "Inherit the Wind" which is about a very similar trial in 1925. Guess nothing much has changed since that famous Scopes' Monkey Trial!)
You only have to have a conversation with a rural Ohioan or a Texan rancher, or even watch Fox News as the anchor talks about "barbarian terrorists" and "the ignorant Middle East" to realize the stereotype-filled blinkers these people have on! The world is black and white (preferably more white of course!), if you're not with us, you're against us, any brown skinned person with a non-American accent must either be a terrorist or from a country with starving masses and a pagan dictator. The fact that Bush got re-elected based mostly on so-called moral issues like gay marriage, abortion and stem-cell research is a clear sign to me that no longer is there no church interference with state. While all the world marches forward, America marches backward into narrow minded Bible thumping and zero-tolerance policies.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Famous is as famous knows...

Yesterday, looking for a recommendation on www.musicindiaonline.com, I came across an article about Gayatri Iyer..whose name I never gave a second thought to, because that's almost as generic as John Smith. It was the first time that I saw her picture though yesterday, and I realised that I went to school with this woman.
A similar thing happened some time back..I was being introduced to some current filmi music, and I totally fell in love with "Aisa jaadoo" from "Khakhee". Then, I realised that the composer was Ram Sampath, who was in my brother's class and we played together when we were kids..My dad helped him open his first bank account and so on.
Being born and brought up in Bombay, I have had the (mis)fortune of coming in contact with several "celebrity" types. At the cost of seeming exceedingly pretentious and snobby, here's a list of people I either went to school/college with or have spoken to, or harassed as judges during Malhar, in a random order:
1. Shilpa Shetty
2. Shamita Shetty
3. Upamanyu Chatterjee
4. Aditya Hitkari *sigh*
5. Rahul Bose *SIGH*
7. Ayesha Dharker
8. Neha Dubey
9. Alyque Padamsee
10. Harsh Mankad
11. Kaizad Gustad
12. Anupama Verma
13. Bikram Saluja
14. Aamir Khan's dog
15. Yukta Mukhi
And of course, Ram and Gayatri. And Vidya Balan, a friend who's making it big now.
Any time I mention things like this here in Akron, I get a big reflected glory glance from folks, so I figured, let's see exactly how many famous people I can reflect glory off of! And there you have it!