There is absolutely no doubt that India is in the midst of a health emergency, due to the second wave of Covid-19. And as citizens grapple with personal tragedy, and scenes of grief at hospitals etc., there is a natural anger seething within all of us, as to why we have ended up in this state.

And one of the intuitive directions where the blame goes, is towards the government – both state and centre. I have myself been very vocal on social media and personal Whatsapp group conversations, about my own disappointment with regards to the government in terms of what they could do, and what they have done so far!

That said, at this point, I was reminded of the famous call of John Kennedy, that went, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!”.

I am making a small change in that line, to say that “Ask not JUST what your country can do for you, ask ALSO what YOU can do for your country”!

Before I get into the detail of this, let me focus on the many messages going on, across media, in various private conversations, where we seem to lay all of the blame to the governments. And reckon that if they had behaved better, we’d all have been safe and sound at this point.

To that narrative, let’s understand a few things to begin with:

  • Last year, when the rest of the world was grappling with very large number of cases and fatalities, somehow or the other, we had managed to keep the numbers at bay, and kind of managed to flatten the curve; essentially, ensured that the number of patients demanding a Covid hospital bed were lesser than the number of hospital beds available
  • Considering our population numbers and density, it seemed to be quite an incredulous feat to have achieved, and we gave credit to all kinds of reasons for this, including our higher immunity due to the various diseases we go through, growing up in India, or that we had had the BCG vaccination as kids, or that our weather made it harder for Covid to survive or spread, etc. At the end of it all, these were all considered speculative, and no one really pinpointed the real reasons for our better numbers.
  • As we tend to be more critical of government at any time, we did not give much credit to the initial quick steps taken for administering an unpopular lockdown, or the rapid creation of new healthcare infrastructure, etc. Maybe also the citizens’ higher levels of discipline to stay at home, sacrifice a lot, to contribute to the curve getting flattened then.
  • Whatever be the reasons, towards the end of 2020, a certain feeling was getting across that we are putting the Covid monster behind us, slowly but surely. It was on this basis that government started allowing the opening up of the economy, from transport to offices to cinemas and malls etc. And people also started getting comfortable about stepping out, going to work, and resuming their pre-Covid life, gradually.

Note that this was the backdrop, of gradually overcoming the Covid monster and an increasing confidence to resume the pre-Covid life, in Jan-Feb 2021, both for the government and for the people. And it was against this backdrop, and kind of against the turn of events, that we were all taken in by this shocking and surprising second wave of Covid.

Yes, appreciate that none of us expected it, none of us anticipated it – not the government, not the people. Unlike the first wave where it started from China and was seen to be hitting other countries, unfailingly, and it was only a matter of time before it hit India as well, the second wave did not come with such predictive knowledge.

But then, towards end of of February and through March, it became clear that the second wave WAS indeed happening and one had to start taking adequate steps in an urgent manner. Perhaps, this was the very crucial period where adequate and urgent action did not happen, like it had been done in anticipation of the first wave, in March, 2020.

So, let’s understand the role of the government and the role of the people. And note that when I speak of “government”, I refer to the centre and the state and all the connected teams and departments including municipalities, health ministry, etc.

Appreciate that hindsight is a great place to preach from (“we should have done this, we should have done that”), but at a point in time when decisions need to be taken, you don’t really have the advantage of hindsight. So, consider that fact as you raise your “expectations” of what should have been done.

What should (could) the government HAVE done?

  • Reacted quickly and strongly, as soon as the sense of the second and large wave, was felt in late Feb 2021
  • Rang the alarm bells out early enough, and on the back of the same, put an immediate stop to all mass gathering events like the Kumbh mela, farmers’ protests etc.
  • Paused the 5-state elections immediately
  • In doing all this, give out a clear message that “this is serious and needs everyone’s immediate attention”
  • While we were rolling out one massive vaccination program for a country of our size and it was being done with some planning, in terms of logistics etc., and if there was no second wave, we might have been okay with the pace and the distribution, considering the extremely special situation created out of the impending second wave, additional and corrective steps should have been taken. Like figuring out any supply chain hiccups for current vaccine players, or figuring out means and modalities to hasten the larger population into vaccination, or exploring additional vaccine types to be approved on priority and allowed in, etc.
  • Put quick curbs on non-essential public gatherings. Yes, it was back to the lives vs livelihood debate, and like the first wave, quick and essential steps, even if they were unpopular, needed to be taken.
  • Reassessed the eligibility criteria for vaccination, tweaked it as necessary basis the demography being most susceptible, looking at entire families that were getting infected, perhaps figuring alternate SOPs on quarantine etc.

There might be few more bullets to this list. But, yes, the governments – state and centre – missed out on various opportunities to react sooner and better.

Having said that, some of the (hindsight based) expectations that one reads in social media today, about what the government should and could have done, seem a tad unfair.

What are perhaps, unfair expectations of the governments:

  • That they should have rolled out the vaccination program much faster and to all, to begin with; there were logistical challenges of a large and diverse country like ours that needed to be figured out. And after all that, the rollout when it began, and started taking pace, was one of the fastest and biggest around the world. In fact, people were taking their time to register and go for vaccination as everyone seemed to believe that there is ample time to get this done. The government could have not anticipated the current huge rush for getting people vaccinated faster, at that time.
  • The choice of vaccines was made as per scientific basis and also keeping with the demands of storage and distribution in a country like ours, where availability of cold storages and reliable electrical supply across the country is not that great. So, the expectation again that, many different vaccines should have been simultaneously cleared at the outset, is unrealistic.
  • That the hospital beds infrastructure should have continued to be kept growing and maintained in numbers, even as Covid related demand for these had dramatically gone down, from the peak levels. Just think about it, if the capacity was 100 and demand was 10, and not looking to grow, how would there be a justification to not only maintain that physical infrastructure and people associated with it, but also keep increasing that capacity, for a “possible” much larger second wave, whose likelihood there was no hint about. Hell, people are finding faults in the Health Minister’s quote last year that we have adequate hospital infrastructure. Heck, he was referring to the situation at that point in time. He did not have any idea of such a huge second wave coming in! This is akin to the statement that Bill Gates has apparently said to have made many years back that “640K memory should be enough for any home computer” or words to that effect. These have all to be read in the context of the history at that point in time.
  • In the same context as the previous point, the idea that government should have ensured large scale production of Remdesvir or Oxygen cylinders for healthcare, or even purchased these and kept with them, at a time when case numbers were dwindling down, is an unfair expectation.

So, broadly speaking, the point being made is that while we are happy to blame governments for everything basis the hindsight knowledge of the current numbers of second wave cases, it must be appreciated that these are not like monsoon that was expected at some point in time for sure, and for which “rainy day”, the governments should have stayed prepared. This second wave and its intensity has caught everyone, including the government, by surprise, unfortunately.

So, if we have vented out enough about the governments, let us turn inwards. As the title of the post goes, let’s not just ask the government what it can and should have done for us, but let’s see what our role is, in this current emergency that we are all grappling with.

The people’s role:

  • Yes, we had all felt choked sitting at home for many weeks last year, so as soon as the slightest window opened, we were keen to rush out. Going out to work, as it had been hampered badly due to closures or WFH scenarios was one thing, but we could not wait to get back to our celebratory ways and partying and random travel etc. As we expect the government to have an eye on still existing Covid threats, did we not have the same sensibilities??
  • The crowds that were seen together in festivals or the weddings that resumed with the same gusto as pre-Covid times, or the lakhs of people that rushed to Goa and other destinations were a testament of how we, as people, took things for granted too. While there were restrictions at play, the jugaadu Indian took pride in how he was able to “bet the system”!
  • The height of such “beating the system” stories are the fake Covid negative certificate scams and people roaming around freely in their housing complexes or even travelling or roaming around in the city, in spite of being tested Covid positive. That someone enables such routes to be exploited and that there are huge takers of such short cuts, is again proof that we get what we deserve!
  • Note that I am not talking of daily wage earners and other working population who had to step out due to their needs of livelihood. Those could not be put off beyond a point. It is the scores of others who went out and mingled “just like that” or who chose to have large weddings or who went for large religious gatherings etc. that I point to. Absolutely unnecessary and suicidal, as we are able to see in hindsight now!
  • In late December and then in January, I could sense people giving up even on the mask, in a big way. Simple mask discipline or social distancing was being compromised big time. Because of the complacency that had set in, but that time, that “things were normal now”.
  • And even as the second wave has hit, and is clearly much stronger than the first one, there is a huge hangover on the post-first-phase liberties that we don’t want to give up. While we lived totally locked down, without domestic help, learned to manage our chores ourselves, now, with a much bigger wave, when an idea of cutting down domestic help is mooted, there is “furore” in the housing complex! We want it all, but want Covid to go away, and want some magic from governments!!

This is really the point around what WE can do for the country.

  • To start with, appreciate that we are in a serious health emergency!
  • Don’t wait for someone in your own family to have to go through the agony of finding a hospital bed in an emergency, to come to that realisation. Appreciate it already, as you see the situation around you!
  • The fundamental challenge is again around flattening the curve or cutting the curve, or whatever term you choose to use. And to understand this, it is about that difference between availability of hospital beds (including ICUs, oxygen, etc.) versus the demands for the same. At this time, the demand is surging, it is already above the capacities at most places.
  • How do you get this diverging curve under control? On the one side, you increase capacities. However, that is a slower process and we cannot expect overnight results here. And the increase of capacity will also be in finite numbers at a time. So, the other option to bring the diverging curve under control is by reducing cases.
  • And, there are effectively two ways to reduce the demand. Fewer people getting infected and more people getting vaccinated. What we can do about the former is to fundamentally follow the disciplines around masks, social distancing, not mingling, not stepping out unless absolutely necessary, and urging our friends and families towards these aspects too. Don’t step out and begin routine again, at the first signs of reopening, unless you need to do so. Basically do your bit.
  • And on the latter part, as soon as you qualify for vaccination, do get vaccinated. Get your families vaccinated. Spread vaccine education so as to remove the resistance against vaccination amongst certain people.

And if I may dare to share this last suggestion for people. And perhaps, the most critical one!

Unfortunately, most of the dialogue on social media and in private groups is around finding faults. Most times, with the government. When suggestions for lockdown or curbs are given, the response if around “why those other things are still on, and we are asked to restrain??”.

How does this help??

This is an emergency like any other emergency, such as a war. These are the times to stand as one, and focus only on the enemy, which in this case, is the Covid virus. At such a time, why are we wasting our time and energies, on fault finding, and throwing doubts around anything constructive that anyone is attempting??

Just support the steps that are being taken. You or I are NOT in a position of decision making, and if you ask a 100 people, there will be a 100 different approaches that you might get. So, just because the government is not doing what YOU think they should be doing, does not necessarily mean that they are wrong, or that you should not support them at this time.

Hopefully, we will fight this war and win, and then there will be ample time to analyse the mistakes and blame the concerned people. But for now, there can only be one objective, one laqshya, viz. to overcome this challenge of the covid emergency and win! Let’s all stay focused on that goal, and do whatever we can, in that endeavour, from our side.

In the above, where I have described the less than responsible behaviour of people earlier, I have kept using the pronoun, “we”, as I have equally been a part of that behaviour. This message is as much to myself, as to every other citizen in the country.

Let’s go, win this war against Covid, TOGETHER!

Are you too quick to judge??

Posted: April 2, 2021 in Uncategorized

Are you? Too quick to judge?

Like someone is speaking to you, and even as you hear her speak, your head is going, “She doesn’t get it” or “she is so biased” or “this is such nonsense” etc.??

Whether we verbalise such thoughts of ours or not, too often we find ourselves jumping to such conclusions.

While it is a fact that we need to constantly analyse all inputs (knowledge, experience, opinions, what we are hearing, etc.) and come to our own conclusions, rushing to such judgments may be detrimental.

Yes, it is a busy world and we have other things to do in life.

Yes, there is a lot of data to process.

Yes, we need to get on with life.

However, that does not mean that we need to judge prematurely and risk making a wrong call.

So, when you are reading some content or talking to someone, and you let your mind take a decision about the subject too quickly, what you are doing is to keep a closed mind and not allow a potential alternate thought, or a clarification from the other person to come in.

And thanks that that, we can end up forming prejudices about people or topics, for example:

  • He / she is leftist / rightist and hence those views
  • He / she comes from a very different background and won’t understand this subject
  • He / she is wrong
  • I know what he / she is going to say next
  • There he / she goes blabbering away
  • I have made a mistake in hiring him / her
  • This client is so irrational / insenstive
  • My boss / manager / colleague / client hates me
  • etc.

I am sure all of us are guilty of doing this, to small or large extent. But if you see yourself doing this all the time, you might want to pause and think.

What you might be doing is to put the cart before the horse. Or to put a conclusion without merit, or without having heard the perspective completely.

The traits that lead to such behaviour are as under:

  1. Overconfidence: you feel that you know everything, and don’t even need to listen to what the other person is saying, or what that other view is.
  2. Arrogance: a feeling that “what can this person teach me”!
  3. Not being a good listener: is when, you are supposedly “hearing” the other person, but not really “listening” to them. Which means that you are blanked out to that person’s talking, and your mind is elsewhere. Or perhaps preparing a response, basis the little initial part that you heard.
  4. Not having empathy: you choose to not put yourself in the other person’s shoes to understand where they are coming from, on their viewpoint

As you handle larger responsibility in any field, the demand to take decisions, and sometimes quick ones, is high. And that requires that you reach a judgement quickly too. But that should not come at the cost of being over confident or arrogant or not being empathetic to the other person.

Walk the balance between quick decision making and not being judgmental well, and you should see a huge impact in the quality of decisions that you make! And the consequences thereof…

The Stockdale Paradox is a concept that was popularized by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great. It was named after James Stockdale, former vice presidential candidate, naval officer and Vietnam prisoner of war. The main gist of the idea is that you need to balance realism with optimism.

If ever we needed to think in this manner, it is probably now!

Let me give you the context of this Stockdale Paradox first.

James Stockdale, former vice-presidential candidate, during the Vietnam War, was held captive as a prisoner of war for over seven years. He was one of the highest-ranking naval officers at the time.

During this horrific period, Stockdale was repeatedly tortured and had no reason to believe he’d make it out alive. Held in the clutches of the grim reality of his hell world, he found a way to stay alive by embracing both the harshness of his situation with a balance of healthy optimism.

Stockdale explained this idea as the following: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

That is the concept of the Stockdale Paradox. Confront the brutal facts, but never lose faith!

The current situation we find ourselves in, demands that kind of thinking.

We cannot be pretending that “oh, this is nothing, and we will be out of this in no time”. That is clearly not the case.

We don’t have a vaccine. We have no particular confidence about how the virus won’t spread rapidly once lockdown is lifted or is normal life resumes. We know that this shows up also asymptomatically, and if one’s immune system is not strong enough, it can be fatal too.

All of these are realities. So let’s not pretend any other way.

So accepting these brutal facts, we need to do what we can to face up to the challenge. These could include:

1. Working to improve your own immune system

2. Being safe by avoiding too much external contact, as far as you can help

3. Following best practices of social distancing, using sanitisers, washing hands regularly etc.

Doing all of the above for one self, and one’s family, including seniors at home.

Besides that, as a consequence, there will be economic challenges. Again, one has to accept that brutal fact as well. An event of this nature, WILL take a toll. As Jack Ma put it, if you come out of 2020 alive, you are in profit! That may be about as brutal as you can go, in terms of accepting current situation!

So once you accept that, you work on your personal challenges. How do you hold cash for as long as you can? How do you secure your career? Are there new skills that will be required in the new normal that emerges, which you can get trained for? Etc.

So all of this is about accepting the brutal facts.

But often what ends up happening with such acceptance is that you get depressed! You start feeling like it’s the end of the world.

Over that seven years of being held as a prisoner of war, and being tortured constantly, if James Stockdale had felt that “this was it, I am not going to come out of this alive, I am never going back to America”, then he would have actually died!!

The accompanying belief to the acceptance of brutal facts, is the one that says, “never lose faith”.

So is also the case for us now.

We have to have this humungous faith in the abilities of humankind to survive challenges, of the scientists to be able to figure out a vaccine or any other solution, to the innate survival Instinct that we all have to come out of this safe and sound (maybe a little scarred, perhaps!), and most of all, at least the way I see it (atheists, please don’t mind!), is trust in God, to bring us out of all this. Think of this as a huge test that HE has thrown at us, one that we must pass with flying colours!

And we will!!

Chris Martin mentioned that November 19, 2016 would forever remain as one of the best days for Coldplay ever.

I think it may be so for a lot of Mumbaikars too!

For this was the day when Mumbai hosted the biggest party ever. About 80,000 people on their feet for close to 10 hours at a stretch, with enough energy to have a smashing time, over the last 2 of those hours, as Chris Martin and the Coldplay band entertained their fans to their hearts’ content!

What an amazing day it was.

Long walks and queues (well, we’ve been seeing a lot of these nowadays!) to begin with, but then, a rich mix of performers, leaders, stars, and some awesome people supporting some very worthy causes. In this unique approach to build awareness and action, interspersing popular culture with strong messaging, addressed to the youth. To come forward and make a difference to the world.

So a lot of great people performed, so many of them talked to the audience, it was a galaxy of great stars. So here’s a glimpse of some of the artists and the leaders and the stars who were present:

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Everybody was there. Or so it seemed!

Folks who could sit in their plush airconditioned comfort with home theatres and the like, all wanted to experience this concert, as a concert needs to be experienced. In the ground. Standing. With thousand others. Hustling and bustling. Moving your feet to the beats. With thousands of other fans like you.

So you saw Vineet Jain and Milind Soman and Dalip Tahil and Vikram Chandra and Puneet Babbar and Boney Kapoor and Sridevi and a whole bang of venture capital big shots and other media barons and corporate head honchos, all hanging out together. With the rest of the party goers!

The stage was flown in from Belgium, I understand. And it was an amazing set up. As you can see, the stage took so many forms over the evening, and especially during the Coldplay performance:

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But the bestest and the classiest act, that which people had really thronged there for, was none other than Coldplay. They did full justice to the expectations of the people gathered to see them perform, with a full 2-hour show, and with all the pyrotechiques that their shows are known for, all the glitz and the unbound energy of Chris Martin!

The icing on the cake for India and Indians, was the Coldplay – A R Rehman combine for Maa Tujhe Salaam…Vande Matram! Chris Martin also picked in up and joined Rehman to sing this. Check some of the Coldplay magic here:

 

The crowds, oh, they had fun. There were a lot of people. They were standing all afternoon and right into the night. Working with the artists by holding up their hands, crouching down, putting their phones up with the lights on.. essentially playing along, to have a great time. And we were enjoying too. Some of our moments and those of the crowds there:

 

But to really experience what happened there, you need to see the videos. They’re just taking forever to upload. As and when I get around to uploading those, I will try and add the links here.

For now, this is one link to show what makes Coldplay Coldplay!!

And this is how the curtains came down on the Coldplay performance:

 

The two most common businesses that you see all over Vietnam, are Karaoke Bars and Massage Spas. At the rate both of these services seem to be in demand, you’d imagine someone getting a spa on the one side, and at the same time, singing away on a Karaoke Mic. If such a combo offering is not yet on offer, that could be one big business opportunity in Vietnam!

That apart, Vietnam has a lot of similarities with India.

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I presume at many levels, the two countries are similarly placed economically, at least where an average citizen is concerned. With a larger scale and size, and perhaps a longer run at private enterprise, and English language advantage, India is a bigger economy overall, but to the common man, Vietnam and India, could seem very alike.

Emerging economies, offering a lot of opportunities for its respective citizens, industrious people, working to make a decent life for themselves.

Language though, is a big challenge in Vietnam. Most people on the road – from taxi drivers to hotel staff to the average worker – don’t get English well. Or at all. There are many who do. Our counterparts at Mirum Vietnam office, don’t believe that language is much of an issue. But for a tourist, it can be a bit of a pain.

Of course, due to that reason, Vietnam may not be able to compete in the BPO world for English speaking projects, in the near future.

As I had reason to drive around a fair bit (well, “driven around” strictly speaking), I got a chance to see some countryside parts of Vietnam. I took a 3-hour long drive from Ho Chi Minh, an hour long drive from Da Nang, and a 4-hour long trip from HaNoi.

In almost all of these drives, I could barely find barren land. One small town (village?) led to the next. Almost.

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And the characteristic with all these small towns / villages was that the people there all seemed to be reasonably settled. Unlike in India, where often, as you leave the cities and go to the interiors, you see a shade of poverty, that was not the case here in Vietnam. There were proper houses, sometimes large ones, there were many small stores, with proper rolling shutters in most cases.

What seemed strange was that a lot of these stores were closed. In any case, there weren’t a lot of customers to be seen anywhere. Or in fact, there weren’t a lot of people to be seen. So that, in fact, was one of the bigger differences between Indian and Vietnam. All else remaining same, the people were a lot lesser. Both, in the cities, and in these smaller towns.

So we saw these small towns, with good homes, lot of stores, but with a lot of shutters down, and very few people on the roads or at stores.

I would believe that besides Karaoke Bars and Massage Spas, two other areas where Vietnam may be highly over-indexed (per capita usage wise) are two-wheelers and plastic tables and chairs.

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For a population of around 90 mn, I understand that Vietnam could be having as many as 40 mn two-wheelers. I wonder if these are to the benefit of Indian giants like Hero and Bajaj? Whoever it is that benefits, what we see on streets of all cities, like Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, etc. as well as the smaller towns, are the large number of these zipping around. However, they are much more disciplined in their driving compared to what we see in India. And pretty much, every one wears a helmet. Though the helmet is not the astronaut kind covering the entire head and face, but in fact, just a half-helmet, covering the head. But I can’t remember seeing any two-wheeler rider without one!

And then comes a phenomenon that would certainly please Neelkamal Plastics, if it was a supplier here.

There’s lots and lots of street food, and then there are an extremely large number of simple food joints that could accommodate say, anywhere from 20 to 100 people at a time. Almost ALL of these have simple plastic chairs and tables. Even the street food vendors will have tiny plastic chairs or stools, and you are expected to sit on these and have a bite, unlike in India, where you stand across the bhel-wala and have your sev puri and such!

And then there’s the crazy currency! Well, crazy for a foreigner!

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Vietnamese currency VND’s rate is VND 100,000 to INR 300. So you change say, USD 100 and you could end up having upwards of VND 2 million in change! Which: a) will last you a while, and b) are a handful to carry around and figure the notes, and the change and what not.

So a water bottle could cost VND 20,000 or a glass of sugar cane juice could cost VND 10,000 or a shirt could cost a whopping VND 350,000 and you’re never sure without constantly calculating, as to whether it’s a fair price or not! Didn’t need to practice my Sudoku, as I got plenty of math exercises just figuring the money!

With all these, the one reason you’d visit Vietnam is of course, the amazing natural beauty. From a sea to a river to lakes to wonderful mountains. You get it all. And everything is pristine. There is a fair amount of tourism professionalized, so you get good hotels and food and transport. And yet, the currency factor ensures that you get a good vacation that does not necessarily drills out a deep hole in your pocket!

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Thanks to the current hot topic of the death penalty, the debate around the relevance of the death penalty has resurfaced. Many nations in the world have chosen to do away with the death penalty. However, India hasn’t gone that route yet. Although the law does say that the death penalty has to be awarded only in crimes which are of the “rarest of rare” kinds.

hangmans_noose_prop_hire_01Personally, I am torn on the subject. For once, I do not have a clear opinion whether as a nation we should do away with the death penalty or not.

This post is NOT about the current hanging or his case or the judgement. This is about death penalty in general, and my views on the same.

On the one hand, I do agree that death does not punish someone, it just finishes the one.

It does not reform the person, because the person is not around anymore, to come out as a reformed one.

And I also believe that really, the only one who has the power to decide the last day on earth, for any individual, has to be the Almighty, and no one else.

So what is the sense of the death penalty, then?

The arguments in my head, in favour of the death penalty are some of these (and most are in the context of India):

1. Although the death penalty does not reform the person concerned, does it stop others from committing such rarest of rare crimes?? Does it help to dissuade others to go that route? If so, then it helps society.

2. The alternative to death penalty is life imprisonment. Which in the Indian context, often equates to a certain finite number of years. So, although there is a misconception that life imprisonment is all of a maximum of 14 years, the reality is that state governments are empowered to release a prisoner serving life sentence, subject to a minimum of 14 years served. Since this has often been misused for political motivations, there could be a lot of hardened criminals serving life imprisonment, who could be out on the streets again, in 14 years. Since their release is left to state governments, and which at any point in time, could have their own political motivations, it is always a risk to let a criminal of such a severe crime to be released so soon! And potentially go back to his old ways and be a threat to society!

3. Whether jail itself be reforming or could it become a place from where the criminal continues to run his crime?? In case of Indian jails, one has these doubts. So while on the one hand, he is perhaps waiting out 14 years, and hoping for a benevolent state government to be in place then, in the meantime, he could well have set up a full-fledged seat of his crime, within the confines of the jail. And perhaps even recruited several new members into his gang. Sad to say, but that is the perception I carry about Indian jails, in general. I am sure like the police, even jailers would have exceptions and some jails may be managed better than others. But we do worry about this possibility of abuse of jail itself!

4. Then there is our benevolent law that allows parole and what not. When the limelight of media is reduced, one never knows if some “cooperative” smaller court would grant such relief to the hardened criminal, and if that would also be a possible escape route?? For the right price, anything can be made to happen in India!!

5. So can such rarest of rare case criminals be kept in solitary confinement then? And could a law be passed to modify the fundamental ‘life imprisonment’ law, to say that such criminals of the rarest-of-rare cases are NOT eligible to be released by state governments, even if they are allowed to release other life imprisoned criminals?? Would that be a reasonable option? Perhaps.

With all these, I remain undecided.

Do you have stronger arguments leaning one or the other way? Do share them, in that case.

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The Southfields station, closest point to go to the Wimbledon queue, bears a Wimbledon look and feel!

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And at right above, is the Wimbledon station itself, where I went, to purchase a sleeping bag. For my all-night stay in the queue

for the tickets

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And as one moves out of the station and walks towards Wimbledon, the streets beckon. You know you are in Wimbledon territory. Unambiguously!

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And as I reach the place where the queue builds up, at 8-30 pm on the previous night, I am amazed to see a few hundred people already there, before me! Tents are laid out and people have got quite comfortable too..

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The view of the camping ground in the evening, with tents and people all over.

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And in the middle of the elaborate tents, my rather unpretentious little sleeping bag 🙂

Early morning, with a beautiful sky, and people waking up from the tents, and sleeping bags, etc.

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The left-luggage place where tents and other stuff can be left, as you move from the queue and into Wimbledon. Also you can see young and old alike, waiting patiently.

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So when I reached at 8-30 pm, I got a queue number of 1378. So 1377 people before me already. However, there were 500 reserved seats each, for centre court, court no. 1 and court no. 2 to be given away. Or 1500 in total. So at 1378, I was assured of a reserved seat in one of these three courts. By morning, when the queue moved ahead, and people ahead of me, started making their choices – whether to get centre court, court no. 1 or to NOT take a reserved seat (they can take a basic entry into Wimbledon which allows one to walk around, and also get into the multiple other courts, where there are no reserved seats!) – by the time, my turn came, I was fortunate to get a firm seat on court no. 1. The wrist band confirmed that allocation.

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And finally the queue starts moving forward in the morning, around 7-30 am or so. And the excitement builds up further.

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The foot bridge crossed, and then you see the board of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum. And you are just around the corner from the turnstiles, where you’ll purchase the ticket and go inside WImbledon! Against advance purchase ticket prices of 600 Pounds or 1000 Pounds or 1500 Pounds, the tickets offered to the people in queue, were as low as 50 Pounds for Centre Court, and 42 Pounds for Court no.1, etc. Really attractive pricing!!

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And then you spot “Centre Court”. Oh my God!! It’s like spotting the sacred idol, after a long queue on a pilgrimage! Also spotted the board that showed what matches were going on, on what courts. Many of the courts have unreserved seats, and especially on day one, you might find some good players, playing on the outside courts. You need to make the most of the opportunity then, land up early at that court, and get a seat. These outside courts have limited seating capacity.

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Beautiful spaces, green all over. And the typical Wimbledon store, selling merchandise!

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And the famous “hill” where one can hang out, eat strawberries and cream (grossly overhyped, by the way), grab a beer or some wine, And as Federer was not playing on the day I was there, and in any case, I had not got centre court tickets, this was the closest I could get to God aka Federer!!

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The smaller outside courts. One can just walk by and see the games. Good players often found playing here, and one can feel extremely close to the players, on these courts!

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Ahh.. you noticed the cap and the T-shirt. Any guesses who I am an ardent fan of?? ;-P And now I am on my seat. In a court no. 1 stadium which is pretty large, thanks to the penance of the overnight queue, I am on row 5 or 6 behind the chair umpire. Extremely close to the court!! Amazing seat.. By the way, the Indian lady seen below (and her family) were waiting in the queue from Sunday MORNING around 9-30 am!! And they were about 560 in the queue. And they did not get centre court. And were on court no 1 just a couple of rows ahead of me! And I had gone at 8-30 pm at night.. Guess they had really bad luck, after being so early and waiting for so long, to miss out on centre court.. !

The court no. 1 before the players come in.

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The unformed people and the specific positions – all that goes to make Wimbledon, Wimbledon.

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The linesmen walk in and take their position. There are two sets of folks – the entire linesmen team is rotated after every few games, perhaps to ensure against fatigue and mistakes. In fact, the same thing happens with ball boys and ball girls. Changed every few games.

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I am set too!! For the first match to being. Women’s top seed starts proceedings here, Serena Williams vs Margarita Gasparyan.

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And the players walk out.

The match begins. Margarita puts up a good fight initially before Serena asserted herself and took over. Here’s a good rally.

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Serena in full flow..

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Serena serve in slow motion!

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And Serena prevails.

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Large crowds enjoying Wimbledon

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The outside courts – much cosier, smaller stands, feel closer to the game..

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On right are the practise courts, where one could be lucky to find some big players knocking away. I could not recognise the players on the court, except for Hewitt, on the left court.

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On the left is the pavilion from where players come out. Fans crowd around to spot the stars walking out!

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Another entry for the centre court on the left, and a huddle of linesmen outside their court, on the right..

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On the left is the formal entrance to the All England Lawn Tennis Club, and on the right is a scoreboard showing updated scores from the various courts

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Nishikori and Bolelli coming in for their first round match.

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Nishikori service in slow motion!

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Bolelli service in slow motion

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A hard-fought 5-setter win for Nishikori. A repeat of how the two met last year at Wimbledon, and Nishikori won a 5-setter then too.

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Nishikori did have an injury which needed to be attended to, while the match was one. That may have been the reason for the long-drawn 5-setter. As it turned out, though Nishikori won this match, he dropped out of Wimbledon thereafter, due to the injury!

Managed to get to the Star Movies Secret Screening yesterday. Basically an invite-only movie screening organised by Star Movies, where you don’t know what movie you are going to see, until the movie starts inside the theatre!

Had missed the last couple of these invites due to travel etc., but managed to reach yesterday.

And was happy to see Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s first Hollywood film, Broken Horses.

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At the outset, it is an amazing feat by an Indian producer and director. To go west and create a product that it totally a Hollywood film. Not an NRI story, not an India-based story told to global audiences. This is an out-and-out American film, in appearance. Characters, actors, location (what looks like Southern Texas maybe, close to Mexican border!)… everything. Not even a remote connect to anything Indian, on the front side. Of course, on the back of it, are many Indian names, including producer and director, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, and many others in the crew.

So first of all, salute to Vidhu Chopra for this dare, and for making it happen!

So how does an Indian director go west and create a product there?
Does he pick a script from some US scriptwriters? And try to see what will be interesting and appealing to the western audience. Also to “feel” the script enough, to be able to passionately direct it and create a good product out of it.

This can always be challenging.

So what’s the next best thing?

To see if you already have a script that can be adapted to that audience!

Yes, we have heard and seen American movies being converted to their Indian equivalents (even shows like 24, for example). What happens in such instances, is that the western storyline gets “adapted” to an Indian setting. Some play with the story, some Indianisation, and of course, adding song and dance, if workable..

Has anyone been audacious to think that an Indian story / script can be converted to appeal an international viewer??

Well, that’s the path that Vidhu Chopra adopts.

And of all the body of work that he has himself directed, perhaps the one that suited best for a western adaptation, was Parinda.

And which is exactly what he does in Broken Horses.

Adapts the story of Parinda, quite brilliantly, into an American setting, with the same anger and passion, and creates a really fascinating product.

I for one, liked the treatment although, you can’t help but compare the actors to those in Parinda. In specific terms, Nana Patekar was definitely better as that character, compared to his Hollywood equivalent.

I have loved Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s films, from Parinda, to 1942, A Love Story, to Mission Kashmir, etc. Of course, he has produced some amazing work too. Here with Broken Horses, he scales one new peak.

Congratulations, Vidhu Vinod Chopra!

So just a while back, Karan Johar was at his baddest badass talk when he ‘came out’ at this AIB event, the AIB Knockout – The Roast of Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh.

299285-thumbI am just linking to that YouTube video here and not actually embedding it here, because, being a “family blog”, if I had to really embed the show video here, it would keep going beep-beep-beep, etc.

That show was crazy! Crazy, unbelievable that it happened in public, made me wonder if there is anything like a censor board for such stand-up shows. Of course, also made me wonder if we really need one today? Has the society moved on to a level where these inhibitions are a thing of the past, and any language, any sexual innuendo, any admission of sexcapades or preferences, etc. can be out in the open, without needing to worry about anything at all?? And if that is the case, then sure, we don’t really need censors, and shows like these can be the norm.

That a standup act of this nature is no more restricted to the four walls of a small theatre, but via YouTube, goes out to millions, makes it more critical. In terms of censorship or not!

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But that said, it was clear that all of the folks present on stage there, and several stars in the front rows too (Alia, Deepika, Sonakshi, among others) were all having a ball. Perhaps for once, to be in public, not required to be politically correct, about anything or anyone, and also about language!

And Karan Johar was also enjoying it, as was his mom, sitting out there on the first row!

So since the Filmfare Awards night followed just a little later, where again, Karan Johar was on stage, the worry that the organisers had, was that what if he liked the AIB freedom so much, that the hangover of that openness showed up at the Filmfare Awards too..?? Wouldn’t that be one disaster??!

sdror8h4cyrxtudj.D.0.Filmmaker-Karan-Johar-at-the-first-look-launch-of-JHALAK-DIKHHLA-JAA-Season-6--2-Here is what they were worried about:

“And the life time achievement award goes to this mother-&%$#* who’s spent his life sleeping around with the industry, ______”

or

“Yeah, yeah, these are the debutantes, and we know just how they got the films and how they made this list, don’t we?” **Wink-wink to Ranveer, Shah Rukh and other stars.**

or after Shahid Kapoor takes his award and makes his way down, Karan, keeps watching him from behind (rather, “keeps watching his behind”) and blurts out “Ouch! What an a**..!”

or when a co-host brings up the “touchy” subject of his relationship with Shah Rukh, he explodes, “Haa.. tha mera lafda uske saath.. tha.. kya ukhaad lega tu, b&*%$@*d..?!”

or when the young director won his award, and tucked the award into his pants as he made his acceptance speech, Karan says, “when he came to the Dharma office, he wouldn’t let me into his pants, and now the bas&!#d tucks the black lady inside..!!”

With fears of such possibilities, the organisers had got Kapil Sharma around, so that if necessary, they could drag Karan down, and out of the show, and let Kapil handle it independently.. !

 

(** Written in faking news style, with malice to one and all.. 😉 **)

 

 

 

HaiderVishal Bhardwaj has clearly earned his place in the Hall of Fame of Indian cinema! I would rate him as one of the most creative filmmakers that we have, and of course, he also is one of our best music composers (to begin with!).

His latest creation, Haider, clearly bears his stamp of class. I have heard people say that this one is Vishal’s best work so far. I would personally not go that far, not because I can pick some other film that deserves that position, but simply because it is a tough call to make. Vishal has made many amazing movies, and Haider does rank amongst bis best works, but I would find it hard to give it a specific number 1 tag.

While the admiration for Vishal Bhardwaj is clear and total, another person that demands an even greater acknowledgement is William Shakespeare!! I have not read much of Shakespeare but of course, recognise his stature! After seeing Haider, I read up a synopsis of Hamlet and realised that Haider was so closely related to the original story. And that is amazing! Haider as a story, is very believable in today’s times, and yet, it’s inspiration was Hamlet, which was written by the Bard of Avon, who lived from 1564 to 1616!! A story written nearly 400 years back, continues to seem relevant in today’s times, is the absolutely mind-boggling fact to appreciate!

VishalbAnd as I now relate to the other works of Shakespeare that Vishal has converted to movies, viz. Omkara and Maqbool, what comes out as a common ground, are the complex characters that he sketched.  Tabu and Irrfan in Maqbool, Ajay Devgan and Saif Ali Khan in Omkara, and Shahid and Tabu here in Haider, play characters with extremely mixed and complex minds, and it is their behaviour that makes the very interesting story-lines.

Salute to the most amazing writer ever, perhaps, William Shakespeare, for writing such timeless beauties!

Having heard and read enough about Haider, I couldn’t wait longer than the morning of the first day of a long weekend, and landed up at a 9-30 am show! And as the canvas opened up, very early, I could sense a similarity with Gulzar’s Maachis, which incidentally was the Bhardwaj’s first major film as a music composer, in 1996.

A society ravaged by terrorism in the names of freedom struggle, the accompanying free hand to the army, and which creates its share of monsters and abuse, the disturbed youth and disturbed life in the region, the helplessness and resigned fates that people feel under the circumstances… all of these were seen in the Punjab of Maachis, and were felt similarly, in the Kashmir of Haider. Gulzar, Vishal and Tabu were the common factors in the two films, as were the snow filled winter mountains!

A67_ssVishal does love to work with his ‘regulars’.

I guess, Shahid Kapoor may do nothing for 3-4 years (or do some inconsequential stuff) before Vishal gives him a great film each time, and he should be happy with that state. After Kaminey, this is the next big one for Shahid with Vishal, and it is indeed, a tremendous, power-packed, central role. Subdued by the character, Shahid needs to bring out a range of emotions, and he does so quite brilliantly.

Tabu is another regular Vishal Bhardwaj favourite, and she is clearly one of the best actors we have. She picks and chooses her films, so we don’t see much of her, and it is always a pleasure to get those rare opportunities of seeing her on screen. Like Maqbool, her character here too is a challenging one, and she is impressive as ever.

While Hamlet apparently had a strong Oedipus complex from the central character, here that aspect is underplayed. But a strong emotional relationship does exist between the two.

Kay Kay Menon is one underrated actor in Bollywood. Over time, across many films, he has shown his acting prowess, and he does so here as well. Shraddha Kapoor also gives a very credible performance, and does look the part of a Kashmiri girl. There are good cameos from Kulbhushan Kharbanda and another Bhardwaj regular, Irrfan Khan.

haider1There are stunning visuals of Kashmir, especially the snow clad mountains and trees, the beautiful foliage. And as the credits conveyed at the end, all of the Kashmir scenes were actually shot in Kashmir, no matter the security issues etc. So we got a chance to see the absolutely fabulous landscapes that Kashmir is about.

Original score from Vishal Bhardwaj had to be good! Specifically, he has brought in tremendous authenticity with sounds and words from the region, which evoke emotions related to the story, even as you hear the songs. Gulzar and Faiz Ahmed Faiz have been credited for the lyrics. Gulzar, of course, had to be there! Vishal’s and Gulzar’s is a strong bond, almost approaching the one that Gulzar shared with R D Burman, maybe..?!

The Bismil song which enacts a scene, so to say, from the story, is quite like the “Janm leke kahi phir woh pahocha wahin..” recap song-scene from Karz. But it is interesting to see that it is not just Vishal Bhardwaj’s way of enacting the story, but that this was part of the original Shakespeare tale!!

And even as you marvel at Hamlet and Shakespeare, and at Vishal Bhardwaj and Shahid Kapoor and Tabu, what is most striking is the reality of life in Kashmir. As a dialogue says, “the entire Kashmir is a jail” or another that urges Haider to go to Aligarh, so as to “experience another India, where there are no day time curfews, and night time closures”. Such has become life in Kashmir, and with it, it has taken a toll of entire generations of people, of trade and tourism, and deprived the world of seeing “Jannat” on the face of earth!! Thank you, Vishal Bhardwaj, for giving us a perspective of all of this..