Monthly Archives: May 2018

Shower_head

The luxury of taking a hot shower

In the much-hyped world that we live in, we often miss everyday, commonplace joys. Our hashtags are reserved for the life-changing, the earth-shattering, the path-breaking.

But taking a hot shower is no less of a modern miracle.

This everyday chore often gets side-stepped on the path to larger things in life. But not too long ago, it would have been inconceivable for you to be taking a hot shower at the time of your choice.

*


There is just enough time.

Just enough time to smoke a joint, and switch on the geyser. And as you launch into your thought pool of the day, the water is getting heated up. Just as you near the last few puffs of the joint, you cough the TB cough, and step into the shower.

Into a luxury that you are probably the first generation to enjoy in your youth, in our long history of 2000/3000/5000 years (subject to your education, political inclination and patriotism).

It must be noted here that it is ‘showers’ that I will be harping on about, and not a

  • ‘bath’ in a tub (for you certainly aren’t the first generation hot-bath consumer)
  • a tap-bucket-mug (you have a certain climbing up in life to do, my friend).

The tap-bucket-mug method is too tedious and demands a lot of coordination to execute. Profound thoughts do not come visiting when you’re busy trying not to slip on soap. And I haven’t ever enjoyed a bath. When I am put up at luxurious hotels when I travel for shows, I don’t really know what to do in the tub. My only references are Bollywood villains, or vamps who seduce heroes. Since none of those options are available to me, I sit like an awkward Vishnu on an uncomfortable Sheshnaag.

This article is mostly about taking a shower. The kind with a working geyser (hence the term ‘hot shower’ in the title). The fact that a shower can be had is in itself a modern luxury. If we travel back in time as early as two generations ago, to the time of our grandfathers-

They needed to wake up and bathe in the mornings. There was no hot water, no shower; and in my village in Balasore, he would have to go to the village pond. I have seen it, and let’s just say there is no san-sanananana happening there. My grandfather could not skip it and stay in bed, as he did not want any adulting that day. #Adulting #DontWant

You go to the pond or river and perform your morning ablutions, well aware that you could slip and vanish forever. Then there are crocodiles and snakes to be watchful of. And if you evade all of that, there are still human beings that you need to take a bath with. Neighbours, uncles and relatives, since bathing was more social ritual than hygiene chore.

And why only take the male perspective? What about women? What if you were your ancestor – a noble, law-abiding lady about 500 years ago?

You needed to get to a waterfall or water body before the sun rose. If you lived in a rural area, it must be a headache. For you needed to carry water back with you too! Imagine taking a shower and coming back with two buckets of water, that you needed to carry to your office and manage the entire day with!

And if you lived in an urban area, it did not make your life any easier. You had to find your way to a public bath, or go with the women in your friends circle/family. Which meant you problems were not only with animals, but humans too! I don’t believe in the glorification that our past was all vedas and sunshine and nobility. There must have been creeps to deal with. You might live in the greatest civilisation of all time, but had no control over the time and place of your bath.

Or what if we went deeper into our past, say a 1000 years ago?

1018 was the year when the first Islamic invader – Mahmud Ghazni – entered India. We were still a civilisation that ranked low in the Maslow’s hierarchy of need theory.

If you managed to survive the ongoing wars, you still needed to rush to a water body. And it wasn’t exclusive to you, you had to share it with animals of the jungle too. Deers and tigers and wild boars and crocodiles. And goddamn bears! Bears who roamed the jungle and discovered that you had stolen their honey.

Honey they had discovered and nurtured, only to find that you and your soldier friends burnt a hole in its dreams, partied overnight, and left. And just as you were having a bath by yourself, the bear would ambush you and insert its paw deep in your posterior.

It was a dangerous time. A risky time.

*

Taking  shower is a luxury that we have taken for granted.

This magic cubicle that you enter, and come out a calmer, better looking version of yourself. A space that nobody else can intrude upon; not your family, friends, not Mark Zuckerberg.

A place where tiny plastic bottles contain specially formulated oils and liquids to make your hair shine, your skin glow. A place where you turn a knob, and thoughts come flowing down.

And why not? When you needn’t worry about tigers and bears, and Golu the neighborhood sex-offender – that’s when nobler thoughts come to us. I daresay that is when we evolve as a species.

It’s when you take a shower that you are truly with yourself. When you can think higher thoughts, when you can whip up a blog, and thousands of strangers could read your thoughts and nod in agreement.

*

On our path towards evolution and revolution, our efforts to be better humans, to save the planet and bring about peace and prosperity, we humans have forgotten what a luxury it is to take a hot shower.

*****

32599613_1933867416637434_3749181921679114240_o

Flipkart and the Myth of the Indian Startup Revolution

Walmart’s decision to purchase a chunk of Flipkart last week was hailed as ‘revolutionary’ by sections of the Indian press. Economic Times, the business arm of The Sensational Times of India, went so far as to call Sachin Bansal the ‘poster boy of Indian e-commerce who redefined 21st century startups’.

In some ways, it was relief for the company that had witnessed its valuation dip by a few billion dollars last year. Amidst news of Amazon and Walmart vying for a piece of the Flipkart pie, the $16 Billion deal with Walmart must have been a sigh of relief.

As expected, the acquisition caused social to go berserk, and over-zealous patriots began pompomming the deal as a matter of pride for India; a shot in the arm for our ‘startup revolution’. At the risk of sounding like an anti-national presstitute, here is my not-so-rosy opinion on Flipkart and the Walmart deal.

*

Flipkart gave me my first real experience with e-commerce. I had read about the magic of e-commerce on The Economic Times – that intimidating newspaper that I chucked the moment I started studying journalism.

To their credit, Flipkart were the first ones to fully trust Indians with a Cash on Delivery option. Earlier, sites like Rediff Shopping and Indiatimes offered COD, but you needed a Credit Card, a shopping history, and four pet tigers. And even then, the items available were limited to ‘safe’ products like baseball caps and talcum powder.

My first online order was placed in the year 2011. Ironically, as the world was moving towards smartphones, I was ordering a feature phone – Nokia X2 – the poor man’s Blackberry. This phone set new standards in over-promising and under-delivering.

32599613_1933867416637434_3749181921679114240_o

I placed my order and the phone got delivered in three days. I even got a mail saying the delivery guys tried getting in touch with me. So low were my expectations, that I was moved to tears.

Flipkart impressed

Ain’t no appreciation like genuine appreciation!

*

This genuinely good impression aside, I did not become a huge fan of Flipkart in the coming years.

At its very essence, Flipkart is a rip-off of Amazon – the world’s largest e-commerce site. I find it amusing that the founders took the same path that Amazon did – books. However, Amazon did it in 1995, and Flipkart in 2007!  What’s even more shocking is that the founders are ex-employees of Amazon. Imagine you’re employed by a company, and quit to start your own clone of the same company. I’m not too familiar with business lingo, but that’s kind of a dick move.

If you look carefully, Flipkart’s business strategy is lifted from the world’s largest e-commerce site. And even it’s logo seems to be lifted from the logo of the world’s largest social media site.

In the years that followed, Flipkart and Amazon went head to head, often with similar strategies, similar logistical decisions. After Amazon did it, Flipkart launched their own music player Flyte, which took flight after a few years. Flipkart also launched their own e-book reader that had more than a few similarities to Amazon’s Kindle. The service was later transported to Kobo, and eventually shut down.

Flipkart’s few bold moves backfired badly. The decision to go app-only with Myntra was quickly aborted. Flipkart’s in-app chat service Ping was also dumped in less than a year. Nearby, the grocery-delivery add-on sank without a trace.

Flipkart’s only real innovation must have been those annoying sales. Big Billion Sale, Gazillion Sale and Poonam Dhillon Sale.

As Amazon announced its arrival to Indian shores, Flipkart did everything to prepare itself, including buying the rest of the market – eBay and Jabong, and a long, gruelling negotiation with Snapdeal.

*

But then, India has never been the torchbearer of innovation. Our much-lauded IT revolution has been around for more than 20 years now. And yet, we haven’t shaken up the world with a single product, service or organisation. For the most part, we are cheaper alternative for high-end labour. An advantage that is expected to slip away from us as our brethren in Philippines and other countries wake up to the wonders of Rapidex English Speaking Course.

May be that is why we are so hung up on our past. Everybody from your friendly neighbourhood social media troll to ministers at the highest echelons of power – they love to hark back to that magical era. We love to stake claim to every modern technological thought, claiming we had done everything in the Vedic age (except sex, of course. Indians don’t have sex. They do tapasya and babies are born).

And this lack of innovation is not limited to Flipkart alone. If you search for the largest Indian startup companies, you’ll find they are all clones of global companies. Often times, the products and services are nearly identical. Ola is Uber without the professionalism. PayTM began with phone recharges and jumped on the smartphone revolution to follow the path of WeChat and other payment carriers. Swiggy does what global companies like JustEat and Takeaway do. OyoRooms is a shameless rip-off of AirBnB.

It’s perhaps telling that most of the founders of these clone companies are from IIT-IIMs – those haloed meccas of education in our country. And our media keeps worshipping these guys as visionaries and trailblazers. Whereas in reality, it is a case of first-mover in a booming economy. The strategy has been charted by others. It just needs some money and good replication skills.

I am yet to come across a single Indian startup company that is working towards a unique Indian solution to a uniquely Indian problem. (If you do, please let me know in the comments – I would love to read up on them!).

I am sure there must be organisations that are honestly trying to blaze trails. But they will never enjoy the funding or popularity that the copycats will enjoy in our culture. A culture where we go down on our knees to suck off anybody who got ‘foreign ka paisa’.

*

The Flipkart deal with Walmart might be celebrated among India Inc, but please do not call them ‘change-makers’.

It makes me cringe when the founders of these companies are hailed as ‘change-makers’. They are bringing as much change to the world as Venkatapathy Raju brought to the world of fashion designing.

*****

https_blogs-images.forbes.comcurtissilverfiles201804avengers

Movie Review: Jaani Dushman aur Mani ki Khoj

Allow me to say at the very outset that I did not enjoy the film at all. Not one bit.

While I am critical of most films in general, I give some leeway to superhero movies. Probably due to a childhood spent reading comics (Indrajal, Raj and Diamond Comics). Or probably because it is a Herculean task to make an engrossing superhero movie when the audience could slip into their phones in seconds.

Avengers: Infinity War was disappointing on several levels. The shocks were not shocking enough, the jokes weren’t funny enough, and the twists weren’t twisted enough. The film was predictable and unnecessarily long, making the entire experience highly uncomfortable.

 

Too Many Heroes

How many heroes is too many heroes?

I guess the folks at Marvel didn’t bother asking themselves this question. One fails to understand Marvel’s need to constantly up and better their earlier movies. To make explosions larger, the stakes higher, their heroes funnier. Every explosion in the film makes the film’s soul smaller.

In the end, it feels like a moral values lesson from the pantheon of Hindu gods, each of them meeting each other in a number of stories; a three-dimensional Amar Chitra Katha if you may. Throw an infinity stone, and it will land on a superhero. With so many heroes, the film feels like it’s forcing itself to be taken seriously.

What Marvel movies did so wonderfully along the years, was to be self-aware. They mixed the supernatural with the real-worldly in a magical blend. These were heroes using cutting edge technology, while popping pop-culture references. Heroes who were saving the world while facing high-school bullying issues. It was a marvel that would have won the nod of Marquez.

Sadly, Avengers Infinity War takes itself too seriously. With stakes stacked up so high, it really has no other option.

And in doing so, it is not ‘self-aware’ enough, the very factor that made MCU movies so enjoyable in the first place. There are too few lines distributed among too many people, and by the first one hour, you feel like pulling your hair out in frustration with the change in locations and characters.

 

Graphics hi graphics

The other problem with the film is too many tacky graphics. There is the pink planet, the blue planet, and the brown planet. Then there are the powers of the heroes – the woman with the red rays, the men with the golden circles, the ones with green strings. The makers went about the VFX like a kid who just discovered WordArt on MS Paint.

It begins to feel like a mythological Doordarshan TV show. Which is why when the battle reaches the lush greens of Wakanda, your eyes breathe a Sai of relief.

 

The Deaths

By the time the laborious film draws to a close, you feel nothing. The deaths feel limp, lazy and poorly written. You don’t care too much about these dudes – you watched their films years ago, and they had too little screen time for you to make a connection.

Perhaps this movie is pralaya for superhero movies in general. The Armageddon that ushers in a new era of superhero films. And while we are at it, could somebody do something about the 3D technology as well?

What was supposed to be a cutting-edge technological revolution has over the years become a tacky, lazy tool. Everything in the 3D world looks small, idiotic and too silly to be taken seriously. And no filmmaker seems to truly exploit the medium for what it can do.

*

As a teenager, a friend and me would crash weddings in the government college that we studied in. His father was a professor, and the weddings would mostly be organised by the non-teaching staff, so we walked in with confidence.

We would put on our best shirts, swagger in, and begin hogging the food. Since the aim was to eat as much as possible, we would begin by doing the rounds of the stalls. And then filling the plate with the good stuff – chicken and sweets and butter naans and momos and rasmalai and pani puri and biriyani and dahi vada and…you get the idea.

We stacked our plates with these items because we had enjoyed them as individual dishes. But in our greed, we consumed them all at once, unaware of the summer blockbuster that would play out in our stomachs a few hours later.

The original Avengers movie is still my favourite among all of Marvel films. It had the scale, the banter, the cheekiness. This one is a greedy plate of buffet. Too much of too many good things, till you are left with a bad aftertaste.

*****

 

Jackie

Articles published in April

Some of you requested a post on all the articles I wrote through the month on other sites.

I have pasted links to the articles below, along with a small description. There are two things to keep in mind.

  1. These articles were written for a particular time/incident/event. So some of them might not be as relevant today. But read them nonetheless.
  2. The headlines are not mine. Some of the headlines are too attention-whory, the others are written to attract people to read them. As a writer, I have no control over the headlines given to the articles.

Here are the links:

1. The Cult of Bhai 

In this article, I have tried to keep aside my bias against Bhai, his fuckall movies, and his zombie legions of fans. I have tried to analyse why he is so popular, and if he has overtaken his so-called more intelligent colleagues, there must be something about the person.

This article looks at his life, his choice of films, and what makes him so huge among fans. Writing the article was a lot of fun. More importantly, I got messages from people thanking me for the article, and that it changed the way they perceive Bhai. Find the link to the article below:

https://www.101india.com/people/what-makes-salman-khan-biggest-superstar-country-has-seen

 

2. Osho the Enigma 

If you’ve watched Wild Wild Country, the stunning documentary on Netflix on Osho and Rajneeshpuram, your interest in Osho must have been piqued. I wrote a quasi-review of the documentary, along with my arguments on how Osho was the original dude.

There will be many Babas in India, but all of them are doing what Osho did, to some extent. Now, personally I am a fan of Osho and like what he says, but since the article was for another site, and I need to keep a check on my raving, I had to present a balanced point of view.

The article did moderately well, and Osho followers and groups started following me on Instagram, which is a minor achievement of sorts.

https://www.101india.com/people/wild-wild-country-not-so-much-about-osho-woman-who-led-rise-his-cult

 

3. Bobby Darling Deol 

With a comeback on the cards, Bobby Deol is pushing 50 and attempting to rule the hearts of his original fan-club, who are now women in their late 30s. He is coming back in a film with Bhai and others.

The article looks at his meteoric rise, and how he dragged himself into irrelevance. A career that began with dizzying heights, and by the end, all his roles looked like a stoner imitation of Dharmendra. This article was published on Arre, a terrific website that you must follow.

Are We Ready for Bobby Deol’s Dhai Kilo Ka Comeback?

 

4. 20 Years since Desert Storm 

Exactly 20 years ago, Sachin Tendulkar established himself as the Numero Uno batsman in the world. This article looks at those two innings, and what they meant for Sachin and his legacy.

As a batsman, Sachin does not have too many marquee moments – last ball finishes, finals of big tournaments, etc. But the Desert Storm in Sharjah will be remembered as the apex of Sachin’s cricketing career. This article was published in DailyO.

https://www.dailyo.in/sports/happy-birthday-sachin-tendulkar-april-1998-australia-versus-india/story/1/23664.html

 

5. Ball Tampering and Cheating Aussies

After the brazen ball-tampering incident came to light, both David Warner and Steven Smith cried in front of the media and pleaded forgiveness. As someone who grew up watching Australian cricket, it infuriated me no end that the captain of a premier international side got away with something like this.

The incident meant that there must be so much more going on that did not get caught. I mean, it certainly couldn’t be the first time something like this was being done. The article is a (slightly harsh) piece on how Australians were always the bullies of international cricket, and have none of my sympathy (which I had clearly exhausted on Salman Bhai and Bobby Deol).

https://www.dailyo.in/sports/steven-smith-ball-tampering-australia-cricket-racism-sledging/story/1/23193.html

 

So there you go, those are the articles I wrote through April. I plan to write more this month, and will share the links a little earlier this time. 🙂