Madras Talkies

This blog is about my favorite Tamil director- Mani Ratnam. I was visibly impressed with his latest product, Ok Kanmani. But instead of reviewing his movie, I wanted to write something that would allow me to share his view of Cinema. For those who aren’t familiar with his style of movie making I would highly recommend in no following order
Before I delve further into his movies, I wanted to talk a few minutes about Cinema in India. India is rife with stories, as a young democracy cinema was fairly new but we have centuries of folklore to get inspired by, I don’t want to get pedantic about it but we have been inexorably smitten with story tellers to the point of worship. A 3 hour movie allows you to escape the daily life and something to talk about. As an industry, movies led the way to fashion, music and often reflected what the current society looks like.
There was a phase between the 60’s and 80’s where most notable movies were about critiquing the society. Many revolved around “Questioning the Man”, the man here in the picture changed from the imperialist British, the Raj and then the government which was in the clutches of the powerful. Many leading heroes went on to become politicians, a move which i felt was divorced from common sense and made me question democracy in general. The cine culture in India is vivid and reached a fever pitch when many felt the only way to ascend the ladder of government would be through cinemas. This era promulgated many ideologies ranging from movie themes which championed vigilantism (Sholay, Mother India) and Individualism (Billa, Nayagan, Varumayin Niram Sigappu). Many of the lead actors from those times ruled the movie charts for years to follow such as Amitabh Bachhan and Rajnikanth.
Then there was another market for human value stories, a far cry from the movies which made you seethe with anger, came a generation of movies which were closer to heart, witty and personable. And this gave birth to an auteur – Mani Ratnam.
His movies spoke relatable stories about the emerging middle class, for example tribulations of a matured couple torn in communal violence (Bombay)  which spoke to us in a way which was never spoken before. One of the strongest facets of his movie making was the fact that it always had at least one strong female protagonist. While all the other movies portrayed women as debutante’s waiting to be swooned by an alpha male, he portrayed them as a sensible independent adults. His choice of actresses Revathy, Madhubala, Simran and Shalini had a distinctive charm about them. They weren’t exceptionally pretty or hot, they had an aura about them which was charming.
I believe it gave many women courage and the acknowledgment which was denied to them. They had strong personalities about them. Mani ratnam created a vision of women who carried themselves graciously in a crisp saree without resorting to being lascivious, speak their mind without sounding arrogant and most importantly appeal to all ages, younger men wanted to marry them, teenage girls wanted to emulate them and grandmothers wanted to do what they do best, feed them.
Cinematography: The families in the movies weren’t extravagantly rich and neither was any caricaturization of poor. His characters simply were what he chose to be. His movies didn’t make us feel insecure, while most movies were shot at pristine locations such as Europe, Australia or US; he always maintained that there is enough beauty within India. Except for a few shots in Sri lanka, I believe he has never shot a movie outside of India. And it didn’t hurt him that he had one of the finest cinematographers of our time PC Sriram by his side. Mundane streets seemed lively with activity, chaotic bazaars became the center points of solitude where the lovers reunite. His movies comfort you with the fact that you too can have an eventful middle class life, without serenading your loved ones in the streets of monte carlo.
Cast: His movies usually do not have a villain. In most Indian movies, life is shown in black and white which I detest. Every good samaritan has a dark side and it is usually their ego, pride or inability to empathise. Almost all the characters in his movies etch a mark when you walk out of the theater. There are no vile vixens who harass the daughter in law, no evil husbands who indulges in alcoholism and abuse. It is about people like you and I who face ordinary tribulations in our ordinary lives.
Music: One really doesn’t need introduction to AR Rahman. He might have been composing average music for a few years now but that was bound to happen, at least the law of averages dictates so. Ar Rahman’s vision has a new purpose when combines with Mani Ratnam, even the minute things like the background music (BGM) portrays more than an actor can emote. Even the staunchest skeptic like me cannot deny that Rahman creates magic when he is in his elements. His albums have given company to countless people who slide their head against the windows of buses and trains en-route to another soul crushing day at work.
I feel that Mani ratnam is a testament to the spirit of Madras which is now lost in Chennai.

A trip down the memory lane, India.

This is a note about my recent visit to India. I have been away from home for about 6 years now. I have visited India 5 times in a span of 4 years and yet every time I visit, I see the country in a completely different way.  I truly believe that traveling frees your mind from perceptions and stereotypes. This blog will attempt to be a different experiment in what passes off as creative writing.

Home: I visited the colony where I used to live. Those charcoal stained balconies are now home to half a dozen nylon strings. They are pregnant with wet clothes. Heaps of disheveled footwear are neatly stacked in the balcony and most of them exhibit various stages of mutilation. My mom stores my Adidas sneakers safely tugged under the bed to protect it from moisture.But her sandals lie on top of the shoe stand in the balcony. It demands a cosmetic surgery every monsoon. They may have enough funds to send you to US for your masters, but they are still humble in the way their feet addresses the earth.
I walk up to the terrace, the view isn’t that impressive. It isn’t a sky scraper. Beneath you could see the general musings of everyday life, the occasional vegetable vendor, the stray cows mulching about and kids running around. The terraces where I played cricket were once battered and sharp ends of the red clay tiles have slashed knees and feet, more times than I would like to remember. Those tiles are now hastily creamed with cement. They now fill the space with aroma of drying pickles, rice vathhals and garments of couples whose balconies were too small to accommodate the newest member of the family.
I feel luxurious when I am at home, the furniture’s haven’t changed much. And I am excited to be home. For example, being reunited with the pillow which was once mine gave me so much joy. I have fond memories with a pillow which must weigh like thor’s hammer. But I have always slept on it without a wink. Maybe it is the feeling of being in your own home.
The local grocery shop: I struck up a conversation with the owner of the local grocery shop. The same shop where my friends and I hurried to purchase cricket balls, pencils which later graduated to fountain pens, notebook covers among other things.
300 ml of pepsi cost 9 rupees . We used to split it. The guy who contributed Rs. 5 always gets the biggest gulp.Now I disclose this as we weren’t affluent growing up. And I am not uncomfortable acknowledging it. You know what i hate? That people only acknowledge their humble beginnings when they make it big. Read any business weekly magazine and the CEO in vogue would indulge in a spiel about how his hard days in youth made him into a man he is now.
Back to the topic of the grocery shop;  The owner has gotten old, his once wide forehead which used to be a landing strip for white ash (vibudhi), now  bears many wrinkles. The people around him have changed, the chotu who worked with him as an apprentice has now opened up his own shop down the street. I walked by his shop, he doesn’t recognize me of course. He owns a Samsung note plus now, stuffed in his pocket. Leaving behind the older grocery store to wilt. He now owns an outlet which sells phones and pre-paid cards. It is a little overwhelming to see one shop die down and another one crop up. It’s funny when I realize that this was the landmark shop where my friends indulged in their earliest vices. The first English magazine featuring a center spread, the cigarette, the first condom etc… I mustered up a smile as I walked along the street, the kids surely looked confused. But I do remember being in their place a while ago.
Chai-walah’s: I feel chai wallah’s are the book keepers of local street history. We don’t have a lot of landmark streets like MLK drive or Peachtree road. When it comes to naming roads, it is basically a pissing contest between the political parties, the one in power chooses the name. Chaiwallah’s are also our answer to google maps. You can basically stop by at any shop and ask them for directions, they have the shortest path algorithm in their head.
 The steel  benches outside the tea stall bears dimpled craters on them, withering from the weight of heavy arses of men who descend upon it. Men, who assemble outside the shop at 7 am like clockwork. If you overhear them, it would seem that they have solution to everything, from fixing Indian democracy to the current status of Indian cricket team. I feel they really do know everything, and maybe that’s why their wives are more than happy to allow their husbands engage in this morning ritual.
 The chai wallah masterfully juggles tea with precision abandon. Milk, coffee and tea are strewn around the table. Which are later cleaned by a towel which looks like it was used to clean the ear wax of an elephant. I don’t know if there is an inverse relationship between hygiene and quality of the food. In India, there are many street vendors whose food are tastier than the ones you can find at restaurants.
Local trains: Traveling on a local train from CST to Thane in Mumbai, or from Beach to Tambaram in Chennai will teach you everything you ever need to know about urban life in India. The rush is truly maddening and everyone’s stride is so purposeful and committed.   We board the trains as if we are going home for the first time. Everyone just scrambles into the coach as soon as the train arrives. Sometimes we even run along , and jump into the coach before it halts. And here we have seat belts in buses. Pussies.
Each handrail supports the fate of countless strangers who are tugged into tight spaces. You almost never get to sit on the seats inside the coaches as it is always occupied. For a long time my urban dream was to sit beside the windows as the train weaves through the heart of the city. The windows have that impact about them. As soon as you lean your head over them, you are pensive, happy, sad all at the same time. Inside the coach,  couples are furtive in their embrace. Far from the wanton eyes of neighbors, parents or friends. They stand close but not close enough to earn the wrath of adult men and women in their fifties. They are aware that these adults scoff at their embrace. I always wondered what scorns these adults when they see lovers, maybe it opposes their religious belief or reflects poorly on their dead bedrooms, I can never seem to tell the difference.
The people: You’d get to meet the most animated people in the world. On this trip down the memory lane, I made sure I visit my teachers from school. You know as a software professional, I’d often fall into the trap of existential crisis when I have to do the same job for over a week. And these people have been teaching the same subject, with almost the same syllabus year after year to students. They are fully aware that their students will achieve far more than they ever will, but they are never shy of sharing the knowledge they possess. Truly, gods among the temples of thought.
My parents still ask me in front of our relative, as what I do for a living. And when i try to answer them about cyber threat management and information security processes, they all smile with intelligent incomprehension. I think, that was pretty much the validation I sought throughout my career. No amount of congratulatory emails or bonuses could trump my feeling when my parents feel proud to learn what I do for a living.
In India everyone will give you an opinion but no one will fight to prove that they alone carry the burden of truth. We are quite non confrontational by nature, which is often misunderstood for meekness.
My parents have aged, we speak to each other once a week but I couldn’t believe how a few years affects the people who you love the dearest. They take multiple medicines throughout the course of the day. I remember I couldn’t stand the idea of my mom getting an headache. When i would ride to the bicycle well into the night to go to that pharmacy and get medications to make sure that she gets a good night sleep. It makes me terribly sad that I can’t be beside them when they need me the most.
Overall yes, I am skeptical about my country. I choose the right to ridicule it and I don’t need to prove my love by aligning myself with a political party. The American apartments and buildings are surely formidable, more comfortable and secure but our humble colony was built on memories than marble. India is a place where I lived, USA is a place where I choose to exist.
This was a difficult blog for me to write as I always had an irrational fear with nostalgia. And I think, I now know why. We are afraid that we will never live those moments of unadulterated joy when we were younger. We recount our nostalgic moments only with our closest friends because we are afraid, that we’d be judged. But in my limited experience let me tell you. Nothing could be farther from truth. I made my best friend when I was 6 because he carried the same water bottle. And we have been best of friends, since. His daughter is 1 year old and I couldn’t shake of that avuncular feeling when I held her. That’s nostalgia, a voice that ushers the question “How far have we traveled” and then chuckles.
Go out, travel, be uninhibited, make mistakes and make memories. Hindsight will tell you that it was a journey worth traveling.

Evolution of Feminism

Recently there has been a lot of talk about the feminist movement in India and how we are warming up to the idea. I wanted to outline the evolution of feminism and how with age my opinion has changed about the movement.

For the record, I am not a feminist. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in equality for women. I don’t have to be an archeologist to deny fossils. For that, I’d have to be religious.

Most of the recent wave of feminist movement are on the lines of “Ladke rulate nahi hain”, “Dear Men, stop beating your wives”, “Dear Men, don’t discriminate against women with dark complexions” etc…

Now I am quite comfortable with the first two agendas, even though the second one seems to be a little antagonistic. To draw a parallel, it is like telling “We should inform Islamists that they shouldn’t terrorize people”.
The message in its basic essence, isn’t inflammatory and no one should indulge in anti human practices. But it somehow leaves a bitter after taste.
The whole Delhi rape incident was a catalyst that probed deeper questions in our society about safety of women. A lot of not so intelligent ideas were thrown about and most of them must be rightly ridiculed. For example:
Home Minister: Well, women should not wear revealing clothes and wander about after sunset. You are an affront to our culture and inviting trouble.
Female Reporter: Sir, this is SEXIST.
Home Minister: (Whispers to his aides) Oh ho she is also looking quite sexist in them jeans.
My effort in this blog space is to bring to attention some of the ideas which seems righteous but are down right daft.
Stop with the metaphors:

If you ask any politician, what a woman means to him. It would be almost impossible for him to describe without metaphors. He would go on an eulogy such as “Our culture is quite respectful of women, they are our rivers, our oceans, lakes and mountains”
Right off the bat, this is down right daft. Drawing a comparison between the contours of a river and a woman is well, just soft core pornography. It was the valmiki’s way of saying, Wiggle wiggle wiggle. I consider myself to be an avid connoisseur of Indian history, so let me elucidate how the River Jamuna got its name
Poor peasant girl: Oh mighty king, our master does not allow us our fair share of access to the bunds. As a result, our farms suffer and we always remain in a debt.
Macho dude King: That is outrageous and I will implement a practical solution. From now on, the river would be called Jamuna and be given a feminine identity. So that, the evil slave owners become answerable to conscience before treating women unfairly.
Poor Peasant Girl: Oh noble king, thank you, that is a spectacular idea. Also while you are at that, could you pass on that joint?
Analogies and metaphors are nice, but if we refuse to humanize a gender it would be difficult to emphasize with their tribulations. Metaphors should be used to describe not justify.
 No Means Not Yet
One of my favorite pastime after getting hammered is to watch old  cheesy indian movies. The common theme in the movies is something like this.
Guy: Hey, that girl looks cute.I just saw her feeding cookies to puppies and buying balloons for slums kids. This proves that she has a heart of gold, because logic. Hence, I think i am in love with her and I am going to win her heart.
Hero approaches the girl
Girl: Fuck off, don’t harass me!
Hero: Challenge Accepted.

Also the common themes of these movies are that,  a girl doesn’t dislike you. It is just that she doesn’t know it yet. No shouldn’t mean not yet. Ideally, you could cut your losses and move on. But again that is not seen something that the culture encourages.
As shocking as it is to believe, in my yore I have been rejected by a couple of girls. But I wizened up and moved on, because I knew there were plenty of fish in the sea who could reject me later.
Even our epics such as Ramayana are filled with ridiculousness.
During Swayamwara
Ram: Sita, babe, I think I Am the most suitable guy for you and I am in love with you. So will you please take my hand in marriage?
Sita: But there are other dudes who are good looking. That arjun fellow looks like an abercombie model for pete’s sake.
P.S: If you study Ayodhya’s history closely, you can clearly see that Abercombie & Fitch outlets used to exist in Ancient India. They were dimly lit and played jagjit singh melodies at 150 db.
Ram: But I have mad archery skills.
Sita: Swoons, I am all yours.
Mother- Sister Analogy
The other day, on a Indian sitcom it is shown that a couple of roadside juveniles, glance mischievously at a girl. An elderly man passes by and reprimands them by asking “Don’t you have any mothers or sisters”?
First of all that is a terrible logic, unless you are Tywin Lanninster. Wait, especially if you are Tywin.
Hypothetically any male can be attracted to any woman, you could have all the sisters from an Alok nath family and still heave if Gisele Bundchen walks by you at Bandra. It is perfectly normal. Let us criminalize harassment not sexuality.
Sexual Depravity
This is going to be a controversial topic because I am going to raise a speculative yet scandalous allegation that teenagers will try to get laid. In India, apart from a few select metropolis, segregation of sexes is often rampant in smaller communities.
As a teen you can’t officially ask a girl out and most relationships have to be discrete affairs. And funnily enough, parents flip the fuck out when teenagers exhibit interest in the opposite sex.
Mom: Enna da, talking to that girl from your class ah?I see you always glued to the phone! You want to be a skirt chaser or what rascal! Focus on your studies
Me: Mom, but she has my homework.
Mom: Why did you give it to her? I know you want to discuss homework only with girls, don’t you have any guy friends? What about that vikram, he always gets first rank.
Me:  Sigh! Whimpers But vikram doesn’t have boobs.
As a teenager all you care about is getting groovy. If you can ignore the sex aspect of it, juvenile relationships teach you a lot . You learn that there is no perfect one and accountability is more reliable than just impressing someone. And you become quite tolerable as a person in your twenties. Case in point

And in the event that the girls family finds out that their daughter has been dating, the father hilariously slaps the shit out of the mother, spouting the glorious phrase.
“Is this how you raise a daughter”?
Look, I understand that sex education might still be tricky topic, so if you want your kids to embrace celibacy I have two suggestions.
1. Wean them on a diet of quiz shows such as Bournvita quiz contests. So that your kid grows an allergy to silence and vomits them upon the earliest opportunity possible.
Cute cashier girl: Sir, here is the remaining balance 34.50
Me: Hmm, Did you know that Camels have 3 eyelids to protect themselves from sandstorms.

Cute cashier Girl: Next in line please

Me: God Dammit! These dumb girls will always go for losers.
2. Axe deodarant is available for Rs. 140 at your nearest Sakhari Bhandar.
Vigilante Feminism: There was a recent viral video (Rohtak Bravehearts)which went around. In which a couple of girls are caught on camera bashing two guys in the name of justice. Of course the mob joined in, without any questioning. It was later proved that, their claim was completely false.
The same with dealing with people who harass in the streets should not be dealt with vigilante mob justice. It just reeks of jingoism and misplaced patronage for women.

Sadly the new age feminism sounds divisive and accuses men for all problems women face. If you look up the news, you could always find one or two groups being officially offended because they found a sound byte inflammatory. Being offended doesn’t mean you’re right. It means that you cannot deal with your emotions.

False rape accusation, false dowry harrasment case, alimony claims, child support, eve teasing, you name it. It seems that the claim alone is enough to frame a guy, again, because logic. The court views men as guilty unless proven innocent.

Dear feminists, the world isn’t against you nor are men sitting in smoke filled rooms conspiring to stifle your progress. The world, simply put, is indifferent. As Kurt Vonnegut put it brilliantly, “So it goes”.

It is widely acknowledged that women’s emancipation through education is the surest way to eradicate poverty. Both the sexes must be symbiotic in the society to move ahead.

Four reasons why you should stop reading this article

Allow me to set the premise, you’re having lunch and you casually open up your favorite social media site, you see two types of posts

1.Pretty girl you used to hang out in college just got married. You click on the profile of her husband and observe that his profile picture only has 10 likes. You secretly think, what a loser! He has no friends and an uneventful life. Lol! I have 76 likes, everybody adores me.

2. Lists such as:

-Five reasons why School days are the best.

-Five lists why we will always miss home cooked food to the more exhaustive yet unoriginal -Ten reasons why your cat is secretly working for Putin or 27 reasons why you’ll never be able to date Lana Del Rey( P.S: She is not bengali)

If any of those topics remotely made you chuckle or interested enough to scramble your thumbs to click. Congratulations! you’re successfully a victim of click bait.
1.When is it okay to create a list: Lists are useful, for grocery shopping, taking a count of friends who you will invite for a dinner or an element of Computer algorithms which still gives you nightmares as you realize you’ll never be a competent software developer( Linked Lists).
Lists make it a mission to sound innocuous and in most cases are, as they try to make a case that they shouldn’t be taken seriously. But in reality, they are the bastions of sponsored content which is stripping the fourth estate (online) of any dignity that remains.
Because as enriching as it is, humor is seen as the ultimate lubricant to pass on ideas to the new generation. Oh, you don’t understand why you suck at relationships? Maybe you should read:
Ten reasons why you should never date a guy who wears crocs.
27 reasons to prove that your ex was a crazy bitch
These lists validate stupidity and intolerance, which is not a bad thing. Every now and then we need to be reminded that may be we are wrong, callous or overly judgmental. But online, you can always find articles that foster your ego, even if it is flawed.

And not to forget sensationalist tripe headlines like “Does Obama want your take away your egg muffin sandwich? Click here to find out.

Enters website: No, hahah. But hey while you are here watch this funny gif of fat people falling.
2. Click-baits: Buzzfeed, Scoopwhoop and other websites of such ilk don’t pretend that they are suave or intelligent. But any criticism of such sites will make you sound like a Grinch or a kid who slaps you with your own hand while laughing “Why are you hitting yourself, why?
The articles are so unoriginal but people still fall for it, all the bloody time. Remember the first time you clicked on an ad which said “ Single girls near you, hot moms want to date you”? I knew that it was Bullshit because I was living in Saudi Arabia.
I don’t know if you know Saudi Arabia well, but transparent tank tops and mini skirts are not in vogue over there.

How about more original pop up ads such as:

Single girls near you, wanna friendzone?

OR 40 year old hot women need help in picking groceries at whole foods.

Now, won’t you click on those ads?
3. And I was like: Let me describe this phenomenon. There is a lot to admire about United States and its people, there are the occasional sour apples but a majority of my experiences with them, have been rewarding.
But I never understood why they would add “And I was like…” whenever they had to recount anything in the past. Let me give you an example
Me: Hey man, how was your weekend.
Friend: Dude, it was amazing.
Me: Nice, what’d you do?
Friend: So, i met this girl at the bar right. And we were having a couple of drinks. I said something like how I like pastas and she said “Oh, but they contain gluten”.
And I was like: “Do you even know why gluten is bad for you’’?
And she was like: Oh, I don’t know
And I was like: I bet you think gluten causes ebola too.
And she was like: Omg, you’re so rude.
And I was like: Hell yeah, I am funny.
Then we exchanged our phone numbers and forward each other gifs from Buzzfeed.
IF you notice, people are always witty in introspection.Like, ALWAYS! Like an Aaron Sorkin tv show where all the characters are witty and filled with one liners. It always begins well, but by the time they are done, you want to punch them in their self righteous auras. Looking at you Newsroom
4. Meme’s everyone!: There is a self indulgent subreddit called r/reactiongifs. Basically it is a collection of gifs from various sources such as movies, viral videos or TV shows.  And whenever anything of importance happens in the news, some jackass posts a meme on Facebook. It weans me down because if foreshadows that nothing that would ever happen to me in the future would be new, it would always be relative to an experience and be reduced to a meme, or a gif.

For Eg:
Our reaction when rahul gandhi is being interviewed
Our reaction when US is 13 trillion in debt but yet refuses to wean on war against drugs by exaggerated incarcerations, or over militarization of Israel or refusal to invest in education while fucking the students with ridiculous student loans.
Try to create a meme for that.
And anytime someone comes across a real life (or fake situation) you share the gif to show how you feel.
For eg: My reaction when my single friends spend all their savings on a wedding
Things are fine and dandy when you get the references, but if you don’t it is so easy to get flustered and take offense. I always feel like an outsider when my American colleagues joke around me, I just don’t get it. But they insist that they are funny. There is a sudden need for everyone to be funny, in  way it is almost Michael Scott-ish

So, Dhanesh that was a terrible report you made the other day. I think you should be reprimanded.

Me: What?

Boss: Lol, I was just kidding
Dhanesh: Hey Mike, how did you spend your thanksgiving
Mike: Hey, it was brutal man. I stabbed your entire family, created a hula hoop with their intestines and played it with my asian adopted daughters
Dhanesh: What the flying fuck?
Mike: Oh, that line is from a movie, I didn’t mean it literally. It is okay man, you have to watch the movie to understand the context.
And I was like…

The Skeptical Patriot

I wouldn’t say that I am a huge fan of Sidin Vadukut, but i found his latest book “The Skeptical Patriot” to be mighty interesting. The book is about a skeptical look at the claims that Indians make about our past and rating it on accuracy. Surprisingly, a lot of the claims to our past have some merit to it. And this came as a surprise because growing up, I didn’t look at India’s past with such reverence.

I have always looked at patriotism with suspicion. I think I lack the passion that most people do when it comes to defending their country. Because, I felt every citizen in every country would obviously argue that despite their faults, they have it good.

After spending close to 6 years outside of India, I have come to a depressing realization that nobody despises Indians more than ourselves. I found this sub culture to be interesting. Students pretty much stuck with their clan when they arrived and apart from a forced acquaintanceship I didn’t see people becoming friends just because we hailed from the same country. The term “Desi” was a pejorative verb unless it referred to cuisine.

It seemed more like we had this collective moment when where we said to ourselves  “Phew we are out of India, we can finally pretend we don’t like each other”. 

Back home, patriotic emotions were limited to Cricket  and the occasional times when Pakistan would ‘allegedly’ bomb the shit out of Mumbai. It is a phenomenal task to view our country as one.There are so many languages, sub cultures casts beneath the canvas of polytheism which ensured that all of us were walking on egg shells. But you know that, don’t you?

But, now as cliched as it may sound. I think I like my country more than I thought I would. I have gradually become that obnoxious “desi” who swears as “son of the soil” but refuses to acknowledge reality.

This summer, I visited New York for the first time and it was quite eventful. We had sometime before disembarking from the flight and I struck up a brief conversation with an old lady next to me.

Old Lady: Where are you from?
Me: Well, basically i am from India.
Mentally thinking “I have lived for about 21 years in India, But now that I have spent close to three hours in NYC, you could say that i am still searching for my roots

When you read books such as Origin of species, Guns, Germs and Steel and Cosmos you realize that we(human species and some parts of France) have undergone tremendous evolution culturally, religiously and politically. There are few things which were achieved in complete isolation and the flux of people in search of livelihood made sure that the cultures underwent a slow but sure metamorphosis from time to time.

I find inclusivity to be rewarding which unfortunately is fast becoming a controversial opinion. After US blocked the move for immigration reform, I felt a little sad for the people who couldn’t make it in the land of the big apple.

The people who argue against immigration constantly throw loaded yet baseless allegation that we, the immigrants are the prime reason for
• Unemployment
• Cultural/Religious Decay

I have based my opinions on fact from sources who i consider reputable and they are available in the appendix. But before diving into them let us look at the logic behind these statements


Don’t you hate it when the immigrants from Mexico, India and China throng the wall street and run away with all the profit? Well I do. Don’t you hate it when these foreign bodies play with the derivatives and sub prime mortgages which left a huge economic ripple across the world for short term benefits. Don’t you hate it when the immigrant lawmakers lobby against the senate to have any discernible regulation on how industries such as Banking, Energy and Education and Healthcare must be conducted.Well I do. Damn immigrants.

I have always found this claim that the immigrants whether local or across borders contribute to a siege in unemployment to be a bit farcical. The immigrant workers can be either

    • Skilled: Such as doctors, scientists, engineers, farmers, tradesmen, daily wage laborers, cooks, taxi drivers etc…


  •      Non skilled: Such as technicians at Best Buy, Apple store and customer support at Comcast.

To use an analogy. Let us think of a hypothetical organization, let us call it Chevron.

Now when it uses its advanced technology in trade for natural resources in Nigeria, they effectively killed labor unions, undermined democracy and created economic gap to get more profit. They do so without any hurdle or tuppence for international law, because that is the root of capitalism. Profit at any cost.
But when profit doesn’t proceed to building infrastructure and instead is diluted among the political cabals the citizens are naturally frustrated and seek to migrate to greener pastures.

Now when they come to the shores due the policy of the afore mentioned companies,which out of pure coincidence reside in US and UK, they suddenly become frisky immigrants. These people seem to be taking your job only because the local companies and mega companies are willing to pay them the minimum wage with little benefits rather treat them as locals. They find a cost benefit in hiring the immigrants who have little understanding of the local labor laws nor are ballsy enough to question authority which would risk their employment. And how dare do I question capitalism. I am not, i am merely outlining the disadvantages.

So in essence you face the sweet repercussions of capitalism where the economy goes along with the ones who are profitable and not sustainable.
But when their people go to UK or US they aren’t exactly welcome with the same enthusiasm.

Cultural Decay:
This is by far my favorite accusation. They come here, don’t speak our language and don’t respect our values. While this extends from religious grounds more than anything else, I have little energy left in me to sympathize with people who justify their hate on ignorant bigotry.

The problem arises when we view culture as a monolithic edifice which was magically built by one person and we promised to preserve it for years to come. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way. I would like to refrain from controversial examples such as evolution of language, influence of literature, music, science or textiles.

I believe, the best medium for communication is English because that is what i have been taught from age 1. Our parents encouraged us to learn it as it was like getting a passport to the better quality of life. English is often more marketable than the local dialect in most asian countries, so affliction towards the victorian language was merely a commercial choice.

However, friends and family never miss an opportunity to call us as cop outs when we are critical about something that happens back home. They associate us as unpatriotic and cowards who forgot Indian roots in exchange for some dollar bills.

So lets take a pause, you send me to an English speaking school, enforce me to be good at it, take pride when I put on a fake accent, insist that I take up GRE/GMAT/LSAT and get an american degree. And when I am about to embrace adulthood, and all of a sudden, Epiphany! Now, you are struck by fleeting paranoia that our culture is about to die?

The more I read about our eventful past both Indian and global, the more evidence i find in support for multiculturalism and harmony. I don’t want to enforce anyone to learn my culture or be respectful of it. I feel like the world is an unlimited buffet and with the license of education, I have the ticket to taste it all.

And that is why I am proud to be a “Desi”. Historians often look at India as a continent than a country. *A land mass extending from current day Pakistan to as far as Indonesia. When you read about the advances in Education (Takshashila), Medicine (Ayurveda), vedas (mathematics) and military (Chola navy) occurred in societies that were open, turbulent yet peaceful, well administered and curious.

*These innovations were children to amicable curiosity and spirit of enquiry. Jataka tales, tell us that students at Takshashila were often taught for free, and students from places as far as China and Arabia travelled by foot to get a chance to study there. The advancement in these fields were not divorced from faith but energized by it.

We were nailing science eons ago when the church were burning books and heretics for challenging their ignorant beliefs. I am proud that i am a descendent of an institution that promoted enquiry, criticism and skepticism. And I hope with time, I encourage people to be more harmonious with each other despite our cultural/political/religious differences.

– This article was penned by a Proud Indian. Wait, no I mean south Indian, I mean Tamil, fuck the kannadigas, goltis and mallus. Lol. And when i say Tamil i mean I am proud to be a Brahmin, not SC or ST. Lol coz their great grandfathers used to clean toilets and give really bad haircuts. LOL

*- P.S: Excerpts from Sidin Vadukut’s “Skeptical Patriot”

The Price of Ambition

During one of my travels, I was seated next to an elderly Indian couple. They seemed to be in their mid fifties and they were in US to attend a wedding. As our flight was a couple of hours long, we spent the time, talking to each other about ourselves. So after the customary interchange, the conversation went like this.
Before I begin, any Indian person who is 10 years older than me is considered an uncle/aunty. Jokes apart I quite like this cute avuncular culture !

Uncle: So, how old are you?
Me: I am 27.
Uncle: You are married?
Me: Nope
Uncle: It is the right time, you should get married. What are you waiting for?
Me: I still have some distance to go before I think I am mature enough for that.
Uncle: What nonsense, you seem to be in the IT industry. How much do you make?
I disclose my salary after which he felt sorry for me and suggested he will put in kind words to his nephew who owns a start up company in SF.
Aunty interjects: What is your caste, beta?
Me: Uhm, I am not sure.
Aunty: Well, what is your last name? I can deduce your caste from your last name.
Me: Mind – Blown!
So here is the thing about Indian Aunties, they come pre-programmed with “” database. So they can spell out your ancestors, what they did for a living, where they lived etc… all by just learning your last name.
I personally think they would have made very good Nazi’s as racial profiling comes easy to them. Don’t be offended, in India, ethnic cleansing looks something like this:


I watched an interview of George Harrison, the fabled Beatles man. When asked about his cult status in the music industry, he said how he felt trapped under the limelight. Everyone around him thinks that he is a genius, but he alone knows that he has no idea what he’s doing.
I am officially an adult and I am really not sure how why this is the case.

Growing up, I was very excited and looked forward to the day when I would become an adult. I wanted to do what the cool people did, like go anywhere they want, eat anytime they want and talk to strangers as if they knew each other.
But more importantly as a career move, I never knew how people figured what they wanted to do. I mean, I am okay with computers I guess but I never understood  why would anyone pay me to do stuff which seems fun and quite easy?

So I asked a friend who went to IIT because I thought that he would surely know how to decide on a career. He said something brilliant.

The world loves mediocrity, if you are average, people aren’t threatened by you. So they would accept you, as a peer. And you would never be over-qualified for a job. So you can gradually make progress and be at a stage in your career. I mean imagine, if you were a genius at an entry level job. Wouldn’t that guarantee depression?

We all adore people who are brilliant but I feel most of them lead turbulent lives. Especially the ones who made an impact in history. And I am not talking about insecurity, I worship intelligence. When I listen to a Brahms composition, or read “Edward Bernays “Propaganda” or watch a performance by Martha Graham, I go numb. I am awestruck but at the same time sad that I would never be able to reproduce that. Ever.

I hope I didn’t come across as a douche with my choice in entertainment. I just wanted to sound eclectic! I am a regular guy with regular choices. And I think I am comfortable with that, because I know things that I am not.

Which brings me to another theory that I find fascinating -Peter’s Principle.

Peters principle: “Members of an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability”.
What it means is say you are an excellent programmer, you’d be promoted to an average senior programmer, then if you do stick on and hit the targets, you’ll become a manager. But since you were promoted for your technical skills and not people management, you’d end up becoming a terrible manager. But you can’t work on the same pay check years after working in the team. So getting promoted to a job you’ll be terrible at, seems to be the only logical way!
This might have been a demotivational article so far but look at the bright side. I think there is a reason why Indian and Asian students thrive in the western economy.  We are number one in IQ and intelligence and shit last in self esteem. So we ride this hamster wheel of hard work without realizing that, we have achieved our goals.
We seem to have an enforced sense of humility that prevents us from selling ourselves. I am tired of smart people complaining that “I do my job and expect rewards. I can’t go around prancing and announcing how terrific I am at what I do. That is just not me”.

And don’t even start about the inflated self purpose that us STEM folks have. We are just more relevant at the current time stamp in history that is all.
I would really recommend everyone to watch “Dirty Jobs” produced my Mike Rowe. He educates us about vocational education and it’s relevance in the job market today. You don’t have to cut it out as a marketing manager or a software analyst or an investment banker to become financially independent.
You could still lead a comfortable and a fulfilling career while being an electrician, crane operator or even a plumber. Those jobs won’t be automated. At least not in the near future. If my parents waited for their perfect job, they would never have provided me the opportunity to pursue what I wanted to do.

During my time in the middle east, I came across a lot of immigrant workers from Nepal, India, Philippines and Sri lanka. They would scourge and live minimally and send all the money back to their homes. And hopefully channel those resources to pay for their kids tuition’s. Unfortunately, due to their poverty they don’t think free will exists for their children.

They won’t allow their kids to become electricians or plumbers or a mechanic. They want them to be engineers and doctors. And if chips don’t fall the right way, they are just carving a very expensive tomb for their children in the form of student debts.

I am still trying to understand why paychecks are seen as a barometer for ambition? I just don’t get it. When people my age push their limits to get a better job and an upgrade in quality of life, I get it. Totally, but what is the answer to the question , what’s next?
Surely it can’t be just a better car, an expensive house or an exotic vacation. It just seems stupid and narrow to me.

In my own naive opinion, I feel we should measure our lives by experience rather than achievements. I am 27 now and frankly I have no idea how I got here. And I am pretty sure that when I become 40, I still would not have a clue where to go.
But I don’t want to extinguish this stupid addiction I have for experiences. I may change my opinion in the future, but isn’t having an evolving concept of what I want, an experience in itself?

But at present, I am comfortable with ambiguity. It doesn’t keep me up at night :-)