Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A slice of Mangalore!

Naming your new business after yourself might seem to some to be rather unimaginative. But, I believe, Dhyanchand Coelho aka Dinoo knew exactly what he was doing. Dinoo’s was and is everything he is; warm, friendly and almost always there when you need some comforting. The d├ęcor was simple and elegant and the ambience always welcoming.

Next month marks the 10th anniversary of this little bistro in Mangalore that so many of us love. But when he first opened, it was a quiet little place not really advertised. Most of the first loyal patrons at Dinoo’s were born and bred Mangaloreans who either knew the man or the city really well. But Dinoo’s grew slowly but surely through word of mouth. A form of free publicity by people who were charmed by the man behind the counter and blown away by the lip-smacking food he served. For someone like me, an outsider to the city and an unknown to most of the people who frequented Dinoo’s, the place was a reflection of everything Mangalore was; open and welcoming. Soon after our first meeting, there I was sitting on the chair opposite Dinoo’s counter and telling him stuff that I’d have thought was more appropriate on a shrink’s couch. Those talks with Dinoo combined with an almost daily dosage of his strawberry cheesecake were almost therapeutic. Dinoo’s soon became the place go to when we wanted to sit and discuss events at college, or the petty little incidents that loomed large then; or when we had a new date who had to be impressed, something Dinoo always provided a helping hand with, or on a lonely weekend (Talk about comfort eating eh?). Dinoo’s was also the place where I first met and hung out with some of people who made my time in Mangalore the most memorable of my life. For a city its size, Mangalore has a lot of places to eat out but none have the charm and character that Dinoo’s has. It was always as much about the person as it was about the delicious food he served.

Happy 10th Dinoo!!! Here’s wishing you and your family all the success and good health that you deserve. God bless.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Should Big B Clarify?

This entry is sort of an addendum to the previous one. My initial reaction to latest Big B vs Congress controversy was almost entirely restricted to the Congress' pettiness towards Amitabh Bachchan. I entirely skipped the issue of whether or not Amitabh Bachchan should in fact clarify his stand on the post Godhra riots.
As arguably India's biggest celebrity, Amitabh has an extremely large influence on the common man's perceptions on the products he endorses. It could definitely be argued that given his understanding of the power of celebrity, the Big B should definitely pick and choose what he should and should not lend his name to. But then such an argument is put forward by those of us who have placed Amitabh Bachchan on a pedestal not of his choosing. Definitely his recent blogs, public statements and even movie ventures would suggest that Mr Bachchan's primary motivation is the well-being of his family, as it would be and should be for any of us. Even the support extended to Gujarat Tourism is just that; a quid pro quo for tax exemption status for Paa, a movie produced by son Abhishek. So lets not mistake Amitabh Bachchan's endorsement of the state of Gujarat as having any ideological basis. Its just business.
Now, Mr Bachchan may or may not have an opinion about the Gujarat riots and Narendra Modi. But will his clarification of that opinion have any effect on the common man's opinion on as polarizing a figure as Narendra Modi? Should Mr Bachchan's opinion matter so much? In the same vein, can we then argue that Aamir Khan's endorsement of the Incredible India campaign is a sign of his stamp of approval for the current Congress government or even better does Manmohan Singh's acceptance of the PM post in the current government signify a carte blanche absolution from all Sikhs to the Congress party? Its an asinine argument to make. Celebrity endorsement and opinions have to be taken at face value unless they are made by someone with the activistic credentials of say a Nandita Das. But then poor Nandita cant send the TRPs shooting like an Amitabh Bachchan can; and isn't that what this whole controversy is really about?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Congress' BIG(B) Mistake

Amitabh Bachchan certainly seems to be in the news these days. But then its hard to keep a persona like his out of the limelight for long. That is one of the many reasons why the man is the most in demand brand ambassador whatever the product; the efforts of a certain SRK notwithstanding. Big B is riding the second wave of his popularity with a whole new generation of Indian movie fanatics for all its worth. After reaching the brink of bankruptcy and having to slog his way out of a colossal debt at the age of 60, Mr Bachchan showed tremendous integrity and strength of character to repay all his debtors rather than declare bankruptcy. Its possibly the result of the memories of those bleak days, but since then, Amitabh Bachchan has firmly pursued quantity over quality. Just about any script or any product willing to meet his asking rate would get his ringing and much respected endorsement. Of course for those of us who've always put him on a pedestal, watching him plug pens and cement, was always cringe-inducing. But in a testament to his credibility his brand value has only increased.
However his latest role as Brand Ambassador for the state of Gujarat has ruffled the feathers of the powers that be in the Congress party. The stated reason, of course, is that somehow this is also an endorsement of Narendra Modi and everything he stands for. And as a result, following diktats from the High Command Mr Bachchan is now persona non grata at any Government function in a Congress ruled state. The Congress would have had a leg to stand on with this argument if they had just limited their pettiness to the Big B. However by somehow managing to remove posters of Abhishek Bachchan who was WWF's official Brand Ambassador for this year's Earth Hour from a function also attended by Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit of the Congress, the party has amply demonstrated the hollowness of its argument. This latest brouhaha is just another example of petty vindictiveness by the Congress' first family directed against an old family foe. And its really sad, although not wholly unexpected, that the rest of the spineless Congressmen fall in line so quickly against a national icon.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Shame!!

Probably for the first time in recent history we had the rare situation where the Congress, the BJP and the Leftists were all the same side of an issue. The Women's Reservation Bill had been in the making for 14 years. Tabled thrice prior to this, it was always put back in cold storage. But this time was different. This time the only person that counts in the Congress, Madam Sonia Gandhi had thrown her weight behind the bill. The BJP led in the Lok Sabha by Sushma Swaraj had thrown its weight behind the bill unconditionally as had the Left front which had always supported the bill. Tabled on the Centennial International Women's Day at a time when the President and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha were women, it would have sent a significant message out to everybody how serious we are about empowering Indian women. Considering women in general make the headlines in India as victims of abuse, rape or discrimination this would have signaled a significant attempt at correcting some of the wrongs done to our womenfolk. I'm not saying this Bill alone is enough. And since a debate on its merits and demerits never happened we are not privy to its finer details but the idea of more women in parliament and that too in place of the clowns we have there already cant be all that bad.
What was really appalling was how the dissenters chose to voice their opposition to the Bill. All norms of Parliamentary etiquette and public decency were disregarded by the opponents of the Bill especially so by those members of the RJD, SP and JDU who attacked the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. This is of course a result of consistently voting in people with criminal backgrounds. Whatever else it does, a passed Women's Reservation Bill will ensure that this sort of scene happens less often in parliament. But even more importantly today's events have amply demonstrated how low Indian democracy has sunk. In spite of comfortably having the required numbers, Parliament today could not pass the bill because it was held hostage by about 15% of the MPs. We dont need a better indicator of how powerful the so-called backward classes have become. Their opposition to the bill arises because they want to ensure a quota within a quota for backward communities and Muslims. If this is how irresponsibly they use their current strength one can imagine what will happen if their demands were acceded to. Besides the current Lok Sabha has not given a mandate for a quota within a quota but it does overwhelmingly give one for the Women's Reservation Bill. It truly is a failure of Indian democracy if this oppourtunity is lost.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Badshah vs The Sena

For someone who has often used this blog to rant against both the media opportunism and the blatant hamming Shahrukh Khan displays quite often, this particular blog is a turnaround I never foresaw.
The recent IPL auction and the controversy surrounding the exclusion of Pakistani players by all owners made for great TRPs. And as usual the ever reliable SRK was called in for a quote and promptly delivered. He said he truly believes that Pakistani players are the best players in the world and should've been chosen. Of course no one really followed up the questioning and asked him why they were conspicuously absent even from the team he owns. Be that as it may, it was the politically correect statement to make. Well according to almost everyone else except the those true upholders of Indian culture, morality and democracy, the Shiv Sena. And in true Sena style they registered their protest in the best democratic tradition by tearing posters of Shahrukh's upcoming film My Name is Khan and threatening to disrupt screenings of the same. The issue has since escalated with the Sainiks issuing threats to theater owners who plan on screening the movie. Of course the Shiv Sena is on a roll here having recently taken on Sachin Tendulkar and now mouthing off against North Indians and Rahul Gandhi. Each new days brings in more pictures of Shiv Sainiks becoming more emboldened by their own sloganeering and the near deafening silence it has met with.
And this is really what Indian democracy has been reduced to. Anybody who doesn't like a statement or a person can and will shoot their mouths off, issue threats, blatantly damage public property and, in general, make a mockery of law and order. The Shiv Sena have been pioneers of this brand of expression of one's opinion. Its time to put an end to this. Its time the state acts to make an example of the Sena's goons. Every effort must be made to ensure My Name is Khan is screened successfully and anyone wishing to watch the movie must be allowed to do so without fear. And, I cannot believe I'm saying this, every single one of us who believes the Sena way of doing things is just plain wrong, must buy the tickets and watch SRK overact for 3+ hours. This is the only apt reply to the Shiv Sena. Shahrukh to his credit has so far stuck to his guns and deserves to be supported. Only then will Thackeray and his goons realize that Shahrukh is just as Indian as the rest of us even if his name is Khan.
P.S: The film is due for release on Feb 12th and in the next few days if SRK or Karan Johar on his behalf issues an apology to the Sena as he has done before, then consider this appeal null and void and this whole episode another attempt at a publicity stunt to promote the media.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Guards for White Elephants

Uttar Pradesh CM Mayawati is an absolute dream come true for a blogger like me who believes that the biggest problem with Indian governance is the people who run it. She most accurately represents all the qualities that make up the modern Indian politician. She is blatantly opportunistic, almost shamelessly ambitious, has her own agenda that has almost nothing to do with the people who elected her but everything to do with her personal fortunes and legacy.
Never in the history of Indian politics has someone represented the hopes and dreams of so many as Mayawati has. Even Rajiv Gandhi's 3/4th majority in the Lok Sabha had to do with Indira Gandhi's assassination than any real identification with him or his politics. But Mayawati's ascent to the top post in India's most populous state was seen by so many as a sign of awakening of a people repressed for so long. To repeat an obvious but facetious comparison, her election and its ramifications for the Dalit people has been compared to Barack Obama's election and its influence on the African-American people. But Mayawati's tenure as UP's CM has not seen any dramatic improvement in the quality of life of millions of her die-hard Dalit supporters. But it has seen her personal fortunes go up dramatically.
But then, amassing personal wealth while ignoring the the very people who sent them to positions of power is written into the Indian politicians DNA. What makes Mayawati really different though is her single-minded determination to literally cement her place in Indian history. The 40 statues of Dr B R Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram and herself that she has built since 2007 at a cost of approximately Rs.2000 crore has already been reproved by the Opposition, independent commentators and the Supreme Court of India. The Supreme Court even went to the extent of threatening her with contempt of court for continuing work on her statues. Pro-Mayawati commentators have argued in favor of the statues saying represent a talisman of Dalit pride that was absent before. I guess then that they believe Pride trumps hunger pangs or abject poverty. However the latest gambit by Mayawati to spend taxpayer's money on her statues is the proposal to create a special elite force at a cost of Rs. 67 crores to the exchequer with the sole task of providing security to her statues. This in a state with so many other obvious problems that could've used the money or the police personnel. Its imprudent, impertinent and irresponsible. Unfortunately Mayawati has the required numbers to pass the bill that will make this latest bit of wasteful bragging a reality. And unless the judiciary can somehow put a stop to this, Mayawati will only be emboldened by her success at cocking a snook at the establishment. When that happens God help the state of Uttar Pradesh and even more importantly the legions of Mayawati's faithful followers.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Renewing Our Tryst with Destiny

Today India completes 60 years as a republic. It is truly a cause for celebration. At its conception the Indian nation was not given much of a chance of survival. But 60 years on here we are, a vibrant democracy poised to take our rightful place on the world stage. The Constitution of India is the backbone that has enabled this miracle. And while Dr B R Ambedkar has correctly been called the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, it was really the result of 3 year long debate by nearly 300 men and women who made up the Constituent Assembly.
It was at these debates that the very issues that we still debate today were first debated; debated by men and women who were more committed to the idea of India, more aware and passionate about their responsibility to the Indian people and certainly as a group a lot more representative of the ideal of India as it should be, of India as envisaged by our freedom fighters.
The debates of the members of the Constituent Assembly make for interesting reading. A quote in particular which I'd like to make the topic of this blog was attributed to Begum Aizaz Rasul during the debate on minority reservations. She said "Sir, those Muslims who wanted to go to Pakistan have done so. Those who decided to stay here wish to be on friendly and amicable terms with the majority community and realise that they must develop their lives according to the environments and circumstances existing here....To my mind reservation is a self-destructive weapon which separates the minorities from the majority for all time. It gives no chance to the minorities to win the good-will of the majority...To my mind it is very necessary that the Muslim living in this country should throw themselves entirely upon the good-will of the majority community, should give up separatist tendencies and throw their full weight in building up a truly secular state." Of course her comments were roundly criticized by those Muslims who were pro-reservation, but that these comments were expressed at that time and by a Muslim woman is truly amazing. The idea of reservation based on religion was was shot down then but we have still ended up with caste based reservation. What was initially meant to be a temporary step to reverse centuries of injustice to an oppressed people has become firmly entrenched in our lives. In the last 60 years there have been no real studies to evaluate the effect of reservation as policy. Meanwhile the groups of people who have demanded and been brought under the gambit of reservation has steadily increased. In my mind nothing can be a greater statement to the failure of the policy of reservation than that particular fact. All of which brings us back to the Begum's statement. Reservation is a self-destructive weapon which separates the reserved from the unreserved for all time. I've never been able to understand the dichotomy. If religion based reservation does not ring constant in a secular state then how can caste based reservation in a state that has outlawed casteism? Meanwhile our politicians have taken to heart the British policy of divide and rule and will do everything really to try and divide us along communal and casteist lines. Its time to re-examine and re-evaulate our entire policy of caste based reservations. But who will show the political will to take what will be such an unpopular step?
In this the 60th anniversary of the Indian republic my wish for India is a whole new breed of politicians who will show the kind of passion and commitment to India that this nation and its people deserve.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

The 4th Idiot?

Being a die-hard Aamir Khan fan I had no intention of missing 3 Idiots. However the whole controversy raised by Chetan Bhagat's claims of being sidelined by the makers of the film has made the viewing of the movie all the more interesting. As far coverage goes, the media as usual is making hay while the sun shines. Media coverage has largely focussed on producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra's outburst asking a member of the media to shut up. But in all the sensationalism an important larger issue has been missed out; that of ownership and due credit.
Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone has been heralded as the biggest English language novel by an Indian author. It was definitely an entertaining read and all credit to Bhagat for writing a book that may have introduced a lot of young Indians to reading. But I saw an interview of Bhagat's last night on the telly where he compared his book to Harry Potter and Twilight. To me therein lies the central problem to this whole issue i.e. Chetan Bhagat seems to think he's on the same level as J K Rowling. The facts are these. The producers of 3 Idiots bought the rights to Bhagat's book and have held the the rights to make a movie of the book for some time. They've made that movie and from all reviews there are fundamental differences from the main story of the book and the plot line of the movie. The credits at the end of the movie mention Chetan Bhagat as the author of the book on which the movie is based. Nitpicking over certain scenes in the movie and comparing them to the book as is happening now through the media is just silly. Television presenters seem to be taking particular pleasure in bandying about numbers like 5% or 80%.
In the age of water tight prenuptial agreements its naive to sign a contract handing over rights to your best seller and then ask for credit through the media. To throw Bhagat's comparison right back at him, J K Rowling had complete control over every aspect of the making of the Harry Potter movies and a share of the profits. Now thats the way it should be done. Chetan Bhagat's previous experience with Bollywood happened to be with the exceedingly generous Salman Khan and involved the least entertaining of his 3 books which was translated onscreen into a flop movie. That exceedingly pleasant initiation into the Bollywood scene and his seemingly innate naivety probably upped his expectations. This whole episode should be treated as a lesson learnt and Mr Bhagat should remember it when he is in negotiations with Karan Johar and ShahRukh Khan for making '2 states- The story of my marriage' into 2011's biggest romantic comedy. Prominently upfront, above title opening credits and a share of the profits; all these should be written into the contract. As far as 3 Idiots is concerned, you know what they say Mr Bhagat, about spilt milk.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A new beginning

Another year has come and gone. 2009 was just as eventful as any other year with both good and bad. And most attempts at looking back at the year gone by tend to be negative; simply because the downs stick with us a lot more. Well as we usher in a new year I'm chosing to look forward. 2010 will in all probability have as many ups and downs as 2009. But atleast it wont be the same. And we always have hope; that somehow this year things will be better.
So here's hoping this year will bring us all happiness and also the strength to overcome the pitfalls life throws our way.
Happy 2010!!