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The Muse

July 30, 2006

Movies and Priorities...

I caught the brilliant "A River Runs Through It" - again - on cable the other day. This is a true work of art, and the movie follows the life of two sons of a minister in a rural town. The sons are obviously different, but all share a common love of fly-fishing. The setting of the film is lovely - serene locals of Montana, the plot is simple and the acting is brilliant. As is the case with me (and probably many of you), I tend to remember certain scenes and certain dialogues. Here are a few that stood out:

"My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things - trout as well as eternal salvation - came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy."

"Dear Jesse, as the moon lingers a moment over the bitterroots, before its descent into the invisible, my mind is filled with song. I find I am humming softly; not to the music, but something else; some place else; a place remembered; a field of grass where no one seemed to have been; except a deer; and the memory is strengthened by the feeling of you, dancing in my awkward arms. "

"Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise. Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters."

A good movie makes you smile, a great movie makes you think. I was thinking about how I have grown up (well, I have grown up in some ways :)), and its almost funny to see how my priorities have shifted with time. Everyone says that schools days were the best, and that is probably because life was simple. I think that a richer and more fulfilling life is achieved not when life is simple, but when we try and succeed in not making our life more complex as we grow up. As we become older, as we become more capable and develop the abilities and the strength to aspire for bigger and better things, we run the risk of getting entangled with issues that are not really aligned with our priorities, and before we know it, life passes us buy.

I also think that the our lives are characterized by the decisions we take and the people we meet when we are confronted with situations that relate to our priorities. Do we stick with our priorities and align our decisions with them, or do we end up changing our priorities? When I was in undergrad, we had a group of people who were all into GRE/TOEFL. The other group, of which I was a part of - was into CAT and the whole MBA thing. Now, obviously my interest was to get into Management. But I ended up thinking that this interest was in some way linked to the whole India/US thing, and one of my priorities was to not go to the US for studying! When I did not get into a good MBA school I ended up taking a software job with the idea that I would try for the CAT again. But joining work, I was able to realize that being here or there had nothing to do with my goals, so here I am...doing what I've always wanted to do. Did my priorities change? Not really, they just became a little clearer. Without meeting the right kind of people and getting the right kind of advice, I could easily have ended up confusing and convincing myself that I did not want to study in the US when that was really not the case...

In any case, I think I've been thinking too much. I forgot to mention that I also watched the brilliant "Pokiri". Now this is a Telugu film, and as I hardly understand a single word, you would think that I would have a hard time following it. Not really...Mahesh Babu is a rowdy, who kills all these baddies, and ...SPOILER ALERT...gasp...he is actually an undercover cop! Seriously, I really like these kinda movies too. Sometimes, movies are all about escapism too...and you can hardly beat Pokiri or a Rajini movie or a Vijaykanth movie for sheer entertainment value. I think its awesome that they stick to their "core competency". Whatever works right?

July 25, 2006

Just browsing...

As I've mentioned earlier, I'm in California for the summer under the guise of doing some work. In reality, its more of a forced, high paid break as I'm just chilling out. I was out to this great place called Fashion Valley with my friends here, over the weekend, and while roaming the shops I realized something profound - I love shopping! There, I said it...I know it sounds very un-macho [what is being macho anyway?!], but I really do.

I like getting good clothes, I really like visiting bookstores and coffee shops, and if a shop sells books and has a cafeteria, well, bye bye then. I could spend hours inside a Borders or a Barnes & Noble. Something about coffee and books...works all the time.

I also enjoy tracking the high end stuff. I'm still not personally comfortable buying stuff for myself at the real high end places, but I do enjoy visiting them. I browsed a lot of great stores and looked at some really cool stuff - Coach briefcases [damn], Mont Blanc pens, apparel at Armani stores, suits at Brooks Brothers, went in to a Godiva showroom too! Ah, the good stuff...of course, there were the smaller, lesser known, but more exclusive boutiques. Surprisingly enough, I've found that I am not really that big on cars or on electronics. I could care less about engines and horsepower and all that, and I care even less about GB, GHz and other configurations.

Whenever I go to such places, I used to be overwhelmed at the prices, and my mind would be contemplating the irony of it all. This much money on shoes, when people don't have anything to eat? What is wrong with this world? But with age has come the maturity to deal with it. And there is no logic in such thoughts is there? If I wear $20 shirts instead of $50, what am I achieving? I would rather spend the $50, and spend another $50 helping others too. One does not have to be mutually exclusive of the other. That's what most people don't do. We hesitate to spend a lot on us, thinking of others. We spend less on us, end up spending nothing on others. Everyone loses huh? Besides, there is a line when one transitions from being a good spender to a snotty jackass. As long as we keep track of where we are, its all good.

Its not about buying stuff, its more about just checking out the shops, the ambiance - I'm sure you girls know what that's all about. And of course, the food. My friends were amazed at my tendency to unerringly go from one food court to another, and put away substantial amounts of food. Even though my stomach is not in the shape of its life [I am recovering from a bout of food poisoning, so I'm very sensitive to undercooked stuff], my genes enable me to eat without putting on anything appreciable [so far]...who wants to be Superman...I'm all about being Jughead.

The sad thing is that I know jack about shopping for or with girls. I would be totally lost at stores that sell shoes or candles. But I'm always willing to learn...any takers? :)

July 11, 2006

Mumbai 07/11

I don't even know what I am writing...I woke up early today, as I had a busy day at work. Early appointments and some work to take care of before going for a five hour dry run of a new process we are implementing. I was brushing my teeth when I got a SMS from my friend at NDTV in Delhi, something about serial blasts in Mumbai. I switched on to see Rajdeep Sardesai on CNN World and was horrified to see the images that I am sure you have all seen with agony by now...

My mom was out of town, but my Dad was there and so were my uncle and aunt. Thankfully, everyone is safe, but I was horrified to hear that my uncle was in the 5:30 train, while the explosions started at around 5:45...Seems there are still some neighbors and friends unaccounted for. God willing...

At work it was all India this and India that, we received an email that accounted for all of our employees there and it was kind of gratifying to receive emails from people higher up, asking me and people like me who have a base in Mumbai, if they could do anything to help.

All day I'm sure many of you have the same feelings I have had. Anger, a feeling of being insignificant, a constant musing of what the hell am I doing here? Above all its pure anger for me. Say what you will, but I will never understand how anyone can justify or even try to justify deliberate harm to innocent commuters who are just trying to get home after a hard day's work. I mean the blasts were in the peak of the rush hour for crying out aloud! I guess its times like these where we need to keep focused and calm, but it will be hard if people start hearing about how Lashkar-e-Taiba [they have denied it according to the Hindu] or some other group of jackasses is claiming responsibility...

With all the attention India has been getting, I'm sure the next few weeks will be filled with cross comparisons to Madrid, London and the inevitable Hindu-Muslim tensions. I can already start to hear the terrorism experts start giving their opinions on how terrorism has roots in the subcontinent and all that yada yada yada...CNN/IBN was almost tooting the fact that their images were being spread all over the world live.

I have seen India's growth into a rising star, I have watched feel good videos about India's rising, I have choked up at hearing Lata Mangeshkar sing Vande Mataram, I have celebrated countless Indian cricket victories, I have laughed at our politicians various antics, when living there I have complained long and hard about everything from the traffic to the water to the weather...but I have never felt more Indian than I do today...and that I guess is no accident...