Saturday, December 26, 2009

Goodbye 2009

It’s the time of the year, as the Earth completes another journey around the Sun, when the annual reviews are done. So getting into the spirit of things I decided to pause and think about the year that went by from my eyes. I know I am a bit early but I don’t expect anything earth-shattering/life-changing to happen in the next five days. So here is what 2009 was for me.
For me the year began in the most pathetic fashion. No running water at the flat. Had to carry buckets full of water to my 14th floor flat for the first few days of the year. And it ends with me flying off to be home (the real one). [All is well that ends well :)]
The Lousiest Birthday Ever - Worked in office till 11 in the night. Then missed my own officially organised birthday party (memorable for all the wrong reasons).
Now for a confession. I did not make any train journey the entire year. I know it sounds a bit weird for someone who has stayed throughout the year in Mumbai but that is the truth. Flights for going outside Mumbai and bus/taxi for traveling within. The Thane Creek has become a sort of marker which I crossed very rarely.
Destination added to my travel map – Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh. My first trip south and it was an official trip with the entire stay lasting seven hours. The first impression was of the lush green paddy fields everywhere. It was also the day I saw both Arabian Sea & Bay of Bengal, a so called trans-sub-continental journey and back as I call it.
New things in life – Online gaming (Mafia Wars, Famville). The online gaming was there earlier but not to such an extent as now. I am also officially addicted to Twitter. Orkut has taken a back seat. This blog completed a century of posts. There are more and more means of staying in touch but the effort seems to be decreasing. Existence seems to be becoming more virtual and less real. I have a classmate from school whom I haven’t seen in nearly 10 years now. We are friends on Facebook and are both hooked onto Farmville. We send each other presents; help out in each others’ virtual farms but apart from this don’t have any other interactions.
Most Poignant Comment – “How did people pass time in office when they did not have internet connected PCs at their desk?” – “They talked”.
Looking back at 2009, I can’t really find any positive to take from it. My bank balance grew a bit but the place became lonelier. More people seem to be disappearing from the life then getting in. Close friends are drifting away. And the worst feeling of all is I am unable to visualize any targets for myself. It’s the empty horizon syndrome, as I call it. Too many existential questions keep coming up (“Main Kya Hoon”; the song from Love Aaj Kal is the one which sums up the situation best)
So with this I bid farewell to 2009, (a year hardly worth remembering; a total waste in my opinion).
Things to be done in 2010
  • Watch an IPL match
  • Try the random bus travel on a 20 rupees holiday ticket (Thought about doing it but never got around to doing it)
  • Travel in a train
  • Visit at least one new place (and not for an official trip)
  • Read more (This year was limited to Shantaram, 2 States, The Lost Symbol)

And finally wishing everyone a Happy 2010

Monday, December 21, 2009

Avatar - The Experience

Finally we have a movie which is able to surpass the pre-release hype that it has created. The pre-release hype was expected. This was the first James Cameron directed film in 12 years. And with his last one being Titanic the expectations were bound to be high. Once the movie opened the reviews were uniformly fabulous. Haven’t actually read a bad review or met anyone who hasn’t been impressed by the film.
I saw it in 3D (my first such experience) and have to say, the reviews were not wrong. They said that you don’t watch Avatar but actually experience it. And the experience was simply mind blowing. You have to see to believe the world that James Cameron has created in Avatar. The film is a sort of mix of “Matrix” with “Lord of the Rings” and then something more.
The story at its heart is simple. Humans have found that a planet called “Pandora” has an energy giving mineral “unobtanium”. To be able to mine it they go ahead and destroy the planet’s residents the Na’vi, a peace loving community who believe that the entire planet with all its life forms is interconnected in a network they call Ey’wa (sounds similar to the Gaia concept of Earth). Humans being humans try to forcefully grab the mineral destroying the homes of Na’vi who then fight back aided in their fight by some humans.
Overall the story is basic and quite predictable but it’s the presentation and the packaging which is awesome. The seemingly magical world of Pandora comes alive from the director’s imagination. And that’s the highlight of the film. However the story also touches just the right emotions.
The humans’ assault on Pandora has a real parallel with the US invasion of Iraq & Afghanistan. One of the characters actually uses the term “Shock and Awe”. Also shows that human greed is the biggest threat to any eco-system (parallel with the Copenhagen Climate Summit).
The aliens are shown to be different from humans but in a beautiful way unlike most film depictions which are disgusting (e.g. District 9). And for a change the audience actually has its sympathies for the aliens rather than humans in this war. Actually in Avatar it’s the humans who are the aliens to Pandora.
And finally for the film’s presentation which is the real highlight. The world of Pandora comes alive with its people, plants & animals. Avatar uses technology unlike any seen before. The use of CGI & live action gets so merged that after some time you forget which one you have watched. And backing up all this wizardry is a simple emotional story.
Overall, I’ll say it again. Avatar is not meant to be watched, it’s meant to be experienced.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mandatory Voting?

Gujarat Assembly has passed a bill to make voting mandatory in the local polls. (TOI Link). Some of the excerpts are as follows.
The Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2009 was passed by voice vote. Under the bill, if a voter fails to vote for the reasons other than prescribed in the rules, he may be declared a "defaulter voter" and would face consequences for which rules will be framed and placed before the assembly for its approval later. "It is observed that due to low turnout of voters to discharge their duty by exercising their right to vote, the true spirit of the will of the people is not reflected in the electoral mandate," said the statement of objects and reasons of the bill.
Now this has been welcomed by some that this will counter the recent trends of lower voter turnouts. Personally I feel that this is wrong. Democracy is about freedom of choosing for one self. And not voting is also a choice for some for whatever the reason they may have. According to me forced voting very much defeats the idea of democracy. And I still don't get how making everyone vote will improve the governance. This bill seems more draconian than democratic. I am not a legal person but I am sure mandatory voting would go against the basic Fundamental right of Freedom of Expression.

Opinions may differ on this issue.

Update - 20.12.2009
P.S. Apparently 40% of the legislators, including the CM & some other ministers, were absent when the bill was passed. Talk about hypocrisy.