Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Animated formula

After watching Wreck-it Ralph the other day, a question struck me that kinda disappointed me, even though I can happily say the movie didn't. Could it be possible that Disney Pixar is now doing formulas? No, I'm not talking about the regular 'happy land-something goes wrong-complications-chase-villian perishes-happily ever after' type formula. I found something more similar than that. Similar to a movie I had watched more than a decade back- Monster's Inc.

Yeah the plot is different, but a little more than the nuances are similar.Don't get me wrong, the movie is totally worth it and I enjoyed every bit of the twistr and turns. This is just an after thought that just proves that the movie experience stays with you.

Here's my lowdown. PS- If you haven't watched Wreck it Ralph and intend do, then lemme tell you that this has spoilers.

1. 'Character-Character'

The characters and their relationship with each other was too similar. Sully in Monsters Inc. (henceforth mentioned as MI) was the big guy, just like Ralph in Wreck it Ralph (WiR). Furthermore, both were supposed to be mean and bad while they were actually big softies. Both had to fight for a small girl, who were fiesty and had bouncy pigtails and would just not leave the big guy. Both movies also had side-kicks: Mike in MI and Felix in WiR. Both were shorties. In the end of both movies they find their loved ones. Both freakish characters and taller to them.

2. 'Their real world'

Both movies showcased the real world of the characters, a world that us humans are  unaware of (and in reality does not exist). In MI it was the city of Monstropolis. In WiR it was the arcade after-hours. (Wait, isn't Toy Story also Pixar?)

3. 'Step into my world'

In MI, Boo, the small girl, sneaks into the monster's land. In WiR, Ralph goes out of his game to go into other games like Hero's Duty and Sugar Rush.

4. 'Stuck in'

Randall deactivates Boo's door in MI, so she is stuck in the monster's world for good. In WiR too, King Candy makes Vanellope a glitch so she can never get out of her game.

5. 'Bad guys rule'

In both movies, the villians are the rulers of the place. King Candy is obviously the king of Sugar Rush while Waternoose is the CEO of Monster's Inc. In fact, in both movies they are the not-so obvious villians too. You think its Randall and King Candy in the respective movies but in reality it's Waternoose and Turbo.

Bonus similarity no. 6: Both movies have extremely memorable short movies as a prelude.

So there, 5 good similarities. And you thought our Bollywood films worked on a formula?

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Monday, November 19, 2012


Siddharth was back in Mumbai after his month-long blissful Hawaiian vacation. Thoroughly refreshed with the change in weather and the exotic spa treatments, he was ready to go back to the grind. An hour of driving in traffic and he reached his mundane, but high paying workplace. “Back to the excel sheets!” he muttered as he parked his car.

Like routine, Siddharth walked into the office and headed straight to his cubicle. And then he noticed something strange. His desktop had been replaced. No, it had not been upgraded for sure, because this one was eerily green coloured. He looked around bewildered, noticing that it wasn't just his desk, but everyone's had the same ordinary looking green coloured desktop- complete with green keyboard and mouse.

He paced to the IT guy, demanding an explaination. “Relax, it's all the same. Except that it will make your work smoother and your brain sharper.” He handed Siddharth a user manual. “A manual? You are using it, how difficult could it be?” he mocked.

Grabbing his morning cup of coffee, Siddharth dragged himself back to his cubicle. He turned on the computer half hoping that it has a glitch and he can go back to his old one. But the new computer fired up like a charm. Siddharth loaded his e-mails and sipped on his brew while witing for his e-mails to queue up. Then, one by one he started deleting e-mails that were unimportant or he had already seen on his BlackBerry. “Oops, a pizza coupon.” He realized he had deleted the e-mail and hit undo to retrieve it.

A sharp buzzer went off and Siddharth figured that it came from his monitor. In fact, his monitor also emanated a red colour from within. After five sharp beeps it went as silent and green as it was earlier. “Was that because I hit undo?” he asked aloud. He looked around to see practically the entire office staring at him. The IT guy walked past and said, "Yes, don't do that."

Siddharth gulped. He saw the logo on the computer- the symbol of undo striked out. The cover of the user manual has the same thing. Siddharth opened it reluctantly, assuming it to be non-consequential. But it turned out to be like a science text book, with diagrams of the brain pointing different sections to words like alertness, confidence and concentration. Another page seemed to be dedicated to time management. ‘What?’ he thought, ‘How can you work without the undo button? It’s like not being able to think and re-think. It’s like not changing your opinion, like not changing your mind about something.’ He flipped pages around to see some motivational quotes- ‘Think Through!’ said one. ‘Your brain works faster than me.’ said another. ‘Silly mistakes are not for you.’

Shaken, Siddharth got up from his chair and began to look around. All his colleagues were back to their own work. But there was something different. None of them looked around aimlessly; none spoke on the phone, not one of them fidgeted. They all had their eyes locked at their screens, typing cautiously. They didn’t seem rushed or panicked or confused. All of them seemed to have learnt the art of super concentration. And for a long time, nobody’s monitor buzzer went off.

Siddharth smirked and said to himself, “One lost pizza coupon. No more.”

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Friday, November 9, 2012

10 things you will do this Diwali (but don't necessarily want to)

It's that time of the year again. The festival season! If we lived in USA, it would entail just two things- Christmas and New Year. But the abundant country that we are, we have to go about celebrating festivals from all religions with equal fervour. So, we started with Ganpati, moved to Navratri, Eid and still have our Dhanteras, Diwali, Christmas and New Year. This festival season lasts longer that Mumbai's winter season! And I haven't even counted the Halloween night that was used as an excuse for zombie partying. Boy, we surely have a lot of money going around for just about half a year. No wonder we crib during the months of April and March when budgets and (bad) appraisals scream out to our empty pockets.

Speaking of parting with money, lets get on to our first 'Thing you will do this Diwali':

1. Kitna Badhega?

Gold price. That's what I'm talking about. We all know its going to increase. But by how much, that is the question. If you are not discussing it already, you are clearly not talking to the right people. Things like 'This time I've been told it will go up to ___rs(fill up with any ridiculous number)' will make their rounds. People will quote their share brokers, the finance guys, even the neighbour's brother who works in a bank.  And mind you, the prices may just get there.

2. Kya Mila?

Yup its that time where clients start giving us stuff. You may hate the client every single working day (and non-working days for some), but the day that courier guy comes with the big hamper in your name; it makes working worthwhile. In fact, should we reduce their rate card now?

This applies to vendors too. The same ones that you have been avoiding paying bills. But then they stand at your reception with a tacky golden-paper wrapped box, so you greet them well and ask them if all is going good. After successfully avoiding the topic of 'outstanding amounts' you take the box and quickly rush to your accounts department, in the process to clear the vendor's money.

And then its a 'My client is better than yours' silent war between colleagues. 'What I got is atleast useful, yours will just make you fatter.'

3. Kya Khareeda?

The Tanishq ad says it all. You know that you don't want to overspend this year. You know you don't need it. You know that two months down the line you will find it at a discount. You will do your calculations, discuss it with family, get reassured about your decision. And then, one day before Diwali you will go and buy it. Because too many ads have used the words 'shubh' (yeah, we advertisers like to think that works). And because there is a free silver coin with it (which is going to comfortably sit in the tijori till you die).

With facebook and twitter you are also sure to put up a post about your latest purchase (with a picture, if you are really proud of it.) If you haven't done that, rest assured you will be asked when you go to office or next time you speak to a relative. If you are a married woman- kya mila husband se? If you are a married man- kya diya wife ko? If you are still to make your big Diwali purchase, think of the answer you will give to that question, and not necessarily what the wife wants.

4. Jhag-Mag

You were prepared a few weeks back for this. You had clearly outlined what you would wear at the next Office Diwali party, building party and that boring relative's puja (also a party). You hope that what you are wearing is the latest in fashion, and also hope that no one else wears the same churidaar you bought on sale. D'ont small things - that shimmery lipstick you bought and those new fancy mojaris. Of course all the bling you wear will stand out, just like they do in those jewellery ads (that's what we like to think too).

5. The Assured Prize

You subscribed to that mailing list. You opted for the store's free membership card. That itself entitles you to the 'assured prize'. These templeted emails go like 'This Diwali/ Dhanteras buy worth Rs. XX,XXX from any of our outlets and get an assured gift worth Rs.XX free*' Did you miss the asterik mark? Let's check your e-mails to see how many of them started with 'Win an iPad2...' (yes, Steve Jobs is smiling this Diwali)

6. Diwali Special Episodes

The channel guys know that you don't like to socialise during Diwali. They know that when the city is celebrating, all you want to do is sit at home by yourself and grab your sci-fi novel; only coz you have nothing better to do. So the channels have a special gift for you! Diwali special 'one hour episodes' of 'your favourite' saas bahu serials where the channels soaps' saas and bahus come together and...err... celebrate diwali.
Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of 'dhamakedaar' stuff on TV during diwali too. Haven't you seen the 'Ek Tha Tiger' promo? Wonder what Mr. Bachchan will wear on the Diwali special KBC...

7. Die-eating

If you have just joined the gym, then shame on you. You don't have that festive spirit in you. This is the time you need to splurge on mithaais and chocolates. You have all of the next year to do your dieting-shieting. You are going to be too broke to eat well anyways. And leave those greens aside! Do you know how expensive they are nowadays?

8. Mumbai Attack

The neighbours lit up the crackers tonight in the compound. You looked out the window. You cracked up your own achooos at night. Yes, this Diwali bring home the sneeze.

Its not only the crackers that will make you sneeze. Its also the pollution because everyone feels rich enough to travel by cars and taxis. Arre bhai the entire family is going out! So bring on the traffic. You will be revenged by the car-less person who will burst a rassi bomb right in front of your vehicle.

This diwali also welcome the rain. Or like the previous two years, you will need to look up to the skies and wonder, was that thundering? was that lighting? Is that the rain or did it come from the building? Don't worry. Chances are that it will rain. Now worry.

And then its time for a rain dance, whether you want one or not. Because every galli and nukkad has your favourite item number playing. You know the list, now learn the steps. Or laugh at those doing balle-balle on the latest Prabhudeva song.

9. Print this festive season

I'm going to run my own diwali brand perception study. I'm going to strike out all the ads in newspapers that have the following words: festive season, diwali dhamaka, special festive offer, bring home this diwali. Also the following visuals: crackers bursting behind a crappy headline, diyas, lanterns, torans, family posing in traditional indian (from stock photo sites).  I know I'm the wrong person saying that, but our clients 'make' us add these photoshop layers of stupid bursting crackers. They really think in a market like India it'll work. What can you say? Wonder how the Economist would say happy diwali.

Of course, this does not apply to the political banners for diwali. Why? Because all of them sould be taken down anyway. Unless some political party does something fun like 'Ek tha Pataka'.

10. Pocket Mein Rocket

'Saab, diwali do.' That's your postman, milkman, garbage man, lift man. Some that you see everyday, but do the chores without a word. Some that you have never seen but claim to be your secret workers. So keep those 10 ka notes handy (or 50s if you too rich) coz they are going to bargain with you this time too, even though you have increased the amount by 5% keeping inflation in mind. Bak-sheesh!

Are you reeling in the post-diwali syndrome already? Don't forget to thank me for pre-living your 'festive season'. Now I'm off to buy some ear plugs for the stray dogs. Dont want them to run towards me when some other idiot bursts a cracker, do I?

Have a safe one!

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sonnet About a Sonnet

Here I am trying to write a sonnet
Let's see how it turns out towards the end
I'll find the Shakespearean hat and don it
When your superb compliments will be sent.
Counting with my fingers I'll go till ten
Easily completing the first quatrain
Hopefully your glum mood it'll brighten
Letting out a smile, you shouldn't refrain.
Maybe we can bring back this trend
While writing a letter, speech or e-mail
Perhaps in a note with the gift we send
Or to a bad relationship curtail.
Fourteen lines have to end with a couplet
For now, my friend, this is all that you get.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Spiritual Growth

The past few years have changed me dramatically. Mentally, physically, emotionally and materialistically. I just realised that I haven’t much changed spiritually. I haven’t found any spark, nor have I felt anything special or different. I may have done the routine religious things with all my heart; but nothing spontaneous has happened in a while. 

Heck, the last thing I remember is when I went to a church I said an impromptu poem. No Ramzan, Eid, Ganpati or Christmas did anything to me after that. I have felt the craving every now and then to seek answers; but the feeling went as soon as it arrived. Yes, the number of blogs and articles I’ve been reading on the subject has increased manifold, but they haven’t inspired me the way I wanted them to. I guess I’ve become too rational. Or have I become shallower in my thinking? Or have I mistaken spirituality for faith? Have I lost my faith then? 

I’m going to re-join that path that I had left behind and seek out the spirituality before I lose my mind. Any hints on how to begin?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Do Something Exceptional

Exceptional. That's what I always strive for. Shock 'em, surprise them...leave them baffled. Inspire them. That's what I've always tried. Whenever I have failed I have cried. 

I've learnt this trick from my parents. They always tried so hard. They still do. They did some pretty exceptional things for me. The biggest thing being accepting me for who I am. And respecting some of my own decisions. Right from what I wanted to do in my career, in love and even my dressing style. I've tried to be exceptional in all these things too...(err not too successful in the dressing style bit, but aspiring to be there!) And I'm possibly doing this, somewhere down the line, to make them proud. 

Being exceptional when you are expected to just do your thing is what earns you respect. Is that why we see so many old people struggling to make conversation with others, assuming that just because they are old nobody wants to speak to them? I'd like to think that they haven't made a big difference in anyone's life; in a positive way. They haven't done anything exceptional to have people respect them for who they are.

I'm yet striving to be exceptional, even in what I say on my blog post. Hope it leaves you shocked, surprised, baffled or even inspired!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wild: From Lost to Found on the PCT (book)

Last evening I finished reading this book called Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. The author is a woman named CherylStrayed. The idea of where the surname came about was interestingly revealed in the book.

Like every other ‘woman-driven’ book I felt like I understood the author. So much, that yet again I decided that I was so much like her. I’m still not too sure whether parts of me are really like her or just wanted to go with her story. To make it worse, her story takes place when she is 26 and about to turn 27; my age. I was smitten by her attitude and repulsed by her spirit at the same time.

I think I found myself somehow in her book too. Like, it’s okay to want to be alone just so you remain strong. It is okay to block out the rest when you need to focus on something really hard. It’s not like you are running away, you just don’t want to be distracted. Her anger resonated in me.

In her memoir, Cheryl finds solace in reading books. And she reads her favourite ones over and over during her trip. Even small things about how she reacted when she was in pain (“I stopped when I couldn’t take a walk any further…and then I ran”) made me feel relieved somehow. It helped me tick off my week with patience. Every few miles she walked, I felt a tiny bit healed. Every challenge she went through, I knew with as much belief that she would come out a stronger person.

Of course there was this huge difference in her style of thinking and acting too. The fact that she is an American and came from poverty stood out to me as starkly different to the way I would react to things. There were even times when I was reading the book and I asked myself the same questions that she did, sometimes finding an answer that I wasn’t ready to hear myself.  

You should also know that not once while reading the books did tears well up, even though you do feel the pain that she goes through. Her style is not to make you feel bad for her in anyway. All through the book she is being her strong self. That is what I like in a good book!

Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Ks_QnNQ__OM

Friday, September 14, 2012


“I’m soaked!” I sighed scrubbing my feet on the welcome mat as I entered home. My husband was already there, sipping on a cup of steaming coffee as I looked for a towel to dry myself. He looked at me and gave me a pitiful frown and sweetly asked if I wanted some coffee.

The rain today was unexpected, just like my day at work had been. What I thought would be a relaxed Friday at work turned out to be hectic and challenging. In the end, I was tired and left late from office missing my spa appointment too. All I wanted to do now was soak myself in a hot bathtub and lie there for an hour. Mais alas, we were to leave early the next morning for a friend’s place in Lonavala. Before that, I had to take control of the house. Man! This being a homemaker and working at the same time was taking a toll on me. I just didn’t have the time to do anything for myself. 

I made a mental list of the things I need to do- pack a bag, make idlis to carry en route and wash the clothes. All this and it was already time for dinner. We quickly packed our bag for the weekend, and I soaked the idli dal keeping a check on the time. That’s when I broke down. I was famished and still had to wash the clothes, which meant soaking them for at least an hour. “Arghhh! Enough soaking for the day!” I grumbled aloud.

That’s when hubby came to the rescue. Like a TV commercial, he brought out a pack of Surf Excel Matic, and held it in his hands, reading “The new Surf Excel Matic has the power of ‘Vibrating Molecules’ to penetrate deeply embedded stains & remove them effectively, so no soaking before washing!” I smiled at him and hugged him, saying “What would I do without you?”

With the clothes washed in a jiffy, we quickly had dinner. I relaxed in front of the TV, healing my aching feet in a bucket full of hot water and sea salts. He suddenly looked at me and said, “I thought you didn’t want any more soaking!” Yes, I threw a pillow at him :) 

Merry Melbournian Christmas!

Like every conversation we had, this one too ended with “So when are you coming here?” I laughed it off and coyly replied, “Well, soon!” and we hung up the phone.
This was a typical conversation between me and my sis. She had settled in Australia long enough and she wished I came down to meet her. Of course you know that staying in Mumbai diminishes all your time and money for you to be able to think of taking a vacation to Matheran; let alone Melbourne. How I wish I could take a weekend to just land up in the Victorian city! This weekend though, I decided to take an afternoon nap.
When I had fallen in deep slumber, I heard the doorbell ring. It was a courier and I quickly signed for it wondering what my sister had surprised me with now. I ripped open the envelope and was astounded when I found an air ticket. A note she attached said ‘Merry Christmas! It's your time to visit Melbourne NOW!’
A month later, here I was, in cultural capital of Australia; grinning from ear to ear. My tour guide (a.k.a. my sibling) knew exactly what I wanted- shopping, eating and relaxing. But mostly, shopping! I had heard her speak endless number of times about her everyday experiences there- what she eats and she shops. In a way, I felt like I know what to expect, like I had experienced all these things too.
The entire city dazzled in Christmas lights and just about everyone had shopping bags in their hand. I love summers and it was great to see a not-frigid Christmas. Though I found out later that Melbourne can have up to four seasons in a single day. Talk about variety!
I’m sure I looked like a kid high on sugar when I skipped from one shop to another in the Victoria Market. I picked up some really awesome knick knacks, souvenirs to take back home and even a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many well-known brands at great discounts there. The organic fruits and veggies section looked and smelled so great; I wished we had something like this back home. The one thing that resembled Mumbai though was the Flinders Street railway station. It was as grand as our CST station. It was clearly the same British influence. There is a giant screen there where I’m told many sporting events are broadcasted. Can you imagine how much fun it would be to watch the World Cup there? In fact last year’s 20-20 match was in the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The other place that reminded me of Mumbai was the city skyline from the Waterfront City. It reminded me a tad about the Queen’s necklace in Mumbai.
There were loads of tourists like me who seemed to be shopping, though I’m quite sure they even went sight-seeing. More tourists plus the festival season made parking seem a hassle, so on my first day there, we went cycling for a while.
I am a total bookworm, and as it turns out, Melbourne has the most number of bookstores in all of Australia. I even got a chance to visit the State Library. It was massive and I immediately fell in love with its reading room- La Trobe. So I paid a visit to the Fed Square Book Market and picked up a couple of magazines and a novel from my favourite author. The Books for Cooks place got me drooling and I knew it was time to eat!
That’s when we headed to China Town. It had an amazing spread of Asian restaurants and shops. We decided to go to one of the more well-known one:  Shark Fin. The menu showcased some amazing food but also some dishes that I wouldn’t dare taste.
If you are going there, you will be bedazzled at first at the amazing line up of stores like Myer, David Jones, Zara, Duty Free, Tag Heuer, Gucci and what not. Besides, there are several malls which were really cool too, Chadstone being one of them. It literally extends as far as the eyes can go and the best part is that it is still expanding. Pure bliss for a shopaholic like me! I could spend hours in the Apple showroom and other cool shops like Tiffany and Oakley.
If you had to mention a landmark here, you would have multiple choices. One landmark that I fell in love with was the Crown Hotel. It was beautiful! You may recall that it is the same place where Preity Zinta had her ‘Ben n Jerry’ ice cream in the movie Salaam Namaste. I’ m told that the richest of the rich come here to stay in the Crown; including Tom Cruise. The top-most floors of the hotel are about $40000 a night, so I decided to give it a skip this time!  The Christmas decorations at the Crown were a sight! It had shows every few minutes which had kids in frenzy and adults like me mesmerised.
I wasn’t here only for the shopping, you know! We also visited the zoo and the aquarium. The Melbourne Zoo was a great expanse. The best thing I enjoyed there was the seal exhibit and the Australian Outback. We then headed to the banks of the Yarra River to the Aquarium. Four levels and the variety of sea inhabitants will be forever engraved in my memory as beautiful. We ended the day with going to the Eureka Tower which made me happily dizzy. It has 91 floors and is more than 950 feet high. The Skydeck on the 88th floor really amazes you and gives you a bird’s eye view of the entire city.
Christmas Day was a day out and lunch with my sister’s friends. They are Aussies and were so welcoming! Their home was beautifully decorated and they even had a huge Xmas tree. The food was delicious. I can still taste the sumptuous stuffed chicken salad and the mouth-watering pavlova.  I don’t think I had ever enjoyed a Christmas meal as awesome as this!
That day when I was speaking to a local, I realised that by now I had begun to use the words ‘mate’ and ‘no worries’. I really did feel like one of them. I looked at my shopping list and mentioned some really expensive stuff to my sister and she nudged me and said, “Hold on to your horses for Boxing Day!” I sighed, but I knew that the next I had to wake bright and early for the amazing sales and discounts!
A few seconds later I heard my phone buzz, only to realise that I was back in my bed. Was it all just a dream then? Did I really not be a part of the thrilling and elegant cosmopolitan? I had yet so much to see and do!
That evening I went online and visited www.visitmelbourne.com/in to relive what I dreamt. It was now time to make this dream come true!