Year 2019 End Blog Post

So, the fastest year of life is over in a jiffy. I went to Goa in Jan 2018 and it feels like it was just a few weeks ago. That’s how fast the last 2 years have gone by.

There were many learnings this year work-wise. I have now completed more than a decade of working. It went pretty smooth for me for the first 7 years but the last 3 years have made me work as many hours as I worked in the first 7. There were numerous late nights and weekends. The amount of knowledge gained was also enormous. I also completed 5 years working in the same company. So, I have spent more time in office than in the rented house I am living in. Does this mean the office feels like home? Dangerous sign.

And, as much as you want to avoid, but someday politics catches you. But it is fun and challenging and as part of life as it can be. Bring it on!

As I observed, I have been the heaviest this year. Time to look into it in 2019. Better to go into new year with some aim.

Below are the things I enjoyed this year, like a normal human being.

Movies (In theatres)

The least number of movies I watched in Cinema this year.

TV

Movies

  • Movies by Edgar Wright – Scott Pilgrim and Trilogy of Ice-Cream and Blood
  • Article 15 – Dark and brilliantly shot
  • Section 375 – Gripping!
  • A Quiet Place – Goosebumps, silently. Brought back memories of Spielberg era

Series

  • The Office – I haven’t laughed as much I did while watching this in ages. I’m seriously! All hail Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute combo. Things do get weird in S8 but still so much better than all those shows with a laughter track after every 10 seconds. Each and every character in fact make you chuckle. It will be hard to miss. That’s what she said!
  • The Family Man S1 – Superbly made. I think all the things by the creators of this have been amazing.
  • Fleabag – Some 4th wall breaking done really brilliantly, the writing and the acting by the eponymous Phoebe Waller-Bridge is something else!
  • Stranger Things S3 – Still one of my most favorite shows. The ‘Never ending story’ part was the best.
  • Veep S7 – Cannot think of any other show which has so many jokes crammed into every dialogue that before you finish your laugh at one, another one comes which is even meaner. And this was the final season. Elaine, I mean, President Selina Meyer, what a performance!
  • Chernobyl – Highly recommended

Books

The following are the books I read this year. I had targetted one book a month but I ended up 2 short. Currently, I am reading Thinking Fast and Slow but it is not going to get finished in the next 3 days.

One thing I regret about the following books is that in spite of them being definitely life-changing, I didn’t change my life. I will have to read some of them again because they are definitely worth re-reads. Some of them tend to appear a bit lop-sided about growing old and understanding the world more. But then as I said I didn’t let them affect me in any positive or negative manner. One way to actually implement the learnings from the books is to go through them again via a book review which I didn’t do at all this year and that has to be corrected next year.

* All the above links are Amazon Affiliate Links.

Man thinking of which of the 2 directions to take

Thinking Fast and Slow.

Currently, I am reading the book Thinking Fast and Slow and as of now, it is amazing. But, this is not about the book, I just wanted to use the title.

Man thinking of which of the 2 directions to take
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Alright, I will admit that I have been slow this time. Probably not paying too much attention to news/Twitter has made me so. But finally, I have made my opinion about the ongoing issues of the world which are bothering my brethren, if I may.

In the beginning, when Citizenship Amendment Bill was tabled before Parliament, my initial quick reaction was ‘Alright! This might trigger some disturbance due to it sounding like discriminatory’. Having said that, I had no clue why it was being brought. We all already knew very little about NRC thingy going in Assam. Who was left out, who was kept, what happened finally?

Then I read a bit more and understood that it was to fulfill the long-standing demand of providing safe haven to persecuted minorities of Akhand-Bharat region i.e. Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh who are seeking shelter in India, after all, India is the motherland of all the included religions and all.

Then I made myself satisfied by putting this CAB thing into Things-I-Need-Not-Fret-Over. By this time, Jamia students had tasted the brutal blow of Police Lathi in Dilli ki Sardi, as they say. Now that caused a brouhaha over social media in all shapes and forms. Everyone I knew online and everyone I know offline were divided if you know what I mean. I couldn’t decide at that time as I thought both sides have their valid points. While Govt. was doing what they promised, as per their agenda since time immemorial, the bright young folks of our youthful nation were protesting as it was clearly a cause of concern because of it being a prequel to NRC. Which side to pick? I am still a youth and I am also a law-abiding citizen, last time I checked.

Then some more protests happened, more violent it became, more vocal / creative / loud, the social media became and it became a bigger issue than you could ignore just like that. Then I read more and saw more. Both sides didn’t want to budge down.

I had a few points in my mind which demanded clarification. I am listing them down and providing an argument to them.

ArgumentPossible Counter Argument
Minorities in Af, Pak, Ban need our support. We are big-hearted.Can we first support ourselves properly before supporting others?
Where will poor Hindus come if not India?They could go to Nepal, and anywhere else. Even the middle east. They are allowed mostly everywhere.
What would happen when NRC gets applied? After all, we should know who is a citizen and who isn’t.We all remember what Indian Govts. are capable of in terms of mismanaging a reasonable idea? Does anyone remember Demonetization?
Shouldn’t we trust Govt. when they are saying that no Indian citizen would be harmed?Harm is already done now. People have taken sides. The division has already happened. It has been there since 1947. Why fuel the fire? There are other ways to check borders? We can build a wall. *ahem*
NPRWhat?
Yes, one more card.Please.

And so on. My 2nd last post was about Indian Adhesives. i.e. movies, cricket, and ISRO which gave us reasons to celebrate and be united. Immediately after that, we have to see such scenes where police are brutally beating students. People who have no business and no understanding of the situation are burning buses and thereby making govt. more stern about their plan. The vicious circle has become more vicious and more circular.

So, what have I finally thought after thinking fast and slow? I think that if we align our energies to make simpler things better, we are better off rather than trying to be a Super Power by 2020. We have better aims to achieve. We have better things to create. We have better fights to fight.

We can do better than this.

P.S.: Don’t shut off bloody Internet again and again. And continue to try to avoid Social Media because everyone wants to shout out their opinions louder and the louder it becomes, the less truthful it remains.

Selfie with Foreigners

If you are a tourist in India and if you happen to be White (you could very well be a very fair-skinned Indian), then you would surely have been stopped anywhere and would have been asked for a Selfie. This would have generally been a polite request asked with such humbleness and doe-eyed facial expression that you would’ve agreed after telling yourself, what the heck, it is just a harmless picture!

To be honest, it is indeed a harmless picture. Your photo might only be used on barbershops and beauty parlors, and most probably on nothing illegal. In fact, thank you for letting us do it. It made you smile and amazed by us, so we are happy with that itself.

I am not going to rant too much about the practice and the Indian Obsession of still going gaga over such things. But, this is 2019 and this is getting more and more common as more and more Indians get mobile phones and travel opportunities.

But then, how does it matter! Except for everyone owning a mobile phone, not much has changed when it comes to getting validation by a foreigner. It might also be giving some bragging rights and if one thinks deeply, everything will be obvious.

We as a society are yet to come out of the mindset which makes us feel inferior. And when someone does come out of this mindset, they leave no time in making their peers feel inferior.

I recently read on Twitter that the Indian Brigade on Twitter is more hateful than followers of ISIS and all. That also reinforces the fact that once we are given freedom from the pressure of society, we break all shackles and just vent out everything we have and grab everything we get a chance to grab on to.

Maybe someday we would feel better.

You may read this too if you have 10 hours of free time: http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/society/the-ugly-indian-tourist

Lunar Surface

The New Indian Adhesive

It’s ISRO obviously.

What else could unite us all at 2 AM in the morning? It used to be Cricket only. Sometimes movies. But from September 7, 2019, ISRO is the next Indian adhesive, I think!

Well, Chandrayaan 2 is a partial success after all. It reached pretty far accurately, even became the first Indian object to touch the Lunar Surface (right?) may be through a hard landing, but lost the communication channel to tell us about it. As soon as this image came onto the screen, deafening silence engulfed everyone over. It felt a bit hollow inside as if the heartbeat had stopped.

via ISRO Youtube

It is certainly important to introspect this image and the data it brings, but this should never deter us from attempting it again. Yes, we didn’t make it cleanly but ISRO is a winner all the way.

Recent feats achieved by ISRO (including this) will go very far for our upcoming generation. Sheer excitement amongst the folks who are least interested in space, or are cynical about anything India does, certainly got us united and got us cheering for ISRO all the way.

I really liked this one Tweet.

https://twitter.com/Abhina_Prakash/status/1170084662233849856

This is exactly why ISRO exists. It tells us that impossible is nothing. If we dedicate our focus on the right things, we can reach anywhere. It might take more than 1 attempt, but we will be there sooner or later.

Next time, ISRO does Gaganyaan or Aditya Mission or the exoplanetary mission, the cheer would grow even louder and we will all be stuck to our devices, watching the live streaming. The next time, it would be a successful touchdown.

So I recently watched: Tumbbad, Article 15, Hot Fuzz

Of course, it is unfair and lazy to write my reviews of 3 movies in one blog post as a movie reviews writer, but I am not a movie reviews writer and I just want to get past this writer’s block so it is what it is. Also, I am writing all of these together because I am going to discuss Cinematography of all these 3 together.

Article 15

Article 15
https://www.ewanmulligan.com/#/article-15/

I once wrote off Ayushmann Khurrana as a Roadie. I am not going to take it back yet but I am impressed. Not only by the movie he chooses but also his drastic shift of tone in the recently released movie ‘Article 15’.

The movie is based on caste-provoked-hate-crimes (remember Budaun?) and how an honest new police officer deals with it when everyone else wants to ignore the heinous crime just because trying to solve it might upset the balance and status quo of the society. There have been several Hindi movies on similar narratives but this one stands out. It deals with the biases we all have, but we ignore them like nothing, head-on. It not only tries to shake that upper caste nonchalance and ignorance that we have now progressed and we view everything from an urbanite spectacle, but it also is a fine example of filmmaking. I was sincerely impressed by the fact that the screenplay kept on becoming more interesting the more I watched it. And to top it all, the cinematography was both beautiful and yet scary. It was also philosophical obviously that in order to clean the menace, one has to do the dirty work.

Although, it reminded me of the first season of True Detective but it is a movie to which I was hooked from start till it finished. It was an experience which made me think of my own place in the society and the privilege we take granted for. Well done!

Tumbbad

tumbbad
Via Prime Video / Eros Now

Tumbbad is like nothing you have ever seen in a Hindi movie. I can certainly vouch for that. I had watched this movie last year and I liked it so much that I haven’t rewatched it again, what an irony! It is probably because it is amazingly scary and beautifully weird.

The story shows a range of time from 1918s to 1940s. It is about man’s greed and the lengths one can go to in order to fulfill it. Except for the glaring CGI work at the very climax of the movie, it is an achievement to make such a movie, I felt. The production design, the haunting music, the scale and grandeur, and the performances are all top-notch.

I could have written more about it but it has been more than 6 months since I watched it but I can still not forget the wonderful imagery this movie portrayed. Each shot has been meticulously designed and planned. It is a pity that not many have watched this yet.

Hot Fuzz

Llyod Stas Poster for Hot Fuzz
http://collider.com/edgar-wright-posters-lloyd-stas/

You must have also come across a movie which you enjoy like anything and want to discuss that with some friends who have same taste as you in the movies but then you don’t discuss it with anyone and just feel sad because your friends don’t have the same taste as yours and also they don’t get it the way you do. Sigh, me too!

I watched ‘Scott Pilgrim vs the World’ a few days back and was happily surprised that something like this can exist. Then I read about its director Edgar Wright and thought of watching some more movies of his.

So I recently watched ‘Hot Fuzz’ and what a fun ride it was. Without going into the details of the story, I would just comment about the editing of this movie. Brilliant! The distinctive cuts, the music, the parody, and the overall visual comedy had me in splits. I am going to watch the rest of the movies of Edgar Wright soon, is all.

A word about Cinematography

Since I am a man of not so simple tastes, ahem, I think I am not impressed by a few things which others might do. Same way, they might not get impressed with things which I find very interesting. One of the things like that is movie cinematography. Movies mean different to everyone, we all know that. So, for me, Cinematography: the camera placement, the editing, the subtext matters a lot.

In all of the movie I wrote about in the paras before, Cinematography is a thing which carved its own niche into my mind. Article 15 shows the same grim, dark and scary wide shots of a rustic Village scene multiple times in which the protagonist has to immerse himself into in the movie to cleanse it otherwise his own surroundings keep getting dirtier, representing our myopic view of thinking about our own lives and only dealing with things when we are affected by it. Tumbbad shows grunge from a close-up which shows how greed can turn anyone into a devil. Totally contrasting to the previous two, the editing of Hot Fuzz shows how to make a serious matter funny while adding music to it to transform into something else.

There are so many movies around. Only a few of them make you think about that particular scene and the intention of the director behind them. I like those ones.

So I recently watched ‘Mission Mangal’

I distinctly remember this. I was in a bus travelling towards my office and while it took a U-Turn in front of ISRO office on Outer Ring Road towards Marathahalli, Bengaluru, somewhere far away Mangalyaan was getting inserted into the Mars orbit. I was following the news on Twitter and the event just happened. The Bus completed the U-turn and the ISRO HQ remained as calm as it has always been, as if nothing happened. No fanfare, no bursting of crackers like Diwali or post-elections scene outside political parties offices, not even a single soul but the guards visible from outside. That’s ISRO for you. I looked around me, and nobody was bothered to share my happiness as they were busy in their phones or were dozing off. I sighed and continued with reading more about the news.

That was 2014. ISRO has done a lot since then. They do use Social Media now but still only those who are interested follow. But for the first time, someone has brought them on to a medium which nobody in India can ignore. Yeah, the movies.

So, I recently watched Mission Mangal and felt happy. Neither the movie was mind blowing, nor it was a bore, neither it was 100% scientifically accurate, nor it was completely filmy. It was just a feel good movie with an appropriate amount of stuff which could make your heart fill with joy when you realise that ISRO was able to do this near impossible feat so nonchalantly. Of course, this is just a fictional tale of how the mission came to be. But it surely reignited the feeling of pride that we live among such geniuses of humans who are so good at their job that one can only wish them more successes.

I had brushed it off when they had announced that such a movie is being even made. But I got interested in it lately when the reviews came in and it paid off. I won’t go into the details of the movie as that’s irrelevant. I am rather happy that such a movie was made. There’s a scene in the movie which showed the reminiscences of actors’ childhood times of becoming scientists. That did me. And I believe that’s what have been the intention of making such a movie. Apart from earning money and all.

If even one out of 100 can get inspired from such movies which show human’s scientific prowess while they deal with life’s daily chores, the job is done.

Hoping to see more such initiatives which can rekindle the childhood dream in you.

Correcting Selflessness

“So, I shouldn’t voluntarily donate blood at all from next time, right? Isn’t that what it is supposed to mean?”

Me

That was my stern reaction when I was told that the hospital doesn’t take blood from an external blood bank. I was indeed livid while the person in front of me kept a straight face.

Let’s back up a bit.

Photo by Cassi Josh on Unsplash
Photo by Cassi Josh on Unsplash

I donated blood at a camp organized in my office on July 2 this month. In fact, I have been a regular blood donor, donating once a year. This has been a mostly-regular habit/ritual/routine for more than a decade. Every time I donated blood, I did it:

  1. To help any stranger in need.
  2. Hoping nobody needs it and the world becomes a sans-suffering place. <joking>

Also, I semi-secretly wished that if I or someone close to me needs it, I would be able to get a unit back in exchange for my selfless service.

That was the catch: selfless. While I was donating blood, I was thinking that it is selfless service. But I expected a return in the worst case. So that’s not selfless, right!

So, recently a near one actually needed blood. I told the hospital authorities that I have donated blood recently, so I am eligible to get a unit back from the blood bank. Of course, I couldn’t donate again because one should take at least 3 months break from donating again. I called the blood bank and they agreed. However, to my utter surprise, the hospital said that they aren’t supposed to take any blood from any blood bank save their own blood bank. I insisted that the blood bank to which I donated can give the blood, but hospital folks were adamant. They said we cannot trust the credibility of outside sources. They can only accept donors and not blood directly. The blood bank where I donated is a rather renowned one and it is affiliated to many prominent hospitals. But not the one where I was, unfortunately.

Eventually, we got donors arranged in the end which helped. I was left kind of aghast though. I thought that there’s no point of donating blood if I cannot receive it when I need it. Moreover, I should always stay ready to donate but not donate itself because then at least someone close can get from me.

After a couple of hours of disappointment, few realizations hit me.

  1. We can’t do a selfless service if we want something in return. That’s not selfless per se.
  2. If I am donating blood, that blood itself would have got used for someone in need then and there. So what I intended while donating gets realized.
  3. I can’t keep my blood safe in my body thinking I will give it away only to a known person. That’s rather selfish.

So, I was donating blood with wrong intentions I guess. Now a new life lesson has been learned.

Donate blood if you can, selflessly. Don’t expect or wish anything back. Let your blood help a stranger when they need.