Sunday, February 14, 2010

What a difference a half-hour makes

I was going to post on a ridiculous security issue in North India this weekend, but the outlook changed in a heartbeat when this happened. Still, I would like to give a try to the first topic since I believe it is equally absurd and I do hope the two aren't related.

So, Shahrukh Khan (the biggest superstar in Bollywood history) is releasing My Name is Khan this weekend, a highly anticipated movie about a Muslim-Indian immigrant to the USA, targeted by the TSA simply because he holds a Muslim name. The film takes on cultural and discrimination issues (much like last year's New York but) this time from an innocent's view point. This type of "substance" movies are quite rare in Bollywood and this one is even slated for a showing at the Berlin Film Festival (rumor has it that the EUR1000 tickets sold out in 5 seconds online). In the story, Rizvan Khan (suffering from Asperger's syndrome) has a quiet life in a Californian town with his Indian wife and stepson, but the 9/11 attacks prompt a surge of discrimination against the family, resulting in the son's death. Also, Khan himself is detained at LAX by TSA agents mistaking his illness for suspicious behavior (in a twist of fate, Shahrukh Kahn himself was detained in Newark last August for further questioning, prompting a full-on diplomatic war!). Anyway, the character embarks on a journey to find the President of the United States (yes, you read correctly) in order to tell him face-to-face: "My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist". This is after all a Bollywood movie, so Rizvan actually gets to deliver his message personally to Barak Obama. Well, at least there are no spontaneous dancing scenes...
All well till this point... but Shahrukh Khan (like a few other Bollywood stars) owns a cricket team in the Indian Premier League, the Kolkata Knight Riders. He criticized the fact that Pakistani players are not allowed to be traded into the IPL this season. Now, since Pakistan is India's sworn enemy, this prompted a huge backlash against him, especially from Shiv Sena, a nationalist political party. When these guys get upset, bombs go off, people are killed, and buildings destroyed. Knowing what awaits them, many cinema owners decided not to play the movie despite the police forces deployed all across North India to make sure no incidents take place. We've stopped by one movie theater tonight and there was a whole bus load of officers just lounging around doing nothing. Ridiculous doesn't even begin to cover it! This movie is supposed to promote cultural awareness, promote understanding, and yet there are lunatics out there fussing over an unrelated comment. Of course, the Sena are known for triggering people for their evil purposes with entirely different motives, but in the end how do you convince someone to go out and vandalize a movie theater over such insignificant matters?  
Right after we got to the movie theater, we got a call from a concerned friend inquiring whether or not we'd been affected by the bomb blast at the German Bakery. The bakery - a very popular health-food restaurant which we frequent - is 200 meters behind our building, and earlier this afternoon we went out for coffee across the street from it, then strolled pass, and decided to take advantage of the nice weather and walk all the way to the movie theater. About 20 minutes after we'd passed it, we heard a loud bang right behind us (we were on the same street) but no one paid attention to it, since this is India and things blow up all the time. What baffles me - and unfortunately we will surely find out in the next couple of days - is how targeting a bunch of peace-loving, ashram-going, organic-eating people serves the purpose of any so-called militant? I don't care about their motivation! Anyone could have been there - we could have been passing right in front of it had we taken longer with our coffee!

All this police force deployed for cinema security would obviously have not been able to prevent the bombing, but these two things happening at the same time in Pune (and it could've been anywhere else) just don't make any sense to me. On one hand, you are targeting a movie that speaks about acceptance of the Muslim (or any other minoritary religion in the Western World) and on the other hand you are using your cultural/racial/religious (as we don't know yet) motives against some innocent unrelated people having their coffee in a peaceful establishment.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dragoste aranjata

Mana ma intreba azi de dragostea la indieni... Magazine care vand dragostea inca n-am vazut pe aici, dar in India in general se practica dragostea (casatoria) aranjata, indiferent de religie. Asta suna cam inapoiat pentru noi, dar intr-o societate care pune mare accent pe familie, dragostea nu este o conditie esentiala la inceputul casatoriei. Dragostea va veni pe parcurs...

De secole, casatoriile aranjate au fost facute pentru a pastra inrudirile intre oameni din aceeasi casta, aceeasi patura sociala, sau pentru a consolida afacerile parintilor. Si azi sunt cam tot aceleasi motive, desi sunt si cazuri de casatorie din dragoste. Nu este interzis, dar majoritatea familiilor nu vad cu ochi buni asa ceva...

Parintii au sarcina de a-ti gasi perechea, iar din pacate prea putini mai tin cont si de parerea copiilor in aceasta alegere. In afara de casta si religie, cel mai important aspect este potrivirea la horoscop. Nu glumesc; daca horoscopul nu iese bine, foarte rar se mai intampla uniunea ("alliance" ii zic ei mai impersonal). Horoscopul (preotul, desi depinde de religie) decide si data norocoasa la care sa se intample ceremonia. De asta ajung ei sa puna nunta intr-o miercuri pe la 14:00 cand nu poate veni nimeni... In cazul casatoriilor din dragoste, asta e punctul in care incep certurile. Totusi, mi s-a spus ca in cazul casatoriilor din dragoste, se fac multe exceptii si pana la urma ii lasa sa "se ia" pe raspunderea lor.

Ce se intampla cand toate cunostinele comune sunt epuizate? Sa da frumos anunt la ziar - sau mai nou pe miile de site-ul matrimoniale - unde toate sunt impartite dupa religie, dupa limba, sau dupa tara. Da, si indieni din diaspora tot in India vin sa se casatoreasca si tot parintii se ocupa de asta. Anuntul este postat de catre parinti ca nu-i frumos sa pari atat de disperat incat sa-ti dai singur anuntul. Un anunt (nu mai gasesc ziarele prin casa, la care ma prapadeam de ras duminica) sunt ceva in genul: Domnul si Doamna Singh cauta o alianta satisfacatoare pentru fiica lor, inginer IT cu venit anual de X rupees, masterat in domeniul Y, cu domiciliul in Bangalore, inaltime 1,50 si fair skin Eterna obsesie cu pielea deschisa la culoare! Ar trebui sa fac un post separat doar pe obsesia asta a lor.

In fine, daca s-au gasit, acum se discuta zestrea. Nu e chiar zestre propriu-zisa, ci mai mult o suma de bani data de catre familia miresei familiei mirelui. Desi e mai mult simbolica in clasa mijlocie, se intampla des ca familia mirelui sa maltrateze (sau sa faca in asa fel incat sa moara printr-un accident) tanara sotie daca nu s-au respectat promisiunile facute la logodna. Familia barbatului suporta totusi cheltuielile de nunta, din cate am inteles. Din pacate, cum drepturile femeii nu prea exista - mai ales in mediul rural - foarte multe fete sunt chinuite dupa casatorie de catre familia barbatului din astfel de motive absurde.

Vestea buna: se poate divorta. Surprinzator, sunt mai comune divorturile in cuplurile care s-au casatorit din dragoste decat in cele aranjate. Chiar am un coleg caruia i-a fugit nevasta la vreo luna dupa nunta (eh, n-a fugit mancand pamantul, ci doar l-a parasit). Baiatul a trebuit sa se mute in alt oras, dar si-a gasit alta fata si intr-un an era deja recasatorit. Evident, pentru o femeie este mult mai greu sa fie acceptata in societate dupa divort, dar conteaza mult si motivul divortului: cine pe cine a parasit si de ce? Exista pensie alimentara si toate cele, doar ca nu se prea ajunge acolo deoarece familia barbatului impune anumite conditii si de multe ori ameninta sa-i strice reputatia fetei daca incearca asa ceva.

La o nunta n-am ajuns inca, din motivele enumerate mai sus. Daca prind vreuna intr-o zi de weekend, sigur depun efortul! 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New beginning

Joy ouh joy! How is it that when I'm at my busiest, I manage to complete such postponed tasks as say.... configuring the new blog?!?! On the "to do" list: charts, email distribution to all offices, checking the system for errors, sending out job applications! Nah... better polish up the new blog 

Okay, so it might help that the old blog is now blocked by the company filter, but it's not like I've written anything there in almost six months!!!

So, here we go.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The way it was..

The picture of a burning Taj has been splattered all over news last week, and most likely our generation will never view it with the same eyes as before. The Taj is to Mumbai what The Plaza is to New York City and I choose to remember it the way it was:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Current Blog