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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Chp 213. Mumbai Burning

Technology sure has changed the way we communicate.

We no longer rely on the cranky AIR radio or the sometimes biased Television News network as our source of information. First there was the mobile phone, where smsing bridged the divide among many people.

Now there is twitter.

With the vast number of people twitting simultaneously about the latest Mumbai news, TV channels have definitely taken a back seat.

101 dead so far according to CNN-IBN. Utterly horrifying!

As for me, I stayed in office last night. Unlike other nights when we sometimes stay over in office the whole night due to project deadlines, last night was different. I stayed back because I didn’t want to take any chances. It was a completely different feeling.

Even at 5 in the morning I was still wide awake in office, watching the LIVE twitter updates and also the LIVE news streaming by CNN-IBN, while taking part in various discussion forums and battling the millions of mosquitoes biting me at the same time.

5 in the morning I could still see a lot of lights in the apartments around our office. Everybody’s glued to the TV. Seriously, who could sleep?

When we first heard the news around 10-11 pm last night, the news was "Two rival gang members shot at each other, no casualties" and we just shrugged it off. Oh how wrong that information turned out to be!!!

I called up the student and welfare leaders of our Mizo Association this morning and fortunately there were no Mizos among the victims.

Watching the death of so many innocent victims and top cops and encounter specialists really makes my blood boil. I can’t even find words venomous enough from my limited vocabulary to describe how I feel about those damn terrorists.

But if you really think about it, that’s exactly what these terrorists want. Put in fear and suspicion among the citizens.

I’m definitely staying in office for the rest of the day, until I get the green light. Kedar and the others are watching "Hotel Rwanda". Quite ironic. But I think that’s the mood all of us are in right now. I’ll go join them as soon as I publish this post.

Had Maggie for Brunch. Quite filling, although there is a strange emptiness and uneasiness in my stomach which is not due to hunger.

Speaking of lunch, my dabba didn’t come of course. Who cares. 6 Sigma status can hang. It’s the last thing on anyone’s mind. Likewise I went out to smoke a couple of hours ago. The street was deserted. I smoked at a place which was the safest place around my office. Health Minister Ramadoss’ diktat was the last thing on my mind.

Saw a couple of Army trucks patrolling last night. Reassuring, in a very melancholic way. Today there were a couple of helicopters hovering around the city. My colleague said the tension is worse than what he experienced during the communal riots of 92-93.

In the midst of all these, news are flashing of the terrorists managing to hijack two police vans and the police warning every Mumbaikar to stay away from the roads! Things are getting scarier and scarier.

More updates may come later.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. A few years ago I would be itching to reach such destinations and witness the incidents with my own eyes. When Bangalore burnt, I was there walking amidst the burning tyres blogging about it. Now I am holed up as safely as I could be, not willing to take any risk. Could it be old age?

Let’s remember all those who died in our prayers.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chp 212. Blood Red Sandman

Late 2004. That was when I started getting bored with
orkut because there were just a handful of Indians in the social network site.

So I discovered blogging and the Mizo online community.

The first hurdle was selecting a good online nick, because I knew that online nicks were something people are associated with in the real world. Long before MIRC came into the scene, I was a chat addict at this chat application called Pearch or Perch… something like that. The nick I used back then was "silverchild". Those were the days Netscape was popular and Napster was a daily ritual.

But then I found out there were actually Khasis whose real names were Silverchild, Goldenboy and Aluminium-girl! (ok ok I exaggerated about the last one ) so I stopped using the name "Silverchild".

And then, in 2004 I discovered this amazinggg heavy metal band that changed my life in so many ways.


Can you believe they never come out in public without their costumes on???

When my online friends ask me what inspired me to come up with a name like "Sandman", I tell them it’s because of my favorite song. And then everybody immediately think "Oh! Metallica’s Enter Sandman!"

errr… actually… no. I mean, I love that song of course, but the song that really really really pumped me up even till today, is "Blood Red Sandman" by Lordi.

As embedding is prohibited in many youtube Lordi music videos click here to go to youtube to watch this amazing video of "Blood Red Sandman".

I found one link which allowed embedding, but it is just the song, with static images of Lordi in the background. Play the video to listen to this awesome song.

Ah, those crazy Lordi days!

Before I continue any further, let me warn you that Lordi is NOT A SATANIC band, contrary to popular belief. Mr. Lordi himself has denounced this claim a hundred times. Sure they dress up like monsters whenever they go out in public, but as the band claimed, they were heavily influenced by KISS who too were infamous for their costumes and on-stage theatrics.

If you listen to their lyrics carefully, you’ll immediately know it’s not one of those dark-wave Satan-praising Heaven-abusing occult bands. So for all the critics or wannabe Satanic worshippers out there, please stay away from Lordi. This is a band for true metal lovers.

In fact Mr.Lordi was making fun of the Devil and Satan worshippers in the song "Devil is a Loser", which is another fav song of mine.

You wanted power and you begged for fame
You wanted everything the easy way
You wanted gain without pain
Now your bill is in the mail
You got stronger but your mind got weak
You made a promise that you couldn't keep
You had it all - You lost more
It's all there in the fee

Cause the devil is a loser and he's my bitch
For better or for worse and you don't care which
Cause the devil is a loser and he's my bitch
Runnin' into trouble you skitch
He's my bitch.

Love the song.

Here’s a link to another youtube video of another favorite song.
= Hard Rock Halleluia =

Or view their LIVE performance of this song at Eurovision Song 2006, where they were declared the winners.

Another really good one! Here’s a male choir version of "Hard Rock Halleluia". Mr.Lordi even made a special appearance. Pretty good show!

To end this post, let me quote the lyrics from "Blood Red Sandman":

They called me the Leather Apron
They called me Smiling Jack
They prayed to the heavens above
That I would never ever come back

Can you hear how the children weep?
Chills of fear like a saw blade cutting deep...

Once again there is pain,
I bring flames,
I bring cold,
I'm the Blood Red Sandman coming home.
On this unholy night
I will make you my own,
Blood Red Sandman coming home again
I'm coming home again!

Yeah, that is me, soooo NOT going home for the Christmas Vacation

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chp 211. Celebrating India’s diversity

The Amazing Race Asia 3, with participants and race locations based in Asia, had two Indian teams on the race – one was eliminated on the fourth leg while the other Indian team lost in the first round itself.

Neena and Amit Rai
[ source ]

Niroo and Kapil Asrani
[ source ]

Niroo and Kapil were eliminated because the stupid car keys just wouldn’t come out…

The good thing about TARA3 is that it has a very high educational value for us Asians who I must say, are quite "politically incorrect" sometimes, which can be misinterpreted as racism on many occasions.

For example, most Indians utter the word "chinky" to describe people of oriental origin without knowing it has a very harsh and deep racist connotation, or think that people of such origin are all Chinese. Likewise, many people from South East Asia assume all Indians are just… Indians, you know, people who speak the same language, share the same cultural traditions etc. which is definitely not so!

We need to be more aware about what’s going on and how things are around us. Even if we don’t have any personal experiences to learn from, we can always learn it from the experiences of others.

Hence it is a great honor to meet one of the Indian participants of Amazing Race Asia-3 Kapil Asrani - a really funny chap and a colleague of my sister. I decided to interview him on the topic of Amazing Race and Racial differences/stereotypes that he experienced.

Kima: Hi Kapil, thanx again for sparing some time for me and my readers.
Kapil: The pleasure’s all mine Kima.

Kima: So who did you like the most during the race? (smiles)
Kapil: Tish. It has to be Tish. She’s extremely sweet and genuine.

Kima: What did you learn from this race?
Kapil: Number 1. If you don’t know where to go, don’t panic.
Number 2. Cockroaches look & feel even worse the morning after you’ve eaten them!

Kima: What is the one thing you have noticed in all the contestants?
Kapil: That everybody has their own unique weak point.

Kima: ok, let’s get down to racial topics now (smiles). What is the one thing you have noticed when it comes to racial identity?

Kapil: (smiles) Well, for starters, even though I was mentally prepared about the whole racial diversity and stuff, it still sounds odd sometimes when I hear the other contestants curse about the local language of a particular country and how they don’t understand the culture etc. Even though I tried to be as politically correct as possible, it was difficult putting on a straight face.

Were the reception and hospitality you received from the locals nice?

The locals were welcoming, but definitely, there was a preference that was displayed by everyone towards
1. People with similar features
2. (this is a big one) Women!

What do you think could be the reason for this?

Nobody was extremely nasty with us because we’re Indians, in fact some were quite fascinated because we didn’t look like your normal American backpackers, but to be fair, they didn’t know what to expect. Oh hell, we scared them to death too. East Asian countries all have very soft spoken people, and we definitely startled them with our loud behaviour. In any case, what counts is the welcome given to us, which was good, but others on the race had it a little easier.

Did people stare at you like how people over here stare at foreigners?

Oh yes, especially in Vietnam, we noticed a lot of stares, but Thailand, Taiwan etc. were extremely discreet and seemed comfortable with all kinds of people. But again, the polite behaviour stayed till the time we didn’t initiate contact. Once we tried to talk, some people found it funny and laughed at our face, while the others were so scared! But yes, the way we stare at foreigners in India is way above the degree of attention we got there.

Did you feel comfortable being with people of different races?

It was extremely difficult for us to bridge the gap created by the difference in cultures of our country & East Asia. But the people on the The Amazing Race were so cool, that everyone there accepted us irrespective of these differences. Everybody was so warm, welcoming and most importantly, genuine. That is something we really miss even among Indians. They speak and act with their heart, and nobody is afraid of the truth. Love & hate are both taken sportingly. Definitely, even though breaking in was difficult, we were quite comfortable once accepted.

What do you think is the main cause of this race groupism and divide we see in Asian countries?

Teams on the race from Malaysia, Singapore, Hongkong, Thailand, the Phillipines etc. were all on a similar plane, and even shared similar interests. They traveled so much within their sector that everyone knew each others’ cities, cultures etc. It’s only that their life is a far cry from ours. I think this divide is self created by the Indian sub continent & our rigid cultures. While they travel to each others’ countries, we fight with five of our seven neighbouring states. While they claim land from the sea, we take ten years to make a sea link. While they accept gays & swingers, we are yet to acknowledge the existence of a voluntary sex worker (they are rescued!!). No wonder they’ve moved on to better stuff, and we’re caught with regionalism, religion and politics!

Thank you so much for your time Kapil. If you had the chance to take part in this race again, would you?

Absofreakinglutely! Of course I would!

With that ended a great interview. Racial assimilation is tough, but sometimes it is the only solution to universal brotherhood. The other day my office decided to throw a cultural ethnic day and we were all told to come to office dressed in one of our traditional dresses.

Since I didn’t have any Mizo traditional dress like the ones below…

[ image source : kamat’s potpourri ]

[ image courtesy: father_sphinx ]

I decided to come to office in this:

Ah, that my friends, is unity in diversity. There you go. The perfect dress for the perfect interview!

Cheers to India’s rich diversity!

If you enjoy being in a diverse group or a fan of "The Amazing Race Asia" please feel free to digg this post!