Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Young Turk from Albania

My job has made me travel a lot over the last 11 years, and I always keep getting questions on my travel experiences and the places I like and dislike. I always have the same answer - My worst travel experience was Albania and my best travel experience was Albania!!!

I stayed there for more than 6 months in 2002. The first 2 were the worst when I was ready to pack my bags and run away given an opportunity, with no life, no fun and no one  for company (almost). And then life took a turn for good, so much so that the last 4 months in the country are now right at the top... my best travel experience. Thanks by large to hundreds of friends I made in the country but primarily to the two who opened the gate of opportunities for me.

First, the indian born american citizen of pakistani descent, Irfan Fazli, a man few generations senior but so young at heart and with a large open heart. Irfan was a customer but not the one I was working with, and my meeting with him was accidental. But his warm and open nature soon made me a regular at his house... the only source of indian food for me in an alien land which was yet to open up to me. He was a perfect host and guide in a new country, but a vibrant young me wanted more colors, indulgence and young company and that made him introduce me to a colleague of his, Adnan Ozturk, the only Turk I've ever known up close... and the second friend and guide who changed my experience and view of albania and albanian people. I happened to meet Adnan exactly 2 months after I moved to Albania, and after that life was so much fun that when I had to finally come back I just didn't want to.

Adnan was a person difficult to understand at first, but once he opened up to you, then he was the best of friends. He introduced me to all his friends, the happening pubs, and above all Tirana Hash House Harriers, my first encounter with Hash. My 4 months with him still leave fond and warm memories in my heart... crashing at his house and eat the boiled aubergines and bland food that he and his room-mate cooked (I never liked it though), meeting him almost every day in the evening for a quick drink, landing at all the parties together, talking about the loads of crazily beautiful albanian girls... and above all the look on his face when his girl friend used to hit on me (to tease him of course). He was a man of few expressions but this used to make his face vivid.

I can write and write a lot about Albania and my experiences there, but the reason I am writing this after more than 7 years is not to share my Albanian experiences (hopefully I'll do that someday soon along with other travelogues). This blog is all for the man who helped me in a lonely country, who stood by me in times of need, and opened his heart to me. I have not been in touch with him for a few years now, and always intended to visit Turkey someday and meet him again, till today... when I happened to catch up with a common friend and got the unfortunate news of his demise a year ago. The guy with a big heart lost the battle of life due to heart failure!

Adnan, my friend, may you spread the same warmth that you did all those years ago... wherever you are! I'll miss the bureks we used to pick up from those small shops, the drinks we enjoyed together... and like we used to say almost every day we were together in Tirana... For the last time... GEZUAR!!!

May God Bless Your Soul

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

सच का सामना (Moment of Truth)

Sach ka Samna (Moment of Truth, as known to US TV audience) has taken Reality TV in India to a different level. What started with competitive game shows, and then moved (as they claim, although I find it to be totally and completely scripted) into people's lives with Big Boss (a la Big Brother) has gone a step further in peeling layers off people's life with the confessional mode of the program and its bold questions.

I saw the show's promos but somehow the same didn't excite me enough to see the show itself. The impact the show is making on Indian psyche started becoming evident when I saw the scandalized look on a colleague's (just out of college and immature variety) face at work and her question on how someone can come on National TV and accept having extra-marital affairs in front of her grown up daughter! An equally strong reaction from another (seasoned and exposed to the world types) then made me wonder what this show is all about and I was forced to sit through the night from 1-4AM and watch the show for a few days.

As with my opinion of most of the reality shows, I believe Sach ka Samna is also a rigged show where people's life history is defined by the producers and questions are invented post that, instead of the other way round. The focus obviously being on invention of questions as scandalous as can be! What other explanation could there be for people to bare all on national television - money being the obvious answer (as strongly indicated by the kid at work) but hardly the right one if one goes by the show's format and statistics - hardly anyone has carried the cash home, thanks to the format which brings your kitty down to ZERO for one wrong answer... and yes, did I mention that the WRONG is decided by the producers based on a test which relies on a science used world-wide but not accepted as an accurate and full-proof method 124 years after its introduction to the world!!!

The show exploits voyeuristic tendencies of people, the lure of peeping into the intimate moments of others' life, and that is the single biggest reason for its success. Who wouldn't enjoy watching people squirm in front of their spouse, kids, parents when asked questions about their infidelities, sleeping with prostitutes, cheating on spouses and what not!!!

The success of Sach ka Samna is evident not just by what happens on the show, but what happens beyond... The show has opened up new avenues of creating problems in people's relationships. After the show's launch, people who have been intrigued by the show but not willing to open up to the world, have started playing the game in the confines of their boundaries of comfort. That the show managed TWO reported incidents of divorces and ONE suicide after people faced the TRUTH in front of their spouses in their own little game (obviously opening up after years of marriage simply encouraged by the show without realizing the game-plan behind it), with definitely many more such cases going unnoticed and unreported, is proof enough of the reach and impact of Sach ka Samna.

There is no denying the success of the show, but at the same time, what cannot be denied is that for all the success and money the show brings to the likes of Siddhartha Basus, Rajeev Khandelwals and Howard Schultz, there are many failed relationships and broken homes it would load onto their conscience, not that it would make any difference to them.

The show would run to high TRPs as long as people like us watch it and gain sadistic pleasure out of others' apparent discomfort and confessions. The bigger question here is not on the authenticity of the show, or about its success... the question at the end of the day is Are we ready to sit in that hot seat replying to fabricated questions and let others have their share of the entertainment at our expense? OR are we really ready to face the truth! For our SACH KA SAMNA!!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

And the MAGIK continues...

Farhan Akhtar recreated the magik (literally) after Dil Chahta Hai for the first time. Rock On seemingly is directed by Abhishek Kapoor, but it has an unmistakable impression of Farhan Akhtar IMHO. The guy came alive with this movie what with showcasing good acting skills, but more so excellent singing skills. He is hosting a TV show as well, would he ever stop?

A friend of mine suggested Rock On is DCH in a different package. I cannot disagree more, though I do agree that it has the Gen Next aura that DCH had at the time of its release, and the plot revolves around a set of friends and the screenplay doesn't break away from the main plot. But this is where the similarilty ends in my opinion. DCH showed a set of stories, a story of each protagonist woven into a common story, about having fun and enjoying life. Rock On however is not any one person's story. It is the story of MAGIK, the band and of people around them. It is a story about striving to achieve what you have always wanted, a story of going for the one thing that brings joy to your life, completes your life, and in turn completes the lives of your loved ones. AND, a story which in my opinion, has nothing to do with Rock Music.

The entire cast has come out with exemplary performances. I feel after Farhan, Prachi Desai has come out as the rising star, an unexpected package altogether. This girl is going places! Not to forget Shahana Goswami, who again I feel is an excellent actor and needs to pick up more roles with substance. Arjun Rampal, Purab Kohli, Luke Kenny have provided good support, specially the way Arjun has portrayed the character of Joe. The glam factor is ample though subtle (which is just the right way of doing it). The ladies mentioned above are looking stunning in their own way, but I think the icing on the cake is Nicolette Bird's re-entry. She is looking absolutely ravishing in the present. That Koel Purie who is a favorite of mine otherwise and is looking good in this movie, is named after the other three indicates how mesmerized I am with the ladies on the whole.

I won't delve into the story much (I intend to keep all my posts on movies to a generic opinion than a story telling review), though the way the movie is edited deserves a special mention. The way the story moves from present to past to present seamlessly is pure editing genuis (though credit should go to the screenplay also).

Watch the movie for the story, for the acting, for the songs (ranging from beautiful soft numbers to catchy rock) and for the MAGIK!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Brother Effect - The good and the bad!

Here goes my first Cricket post on a day when 2 sets of brothers scripted a success story in run chases. Messrs Hussey and Hussey spoilt the party for New Zealand, and Messrs Pathan and Pathan followed suit much to the disappointment of Sri Lankan fans. 

The first one was a bit of a disappointment for me as I have been for the past few weeks playing every single game against Australia, hoping to relegate them down to #3 permanently, with India moving up to #2 in the ODI Rankings (and this did happen but lasted just a couple of days), and another Auz win over NZ reduces the chances of this happening in the next month. How the Aussie arrogance and double-standards piss me off is another story that I will talk about in the days to come.

Coming to the latter, it was simply AWE.......................... wait for it............................ SOME (can't help plugging in some Barenyisms as you might notice in my future posts... for the uninitiated, more on Barneyisms some other day). I have always been a huge fan of both Pathans and feel that they have been unlucky and should have been a permanent face in the ODI and T20 teams since long now. Seeing them play in tandem today was an Orgasmic feeling, what with Yusuf taking apart the spin (Bandara!!!) then showing mettle and sense in slowing down and handing over the baton to Irfan, who moved on to torment the seamers. The beauty of the partnership was that none tried to over shadow the other, and in the end, this is what in my opinion resulted in the WIN.

Can't wait for NZ series to start now, and hope to see a lot more Pathans and Gambhir action there!