Connecticut School Shooting - Children led away from the scene

Connecticut School Shooting – Children led away from the scene

It was Nietzsche who said that insanity in individuals is rare, but in groups and nations, it is the rule. This is insanity at its worst. Not just the heartless evil that shoots and kills helpless children in scores, but an intelligent, wealthy and powerful nation like the US choosing to embrace meaningless violence as a willing lifestyle. So, while the pro-gun protagonists continue to argue that these acts against children are rare, the love of the gun that pervades the culture is testament to national insanity that continues to accessorize the recklessness of repeated mass shootings of completely innocent.

Who am I to say! I’ve never used a gun.. in fact I’ve never touched one in my life, and the thought never crossed my mind that I should own one. I always thought my simplistic and protective mindset was not equipped to fathom the gun-wielding mentality of the aggressive. If a nation so advanced tolerates these killings just as a matter of fact, there had to be some credence to the pro-gun propaganda.  In many impoverished parts of the world, children are tools of exploitation, the only lifestyle they are exposed to is one of continuous abuse from authority – both parental and societal. There’s unexpected loss of the young and the accompanying sadness of a different nature there.. perhaps due to an overturned overstuffed school bus, or an uncontrolled epidemic, or extreme malnutrition, or just pure unadulterated starvation. It is no less heart wrenching, but leave it to the First World to add stupefying spectacle to this sadness.

According to sources, Lanza shot his mother in the face, then left his house armed with at least two semi automatic handguns, a Glock and a Sig Sauer, and a semi automatic rifle. He was also wearing a bullet proof vest. Lanza drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School and continued his rampage, killing 26 people, authorities said. He was found dead at the school. It appears that he died from what is believed to be a self inflicted gunshot wound. The rifle was found in his car.

Relatively, children have great fun growing up in the US, looked after by parents against societal evils, looked after to some extent by society against parental abuse, their work load moderated and their education well rounded with life choices that are an envy to the rest of the world. Everything looks great, but simultaneously, there is this dumbfounding flabbergasting wild-west-cowboy-wannabe gun culture, a First World problem with a deadly consequence when it lurks its ugly head out such as today. The gun crazies will stand behind the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms in the event you have to overthrow an abusive government – Red Dawn style. You know.. those semi-automatics come in pretty handy against the Man’s nuclear weapons.

Here’s Obama’s statement, emotional for the standards of an American president, but nothing will come of out it.

Of course, the NRA remains ever strong and any rational thoughts and reality checks get drowned under a barrage of argumentative blabber. Soon, NRA lobbyists will lineup their pro-gun statistics – “its not the guns stupid, its all these psychopathic idiots who would have accomplished this carnage with a stick or a knife if they needed to“. After all, whats a poor Halo-addicted, Call Of Duty junky to do when he is bored to death and runs out of a purpose to fight through his existential angst.

Meanwhile, innocent people, such as these innocent kids and teachers in Connecticut today will continue to get murdered in statistically tolerable numbers while the love of the gun prevails.


I’m a big fan of 60 Minutes, the torch-bearer for the hour long news magazines on network channels.  Yes, the reporters have been older than dirt for a long time, but they command enough respect to not have to pander to their subjects to keep up with the ratings market, and they have the guts and hard-earned cache to ask the tough questions without looking like someone out to manufacture scandals.  While the features are not as “hard-hitting” as they once used to be (RIP  Ed Bradley and Mike Wallace), they still grab your attention and provide something new and different that is credible and hard to find elsewhere.

A recent feature that caught my attention was a report on the continued findings from The Infant Cognition Center at Yale University trying to shed light on the origins of morality in us.  The question at hand is nothing new – it is an age old argument of nature vs nurture – whether children are born with a blank slate and their eventual moral characteristics cultivated by our society and their interactions with it, or are they all born with an inherent moral code that might set the foundation for their moral compass as adults?

The findings from this “Baby Lab” are somewhat revealing in the sense that when it comes to our morality, they debunk John Locke’s Tabula rasa Theory on human mind.  The blank slate doesn’t exist.  Just because they look cute, can’t speak and can’t ask for help, it doesn’t mean they don’t come with a predisposed sense of morality (as revealed by the excellent puppet show experiments).    Most interesting in these conclusions is their sense of fairness, justice, punishment, and an inherent bigotry.  Also, before we automatically blame society for converting some of these innocuous looking angels into demons to account for all the evil in the world, look at the result of some of these experiments with 8-12 year olds, displaying a new sense of benevolence and selflessness, cultivated as it may.  We may not be born angels like all parents with infants might want to believe, but thank God for society to temper your ruthless predisposed nature to divide and hate, and alter your moral compass to somewhat  mollify the prejudice and intolerance that might be inherently you when you are born.

On a side note, maybe this will convince people to drop the pretentious reverence to infants, the little rascals that they are.  We all know its a ruse invented by parents to force those without kids  to acknowledge their precious treasure of reproduction, as if paying extra taxes that go to their wonderful upbringing to right their wrongs  is not enough.

Delhi Belly

The movie connoisseur that I am (who isn’t?), unable to digest a regular dose of insipid, uninspired, and unoriginal movies the past couple of decades, I’ve steadily gravitated towards the Independent film industry for my movie fix. A few months ago, I bought a Google TV set-top box and hooked it up to my Idiot Box. In my ongoing quest to reach the end of the Internet, which I am very close to achieving, I couldn’t afford to waste anytime without constant browsing even while watching TV.

Problem solved.

Now I am able to combine the Internet browsing experience with TV watching experience into one messy but strangely addictive media browsing experience. It is not perfect, but hey Logitech, why would you invest in a solid product like Revue and then walk away from it at the wrong time? Makes no sense. Anyway, one of the apps on Google TV (yup.. its apps gone wild.. even on TV) is Netflix. In spite of the built-up disillusionment towards Hollywood, Bollywood and every other movie industry that thinks it is cool to call itself something or the other plus ‘ollywood’, I finally caved in and got that Netflix subscription I was trying not to get lured into. After punching in my preferences and rating some movies, they came up with a few they thought matched my interests and one of them was Delhi Belly. I wasn’t immediately drawn to it, but I remembered a friend had recommended it and it had a look of an Indie flick and so I decided to give it a try against my better instincts.

I have to admit that I am fairly out of touch with the movie scene in Mumbai, and I didn’t know any of the actors in this movie, which is another reason I thought I could give it a shot. Lord knows I would have unsubscribed Netflix in a New York second if they showed anything involving Sharukh Khan to match my interests. I didn’t know it was from Aamir Khan Productions instead, until after I started watching it. The movie, made in English aiming for an overseas crossover appeal, is about a Delhi-based yuppie threesome, Tashi and his two roommates, and their unwitting encounters and wild escapades against a group of gangsters whose smuggled maal ends up in our protagonists’ hands unintentionally. While there’s nothing novel about the premise, the film makers were going for a cool and contemporary presentation that fits all audience alike – desi and phoren.

Delhi Belly Gangsters

As topsy-turvy comedies go, this is not a bad movie, but I couldn’t get over a couple of things. For me, it still feels odd to watch a Desi movie made in English regardless of the quality of the screenplay (more about that later). This is mainly because of a lack of native authenticity that goes with it. I have nothing against English. I am writing in it. Nothing against an honest effort to make Indian movie in English either, and to be fair, it is not a stretch to assume that desi yuppies of Facebook generation speak more in English than in their native language, and I could get over the fact that Tashi and his sidekicks only talk in English. It was more difficult for me to ignore the oddity of the smuggling ring leader and his cartoonish cronies, clearly looking like the goondas hanging around in your neighborhood gullies, talk in English. Every now and then, the gang leader would break into Hindi when he apparently gets angry and feels like unfurling a few choice profanities to show how tough he is. Just weird.

On the positive side, the photography was decent, Kunaal Roy Kapur, playing the role of Nitin, as one of Tashi’s roommates, stood out with his acting, and the screenplay was intelligent and well written, if you can tune out the liberal dose of “fucks” and “bastards” and “sister fuckers” in every other conversation. The coarseness of the obscenities was very intentional and carefully planned, again trying to “shock” the desi audience with a sense of “you haven’t heard anything like this before.” Generally, the movie is not boring and has its moments, but the whole thing feels a bit forced.

Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels vs Delhi Belly

The main problem I had with the movie was not its vulgarity. I am already desensitized beyond repair on that front, thanks to Hollywood and America in general, but the issue I had was this constant pretension throughout, that they are creating something original, with an attitude of here we are, cool new-age hipsters, we’ll mock at your status quo and thumb our noses at your boring and uncool societal decorum and etiquette. Fine, that’s a brave front to put on if you can back it up with some substance, but underneath their pretentious exterior is matter that is razor-thin superficial, creating a bits and pieces mixtape of popular off-beat American and English flicks from the past 15 years. A strong base of “Lock stock and two smoking barrels“, a pinch of “Oceans Eleven“, a touch of “Get Shorty“, a dash of “Tropic Thunder” with Aamir Khan dancing as “Disco Fighter” a. la. Tom Cruise dancing as “Les Grossman” during credit roll, a forced infusion of poop jokes from your average juvenile flick with a strong pretension of anarchism with only passing references to the so called taboo items, as if to say, “look, we are hip and progressive”, and yet not showing any courage at all to really push the envelope at any point, and all along mitigating it into a warm and fuzzy chaotic comedy along the lines of a Priyadarshan flick. That is Delhi Belly in a nutshell for you. At least Priyadarshan flicks like “Hera Pheri” and “Bagham Bagh” are not pretentious about what they are, and I would easily rate them above this one. I don’t pretend to know the desi Independent film scene. Trying to recall, in recent years, I’ve seen “Dev D“, “Gulaal“, “Udaan“, “Ek Chalis ki Last Local”, and I was more impressed with those movies than this one, even if they don’t provide that “cross-over” appeal that Aamir Khan seems to crave so much.

Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder vs Aamir Khan in Delhi Belly

Speaking of Aamir Khan, the most risk he ever took as an actor was in his role as Dil Nawaaz in Deepa Mehta’s 1947 Earth. Clearly, he was interested in expanding his horizons beyond your boy-meets-girl-dances-in-public-parks-beats-up-bad-guys roles unlike his contemporary movie stars, but his greatest strength is his ability to package mainstream material with an off-beat wrapper, and fooling those audience tired of your average masala cinema into believing that they watched something that is different. And with all that promise and potential, he seems to lack the courage to take the full leap into the artistic realm. Even in “Tare Zameen Par“, born out of a genuine artistic intention, and perhaps his best work so far, in my opinion, he couldn’t completely shed the angst of commercial appeal. 15 minutes into Delhi Belly, it was obvious this serving was nothing more than your commercial Hindi cinema carefully rearranged to look like an Indie delicacy. But over 90% rating in Rotten Tomatoes, over 7.5 rating in IMDB proves that he knows what sells. But so does Sharukh Khan and the scores of bullshit movies he and others make in Bollywood that set the Indian movie industry behind by decades. And for some reason I expect more from Aamir Khan, when in many ways he is no different, he just pretends to be different. And similarly, Delhi Belly doesn’t really appeal to my Indie predilection, it just pretends to do so.

It might appear like I set out to trash Aamir Khan here, but that was not my intention when I started typing this, and its not like he is getting to spend my money on his projects. But I am not in the film industry and I am just your average movie fan that likes to value movies as genuine art forms, and in the homogenized world of formulaic mainstream cinema, I do look to the Indie world for the rebellion, and to quote a wise young punk called Stevo from a quintessential Indie gem called SLC Punk, “Posers were people who looked like punks but they did it for fashion.” Searching for one word that best describes Delhi Belly, that’s what comes to mind – a Poser.

CWC 2011

The event that was an Indian obsession for the past couple of months, called the Cricket World Cup 2011, has come to an end. It will forever be etched in desi memories, just as any Indian Cricket fan that watched the game can replay the shots of that remarkable 83 final from their memory banks. As an Indian fan, I enjoyed this tournament thoroughly, and yes, Indian team lifting the cup at the end has a good deal to do with it. Nonetheless, there are also a number of reasons why I am glad it is over, not the least of which is to stop embarrassing myself in the company of my friends.

If you watch Cricket matches with friends and family, you must be familiar with that character who is an amrchair analyst, you know the one I am talking about, the one who knows what is better for your team at all times. He knows best what the team composition should be for each game based on the pitch and the opposition, he knows what the right batting order is, he knows the type of shot each batsman should and shouldn’t play based on the situation and bowler, he knows who should bowl when and how may overs they should bowl, he knows the right line and length on every ball of every over for every batsman, and he knows the right field placement for them all. He not only knows all this, he never fails to let you know that he knows all there is to know about Cricket. He doesn’t second guess, he first guesses and lets everyone else know that he predicted the results with the greatest Cricketing knowledge any one person can possess, outside of Ian Chappell. Essentially, he is the most annoying company that you can have the misfortune to watch any sporting event with, not just a Cricket match. I hate to admit it, but I am that character. Cricket and only Cricket has that evil power to transform me into that a-hole. Looking back now, I admire my parents for their patience in resisting the temptation to kick me out of the house during Cricket matches. I would have never put up with it myself – son or no son. While my family clearly enjoyed this world cup better because of my absence, as I gathered from the phone calls during and after Indian matches, I ended up subjecting my friends here to this annoynace, the ones who had the misfortunate to watch this World Cup with me. In order to dilute their pain, I thought I will share my genius with the rest of the world with a mere sampling of my reactions during the finals.

Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy – WTF?

I like Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, I really do. I liked their music from the first time I heard them in Rockford, and their work in Mission Kashmir and Dil Chahta Hai. For the most part, they’ve managed to maitain a high quality and a different sound, but the tripe they dished out for this world cup theme song was just plain abominal. Now that it is over, I am thankful it cannot be forced down my throat again. I expected better from a really talented band for such a huge occassion.
Listen to it and tell me if you disagree.

Finals Toss Gate

CWC 2011 Finals Toss Gate

What really happened during the toss? Did Sangakkara call Heads or Tails? Dhoni thought he called Tails and told Shastri they were going to bat. Sangakkara claims he called Heads. Jeff Crowe, whose only purpose there was to listen to the call, said he couldn’t hear anything due to the noise. Michael Vaughan from BBC TMS tweeted that Sangakkara was up to some skulduggery as he, just like Dhoni, heard Sangakkara call Tails. Well, I always thought it was a good toss to lose. While the pressure of chasing a potential 250+ score in the world cup finals can be huge, with dew about to accumulate under the lights, combined with the strength of Indian batting, I was hoping they would chase, even while Dhoni would have preferred to bat if he won the toss. After this intentional Randiv no-ball to deny a Sehwag century in an inevitable Lanka loss, I wouldn’t put it past Sangakkara to commit such hera pheri, but he is the only one who knows what truly happened. You know what they say about Karma though.

Sreesanth? Seriously, Sreesanth?

Sreesanth? Seriously?

Ok, Dhoni is off the hook for finding his form in the nick of time to take India past the finish line, but seriously.. Sreesanth? What was he thinking? Sreesanth? He could have picked any decently athletic spectator from the crowd and would have done better than that selection. How can you take an off-hand gamble that somehow he is going to take 5 wickets and win the match for you in the FINALS when the only game he played was the opener in Mirpur against that powerhouse Bangladesh team that was knocked out for a grand total of 58 by West Indies, but managed to plaster his out-of-control, listless crap to a tune of 5-0-53-0! Wasn’t there one sane person in that Indian think tank who stood up against this insanity? What did poor Ashwin do to deserve this snub. He seems like an intelligent, level-headed young man with an added variety to his bowling who gives an honest effort on the field. His omission through out the tournament has been quite inexplicable and to discard him for Sreesanth, might warrant a suicide watch on him.

Zaheer.. yes, you’re the man!

Zaheer Khan, yes, you're the man!

I can’t get enough of Zaheer Khan’s reactions when he takes a wicket! For a batsman, he has the look of a man who knows he has your number and better yet, he knows that the you know he has your number. Arms out, a cocky smirk on his face, as if to ask, did you enjoy that performance? All this, while the other guy who opened the attack was being smacked around like a red-headed stepchild, no offense to any stepchildren. Yes sir Zaheer, you are the man!

Man hugs gone out of control!

Man hugs gone crazy

I understand it is a big occassion and you ought to be thrilled when you take a key wicket, but whats with Yuvraj and Raina and their excessive man hugs.. it is beginning to get just a bit ackward. What happened to a simple hand shake, a high five, or a pat on the back.. though if Yuvraj promises to take wickets like this for the rest of his career, he could plant full blooded chummas on Raina’s face for all I care.

Take a bow Jayawardane!

Jayawardane - A classy knock from a classy guy

Class shots, class innings, class game, and an all around class guy! Unlike an almost abnormal suspicion that festers within me against Sangakkara, I’ve always liked Jayawardane and his batting. A touch artist, who rarely bashes the ball, he reminds me of a John McEnroe or a Miloslav Mecir in Tennis, who sliced and diced their opponents to death with timing and placement. Alas, with the power game taking over, those days are no more, but here’s a tennis fan’s delight – Mac vs Mecir.

Not sure if Mrs. Jayawardane got enough air time.

Mrs. Jayawardane, quite a coach.

I don’t think people saw enough of Mrs. Jayawardane during her husband’s innings. Once is cute, twice is tolerable, thrice is stretching it, but you show her more than you show the players on the field, it gets to be bloody irritating. Yes, I know.. behind every successful batsman, there is a woman who coaches her husband how to be a better batsman, or like my hero Siddhu said in the post-game chat quoting Maryon Pearson – “Behind every successful man, there is a suprised woman”

What’s with Sangakkara and that Donald Duck helmet?

Sangakkara and his helmet

Alright, what is the story behind that Donald Duck helmet Sangakkara wears? Is it his fashion statement? His unique look? What is the deal? As a Cricket know-it-all, I need to know. If it is part of his smug, slick persona.. thats fine, but I’ve been watching it for a few years now, and still no one ever mentions anything about it even when it stands out like an eye sore.

Fan reaction to Sehwag wicket

Fan distress at Sehwag's wicket

No suprise that the crowd reacted to every Indian wicket like a death in the family. People covering their faces, women stuffing their mouths with sarees, Aamir Khan glaring with bloodshot eyes like he is chasing bad guys in Sarfarosh, I guess it is befitting a home crowd in a World cup final with their home team playing for all the marbles. The atmosphere was electric and you could feel the tension from the crowd seep through the TV set. Perhaps a little overboard, but this unscripted drama is what makes sports great and I’ll take this over some apathetic hand clapping in between some pretentious book reading that is a norm in some other countries.

Run Malinga run!

Malinga - jubilation after Tendulkar wicket

You are the guy your team is looking to make an impact with. You already took out the most dangerous hitter on the planet. 35,000 crazy people are screaming like there is no tomorrow because a living legend that they automatically expect to score his 100th 100 tonight is looking in sublime touch. You just shut them all up into a pin-drop silence by sending that guy back to the dressing room. You are entitled to run around the ground with your arms stretched out to see if you can fly. Lanka lost because they didn’t have enough Malingas. He was awesome as advertised. Indian strategy was simple. Survive Malinga, target the others. Kulasekara and Perera were crap. Sri Lanka evened out the dumb decision making from their counter parts, perhaps with some over-analysis of their own when they made four changes for the final, and brought in two pacemen to replace their two effective and successful spinners in Ajanta Mendis and Rangana Herath. Go figure.

Catch of the night

Dilshan - super catch.

Dilshan’s catch of Kohli was stupendous. Here’s a guy in Dilshan who was a bit unfortunate in the way he got out, but came back just to produce a breakthrough and managed to pull off a stunner to keep his team in the game. He is still young enough, has loads of talent, has a golden arm, is a great fielder and a devastating batsman. When it is all said and done, I think he will manage to surpass the great Jayasurya.

Shot of the night

Gambhir - shot of the night.

This shot from Gamhir, as he heaved a Perera pie over midwicket was the best shot of the day in my book. He charged the ball, like he does often to seamers, got into position and swung across the line and caught it flush. With the sweet sound of that perfect contact combined with the left hander’s elegance, it was a treat to watch the ball blast over the inner circle into the ropes.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Gambhir - gone

This time, he wanted to get to his 100 with an inside out swipe over cover, off Perera again and got an inside edge onto the middle stump. As much as the experts have admonished him for that shot at that time, it is a major part of Gambhir’s arsenal. In many ways, his innings was perhaps more valuable than Dhoni’s.

Aamir Khan and that ludicrous moustache

Aamir Khan and his ridiculous moustache

All I can say is, even with that ridiculous, fake-ish moustache he is sporting, I’d rather it be Aamir Khan and not that media whore, Salman Khan. It would have ruined my night to see Salman and his overacting histrionics in the middle of world cup finals.

A shot heard around India

Dhoni - blasting the winning six!

..ball from the winning hit soaring into Mumbai night

After all his curtailed flair as he dibbed and dabbed through out his winning knock, once it was all over but the shouting, Dhoni unleashed his power to send a Kulasekara ball soaring into the Mumbai night to end the game and win the cup, sendinng the lathered up crowd into utter delirium.. a perfect ending to a dream tournament for the hosts.

That somewhat creepy looking Tendulkar fan with the cup

Tendulkar sharing the cup with his "#1 fan"

I read the story where this guy, a self proclaimed #1 Tendulkar fan, goes to every India match with a free ticket from Tendulkar. I guess, it is generous of Tendulkar to recognize a fan and pay him that type of attention, but something about the guy makes me uneasy. Is he ever not in this costume? How long does it take for him to paint himself like that? What does he do for a living? Does he not have a job to go to? Does he plan to retire from this gig when Tendulkar retires? Has anyone ever dared to ask him that question or are they going to give hime free tickets for all games and let him retire at his own free will like his idol?

Coolest shot with the cup

Cool shot! Kumble sharing the cup with Sachin (cricinfo)

This is my favorite shot of the cup. Kumble holding it and Sachin whooping it up. With two of the top 3 Indian Cricketers of all time (Sachin, Kapil, Kumble, Sunny, Dravid.. in that order for me) sharing the moment, thats a rare shot of unbridled joy among two individuals whose achievements span across two decades of excellence.

This Indian team and these group of cricketers will be kings for the rest of their lives. They’ve been able to win this tournament without their esteemed batting lineup clicking on all cylinders, and their bowling that was mauled early did just enough to keep them in games, and they got timely contributions from everyone on the team. As for Dhoni, if you go by the airtime he gets being on every other ad on Indian TV, he might still be a bit overrated as a batsman, but his accomplishments as a captain speak for themselves. The T20 world championship, #1 Test ranking, IPL championship, T20 Champions league, and now the World Cup at home, he has done it all.. and chalking off everything to luck is getting to be more and more difficult. Beyond just having great players on his teams, at some point, the entire package of natural leadership, an instinct for tactical nous, a determination to succeed and a cool head at all times has to be acknowledged over mere luck behind the heights his teams have scaled. He is already the best Indian captain by miles and whether he can keep this up or not, he will forever remain up there among the top Indian sporting greats with majority of his career still ahead of him.

You are as ignorant as a fence post if you don’t already know that these are tall, grande and venti sized cups.

At the risk of over-generalization, I am of the belief that we all have our vices. My biggest vice is coffee. I drink too much of it and most of it at Starbucks. I hate the fact that they charge me 3 bucks for their cappuccino that I am addicted to and it doesn’t make me feel any better that I keep going back there day after day and sometimes more than once a day. I can’t stand their pretentious tall-grande-venti drink size definitions and feel like a buffoon asking for a grande cappuccino, but it doesn’t matter, I know they own my caffeinaholic ass and I will be back there like a golden retriever with a ball. A friend of mine who actually works for this Seattle based company once told me that their goal is to make their customers feel like these neighborhood Starbuck coffee places are their second homes. “Hence the extra perkiness from those waiting, the amiable lighting inside, the contemporary music.. and the bottom line.. ” she said, ” is for you to feel extra comfortable to go back there even if you feel you are paying more for your coffee than for your lunch.”

Starbucks.. yup.. thats the right demographics.

Fair enough, I don’t begrudge anyone trying to go out of their way to be friendly. I might be paying for the cost of Howard Schultz’s jet fuel single-handedly, but I don’t fit the profile of their regular demographics because after I get my coffee, I spend as much time in those ‘second homes’ as it takes for me to pick up that grande cup and walk out the door. It must appeal to the late teens building an image among their peers, high-falutin’ yuppies trying to look cool and leisurely housewives with baby strollers out to set an example for their little ones by pouring over the latest Eileen Goudge novel. Sadly, I fail to qualify in all three categories, but I was willing to tolerate this concept of a personalized service as just an unwarranted perk for my coffee splurge even if I don’t care for the acoustic crap they dole out regularly in those joints from the next Sheryl Crow/Jewel wannabe.

Earlier this week, I walked into a busy Starbucks in a location I hadn’t been to before, ordered my regular dose of caffeine, and was a little taken aback when the waiter asked for my name.

Why?” I asked.

“Why?” he asked back.

“Yes, Why?”

“One Grande Cappuccino for Why.. ” he yelled to his left.

“Why?” his compatriot, the perky cappuccino maker wanted to confirm. She wasn’t convinced that was a real name.

“Yes, Why.” he replied, looking at me for acknowledgement.

“No, ” I clarified, “Why is it that you need my name?”

“We do that for all our customers Mr. Why, so that Amy here can call you when it is ready. We are not going to spam you or anything.”

“Ok, thank you!” I gave up not wanting to hold up the line anymore. I was trying to extricate myself out of this impromptu Abbott and Costello skit, when I heard Amy’s voice..

“One grande capp. for Why.”

Screw this, next time they ask for my name at one of these places, I am going with “Who” and see how that goes.

Argh.. that white stuff again (click to go to my flickr photostream)

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening,
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight,
We’re happy tonight.
Walking in a winter wonderland.

Since we rarely get to hear any Christmas songs this time of the year, I thought I’ll throw this one out there.

I’ve heard of the new concept cars with no steering wheels, but you don’t need a new car to feel what that’s like.  I went through a no-steering navigation experience of my own today, courtesy of my car swirling itself through the heap of snow that hit us overnight, disobeying whatever directions I was attempting to provide through the steering wheel.  Since it had a mind of its own, I figured I might as well leave the steering alone and take this picture of the winter wonderland that unfolded in front of me, from inside my car. After eventually reaching home, I spent the next hour shoveling my driveway knowing very well I have to do this all over again tomorrow.

Yes, the first big winter storm of the season is here. The white stuff has descended upon us and the projections are that this winter is going to be worse than the last one. Great, that should keep my spirits up through the next four months! For someone coming from a warm place who never experienced snow before, funny how what used to be an interesting novelty quickly turned into a dreadful endurance.

What started of as “O look! Snow flakes! How beautiful! Let me run out and catch some of these. I don’t know what all this fuss about bad weather is.. this is so cool,” quickly turned into “Oh man! The ugly white stuff is here! I have to go home and shovel the damn driveway. @#$%! 4 more months of this shit to look forward to.”

You get no respite from it. You are always aware of it. You can only travel from one heated building to another heated building in a heated locomotive and on those unfortunate occasions when you are required to walk outside in this winter wonderland, you clench your fists and grind your teeth and wipe your constantly running nose while holding your breath underneath the 10 layers of clothing that you have to remember to wear every time you step out. Essentially, for the next four months, you are living inside a refiregerator, trying to protect yourself in small heated compartments.

When it snows, ain’t it thrilling,
Though your nose gets a chilling
We’ll frolic and play, the Eskimo way,
Walking in a winter wonderland.

When it snows, ain’t it thrilling? Yes it is, if you are a damn penguin and not a human being.  Uh.. I look outside and I don’t see any kids frolicking the Eskimo way.. they are all bundled up inside with their parents watching the weather channel hoping the snow stops falling.  To begin with, has anyone ever seen a frolicking Eskimo?  Poor creatures, they look like they are always depressed and who can blame them?  I am suspecting there will be a few snowmen built tomorrow by folks who feel that it is their parental obligation to do it with their kids even as they curse their way through the next four months.  They might even brainwash their unsuspecting kids into believing how wonderful this winter weather is, but they know once their children grow up, they will wise up and call this bullshit, exposing them for yet another ruse among a long list of cunning subterfuges employed by them; this one intending to beguile their kids into suffering through this so called winter wonderland.

And no, I haven’t bought into the nonsense of “getting to enjoy the change of seasons and experiencing all four seasons in a year.” What I’ve experienced is hours of shoveling at a stretch, scraping the ice off my car’s windshield while freezing my butt off followed by 2 hours of inching my way on a slippery freeway for what is normally a 20 min drive – enough times now to realize that sunny and 70 degrees throughout the year is a monotony I could gladly live with.. sacrificing the “pleasures” of walking in the winter wonderland. Trust me, it is very overrated.

"Nikki" Haley(SC Gov.) & "Bobby" Jindal (LA Gov.)

I was heartened to see increased candidate participation of Indian Americans in the recent US mid-term elections, regardless of the results. After all, as a growing minotiry, the best way to carve a presence and forge an identity in a representative democracy is by representation. As many as 8 Indian Americans ran for the Congress or for one of the State offices. Of course, it was a wide-spread Republican victory indicating a voter perception of a lack of focus from Obama on the struggling economy holding him responsible for the excruciatingly slow recovery. Nevermind the fact that studies have shown time and again that the party wielding power has little influence on the national economic fluctuations. It must be sweet irony for the Republicans who watched Obama’s landslide victory coincide with the economy going to the crapper towards the end of Dubya’s regime, even if Bush personally had little to do with a global economic downturn. But voters don’t care about these facts. They want their leaders to control things they don’t always have the power to influence. So, it was no surprise to see that the only winner among these desis was a Republican cadidate, a Nikki Haley, who ran for the governship of South Carolina.

Nikki Haley was once a Nimrata Randhawa, born in South Carolina to Indian Punjabi immigrants. Following the footsteps of a fellow Republican governor from Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, a.k.a, Piyush Amrit Jindal, she converted to Christianity about seven years ago. Just like the Lousiana governor, Nikki had to defend her “faith” vigorously as people questioned her Sikh background. Nikki has chosen to run without trying to acknowledge her Indian background focusing primarily on her American-ness. Both Bobby and Nikki might have truly been touched by their experiences with Christianity. Speaking about his faith, Jindal said “after watching a short black-and-white film on the crucifixion of Christ, realized that if the Gospel stories were true, if Christ really was the son of God, it was arrogant of me to reject Him and question the gift of salvation.” For all I know, that might be true for Nikki too, even if the cynic in me wonders about the coincidence of her conversion with her political apsirations.

As political campaigns go, it takes a tremendous amount of energy and a skill for galvanizing people to buy into what you stand for and win. But the fact is, while Obama’s victory proved how Americans can rise above the racial prejudices, they still feel very strongly about their religious affiliations. If Nikki Haley was a muslim and went by Nisreen Hussain or if she remained a sikh by the name of Nimrata Randhawa, and ran these elections standing for the same things she stood for now, she wouldn’t have won. Religion should have no say whatsoever on the policies or regulations they might pursue in power. From that perspective, it shouldn’t bother me if their “transformations in faith” are acts of higer political aspirations. But if it is an act of manipulating the voters’ perspective, it does speak to a person’s character and self belief or lack thereof, and how they feel they can’t stand for fundamentally who they are to pursue public service. Never affirming her Indian background, she ran and won as a South Carolina native riding the Republican wave. There’s really nothing wrong with that. I know of a couple of desi acquaintances of mine who go by different anglicized names now. If they feel more assimilated or more integrated by doing that, that’s their prerogative.

I don’t begrudge their actions one bit, but as someone proud of my own heritage and background, I could care less for anyone who all but disowns their identity. When they aren’t secure in their own self, how can they be looked upon to establishing a presence for their own? Back when Mohammed Ali fought Joe Frazier in those epic heavy weight battles, Ali was the champion of his people. African Americans looked up to him for what he stood for and gleaned a pride they all felt inside from his refusal to appease to the establishment based on his personal beliefs even at the cost of exile at the height of his boxing career. And rightfully or wrongfully, they had little sympathy for Joe Frazier, not because he did anything wrong, but because he didn’t stand for anything they could relate to and worse yet, he was in the way of their champion. So, along with Nikki, among those 8 Indian American candidates, there were a few Democratic candidates who ran for the congress with an open affirmation of their Indian background and culture, without choosing a faith of convenience.. Raj Goyle (Kansas), Manan Trivedi(Pennsylvania), and Ami Bera(California) among them.. and they all lost.

Raj Goyle, Manan Trivedi, Ami Bera

I have a hell of a lot more respect for these losers.

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