Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Coffee With Karan- A Few Thoughts From The Show.

Coffee With Karan- A Few Thoughts From The Show.

Recently I was watching a few episodes of Karan Johar’s "Coffee with Karan" chat show now showing a mash up of all the "important" moments on the show  of last season and  one fact which took me by surprise was how many of today’s Bollywood actresses and actors were second generation. Everyone from horse-faced Kareena to chai-bai Parineeti, not to mention Sonam who looks just like her dad in drag, almost every single one of them is a scion of some Bollywood family or the other. The only interesting individual I came across during the entire season of the show was surprise, surprise -Nargis Fakhri who given the cliché of models being airheads was surprisingly witty and well informed especially when contrasted to someone like Aalia who has all the intelligence of someone who never graduated past kindergarten (and never will). And the less said about the men the better, Uday Chopra anyone?

Anyway it pains me to see that even the film world like everything else - every other profession in India is a closed shop nowadays with a selected few families ruling the roost and giving umpteen number of chances to their  untalented offspring in a mutual you scratch my back I scratch yours formula. Come to think of it, the last independent guy- with no godfather and no family background to come up big time was Shah Rukh Khan- not only India’s Biggest Star but a self made one at that (clap/clap). Everyone else seems to depend on family name and connections- which proves that there are millions of people out there, ordinary people who can be better actors than the limited pool who now rule the roost and everyone goes ga-ga about as great actors - I mean people like Ranbir or Hrithik – the best of the average list.

But unfortunately like in all things in India - without a pedigree or a famous surname or a doting father to give you a mega launch vehicle there is no hope for a newcomer to crash into the closed shop of Bollywood and a million dreams die out there unfulfilled. A fact which makes less and less sense when you realize that internationally the movie industry depends on two sets of people- the beautiful and the talented. But it’s a peculiar fact of Bollywood - a perversion even of the international norms- that ugly women become heroines and wooden puppets turn heroes and not even a six pack or a hot bod can compensate for a paralysed face with no acting chops - unless the movie is called the Mask of Zordar or something like that.

Thankfully the scene down south is somewhat better. The South Indian movie industry- collectively called Kollywood, Tollywood, Mollyood, Sandalwood etc actively encourages new comers to show their talent in movies. Any North Indian girl with skin a rich milky shade can turn heroine easily in a South Indian film but of course, only if she is willing to strip to her bikini bottoms and drape herself over a Hero old enough to be her grandfather - at least in dream song sequences, the rest of the movie she should be seen but not heard - which is fortuitous in a way as she won’t know any other Indian language except her default Hindi. And so there are droves of women coming down from Punjab and Gujarat to do just that - willing to act in any movie to achieve stardom. And when TamilNadu Chief Minister Madam Jayalalitha says that she has created more job opportunities than Gujarat Chief minister Mister Modi - she means exactly that- all those Gujju girls coming down south to act in Tamil movies.

So in a way the South Indian film industry is not only helping the nation’s economy by providing jobs to people from other states but also helping national integration by making sure that north Indian heroines like Tamannah Bhatia, Kajal Agarwal and Tapsee Pannu learn Tamil and Telugu. Now isnt that a worthwhile achievement? When you consider the fact that the average North Indian tourist travelling even in the deep south of India talks to the local citizens only in Hindi and expects everyone else around him to understand and reply back in the same language, then you can appreciate the magnitude of the achievement of the film industry when Ileana D’Cruz talks in fluent Telugu to her adoring fans. So the language struggle of the 60’s against Hindi domination is no longer relevant- you want our jobs, you speak our language becomes the moot point.

Anyway to come back to the original premise of this post I wrote this primarily to express my sadness at all these wasted careers. If only these people had not succumbed to the lure of the family profession and taken the easy way out but had made the choice to work hard and carve an independent career (in their field of choice) for themselves not only would they have been happier but we too. As they shared on the show with Karan- their dreams and earlier careers- Parineeti Chopra who worked in sales and marketing might have become another Indra Nooyi or Kiran Mazumdar. Sonam Kapoor could have become a widely read, super popular author- another Shobha De or Chetan Bhagat. And Aalia Bhatt could have passed school. But it was not to be- the lure of nepotism was too high. And hence all these blighted geniuses of other fields are now restricted to wearing bikinis and prancing around in the arms of a hero. Makes you wonder doesn’t it? Is the price of public recognition worth any sacrifice? Or humiliation? I have no answers, do you reader?

P.S. Another cautionary tale comes straight from Hollywood- Will Smith who has pretensions of being another Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis- borrowed a leaf from Bollywood and tried to make an action hero of his talentless son, Jaden. The result was the biggest flop of Will’s career- After Earth- a movie which set Hollywood records for losses. I think Will might have learnt his lesson and send the young man to school after all.

Monday, April 14, 2014

I Am Too Impatient For Paid Reviews On My Blog.

I Am Too Impatient For Paid Reviews On My Blog.

As I get older I find myself growing more and more impatient. The patience for which I was once famed throughout the land has almost disappeared in the depths of time. Nowadays if I find someone or something boring me or trying my patience I just move away immediately and however rude it may be to disappear like that suddenly, I guess it’s still kinder than telling them directly "you are such a damn bore I can’t abide you anymore". And this is not only for people who bore me, mostly online bores who start pinging me as soon as I come to the ‘net, for with such people you can just shut down the chat option to show them (subtly/directly- it matters not which) that I am not available to chat anymore and I have more important things to do in the limited few minutes (strictly) that I allow myself to spend on the ‘net every day (trying to control my ‘net addiction). It’s a matter of priorities, see.

This kind of general impatience has also invaded one of my favorite hobbies - reading books. Time was when I would devour with rapt attention every piece of paper which passed through my hands. Now, on the contrary I find myself abandoning whole books read half way through- because they just don’t retain my interest any longer. And you know what? Abandoning a story halfway gives a deep sense of dissatisfaction- the kind of thing to which you can only compare pulling out halfway through intercourse - which leaves you irritable, sore and vaguely dissatisfied with life all the next day for having cheated you out of the orgasmic release which you feel you deserve after all your hard work at foreplay.

And that’s exactly how I feel – cheated - whenever I happen to start reading another of these worthless new-gen books which are hyped to high heaven and then when I finally find myself reading one I find that turning a page turns into a difficult decision by itself as it gives rise to questions like should I? Should I really? I mean I know what’s going to happen in the next page and for that matter in the next two hundred or so pages. So should I put myself through all this torture of plowing through badly written pages and pages of boring stuff just because I spent hard-earned money on buying this book?

Come to think of it it’s the ultimate irony- paying good money just to get yourself tortured. To add to the dilemma there is the strong temptation to give in and abandon the book halfway and unread, to throw it away as a lost cause and write it down to experience and never again listen to the hype and hoopla of paid reviews in mass media and buy in an author, any author who doesn’t fit my sensibilities or my genre.Rather than throw good money down the trash like that, I would rather read some tried and tested favorites again and again (and again and again) like the mockingbird or moby dick (call me Ishmael anyone?) or the bachelor of arts and Mr.Sampath, the printer of Malgudi- beautifully written books which draw me deep into the story with fascinating narration and makes me want to turn those pages even if I know it all by heart.

Now if you think I only read classics and dead authors you are far out wrong. I really am not one of those hide bound types who swear by everything that’s classic and say nothing new comes close to the dead and gone. I do read and enjoy my share of bestsellers too - people like Le Carre and Clive Cussler for a choice and even Chetan Bhagat who is an acquired taste. And I do hate the old hypes too- Ayn Rand is a pet peeve and one over-hyped writer in my opinion. I don’t like her politics and I certainly don’t like her books and I exit fast whenever the fan boys start talking about the Fountainhead and its cult of individualism. In fact I would put Aldous Huxley many notches above her when it comes to writing about rugged individualism although he camouflages commentary on current issues as sci-fi.

So I guess I have set tastes and it’s too late in the day to change them. Which makes it all the more a piquant situation for me when people who read my blog –publishers, authors and blog groups- mail me their newly published books and ask for reviews on my blog. I would love to be polite and give them all a decent review (after all some of them are on my face book friends list). Honestly, I would love to. For I know how difficult it is to sit down and write a novel and then beg borrow steal to publish it. But unfortunately the only way I can review the book is if I have read it, right? And for that to happen, the book has to be a halfway interesting read. If I find it difficult to plow through pages and pages of boring text, I honestly don’t have the patience to complete the entire book. And writing a review in such a case becomes impossible. It would be intellectual dishonesty. The most I can do is not to write a negative review on my blog about how difficult I found it to go past the first 15 pages of the book. So for people who have sent me your books and find no review on my blog- be assured that I am on your side and I will definitely review your next book if I can only finish it. So get writing ASAP on your next book, ok?

P.S. And I wish more people would think like me- if you don’t like a book (or a movie or an art), either don’t buy it, look at it, read it or even if you do- just throw it away and be peace. Why agitate to have it banned or ask for censorship- it doesn’t make sense does it?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dodging a Bullet with My Name on It.

Dodging a Bullet with My Name on It.

Disclaimer: This is quite a morbid post and better avoided by those with a queasy stomach. It contains graphic descriptions of diseases and deaths and is not recommended for everyone.

I woke up sometime around four this morning with my mind all alert of a sudden. For a few minutes I lay there trying to calm myself of the sudden wave of anxiety that had woke me up and trying to recall what it was that was troubling me so much. And then it crashed on me like a wave. Oh god, how could I miss it? It was so much like an HIV case. And then it all came back. Yesterday, being an unusually busy  day with a long line of patients- each one crowding out the other like on an assembly line- I had seen a patient with certain unusual symptoms- a severe disease with no logical added reason like diabetes or some previous fevers or something which could explain the severity of her symptoms. And being such a busy morning with forty plus impatient patients waiting next-in-line I had asked her the mandatory questions, asked her to get the routine blood tests next time she came, did a minor procedure on her then and there and prescribed the usual medicines all the while functioning on my robo- doc mode. 

I know that my being tired and distracted with all the noise and clamor of those patients surrounding me doesn’t excuse me from not suspecting something amiss right then and there. But, i suppose my ever present vigilance slipped for a minute and i decided to treat it for then and there and reserve further inquiry for the next visit in three days. But somehow, somewhere in the back of my mind my subconscious was not satisfied with the mystery is what I think now. It must have been plugging away at it all day until in the middle of the night it made the right connections and it woke me up. I was lying there in a cold sweat while thinking how careless i had been in handling an HIV patient. What if, god forbid, I had been exposed too? Was it already too late for me? Am I going to get AIDS and die? Believe me these are morbid thought to think in the middle of the damn night. They don’t make for much pleasant sleep the rest of the night.

When we are students we are taught repeatedly how to protect ourselves. There is a reason that we are taught to take precautions as if every single patient is an HIV patient because you never know who can be one. They might know that they are hiv positive but conceal it and lie to the doctor so they wouldn't be treated differently- with extra safety measures. Or the poor patients might not themselves have known about it. Any which way if only we, I, had followed the proper procedure of doubting everyone- I wouldn't be here in the middle of the night shivering with fear. But complacency they say can kill even the best of them and as i had started to think myself as wise as Yoda the Jedi master, I had let down my guard and been as foolish as the newest apprentice.  

Of course the blame can also be shared by the authorities- they expect us doctors to do miracles with what we have while they support us only halfheartedly. If you want to give the best health care to the poor patients then you should be prepared to spend more money by hiring more doctors who can spend more time with each patient listening and diagnosing carefully. You can’t expect just a handful of doctors to cope with a hundred patients in five hours and still take a detailed look into everyone’s complaint and not make a single error. We are human too- a fact which the authorities conveniently forget all the time. I had been travelling all night that night, on a rickety government bus, perched on an uncomfortable seat trying to grab a few winks of sleep and as soon as I had landed in the city I had come straight to work after stopping to change at home. I was tired, sleepy and my alert levels were far below normal. Of course I made an error- but the bottom-line is I am in a profession where errors are inexcusable- they can either kill the patient or kill the doctor. No excuses allowed.

And to conclude this post, medicine is as a risky a profession (for doctors, I mean) as you can ever see in life. The chances of our errors killing us is almost as high for airline pilots - remember the Thai flight lost recently due to pilot error? Similarly, one mistake, one moment of carelessness and we doctors are dead- it’s an accepted hazard of the profession though no one talks about it much. If you think I am being paranoid let me explain that on a daily basis we doctors are exposed to far more life threatening diseases than anyone else - including those sick people who have that disease and only "that" disease. For example, I had spent a majority of last week at the fever ward- the place where severely infectious patients are admitted- because there has been a recent explosion of chicken pox cases in the city and everyone's been pitching in to help out to get over the staff shortages because of the summer hols.

I guess my blood by now is crawling with all sorts of viruses and bacteria after being exposed to the infectious diseases wards all week. I am a walking, talking bio-bomb, most likely. On the other hand the fact that I am still healthy and haven’t caught anything yet only points out the astonishing fact that my immune system is robust and copes with everything that’s thrown at it. Those little buggers, the white blood cells swimming down my arteries must be some helluva strong fellas right? And in the end - what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger, in the immortal language of that awesomatic rapper 50-Cent. So, let’s see, my options are I can either keep worrying all day long about whether I have caught anything or just get on with life throwing it all to fate and that’s what I am prefer to do. Just get on with my life and hope for the best - like the light brigade- canons to the left of them, canons to the right, rode the six hundred and so will I.

P.S. Just now- this morning the patient has returned with her blood test results. She said she had been cured completely by whatever drugs I had given her earlier- all her symptoms had disappeared. And most importantly her blood test results came out clean- she was not HIV positive which means I was in no real danger whatsoever and had merely been frightened badly. I don’t know who was more relieved at the result - her or me. Somehow I seem to have dodged the bullet this time- but I have learnt my lesson. Eternal vigilance is the price to pay- to sleep well at night. No more excuses- of being tired or anything- nothing will be tolerated. I vow to keep awake, alert, all the time, so help me god. And I sincerely hope that the bullet which has my name on it will take some more time to arrive. I am not dying yet, I have work to do and a life to live and miles to go before I sleep.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

My Lenten Days.

My Lenten Days.

So, I am keeping Lent this year. After a long break of many years I had a sudden whim to do it this time. Nothing special about this year or at least that’s what I keep telling myself, but I was resolved to do it this year at least and am now halfway through the lent period. And as everyone knows the period of lent is the time we choose to try and conquer some of our basic instincts or in my case baser instincts. I have too many vices, (innumerable at last count) I want to get rid off but it’s foolish (and far beyond my will power) to try and tackle them all at the same time so I prudently decided to pick something do-able and my own size.

So this year for lent I have decided to curb my flippant tongue. Too often in the past I have made many glib statements showing off my wit at others expense. I can’t help it, for any statement which others make I always have a half-a-dozen returns or comebacks hovering on the tip of my tongue- ranging from the blasé to the utterly cutting. And often enough I am ashamed to say I have shown off my wit and humor even at the cost of prudence when it would have been better to have stayed silent. Self change is the mark of a strong man they say and I am resolved to use this lent period to conquer my instincts to make flippant remarks which might conceivably hurt others. Based on the results of the past three weeks I can now say with fair confidence that I am well on the way to controlling my caustic tongue from making any throwaway statement which a kind and considerate person will never utter. And I sincerely hope to be a better person by the end of this lent period, so help me god. Come Good Friday, I so want to be a good person.

Now for those wondering at this public espousal of my religious beliefs let me remind you of the old cliché that everyone gets religion in their dotage. Which means I am well on the way to senility. And the reason I am using this blog as a confessional (instead of finding me a clergy to grant absolution for my sins) is because I believe such a public confession automatically converts all of you readers into my clergy- the only ones I trust to keep me on the straight and narrow path. So if (and that’s an unqualified if) you find me back-sliding and showing off my “sense of humor” at some poor unfortunates expense I leave it to you readers to put me back on the path by gentle reminders (preferably). I lay this trust on you, are you up to it?

And there, that’s all about the serious stuff. Now to add some levity let me do one more confession - but a nice one this time. Having had a good first quarter professionally i succumbed to temptation and went and got myself a bad-ass SUV (all-black) for off-roading. I know I have always been someone who advocated a responsible life and for leaving as small an energy footprint as we can to help our earth. Which is why I resisted the temptation for a large car for so long. But in my defense lately I have felt the call of the wild road pretty strongly. For those who haven’t felt it- it’s a kind of a deep longing in the bones to leave everything behind and just go off into the wild with just the clothes on your back- it can’t be explained with any clarity. It just is.

Maybe, if I had been born a couple centuries ago I could have lived out my fantasy- a man on a spirited horse, a six shooter on the hip and the lonely path into the wilds (a lifestyle straight out of the westerns I love so much). But now I need a different kind of vehicle to tackle the Wild West. Ergo, the SUV. And so in the next few months it’s going to be me, the car, the dog and roads. And as I don’t own a dog it’s just gonna be me and the long, dusty road. As it should be. So expect up-coming posts on solo travel to inhospitable parts. Watch this space.