Friday, August 15, 2008

Independence Day Celebrations - Radio Style

Today's India's independence day by date (August 15). Our compatriots back home have already celebrated this momentous occasion of India turning 61 and into a young, dynamic, fast-growing, vibrant nation in the world. As for me, I achieved something unique today, for our country and for our state (Karnataka). In the morning show of Radio Salaam Namaste 104.9 FM, surprisingly the presenter offered to play three regional language songs. And I was probably the first to call him and request for a Kannada song and I directed him to, a website of patriotic songs compiled from all sources. The site features over 200 patriotic songs, mantras and couplets in different Indian languages. And within a few minutes the radio was playing my request and I guess this was probably the first time a Kannada song was played. I used to rue the fact that there were dedicated programs for all languages except Kannada and now I was finally successful in getting them to play a song in my mother tongue.

Travelling to Phoenix
As per our original plan we started off from home early in the morning and started our journey towards Phoenix, Arizona. It is about 1,000 miles away and the journey brought us through a completely different terrain, a facet of Texas we had not seen. Driving on I-20, we drove through thousands of acres of desert-like lands where we saw wind farms with hundreds of wind mills generating electricity and then we passed through vast tracts of ranch land with numerous oil and gas wells. This part of Texas between Abilene and El Paso seems to be rich with minerals, especially natural gas and petroleum. The number of oil wells quietly working away drawing gas and oil from the depths of earth is amazing.

Mountainous terrain enroute El Paso

Rolling hills is a pleasant change from flat Dallas

I hadn't heard or known much about El Paso, except that it was a city near the border of Texas-Mexico. I was under the impression that El Paso would be a small city, but we were in for a surprise. El Paso is a large and spread out city surrounded by craggy mountains. The open skies, beautiful cloud formations and mountainous terrain is awe inspiring. I would like to visit this city some other time with leisure and take a closer look.

Interesting cloud formations

Mountainous terrain and clouds with the stunning blue sky as background is picturesque

Right now we are checked into a room in a city known as Deming. Something interesting about this city is the fact that they organise a annual "Duck Race" in August. And unfortunately this years Duck Race is scheduled for next weekend (August 23-25). We will get to watch it some other time maybe.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

Today, as India celebrates its independence day, I sit in the US where several people are celebrating Pakistan's independence. It is still 14th in the US but I am missing the celebrations because this is the first time I am NOT in India on the Independence Day. Feeling nostalgic I was browsing the net for patriotic songs and videos and this is one of the best videos I found on You Tube. I hope you will agree.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Movie Review: Singh is Kinng

A film sans logic but a great entertainer
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Javed Jaffrey, Ranvir Shorey, Sonu Sood, Om Puri, Neha Dhupia;
Director: Anees Bazmee

The wait for this highly entertaining comedy masala flick is finally over. And does the film live up to the hype and expectations it created? You bet, it does; Singh Is Kinng has all the ingredients which make it a great entertainer: generous dose of laughter; drama; emotions and of course two hot heroines. All these will surely keep you glued to the silver screen.

The medium paced film starts off the usual way. Our hero, Happy Singh (Akshay Kumar) is a simpleton who wants to help people but somehow ends up creating problems than helping. His attempts to help which turn into disasters are portrayed in a sublime manner which will leave you laughing out of your seat. The people of the village get frustrated with his antics and ask him to leave. Left with no alternative Happy and his best friend Rangeela (Om Puri) set out on an aimless sojourn.

Now the scene shifts and the spotlight is on Lakhan Singh aka Lucky (Sonu Sood), the King of the Australian underworld. Like all underworld dons Lucky also has a sidekick, Neha Dhupia and few henchmen: Javed Jaffrey, Yashpal Sharma, Kamal Chopra and Sudhanshu Pandey. Quite expectedly Happy’s journey leads him to Egypt and then to Australia where he becomes the king of underworld. During the journey he meets his lady love Sonia (Katrina Kaif) and finds warmth and affection in an elderly lady (Kirron Kher).

The action sequences of the movie are excellent and in typical Akshay style and once again he has proved that he can excel in comedy too. The timing of his funny dialogs and actions in the movie is just fine. Akshay Kumar is really the king of situational comedy and witty dialogue delivery. And of course Om Puri has also delivered a stellar performance which seamlessly blends with that of Akshay Kumar’s.

Sonu Sood too done a good job and Neha Dhupia looks sizzling and it seems like that is all there is to her. Javed Jaffrey adds some more laughter to the movie. And of course Kiron Kher in the role of an elderly lady has done a wonderful job.

As a director Aneez Bazmee has extracted great performances by everybody. Singh is Kinng will go down as another successful comedy flick in his portfolio. Ben Nott and Sanjay Gupta’s cinematography is excellent. Lilting music in the movie became a hit much before the the film was released. Pritam has done a great job in delivering numbers like Bootni Ke, Jee Karda and Teri Ore and the title track ‘Singh is King’ is catchy too.

Taking a bird’s eye view of the movie, I would say this is a must watch for all the fans of Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif. Akshay Kumar is definitely getting better at comedy, I had watched his movie Heyy Babyy and it was a great entertainer. And with Singh is Kinng Akshay Kumar has successfully created a niche for himself in the genre of comedy film heroes too. And coupled with his penchant for delivering stunning action shots, Akshay Kumar is definitely set to go places.

On the downside the movie has a pretty lame climax, I wish the director had added a punch to make the climax memorable. And then once the intermission is over the movie becomes painfully slow and boring when compared to the first part. Either ways it is a movie worth watching.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympic Glory for India!

Jai Hind! Bharat Mata Ki Jai! Vande Mataram!
We have done it! We have won the hitherto-elusive Olympic gold medal and where did we win it? in China, the fiery dragon country which is always competing and strategising on how to take over large parts of our nation. The gold medal couldn't have been won in any better occasion or location or even the sport.

My Heartiest congratulations to Abhinav Bindra who won the first ever individual Olympic Gold medal for India. And heartfelt thanks for bringing glory to our motherland.

Abhinav Bindra (25), already a world champion has shattered the track record of India by winning the first ever individual gold medal at the Olympics. Sharp-shooter Abhinav Bindra won in the 10m air rifle event at the Beijing games today in a nailbiting finale. The whole nation went into great revelry when Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won the silver medal in shooting in 2004 Olympics in Athens. But this feat of Abhinav Bindra has surpassed this and I am sure that Indians across the world will get a big booster of national pride.

Bindra, a Khel Ratna awardee, had earlier won the gold medal in 2002 Commonwealth Games in the pairs event and silver in the individual event. It is a moment of great pride to our nation and I sure hope that there will emerge more athletes and sportspersons who will surpass these achievements and catapult our nation to glory that it truly deserves.

We will take on the world and win over the entire universe not by military invasion or by crooked and deceitful religious conversion, but by our achievements, honesty and righteous ways. We won our freedom from colonial British through the predominant use of non-violent means. Despite thousands of years of invasions, persecution and slavery which let our nation impoverished, we have turned it around and started achieveing good economic growth. It is only a matter of time before we will take over the world and regain our original glory which we enjoyed till the marauding Muslims invaders and Britishers set foot and made our country chaotic and impoverished.

The Indian Economy has always been compared to the elephant which walks slowly but steadily. But I would like extend this connotation to sport, it takes time for an elephant to get up and start moving but once on the move it can run really fast and when it runs the earth around quivers.

An unusually interesting profession!

Ever heard of anyone making a living out of old newspaper clippingsand other media? Well as a journalist one of my interests was to clip interesting and relevant news items from newspapers and magazines for future reference. But I had never thought or even imagined that someone could actually make a living doing newspaper clipping, till I read about Dallas resident W.K. Jeffus (61). I was intrigued when I saw a front page headline screaming "Yesterday's news is Dallas man's current occupation" and read the entire article spread across two pages.

According to the article Jeffus is passionate about the history of Dallas and is pained to see little being done to preserve the city's past. He is particularly sad to see that people in Dallas don't care much about history. He scouts through flea markets, garage sales and even houses under demolition to collect newspapers which is stores in a home in Oak Cliff, south of Dallas. The newspaper article talks about how frugally Jeffus lives, his office in Oak Cliff doesn't have airconditioning, he drives an old car and guess what his electric bill was: $1.85. I think it would be impossible to pay such a low electric bill even in India. I wonder how he survives the heat of Dallas in such circumstances. Jeffus makes about $1,000 a month, which is abysmally low by American standards and can't lead a decent life within that money.

Having read this much about Jeffus one would think that he is probably not educated to get a mainstream job or he is retired from work and does this as a pastime. Well the latter could be true, but Jeffus has a bachelors degree in Marketing from Texas A&M University and has worked in several places. But he has been associated with old news since long time.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Back-to-School Fair in Dallas

I read about this wonderful initiative of the Dallas City Council in Dallas Morning News couple of days ago. The article showcased the annual Back-to-School Fair which attracted about 50,000 people (double from last year). During the fair people were handed out free school supplies, administered innoculations, given haircuts etc.

The initiative is primarily aimed at poor families who find it difficult to put their children through school. Through this initiative the parents get free supplies and feel less burdened. And with slumping economy in the US the numbers queueing up for dole is only going to get more.

This initiative was started in 1997 and is funded by the federal government and began as a drug prevetion program. But since the city identified other needs in the community they expanded it to include several other facets to the program. Like every other free offering there are simply too many people wanting to get them, for this fair too there were people who waited in the line for upto six hours so that they don't miss out on anything.

But something that really impressed me is the spirit of the people who attend and take help at such fairs. They know they are taking help and gratefully acknowledge it, and in the same breath they say that they want to become rich and sponsor such fairs. That is the spirit of enterprise which needs to be inculcated in every individual in the world.

I was wondering that in India we have lot of initiatives to give free stuff to school children. But most of them are centered around government schools and children who attend private schools are not beneficiaries of such initiatives. Moreover if an independent fair of this type were to be held it would attract people who can afford to buy supplies too and the real target of the program may not actually benefit. This shows an abject lack of self-respect and enterprise and a desire to get everything free from the government.

I wish things change sooner and we start developing quicker.