Bucket List For 2014 (whatever is left of it)


 

 

 

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Keeping it short and sweet. Year end, will do a post on what I ticked off the list.

Couple of things that I never put down but did this year-

1) Got a job

2) Trekked into the wild

3) Danced the night away (quiet huge for a non-dancer like me)

4) One good vacation

5) Lived with friends

6) Bought a guitar

7) Moved cities

And rest I can’t recall. See you more often now!

By phoneixrising Posted in Life

Head n Shoulders Sexist Ad Series


After the skin whitening ads, one could not have thought of coming across more sexist advertisements. To our surprise the latest series of Head n Shoulders ads has surpassed the previous shoddy ones, the Indian advertisers never cease to surprise (read – shock) us. With this ad series sexism has touched a new low.

All three ads deem men who talk about household issues or are concerned with their weight to be feminine. According to the ads if a man uses his wife’s shampoo something magical engulfs him and he starts behaving like a woman. And a normal Indian woman is someone who just splurges in malls goes to gym, has a fancy house with a fancy TV and all she is concerned with is her weight, soap operas and maids.

This series of ads is for their new shampoo exclusively for men – a product that promises to restore the manliness in men. The three main commercials in the series end with the tag line “Stop before you stop being a man”. What must men stop doing before they get completely emasculated? According to the ad-makers, they must stop using their wives’ shampoos.

Here have a look at all three ads and decide for yourself -

The first ad ‘Score ya bore’ has a husband watching and commenting on a TV soap opera character while his wife looks at him in absolute disbelief. Suddenly a shampoo bottle comes out of the blue and knocks him over. Lo and behold! The bottle of shampoo knocks some sense (read – masculinity ) in him, he gets back his life and wants to watch cricket after that.

The second has two men working out in a gym and discussing their house-help’s timings and charges. A women in the frame looks at the with disdain and again the magical shampoo comes to help them reclaim their lives.  The closing shot is of them discussing how neither understands golf. Because real men not only don’t have maid problems, they also don’t play golf.

In the third and probably the most erratic ad in the series a man a man is trying on a pair of jeans in a store. But he’s concerned whether the jeans are making his butt look fat. He questions his wife about it, who looks at him in shock. Because how could a man possibly be concerned if he is looking fat? That’s the prerogative of only women. Again, comes the mighty bottle of shampoo and the guy transforms. The last shot has him shunning his wife request to try on the jeans once.

Wonder what goes on in an advertisers mind when they come up with such trashy ideas. Let’s hope next time when such a sexist idea creeps into an ad-maker’s head, a shampoo bottle hits them out of the blue and knocks some sense into them. Haven’t we had enough sexist commercials already?

Wrote this for SHEROES, published here. 

Review: Indian Rock bands


Indian rock is neither here nor there; it is a fusion of western and Indian music while the lyrics are deep-rooted in the motherland. The rock music might have evolved to a great extent in the country but it still is at a nascent stage. We are far from seeing greats like Guns n Roses, Metallica or Led Zep.  It is unfortunate that a lot of rock bands in India are disbanded without even launching properly.

But the rock lovers need not be very disappointed; we still have Indian rock bands trying to leave their mark. Here are a few bands that you must listen to if you are a rock-lover:

1)      The Bicycle days:

This Bangalore based band released their debut album Calamitunes in June-2013. The Bicycle Days is a confluence of varied approaches to music and the idea of song. The most refreshing thing about them is they have something to say, their lyrics are their perception of the contemporary world. There are social commentaries, dialogues, haunting vocals and plenty of opinions to connect with. The album has seven songs. Mould and truce have poetic lyrics and the vocalist uses a haunting voice. Crawl has a Radiohead-like feel to it, basically nothing very new about it. Indignation is a medley of a lot sounds and a favourite from the album. On a 5 scale The Bicycle Days gets a well-deserved 3. 

 2)      The supersonics:

Supersonics is a post-punk band from Kolkata; they split in 2010 but reunited in 2012.  They released their first album Maby Baking was released in 2009 and was Indecision’s Album of the year. The band has catchy songs and great energy while performing. Maby Baking has eleven songs, each done in a different way. We are, we are and Blotter are the best songs from the album. The latter is a soft song, different from rest of the songs, they did. In most of the songs like Far From Human Race, Major Minor the vocalist Ananda Sen adopts a baritone, which a lot of people might not like. The Supersonics get a 2.5 on 5 scale.

3)      Odyssey:

No Hay Banda, their first album was released back in July. Odyssey is one of the few bands based in Gujrat. Its music is a slight blend of rock and psychedelic. They do not perform frequently since the members are scattered all across the world.

 Their song Where you been has Hindi Classical music, rest of the songs have English vocals.  Bringing back tigers is a heavy rock number, dealing with philosophical matters. Their first single, B Flat Minor, is wonderfully slow and mellow, Nostradamus is slightly long at 12 minutes but is soulful. No Hay Banda is about experimentation and Odyssey is a band that makes music for itself and not for its commercial appeal. They get a 4 on 5. It is probably one of the best in the lot. Sad part is you won’t find their music on Youtube, it is available on iTunes and bandcamp.

4)      Thermal and a Quarter:

This band doesn’t fancy being called just an Indian Rock Band; they are through and through a Bangalore band. Thermal and a Quarter is the one of the oldest bands in country, formed in 1996, they have released 5 albums till date. You won’t hear raga-rock clichés like the strains of a gratuitous sitar (or veena) in their music. Their songs have a sound that is completely original with hard-hitting lyrics. The music isn’t completely rock, it can be blues, funk, jazz, prog, maybe even some soul. TAAQ have toured all across the world including USA, United Kingdom, West Asia and East Asia. Songs to catch are Grab me, If Them blues, For the Cat and Meter Mele one and a half for their neat baselines, terrific drumming and jazzy leads. TAAQ gets a 4 on 5 too.

 

5)      Little Babooshka’s Grind(LBG):

 LBG a Chennai based band was formed in 1996; they took a two year break in 2009 and came back in 2011. LBG are the pioneers of Indian rock music making electro-rock songs. Their music is a bit old school, with some exceptions Wake up…Break up, Codeine, Money. In all they have done around 35 originals, not a lot for a band that has been together for so long. Few other songs to listen are Part of me, Revolution Breathe and Two Frequencies.

Gandhi and his principles


In the midst of all the political mayhem in the country we observe 144th birth anniversary of father of our nation, the man who was titled Mahatma- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. I don’t consider him the sole leader responsible for bringing independence in India, but there can never be any doubt over Gandhi’s greatness and grandeur. He was the kind of leader India will never have again.

He shook the British in his own gentle way, we have grown-up reading about Khilafat movement, quit India movement, non-cooperation movement and the dandi salt marchThis messiah of non-violence and satyagrah (truthfulness) has been strongly criticized by the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Roberts.  Roberts, a British Historian called him “a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist — one who was often downright cruel to those around him.” Christopher Hitchens, too penned down similar views, in his essay- The Real Mahatma Gandhi.

I beg to differ from the above views, yes, Gandhi unlike Nehru was a religious man, a staunch Hindu but he never had a predilection for a particular religion. Muslims accused him of being the harbinger of Hindu ‘Raj’; Hindu nationalists accused him of being insufficiently dedicated to their cause. His idea of religion was not totally esoteric. He knew that every religion was connected with some belief system supported by rituals. He tried to get rid of the rituals as far as possible. To Gandhi religion was a human institution made by human ingenuity to solve practical affairs as well as spiritual matters. All his life he struggled and fought against inequality. It is absurd to accuse or misinterpret him on these lines.

And as far his sexual behavior is concerned, that is not for us to discuss, there was nothing immoral or moral about it, a man has the right to choose his sexual preference.

Moving on to his politics, which was debatable a number of times, but necessary during British rule. His policy of self-suffering and fasting moved masses. That is how he obviated the riots in Bengal from getting worse after independence, this is just one example. He always managed to ignite a spark among all Indians, whatever religion they belonged to. He fasted in 1932 to protest the voting scheme for separate political representation for Dalits; Gandhi did not want them segregated. Although none of these policies will work in modern India, which was ostensible when Anna Hazare tried fasting. Modern India has narcissist, demented and retarded leaders, the country now needs a miracle to bring in a good government.

Gandhi’s economic politics was probably one policy most of us will disagree with. Gandhi challenged Nehru and the modernizers in the late 1930’s who called for rapid industrialization on the Soviet model; Gandhi denounced that as dehumanizing and contrary to the needs of the villages where the great majority of the people lived. He was probably what we can call a neo-luddist. His model of progress and development was definitely not ideal.

We have to agree Gandhi did not adopt the most conventional principles, he was criticized, condemned, redeemed and defended throughout his life. But we need to accept despite all his flaws and fallacies, he was a man of unmatched greatness and no one was or will ever be capable of what he manged to do.

How is Just Dial fleecing everyone?


Even when you are sick you cannot be sure of getting the desired treatment from the place you want. There is no guarantee of services from the backend, and the consumers probably has no idea that they are being conned.

On 26th August, 2013 a friend Vanya Kaushik called up Lal Path Labs Sector 16, Chandigarh, she needed to get done blood tests of her grandmother. Lal Path labs which is a pioneer medical testing laboratory in the country, assured Vanya, that the tests will be done next morning that is on 27th August, 2013. They were charging Rs 350, where Rs 300 was the fee for the tests and Rs 50 for providing services at home.

Astonishingly someone claiming to be from Lal Path Labs turned up at their place on the same day, 26th August, 2013. When enquired why he had come before the scheduled appointment, he said, there were no prior preoccupations and the tests could be done immediately.

Suspecting no more, the Kaushik family let him do his job. He charged them Rs 400 and left. Since the guy charged more than the actual cost, Vipul Kaushik, a family member called Lal Path labs and inquired about the sudden increase. Mr Kaushik was shocked when the lab denied sending anyone and stating that their tests were still pending.

Worried because of intrusion in privacy and violation of consumer rights, the family decided to call all the labs they had availed services from earlier. All labs denied having done the tests.

Meanwhile, the family called Lal Path again, inquiring if someone had turned up with the reports, they denied completely sounding hostile. The family suspecting something fishy went to the lab in Sector 16 and demanded an explanation.  After an hour of heated discussion, one of the employees called up someone to ask if he had done the tests. Apparently he had and this guy worked for some other lab in Sector 37.

Now exasperated, the family asked how had someone whose services they did not seek turn up at their doorstep claiming to be someone else! They had called up Lal Path labs to conduct the tests, they were registered, an entry was made in their name. Below is the picture giving the proof that Lal Path was supposed to conduct those tests.

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Where did this guy posing from Lal Path lab come to know, that tests needed to be done at a particular place? Where did he find out the Kaushik’s home phone number and rest of the details? Bizarre, right?

The answer is pretty easy, Justdial, the biggest online directory in the country had intercepted the call between the family and Lal Path labs. Once they had all the information of the conversation that happened, they mailed all the details to the other lab. Here is the copy of the mail that the other lab in Sector 37 (Mediquest Labs)  received from Just dial. They forwarded it to the family after being inquired about their source of information.

Scam

So does this mean, Just dial is tapping phone calls of various organizations and leaking information to other organizations? Are these organizations paying Just Dial for this?  Who is to be blamed? Just Dial? Organizations paying Just dial?How can these  calls be intercepted? Is there any role the network providers are playing in the tapping of phones without authority?  Are we safe when conducting business deals over phone calls?

The marketing head of Lal Path labs admitted to the breach in code of conduct but neither he nor the lab in-charge said anything on record. Just dial was called later in the evening but they refused to talk. Several mails to them have gone unanswered. The family received the following anonymous hand-written note early in the morning. They have no idea who could have sent the note, but it is very lucid it is either Just Dial or the other organization. Who is to be blamed? What action has to be taken? This is a clear case of violation of customer privacy and rights.  How many people are affected by this?

Anonymous letter

Anonymous letter

Why Feminism?


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The moment you claim to be a feminist you are assumed to be a whiny, liberal, bra burning misandrist involving in male bashing. Feminism is anything but that. Feminism is anti-misogyny but not pro-misandry. It is not for matriarchy but is against patriarchy. Feminism is instilling a feeling of equality among men and women. A man can be a nurse without being called gay and a woman can be a mechanic without being called manly.

There are times when people question whether feminism is something the world needs. But is that even a question to be raised? How many times do you hear about a man being raped by a woman? Is a man looked down upon or called ugly if he goes out wearing shorts with hair on his legs? It is so disgusting to live in a world where women are treated as objects of pleasure, where rape jokes are cracked and women are still held responsible for rapes.

Feminist theory, which emerged from feminist movements, aims to understand the nature of gender inequality by knowing more about the social and political roles of women. Feminism is a radical notion that women are humans beings just like men. Equality among men and women is not a concept, it is something all of us should be striving for, because the misogyny that exists in all cultures is not a part of human existence. It kills the purpose of an amicable co-existence, it discriminates two human beings whose prowess cannot be and should not be differentiated.

I do not want to be feminist to rule the world, I need it because someone groped me when I was nine, when I didn’t even know what it meant. We need feminism because we do not want that every time a woman walks on the street lewd gestures or comments are passed. We need feminism because the size of our breasts does not determine our worth. We need feminism so that a man can cry or express his feelings without being called a loser or a whimp. Emotions are not manly or womanly, they are just human.

Women have been called the weaker sex for time that seems like more than forever. Out of  7 billion people in world roughly 1 billion women are sexually assaulted, they get bottles shoved inside them, are victims of acid attacks and many more horrendous crimes we cannot imagine happening in our worst nightmares. A woman isn’t raped because she was drinking at midnight, or because of what she was wearing or because she wasn’t careful enough. She is raped because someone did that to her, someone who thought himself he had the right to exploit a woman’s body in any way.   And that is why we need the moment called feminism and need to fight for gender equality.

There are issues that I didn’t even address here, equal pay for equal work, being regarded as humans with equal intelligence. These are things that need to be dealt with as well. Isn’t it outrageous when a man working as your equal at workplace gets a higher pay?  We need feminism for every valid reason, true well-understood feminism to change the archaic and demented beliefs we have now followed for centuries.

Image Courtesy

Mark Your Diaries – SHEROES Summit 2013 is here


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Aug 23, 2013, New Delhi: Fleximoms (www.fleximoms.in) presents the SHEROES Summit (www.sheroessummit.com) – India’s largest OpportunityScape for Women.

The theme of the SHEROES Summit 2013 is ‘Creating Shared Value’ – for Indian women and businesses.

As women professionals choose from a range of career choices,entrepreneurial, flexible jobs or going back to work with large companies – it is imperative for businesses and women professionals to find sustainable shared value.

The dates for the SHEROES Summit are:

  • Mumbai August 30, 2013
  • New Delhi on September 6, 2013
  • Bangalore on September 27, 2013

The SHEROES Summit brings together stakeholders in context of women and work – CEO’s, business owners, women professionals, career coaches, entrepreneurs and women professionals across stages of life. The SHEROES Summit 2013 celebrates choices women make for themselves and making them work for them.

The SHEROES Summit connects businesses face-to-face with a wide range of women professionals. The Summit is an opportunity for women and companies to network and spot trends.

On the offer at the SHEROES Summit are sessions on Personal Motivation, CEO Track, Entrepreneurial Track, Industry Trends with CEO’s and horizon-gazing of opportunities. These include a wide range of first ever programs and opportunities, that some of the companies are introducing at the SHEROES Summit.

A diverse set of speakers will share perspective at the Summit. These include -DebjaniGhosh, Managing Director, South Asia, Intel Corporation, AnandLunia, Founder, India Quotient, PrashantBhaskar, Founder PlugHR, RakeshShukla, Founder, The Writers Block, Pearl Uppal, Founder 5ideas, Harshal Shah, Director Marketing, AegonReligare, RashmiBansal, Author, Entrepreneur, Ansoo Gupta, CEO Pinstorm, NavyugMahnot, Founder, CEO, QAI India, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder, CEO, One97 and PayTM, DeepaShenoy, CEO, Lumiere Solutions and Kris Nair, Founder FusedCow.

The SHEROES Summit connects the top female talent with organizations who seek to create value by building gender-balanced businesses, reduce attrition and allied costs, improve profits and do social good. The Summit is backed up some of the leading organizations including PayTM, AegonReligare, Philips and Monster.

One can find more details about the Summit at www.sheroessummit.com

Or send us a tweet at @sheroesindia or leave us a message at www.facebook.com/sheroesindia

Phone:

Pallavy: +91-9818318196

Aparna: +91-9910911006

About

The SHEROES Summit believes in possibilities that lie ahead of us as gender balance and sustainable value become core to our work and life. SHEROES believes in making our choices work for us. SHEROES Summit is convened by Applied Life Pvt Ltd, based in New Delhi. 

By phoneixrising Posted in SHEROES

Behind the Beautiful Forevers-Katherine Boo: Review


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This is one of those books that will probably leave you devastated. After you are done reading, you will think about it for long. It is a well-known fact- Mumbai slums are ghastly, life is grim in those garbage strewn makeshift houses of the not so fortunate. Turning the pages of this impeccably done book, you experience an upsurge of emotions, you are angry, instigated, bewildered, disturbed, all at the same time.

Boo spent three years among the residents of the Annawadi slum, a sprawling, cockeyed settlement of more than 300 tin-roof huts and shacks in the shadow of Mumbai’s International Airport. Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a result of thorough investigation and research. There are times when you hope that Boo made up the story but unfortunately what the books tells is the grotesque truth.

Abdul, an enterprising young Muslim Annawadian, the only major earner of his family, makes a living out of sorting garbage. He along with sister and father is convicted in a crime that was never committed by them. What comes next for this family is a despairing tale of court trails, the mother Zehrunisa has to face the apathy of government officials and police. She pays of a major chunk of their lifetime earnings in bribes to get the three bailed out.

Asha- is upcoming and undeclared slumlord, she comes from the rural Maharashtra with dreams to fly higher than the sky.With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter—Annawadi’s “most-everything girl“-Manju—will soon become its first female college graduate. Asha finds her niche in political corruption and is successful in her ultimate endeavor.

Boo tragically showcases the end of many young lives in the slum, Manju’s best friend, Meena consumed rat poison, so did Sanjay, a young man beaten up by police. Very often dead bodies are discovered near the slum, nobody cares who they are, nobody identifies those bodies. Diseases like Tuberculosis are stated as the causes of these deaths. The truth remains unknown.

Behind the beautiful forevers is a spectacular work of reportage and gives the most illuminating insight in the lives of India’s poor, their ambitions, their struggles and sacrifices. Apart from being the a good work of reporting, Boos also tells the story incredibly well.

“A decent life was the train that hadn’t hit you, the slumlord you hadn’t offended, the malaria you hadn’t caught”

There is a lot to digest after finishing this, Boo puts everything very emphatically, a must read for anyone who cares about the slums and its dwellers around the country.

And the Mountains Echoed: Review


Khalid Hoseinni’s books generally have a similar drift, they begin in pre-war Afghanistan, the protagonists are young guileless kids. The war happens and they are separated and years later they meet to find something amiss. Same goes with ‘And the mountains echoed’, it is the story of families, cousins, siblings but mainly delves around the story of two siblings Pari and Abdullah.

The book opens with their early lives, the three live in a small village in rural Afghanistan and travel to Kabul, where Pari is sold to a rich childless couple . Abdullah’s world is torn apart, he adored his little sister, it was gut wrenching, the pain of a brother who loses his sibling.
From this grievous beginning the story advances into modern Afghanistan, America, Paris and Greece. Unlike his previous books, Hosseini paints a different  picture in ‘And the mountains echoed’, each chapter is an extension of the last, with new characters somehow related to the characters in the previous chapter.
In his signature style, Hosseini, tugs the heart strings of his readers, the book is gripping and a fast read. He has mastered the art of story-telling impeccably. He weaves the wand on his words beautifully.
“A story is like a moving train: no matter where you hop onboard, you are bound to reach your destination sooner or later.”

 

The book moves timely, as readers can reflect on Afghanistan at a time of fading American military involvement. It has a lot of characters, the reader might get lost or confused as Hosseini transits from story of one to another. This can be a bit confusing and the only reason the book gets 4 out 5 from me.

And the mountains echoed is beautifully written and is moving like his earlier works. Highly recommended read for this summer. Lay your hands on this if you are an avid reader.

This was originally published in The EP!C Magazine

Why I don’t like Superhero movies


When I tell people I don’t like watching superhero movies, they gape and stare at me as if I told them I was Spiderman’s girlfriend. What’s wrong with not liking Ironman, Superman, Batman or any of the insanely divine men from the planet that doesn’t exist? Wait a second, these igneous super beings do not exist either.

It is bizarre to follow and adulate  superheroes. People, ‘full-fledged grown-ups’ I know talk as if these guys were real. They idolize Ironman for creating iron suits, many lamented the fact, he destroyed them all in the last movie. Fine guys, get a grip! What is the big deal?

Nowhere in future will a hero be born after being bitten by a spider. I agree, technology used in these movies can floor anyone.  Holography, real time and the flying vehicles are plausible but flying men or men flinging spider webs is just beyond me. We can witness these stupendous technologies outside of Superhero movies.

Alright, I agree, I was one of the madcaps who secretly hoped to receive her Hogwarts letter at eleven or wanted to have flying dragons like Eragon or maybe even wanted a ride in the Batmobile. I did love the first two editions of Ironman when they came and even the earlier Spidey movies.

But there is an extent to which we can watch and take in such fantasy. These stories are surreal and unconvincing. We create superheroes to solve the problems we otherwise cannot.

And if you claim to learn life lessons from Superheroes, well then fellows, you can get the same lessons from the people who exist in the real world, not some fiction land existing in the brain of a highly imaginative being.

If you want to watch the movies for the effects and technology, then probably you should because no other genre has the same elements. But I would any day prefer watching something like Armageddon or Deep Impact over a Man of Steel.

Fine, now all you superhero boot-lickers can begin reprimanding me and my taste in movies, which I bet according to you all is crummy. Bring it on fellas!