Desi Parents And Their Expectations

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sangafamily

This IS the typical desi parent.(picture via NDTV)

After all that Sangakkara has achieved, here is his dad’s reaction.

1. Says his son was kind of okay, should have done much better.
2. Compares him to his friend, and says friend was better
3. Claims that he wins all arguments against his son.
4. Advises his 37 year old millionaire son on career choices

You just CANNOT please a desi parent. You CANNOT.

And in that vein, here are some other “desi” parents through the ages.

Don Bradman’s dad: What? 99.94? What am I going to tell the neighbors?

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Empathy and the Global Corporation

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Bezos

New York Times recently ran a shocking “expose” on Amazon with the ominous title “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace” and the even more scary sub-heading “The company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions”. The article is worth reading. There are stories of people crying at desks, of employees seen to “practically combust” (not sure what that is, but I think I get the general drift), and then this:

A woman who had breast cancer was told that she was put on a “performance improvement plan” — Amazon code for “you’re in danger of being fired” — because “difficulties” in her “personal life” had interfered with fulfilling her work goals. Their accounts echoed others from workers who had suffered health crises and felt they had also been judged harshly instead of being given time to recover.

A former human resources executive said she was required to put a woman who had recently returned after undergoing serious surgery, and another who had just had a stillborn child, on performance improvement plans, accounts that were corroborated by a co-worker still at Amazon. “What kind of company do we want to be?” the executive recalled asking her bosses.

To counter this corporate PR disaster, Jeff Bezos then sent a note to  his employees, where he referenced a LinkedIn post of an employee who wrote a rebuttal. While taking issue with some nominal factual inaccuracies, what the Amazon-employee says isn’t radically different from what the New York Times article tried to put forward. Ezra Klein in his excellent post on Vox explains why he thinks that’s the case [Link] (I agree) but here is my very personalized TLDR.

The Amazon employee, if you go through the note, is not really challenging the basic premise of the story. All that the man is saying, and many would agree with him, is this.

“Yeah these sissies are complaining cause they were not good enough to work in the greatest company on the world (To quote: Not everyone is qualified to work here, or will rise to the challenge. But that doesn’t mean we’re Draconian or evil. Not everyone gets into Harvard, either, or graduates from there. Same principles apply) but there are many people who are great at their work here, are motivated to work nights and weekends, and feel adequately compensated by it.  Take the heat or get out of the kitchen.  Booyakasha”.

Without judging the tone and tenor of his post, or sentences like “Yes. Amazon is, without question, the most innovative technology company in the world” (Psst Tesla) , I find the employee’s very alpha-male response extremely honest, as it pretty much lays out the world view of those that “win” in our present corporate environment.

James T. Kirk: Why would a Starfleet admiral ask a three-hundred-year-old frozen man for help?
Khan: Because I am better.
James T. Kirk: At what?
Khan: Everything.

Yeah. That kind.

 

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The Fight For Freedom

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mum

We won independence in 1947.

Freedom. Not yet.

No this is not going to be one of those “How can we be free as long as there is poverty and exploitation” rant. The cynic in me knows that want and disease and violence and injustice and Salman Khan movies that make 500 crores are what define the human condition. The order of the world is one giant step-ladder of exploitation, that just as we get exploited by our masters above, we too must exploit, be it the earth we claim we want to leave for our children or indentured laborers making Apple components in sweatshops. Freedom in that sense is an unattainable ideal, or to put it in the words of Robin Williams, “Only in their dreams can men be truly free. ‘Twas always thus, and always thus will be.”

What I am talking about is individual liberty, not as an ideal, but a very low economy class version of it.

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Bajrangi Bhaijaan—A Comment

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bajrangi

Bajrangi Bhaijaan is the best-Bhai vehicle ever but that’s like saying that the seventeen Venkatesh Prasad scored in Cuttack was his best batting performance. It’s not a high bar.

The cinematic quality is of course not really what held me in awe.

It was something else.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan is a stupendous exercise of image-engineering,one from which everyone, from PR gurus to husbands who have been caught sexting by their wives may draw lessons.

Bhai is a golden-hearted Hindu fundamentalist, the kind of half-man half-child that Aamir Khan plays in every film (no wonder he carried a towel to cry in, this should have been him), someone who never lies no matter what the consequences, so pure that he makes Yudhishtir look like Suresh Kalmadi. This portrayal of an orthodox Hindu as a saint, novel as it is in the annals of mainstream Hindi moviedom, is a marvelous way to placate the group that has traditionally not been his hottest demographic, and this is not just because he needs their business.

No that’s not the main reason.

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Baahubali The Beginning–The Review

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bahubali3

Once upon a time, there lived a lad.

Looking up at the mountain of water towards the misty horizon, he felt inside an indomitable mysterious force, calling him upwards and over. So he enrolled in Physics and Maths coaching classes in Class eight, to get an early start, then Ramaiyya classes at five in the morning to get an even earlier start and correspondence courses to get problem-sets he could crack while on the loo. He would try, one problem after another in Irodov, and then the sequence of solved problems would be broken and he would come tumbling down back to Exercise one. It would have broken lesser men, that fall, but he merely smiled, dusted away his failure, and went back to Newton’s Laws.

His mother (or the one he knew to be his) asked the Gods what they were doing wrong, because the neighbor hood kids were doing just fine. It had become an obsession, this wanting to scale the wall of water, and his muscles grew, till he was moving smoothly through Khanna and Khanna, but still the mountain stood, untamed and proud, and our boy toiled away.

Till one day, in his hand, fell a torn picture.

It had fluttered in from somewhere up the mountain of the water, washed away and grainy, but distinguishable only as a female face.  Our lad would keep the face on a piece of paper, and then lovingly, with his protractor and compass draw boobs around it, of different diameters, for he know not the dimensions of this lovely lass. There was no female in his life, and together with the need to scale the wall of water, attaining the girl in the picture became the focus of his life.

Till one day, while scaling the wall of water, he saw her.

Water-droplets cascading down her perfect spine, there she was, looking at him with come-hither eyes, in a bikini that revealed beauties grander than he could have imagined. In the throes of great passion, he danced up the wall of water, swallowing semesters in epic gravity-defying leaps, while she flitted ahead, through his books, and exam papers, and his programming assignments, turning her head ever so a little, as blue butterflies flew around, or neelachalachitram as he called them,  till one day he did it, he scaled the wall.

And found himself in the United States of America. But where was that bikini-clad goddess of beauty who had inspired him? She was not there.

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NABC Diaries Part 2

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[First part here]

The next day (Saturday) was my session (or rather the first of the two that I did). So after a lengthy epoch of  “saajuguju” (dress-up), I arrived at the convention center, in an ethnic kurta (what Bengalis call Punjabi) and a six-pocket, a slight variation on the uniform of the internationalized Bangali intellectual, which is kurta-jeans. If I was trying for a more provincial look, I would have gone with a dhoti, but I just cannot say the word dhoti without the song “Mirchi re mirchi kamaal kar gayee, dhoti ko phar ke rumaal kar gayee” popping into my head,  washing away my train of thought in a jetstream of apasanskriti (bad culture), which we can all agree would have a disastrous fallout in the cultural cleanroom I was walking into. Also I can’t tie a dhoti.

Anyways, as I entered the venue, I saw this sign below. This was intriguing because the words “Jatin Pandit”, “free breakfast”, and “lipid tests” normally don’t go together.

jatinlalit

 

So I trundled off to the exhibition hall, where saris and jewelry were being sold, and though unfortunately the free breakfast had ended, the concert was in full-swing. This was away from the main venue, perhaps because this was too Bollywood for the mainstream. I mean I get it,  traditionalist uncles sticking their nose up at Jatin Pandit and saying “This kind of music is not Bengali”, but then I would respond with even “lipid testing is not Bengali”, but that doesn’t mean we should not have it.

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NABC Diaries Part 1

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Culture is a word most treasured by Bengalis. Pronounced “kalchaar”, it conjures up multiple images in the Bong mind, of harmonium-handling humans swaying their heads in musical cadence to the rhythm of Rabindrasangeet, of the tremulous vocal-chord shaking of a Shombhu-Mitra-style elocution, of post-modern art drawn by a bearded once-Communist, of abstruse verse about a burning tree standing against a bare sky, of the screening of a Gautam Ghose or a Rituparno or a Satyajit Ray, or even the poetic stylings of Didi, though most who consider that high art are now all Trinamool MPs. Away from the homeland, in imperialistic capitalist America,  it is this culture that the Bengali immigrant misses the most. Of course they go back sometimes to this mythical “Bongoland” , for a month or so, but the entire time is taken up by going to State Bank of India renewing lockers, or fighting with real estate brokers and cousins out to grab you off your ancestral house, or  visiting homes of relatives you increasingly care less for, leaving precious little  for a concert or a play or a Charminar or an evening discussing the difference between Derrida, Neruda, Prabir-da and Florida.

The North American Bengali Conference, henceforth referred to as NABC understands this. Which is why every year they bring to the North American Bengalis a veritable cornucopia of culture, flying in top artists from the homeland, both Bengal and Bangladesh, for a carnival of color, chilli chicken and chaa.

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