Sunday, November 27, 2011

How times have changed since 26/11

“Kal raat Mumbai ke Taj Hotel mein terrorist attack hua”

“Aur CST aur Oberoi Hotel mein bhi”

I was sitting in my school bus staring out of the window while going to Kalu Sarai for my coaching class, when I heard these words from my seniors. This was on the afternoon of Thursday, November 27, 2008. The next four hours passed without any discussion regarding the topic until I was in the bus again, returning to hostel. And now I knew this was something serious.

Getting down from the bus at 9 PM and rushing to the dining hall to serve our PCM/B-fed (read Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics/Biology- we were all IIT/AIIMS aspirants after all!) starved stomaches some delicious food (We were then told that DPS VK Hostel’s food was incomparable to any other hostel in the country. Now I do not doubt this! I actually gained weight there!) would have been considered normal on any other day.

But this day was different. The entire boys’ hostel was headed to the rec room (that’s what we termed the ‘Recreation Room’). The TV was switched on. The channels were flipped. 9XM and V were given a miss today. The surfing didn’t even stop on ESPN for Sports Centre. For a change, we, the boys, flipped over to the news channels! Yes, the many news channels! We were part of the millions across the country watching a LIVE terror attack! Switching through all the news channels some showed how the entire attack had begun the previous night through animations, names about to be immortalised including that of Hemant Karkare were flashing on the screen, and the world was watching.

The guard (I don’t remember if it was Rana bhaiya or Kirkitta bhaiya that day) came in and called us to have our dinner first, but we were hardly bothered for food at that time. We contacted our warden and got an extension till 11 PM to be in the rec (which was otherwise only seen during India’s cricket matches or when ManU and Chelsea were on for the last goals) and watched as CRPF personnel reached the Taj which was already on fire.

I have no idea what the scenario was at the adjoining girls’ hostel’s rec room that day. It must be something similar. The biggest event of the day was however on the boys’ side: Yes, we the boys were actually watching news, without any worry for the upcoming CPT (Common Practice Test) or Phase Test! Aim IIT and PMT were completely forgotten for some moments!

Kasab was not known to Indians then. Neither was this known that he would be caught alive and given the best of world-class services by the Indian government. Nobody then gave it a thought that he would still be alive three years from what was going to be termed as 26/11- the biggest terror attack that the world had seen since 9/11!

None of us was aware of the fact that a year from now, DPS VK would be remembering this day- 26/11- for another and a much more closer-home reason, for the loss of its founder Principal Mr Vinay Kumar. I never had any conversations with the man except one which was after I had won the CBSE Science Exhibition 2009 in October-end that year. But still, the loss was felt throughout the walls of the place that I and my friends call ‘heaven’. This had come as unexpected and that too on a completely unexpected and eventful day.

I, a Computer Engineering expectant at one of the Indian Institute of Technology, didn’t know [then] that three years from now, I would be sitting in the comforts of my home, typing this blog entry at a blog which nobody ever cared to visit [then], and would be preparing for my third semester exams for a degree in journalism and mass communication. How times have changed!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Time for some LIVE talks, on second thoughts

Hello readers and welcome to the refreshed ‘on second thoughts…’

Yeah, I know, you as my regular reader must be wondering why the above salutation and change in the way of presentation of an entry here at my blog? Well, to you and to my non-regular readers as well (some of whom are reading this probably because they were curious to know what this is about after reading the post-title or probably because they have come across this entry accidentally), I would just answer: Continue reading and find out... :D

Actually, I need to make an important announcement and so I thought a new post should be able to garner more readers and hence, learners. I am sure you have already noticed the few changes that have taken place over the past few days in the content of my blog. A toolbar has been added at the bottom of your screen and probably you have noticed some ads as well scattered around the site. Yes, I have been experimenting. And while experimenting sometimes great ideas come into the thoughts of an individual’s grey matter piled up in the cerebrum.

Time for the big announcement:
Keeping in view the increasing readership of this blog over the last months (Check the chart in the pic that Google provides me- Stats for my blog), I have decided to increase the interaction with my audience directly on this blog. Starting 18th of November 2011, you can visit my blog ‘on second thoughts’ at and chat LIVE with me every Friday from 10 PM to 11 PM regarding any recent/old posts that I have made or any topic/issue that you feel is worth discussing. Probably the Journalist-in-making in me would be able to provide you some info/views regarding some recent happenings in the world. Or probably, the Blogger in me would be able to answer your queries regarding blogging and how to attract readers (that’s what I am trying to do right now, isn’t it? [:D]). In short, this would be a platform for LIVE interaction of any visitor to my blog with me, the author and other readers present online at the same time about anything and everything.

How to go about it?

In the ‘wibiya’ toolbar that you see on the bottom of your screen whenever you open this blog, open the option to ‘Join Chat’ and login with one of the many accounts that it supports. You shall see me online every Friday from 10-11 PM, logged in with my name ‘Antarik’ (I do not guarantee that I would be offline at all other times! So, it’s worth a look at other times as well!). You can either start chatting on the public (visible to all) wall in the chat window or you can send me a private chat message if you want the contents of the chat to remain between you and me only. That’s it! Simple, isn’t it? J

Please note: In case you post any abusive/vulgar/inappropriate content in the chat forum, you shall be warned only once and on repetition of the offence, banned from the chat.

So that is it. Straight and simple put forth to my readers. Hoping to have a wonderful time interacting with you all LIVE. My fingers are crossed for 18th 10 PM. See you then! :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It All Ends- 11.11.11

The date was 11.11.11, not significant other than how it looked with the 1’s, but at 4.45 PM that afternoon, I had in my hands the last Harry Potter DVD delivered to me (from on the day of its international release, thanks to the pre-order I placed a week back. I held the DVD in my hand, looked at it and kept it aside. The reason? This was the last thing that I was looking forward to in the whole of the Harry Potter book and movie franchise and now I had it in my hands. Yeah, I was happy because I laid my hands on it on its very day of release, when hardly people across the world have bought it and seen the movie. I was one of the firsts. But, I didn’t want this to end. I just didn’t want this to end.

11.45 PM: I inserted the bonus features disk into my DVD-ROM. ‘Awesome’ was the sole word to describe the features. Somewhere somehow the feeling of ‘The End’ persisted throughout the amazing 90-minute extra content on the disk.

2 AM (12/11/11): I inserted the movie disk. Yeah, this was the last movie. I saw it on the big screen on Harry’s birthday- 31st July 2011. And I so eagerly wanted to see the movie again. Now, I saw it… I understood it…I felt it…exactly as any other die-hard Potter fan would do.

3:45 AM: The movie ended. Harry, Ron and Hermione waved their final goodbyes to their kids, to the Hogwarts Express, to Platform Nine and Three Quarters, to Hogwarts Castle, to the millions of fans worldwide and to me. The scene made my eyes moist for the second time. And I had just one thing in my mind and heart:

There is nothing to look forward to now. It all ends here.

The end-credits are on. The sorrow in Alexandre Desplat’s composition is vivid. And I am sure of one thing:

You were and will always remain one big and important part of me. It’s you, due to whom I am where I am today. I am going to miss you Harry Potter…

Also read: It all ends, when you think it does!

Monday, November 07, 2011

5-star or no-star: You be the judge!

How many times have you opened the newspaper on Fridays to check the reviews of the just-released movie? How many times have you enquired if it is a four-star rated or just a two-star one? I remember doing this when I started reading the newspaper in class 7 or 8 (although I didn’t know then that movies are generally released on Fridays only, and so, I used to search for the reviews everyday!) and so I am sure, you have done this some time or the other. But do you think these star-ratings done by newspapers which we blindly trust, are actually trustworthy? If TOI rates Ra.One as a ‘above average’ and HT gives it a ‘2-star’ rating, what do you perceive?

The much-hyped Bollywood’s costliest movie Ra.One released on Diwali day. (Well, I don’t think I need to explain what kind of reviews it has received over the last two weeks; everyone seems to be aware of that!) And going with the reviews (spread over the papers, news channels, internet etc), I seriously never gave a consideration to watching this movie on the silver screen, something which I had thought I might do after the release. My Jaipur trip followed Diwali. With my aunt’s urge to see the interiors of the popular ‘Raj Mandir’ theatre of the Pink City and my young cousin’s insistence on watching the movie, even I thought why not give this ‘flop’ movie a try?

The experience at Raj Mandir was unforgettable! Seriously! Wait, wait, wait…you got it wrong, if you thought I saw Ra.One there. No! The experience was unforgettable because we stood in the queue for a full hour and a half on the night of Thursday, 28th of October, to get tickets for the 9.30 PM show (It was no PVR or DT and so no online booking, sorry!) and then returned to our hotel without even being able to enter the theatre. Well, that was the first time I saw a real ‘HOUSEFULL’ signage at a 1,000-seater movie hall! I was in fact shocked to see the happiness and excitement in the eyes of the few ‘lucky’ ones who were able to get tickets for the show, and yes, that was what they considered themselves- lucky- not for being able to watch the movie, but for finally being able to enter Raj Mandir after days of waiting in the queue at the ticket counter! I was awestruck. Such is the fame of a single-hall theatre! Wow!

Consider it luck or pure chance, I found myself seated at the McDonalds restaurant at Basant Lok, PVR Priya complex, Vasant Vihar, today morning and enjoying the breakfast menu of McD. I was on for a realization and immediately sent a text to my family: Sitting at the same McD where I first sat 12 years ago. Yes, in October 1999, I was in Delhi and had my first visit to a McD. My toy-collection had been initiated then as an 8 year old. (And believe it or not, it is still on whenever I get a chance, although I am about to be 20 in a few weeks time! [:D])

The reason I was seated there? Haha… yes, I was waiting for my family who had got me tickets (without informing me) for PVR Priya’s 11 AM show of Ra.One. So I was finally seeing what I myself termed as a ‘pathetic’ and ‘bakwaas’ movie. Mind you, I had no facebook status updated regarding this, nor did any of my friends know about it, chiefly due to two reasons. One, I hadn’t got a chance to tell anyone. Two, I wanted to avoid the shame of actually going and watching an accepted and known ‘pathetic’ and ‘over-hyped’ film. I guess the very fact that I am dedicating a blog entry to the movie is proof enough about what I felt regarding it post-viewing. (Apart from Potter, only one movie has ever qualified to be featured on my blog, and that seems to be the toughest competitor of Ra.One right now! Any guesses which that is? Click here to know)

I have noticed that somehow I have been one who has had the liking for movies that receive a thumbs down by the majority of the masses. And that was what I was thinking, when I put the 3D glasses on in the balcony of Priya. (It wasn’t hard to notice that the four rows of seats in front me were vacant, literally!) The movie started and it wasn’t difficult to understand the intentional use of punch-lines and famously accepted SMS jokes taking the form of the written script, dialogues and screenplay. The visual effects were not hard to grasp and were a clear simulation of a video game environment (that’s what the movie is all about anyways). From the rolling of ten cars in the air at once and crumbling down of the Indian version of the Statue of Liberty (Statue of Victoria, it is!) and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station, it was awesome use of visual imagery and a full-to entertainment. That’s what hindi-movies are made for, right?

One thought while I was moving out of the hall: Never judge a book by its cover and never judge a movie by its review. Be your own judge and review movies yourself! :D

My rating: 3.5/5 (Now will you accept my review?) ;)

P.S.: Even movies like Udaan, Pyaar ka Punchnama, Khichdi, Karthik Calling Karthik, Jail and Paathshala, were liked by me unlike movies like Bodyguard, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, which actually created a stir at the box-office. What’s your take? ;)

P.S.2: I thought of taking a major step a few days back: Taking a break from blog writing, as I found my quality of writing deteriorate. By any chance, have I made a come-back through this entry? 5-star or no-star: You be the judge! :D

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

'Mother India' delivers 'Nargis', or does she?

It was sometime in June-July this year (during my internship) when the first news of the seven-billionth baby being born in India flashed on news channels. The baby who would be taking the world’s population to a total of seven billions was going to be born in Uttar Pradesh sometime in October 2011- that’s what the news said. Well, I wondered, how could anyone be so precise?

India sees the birth of 51 babies every minute- a rate which no other country matches, not even China. According to this, I guess there must be at least a 100 births taking place every minute in the whole world. Surely there is no system that records the birth of each and every child on the earth as soon as the child is born! How then the news channels were so sure that the 7-billionth Baby would be most likely born in UP (as it is the most populated state of the country)?

When I pass over the AIIMS flyover, I always take a glimpse at the counter which counts the population of India 24x7. (Any idea how that works?) Do the births actually get registered immediately and with such a constant frequency that the counter seems to be increasing at a constant pace for as long as you can see it?

Today the newspapers had a variety of front page leads, the most prominent news item being the birth of a baby girl, Nargis, in Lucknow, who was now the 7-billionth citizen of the world. My copy of The Hindu had been slid under the door and as I opened my eyes lying on the bed, I saw the headline distinctly:

We are seven billion now

I picked up the paper and saw that it was a five-column story with a large picture. Beside it was a two-column story with the picture of a baby girl (Nargis) headlined:

Birth of Nargis raises hopes &; fears for nation’s future

Well, seven out of eight columns and almost two-third of the front page being dedicated to just one thing: Nargis! Wow! This was surely big news! I went through both the stories quickly and was awed when I saw the last lines that gave the links to other related stories inside the paper:

Editorial: Seven billion and counting
Cheers fears across world: International Page
The population story in pictures: Back Page

This was BIG!! A serious newspaper like the Hindu was focussing so much on one story! This was really BIG!

Well, I wondered again: How do you know that this is the 7 billionth baby?

Later in the day I came across other newspapers. Hindustan Times had the Nargis tale as its anchor story (supposedly the softest and the least impact story of the front page) with the headline:

Nargis is India’s 7 billion symbol, or is she?

The headline intrigued me to read further. It said even demographers had no idea if the population of the world had reached the 7-billion mark but the UN had decided to celebrate 31st October 2011 as the day for the birth of the 7-billionth citizen of the world and so the world was celebrating. Well, that made a little sense. But then, my question still remained unanswered: How do you know that Nargis is the 7 billionth baby?

The Times of India surprised me. It just had a brief on the first page with a link to the Nation page for the full-story.

For the record: UP’s Nargis is world’s 7 billionth citizen

Surely HT and TOI didn’t consider this story as important as The Hindu thought it was!

Even if we accept what the UN said, how can we accept that it was Nargis and not some other child that became the 7-billion mark setter? Is it just because of a huge and powerful media in the country that is influencing the people to accept it? Do let me know what you feel.

Before I bid adieu till the next entry, take care and take care of the now 7-billion+ population of the world. I wonder till how long now, the earth would be able to take care of the mounting pressure! And lastly, Nargis! Grow up, realize your worth, and make India proud! :)
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