Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sharing: “OCCUPY” NATESAN PARK


Natesan Park, Chinmaya Nagar, Chennai

Well, all of you must be aware of the protests that are happening around the world – all against corruption. The movements are generally termed “Occupy” movements beginning with Occupy Wall Street. I also need to mention here that they have all been a roaring success with the changing levels of energy on the advent of the Aquarian Age aka Golden Age.

My sister Lakshmi and I did our bit for the movement that I would like to call “Occupy” Natesan Park. This is a park that is right across my parents’ home in Chinmaya Nagar.

During my recent visit to Chennai, I got in touch with my friend Jayashree after 15-16 years and could not wait to go meet her at Adyar. Transport in Chennai is terribly expensive, auto-rickshaws fleecing customers. Since I had a long way to travel from Chinmaya Nagar to Adyar, I arranged for a metered cab from Friends Cabs.

My friend Jayashree and me
The taxi service is quite friendly going by their name. I got a call from the cab driver and went out to find a Tavera waiting for me. I told the guy that I was just one person travelling and how come they had sent me such a big vehicle. He told me that he had been in the vicinity and that’s why had been sent but the charges were the same.

He asked me whether I wanted AC and when I said, “No”, he switched the meter on to Rs. 120. I asked him if that was the minimum rate and he said, “Yes”. Not having been to Chennai in the past 9 months, I thought that must be it and did not say anything further. When I got off at Adyar, the meter showed Rs. 234. I paid the cash and insisted on a bill (I usually don’t bother) and the driver gave it to me very reluctantly (or so it seemed to me then).

In the evening, I booked another cab for my return and by now knowing what was required, I told Friends Cabs that I needed a non-AC cab for one person. A cabbie promptly got an Indica for my return journey.

He switched on the meter and it showed Rs. 100. I was surprised and asked him about the rate. He told me that that was the rate for a single person travelling non-AC. I told him about my morning ride and he said that that was probably because a Tavera was a big cab. I could not relate to the logic as it was only me travelling and I had not asked for a big cab. As the driver had no answer, I called the cab service.

No one was interested in listening to me. I called six times and they kept transferring me to the Complaints Department with no on answering my call. On my sixth call, I insisted on explaining my problem and one lady (Viji was her name, she said) said that maybe I could pay Rs. 20 less on my return journey. I felt that it was not fair as the meter keeps registering a different rate when it starts at Rs. 120. I had probably paid Rs. 50 more than what should have been charged me. When I told her that, she told me to talk to Complaints. I stopped her from transferring me and said, “No one is picking there. Get them to call me. I have called you 6 times from my Mumbai cell number. This is not fair to me at all. If I don’t get a call within half-an-hour when I get off, I will pay Rs. 50 less to this cabbie.” She told me that she will get Complaints to call me and disconnected.

The Indica driver had a lot of advice to give me. He even told me to call the earlier cab driver. I was clear that I had hired a cab from Friends Cabs and not picked one off the road. I was only going to talk to the company.

I am sure you guessed right that no one bothered to call me. I picked Lakshmi from her office on my way home and we got off at the Chinmaya Nagar Market. The meter showed Rs. 250 and true to my word, I paid the cabbie Rs. 200 and got off. He was so angry and he started shouting. I told him that I was ready to sign on the copy of the bill and say that I had paid Rs. 50 less in protest. I thought that was very fair and will make sure that he will not land in trouble. There was no way that I was going to part with Rs. 50. I refused to be cheated. Lakshmi was in full support.

We left and went into a restaurant to have a snack. That’s when the calls started coming - from Friends Cabs and from the Indica driver. Each of them must have called me half-a-dozen times. While the interruptions were irritating, a morbid side of me was enjoying them. When I had called, no one had bothered, but when I refused to pay up, they were calling me again and again. They even advised me to go to their head office at Mohappair which would have probably cost me another Rs. 250.

To continue with my story, Lakshmi and I went around the market purchasing a number of things and went down Natesan Nagar 3rd Main Road to reach our parents’ house. Lo and behold! The cabbie of the Indica was standing right in the middle of the street awaiting us. He walked along harassing us, shouting, threatening and cajoling us in turn to pay up the money. He insisted that he would be in trouble when we repeatedly told him that I didn’t mind signing on the bill mentioning the amount paid, but he was adamant. I told him that we could go to the police and he immediately started moving fast towards the police station outside Natesan Park.

The police station outside the park where we sought help

Lakshmi and I were a bit worried as our parents are quite old and stay by themselves directly across the Park. We did not want the cabbie to find the house to have him harassing them. We walked with him to the police station and waited patiently while he complained to the three Police Inspectors standing outside, obviously preparing to leave as they were not wearing their uniforms. Once he was done, I spoke my side. I explained how I was from outside Chennai and what had happened since the minute I had got into the Tavera in the afternoon.

I also mentioned that I had no intention of paying up the Rs. 50 and I did not want to be cheated. The policemen agreed with me completely and tried to persuade the cabbie to agree. But he went on arguing. I said that I was keen to meet the police mainly to ensure that my parents were not harassed after I left town after a couple of days. The policemen said, “Not to worry Ma’m, we are right here. No one will dare harass your parents. It is our job to protect them.” I felt quite relieved and happy and my faith was restored in the police force. God bless them!

The cabbie called up his office yet again and the police officer spoke to them and told them to get off the case and said that it was only fair that I refused to pay up the extra cash that I had been cheated out off earlier. Not having a choice, the cabbie left to do his work. The sad thing was that he probably missed another fare that could have earned him some more money. But then, that’s the mentality of most of the people driving transport around Chennai - very short-term thinking.

Lakshmi and I left for home after thanking the policemen and felt very satisfied with our mission – OCCUPY NATESAN PARK.

Picture Courtesy: Lakshmi Ranganathan (those of Natesan Park). Thank you Lak! For the pictures and your support in the Occupy venture :D


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Film Review: LADIES vs RICKY BAHL




A light romance that was fun from the way go with excellent casting

Cast: Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma, Dippanita Sharma, Parineeti Chopra, Aditi Sharma
Director: Maneesh Sharma

It’s been over a week since the film’s release. We had been wondering whether to watch it or not. Last night, Venkat and I decided to go to the film at Cinemax Sion.

THE STORY: Ricky Bahl (Ranveer Singh) goes under various aliases. He has only one purpose – to con young women into parting with their cash. He does not cheat them into physical relationships or any such thing. Ricky studies his targets thoroughly before jumping into the fray. He flatters them and manages to loot them. As Sunny, he becomes Dimple’s (Parineeti Chopra) boyfriend, impresses her parents and loots 20 lakh. He sells a fake MF Hussain painting to Raina’s (Dipannita Sharma) company for a crore and twenty lakh. But what he had not foreseen was Raina’s aggressive nature. She sets out to get in touch with the other women he has cheated and sets up a plan. That’s when the young widow Saira (Aditi Sharma) joins the group. She had been cheated of 10 lakh rupees by Iqbal, another alias of Ricky. Raina, Dimple and Saira get together and hire Ishika Desai (Anushka Sharma) to con Ricky Bahl ala Not-a-Penny-More-Not-a-Penny-Less-style. Watch the film to see how far they succeed.

MY PERCEPTION: The film ran for approximately two hours and was well scripted, directed and edited. The only fault I could find there was the songs that keep cropping up mid-way. But I suppose one has to learn to live with them in Bollywood.

Dipannita Sharma has come a very long way since December 16. She has quite a chunky role in this film and she has performed quite well. With her height, I would presume that Dipannita must be a model. But she has terrible dress sense. The first few scenes were good. Later, at Goa, she was dressed horribly in every single scene.

Aditi Sharma as Saira was excellent. She probably will never make a heroine, but she looked very cute and acted very well.

Of these three women, the first prize goes to Parineeti Chopra as Dimple Chaddha. She was just too good as an irritating Punjabi, rich, spoilt brat. She acted extremely well and her dialogue delivery was just perfect.

Anushka Sharma looked gorgeous and acted very well too. Her on-screen chemistry with Ranveer Singh was superb. Her eyes are too expressive and her dressing sense gets better and better. Keep up the great work, Anushka!

Ranveer Singh was very good in his first film, Band Baaja Baaraat. In this, he is even more polished. He has walked through his role casually and done a fabulous job. Kudos!

I congratulate Yash Raj Films for bringing forth yet another light romance with excellent casting that I thoroughly enjoyed!

VERDICT: You should watch it if you are a fan of Ranveer Singh or Anushka Sharma and especially if you are fond of romances. A light movie!

RATING: *** Smart

* Silly
** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Friday, December 9, 2011

Spirituality: DESIGN YOUR GOD


Picture Courtesy: http://allhindugodgoddess.blogspot.com

What is God?


God is a Being that I perceive as the Creator of ALL THAT IS. I am sure you are all able to relate to that. God has many qualities, or rather, God has all the qualities. But what is the kind of God that you want in your life?

Sri Bhagavan
Is it possible for us to decide the qualities of Our God? Yes, says Sri Bhagavan of Oneness University. We can design our God, just the way we want. God becomes what we believe Him/Her to be. That will become our truth.

I remember when I was a child, I was told by the elders in my house that God will punish wrongs, He sits in judgment, if I don’t finish my meal and waste it, God will make me a beggar in my next incarnation, etc., etc., etc. – Sounds familiar?

Well, most of us who belong to the Hindu religion must have undergone similar experiences. As I grew up, I began to question this. My Grandma used to say that if I do something that is perceived as wrong, “Pillaiyar vandhu kanna kuthuvaar” was what she told us kids. That means that “Lord Ganpati will poke my eye if I do this wrong”. I realized that I could not utter this to my children. I felt that they should not be instilled with fear as they grew up. That’s when I questioned all that I learned while young. I could not stop my elders from telling me all that. But I realized that I never wanted to utter these words to my kids. Did that mean that my elders were wrong?

Well, after going to the courses at Oneness University, I learned a lot of things. I realized that people perceived things differently. My family belonged to the lower middle class and my Grandma did not want anything wasted, especially food. The only way she could make us toe the line was telling us that God will punish. She had been brought up with the knowledge that whoever does wrong will suffer in hell and she applied that to all aspects of her life and ours to some extent.

We have always been told that God will punish. He is judgmental, one cannot laugh in a temple as that’s a sign of irreverence – so on and so forth. I am sure each one of my readers can add a point to this list. Well, why is laughing irreverent? Is humour not God’s creation? He is the one who has created laughter. So why not laugh with Him? Do you see the misconceptions that we have built over time?

What I learned at Oneness University was that God is ‘Bhaktha Paradina”. He becomes what the Bhaktha wants Him to become. It was so fascinating. I loved the concept and had to immediately apply it in my life. I do till this day, designing my Bhagavan with all the qualities I would love a Supreme Friend to have and I have never looked back.

God to me is: 

1. SUPREME LOVE – There is no love beyond that. My God loves me absolutely and I am the most important being in His life.
2. SUPREME INTELLIGENCE – As My God is supreme intelligence personified, he showers me with that intelligence and develops my instinct.
3. OMNIPOTENT – My God is ‘all powerful’. There is nothing that He cannot do and He will not leave any stone unturned to make my life happy.
4. OMNISCIENT – My God is ‘all knowing’. He knows everything there is to know and he uses all this knowledge for my highest good.
5. OMNIPRESENT – My God is ‘present everywhere’. I first invited him to live in my home, then my heart. Later, I requested My God to live within me, without me, above me, below me, on my left, on my right, in front of me, behind me, around me, in my blood stream, in my heart, in my brain, in every cell, every atom of my body. I BELIEVE that God resides within and without me all the time. Just think – is it possible for anyone to fall sick under those circumstances? I never do. Is it possible to feel fear? I don’t.
6. UNCONDITIONAL LOVE – The love My God has for me is totally unconditional. He is always there for me, whatever the circumstances. He will never ever leave me alone.
7. My God protects me and my family completely, 24/7, from all that is negative. TOTAL PROTECTION under all circumstances. None of my family members has any qualms about walking out of our house at 2 or 3 am in the middle of the night or returning home late. It never matters even if we do that in any other city other than Mumbai. People tell me, “hey, that is Mumbai which is absolutely safe. But not so Chennai or Delhi.” My answer is always the same – “it does not matter which part of the world. None of us are ever alone. God is always there with us, on invitation.”
8. Whatever I do, however I behave, whether I get angry or jealous, whether I am happy and at peace or whatever, My God is there for me at all times, WITHOUT JUDGMENT.
9. I talk to God, all the time. I ask for advice, I complain, I shout, I joke, I laugh and more. No, I have not gone mad. I have made my God a REAL ENTITY. Not someone up there in the sky, who is unreachable.
10. There are loads more concepts that I come up with from time to time as the idea strikes me.

It is true that God knows everything. But as I had mentioned in another blog of mine – How to Pray – God does not interfere in our lives unless we invite him to do so. That’s the very reason, we need to Design our God.

Create your God as a Being who is powerful, strong, protective, loving, non-judgmental and more. Use your imagination and make your God your best friend or parent or teacher or whatever relationship you choose. You just need to call or as they mention at Oneness University – you just need to take that one step and God takes the rest of the 99 steps required towards you.

I have added a couple of youtube links where Sri Bhagavan explains a few things. Do check them out.

God does not test His lovers 

Sri Bhagavan explains the Presence

You are all welcome to post your queries as comments or send an email. Will answer them to the best of my ability, which is a lot, actually – it’s God given intelligence.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Film Review: THE DIRTY PICTURE




I WAS TOTALLY FLOORED BY VIDYA BALAN’S ACTING SKILLS. SIMPLY AMAZING!

Cast: Vidya Balan, Naseeruddin Shah, Emraan Hashmi, Tusshar Kapoor
Director: Milan Luthria

The film was released on December 2, 2011 (Silk Smitha’s birthday, I believe) while a lot of hype surrounding it has been doing the rounds since the last few weeks. A number of TV channels were interviewing Vidya Balan about the success of the film before we finally – Venkat, Vinitha and I – got around to seeing the film on Monday night. I, for one, was floored.

THE STORY: The story revolves around the real life story of Silk Smitha, a South Indian actor who used to do sexy item numbers and play the vamp in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films. But of course, as the makers of the film claim, it could be the story of just any item girl. I don’t have an argument to offer.

The film is set in Tamil Nadu where Reshma (Vidya Balan) lives in a village. She has always believed there is more excitement beyond the borders of the village. No amount of discouragement from her mother changes the girl’s mind. The teenager runs away from home to go live in Chennai. She undergoes a lot of difficulty, many times going without food, to go around studios looking for acting parts to play. Reshma is discovered quite by chance when she does a dance in a flick when the original dancer does not arrive on time. She goes to the theatre to find that the scene has been cut as Director Abraham (Emraan Hashmi) has removed it out of the film, as he believes it’s too dirty to be a part of his movie. Reshma is extremely disappointed. But her fortunes change when the movie does not run. The producer adds her dance sequence back into the film and re-releases it to full houses. He gives Reshma the screen name of Silk and there is no looking back. Watch the film to see how the Sexy Silk rules the screen over the next few years and wears her sexuality proudly. The film also goes on to show her downfall as younger stars begin to appear on the scene.

MY PERCEPTION: The film belongs to Vidya Balan, Vidya Balan, Vidya Balan. She was simply amazing as she played Sexy Silk just perfectly. I remember seeing a number of Tamil films starring Silk Smitha during my college days and later. I had liked the actress as she is one of the few who could also act while performing sexy item numbers. She used to wear her sexuality like a second skin and it sat quite well on her. Vidya Balan has captured that on screen just perfectly. Need I say more?

I have to mention here that Vidya was perfectly made up and looked absolutely beautiful. I thought she always did, only many-a-time, her make-up used to be terrible and most of the time, her clothes. Everything was just perfect in this film.

All the other actors – Naseeruddin Shah, Emraan Hashmi and the rest – well, they all complimented the heroine.

I wonder whether Tusshar Kapoor was in the film just because he is Ekta Kapoor’s brother? The film could have done as well without him.

The film sequences of the 1980s have been captured perfectly and Vidya adds life to each and every one of them. KUDOS! Looking forward to a lot more, Vidya Balan!

VERDICT: A must see, even if you are not a Vidya Balan fan. I am sure you will turn into one after watching this one.

RATING: ****Snazzy

* Silly
** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sharing: TIRUPATI BALAJI ARRIVES IN SION


The Sanctorum

December 1, 2011 saw the inauguration of the TTD (Tirumalai Tirupati Devasthanam) Temple at Sion West. A murthi of Sri Balaji has been erected in the ground floor of a building directly behind Vittal Mandir that is on the Sion-Panvel Highway. The murthi has been brought all the way from Tirupati and has been created exactly like the moolavar (main idol) at Tirupati Mandir.


Venkat had read the news in the papers that TTD was opening a branch near Sion Circle on December 1. He went looking for the office yesterday and discovered this temple.

The crowd entering the temple immediately after aarti
I was absolutely thrilled when Venkat came home yesterday to tell me that TTD has established a temple of Sri Balaji at Sion.

Garudan directly opposite The Lord
Today, both of us went there for Sri Balaji’s Darshan. I am so happy that the Lord has come down to live in our area and will be accessible so easily.

Another view from outside
They have an office where one can book e-Dharshan to visit the original Venkateswara at Tirupati. Booking needs to be done from 3 to 6 days in advance, depending on the crowd at that point in time.

Lord Venkateswara & Padmavathi Thayar at my nephew's wedding
I don’t know when I am going to get a chance to go to Tirupati. In the meanwhile, this temple is absolutely gorgeous and thankfully the temple will not be too crowded and I can visit as often as I please.

A picture of Lord Balaji at Vasanth Bhavan, a restaurant at Chennai
While they told me that I could not take pictures, I had already clicked a few. Thank you, Lord Venkateswara, for those clicks.

Temple Timings:

Aarti – 6 am to 6.15 am (curtain closed)
Darshan – 6.15 am to 11.30 am
(The temple remains closed from 11.30 am to 4 pm)
Darshan – 4 pm to 6 pm
Aarti & Prasad – 6 pm to 6.30 pm (curtain closed)
Darshan – 6.30 pm to 9 pm

The Address:

TTD Information Centre,
E-Seva and Prayer Hall,
No. 67, Jayant House,
Behind Vittal Mandir,
Near Sion Circle,
Sion (West),
Mumbai – 400022
Phone no.: 022-24011144

Timings for Booking Darshan at Tirupati