Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Young and the Pretentious

"I don't want to be a product of my environment."                           
                                                        Frank Costello, The Departed. 

Fortunately, he isn't the only one who feels that way. We all do what we do to satisfy our giant EGOs. It's true. You may occasionally spot the one selfless man who seems to have no ego whatsoever. One who gets along with everyone around him. One who doesn't take anything to heart. It's possible but that only means he makes a conscious effort to keep his ego to himself. Did I burst a bubble there?

I was once told making a sacrifice for a friend is the highest honour you can bestow upon him. I was told a sacrifice is an act of great selflessness. But it's hard to take that seriously. It has never been about the other person. It has always and will always be - about us. It's human nature to take every situation around us and see what we gain from it. Which is why I find it particularly difficult to take the word "selfless" seriously.

Here's an example. I walk in to an ice cream parlour. I want Belgian Dark Chocolate and I want it badly. I walk over to the counter and say - " Belgian Dark Chocolate. One scoop please". Almost miraculously a six year old boy standing next to me says - "Uncle, Belgian Dark Chocolate" - at the exact same time. I look over the counter to check and realize there's only enough Belgian Dark Chocolate for one of us. In case you're wondering, this isn't a Hugh Grant movie. I could of course talk the ice cream guy in to giving it to me but I choose to step aside. He's a kid after all, it would mean a lot to him.

Now, this never really happened. If it did, I would probably run away with the Dark Chocolate, but that's not the point. Such a sacrifice may be misconstrued as selflessness. But I being the Grinch, am here to prove to you that you would be wrong to assume so. I merely traded the pleasure of devouring quality ice cream with the pleasure of the knowledge that all those around me perceive me as a selfless being. In all probability I did it because there was a cute girl in the background. I did it because people thinking I'm selfless gives my ego a boost.

We all have an idea of the person we would like to be. We also have an ever-changing idea of who we want people to see when they look at us. Those two identities are never identical.

We take cues from several sources. But I'd like to believe nothing influences us more than the performance arts. Movies, T.V shows, music are all major factors that contribute to our everyday hypocrisy. We try ever so hard to take after our matinee idols. From hairstyles to mannerisms, entertainment icons define the people that follow them. Consider the following.

[This being exam season, I'm going to present my views in bullet-point format.]

The Impact of entertainment on the youth of our nation.

How the ladies have lost their minds

  • The Wedding Planner: I have lost count of the number of movies and T.V shows featuring a crazy female bridezilla who since she was six years old has been dreaming of having a fairy tale wedding. The wedding is all about her. She has to morph in to a walking talking house of crazy in the days leading to the wedding. Maybe that is how woman grow up in some countries. But is that the norm in India? I see pretentious girls all over the place. Fake accents and what not. I'm sorry but if an Indian girl talks to me about how she has always dreamed of a perfect wedding where she reads her own vows I will smack her over the head and hold a cup of coffee under her nostrils. Exchange vows? When have you ever seen that happening? If you're a Christian then that's perfectly acceptable. But otherwise it makes you a douche. And no, in our country it's never about the bride. Every wedding in India is about the bride's parents. The spotlight is on the parents. How much they've spent and so on.
  • I could talk about how girls scream "Jesus" or Jesus Christ" out loud instead of the usual "oh my god" but that may be offensive to those who truly believe he's listening. I could also insert a smiley here but that would be insensitive.
  • Twilight: Avanti, a friend of mine admitted she finds Twilight lame and only watches the film and squeals with her friends so she's not an outcast! She'll regret ever letting me in on that secret and how?! Twilight is ridiculous. But effective marketing has ensured every girl claims she "OMG loves Twilight" on account of her being a girl. Boys are no different but more on that later.
  • First kiss tells you everything: First of all, no it doesn't. Believe me. Secondly - How do you know? Is it because Will Smith said so in Hitch, or did you get that from F.R.I.E.N.D.S? What happened to following your instinct? 
How the men have lost their minds

  • The "Bro" Conundrum: Also known as "the babe anomaly" in some cases. Just stop it I say!! Saying "bhai" and "mamu" were fly in the not so distant past. But now everyone refers to the next guy as his "bro". It's just not right. Come on!
  • Gangsta signs: To be honest, most people all around the world abuse the sacred gangsta signs. 9 out 10 people at every party decide it's time for them to get their "ghetto on" and start flashing random gangsta signs. Word of advice: Splitting your fingers in to any ratio you please does not constitute a gangsta sign! And no, you don't have to do this - \m/ - for every photograph you're in.
  • Action movies: Ok so some of them are actually good. But then you come across embarrassing ones like the fourth Fast and the Furious movie, The Revenge of the Fallen. It's pathetic that you're almost compelled to watch it on account of you being a guy! Any person with even a semblance of human intelligence will find the aforementioned movies senseless and quite frankly an insult to his intelligence. In Fast and Furious, good  guys and bad guys ( way sophisticated, I know) chase each other across open plains in plain sight for 20 minutes. Those open plains just so happen to be a part of the L.O.C between USA and Mexico! No border security forces though. Don't you worry! And Revenge of the Fallen - ghetto transformers? Really? Skids and Mudflap talk with ghetto accents and what's more - they can't read! Come on Michael Bay, you disgraceful loser of a James Cameron wannabe.
  • Yo: Just don't use that word or any of its many forms. I beg of you. Worst of all, don't fake an accent and say "yao". Last time I checked, "yao" only meant a reference to an insanely tall Chinese man who could beat the living daylights out of all of us!
  • Married men taking home flowers: If you belong to an older generation and got married before the 90's do yourself a favour and stop taking home roses for your wife. That's not how it works. Sure she might find them pretty but most women from those generations have an old saying the live by - "Jasmine in hair better than rose in hand".    

I could list out several points in addition with respect to both genders but I think I've made my point. If you're conscience tells you you're being pretentious, listen to it! Give your ego some time to breathe. Come on now, you owe it to society. Ego is important. Sure. It pushes the boundaries. Makes you do things you wouldn't dare to. But you're wasting precious ego points by aping cultures you know very little about. No matter how hard you try you will always remain a true Indian at heart.

Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.

                                                                                                                       - Tyler Durden, Fight Club.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Seven Deadly Sins Pt 1 - Greed

No one can eat just one. Simple. Brilliant. For one who has always been an admirer of genius marketing campaign slogans, this one in particular stood out the year it was coined. Coupled with a catchy jingle that's a blink and a miss, this slogan for Lays potato chips caught the fancy of millions across the nation. It's appeal lies in its simplicity.

Whether or not we choose to acknowledge it, fact is we all hate sharing good food. Add greed to selfishness and you've got a knock out marketing strategy. It's as simple as that. Greed and Gluttony go hand in hand, add a catchy jingle to that and you have the holy trinity of food ad campaigns. But why do we need to pay attention to a simple advertisement? Because it's one in a long list of commodities sold by targeting the greedy child in you. Don't take my word for it. Think about it.

Take shoes for instance. You apparently don't need just the one pair, you need a separate pair to run, a pair to walk, a pair to work, a pair for yoga and so on. Don't even get me started on footwear for women. Shoes to match your eyes, shoes to match your top, shoes to match that cute kitten you chanced upon on an exotic holiday! Just one example. And if that didn't make an impression here's everyone's favourite - Greek Mythology.

King Midas was the ruler of Pessinus. He found Silenus  and returned him to Bacchus. You don't need to know who they are. Long story short, Bacchus asked him to wish for anything, Midas asked for the power to turn anything to gold upon touching it.

So here you have a prosperous monarch, with all the wealth in the world who wants to turn everything around him to gold. Just as a child who always dreams of a room full of candy. Predictably, his food and drinks turned to gold, so too did his daughter. Yeah food, drinks and daughter in one sentence, I'm insensitive, bite me!

Is greed really a sin? Isn't our greed for knowledge the reason why the human race is at the pinnacle of the evolution chart? One may sugar coat it and call it thirst for knowledge but it is what it is - greed. It's greed that helped man invent the wheel. It's greed that pushed him to invent an engine to power his wheel. From a primitive bicycle to a Boeing jet, from a telegraph machine to a Blackberry every product that makes our lives easier to live is a direct product of our insatiable desire for more.

Take technology for instance. There was a time when we were content with cassette players or walkmans as they were called. Then came Discmans and before people figured them out - hello MP3! But a simple MP3 player wasn't going to be enough. Of course not. We needed a click wheel. We needed a screen.

"Alright, the iPod it is then. "

"Oh no wait, it's too bulky.

"Fine, you may have the iPod Nano but that's it. "

"No, too many buttons."

"Ok the iTouch."

"But I can't make calls"

"You ungrateful BI***....iPhone should do the trick."

"No Bluetooth?"

"New iPhone."

"But it's not as functional as my PC."

"Stick to your PC then. "

"What if I'm on the move."

"Mac Book. "

"Too many buttons."

"Fine.....only cause you said please.."

"But I didn't..."

"Just go with the flow ok? Here's the iPad!"

"But it's too big....and I can't make calls..."


So we're all as greedy as God apparently felt we would be. We're all sinners and are all destined for hell. Where's the moral you ask? Come on you greedy prick, how much do you want from a simple essay? And as a parting thought....does hell have an Imax screen? Avatar's just not the same without one!
Footnote: The Indian batting lineup after Bhajji's heroics!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Filled with regret

Regret seemed to be the underlying theme of Inception. Here's why:
First the obvious. Dom Cobb is filled with regret at having lead his wife in to limbo. He kept pushing them deeper and deeper in to their dreams and eventually lost track. He blames himself for her eventual demise. This makes the following ironic: The music they chose to play in the background as a count down timer to a "kick" is an Edith Piaf composition called "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien". That's French for "I have no regrets" or so the internet tells me.

Trivia: The incredibly gorgeous Marion Cotillard who plays Mal in Inception took home an Academy Award for Best Actress for portraying Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose.

Also, a second viewing of Inception will tell you that this line is repeated thrice in the movie: "An old man, filled with regret. Waiting to die alone." Saito taunts Cobb at the helipad when Cobb refuses to take up a mission involving the performance of Inception. He asks him if he'd be ok with someday being an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone. The second time is in the first level dream when Saito is on the floor with a bullet wound. Cobb tries telling him he'll be alright.

Cobb: You’re gonna become an old man
Saito: Filled with regret
Cobb:(returns the favour) Waiting to die alone!

The third time however, makes the story come full circle. Cobb finds a very old Saito in limbo in a scene of immense poignance.

Saito: I’m an old man
Cobb: Filled with regret. (And then the significance of these words dawns on him)
Cobb: Waiting to die alone.

Also, "take a leap of faith" is repeated thrice. Saito asks Cobb to take a leap of faith when asked how Cobb could trust him with his word. Mal asks Cobb to take a rather different "leap" of faith the night she dies. And again, full circle syndrome strikes home in limbo when Cobb asks Saito to take a leap of faith and return with him to the real world.

Cobb does grow old, in limbo. But it's he who waits while Mal dies alone, in the real world.

I believe the crux of this story is the tale of how Cobb overcomes regret and is finally freed of his demons so he can return home to his children. He could have chosen to stay back in limbo the second time around. But he knew that wasn't Mal he was with, he knew it was only a feeble shadow reconstructed from memory.

He chose the real world. He chose to move on. He chose to leave regret behind. In Limbo.

Footnote: None this time, this is hardly a full blog post.

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