Friday, January 30, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire -- Will the cliches never end?

Slumdog Millionaire – Impossible Premise and Clichés Galore

I don’t usually review films, especially those I don’t like, but with all the hype around this one, I felt I had to have my say.

The plus side first – great acting by the kids, good camerawork, very good music.

On the other hand.

The basic premise that anyone close to the big win on a TV show like this would be tortured by police is truly hard to believe. Impossible to believe when it is a young man from the slums. Such a man would instantly become a “poster boy” for the programme, the sponsors and the TV station. Quite possibly he would also be wooed by various political parties! He would certainly be the celebrity of the month, if not of the year. Only someone completely out of touch with reality in India could come up with this idea.

The other basic theme has potential – it would be interesting to see how the questions on the show could relate to the life of a poor boy from the slums. But then every cliché in the book has been pulled out and chucked at the film. As one of my (non-Indian) friends pointed out, it is a story so full of clichés it could have been written by someone who has never been to India. (Amazingly, the film is based on a rather boring book written by an Indian; one really has to wonder about the author’s grip on reality.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

A directory for women bloggers

Calling all female bloggers - Here's a blog that serves as a directory for women bloggers:
I've only just joined up myself and am not sure how many women bloggers are already in the directory. But it promises to be an interesting place for women bloggers to network and check out other blogs.
So, women bloggers, come check it out.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

And Then They Came for Me

Lasantha Wickrematunge, the editor of Sri Lanka's Sunday Leader newspaper, was killed on Thursday, Jan. 8, on his way to work. Anticipating his own killing, Wickrematunge, an outspoken critic of the government, left a letter to be published in just such an event. His paper published the letter on Monday, Jan. 11:

The Government of President Mahinda Rajapakse (also written as Rajapaksa) has denied any involvement in the killing. Wickrematunge says in his letter: "When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me."

He also says: "I hope my assassination will be seen not as a defeat of freedom but an inspiration for those who survive to step up their efforts. Indeed, I hope that it will help galvanise forces that will usher in a new era of human liberty in our beloved motherland."

Amen to that. And may Lasantha Wickrematunge find peace.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Karine Doche found this picture while browsing the Internet. She is circulating this on Facebook, where she has also set up a group called “Everything is possible… Tout est possible…” Karine is not able to tell us more about the picture -- who took it, whether the photographer came upon this scene, or if the picture was “composed,” who the boys are, etc.

Would have been nice to know more, but the picture is still a great symbol of friendship, innocence, and hope for a more peaceful tomorrow.

Do your bit to make that tomorrow a reality – sign this avaaz petition calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A New Year Resolution for Our Times

A new year is usually a time of hope and optimism. We wish everyone happiness in the coming year and make resolutions for ourselves, confident that this time we really will keep them.

This year, however, we find ourselves in the midst of a financial crisis, with several countries reeling under war or civil strife, and most of the world facing the threat of terrorist attack. This dampens the enthusiasm for new year resolutions, but I’ll make one anyway, and I hope you’ll join me in it.

A Missing Link…

Looking back at 2008, I find one human quality in terribly short supply around the world: that of feeling connected to one’s fellow human beings. The war atrocities in Africa or the terrorist attacks on Mumbai can only be possible if the perpetrators do not feel a connection with their victims (and, in some situations, the same people might be both perpetrators and victims at different times). You obviously do not wound, torture or kill someone if you can empathize with them, sharing their pain as a fellow human being.

This basic fact is true even when aggression seems justified (at least to the aggressor). The Israeli government appears to believe that its attacks on Gaza are needed to keep the Israeli people safe. This is by no means certain and the logic behind this belief has been questioned by many in recent days.

Can – and should – one group of people buy security at the cost of their neighbours’ lives? The Israeli government logic is based on the fairly widespread belief that the lives of “our own people” – defined by citizenship, religious identity or anything else – are more precious than those of “others.” Military action therefore is not a matter of right and wrong; it does not stem, for example, from a desire to stand up to an evil regime or to prevent wrong-doing. It is simply a question of “us” and “them.”

Growing Tribalism

In recent years, we have seen a good deal of evidence of this rather tribal mentality of “us” and “them” – the shocking attacks of 9/11, Bush’s comment about being either “with us or against us,” umpteen media reports of casualties in Iraq that counted American but not Iraqi lives, etc.

In 2008, this trend moved to its logical conclusion – narrowing the view from “us” to “me” – and the rest of the world be damned. Top executives in global enterprises thought only of immediate profits leading to fat bonuses for themselves, with no thought for the suffering that could – and did – follow for millions around the globe. Après moi, le déluge, as Louis XV so infamously said back in the eighteenth century.

Poisoning Babies

Last year’s milk scandal in China, meanwhile, may appear to be smaller in scale than the global financial crisis if counted purely in terms of the numbers of people and economies affected. But to me it epitomizes the lack of human connectedness which is the basis of our humanity. One must surely be dead to the feelings of one’s fellow human beings before one can poison infant formula. At least six babies lost their lives as a result of the greed of entrepreneurs who mixed the industrial chemical melamine with milk and infant formula to hide the fact that they had diluted the milk (including that in infant formula) with water. An estimated 300,000 – yes, 300,000 – infants became ill, many with kidney stones and other kinds of kidney and liver damage that will lead to lingering ailments.

The Human Connection

What a depressing picture. And in all these cases, the common thread is the inability to imagine the other’s pain.

Which brings me to my resolution.

After a year so short on empathy, I turn to all of the world’s wisdom traditions to find a new year resolution that returns to the fundamentals of human existence. I resolve to live in the awareness that I am connected to all other human beings, irrespective of nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, and all the other divisions we have created in this world…

For inspiration, I turn to this quote from Sufi Master Vilayat Inayat Khan, courtesy the blog Inspirations and Creative Thoughts (

when one's consciousness is no longer tied
to a particular being
consequently one extends one's consciousness
from the cause of one's being to that of all,
all beings!