During my school days, I was fortunate to have heard many experts speak. The school management would arrange for eminent personalities to speak to the students about once in a month or so. I’m not sure if the practice still exists, but I opine it should.

We however, were more interested in playing than attending those sessions, and would find every way to escape from it. But we were forced to sit through them; I’m happy and appreciate it now.

I don’t remember all of the speeches I’ve heard, but some of them have etched themselves into my memory. I remember hearing an ornithologist speak and how he and his team managed to save a rare species of owls which were hunted down because the villagers thought they brought bad omen. I remember a social worker speaking of how important “Ahimsa” is and why we should practice it. I remember an eminent cricketer speak on how he would like to groom the future cricketing talent and urged us to join his cricket coaching camp.

I remember hearing a talk on how we remember things and little tricks on how to build a story around a series of events you wish to remember. I remember hearing a talk about superstitions and the speaker also debunked many of them giving scientific explanations. I remember hearing someone from ISRO talking about the Indian Space program and how it had succeeded in many ways. I remember a drama workshop in which we were made to sing, dance and jump around.

In many of the posts I write, the title hardly makes sense until you’ve made it half way through the article, and yes, this is one of those posts. I first heard the term body-parking in one such talk sessions during my school days. According to the person (unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, I do not remember names), body-parking means the idea that your mind wanders off elsewhere while you park your body physically where you are present. He used the term to describe students who seemed uninterested in his speech.

We are all “guilty” of body-parking some time or the other – in meetings, boring parties, during travel, or even on that occasional rainy Sunday afternoon. I say guilty because traditional thinking describes body-parking as a bad thing. You aren’t mindful; you aren’t concentrating. But I feel, body-parking is a necessary process of creativity. You have to think beyond your limits and boundaries, only then is it possible to think of something new. Writers, artists and musicians would agree with this. They usually live out of their bodies.

This reminds me of Sir Ken Robinson‘s description of university professors. He says, university professors live inside their heads all the time. They consider their bodies to be a vehicle for their brains, nothing more. In that sense, these university professors are perpetual body-parking entities. See, not a bad thing. (If you haven’t watched any of the talks by Sir Ken, you definitely have to!)

So, do you park your body often and let your mind wander?


The state of India

In the days when society is losing its moral roots, it is becoming ever so hard for the tree of civilization to survive, let alone flourish. We have become the gears in turning the society into a mechanism of greed and of crime – both however seem to have their roots in each other. Crime happens for greed and greed harbours crime.

We must beware of trying to build a society in which nobody counts for anything except a politician or an official, a society where enterprise gains no reward and thrift no privileges.

– Sir Winston Churchill

It is painful to admit that India of late, has successfully built the diseased society that Sir Winston Churchill described. Every Indian at birth comes with a price tag on his soul. It does not take much money to have someone killed. It is very easy to start a communal riot.

It is said that India has never attacked any other nation in all its history. It was perhaps because we Indians never had time to do so, as we were, and still are busy fighting each other. Truth be said, the real Indian does not exist anymore. There are only north Indians, south Indians; Bengalis, Biharis, Malayalis, Tamilians, Punjabis, Kannadigas, Gujaratis, Marathas; Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs; hundred other sub-castes under each of them; and lastly the rich and the poor. It is hard to believe that India is a single democracy. It is more like an unwilling unity between communities of people living separately under one flag. The only solace in this dysfunctional existence is that it beats the alternative. If India were actually broken down into separate countries, we would have fought and killed each other long ago.

The world sees India as the land of the intellectuals, the software hub of the world and the “yoga-land”. That’s all true, however there is a magnanimous skew in the ratio of such people who are contributing to the progress of the country to persons who leech off the loop holes in the system, the worst possible way. There is a way around every law in this country. Got caught over-speeding? Want to avoid the ticket? Cost Rs. 100 (~$2); Free, if you are the son of the brother of the barber of some minister. That’s how far and deep corruption has engulfed us. Many of our ministers and bureaucrats have criminal investigations pending against them – such are the people who are running this country. Rapists and murderers are released without so much as a slap on the wrist; and justice in many cases is an eluding illusion. Celebrities and cricketers are worshiped (literally) as Gods while soldiers who fought for the country are abandoned. Our women are not safe – female infanticide, rape, eve-teasing, molestation, dowry-related violence, domestic violence – have plugged them into a shell of insecurity.

India Corruption

When security (Police), well-being (Housing, Health, Water, Electricity) and literacy (Education) departments in a country are among the top corrupted, there’s very little to say about what remains. We Indians suffer from the disease of complacent indifference towards all these social vices. And unless there is an intellectual and social revolution, the situation will not improve.

How the “Bechdel Test” is going to spoil every movie for me


Have you heard of the Bechdel Test? Read no further if you wish to enjoy your movies or books (stories) anymore. Why? Well, because of this peculiar rule, I’ll now have a mental checklist every time I watch a movie! The Bechdel Test is described as follows:

The Bechdel Test, credited to Liz Wallace, was introduced in Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. In a 1985 strip titled “The Rule,” an unnamed female character says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements: (1) It has to have at least two women in it, (2) who talk to each other, (3) about something besides a man.

This blog post introduced me to this topic and opines that the above rule exists as a litmus test for Hollywood directors to check how much they cared for their female characters. I’m somewhat bothered by this. No offense to women but isn’t this somehow destroying the experience of a movie to every one? If a story does not permit having two women, will a director or story writer be forced to introduce unwanted characters for the sake of satisfying this rule?

That said, let’s break down the rule. Firstly, it says, the story must have two women in it. That isn’t asking much considering not many stories (or movies) exist without two women. (An extension of this idea is that both these women must be named characters – that is, it cannot be a random cleaning woman who would just appear on the screen). Secondly, these named characters must share a dialogue. This is where it gets a little tricky. You have your two women, right; now why should they be forced to speak to each other? Finally, this is where it gets confusing – now that they are talking, they should not talk about men?

I remember a story that I had read in my school days – Dusk by Saki (H H Munro). It has no female characters. But a great short story nevertheless. (Read it online) My story – The Cold Rain – also fails the test. Although it has two named female characters, there is no dialogue between them.

The only sane explanation that could have an “irritated woman” come up with this rule for herself, and by extension to every other person who feels the same way is that, in the 80’s there were an exceeding number of movies that ‘used’ women in unimportant roles and all male characters drove the story. Was it the case? I do not know. I haven’t watched many movies from the 80’s.

The question is, how relevant is this test in today’s cinema? Of course, Hollywood and Bollywood, the world’s two most money-raking franchises are male-dominated, with actors being heavily overpaid than actresses. In fact, the 2012’s list of 10 richest celebrities do not feature an actress at all.

On a lighter note, here’s the list of IMDb’s top 10 movies and whether they pass this test: **

Rank Rating Title Pass
1. 9.2 The Shawshank Redemption (1994) No
2. 9.2 The Godfather (1972) No
3. 9.0 The Godfather: Part II (1974) No
4. 8.9 Pulp Fiction (1994) Yes
5. 8.9 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) No*
6. 8.9 12 Angry Men (1957) No*
7. 8.9 Schindler’s List (1993) Yes
8. 8.8 The Dark Knight (2008) No
9. 8.8 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) No
10. 8.8 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) No*

Notes: ** Tabulated from memory; may not be completely accurate. * Tabulated from sources; again, accuracy questionable. If you know of variations from the above, please leave a comment, I’ll fix it.


Of ideas and drafts!

Not long ago, I used to become angry that I did not document an idea when I got one, and many times, I’d forget it entirely. To overcome this, I started creating draft posts on my blog and save for completing them later. This went on well, only for me to realize that the “later” has never arrived for many posts that are pending for over a year! A visit to my drafts page(s) shows a stack of posts with either only titles or half-written content.

Is this the (in)famous writer’s block? If it really is so, I’d be gloating because I’m not much of a writer anyway! 😀

According to Wikipedia, a writer’s block occurs because of:

  • lack of creative ideas – Does not really hold true for me because I have no dearth of ideas.
  • lack of inspiration – Hmm.. Not really, I do visit my blog very often to reply to comments, visit other people’s blogs that I follow. So, I’ve not lost interest as such.
  • stress, illness, depression, etc. – No, none really.

So, (un)fortunately, I don’t think I’m suffering from a writer’s block, just procrastination. 🙂 Well, simply put, it’s time to clean up my dusty draft-shelf with dedicated blog time.

The meaning of my name!

I was told this by one of my Sanskrit teachers back in school.

The word ‘Manoj’ is a ‘samaasa‘ (compound word) in Sanskrit. (To be specific, it is Avayeebhaava samaasa).
It derives from the explanation: ‘manasi jaatah iti Manojah‘, meaning “he is born in the mind, hence he is ‘Manoj’”. When expanded:
Manasi = in the mind
jaatah = born
iti = therefore/that’s why/hence
Manojah = he is Manoj

It is used often as a reference to Kaamdev (the God of Love, in Hindu mythology, who was burned to ashes by Lord Shiva’s third eye). It is said that Lord Kaama was born in the mind (of Lord Brahma, the creator).

Thanks to this post that reminded me of it. 🙂