Selfie please,…

Dear Universe, I know you have many troubles to address but can you please add the abolishment of the “Selfie” to your agenda...” – tweeted Karan Johar, usually not renowned for spilling profound gems of wisdom even when he is drunk. Being a popular film maker in Bollywood and a celebrity one in that, I can fathom where he is coming from. Like the other day, at the airport while waiting at the departure gate one suddenly saw a rush of people crowding around a person. I heard later that he was a popular small screen actor who also featured in couple of movies as one of the sidekicks. He sat down on the steps and was graciously acceding to requests from his fans for a “Selfie please” and soon a “Selfie pandemonium” ensued. Now if this is the scene for a relatively obscure TV star, one can imagine what would be the situation with Karan Johar and his many A-star friends!!!

From the time, mobile phones with front cameras came into existence few years ago, the Selfie has become a global obsession. Ofcourse the word “Selfie” had not entered the day-today vocabulary until Oxford Dictionary officially recognised the power of this new vogue. But today I guess, a day seldom passes in the world for the young without posing for a Selfie. Every day web crawlers must be stumbling upon millions of Selfies of all types being uploaded by netizen all over the world. You just need to google “Bizarre Selfies” to see how this Selfie obsession has reached bizarre heights. Recently I saw somebody posting a Selfie from the temple Sabarimala with a caption “Selfie Saranam” 🙂 :). It won’t be too long before people posting Selfies after returning from funeral service with you can imagine what 😟. I am sure Singapore zoo would be contemplating to replace its signature “Breakfast with Orangutan” with “Selfie with Orangutan” to keep tourists more excited :).  In all places of tourist interest across the globe, “Photo stops” will soon be replaced by “Selfie Pit Stops” where visitors can take their own pictures with the scenic spot in the background. Move over Group photos, “Groupselfies” are here!!!

I say global obsession because the bug didn’t catch just the common you and me but even the celebrities. The number of times the “Oscar Selfie” got retweeted is a new question in Kaun Banega Crorepati. More than the Oscars, the Oscar Selfie got talked about this time!!! That it was a smart advertising plug for a newly launched Samsung smart phone was not known to the naive.

The Oscar Selfie

The Oscar Selfie

From then on, no event gets over without the now customary Selfie. This is true for serious events like the U.N General Assembly or the SAARC summit,.. So you now have to contend with the UNGA Selfie, SAARC Selfie,… And ofcourse with the Selfie jokes which invariably follow. Remember the joke regarding the “Obama Selfie” with the Danish Prime Minister at the Nelson Mandela service which went viral. It was said that the “Selfie diplomacy” started “Cold War” at home 😜 😜

obama selfie

Not to forget the very recent ‘Selfie Joke” involving Bill Clinton who was caught on a Selfie Camera ogling at something. Old man is still naughty 😍 😍

Our own Narendra Modi is now a staple part of many Selfie anecdotes. I am told that Obama is making this trip to India in Jan mainly to take a Selfie with our PM as he missed to take one when Modi was in the US 😃 😃. Modi’s Selfie after casting his vote during the elections stirred up a hornet’s nest for breaching propriety. And more recently his Diwali Milan event with the editors and press corps ended up being a “Selfie Milan” where top editors of the country were seen rubbing shoulders literally with the PM for a Selfie. In press conferences in the past we usually saw editors asking tough questions to leaders. However these days where journalistic calibre is measured by level of access rather than other skills, a reporter’s calling card is probably the volume of Selfies with many politicians in his resume.

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Talking of access and calling cards, all along it was only road side astrologers and soothsayers who use to flaunt pictures of them with celebrity actors, singers, politicians,… to build their credibility. Mostly these pictures would be taken without the knowledge of the celebrities, with the concerned gentleman just slipping himself in within the frame and later helped by some photoshopping. Now I guess it’s the Selfie routine which is used for marketing self.

While to some extent the Selfie obsession when clicked with others is understandable what is not is the Selfie of just the self. I’m sure this “Selfie Syndrome” will find its way into the list of medical disorders soon (if not already). Invariably in a Selfie a normal person ends up looking scary with eyes popping out and also puffed up. Inspite of this, to keep clicking Selfies in Close-ups and posting in public domain certainly falls under Narcissistic personality disorder!!! And blame it on the social media to fuel this condition.

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With the Selfie Syndrome or Obsession gaining ground rapidly, its’ only natural that marketers jump into the bandwagon and milk it. So we now have a “Selfie Stick” which can be attached to phones and cameras to click more photogenic Selfies from a distance and not necessarily from Arm’s length!!! And Selfie Sticks with Bluetooth!!! Timer Apps!!! So there you go – a slew of products around this latest fixation.

And as I write this, there is more evidence springing everyday of the booming “Selfie Economy”!!!

“Now get a Selfie in space for Rs 50000” – it seems!!! Read here.

“The Selfie effect?? Cosmetic procedures rise manifold” !!! Read here.

Sorry Mr. Johar, it looks like on this one, all the universe may not conspire to help you. So go with the flow.

 Postscript: From the net –

The Oxford Dictionary has named “Selfie” the word of the year, narrowly beating out “Twerk”. In a related story the funeral for the English language is this Saturday 😃 😃 😃

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Towards Swaasth and Swachh Bharat!!!

It’s not often that you get up early on a Sunday morning and go on a long drive. But when I did that this wannabe winter morning, it was nice. Oh, not just because of the weather or the lazy weekly off feel.  There was something more surreal.  Enough to conclude that the change we have been yearning to see in India is finally happening.

The Eastern Express Highway stretching from Thane to Kurla was nearly empty as if it was a “Sena Bandh day” of yore. But hold on. The highway was empty, the service lanes on both sides of the highway were not.  Right along the stretch of the service lane – ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, sizes and shapes were seen – some jogging, some running and some walking briskly. The many cars seen parked in the side meant they have all come from not so near places. As I moved further, I could see people huddled together and putting up banners of their upcoming locality marathon. (Is there any activity these days without the proverbial marketing I wonder?) It looked like they have assembled for the practice runs.

Further ahead on the highway, an impressive volume of youngsters were cycling attired in fluorescent colours (as is the norm) in groups. Just about as I was begin to wonder if all this cycling and practicing for marathon running are just upper middle class or “US returned Desi” phenomena, I saw a group of young boys and men. Under the vast span of land under a flyover these guys mostly bare footed and in vests and shorts were seen carrying out some exercise regimen with a leader in the centre. (In Mumbai the areas under the flyovers mostly left vacant without any landscaping,.. come as a succour for many group activities – Exercise, Humour club, Bhajan Mandalis, Street play rehearsals,…,…)

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So it appears that India or for want of empirical evidence may I say Mumbai has caught on to fitness adroitly these days or so I found today. And that this phenomenon cut across different strata of society comes as a welcome news if not as a surprise.

On my return, we took the famed L.B.S Marg which runs parallel to the Eastern Express Highway. By now it was already 9’o clock and not so early morning anymore. The tea vendors were busy whipping up Cutting Chai (for the uninitiated in Mumbai a half cup tea is called a Cutting Chai or simply Cutting) along with Vada Pav and Bun Maska to a variety of men lazing around with the morning newspaper. (In my house reading a newspaper in the morning is always associated with lazing around 😜) But along the long LBS Marg there were another set of men engaged in loftier acts.  In what could be mistaken for some Aam Admi Party (AAP) event, Jhadus of different hues were being deployed and the pavements and street corners were being swept diligently. Now it dawned upon me that the Prime Minister’s call for a Swachh Bharat was indeed being taken seriously by his countrymen and the effect is trickling down. Mind you there were no cameras. So these were not Netas or film stars cleaning “already clean roads” in their locality😜. Or as somebody wondered these weren’t instances of celebrities sweeping hard “dried leaves” again and again under shady trees😜😜. Or for that matter they weren’t as we saw in Delhi staged scenes of Netas cleaning after accumulating litter 😠. Or not as I saw a few days ago – a group of people cleaning for a couple of minutes and then taking pictures with banners of their party for the next 10 minutes😠😠. In reality these were common men young, middle-aged and old cleaning with a lot of seriousness not just in one place but in different spots and stretches along the road.

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And as I turned on the FM radio, RJ Malishka was heard talking to one Mr. Deshpande of a local community help group. In Dadar Shivaji Park area the civil society and Municipal Corporation have agreed upon to have a competition on which wards are cleaned and maintained better.

When the Prime Minister flagged of this now famous Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” to turn India into a clean place by 2019 by a symbolic cleaning act and goading people from all walks of life to clean and clean, I was wondering if India will become clean by just cleaning. Ergo in my earlier post (Read here) I said that Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is not about cleaning but ceasing the need to clean. I realize today that, as aam admi get involved in cleaning (as I witnessed today) may be they will stop littering and will stop their near, dear, friends and folks from littering as much as possible. More importantly, they will convey a strong message to their children and kids around on maintaining a clean surrounding. Well that atleast is the hope.

The visible seriousness I saw over Swaasth & Swachhtha this morning has spawned a new hope in me.  That Mumbai and indeed India is changing and changing for the good. And as the Prime Minister enjoys his dinner this evening in Sydney he can feel proud of himself and have an extra drink. For, his campaign for a ‘Clean India’ has hit the right spot and has begun to work.  Wait a minute – did I say “extra drink?? Oops, read that as Nimbu Paani😄😄

While on this, here is LOL one from Satish Acharya:

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Mysore musings!!!

Mysore is a place I visit at least once a year since the last few years – of course on business. That often means a day trip up and down from Bengaluru. But the few hours I spend are enough to get the feeling of a city which is idyllic with its nice weather and expansive green cover. Coupled with the fact that it has many places of tourist importance made us look at Mysore for a short holiday during this Diwali holidays. The last time I visited Mysore for purely sightseeing was few decades ago when I was under 10.  Yes that was long ago. It was a road trip much before we knew what road trips were in what else an Amby from Trichy to Bangalore for a marriage. Only an Ambassador knows how it used to accommodate routinely 12+ people half of them adults with the accompanying luggage. Strangely, though I don’t have any memory of the wedding proceedings,… my memories of what happened on the sidelines are very vivid. After the marriage, remember going to Mysore for a day in which we covered Chamundi Hills, Srirangapatana, Tippu Sultan palace, St. Philomena’s Church and in the rainy evening a bit of Brindavan Gardens. I don’t recall us visiting the now famous Mysore Zoo or for that matter the Mysore Palace.

With my 7 year daughter in tow, the priorities in this trip were clear. To make this trip as memorable as possible for her as part of her childhood and growing up. So leaving aside the temptations for just chilling out in the resort which had a nice spa and the works, we tried to cover places of interest for her like the Zoo, the grand Mysore Palace,… Extremely conscious of not wanting to turn this post into a travelogue on Mysore for which Google Guru does a better job, I just want to touch upon few interesting things which caught my attention. So here we go:

  • It’s quite well-known that Mysore has probably the best Zoo in India thanks to its pretty collection of species, natural habitat and the fact that most species look healthy for a change!!! But what is surprising is that for a place routinely visited by tourists in the droves, the place is well-kept and can truly be a showcase piece for our PM’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
  • Additionally the Zoo is touted as a “Plastic Free Zone” like many other places in India these days. But unlike other Plastic free zones where plastic becomes freely available, this is indeed plastic free in letter and spirit. And in a unique programme (which I saw only in Mysore in the zoo and other parks) stalls selling water collect back empty plastic bottles and refund some money in a bid to prevent plastic littering.

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  • As in most of the zoos worldwide these days, in Mysore also most of the animals/birds,.. have been adopted by well intentioned human beings and corporate sponsors. And here, it was interesting to see the “King of the jungle” being adopted by once “King of Leg spin” – Anil Kumble!!!

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  • Want to visit Mysore?? Avoid vacation seasons like Diwali or Dasara holidays. Brindavan Gardens which is popular for its musical fountain show in the evenings was crowded and resembled a Kumbhmela. I can’t fathom if it’s a good idea to allow food hawkers inside the gardens and you can guess the ensuing mess. Brindavan Gardens which was a show piece of Mysore is a pale shadow of its past today and reminds us of the “Aswachh Bharat” we are living.
  • A Sand Museum is an interesting addition these days. One can find an extremely secular collection of sculptures carved out of sand. On enquiry, was impressed to note that these artwork have been the fine handiwork of a young lady by the name of M.N. Gowri, a Fine Arts Graduate. It seems she discontinued Engineering to pursue her passion in Sand Sculpting. A 15-ft high sand statue of a Lord Ganesh welcomes visitors to the museum. Other sculptures include Goddess Chamundeshwari, Laughing Buddha, Dasara procession, a striking work of Gitopadesha with Lord Krishna and Arjuna on a horse-drawn chariot, Disneyland, Islamic culture, a Christmas tree, Santa Claus,… An impressive place this!

 

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  • Karanji lake and Karanji Nature Park adjacent to it are increasingly getting popular among tourists I’m told. There is a butterfly park and peacock park there. You could do boat rides in the lake as well. What is alarming is – in spite of well-intentioned and well displayed warning signs of “No boating without life jackets” – hardly could you see anybody in the boats there with life jackets. And this is the kind of apathy over human safety which one finds routinely in tourist destinations in India. A tragedy happens consuming a few hapless lives and these issues get into “The Nation wants to know” routine for few days – only to get back to the routine slackness post that.

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  • The shopping market scene in Mysore reminded me of Trichy. There, in one NSB Road, you could find everything under the sun and moon. Here it was Devraj Urs Road. Along the main road and its alleys, one could see shops of all hues – of branded stuff and others. Disappointing though was to find shops closing as early as 8.30 p.m. here. Worse is, in other areas of the town shops wound up by 7.30 p.m. so much so in a handicrafts emporium where we stepped in by 7.10 p.m. – the display of frown by the staff there over shadowed that of the stuff sold there 😦 😦
  • The Mall of Mysore is a glitzy addition in this town reminding us of the proliferation of the young, aspiring class churning out codes in the Infosys’, Wipros, TCSs,... All these companies have impressive campuses in this city. The mall is still work in progress but has a food court and a multiplex with tickets as expensive as in Mumbai.

For a place with a fantastic, moderate weather almost throughout the year and many interesting tourist attractions in and around the city, my take is that Mysore is poorly handled and marketed. The Mysore airport is under connected even within the country. Which means reaching by road from Bengaluru is the only option. As Swapan Das Gupta says – “The unending journey from the airport to anywhere in Bangalore…” means a good 2 hours to just get out of the city and some 5 hours to cover a distance of 190 odd kms (from Bengaluru airport to Mysore). This is clearly a dampener for Karnataka’s‘One State, Many Worldstourism aspirations.  Dear Sarkar, please get a high-speed Express way fast.  And don’t worry, the IT folks will be ever willing to fork the toll.

Postscript: Just realized while writing this post that one cannot recall another city which has dedicated so much to the society – Mysore Sandal soap, Mysore Rasam, Mysore Bonda, Mysore Masala Dosa, Mysore silk and oh yes how can I forget Mysore Pak!! Appropriately the hotel welcomed us with this 🙂 🙂

Mysore Pak

Mysore Pak