Skip to content

Archive for

Light up your cigars, but not on my face!

I have been following the news of smoking bans across different parts of Switzerland, with a mix of curiosity and hope.

I am curious, because I do no know the specifics of the implementation, how the restaurant / bar owners and the public would respond, and if they decide to revoke the ban in the future. In a ways, the Swiss democracy is truly more for the people and by the people, than in most parts of the world. It’s quite possible they have a vote some time in the future on the same topic and more people vote against the ban, than for it.

But I am also hopeful the Swiss people give it a genuine try, and I think they will. After all, if India, with its massive complexities and diversity of people & interests, can pretty effectively implement a smoke ban, any country can. In fact, it hasn’t affected bossiness in India that much, and people across the cities still flock to their favorite restaurants / pubs and have their fun. The health minister who imposed the rule was vilified and was a punching bag for many, but people have gotten used to the new life now, and all seems well.

It’s important to articulate here, why I would advocate smoke bans across the world, and in what format, while also taking a look at the other view of the smokers.

I am a non smoker, and have always been one. For various reasons, including health, a smoker in my vicinity has always irritated my system.  But curiously, most of my friends and colleagues have always been smokers. I would gladly be in their company any time, any day, in spite of their smoking. It’s a choice I make. I have been consistent in my attitude to smoking and smokers, to borrow from Voltaire, “I may not smoke, and find it dirty, but will fight to the death to protect your right to smoke”

This is a debate that typically splits any demographic group across the world roughly 50:50. What I have observed, is that people take very strong positions without seeing the other side, and when it comes to this topic, there are not too many moderates. Either you hate smoking, detest smokers, and want it taken off planet earth, or you would attack any body that snatches your right to smoke, and consider them puritan pricks and eco / health fanatics. Or pure pricks!

So, here is my view on what would constitute an ideal city / town, balancing the needs of both:

1. Restricted smoke zones in closed places such as restaurants / bars / cafes / pubs / lounges / offices / hospitals etc. The moderation / implementation is left to the owners of the establishment

I would not advocate a complete ban, especially in places of nightlife and work, but a designated smoke zone / section. I know some of my colleagues who smoke pretty well to understand that it affects their concentration and productivity tremendously if they can’t have a fag once in a while. I think most companies across the world have adopted that pretty well on that front already.

I can also understand the high feeling you miss on when you are grooving to some tunes at a lounge, and a puff of smoke would make your ecstasy that much more. I think a middle ground is definitely achievable on this front and both sides need some getting used to. If a non smoker like me decides to be at a lounge with some friends, I should be ready to bear the smoke. If I am not ready, I always have the choice not to go. As an advanced step, it is possible for some enterprising owner to build an establishment and categorize it as for smokers only, or for non smokers only.

In a society such as Switzerland, I would leave the enforcement to the establishment, and not the authorities. India is not yet there, so I still see a need for cops (crooked as they are) to enforce the bans / restrictions. I am not sure of the specifics of the ban in Switzerland, but looks like they have a complete smoke ban now, and they could evolve into a moderated ban like the above in some time.

2. Restricted smoke zones in semi open public places, but with strict enforcement by the authorities.

This is primarily for major train / bus stations, airports etc. you have a lot of people allergic to smoke, or sick, or old, or infants, or pregnant women ion these places, and quite often they do not have a choice not to be there. This is where the attitude of smokers really riles the affected non smokers. On hundreds of occasions, I have had to fight my way through a cloud of smoke puffed arrogantly onto my face. The most irritating scenarios being crowded bus / train / tram stops, where you just can’t escape. I have also been pissed off by the attitude of some smokers when entering a place where they can’t smoke. The other day, I was steeping off a bank, and here is this guy entering the bank from the street. Smoke in hand, he enters, and we are both at the small glass door at the same time. He takes a big puff and blows it onto my face, then takes the cigar from his hand and drops it on the ground, inside the bank, which is obliviously a non smoking place. Before I can say WTF, he is away leaving me a violent cough and a huge stink. I don’t deserve that, and this is where one man’s freedom becomes another man’s pain.

I would also advocate a strong and complete ban in all places of public transport. This is more applicable to a country like India, where you get “smoked into” on most seats you would pick in a bus or a train.

I do not think achieving the above is utopian. It is possible to get there or thereabouts in small steps, and one fine day we all get used to the new way of life.

It’s important to restate here that moralities and Puritanism does not matter to a lot of common people like me, and lawmakers, when it comes to decisions on smoke bans. I have heard enough of the cries of taking away a man’s freedom, and claims of the state dictating your lives. All that is BS to me, because you seem to bother only about your freedom and not the other man’s. I guess a non smoker is as eligible for clean, smoke free air, as a smoker is entitled to his smoky air.  To all my smoking friends & strangers who smoke into my face, across the world I have to say “Please light up your cigars, and have your fun, but not on my face”

At the same time, I have also heard very touchy and “holier than thou” non smokers complaint about how it affects the health and environment and blah blah blah. I think every non smoker has a choice not to go to a place where he knows there is bound to be smoke. And I genuinely don’t believe a few million men & women  puffing into the atmosphere, is more dangerous to the world than all our industries, oil slicks, nuclear waste etc. in fact, when non smokers take a very strong view on this topic, they provide the moral justification for equally ridiculous justification for the smokers.

So, its about time we stopped looking at it in black and white, and understand & accept the eventualities of changes to our lifestyle across the world, irrespective of whether we smoke or not.

Switzerland would be an interesting place to observe these changes. It is an absolutely beautiful and clean country, but also a country full of heavy smokers everywhere. It’s a study in contrast, and I am actually surprised so many people voted for smoke bans, across so many cantons. I think Basel is having a ban from April 2010, and some smart cookies have organized “Non Smoking” bar / restaurant tours to show the owners their business would still be good. These are interesting times ahead!

Cheers!

Vasu

Advertisements

Russian Mathematician May Not Accept Million-Dollar Prize – ABC News

Incredible story…geniuses mostly have a mind of their own, but this guy is in a league of his own!

Read:

Russian Mathematician May Not Accept Million-Dollar Prize – ABC News.

Cheers!

Vasu

In a life time spent watching, loving and living cinema, which one do I like the most?

Movies have been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s the case with most of us, and we all have our own tastes and preferences.

If I like a film, I watch it again and again. And if I don’t like a film in the first 20 minutes or so, I would never watch it in spite of what the reviewers say.

And of late, I have started a pretty decent collection of DVDs of films that are my favorites.

I truly believe that variety is the spice of life, so I pretty much love films across most genres, languages, and ages. Depending on my mood, I could be watching a slap stick Crazy Mohan film, or a profound Guru Dutt one, or a Tarantino blood gore. Sometimes I get involved and study the message, but mostly I just like to have a good laugh.

So, I thought I’ll share my list of most favorite films ever. It would be difficult to pick out a top 5/10 as such, but what was not difficult was picking what dessert I love the most in a table full of goodies. I would write about THAT one film, I would place above all as to my definition of the film that impacts me the most.

To start with, here is the list of my all time favorite films (my top 33, why 33? Because I like that number!), in alphabetical order:

  • 3 Idiots (Hindi)
  • 3.10 to Yuma (English)
  • Anand (Hindi)
  • Anbe Sivam (Thamizh)
  • Ardh Satya (Hindi)
  • Casablanca (English)
  • Chupke Chupke  (Hindi)
  • Crash (English)
  • Dark Knight (English)
  • Das Leben Der Anderen / Lives of others (German / English)
  • Edhir Neechal (Thamizh)
  • Gladiator (English)
  • Good Will Hunting (English)
  • Inglorious Basterds (English)
  • Kadhalikka Neramillai (Thamizh)
  • Kill Bill – Part II (English)
  • Lage Raho Munnabhai (Hindi)
  • Lakshya (Hindi)
  • Michael Madana Kama Rajan (Thamizh)
  • Mouna Ragam (Thamizh)
  • My cousin Vinny (Englsih)
  • Nayagan (Thamizh)
  • Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Italian)
  • Psycho (Englsih)
  • Pyaasa (Hindi)
  • Scent of a woman (English)
  • Shichinin no samurai (Japanese)
  • Shiva (Telugu)
  • Shrek (English)
  • The good, the bad, the ugly (Italian / English)
  • The Shawshank Redemption (English)
  • Thillu Mullu (Thamizh)
  • Vita E Bella / Life is beautiful (Italian / English)

 Now the one I love the most, is a left field pick, and a film that moves me personally like no work of fiction has. It’s Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa. 

There are stories, movies, epics and box office hits. But to me Pyaasa is all that and more – it’s a masterpiece from a man who gave us many gems, died tragically young like most geniuses, and would have no idea a film he made 6 decades back could still strike a chord with so many people young and old. 

Pyaasa is the story of Vijay, a penniless, support less poet who struggles to make the world realize the beauty of his work. It’s the story of his relationships with the world,  and two women in particular, and his eventual reorganization and fame.

 If you haven’t seen it yet, get a DVD and watch it soon. (There is a Moser Baer DVD available in all stores across India). Its dark, sad, poignant, profound, subtle, leaves you worried if you get involved, but climaxes into something beautiful, hopeful and cheerful. In fact, Johnny Walker’s “Sar jo Tera Takrayey”, and the beauty in the climax are the only moments of genuine joy in a depressing story.

 Now, why do I love it so much? Here are some random reasons:

  1. It’s the story of an idealistic, honest, straightforward, talented man, fighting against the world, and coming out on top, but not spilt by the success. That’s the kind of man I would want to be
  2. It’s an Indian movie, and from one of the finest movie makers we have produced. Guru Dutt’s life and his tragic story, make the character so real
  3. A beautiful end that suggests that amidst all the dark and gloom, there is always a bright shining light. To an eternal optimist like me, it appeals tremendously, much as Shawshank Redemption did.
  4. The brilliant songs and their profound lyrics. They complement the film so bloody well.
  5. The usage of light and shade, close-ups that portray the deep thoughts of the characters…it’s almost as if I feel the characters alive. Destiny ensured that it was a black and white film, and I just can’t imagine it being as vivid with a modern color print.
  6. A Bollywood movie sans item numbers, rape scenes, masala dialogues, fights, lavish sets loud actors or lengthy dialogues, and full of subtlety. That’s the kind of movies we were capable of making 60 years ago.
  7. It tells me life is a zero sum game; for every jerk we meet in life, we have a true friend, and for every man / woman who betrays us, we manage to find a soul who loves us purely. There is a nice balance to it
  8. It’s a timeless movie. Would make sense and appeal eternally.
  9. The fact the Guru Dutt insisted on the climax as it is now, and ensured that Vijay does not compromise with the world for material reward, and chooses to be his own man.
  10. The message that true talent, self belief, and passion, ultimately wins over all other factors, no matter what the struggles are. To put in modern jargon – content is king! 
  11. It breaks all stereotypes for that period; some of these stereotypes still persist. For example, the character of Gulabo the hooker, is unlike any other portrayals of such people.

Ironically, it’s a film I would find to difficult to watch many times, because of the intensity. I would rather stick to a comedy for that, but then that’s the beauty of cinema – there’s always a story for every occasion and mood! But most people who review the film stereotype it as dark. It is for most parts yes, but I don’t think most of them get the raw and pure beauty of Vijay and Gulabo.

A very well written tribute to the film is from the TIME magazine, which included it among a handful of Indian films, as one of the top 100 films of all time.  

Read it at: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1953094_1953146_1953989,00.html

 Cheers!

Vasu

P.S: I sort of like 33 as a number. It’s got two threes, and 0.33 is 1/3rd  or 33.33%. 0.22 is not ½ or 22.22 % 🙂

%d bloggers like this: