BLOG: Fairly Benign Day, Driving In Delhi

THE INCIDENT
I have a suspiciously odd life—suspect for those who have to deal with me, just fucking life for me. As my tenure at VICE was coming to a close, on July 4, my second to last day I got into an absurd bike accident where, after people help me up—start to bicker over who’s at fault. While I’m only able to limp and have wounds causing certain amount of blood.

They apparently know it’s nothing “see your able to walk” one guy says. I think to myself “this is not worth my time, I might have a broken leg” I try to limp over to my bike and as I’m about to storm out, suddenly their humanity kicks in as one guy says “at least let us drop you home”, all the while the fucker who almost made me a statistic winged about the broken glass from his backseat window.

THE APARTMENT
While I was at the spot, I didn’t have the foresight to think on my feet and note down a number or take a photo of the plate or the guy because I was literally limping and being shouted at by this fuckwit about how it was my fault as soon as my bike was lifted off of me.

After I managed to reach my apartment which was thankfully nearby, I limped up the stairs ripped my bloody pants off to ascertain the damage and took a quick shower while my arms were tremoring. Drank some water and grabbed a pain pill, while looking for relevant things to clean my wounds.

PSX_20180709_222747
(Not pictured painful face and swollen ankle)

THE HOSPITAL
I finally caught a glimpse of my right foot which was very swollen and so kicked in the fight or flight—I booked a cab, hobbled over to the cab to Artemis Hospitals in Dwarka as it was the closest one to my house, turns out it had shut down.

So, I went to Venkateshwar Hospital, where a cost of an x-ray is 600 rupees per appendage and an ER visit costs you 900 rupees, besides the point but still it felt like a price gouge considering one of the staffers was just chilling on a chair just playing games and browsing WhatsApp snickering to himself, unsure if he was a doctor or not but still it was a jarring image considering people are literally going through some shit in the ER.

An orderly who was taking me to x-ray room started to make small talk about my incident, told me about the man who was being wheeled around from a trauma room to get a CT scan, she said “he got into an accident around the same area as you.” I guess I saw a glimpse of what could’ve been me.

I felt an uneasy sensation in my body as I sat waiting for the x-ray technician to come through with the results—overthinking what could’ve happened to me, the what ifs, and how people reacted, instead of contacting the police or ambulance they just dicked around and fixated on the blame game. Instead of offering help to take me to the hospital they offered to drop me home. Finally the x-ray was done and I was quietly wheeled back to a bed as I waited for the results.

I’ve had an bad relationship with hospitals and some preconception about them and doctors in general, which are hard to overcome still. I try to avoid them if I can, which is a near impossibility in our country.

THE COPS
Then a cop shows up as I had told the hospital about the accident and they by law have to inform the cops. He asked me to explain what had happened, just a moment ago I was told nothing was broken—I was both distressed and relieved at the same time with the news. It was an emotionally tangled moment for me and hence the tears rolled down my cheeks— as he asked me the obvious “did you get a number or name or a license plate.” I said no, he asked me if I wished to follow up on this legally, I said “no as there was no point. It would’ve been his word against mine.”

He asked me if I could write it down as he gave me a pen and paper, I wrote what I wrote, relinquishing any need for investigation in the matter. He offers to drop me to my home but starts to weasel out when he asks the staff how long it would take for discharge, looking at his face I state “I’ll just take a cab back.” He gave me his number to call if needed and left.

THE DRIVE BACK
Finally, I end up getting into a cab back home—talking to my family, explaining what had happened considering they don’t live in the same city, I thought I should let them know, they offer to come here to help, I said there is no point if it’s just swelling, it will eventually go down, they concede. I finally limped back to my room eat a large bowl of muesli and an apple at 11:30 pm and passed out after taking my prescribed medication and just ponder how many times I had to recall that incident. Posting this will probably make it easier for me to recall and explain some of it.

Hey! If you have something interesting for me or something interesting to say hit me up on twitter (@Crit93)

A ‘Daas’ To Politics

On the sidelines of the ‘inaugural press conference’ for his movie ‘Daas Dev’ at Chandigarh, Sudhir Mishra a celebrated director known for his works like ‘Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’ and ‘Dharavi’, talks about his take on ‘Devdas’, politics, censorship among other things.

While he tried to connect this ‘inaugural press conference’ with Chandigarh and Punjab via the music of the movie, but the film is very much based in Uttar Pradesh.

Without further ado, here’s the Interview with minor edits.

Anup: Considering you have always done stories that are so different, why did you pick ‘Devdas’ considering its been done so many time?
Sudhir Mishra:
Either you can do something fresh with a thing or you can’t. Weather I take a story or my own life or take my own experiences, I haven’t invented them, right? I have a political inclination and I make a film of a certain kind which explore certain kinds of things. At the end of the day I try to hold you with that story, and I found this subject interesting.

At the same time, I wanted to make a film about power as an addiction. Something that links back to my own personal history in the form of my grandfather, Dwarka Prasad Mishra, who was the former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and was instrumental in Indira Gandhi’s rise to Prime Minister of India. He always told me that power is not yours because you come from a certain womb, and he didn’t allow any of his lineage to inherit power and therefore we became ordinary people, in the sense of dynasty or nepotism. So, thanks to him perhaps film-making is the only political thing I will ever engage in.

Each and everything around us including film from my perspective is political. It will either support the status quo, in that manner even the film ‘top gun’ is political, John Wayne was political, and similarly I’m also political, we’re all political in different ways, but not propagandists. Political films are those that pose questions and provoke your mind, that gives you a different perspective on life.

How is your take different from the traditional Devdas?
Look ‘Devdas’ was very much a time and place thing, and it wouldn’t work in our current generation, and therefore the story just got so different that I literally had to flip it and even name it as such. In the very literal sense the movie follows ‘Dev’ as he turns from slave to a lord, In the original it’s the other way around. But this is still a love story, that’s the one thing I haven’t changed as every movie of mine is a love story, as Dev and Paro are inexplicably entwined, they can’t be separated. Furthermore, the difference between this version and its predecessors is that the love story is even more intense.

The writing process for the film took a long while too, I first started and then hit a block at some point and back then the script was way more faithful to the Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel. But once I came back to the script I re-wrote it to its current form and got a different perspective on it. Further I saw a similarity in Devdas and Hamlet as I saw two indecisive characters.

Since you say that you’re a socio-political person and your films are often a reflection of that, what is your political inclination?
You know that the left is very defunct in our country, even they don’t understand what the left stands for. The left leader lives in a feudal nawabi times, they live in some Newtonian mechanics 18th century science, they are not engaging with the chaos, which is the present world. Further all politics will ultimately oppress, and generally people try to move towards freedom, and total freedom is not possible.

Strong female characters have been persistent in your films, do you employ female writers to give better dimensions to your characters?
Sure, I have worked with Ruchi Narain in ‘Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi’ and I’m working with a female writer as we speak in this big wig web series that I’m writing. Personally, I don’t see what the problem is (If I don’t hire female writers), because if I’m not in touch with my feminine side then I’m no writer. Further when people asked me in ‘Hazaaron’ who do you identify with the most, I said Geeta the main female lead, as I’m not a naxalite or a fixer, I’m in the middle. This whole gender binary is false concept.

What do you think about government interference in cinema in the form of censorship and taxation?
I believe all cinema should only have to pay income tax, nothing more or less. As anyone who makes money gets taxed, so should we. That alone will liberate cinema like nothing else. Around 30 to 40 percent of our budget is just tax, if you want to make a 10-corer film then you need an additional 5 corer just for tax, which is an odd practice. Just from a tax perspective cinema is treated like a sin. I’ve never agreed with censorship, and today in the day and age of smartphones and Internet, what exactly are you censoring? In this age with a smart phone even a villager on a bus stand, can see anything with mobile internet, what are you censoring?

Further Cinema is not intruding on anyone and it’s a voluntary act. In-fact theatrical exhibition should be most free place (in terms of freedom of expression) because I don’t come into your house, you voluntarily view it.

If there is a certification of an adult film, a child shouldn’t watch it. If that is implemented or not, is a law and order problem. Again, it’s a voluntary act, (aapko bolta hun ki kya dekho ya na dekho?) it’s up to the viewer to watch it or not, I have no say in the matter.

Even in ‘Padmavat’ people weren’t clear on what they were upset with, first they said they were upset with the film but then they said it’s a very good film go and watch it, the same censors too, I say brilliant (sarcastically speaking).

Personally, with this film I haven’t faced much resistance, they’ve muted a few curse words, but that’s it, I’ve gotten a UA certificate. But even with that they shouldn’t make those cuts, considering UA stands for adult supervision, which is meant for 14 or up kids, now don’t you think a 14 or 15 year old, wouldn’t know a few curse words? It’s not as if the film has a lots of curse words to begin with, it only has 4 to 5.

Do you think there is an aspect of self-censorship attached with movies these days?
A bit of that is there considering you are going for a U or UA certificate which naturally can attract a larger audience with satellite sales are dependent upon those, and as such require you to self-censor at times. But there are people like ‘Q’ Qaushiq Mukherjee or Anurag Kashyap who aren’t afraid to go against this.

Hey! If you have something interesting for me or something interesting to say hit me up on twitter (@Crit93)

“…literature is in a state of decay, poetry is in a state of decay.”

IN THE backdrop of opening of a cultural center in a school of his namesake, in a remote section of Zirakpur, Piyush Mishra a well-established actor who has begun his journey in the world of theater and subsequently gotten much acclaim for his multi-talented skill set, be it acting, composing or writing. Even he found it an odd proposition to have a cultural center named after him, he felt his name paled in comparison to the likes of Zakir Hussain who are usually people who are considered of grate cultural importance. None the less in an almost cavalier fashion, he accepts this undertaking.

In his previous interactions with media, he has often come off as a dichotomous personality, he often goes into bombastic explanations and tangents much like his eccentric performance in Gulaal. When he is asked about the state of culture in our present-day scenario, he instantly animates and says “Values, as we have proceeded from 1947, ever since we have gained independence to our current time, we have seen a progressive devolution of all literature. You can do Lakh’s of literature festivals, but literature is in a state of decay, poetry is in a state of decay. At this time in Mumbai, other than Gulzar and Javed sab, no one is there to write in Urdu. Even though I don’t know Urdu very well, regardless I try my best to contribute, with however much I’ve studied the language, because I wish to keep Urdu alive.”

Adding further “Other than that (decay of literature and poetry) value system has changed in that before when your book used to drop on the floor, you used to (mimicking picking it up and asking for forgiveness) do this to it right? If your computer falls down you just pick it up and keep moving, it has the same knowledge as a book. That’s why that value system has stopped existing anymore, of say touching your elder’s feet. Touching your elder’s feet was very much a prominent cultural tradition, if someone has come to your home, you have to touch their feet regardless of who it is. Name comes later in the conversation, relations comes later, but feet were touched on principle.”

When asked if he thinks that the cultural icons of yesteryear like B.R. Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh are slowly fadding away. He first agrees with the sentiment and then he goes off on a tangent saying “The thing called Facebook has so much hatred, nothing much can be said about it. Because with Facebook everyone has the freedom to be a revolutionary at the convenience of their home. They (Facebook revolutionaries) know that no one is going to come and harm you physically or intimidate you verbally, you are free to express any vile thing and any sort of non-sense you wish to put forward, I have seen good people getting demolished (Mainey achey khasey logo ka hannan dekha hai), these are good well-meaning public figures, they (Facebook revolutionaries) don’t stop to think about it, because they know there isn’t going to be any consequence for this.”

Moving on swiftly, when asked about his experience with short films, his eyes light up as he says “Those students are very jovial (mazeydar), my whole life is there for these students. I, from the start have said if you’re a student or a youth then I wish to connect with you. See, I have spoken at lengths about my own time, now I want to know about your generation, what kind of curse words are fashionable, which kind of girls are getting harassed (kaun si ladki chadi ja rahi hai), what kind of things you (the youngsters) are into, tell me that. Further, it’s all kind of fun working with these people.” Let’s just pause and reflect on how brazenly he goes into why he’s working with these young people, and what are the “fun” aspects of it.

Now when I ask him about his personal experience working with these “youngsters” he says that “they’re largely inexperienced but sometimes there are pocket of brilliance present among them.” Making a crude analogy with theater he states “Like there is a saying that the first show of a play is always good. In the first show of a play you don’t understand what you’re doing. In that first rush of excitement some things are greatly received and some things are spoiled. Then we try to re-enact those same things in the next show. But I have noticed that you never really succeed (in recapturing the first show). That thrill of the first show of theater, is what’s happening with these people (short film makers).” He concludes the answer with “…they’re just starting to grasp at what cinema means.”

When he’s asked if he prefers doing shorts or feature films, he instantly reply’s “Feature of course, considering I don’t take any money for these shorts…” he later explains “you don’t do it for the money, this is to fulfill one’s passion and to help them out, like alright, I can learn something from you guys and vice versa.”

After questions of culture, cultural figure and his stint in short films of late, I get a chance to ask him about his upcoming work in the form of “Palki” and “JL-50”. He is doing these films with a relatively unknown director named “Shailender Vyas”. Piyush narrates his interaction with Shailender in an autobiographical manner stating “These people just burst into my life and my room, him (Shailender) and his wife, they said there is a film called “Palki” will you do it? I said sure, explain the script to me. First, they had gone to Naseeruddin shah and then they went to Pankaj Kapur. Naseer had some scheduling issue, Pankaj Kapur was asking for more money perhaps. Then they came to me, I read the script and they said that we were scared to come to you before, I asked why? They say we had herd “things” about you. I said I definitely used to be that person, but I’m no longer that person. I read the script and I liked it. I said yes to it. As time went by I even ended up writing the story of “Palki”, even composed for it.”

From here we take a turn to discuss his movie and role in “Palki”, which is about a Punjabi farmer and his daughter. He explains his role as thus “I had a lot of fun doing that character. It was good that they didn’t quite make him a Sikh man. Otherwise I would’ve had to learn and speak Punjabi in a whole heated manner. I know a little bit of Punjabi, because my mother was from Kurukshetra. That’s why there is a little bit of knowledge of Punjabi with me. So, what little accent I could muster up I did, otherwise it would’ve been hard to perfect a heavy Punjabi accent. Not that they (the filmmakers) wanted a very heavy Punjabi accent for the character.”

Subsequently, When asked the obvious question, of what he felt about the farming community and the issues surrounding it? At first, he says that he doesn’t know much about the issue, then goes on to state “…I have a feeling inside me, when I notice that how much comfort I have in life sometimes, I mean these people at times don’t get any food, and when I hear about them committing suicide…all around. Then that really hurts me, but then I remember a time when I wasn’t doing anything, not earning anything. Then I think that it has something to do with the game of “karma”. What else can we blame other than “karma”. Before I was nothing, then I became something now. Likewise, some people were something a while back but they are nothing now. But for this there is no need to be guilty, but still I feel hurt. Me and my wife think that whatever extra money that comes to us, as I’ve already earned enough, so I can run a household without any issue. Though this idea is still in its nascent stage, and we can’t adopt any village as such, but can we not sponsor a family? me and my wife are thinking about it. If we can, we should sponsor at least one or two families, we would be duty bound to them.”

Its hard to gauge if Piyush Mishra is coming from a genuine place or not but, it certainly felt like it. Perhaps its a testament to his inner performer, you cannot really put your finger on it, but there is certainly something off about some of these claims, if the sponsorship does happen it would be great for him and the family he sponsors and perhaps the precedent that he sets in the industry he belongs to. With all that said, he did say he’s just thinking about it, or perhaps the short span of the interview left much room for prodding and poking.

(Original version was published in ‘The Indian Express’, Reformatted, re-edited and republished.)

Hey! If you have something interesting for me or something interesting to say hit me up on twitter (@Crit93)

Emergence of the online ‘grey market’ around video games in India

If you play games regularly or are vaguely aware of their existence, surely you can see that gaming is big business and is consumed world over by billions of people. Until the past couple of years retail was probably a big deal for those who consume games in India. Although in the recent past, the gaming market has evolved past it and started its trek towards the online world. Platforms like Steam have been gaining popularity overtime and along with that games are becoming considerably cheaper with the advent of smaller and independent studios starting to get into the mix.

Subsequently games are becoming more convenient to purchase in the digital sphere. Aforementioned platform steam isn’t the only one to offer games at a cheap price. There are a plethora of sites now part of this market. For instance, Humble Bundle, which started out as site that would club together some games titles and sell them as a bundle at dirt cheap prices. Further it would let you chose where your money would go, you could either give it all to charity or all of it to the game developers or to humble bundle. Since its start, the site has diversified with a storefront of its own and multiple other services. Then there are sites like GOG, largely dedicated to old games, but also acts like a general storefront for new games as well. These sites that I mentioned are only some of the many platforms out there in the international waters.

While in India, retail had a stronghold on most big budget games. Perhaps because of poor quality internet in India. For example some people were unable to download about 30 GB on an average big budget game due to a limited internet plan with fair use policy. Or perhaps it was due to the fact that the speeds just aren’t there, considering the national average speed is 2-3 mbps. This is why some people prefer to buy consoles like Xbox One or PS4, but with ever growing need for patches that fix the game on day one becoming a standard practice, it’s uncertain how much the retail market makes sense in India. Especially on the PC where publishers are cutting so many corners that they just ship out games with a key and a steam installer on the disc and then make people download the whole game from scratch as in the case of MGS:V. Eventually consumers in India would rather prefer to save some money and invest the time in downloading, I would guess, but this is a subjective matter and will vary from person to person.

That being said let’s look at how the division of the retail market for games works. The biggest retail players likely are Amazon.in, Flipkart and Snapdeal. The smaller players would constitute sites like Nextworld, Game4u and Gametheshop. Most of the retailers mentioned above haven’t migrated into the digital sphere, except for sites like Gametheshop and Game4u, which had a short stint in this market but since have stopped their operation in digital sphere.

Now before we jump into the next part I think we should first learn about what the term ‘grey market’ here entails internationally, then work our way towards India. The ‘grey market’ as we will refer to it, entails in it the sale and purchase of games that are sometimes procured through illegal means but not always. Sometimes people use the natural setup of recent free to play or free to pay games like Dota 2 or CS:GO respectively for trading on Steam. Games like these give players in-game items that can be sold on the Steam market and Steam market only. But, some enterprising individuals who want to turn these items of value into real world currency enter into the shady areas of the trade subculture. In this trade subculture, they try to get other people to give them real world money in exchange for a high value in game item. The exchange of money takes place through sites like paypal.

That’s only a part of the story though. There are some people that go a step further and set up sites like kinguin and G2A which act like a marketplace, enabling individuals to setup storefronts and sell their products in similar manner to a site like ebay, with sellers having ratings and such. On sites like kinguin and G2A people not only sell in game items but also sell actual games, sometimes at a fraction of the cost compared to legitimate online sites like steam. It’s not always the case that the keys sold are procured from what one would call illegitimate means. To be honest one can’t ascertain the legitimacy of these items, because some of these keys are just retail keys that these people got for cheap from dealers in countries that have a cheaper retail market price. This uncertain nature of these transactions leads us to employ terms like ‘grey market.’

There are people in this trade business that make very good money and have solely switched to this trading/re-selling as their main source of income. But when there is a highly unregulated market as such, there is bound to be fraud not far from it. This polygon article gives us a pretty good idea of how things function in this grey area of games trading online, internationally. The article talks of how people took advantage of platforms like kinguin and G2A to profit in both semi-legitimate and illegitimate manners. The former being the model of selling keys procured from essentially trading as stated above, while the latter being employment of illegitimate means, like credit card fraud, to purchase games from one of the legitimate sites like humblebundle.com during a sale. Further the reselling of said game on the ‘grey market’, and by extension, bringing out the ‘grey’ nature of the market and along with it the question of regulation or lack thereof. The aforementioned article focuses on the broader picture of this grey market, and I’ll try to focus on the Indian trade (grey) market from here on out.

The Indian trade market, much like the international one, is largely unregulated, but major players like kinguin and G2A don’t have much of a foothold in the Indian market. However there are small players trying to make a quick buck while the state of such a market stays untouched or unrecognized by Indian authorities. Most of the Indian traders are aware of platforms like kinguin and G2A, and are sometimes largely dependent on these platforms to provide them with a boost in their income. Some people in India try to focus on the Indian market as they see an opportunity. Let’s consider the poor infrastructure and red tape set up for the digital Indian consumer in India. Multiple debit/credit cards don’t work with major store fronts online due to the 2-3 step native verification systems that banks deploy to maintain security. Some of the banks block international online transactions by default and have an unnavigable customer service. Along with the above, we see a lack of other options like net-banking and the recent crop of wallet services that are present in the Indian sphere. It was only a matter of time before someone capitalized on this fact. That being said let us look at individuals that are functioning in this field, hailing from different parts of India and how they operate.

steamz

First up steamz.co, a site run by someone in their early 20’s who claims to have been running the site for about 6 years. He was selling retail copies internationally as the Indian retail games weren’t region locked back then and keys could be used across borders with ease. He claims to have started out by gifting a copy of a game to his friend, back when he hadn’t started online trading as the game was cheaper in India. The copy of game he gifted to his friend turned out to work. Soon after this, his friend asked him to procure more copies for more of his friends. Then he essentially thought he could make some real money out this stuff and contacted a distributor via skype and essentially started to delve deeper into the business. But since the keys started to get region locked, (In 2014 acc. to him) he switched distributors from Indian to Polish. He makes around (Rs) 20 lakh, (Rs) 10-15 lakh net profit (his claims.), and this is probably his main job, but he claims to help his family with their business when needed. He claims to know 7-10 people who do about the same work he does in India from different cities.

When asked about clampdown on the largely unregulated key market on G2A and Kinguin via publishers like Ubisoft, he explains why it happened and claims both site owners are prior customers of his who got shafted. Further when I asked what he thinks about what the developers think about his business, he says it’s better than piracy and they should stop complaining and focus on making good games.

rshop

Next up is reapershop.com. It’s operated by someone in his early 20’s, he has been at it for approximately 4 years, and he doesn’t really say much about how he got into trading. He initially states that he got into it for “fun” and “nothing specific” but later on in the conversation when asked about whether he has a day job or not, he reveals that he wanted to run his own business and that’s why he started this. He too thinks that his work is helping curb piracy in a manner. He says he knows about 2-3 Indian folks working in the trade business.

Upon being asked about his income a lot of different answers came forth. First a worst case scenario of (Rs) 15-30k per month which rounds out to be (Rs) 2-4 Lakh per year. Which is a lot lower than the other fellow I talked to claimed. I bought this fact to his attention asking who’s inflating the figure him or the other guy (apparently both knew each other too). After a bit of back and forth, and him jokingly suspecting me to be from Income Tax department, he tells me 4-8 Lakhs to be his combined income from selling to both Indian and international sellers. He tells me that the previous figure was for his dealings in India alone.

I further ask him about the clampdown on the largely unregulated key market on G2A and Kinguin a while back, he states there is a difference between the sellers in that instance and sellers like him. He further explains he buys legit retail keys from distributors (although doesn’t name any which is understandable) and then he states “till now none of my customers have faced any issues with copies (bought from the site) in past 3 years of my site”, but then adding that he also deals with trading steam gifts (essentially steam locked keys) internationally as there is a greater market there for trade and it is easier to make more money there, though he does reiterate that he is mainly focused on the Indian market. Lastly when I asked him about what the developers think about establishments like his, he states that their claims are false, and further adds that most of the regions which sold games for cheap in the retail market are now region locked and they (developers) are talking about losses? It’s not like sellers like him are stealing those games and reselling them. The developers are getting paid and selling copies through them.

Few things worth taking note are both these individuals are still part of the international markets like G2A and kinguin, as that is where most of the money is at the moment but they do manage to make a decent buck from their Indian endeavours. Both these individuals have a presence in social media especially on facebook, both having around 3-5k likes. Both individuals make similar amounts of money as compared to their international counterparts, as indicated in the aforementioned polygon article.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows in the Indian sphere as well, as we find individuals who got burned during these transactions. An Indian user on reddit tells me how he got ripped off with his endeavours in trade for (Rs) 50k (approx.). He got into the trade sphere via a game called dota2, which was one of the first games to employ micro-transactions in videogames. The game was in beta for about 2 years prior to release, and to gain access to the beta, people were given dota2 invite passes via various means, and this was around the time when trading on steam started out. Dota2 invites where hard to come by initially, hence you found people selling them or trading them for goods and services, and this reddit user was one of them.

As he puts it “I sold one invite for a steam game that I traded for many team fortress keys, the other I kept with me. The invite was global one which was rare and had a high price as it could be activated in china. I traded the invite for huge amount of keys and started sharking new invitees to buy new invites for less and selling for a huge amount. I found a dedicated seller and he became a good friend of mine. I used to give him a dota invite (playable or non-playable in china) and get around 30-40 keys per invite. Soon invites became common and down went the price. I traded out the keys for around 5-6 dragon claw hooks and few Timebreakers (Dota 2 immortal items). After keeping the items for a year and getting fed of trading, I tried cashing the items to real world money and that’s where I made a VERY VERY big mistake. Being new to paypal and other methods of getting money for virtual items. I was added by many scammers but they were easy to tell, then a smart guy with good rep added me and he took all my hooks and breakers with an easy scam (not possible now). That was a sad day and for weeks I could not bring myself to the fact I’ve lost everything I’ve earned in past 2 years. I left trading. Steam didn’t help at all and brushed at it was my fault giving item to somebody. I tried creating multiple tickets (complaints) and still same response (from steam)…that we explicitly warn you before trading items and you confirm that the items you are sending are gift (The scammer made a fake profile of my friend) to the other party.”

The case presented above is quite an old one, as it happened around when steam didn’t internally put up safeguards. As thus it might be a one off case, but it does give us some perspective into the fact that people indulging in the trade business have to be on their toes all the time. Trying to suss out whether the person you’re dealing with online has a malicious intent or not can be a tough task. The chance of fraud is obviously high, for both the people who procure these games and navigate the muddy waters of online game trade, and those who decide to buy from them. Not to say the above mentioned sites have malicious intent or are actively against the law. I can’t be the judge of that. What I can say is that this is very much a ‘grey’ area that requires people with thick skins to navigate on all ends of the spectrum. So, think twice before you buy games from sites online that aren’t exactly running a legitimate business as say a Steam or Humble Bundle does.

Hey! If you have something interesting for me or something interesting to say hit me up on twitter (@Crit93)

The “Jaal” of Jai Gangaajal

Jai Gangaajal the last release of Prakash Jha the man of many hats in this project, produces one more in the line of movies that try really hard to take a stance on an issue but end up being a farce.

I don’t really get the appeal of going into topics only to belabor a simple point in a mostly haphazard manner but that is all one sees Prakash Jha doing most of the times with his “social issue” based movies. I recently watched Jai Gangaajal his latest, which is considered a spiritual successor of Gangaajal as both movies deal with the same story with a few things shuffled around to make things look slightly more current.

As I watched and re-watched both movies respectively, I find that both the movies carry a similar set of plot points with minor deviations, the main protagonists in both the case are propagating against retributive justice, although in Gangaajal the main protagonist “accidentally” does kill the culprits but that is after a long drawn out exposition trying to explain why retributive justice is bad and the end voice over telling that he had to live with his reality after all was said and done.

Let’s deviate for a moment to look at what is meant by retributive justice, it’s when you appeal to the baser notion of an eye for an eye especially in cases that are in the extreme like murder. That is you appeal for one life for another, there is no scope for improvement and this is the final solution. There are other theories of justice but we’re not concerned with them and this makeshift definition should do the trick for our purpose. Jha tries to startle the line, although it barely looks like there is a line between revenge and law. Things that happen to the poor seem to be very predictable from the get go, the term “suicide” gets thrown around like candy, people die and live at the whim of the writer without much effect in the society.

There are usually the part which propagates mob justice and retribution and the other its exact polar opposite which ends up creating overall confusion throughout. Punchline at the end leaves pretty much everything the film that was preached till then as inconsequential. After pulling out all my hair I thought to myself that Jha would have something to say about this, but I couldn’t find a single interview that point blank asked him what his stance was on retributive justice was. People where either praising the movie or praising the aesthetic setup. Considering his movies aesthetic seems to be stuck in a bygone era of film making this is surprising thing to laud. Be it the melodramatic scoring or shoehorned comic relief, I can’t make sense of what the authorial intent here is.

Overall from what little I could gather it seemed that his voice was the end note exposition where the protagonist is trying to deter people from committing retributive act of mob lynching in the first film or in the second film where the main protagonist literally unties the noose from the villain’s neck. One still doubts this though, considering Jha goes as far as to play the dirty cop in this one there is essentially no depth to this character. A slime ball that gets a second chance to reclaim his past glory but what movie fails to do is build any back story for the man nether do we get why the main protagonist allows this character to be redeemed in a manner. In the first movie there is a similar character which gets killed, that character at least has some sort of arch, there is an established past where he was actually good and why he deserved a chance at redemption and is subsequently redeemed by his action while the character played by Jha just gets mad one day and his character just turns around and starts shooting at people he was buddy-buddy with till the other day. Even with suspension of disbelief on my part, this doesn’t really explain the overall build towards the retributive end and the unbelievable subversion of what was building up to be death of the antagonist.

I think most people have went as far as to conspire that this film was only made so that Jha could get to act. I mean seriously the main protagonist isn’t even present in half the movie. I guess that’s what Jha wanted perhaps, subversion in a very deadpan and illogical manner. It’s as if he’s trying to tell us that having expectation is the sin that we all commit, don’t believe the hype.

At the end of it all it is just another inconclusive Jha movie, which only try’s to say something but fails to pack an impact in the most bombastic manner. Jha should stop directing and focus on his acting career, although it was an empty character, Jha wasn’t actually that bad.

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The F word and “Y-Films” “Man’s World”

Let’s talk about it I guess, maybe? Okay a little? No? Well think about it, will you? OK fuck it call it something else and subvert public opinion based on their biases with sophistry.

Let me just start with some basics, this is a review of the new web series by “Y-films” or some hip “cool dood” version of Yash Raj called “Man’s World”, I will let my mind wonder a bit trying to cover recent comments of one Parineeti Chopra who has a cameo role in this series which sort of match the greater narrative of this show. Along with this I will shortly look at the other criticisms leveled against the series and somewhere in there you will find my own qualms and concerns and meandering thoughts. OK, so we good?

Alright.

What is this Man’s World Mini-Series all about?

This series is clearly from a male perspective front to back, and very you know, sterile…eh…how do I put it softly…have you seen a Yash Raj Film? Always a happy ending? Lesson learned at the end? Everything so explicit that, it takes a certain level of disbelief to enjoy the film? Yes? Am I getting some were? Ok, let me just try to explain the plot. Starting at the first episode, we’re introduced to a male character called Kiran who has a very lopsided premeditated view of how the world works and is constantly seen either berating or trying to “get with” women or generally bitching about how they (women) are treated better than men, by in large a typical caricature of a male right activist type people, who feel men are treated unfairly against women. So as the story progresses he keeps getting pissed off over the most inane things in his life ,in relation to women and finally breaks down when this girl he’s trying to court drops out of the engagement they had made earlier that day.

Rather than asking her what’s up with her, he starts to get drunk after calling up his friend who is equally misogynistic, and finally when they get done drinking and chatting, Kiran decides to go to some rooftop and he asks god for a switcheroo of gender in a drunken fit. Saying (I’m paraphrasing) that let me switch places with a women, he won’t bitch about the stuff that they (the women do) specifically he won’t demand feminism and won’t act like women do if his situation was like theirs.

The lack of a gender spectrum was also very annoying. Seeing all the people either be full on manly or feminine was very evocative of how most of the straight population see each other or how the writer of the series sees it rather as none seemed sort of masculine or sort of feminine other than one of the parts where the Lady from the bar saves Kiran from the police, who is sort of moderate on the spectrum.

OK, now that’s out of the way, I have a problem with the deity here, who makes a lopsided universe and then reverses the man’s role in that to be equally oppressive as that of a women and makes women do EXACTLY THE SAME SHIT MEN DO, as if a lopsided society would likely lead to the same future but for the men this time as against the women. Even if you just disregard this and take it for work of fiction and nothing else as in ignoring the world that has been set up over here.

To my mind’s eye this seems like a tone deaf attempt. It barely considers the playing field that it has of ideas to kick around, I mean seriously let your mind wonder a bit? Does your universe have to start and end at what you see? Can’t you take a leap of faith in few ways? Maybe have deeper female characters, rather than turning them into an equally oppressive male stereotype? Might you not just go ahead and make this story have the same plot lines with a female centric character?

Oh Crap…I forgot this was Yash Raj….sorry…continue, add some more happy go lucky scores in a forced manner, continue being that cutesy thing that you’ve always been. On a deeper level though I think this problem is way more problematic when you can’t even imagine a different reality even in fiction. It speaks volumes about a mentality that cannot be uprooted with one blow. I guess this is a start though, but knowing how things usually work I won’t be waiting for a future that is more profound and meditated.

Getting back to it, the thing is while the show is in its own broken way pushing people to think, it is very overt, the way the overall presentation goes, there is barely any subtlety in the plot everything from how the story progresses to the each shows ending, feel very tacked on and blunt, which isn’t a bad thing but when you do it to death, it becomes a bit much. I mean seriously, my sharing this video is barely going to change anyone’s view on gender equality or feminism, especially when you put your jack hammer on the extreme mode. I was at a point just imagining some middle aged uncle coming out of the woodwork to say something like “Han yeh toh, sahi bataya hai!” “Aisey he hota hai, ladkiyon ke sath” “Bahut badhiya dikhaya hai app ney, meri toh ankhey hi khol di app ney!” “Wah!” (Trans. “OMG! YOU HAVE OPPENED MY EYES! TO THESE TRUTHS!” “NOW I AM UNDERSTANDS HOW IT FEELS” “THIS IS EXACTLY HOW, THINGS GO DOWN OMG WHY HAVEN’T I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS!?”).

But alas, this is all a figment of my imagination they don’t go that far. But still they cross the line and are full on overt. I guess I understand on some level their thought process would be leveled against the general population who barely think about this stuff, and it’s hard to present subtlety to an Indian audience and this gets to a level of almost belittling the viewer and their ability to understand the slightest of nuance presence in the plot by being full flung overt and on top of that having the actors come and over explain this thing to death isn’t really a nifty solution to misunderstanding. Maybe it was an effect of the investment of UN’s The Global Goals for Sustainable Development , last time I remember UN poking their head into something related to feminism or gender was with this UNICEF video called “Baap wali bat” and that was something to behold I guess with its song telling father to act like idiots and uphold the patriarchal structure and save a girl child among other things like, let her go and study in a school and not get married early, it’s like you have humanized the girl child right? The TV show if looked at from that perspective, is better. But you know, it could’ve been a lot more, and it totally failed to take the bull by its horns.

Now there could be X number of things that led to this, Yash Raj/UN other producers and people who put money into this thing might have influenced this thing. Let us put aside that and think about just who is directing and writing this thing and what kind of perspective it brings to the table. It’s not a women and by extension the representation of problems are a mere caricature of women and how they function or would function in a “women’s world”, they are literalist and by extension being unimaginative. This almost harps back to morality plays of 15-16th century in the sense that it has a set agenda of sensitization, rather than anything else and how it does it is very blatant and unbecoming of something that tries to instill moral values via storytelling, also considering it’s supposed to be a comedy with dramatic elements. It barely packs much comedic value other than those few CID gags or the Vagina sign held up by Kalki Koechlin character among a few other things.

Other Criticisms and Conclusive Thoughts.

I have watch the whole series which is available online, I very rarely had a moment where I was able to have a different perspective on the series, its commentary what little it has is one note. I don’t know, maybe I was expecting too much from the get go. Perhaps a lowered expectation approach might have been more fruitful. Hopefully they try to push the envelope more than a square inch next time. Again I would’ve liked to hear from more women on this though, sad to see even the ladiesfinger had an article by a man on this, the only one from a women I did find was at best 2 paragraph, hardly any insight but I mostly agreed with it & the former one as well. I also ended up watching the 3(so far) behind the scene or interview with the starts thing they added few days back and I thought that was way better at reaching out to people and trying to tell people why this is the need of the hour or why more people need to think about feminism/gender equality in a sober manner.

The “F” word

As an aside I saw this tabloid report that quoted Parineeti Chopra saying “I do feel proud of my gender, of being a woman. I do speak against gender inequality. I am the brand ambassador for Haryana’s ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padao’ campaign. And I think it is very important for me personally to strive for equality, especially the industry that I come from,” & “Now, I understand and accept that anything that I do, could and I hope should inspire young girls. Now, I am very particular about what I say or do. If that makes me half a feminist, then that’s okay. I want girls to be treated the way men are. Somewhere we lack that in our country. So, I do want to be a role model but not a feminist.” It’s truly sad to see crap like this, when you cannot even articulate the word or shudder at the thought of being associated with this word, just because it has certain connotation, doesn’t mean you can just wish it away and its true meaning which you tend to lean towards. But I guess she does come from a certain place and it’s understandable on some level but very few people even try to walk the walk when it comes to the word. See now even I’m not able to say it…what was it? Feme…nazi? Yeah! That’s what goes around some people’s head I’m sure Parineetis’ publicist being one of them or perhaps she herself. Who knows…

 

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YES! We have ‘reformed’ your educational institution(s)!

As a person who has been annoyed and generally disillusioned by the whole of Indian education system, Delhi University appeared to be the last bastion which upheld the standards of education in the realm of higher education especially for humanities and arts, but all I ended up was heartache along with schooling in our Sisyphean reality.

When I enrolled in a college part of the university, the university had just adopted the semester system from the age old year system just about a year or so ago, we hadn’t seen the result of said change of this switch as the first batch that had experienced the semester system hadn’t yet passed out, from that coming to see an equally foolhardy implementation of FYUP, was only one among many things that help my disillusion with academia solidify further. We didn’t have any choices to speak of, didn’t even get to ‘choose’ which subject we studied due to the fact there was a lack of man power and infrastructure, there was a vast lack of books even, barely any in the college library even though the course we were taught was quite old, about 15-20 year old, yet no books very few reference books and textbooks, so you can imagine how we were getting through. I think that’s enough of my interloping let’s talk more about FYUP and then move on to its cousin CBCS.

Four-Year Undergraduate Program: The Local Days

It all started with an example often cited by Prof. Dinesh Singh (Standing VC of DU) whenever making a case for the four year program being the need of the hour and I quote Prof. Dinesh here from an old interview from CNN IBN

“I arranged for eleven hundred students who are about to graduate from my university(DU) at the end of a three year program to be interviewed by a major corporate institution, we did not disclose any details, there were lots of jobs in that institution which is a major company, which flew in from Mumbai with whole team. (We) Didn’t disclose anything, the names and the marks of the students. Not their background, not their colleges, guess how many where chosen by the firm for jobs? Three out of eleven hundred.”

Then again after a few more minutes into the conversation the Prof. decides to drop an alarming statistic out of what seems like thin air, which goes something like:

“…the other thing that bothers me is I checked figures for many years, I’ve been told on an average about 30% of the students drop out each year from the system without a degree…”

Now these ‘facts’ aren’t actually in public domain and cannot be accessed by the general populous, and nobody really cares from the look of things. Prof. Dinesh purporting himself to be a man of science should’ve acted like one and given substantial proof for his findings, rather than just pushing supposed reform by brute force and rhetoric, but I guess that’s just the way the academic institution function in this country, just ramshackle and blatantly lacking of foresight, anything that comes after as supposed ‘reform’ is but to save face and brute force ones agenda. How it got through was another story worth telling of course, the UGC played a major part in both the implementation and the further removal of the system as the government changed FYUP actually turned into a national issue somehow making its way towards manifestos of many parties and then the subsequent removal as soon as the next party came into power. There were reports of Prof. Ved Prakash (still is the chairman somehow) then chairman of UGC who was actually supporting the FYUP at that point and Prof. Ved Prakash himself was seen singing sonnets about Prof. Dinesh (Video). Further one can see then congress stooge HRD minister Shashi Tharoor had said that the ministry wasn’t involved in this decision though observing that, this step was a positive and cited that “the American norm of 12+4 had become popular”[1] , and most of the other conversation meandered around the fact that most student who apply to foreign nations’ universities are turned down because they don’t follow the 12+4 American standard. These argument fail on many levels that this article deals with the same in depth, and I agree with most of the stances taken there so won’t waste my or your time, just read that.

Coming to the actual implementation of the system, it was as expected a broken ramshackle ‘reform’ built by those who ‘know best’, without any insight from the students themselves, and further disregard of most teachers in the system itself. The system as stated above wanted to mimic the American standard of 12+4 but as was the case that requires a lots of things like say man power and infrastructure, neither of which were possessed by the university. So, knowing only one thing they jam it down the students and teachers throat and hoped for the best.

On a side note, from what you are reading till now it might feel that I might be deprecating on or am taking a depreciative view of ‘reforms’ themselves, which is fine. But I’m not against reforms themselves. I am against these ‘reforms’ in particular as they are showing a deep-rooted problem that has been almost contagious in a way that keeps carrying on from one generation to another. These ‘reforms’ are done in almost a systematic manner with disregard for public opinion with the elitist disposition that the “masses won’t be able to handle it” kind of way, and are passed on from generation to generation. Now more than ever we need reform in the truer sense, but it takes time as against the FYUP which is just a flashy PR exercise gone bad, that doesn’t have any rhyme or reason behind it and is done without much meditation.

OK, back to the story. The system gets implemented without much ‘problem’ to speak of, other than the many protests by student bodies which were unanimously against it and many teachers as well, but mostly those things were overlooked and people enrolled in the system took classes in this system, some even didn’t mind it, most disliked it for various reasons and are still reeling from the shock that this thing was and are now often found in their final year of DU thanks to the rollback. They are still the experiment pods though, they are fed somewhat a different diet than their predecessors and successors, so its easy to see they might feel a bit of a disconnect as they cannot really talk shop with either their ‘juniors’ or ‘seniors’, how they will coup with the future is going to be interesting to say the least. But its okay I guess now, right? I mean what could go wrong now? we got rid of the FYUP and even had a back to normal year of batch introduced, right? Cue in Choice-Based Credit System or CBCS!

Choice-Based Credit System or CBCS : WE’RE GOING NATIONAL NOW BABY!

Lets just start by taking a look at what CBCS entails from this UGC guideline available online[2].

“The education plays enormously significant role in building of a nation. There are quite a large number of educational institutions, engaged in imparting education in our country. Majority of them have entered recently into semester system to match with international educational pattern. However, our present education system produces young minds lacking knowledge, confidence, values and skills. It could be because of complete lack of relationship between education, employment and skill development in conventional education system. The present alarming situation necessitates transformation and/or redesigning of education system, not only by introducing innovations but developing “learner-centric approach in the entire education delivery mechanism and globally followed evaluation system as well.”

Does this sound familiar? If not all of it at least the latter half of the paragraph seems to be singing the same tone as the one the Delhi University VC was singing in his interview, but this is even more abstract and without any substance really. The UGC is so far up its own ass that it gives itself an appraisal and says well done? For example this quote [2]:

“The CBCS will undoubtedly facilitate us bench mark our courses with best international academic practices. The CBCS has more advantages than disadvantages.”

Then the guideline goes on to list them, and of course you wouldn’t criticize your own baby. So I’ll help it out. Let me try to pick apart these points.

Point no. 1[2]: “Shift in focus from the teacher-centric to student-centric education.”

This is an unsubstantiated claim, same as the FYUP or the semester system, but now on a grander scale as this is going to applied at a larger scale by UGC upon multiple Universities like the one in Delhi.

Point no. 2[2]: “Student may undertake as many credits as they can cope with (without repeating all courses in a given semester if they fail in one/more courses).”

Seems fine on paper but again this is done without any research or thought, so if the system fails this attempt at ‘reform’ might fail as well and there are already reports that say as much. Then what follows is a grim situation where students don’t know what to do with themselves as this requires good teachers in the system and at least half decent counselors which doesn’t exist in most DU colleges, and if it does it’s in abysmal state.Even if we disregard this infrastructure and manpower is still a concern. This guideline itself says as much when it states its disadvantages which are[2]:

  • Difficult to estimate the exact marks
  • Workload of teachers may fluctuate
  • Demand good infrastructure for dissemination of education

With the exception of the first one rest of them are very bit concerns that have been there since the implementation of the semester system which have been barely addressed, the colleges still rely heavily on ad-hoc teachers who are made to wait for long amount of years to get an official professorial position in the University, and even the ad-hoc teachers at least good ones are hard to find, some positions are just left vacant because of budget constraints perhaps? Or some equally benign reason that never gets addressed and eventually develops into a real problem. The infrastructure problem has been there since the beginning, considering the university has very little to offer in terms of their teachers, it’s not hard to imagine why they don’t have better infrastructure, obviously it’s the fact that they’re broke most of the time or there are corrupt people waiting to fill their coffers at every level (this is more of a speculation, so don’t take my word for it). As for the workload of course when you have less teachers, not enough classrooms and an ever growing intake, you can’t not expect the teachers to get fatigued and/or overloaded with work,  and barely able to have a student-teacher relationship or focus on anyone let alone mentor someone.

Point no. 3[2]: CBCS allows students to choose inter-disciplinary, intra-disciplinary courses, skill oriented papers (even from other disciplines according to their learning needs, interests and aptitude) and more flexibility for students).

This is in a way contradictory considering the self-stated pitfalls or disadvantages themselves. Considering they don’t have the infrastructure or the manpower to offer everyone the course they want this point become null and void as stated in the article posted in response to the last point.

Point no. 4[2]: “CBCS makes education broad-based and at par with global standards. One can take credits by combining unique combinations. For example, Physics with Economics, Microbiology with Chemistry or Environment Science etc.”

Point no. 5[2]: “CBCS offers flexibility for students to study at different times and at different institutions to complete one course (ease mobility of students). Credits earned at one institution can be transferred.”

Again chasing after the global standard and homogenization just like its cousin FYUP, the individuality of the courses being stripped away, you get a university education to specialize in a specific subset of a field not to take a look at something in a general sense and move past it, this model is not totally flawed but I lack faith in our institutions to have the infrastructure and man power to handle such tasks, again it’s going to confuse people rather than anything else, also there is a question of further education on a masters or Ph.D. level, when the intake is going to be based on either the major or the minor, I think you start to mug yourself if you think this is logistically possible for a system that couldn’t do quarter of this when we were in the initial semester system, we had ‘choices’ but only go what our college could offer and same was the case for most colleges, so having multiple colleges with about the same infrastructure and autonomy is just the same as the old system having that faux ‘choice’ there is just to show the world rather than anything else.Further from the looks of it, it seems that that’s not really a way one can go the multi college option but one has to work within the confines of ones own college, which just contradicts the systems dictate in a pivotal manner.

If you want some proof as to how and why this is but a nuanced attempt at FYUP and is in fact a fuck up, look at reading this article by Deccan Herald. For starters we never really had ‘choices’ to begin with most colleges in the closed off institution setting, with small man power and poor infrastructure could only hope for such pipe dreams to take off in the past when less was expected of them considering their infra and manpower increased according to the times. Yet somehow our HRD ministry expects the same structure to take the load for something, which institutions are not built or ready for, with sufficient notice and meditation perhaps this could’ve been a positive step for one and all, but rushing this through like this just makes this reek of the whole FYUP debacle that played out but on a larger stage, with even less thought and foresight leveled against the issue.

This is just one in many things going wrong at the national level of educational discourse if you follow central organization like the UGC and NCERT in the news it’s not that hard to see an anti-liberty stance being taken by our current government by their phantom which resides in these central organizations and from their student wing who were singing a different tune when talking about the not so different FYUP, which now is now in supporting CBCS blatantly and one such outfit somehow managed to nab the victory in the recent student body election, even though having such a apathetic stance. Oddly enough the government in a way is looking towards western world to solve their problems just until it suits them and are coming up with things that make you cringe, and say, really? They want to do this? Weren’t they against the same basic premise few months ago?

Perhaps this is but a cautionary tale to those who deluded themselves into thinking that these institutions had some sort of autonomy to begin with and the government wanted to work for the greater good of India and didn’t want to push its own regressive agenda in the disguise of progress. Even if for a moment we suspend our beliefs and say that in fact these institutions have free reign over their actions, which is even more worrying considering this was supposedly a thought out product, there were no eyebrows raised (perhaps they were raised and sidelined) and no one got sacked as a result, not the VC of DU nor the UGC chairman in the first case, and in the second case the whole conversation vanished it seems, it’s as if everyone involved bought into partial utopia offered in the form of CBCS or it just became too big to fail at this point and those dissenting yet again sidelined and trampled for the greater ‘glory’ of this regime, who knows right?

Ref [1] http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article4270.html

Ref [2] http://www.ugc.ac.in/pdfnews/8023719_Guidelines-for-CBCS.pdf

Hey! If you have something interesting for me or something interesting to say hit me up on twitter (@Crit93)