Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My Hindi Poems on 'Kritya' - A Journal of Poetry

This post is for Hindi readers and I have also written on my Hindi blog.

The December issue of Kritya - a journal of poetry, has published a collection of nine of my Hindi poems in their 'Samkaleen Kavita' (contemporary poetry) section. Rest of the poems are on this page.
Hindi Poems by Seema Kumar published in Kritya, a journal of poetry

These poems are from a collection of my poems written over the years... right from school and college days and not just all recent ones. The frequency of my poetry writing had reduced a lot with job and hectic city life. But this comes as a motivation to continue writing :-)

I am awaiting comments on the published poems.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Are metropolitan cities safe from corruption and bribery ?

This is a continuation from my last post. When I applied for my passort in mid 2001 at Mumbai, my only aim was to have an identity proof in Mumbai, as I had been studying and then working there. I had completed one year in a working women's hostel while working and they could provide me the necessary residence proof (the most important document !).
After applying for the passport at Mumbai, I waited for the police verification but none happened. I was told by my room-mate, who was working for a travel agency who organised package tours for international trade-fairs, etc., that I myself needed to go to the police station to get the verification done. She was well aware about these procedures regarding passport and Visa because of her job.
After some time passed, one evening, after office, I personally went to the police station with all my documents to get the verification done. I was told by the concerned police officer to fill a form and bring certain documents. I took everything the next time. The concerned police officer again asked me to bring some other documents and photograph. Again I took it the next time. My room-mate told me I should just pay him something and my work will get done. The police officer did not ask me anything openly and I was not willing to offer anything as I had all the relevant and correct documents. Why should I pay him for something that was his job and on top of that they had not even come for the verification. Now I don't remember exactly how many times I went to the police station, and that too, alone, after office, and how many phone calls I made to the police station get the police verification done. Finally, I was told that the police verification was complete and was forwarded.
Again some time passed and no passport came. A few months had passed since I had applied for the passport. In the meanwhile I got a job in Delhi and I moved to Delhi. Still no passort came.
One day, after hearing this story about my passport, an acquaintance gave me the pamphlet of Directorate of Public Grievances, (Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India). This is "an administrative mechanism which facilitates individual citizens in obtaining fair and objective dealing of certain types of their unresolved grievances with specified Central Government Departments/ Organizations, in certain situations."
He asked me to send a written complaint here, which I did. I got a reply from there which asked me to furnish certain documents, which I did. I got a phone number of this department and an e-mail ID of the concerned authority. He asked me to fill the passport application form again and submit at the Delhi passport office. The passport application fees when I had applied in Mumbai was Rs.300/- and now when I was in Delhi, it was Rs.1000/-. However, I did not need to re-deposit any fee and although I had not completed a year in Delhi, still I was told to apply. This time the police came for verification promptly and did not even hint about any money in the form of bribe. My passport finally got made with Delhi address ... after about a year of my initial application.. without paying any bribe !!!
Ultimately, I stood my ground and did not pay any bribe. But I could do that only because I was in no urgent need of the passport. I have seen police verification happeneing of so many other family members and friends and everyone has paid to the police during verification - not because there was something illegal, or something was missing, but only because it has become a norm to pay the police - they ask either directly or indirectly as if it is their right and the only thing that is up to you is how much you can negotiate about it and finally how much you pay them.
Another episode relates to the registration of property. When I bought my house and went to get it registered, I had to pay a certain percentage of the property's registered value at the registration office- again, not because there was anything illegal in the property that I was buying, but just because it is a norm. My peoperty dealer had already told me about it. The officials there openly asked for it and said it was a 'fees' for them and the money gets distributed throughout the hierarchy. I did speak out there, too, but there was nothing much that I could do in this case.
Property deals are generally quite infamous for the corruption, bribery and black money involved. But it was amazing to see how even an important international identity like a passport can be made just by paying some money to the police !! But slowly, I guess, we become immune to these kind of things ... we just take these things for granted and we don't even think of raising a voice againt it. We talk about corruption and bribery that is prevalent in remote areas, in states like Bihar and UP, but what about our capital city and metropolitans like Mumbai ? Are they any less ? Are we safe from this kind of corruption and bribery while living in these metropolitan cities ?
*NOTE : Just in case it is of any help to anyone in need, the website of Directorate of Public Grievances is http://dpg.bharatsarkar.nic.in/

Monday, November 27, 2006

Few words on 'Manjunath Shanmugam Trust'

I was reading this post of Ashish Kumar (founder- Tekriti Software) on his blog. This is about - Manjunath Shanmugam, an IIM Lucknow graduate and a Indian Oil employee, who was murdered by a dealer of an Indian Oil Corporation (IOCL) for not accepting bribes and did not turn a blind eye to the adulteration of fuel being carried out by the dealer.
The aim is to spread the word on the activities taken by the Manjunath Shanmugam Trust. Ashish's blog has more information about the activities and the details are available on www.manjunathshanmugamtrust.org. The forms for the Integrity Award being offered by this trust are available here.
This murder of Manjunath was indeed sad and shocking. He paid a very high price for not accepting bribe.
In our daily lives, in our day-to-day dealings with many governmrnt offices, if not all, haven't we all come across officials to whom we have to pay bribe to get even small work done ? And how many times do we have the courage, resources, spirit, time or will to fight againt it, and not pay the bribe and get the work done? Even if we feel angry about it, even if we speak a lot among our friends and family about it, but do we really take any step towards stopping it ? When we are in need to get a certain work done, we go ahead and pay the bribe and get the work done. It is good to see the initiative being taken by trusts like 'Manjunath Shanmugam Trust'.

Talking about bribe, it was surprising to see that even enquiries for Passport are based on bribe and is commonly prevalent. I have personally faced it and the consequences of NOT willing to pay the bribe for the police verification even when I had all the correct and complete documents and certificates with me. But more about some of my experiences in my next post.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

First show of 'Formula 69' movie at IIT, Delhi

The Seminar Hall of IIT, Delhi, was almost full with students and guests by the time we reached there on the evening of 4th Nov.

The show began with the Director-Producer Nitin Das giving a brief speech and while waiting for the actual movie to start we saw another brief comedy movie.


A scene from 'Formula 69'

'Formula 69' is about three friends at IIT-D in their final year, like I had mentioned in my previous post. The dialogues and scenes in the movie have been taken from the events of the daily student life. This not only amuses the viewers and brings about comedy, but students can also relate to the movie.

I will not go into describing the details of the movie. I will only say that it is a low budget debut movie, with no one in this movie or in the making of the movie being from Bollywood or experienced in the film-line. The movie comes with a freshness, simplicity and genuine comedy picked up from student life and if was an engrossing and enjoyable 90 minutes watching the movie. I cretainly enjoyed the movie and the weekend with the movie :-).

This article in The Times of India has more about 'Formula 69' movie.

Seminar Hall of IIT-D before the movie began


A scene from 'Formula 69'

This is a scene from 'Formula 69' and my brother Ashish (on the left) plays a brief role of one of the CBI guys who come to investigate a murder that takes place at IIT-D.


Ashish Lal (Left) with Director-Producer Nitin Das (Right) at IIT-Delhi after the movie 'Formula 69' was screened.


This movie is by 'FILMKAAR Productions' by Nitin Das and more about it on http://www.filmkaar.com/

After the movie was over my brother Ashish introduced us to the Director and Producer Nitin Das, who is also IIM-L passout (and was full of praise about how talented Ashish was :-). When I asked him what was his next plan, he said he would be making a movie with the children from the slums next.

I hope this movie gets the acknowledgement it deserves.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Formula 69 - Film by IIT-Delhi and IIM-Lucknow in which my brother Ashish plays a part

This post is about a film shot in IIT-Delhi, Formula69. It is a science-fiction Film that has been made in IIT-Delhi using a special technique (code named GIn technique). It is a light hearted adventure of three IITians who use their crazy inventions to save the world from a gang of Biochemical terroists. IIT-Delhi dramatics team guys are the star cast and my younger brother, Ashish Kumar Lal, ex-IIT, Delhi, has also played a role in this movie. Nitin Das - IIM Lucknow, is the Director and Producer.

Looking for fulfilling dreams, a pool of talented theatre guys of
IIT-Delhi and IIM-Lucknow started making a movie 'Fomula 69' from January 2006. This movie is now ready and they are trying to premiere it on Telvision. Before that it will be premiered in IIT. They have got coverage from The Times of India, Asian Age, Mumbai newspapaers and magazines and 30minutes show on making of Formula 69 on Aaj Tak TV channel.
As told by Ashish, "This movie would be commercially released but not in cinema halls (the frames per second funda of the camera and the huge investment involved used doesn’t allow us to do that). The movie’s first shot was taken on 22nd Feb, 2006."

Here is an opportunity to watch this movie made by IIM-L and IIT-D guys at IIT Delhi on 4th Saturday at 5.30pm. Below is the formal invitation and details that I received from Ashish and is open for everyone.

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We are having a secret screening of our recently completed sci-fi film Formula 69.
This is a confidential invitation for you. The details of the exclusive premiere and the film are as follows:

Date : 4th November 2006 – Saturday
Time: 5:30 p.m
Venue: Convocation Hall, IIT Delhi , Hauz Khas, New Delhi
Dress : Compulsory
Entry Fee: A smile (only genuine ones will be accepted)

Hope to see you there.

Ashish Lal
Actor- 'Formula 69'
B.Tech., IIT-Delhi and a Business Consultant
On behalf of 'Formula 69' Group

(Please destroy this invitation after you have memorized it)
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More about the film (As told by Ashish):

Formula 69 is a sci-fi thriller about 3 IIT students who use their crazy inventions to save the world.

Chatur (Hemant Kathuria), Bhains (Himschwet Gaurav) and Magga (Tarun Singhal) are 3 final year students at IIT D who get involved in a bizarre adventure when their dean gets murdered and the secret formula he was working on disappears. Now the 3 geniuses have to solve the mystery, retrieve the formula and clear their final year exams, all in 10 days.

The film is a collaborative effort by the students, alumni and staff of IIT Delhi. The project is spearheaded by Nitin Das, a pass out of IIM Lucknow. And the film is dedicated to George Bush and Osama Bin Laden.

A short trailer of the film is available on:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1874121292114343258 (final trailer)
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The Times of India has article on 23rd Feb.'06 in Delhi and in Mumbai on 24th Feb.


Asian Age has the below article on 10th March '06 in its archives:-

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IITians on the roll make sci-fi film- By Rajesh Ahuja New Delhi

It took Delhi students 17 years to set the camera rolling on the campus again. The IIT Delhi and IIM Lucknow alumni have joined hands to follow the legacy of Pradip Kishen, (author Arundhati Roy’s husband), to attempt a full-fledged film on the campus. But this time, there’s a twist in the tale.

While Kishen’s flick, based on Roy’s novel In Which Annie Gives It To Those Ones, was shot at the School of Planning and Architecture in 1989 and had a splendid starcast, this sci-fi movie will be shot at IIT and will have IIT students donning the greasepaint.

Science-fiction plot

Talking about the movie titled Formula 69 (no pun intended), which boasts of many crazy inventions, Nitin Das, an IIM Lucknow graduate and the creative genius behind the project, says, "I had always been inclined towards filmmaking and decided to call my management career quits. Neither has anyone attempted a 90-minute feature film on the campus, nor has this genre been touched." But why this quirky name? "Coming from IITians, it had to be ahead of its times. It’s set in the year 2010, and the name plays a vital role," he adds.

Casting ouch!

Director and script writer Das affirms that zeroing on the cast was a big issue, but as IIT had a Dance and Dramatics society (D ‘n’ D), things became simpler. "I conducted a nine-day workshop on filmmaking at IIT Delhi in January and met a lot of talented people. Realising their passion for films, I decided to make the film. I auditioned students and finalised the cast."

Let’s talk money, honey

Though the cast and crew don’t want to divulge details about their monetary investment, the group in charge of the film’s marketing says "it is quite something". "What we are primarily investing is our time and talent," says Harshal, a third year IIT student handling the film’s marketing.

Overcoming obstacles

Why haven’t many films been attempted on the campus in the past? Is it primarily due to lack of funds and the right guidance? "Yes, that’s true. It took us a month to get approvals from different departments within the college. First, I had to get permission from the D ‘n’ D Society, then the Board of Recreational and Cultural Activities and finally the dean," says Das.

The students made effective use of technological expertise available at the college. "We’ve made gadgets out of scrap material, equipment available in the labs and some inventions that ex-students made over the years," informs Tarun Singhal, who plays Magga (the bookworm).

Rolling on the campus

"As we have our classes during the day, we rehearse at night. We are only allowed to shoot on weekends and till now, we have shot twice. We made ample use of the campus area and shot in classrooms, lecture theatre and terrace. We are also planning to shoot a scene at the Tughlaqabad Fort soon," reveals Nishant Kumar, who plays the baddie in the film.

Future of independent filmmaking

Das finds the future promising but the present bleak. "Independent filmmaking is in its infant stage in India. People don’t attempt such projects as they fear huge expenses. Films like these are story and talent-driven, equipments come later. But sadly, there are no groups or societies who could provide a sound platform to people with such vision," concludes Das.

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A short trailer of the film is available on Google here (final trailer) and on YouTube here.

Wish you all the best Ashish and the 'Formula 69' team. I plan to be there at the screening of 'Formula 69'. Good luck to you and your whole team :-)