Why is it so hard to bid goodbye to dear ones?

Why is it always so hard to bid goodbye to a dear one?” ran through my mind as I traced my steps back from the airport to my home. I had just dropped off a close friend as he moves ahead for greener pastures in the West. It all happened so rapidly – the quick mention of the good times we have had, the hugs, the emotional goodbyes, the promise to meet again and then ……

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This is a season of goodbyes for me. My close friends circle is slowly breaking in to individual lines with every one of them leaving Hyderabad either for studies or for a job, including me. One left for Canada, another leaves for the U.S today while the other one leaves for Saudi Arabia in a month and I’ll be heading to a different city in India at around the same time.  In the very beginning, we used to be a gang of 10-15 here in Hyderabad, reminiscing the fun school days when at IISR, staying up late at night, discussing almost everything under the moon and gulping down yummy Hyderabadi Biryani.

Slowly that number reduced to just 5-6 as many left to the Gulf and the States to pursue jobs (and then get married) and very soon it’ll be down to nil.

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I am lucky to have some amazing friends who have stood by me in thick and thin. The only thought that worries me is that, after the goodbye, I am not sure if I’ll be able to meet ‘em all together.

After coming back home and feeling low while pondering over the same, I may have found an answer to my question. It is hard to bid goodbye because they are the ones who understand you in the best possible way. It is hard because they started being your friend without glancing at your wallet or your contact list. It is hard because they are living ambassadors of true friendship.

And you should treasure them!

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Life behind the camera: Getting started

For the record, I am a huge believer in celluloid power. When I am not playing Snooker with pals over the weekend or not completing my training activities, you’ll find me watching 12 Angry Men or Citizen Kane. I believe that cinema is an extremely powerful medium to evoke an emotion or a meaningful response. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy Basic instinct too! Jokes apart, I sometimes used to look at the camera with a stare that says ‘Hold on, Imma gonna get you soon.’

And when Microsoft gifted me a Samsung NX1100 camera a month ago (so generous of them), I got a good reason to pursue one of my interests – creating videos. It’s a decent camera to get started with pictures and videos. At 30fps and 1080p, you cannot complain. I had dabbled once in video creation when me and a few friends pulled efforts three years ago to shoot a video documentary about pollution on the Necklace Road stretch here in Hyderabad and how to overcome it. We had interviews with a local citizen who was playing ball with his family in the park, with sweepers and officials from the Municipal Dept.  who tirelessly make efforts to keep the stretch clean only to find it dirty the very next moment plus a few other good shots. That documentary was aired on the local channels here (indeed a great achievement for us)! TV9 was kind enough to do a small interview with me. But that was shot using a handy cam and as a result – lots of shaky footage.

Martin Scorsese on the sets of Hugo

Martin Scorsese on the sets of Hugo

Moving on, through videos/documentaries, I would love to highlight societal issues or something that would evoke a reaction among viewers and prompt them to do good. But to be impactful, a lot of things go into place, video editing skills being one of them. I am presently working on Lightworks as a beginner. I initially thought Windows Movie Maker (Windows 8) would be apt for getting started but when it comes down to creating a good video, it does have some limitations. So I’ll stick with Lightworks for the time being. Even Martin Scorsese chose Lightworks for his Oscar-winning film Hugo.

I might actually skip the weekly hangout plan(s) to make sure I am done with my immediate purchases – a tripod and a few additional lenses. I have a couple of stories in mind but will wait for the first one as it’s always the hardest one.

That reminds me, I need to go back and resume login in to my training program. Starting job, you see. Wish me luck.

Filming the Microsoft video about the MSP Program – My Experiences

When I think about it, the whole experience looks surreal. Never had I imagined that I’ll be starring in a video shoot with a proper setup containing dozens of cameras, reflectors, a director, a producer, on-site crew, a make-up lady, a microphone et al plus a crew member who would travel all the way from Seattle, U.S to my place here in Hyderabad, India for filming the video.

During the interview shoot in Russia.

During the interview shoot in Russia.

It all started with a survey/questionnaire where Microsoft (through Waggener Edstrom) was looking for potential Microsoft Student Partners (MSPs) for their new video project that highlights the work that MSPs do. Selecting TWO people from around NINE THOUSAND in the world? Well good luck to them. That was followed by multiple emails before announcing my selection for the video project. My first reaction? BLANK.

I was then scheduled for a video chat to discuss more about the shoot and all but I ended up placing my hand on my chin feeling awestruck after interacting with the director – Matt Skerritt who not just has incredible work to his credit but also whose Dad played an important role in one of my fav movies of all time. Remember Tom Skerritt as “Viper” – the flight instructor to Tom Cruise in Top Gun? YES!

Many days later, I drove myself to The Westin to meet Andy Hanson, the videographer on this project who had flown all the way from U.S. to India to capture some scenes in my home background. THIRTY TWO hours in transit (back and forth each) from his place in Seattle to Hyderabad? OM.G!

Andy working inside the Charminar

Andy working inside the Charminar

I now thank my stars for helping me meet Andy. During our course of interaction and work over the next few days, I found him to be one of the most professional, humble and extremely well-mannered person I’ve ever met in my life. We shot at important places here in Hyderabad like the Charminar, the Golconda Fort (yes, we scaled those hundreds of stairs up to get the perfect shot), Hussain Sagar (speed boat, baby!), the Microsoft office etc. While at Charminar when Andy was busy filming me, a crowd of around twenty people used to surround Andy and the camera, each one of them stepping on their toes to get a glimpse of what’s happening in the camera screen. Not to forget the ‘Hyderabadi’ passersby on vehicles whizzing past us from whom I received hilarious comments during action and that was hard for me as I had to stay motionless/expressionless and NOT SMILE or laugh during the shoot.

Me and Andy after completing the shoot on the last day

Me and Andy after completing the shoot on the last day

Saying goodbye to Andy was hard but not without a promise to meet him someday in Seattle. In a week from then, I landed in Saint Petersburg, Russia for Microsoft Imagine Cup where Matt Skerritt and Brad Lenz (the producer) were scheduled to meet me to complete the remaining portions of the video shoot. Matt and Brad are super-efficient and they know how to get the work done. While fulfilling my responsibilities as an MSP Social Media Team member at Imagine Cup Russia, my schedule was pretty much bummed up (hectic) all the time but we did manage to get some amazing shots in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

It’s really been a great experience participating in this video project by Microsoft about the Microsoft Student Partner program. Meeting Andy here in Hyderabad, doing quick selfie shots at Dubai Airport en-route to Russia, exploring the Palace Square in Saint Petersburg with Matt, waiting for Brad to pick me up from the MSPSMT dorm room for our shoots during Imagine Cup, clearing my throat before the important interview on-camera. Ah boy! Good memories.

Matt - the Director is to the extreme left. Brad - the Producer is to my right

Matt – the Director is to the extreme left. Brad – the Producer is to my right

Thanks are due to Microsoft for selecting me for this video project and making me feel special. Thank you Andy for teaching me a great lesson in humbleness (I really learnt a LOT from you). Thanks Matt for ‘tolerating’ me all through the while. Thanks Brad for taking the effort to actually come down to our MSPSMT room and pick me up for shoots.

Thanks Mom, Michelle Fleming – Worldwide MSP Program Lead, for making all of this happen. Your support and love is unmatched!

The video is as below and it is AMAZING! Loved it. I should say – I feel extremely honoured and privileged to be featured in there. Thank you Microsoft for making me feel special. I owe you a lot!

Spasibo! (Russian for ‘Thank You’)

Why I stopped watching Bollywood movies

When Aamir Khan launched his Ghajini look, I was in awe. After seeing the movie, I kind of liked it. But the likeness lowered down a little upon learning that it was a copy of the original Ghajini released in the Tamil. A month later I chanced upon Memento by Christopher Nolan starring Guy Pearce. I threw my hands up in disappointment after learning that the original Ghajini was in fact a remake or ‘inspiration’ as they say, of Memento. Enough is enough.

Source: http://filesforyoufromks.blogspot.com

That’s when I decided to cut down on mainstream Indian cinema, or proper Bollywood you can say.

For example, I am real shit tired of David Dhawan making another of his comedies. Partner was okay BUT EVEN THAT WAS A RIP-OFF OF HITCH originally starring Will Smith? Oh boy!

Switching to cinema apart from Bollywood turned out to be a good decision for I was introduced to titles like 12 Angry Men, The Godfather,  Million Dollar Baby, The Basketball Diaries, The Flowers of War and the list goes on and on. Frankly speaking, it might sound bullshit to others but it helped me evolve as a person and widened my perspective.

A few days ago, my cousin forced me in to a theatre playing Ye Jawaani Hai Deewani, a June 2013 release. That was me watching a Bollywood movie after a gap of 18 months (Paan Singh Tomar being the only exception). After the movie ended, I thanked myself a gazillion times for staying true to my decision of being away from mainstream Bollywood cinema. WERE ALL THE BOLLYWOOD DIRECTORS BORN IN THE SAME LOVE FIELD? Why do you have to insert the element of love in EVERY SINGLE MOVIE? Inserting it notwithstanding, you guys make it the basis for your story. Every story! Bah. Serving me a complete apple or cutting it in halves or many other pieces doesn’t save the fact that I’ll be ultimately bored of eating apples every day. Same goes with your love story, director.

How about you spend some time deciding on a better script rather than deciding on how to spend millions on foreign locale shooting? Your deeds just don’t serve the purpose.

Though I like the upcoming breed of filmmakers from India like Anurag Kashyap, Dibaker Bannerjee etc. Irrfan Khan is my favorite when it comes to acting. He was fucking brilliant in Paan Singh Tomar and absolutely deserves the National Award for his acting. Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan look like third grade kiddos when compared to Irrfan Khan and his acting prowess.

Paan Singh Tomar

I love character films because they have a far stronger connect with the audience. But there are very very few character actors in India or Bollywood. And that’s the saddening part.

With moist eyes, I reached out for a tissue paper when Morgan Freeman pulls out the oxygen-supply pump off Hillary Swank in Million Dollar Baby; I cried when Christian Bale bids a final farewell to the ladies from the Yellow River in The Flowers of War who were later gonna get brutally killed by the evil army men.

I believe meaningful cinema should evoke a reaction from the beholder. Not a ‘WTF Why did I waste my time on this’ reaction. If you get the same, then you are simply wasting time and you need to move on to better things in life.

I’ll blindly select a Quentin Tarantino movie or a Steven Soderbergh movie over a David Dhawan / Farah Khan rom-com.

Period.

 

Selected for a special MSP video project by Microsoft – Yowzaa!!

Microsoft shooting a premier video about you and your experience as a Microsoft Student Partner, how cool is that? Very, I’d say.

Well, Microsoft in collaboration with Waggener Edstrom is preparing a special video project helmed by Brad Lenz and Matt Skerritt (LenzSkerritt Media) about the experiences of being a Microsoft Student Partner and what comes with it.

Two MSPs globally have been selected to be featured in this video project, myself being one of ‘em. A surprise co-incidence is that the other MSP selected (apart from me) is in fact a great friend of mine and an awesome team-mate.

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The video crew will be covering my responsibilities during the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals in St. Petersburg, but not before shooting a significant portion of the video at my home location (Hyderabad, India).

I did interact with Matt Skerritt over Skype and can already predict this to be a lot of fun. Matt is known for directing video content for clients like NBC/Universal, Columbia Records, Warner Bros., Microsoft, Holland America Line, BBC and MTV. Waggener Edstrom is famous about its work for Microsoft. Other notable clients include T-Mobile, Toshiba, Boeing, Mastercard and Sony Electronics.

I am as excited as I can be about being selected for this special MSP video project.

Looking forward!

My check list for 2013 and beyond . .

Being the quintessential procrastinator, it is always hard for me to complete checks on my to-do list. I start with “I always wanted to ……” but end up with “………. maybe next year”. This has to STOP.

So here is me, trying to jot down the few things that I love (on a personal level) and want to get done with by the end of this year –

1. Piano – Music is my life saver. When I’m down with nowhere to go and no company to keep, I seek refuge in music. The guitar interested me a lot. I tried it for a month, burnt my fingers and later realized that this isn’t me. Not giving up, I want to give a shot at learning the piano; a dedicated shot. Because sometimes, I too want to put up a nice tuxedo and sit behind the piano with gorgeous ladies swarming around me (or the piano) just like the movies. Hehehe

michael-jordan-by-slashfilmdotcom

2. Basketball – I picked up Basketball when I was 13 and played religiously till I entered high school. We had formed a great team and won many tournaments along. I was particularly good at three-pointer shots and also have a local feat to my name – scoring a basket right from the half court line. But then, shit happens. I came back to India for my high school, got admitted in to a nerdy college with huge-bespectacled guys moving around with heavy books, always digging into questions and their ‘solutions’. Those were some miserable two years for me. To get back at it, I plan to be good at the sport that I love the most and hopefully compete in the corporate tournaments around here. My fav ball players? Michael Jordan, Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault and Lebron James.

3. Literature – Back at school, there were times when I used to secretly bunk my classes only to be later found in the library reading ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain. Gosh, who cannot love Tom Sawyer and his crazy antics?! Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, The Hardy Brothers, Agatha Christie were the only names I knew back then. I loved spending sleepless nights reading various novels only to show up in class the next day with sore eyes due to sleeplessness. Once in class, I was caught reading ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ and was made to stand outside the class for the whole day. I was happy, for I had secretly hidden another novel in my huge left trouser pocket. But then, shit happens again and I came to India, lost track of my literary habits, was made to attend college daily from 7am to 9pm (FOURTEEN FUCKING HOURS!!). Leaving that behind, I hope to catch up with literature, read as many novels of my fav authors as I can and re-enter my imaginary world with Sherlock Holmes and his trusted partner, Dr. Watson. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, you beauty!

4. Dance – No sir, we aren’t talking about Bollywood thumkas. It is child’s play, I say. Back then during school days, we used to mix some weird contemporary moves with hip-hop and come up with the craziest dance routines ever on planet. That was then after which I lost my dancing shoes. As much I’d like to learn hip-hop and popping and locking, I’m also drawn towards salsa and Latin Ballroom dancing. One, Two, cha cha cha!

5. Language – No long story behind this but I would simply love to learn the Spanish language (español). It is so much about brotherhood and is always a pleasure to listen to. Also, it looks kinda cool when folks in movies speak Spanish with a badass style, Hermano. Arabic is another language which I really need to re-learn by this year. When I was six, I was fluent in Arabic. Fluent, I say. But then thanks to my Indian company after I moved out of Buraydah, Saudi Arabia, it withered and finally fell off. According to me, Arabic is THE most beautiful language!

Hope my gold medal in procrastination does not stop me from achieving the above.

If I do succeed, then coffee will be on me!

When my English Sir hugged me . . . and I cried

“SIT DOWN, ASRAR!” – He shouted!

I was jumping up in my seat.

The year was 2002. I was in VI standard. He was my English teacher, Sunny Thomas. I still call him Sir.

I used to be the naughtiest guy in the class only during his period, always disrupting his speech and involving in bizarre antics which would not let Sir complete his class with full vigour.  I dunno why but except in his period, I never behaved this way– I always used to be the calm dude who finishes his homework on time, scores an A in tests and keeps his teachers happy by obliging to everything.

But in Sunny Sir’s class, it was different. Maybe because he was of a free-going nature and cracked many jokes in the class to keep the students smiling. Maybe because he always stuffed extra chocolates in his pocket when birthday pupils came to him. Maybe because I took his jokes for granted and assumed that that’s all he wants or etc. But whatever it may be, I was the most hated student in the class by Sir.

I used to throw water balloons at fellow classmates, refuse to take down notes while Sir was dictating lessons, scribble endlessly on the blackboard while he’s not teaching and crack jokes with neighbours and laugh as hard as possible. He always looked at me with a frown and sometimes with anger, secretly wishing me to kick out of the class. But Sir never did. As for the record, I still was the most disobedient student, acc to him and he despised me BIG TIME!

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One fine day, Sunny Sir walks in to the class and announces a surprise elocution test. Students were to write a 400-word passage on how we can save the near-extinct tigers in the world. All my fellow classmates, including me of course, were taken aback by this announcement as none was prepared or had any valid points in mind to contribute to the essay. However, we unwillingly started the test and submitted the answer sheets by the hour. Sunny Sir sat down checking all the papers, calling the respective student near his table for feedback and awarding marks.

About tests, there was one thing particular about him. Let the student be a direct disciple of Shakepeare even but Sunny Sir always used to write the word ‘good’ as a remark in test papers, indicating that he meant it was the best. Never in his life did he write a different remark word signaling a better appreciative word than ‘good’.

“Syed Asrarullah”

I stood up. He glanced at me, opened the sheet and started running his eyes all over my paper all the while jetting down huge tick marks with his red pen. As he reached the end of my paper, his facial expressions changed. I could sense something was wrong. He called me to the teachers table. As I went ahead to collect my paper, he looked at me with eyes that displayed a completely different emotion, rose up from his seat and HUGGED me!

I was literally speechless. He then patted my back, wiped down an invisible tear from his eye and asked me – “Your essay is the best one I’ve ever read. Why did you hide this from me?”

I was speechless. Had no idea then what Sunny Sir was talking about. I sheepishly collected my paper and quickly ran down to occupy my chair. It was only when I reached home to open my answer sheet that I understood the gravity of the situation – there was an ‘Excellent’ written down at the last page!

I cried profusely. I know Sunny Sir did too. It was emotional.

The next day I attended his class in a whole new avatar. I tuned in to be the most obedient student and he looked at me with utmost care and respect.

It gives me goose bumps as I recollect this incident even today. Sunny Sir, wherever you are today, THANK YOU SO MUCH for teaching this creepo and weird guy a very important lesson in life.

If only I could meet you someday and fall in your feet, I’d be so HONORED!