Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Love Tag

I was tagged by Cris a long long time ago. When I finished this a week back, I had actually sat down to write about the the Mumbai terrorist attack. But sense of weariness overcame me, and I was left asking myself, 'What's the point?' Ergo, this tag. However, love seemed like an inconsequential (even vulgar) thing to post about when the country was going through hell. Now seems to be a better time to post this one than yesterday, or the day before.

RULE #1 People who have been tagged must write their answers on their blogs and replace any question that they dislike with a new question formulated by themselves. (I'm not going to replace any, though)

RULE #2 Tag 6 people to do this quiz and those who are tagged cannot refuse. These people must state who they were tagged by and cannot tag the person whom they were tagged by. Continue this game by sending it to other people.

1. If your lover betrayed you what would your reaction be?

After the betrayal, would there be any point in reacting? Obviously I'll be hurt, and will want to convey that to her. But I'm not sure in what way. I'm also not sure whether I'll be able to forgive or trust her after that. I think it will depend on the exact nature of 'betrayal'. It's better to deal with each of those acts on a case-to-case basis rather than generalize. And I hope I won't have to deal with too many such cases.

2. What’s it that you see in an ideal partner?

An ideal partner would be sensible (probably because I'm scared of having to spend my life with an unreasonable person). She would also be a confident individual, not afraid to take her own decisions. But most importantly, an ideal partner would be a person with whom I'll feel confident of making everything work out together. In short, somebody like Penelope Cruz or Salma Hayek.

3. What, according to you, is the perfect date?

A perfect date is one which you hope will never end.

4. Would you like to have children soon enough? Or would you wait till your mid-thirties for the first child?

Frankly, I don't have a preference in this matter. I will leave it to my partner to decide on when to have kids. I'm ok with anything, except that I wouldn't want kids within the first 2 years of us getting together. 

5. Will you fall in love with your best friend?

Assuming that my best friend is a girl, I don't see any reason why I shouldn't fall in love with my best friend. 

6. Which is more blessed: loving someone or being loved by someone?

Being loved by someone.

7. How long do you intend to wait for someone you love?

Until it becomes clear to me that the person I love doesn't love me and won't be able to love me.

8. If the person you secretly like is attached, what will you do?

Forget about it and move on.

9. If you could root for one social cause, what would it be?

Education for all.

10. Do you lie?

Yes. Duh!

11. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

In even deeper shit than I'm in now. But during these 10 years I'll learn to handle it better than I do now. That skill will help me a lot when my kid(s) accuse me of being a stupid jerk, my wife says I'm an insensitive bastard and my subordinates at work think I'm an asshole.

12. What’s your fear?
  1. Dying. 
  2. Terrorist attacks (related to point #1). 

13. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?

From what I understand through her blog, the following:
  1. no pretenses
  2. courageous, for choosing to do what she really wants to do.

14. Would you rather be single and rich or married and poor?

In other words: What is more important to you? Money or a nagging wife with a couple of pesky kids to boot. Money can't be that important, right? I think I'll settle for the nagging wife and pesky kids.

15. If you fall in love with two people simultaneously who will you pick?

The one who has fallen in love with me.

16. Would you give all in a relationship?

Yes. There's no other way in a relationship. Not that I'd know for sure, though.

17. Would you forgive and forget someone no matter how horrible a thing he has done?

Refer Q.1. Case-by-case consideration. Obviously, some people I like very much will have to do a lot of horrible things to be not forgiven.

18. Do you prefer being single or in a relationship?

In the absence of experience in the latter, I can only guess. As of now, I'd prefer to be in a relationship - at least to know what that whole thing feels like. Maybe because the grass always looks greener on the other side. 

19. Your all time favourite song. Only ONE. And why?

At the risk of repeating myself over and over (I don't know how many times I've mentioned this on this blog): Ambalapuzhe Unnikannanodu Nee. Do I even need to explain?

I now choose thee to carry on this onerous task:
Sid, because you are tag hunting
Badri, because you 'spilled the beans'
Raghav, because in spite of you wanting to sleep with Tendulkar (hence proving that you know nothing about love)
Anupama, because you blog about weighty and esoteric matters like love.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Add Another to the Third World List

In between all the chatter that the Aussie cricketers keep indulging in, both on and off the field, Hayden's comment about Australia's poor over rates being due to 'third world conditions' in India was most hilarious and decidedly WTF.

Now, I'm one of those guys who have lots of respect for Aussie cricketers. When an Aussie makes a statement I tend to believe it unless proved otherwise. Especially since they take it very personally if you doubt their honesty and integrity. That leads me to one question: Now that Aussies have been fined again for low over rates, this time in a test match in Australia against New Zealand, does Hayden still stand by his theory? There are only 2 ways about it - either Hayden accepts that his theory was wrong or he believes that Australia is a third world country.

From what I've seen of the arrogant, stubborn members of the current Australian team, I have a feeling they'd call their country a third world country before admitting they were wrong.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Vaaranam Aayiram - A Review

I will remember this movie for a long time - particularly the scene where the character Surya (played by Surya) breaks down while talking to his parents after [spoiler alert!!] his girlfriend Meghna (Sameera Reddy) dies. He tells his father, 'We made love, daddy' while sobbing inconsolably. I have a feeling the director meant this line to convey the pain and anguish of the hero. But I was left wondering - So?

The feeling you get while watching this movie is that Gautham Menon is one confused director. He wants to make an action movie, a drug junkie drama, a mushy love story, a lovey-dovey family movie, a retro movie and a Dasavatharam-like movie. Unable to choose among these options, he puts it all together in a single movie and ends up achieving nothing. Note to the director: Some things don't mix, like curd rice and fish curry. But you can always have curd rice for lunch and fish curry for dinner and everyone can have a nice satisfied burp at the end.

The movie is supposed to be about the bond between a father and son (both played by Surya). However it totally fails to connect at that level. The director's idea of depicting the father-son bond is to show them crying every 5 minutes and having them say 'I love you, daddy' or 'I love you, kiddo' every time they take a breath. If I had a dollar each time Surya said 'daddy', I'd have had enough money to bail out Wall Street and General Motors. On second thoughts, I'd have made that much money even if I got only a rupee for each time, in spite of the declining exchange rates. By the end of the movie all the main characters have said 'I love you, Surya' so many times that you half expect the rescued lady journalist to look deeply into his eyes and say, 'I think I have fallen in love with you, Surya'. But I'm jumping the gun. We'll come to all that in due course.

To be fair, the movie isn't all bad. There's Sameera Reddy. She was the one of the few reasons I could sit through the movie. She looks fresh and beautiful and does a decent job with the acting. It's a pity that the director killed her character off just before the interval. He could have kept her on for a few songs more - even as a ghost or something (it would have fit in with the director's strategy of including every possible genre). But while she's there as an MS student at Berkeley, the movie goes along in a comprehensible manner (if you choose to ignore the question of how a jobless Surya manages to get a visa to go to US).

But after she's gone, the director completely loses the plot. A desolate Surya comes back from US and immediately starts crying more and takes to drugs. I wouldn't blame him. I mean, he has sex with Sameera Reddy and upon returning to India finds out that the next girl he's supposed to fall in love with is Priya (Divya Spandana) - a huge fall in quality, if you ask me. The family's way of dealing with the drug problem is to lock him up in his room for two days and then send him packing to Kashmir, of all the places. Surya, on the banks of the Dal Lake, miraculously loses all craving for drugs and goes off to Delhi to fight kidnapping and child prostitution rackets. Phew! As if that wasn't enough, he then decides to join the Indian Army. And as per the stringent requirements of the Indian Army for new recruits, he builds six-pack abs which he goes around showing off for the rest of the movie (Om Shanti Om, anyone?). The quality of the abs is so good that he immediately gets promoted to the rank of Major. It is around this time that he leads a mission to rescue the journalist who, surprisingly, doesn't say those 3 dreaded words. And I'm eternally thankful to the director for sparing me that torture.

The music is the only highlight of the movie (apart from Sameera, of course). Some good songs by Harris Jayaraj really helps one sit through the movie. For once, you'll be thankful for a liberal peppering of songs which do not contribute to the story in any way.

If I were to look at the movie objectively, I'd have to say that it has something for everyone. A ravishing beauty for guys like me, rippling six-pack abs for girls who like such rippling six-pack possessing hunks, tearjerker scenes for the sentimental types, romance (3 of them!) for people so inclined and action for those whose movie experience is incomplete without exploding helicopter gunships and rocket launchers. However, a movie is not judged objectively. It is judged as a whole, by the effect it has on the viewer. In this case, the sum was lesser than the least of all the parts. And it makes me wonder if Kaaka Kaaka was nothing more than a fluke.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Laying to Rest the Ghosts of Dada

Sourav Ganguly will no longer step on to a cricket field donning the whites of a player of the Indian cricket team. Flowery tributes have been written and even his most fervent critics have given their spleen a rest and applauded his lasting contributions to Indian cricket. This is not an attempt to pay tribute, nor is it a fault-finding mission. This is an attempt to reconcile and put to rest the conflicting and enigmatic feelings that Ganguly evoked in me over the 12 years that he played active test cricket.

To be sure, I'm no fan of Ganguly. Never been, in fact. Even as he was making a majestic hundred on debut and showing the Englishmen gaps in the offside that they never knew existed , I sensed something amiss. As a 12 year old unaware of the controversy surrounding his selection at that point, I could only go by his cricket in forming that judgement and the feeling I had then hasn't changed appreciably in the last 12 years. During these years, Ganguly did what no other Test captain had done for India - redeem a side hovering around the brink, rebuild it with fresh talent and give it a killer spirit that has remained with it ever since. He also went about amassing runs in the most beautiful ways possible - caressing the ball through the covers and using nimble feet to step down the track against spinners and hitting handsome sixes over long-on.

All along, I used to wonder how a player who I had a bad feeling about could be so successful. Having yourself proved wrong is painful at the best of times. During the worst of times it got so bad that I almost wanted him to fail when he stepped out on to the field. It could have been the fact that Ganguly was no great athlete; or his awkward prod at balls that bounced to waist height; or his tardy fielding and running between wickets. Yes, it should be these reasons, for I greatly admire cricketers who are good all-round sportsmen - Tendulkar, Symonds, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma and I have an instant distrust of cricketers who don't show such abilities. I fear now that I equated athleticism and skill alone with cricketing success.

Maybe the fact that I didn't like Ganguly owes itself to the fact that he proved my presumptions wrong every single time. I used to think that his poor technique and over-reliance on the off-side for scoring runs would make him a disaster as a batsman in the long run. But he went on to make many thousand runs and formed a legendary partnership with Tendulkar at the top of the ODI batting line-up. Somehow, bowlers never 'figured him out' the way I thought they would. Was Ganguly too smart to be figured out that way? I used to think that his attitude and personality would not make him suitable for captaincy. He went on to break every captaincy record in Indian cricket. Could it be true that the very thing I didn't like about his personality was what enabled him to become a good captain? I used to think what I construed as his arrogance would inhibit the youngsters in the team. I couldn't have been more wrong on that front.

My dad used to tell me that he could never understand what I had against Ganguly. "Look at the way he's playing now. I can't believe you can hate a guy who plays like this," he used to say. I used to respond by cyincally saying that this would be his only good innings for another 20-30 innings. Many a times the batsman obliged, giving me more fuel for dislike.

Ganguly may not have been a great batsmen and he many not have lived up to my standards of what a good cricketer should be. But now, it doesn't matter. He's done with his game and his complete works are in front of us, to revere or hate. For every person like me who didn't like him, there are two more people who will vouch for his greatness. I've based my judgement on hunches and inferences which have been proved wrong many times. The near-unanimous opinion now is that he has left a legacy which India will do well to follow. No cricketer could ask for more.

Sourav Ganguly left Test cricket a happy man. I'm happy that things have transpired in such a manner. My observations were right, but my inferences were wrong. Looking back now, I'm glad that my predictions about Ganguly never came true fully. All of us go through our lives hoping that what we do will make a postive contribution to something big. From where Indian cricket was in 1996 to where it has now reached, Ganguly definitely has had a part to play in the progress. Ultimately, in the balance sheet of life, that's all that matters.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Map Mania

If you walked into the bedroom that my brother and I used to share more than a decade ago, you'd have been surprised by the sheer number of maps stuck on the walls. Other kids had Sportstar posters, we had maps. There were maps of the world, India, Kerala, Trivandrum in addition to a globe. One of our favourite games was one in which each of us would take turns to ask the other to find a particular place on the map. One of those days, appa brought home a wonder device - a Magellan GPS receiver. We didn't lose time in marking the latitude, longitude and altitude of our house on the maps. We were thrilled by the possession of secret knowledge - after all, how many people knew their exact location on this earth with such accuracy?

As we grew up, we stopped playing that game, and the maps came off one by one. But our love for maps continued. My brother makes maps for wikipedia as a hobby nowadays. Not to be left behind I too ventured into the area of internet maps - I downloaded Google Maps on my phone (hey, downloading it was pretty tough and it took me 3 days to get it to install; so don't laugh at the comparison).

Seriously folks, this is one of coolest applications that you can ever have on your phone. Haven't you always wished you knew how to get to some strange address in the city while travelling? Haven't you often wanted to know where the hell in the goddamn city you were? Haven't you gone to a new city and wondered whether the auto driver was taking you for a ride (metaphorically)? Haven't you wished you had some device in your pocket that would answer all the above questions?

Ever since I got this app, I haven't been able to stop myself from showing it off to everyone who happens to be near me. This is better than google maps on your computer for 2 reasons - firstly because you can view it on the go and secondly, it communicates with your phone to find out your current location which it shows using a nice blinking blue dot on the phone screen. I frequently open this application while travelling and see the blinking dot move around the city. You can also do a conventional search for any place and get directions to any location from your current location. All this is with a plain GPRS connection. I can imagine how good a 3G phone with touch screen and Android is going to be - nothing short of pure bliss.

There are many of you reading this and thinking that I could just ask for directions. But I'm one of those people who firmly believe that asking for directions is the most uncool thing anybody without google maps on their phone could do.

While you think about that, I'm off now, to show off this app to the kids in my flat who've come out to burst some crackers. If I can just catch them before they run away on seeing me with my phone...

Happy Diwali, folks.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Desperate Times

As a blogger/blog reader, you know that it's not the best of times when:
  1. The unread items in Google Reader consistently shows over 200 unread items, in spite of your best efforts in hitting the 'mark all as read' button every few days.
  2. You are reluctant to go to the original articles (when they provide only partial feeds) to read the full thing and/or comment for want of time.
  3. Your only chance to catch up on the blogs is on your phone when you're travelling to and from work (and that gives me a bad headache).
  4. The only time you think about your blog (crying for attention and post-less for more than a month) is when you're making things-to-do lists for your imaginary long vacation.
  5. For the first time since college, your pile of unwashed clothes contains every single item in your wardrobe. This is in spite of the fact that I have not one, but two washing machines in the house compared to zero in college. [In case you are interested in buying a rarely used, good as new Haier washing machine, please email me asap. I promise you a great deal. Special offer only for my blogger pals. Please put 'Washing machine - Special Blogger Discount' in the subject line and pray that gmail doesn't send it to my spam mail.]
You guessed right, I have the the usual suspects to blame for lack of any blog activity in the last month - work (I'm talking 13-14 hours per day without the luxury of a holiday on Sundays). What makes me sadder is that things are only going to get madder from now on leading up to the big showdown around the end of this month. After that, I hope to get away from all this madness for 3-4 days with a bit of travelling. Then it's back to work again till my big break (fingers crossed!) around Christmas time.

As I type this, it sounds scary to me - what I'm looking at is 3 full months without a single post. That would be like a death knell for my blog, and I'm determined to not let that happen. Let's see how things pan out in the coming days. Meanwhile I've got a pending tag from Cris which I hope to do some time soon. Till then...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Phlipside's Speshaal Scrambled Yeggs

I make the best scrambled eggs in the world. Many people have asked me what makes my scrambled eggs special. I always reply that the most important part of making good scrambled eggs is to not think about making good scrambled eggs. People don't believe me and dismiss this advice as evasive philosophical bullshit. Doing a deed without expecting favourble results doesn't come naturally to most people and hence my scrambled eggs are easier for them to digest than the plain truths of life. But people, believe me when I say that I have no secret ingredient that goes into the frying pan. In fact, I don't have most of ingredients.

To prove my point, I've decided to open up my gastronomical skills to scrutiny. Here is the recipe of Phlipside's Speshaal Scrambled Yeggs:

Mix eggs, chopped onions, chillies, salt and beat the mixture. If you've run out of onions, chillies and/or salt (as is always the case with me) you can still make it. But you definitely require eggs. No, boiled eggs don't work.

Heat coconut mustard oil in a frying pan and pour the above mixture into the pan.

Now try to make an omelette. If you're as good at this as I am, at the point where you try to flip over the omelette, it will disintegrate into many different pieces as if by its own will and voila - you will be left with the finest scrambled eggs.

Don't fret if you're unsuccessful in your first few attempts and actually end up making an omelette. Although this failure has never happened to me, I'm told that ordinary mortals like yourself will take a little bit of time to understand the difference between flipping and Phlipping. If you are unsuccessful beyond the first few attempts, you should quit wasting your time.

I don't mean to be boastful and all, but what all this means is that I'm close to the culinary perfection that I started out to achieve a couple of years ago. Suddenly, the money I spent on the Cartini knife set (which could have fed 4 families in Sub-Saharan Africa for a week), non-stick cookware, pressure cookers and wine glasses looks like money well spent. Just like my BabolaT racquet, Yonex tennis shoes, Speedo swimsuit and goggles and membership fees in all these clubs. OK, I'm lying. My swimsuit is not Speedo.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Where's My Mojo?

Have I lost my mojo? More importantly, has my blog lost its mojo? The posting has not been up to the mark in the last month or so. There is no dearth of ideas or lack of inspiration for blogging. Neither is work eating into my personal time. So what's wrong, you ask. Something(s) very unexpected and v. bad has happened which has stifled my creative energies.

Firstly, people keep saying "I reserve my rights to blog about this" every time they screw up or do something very LOL-worthy. This effectively puts wonderful blog-ops beyond my (and consequently, your) reach. Its a typical dog-in-the-manger story. They are obviously not going to blog about it and advertise their bloopers to the world. And by reserving their rights to blog about it, they are preventing me from doing so. Even blooper-prone people who don't blog extract promises from me not to blog about bloopers as their first order of business after committing one. Such is the selfishness of the people around me.

Secondly, more than expected number of people in office read my blog nowadays. This is not a very safe situation if you want to indulge in some office humour. Boss bashing is definitely out of the question and one of these days some person who has found mention in this blog (and for some unknown reason is unhappy about it) is going to pass on the link to the Hot Marketing Babe.

Its not as if I get great amounts of pleasure in doing this - I'm doing it only for the benefit of mankind, the whole laughter-medicine business. So you guys stop thinking about just yourselves and imagine the good you can do for the world through my blog. This whole situation makes me think that these days you can't even do a good deed without people objecting to it.

So what exacty are you guys missing out on? The following is only a sample:

1. Sree's SMS story. Involving Boss, COO, me, Hot Marketing Babe, Hot New Engineering Grad Babes and of course, Sree himself. A tale of epic proportions, it's a story of how messed up things can get if you send a message to persons above or below the intended person in the contacts list.

2. Badri's visa story. If ever there was an international mess up, this is it. Spanning 8 cities in 6 countries and 3 continents, this one was outrageous even by Badri's own standards. This goof-up has become the new benchmark in our circles. The only way it's not going to appear on my blog is if he bribes me with Drambuie and Czech beer.

Now the inevitable will happen - you will demand to know the story. But whatever I'm not, I certainly am a person who keeps his promises (and I also fear for my life, but that's really a minor point). So does that mean I'll never tell these stories? Certainly not! For I'm not so heartless as to deny blogosphere of these magnificent stories. So here's the deal: One year from the date of occurence of a blooper, all copyrights cease to exist and I'm free to blog about it. People not agreeing to this condition should stop goofing up in a ROTFLy way from now on.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Tag That Boomeranged

I got an easy tag one day in June and cheerfully finished it off, noting that my post count had gone up by one without putting in much effort (unlike many people who write posts in 15-20 minutes, I take a really long time to write something....even this one is taking me nearly an hour and a half and counting).

So when a tag that you had thrown at unsuspecting blog pals boomerangs on you, you can either blame your bad luck for having to do a similar tag again or thank your lucky stars for getting an opportunity to increase the number of posts by one more. I chose to do the latter. But I must say that this one is a bit more involved than the one I passed along. I also had to spend a lot of time googling for some of the quotes I vaguely remember from somewhere (I'm not much of a quotes person) and at the end of it couldn't find most of the quotes I was looking for.

Here are the rules of the tag, as set down by apostle Tom, the dangerous Confused Mortar:

Jot down 5 of your favorite quotes from the various books you’ve read. If you don’t have the books with you now, googling (Wikiquotes and the like) can be used to find them. Tag five people and acknowledge the person who tagged you.

I've bent the rules a little by including TV shows and movies (hey, they have screenplays and scripts which are in the form of books; so I'm technically not breaking any rule).

Starting off with the paragon of incompetence - Michael Scott in 'The Office':
I don't want somebody sucking up to me because they think I'm going to help their career. I want them sucking up to me because they genuinely love me.

Next up is a quote from one of my favourite books of all time, 'Midnight's Children' by Salman Rushdie:
No people whose word for "yesterday" is the same as their word for "tomorrow" can be said to have a firm grip on the time.

From the classic British TV series, 'Yes, Minister' (there are so many of them I love that I just went to wikiquotes and picked one at random):
Sir Humphrey: Didn't you read the Financial Times this morning?
Sir Desmond Glazebrook: Never do.
Sir Humphrey: Well, you're a banker, surely you read the Financial Times?
Sir Desmond: Can't understand it. Full of economic theory.
Sir Humphrey: Why do you buy it?
Sir Desmond: Oh, you know, it's part of the uniform.

I consider Anna Karenina to be one of the greatest accomplishments of my life (reading it, that is). When that Leo dude writes something, he doesn't bother about keeping it short. I lost count of the number of times I had to get the epic (both the volumes) reissued from my college library. This led to the following words from the Librarian which deserves a mention as one of my favourite quotes (but does not count since it's not to be found on wikiquotes):
You shouldn't be wasting your time reading these silly story books. You should be reading some engineering books.
Battling the verbosity was tough (mostly because my hands ached after a few minutes from holding up the book to read), but battling the Librarian (yes, one with the capital L) was tougher still. However, the book was full of gems like this:
All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

If there is any book on earth that is quote-worthy from beginning to end, it has to be 'To Kill a Mockingbird':

Tom Robinson: Looks like she didn't have nobody to help her. I felt right sorry for her. She seemed...
Prosecutor: You felt sorry for her? A white woman? You felt sorry for her?

Now to tag 5 people:

I tag Peter, Paul, James, John, Judas and any other apostle who is feeling left out ;-)

PS: Kunz had been looking around for stuff to use against Mallus in general and me in particular. Look what he found - Hotel Keralafornia by The Yeagles. He thought I'd be angry, but I was laughing louder than him. Last seen, he was muttering, "Somebody makes fun of you and what you do is laugh along with him?"

Friday, August 08, 2008

God Save Me From the Olaampik

Hurray! The Olympics have started. The ultimate sporting extravaganza; the greatest test for any athlete around the world, and a period of frustration and disappointment for any sports lover trying to get a peek at all this through Doordarshan's exclusive coverage in India.

Some dumb bimbette, whose greatest accomplishment till date has been flawless skin and above average bust size kept smiling through the mandatory DD studio act before any sporting event - a hangover from its 6th umpire programmes during breaks in cricket matches. If they meant it to be an introduction to the greatest sporting event in the world it was a miserable failure.

When DD's live telecast started, a military band was playing and our very own Hindi commentator was practicing his opening lines live on TV, completely oblivious to the fact that his voice was being heard on national TV. He said something along the lines of "it's sunset time in India, lekin China ke is mahanagari Beijing mein raat prajjwalit hain" not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times - each time messing up his line and floundering somewhere among those esoteric Hindi words.

But most obnoxious was his pronunciation of 'Olympics' - he insisted on calling it the 'Olaampik'. I can understand his reluctance to use the plural, by why, oh why does he have to say 'Olaa' instead of 'Oly'? The least I'd have expected from DD is to send a guy who knows how to pronounce 'Olympics' to do the commentary. My mistake. After so many years, I've still not leant that DD is not just any other TV broadcaster.

This commentator also insisted on using the words sabhyata and sanskriti every time they showed something multi-coloured on the screen (which was all the time). When they showed Chinese introduction of paper making, he reminded us that like India, China too has contributed a lot to the world and also has a 5000 year old sabhyata and sanskriti. When they showed the contribution of Chinese to gunpowder, the dude again reminded us that China had prachin sabhyata aur sanskriti going back 5000 years, like India. When they showed the Chinese invention of the kite, this guy had the following enlightening comment to make : "In India too, we fly kites." I swear he said that.

If he had just stuck to sabhyata and sanskriti, it would have been bearable. But he insisted on giving us profound insights into geopolitics in Asia. As the Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong contingents marched by, he observed that these two countries are to China what Pakistan and Bhutan are to India. Hmm...that must be news for our folks at the Ministry of External Affairs.

When the Commonwealth Games come to India in 2010, DD will have the same crack team of commentators ready to assault us with erudite and scholarly insights. I just hope that in the 2 years they have, they work on memorising their lines better. Also, a little bit of imagination and some knowledge of sports would do wonders. Am I expecting too much?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An Apple a Day Will Make You Bankrupt in Two Days

If it were just the products, on their merit alone, I might have considered buying an iPod or an iPhone - if had sufficient cash to throw away. I mean, it would have just meant substituting the DSLR camera I'd been eyeing for some time with the iPhone 3G. It's good looking and has all the jazz. But what riles me about Apple is what those products stand for; in particular, the following:

1. Snobbishness is cool - The first word that comes to my mind when I think about Apple is snobbish. Sorry to disappoint Apple fans, snobbishness is not cool. Being snobbish would be justified if Apple were Chopard or Bentley. But Apple is a company which aims to sell millions of their products worldwide and such an attitude is not very endearing. When I think of Apple, I can almost hear Mr. Jobs telling me to take it or leave it - 'you want to copy-paste text? Too bad, sucker! Now get the hell out.'

2. You can get away with just looking cool and trendy - By now everybody knows just about everything there is to know about what the iPhone can't do. Any half-decent company would be running helter-skelter to add those features - after all, most of your customers are demanding it - but Apple is one company which doesn't look like it's in a hurry to fix things. You are expected to ignore its drawbacks just because it (a) is stylish, (b) is what everybody is talking about now and (c) has made your wallet lighter by a few kilos. Don't even bother to wonder whether some Bluetooth capability in the iPod would have make things a little easier.

3. Apple is the only innovative company around and the others are just crap - Sorry to disappoint the deluded souls at Apple, but developing low-cost technologies and providing affordable solutions to customers calls for innovation too, maybe more than what Apple is doing. Steve Jobs picked Dell as an example of a innovation-less company which just survives on reducing cost. But I can't imagine how Jobs could ignore the fact that Dell uses some of the most innovative logistics and supply chain management strategies to cut cost. I think Jobs confuses innovation with what happens in a styling studio. A product is about something much more - choice of materials, product design, selection of features, manufacturing, supply chain management, each of which calls for innovation. Different companies choose to innovate in different areas.

Having mentioned these 3 points, let me also tell you that I have no problem in accepting the iPhone as a gift from generous friends. My birthday is still a few months away and if you all start saving up from now and pool in money...

[Forrest Gump referring to Apple Computer]
Dan got me invested in some kind of fruit company. So then I got a call from him, saying we don't have to worry about money no more. And I said, that's good! One less thing.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I realize that I have been not posting much of late. Blame it all on the hot babe who has recently joined marketing. I spend way too much time trying to catch her eye by walking back and forth from my seat to the cafeteria and water cooler when I should be posting something on my blog, or working if I get too bored. I've realized in the last one week that a) she is too intimidated by the work environment which pits 150 ogling men across all age groups against one lonely (and hot) female fresh out of B-school, and b) she is aware that she is hot and is too self-conscious about it. I feel sorry for the situation she's in. I really do. So I'll give her a week to get around to noticing me, another week to go for lunch together. And if all goes well, in a year we could be taking a stroll on Elliot's beach with the kid in our arms. However, I have a suspicion that all bachelors (and some married men as well) are harbouring similar thoughts as well.

So while
thinking up strategies to beat the competition and waiting for her to start looking at some other place other than her feet all the time, I got tagged by Mathew. So here goes:

8 things I am passionate about

  • Enjoying life
  • Critically analyzing everything I hear, see or read.
  • Postulating a hypothesis for everything. If a hypothesis is not feasible, at least an opinion on everything.
  • Respect for people's rights
  • Quizzing
  • Knowledge
  • That's not eight yet
  • But readers of this blog will know that I'm not really passionate about a huge number of things - I merely love most of the stuff.
8 things I want to do before I die
  • Ride a Harley in Ladakh
  • Write a book
  • Become the Prime Minister of India
  • Travel a lot. Visit every country on earth, swim in every sea, scuba dive in Antarctica, and of course, travel to the Moon.
  • Drive on pothole-free roads in Kerala
  • Scarlett Johansson (although technically she doesn't qualify as a 'thing')
  • Kill all the participants in MTV Roadies and Splitsvilla or at least maim them. Alternatively, I could just ask my Information and Broadcasting minister to shut down the channel after I become the Prime Minister.
  • Do some serious gardening.
8 things i say often:
  • 'Ayyo!'
  • 'Yeah'
  • 'WTF!'
  • 'Intha bus Nandanam poguma?'
  • 'Oru fish curry meals, oru ayala fry'
  • 'The risk in doing this is that...'
  • 'I'm not interested in your offer of pre-approved loan.'
  • A lot of Thiruvanthoram slang, but my fav -'Thalle, muttan Kalip!'

8 books I last read

  • Love in the Time of Cholera (G G Marquez)
  • Maximum City - Love and Longing in Bombay (Suketu Mehta)
  • The Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
  • The Catcher in the Rye (J D Salinger)
  • Critical Chain (Eliyahu Goldratt)
  • Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)
  • My Name is Red (Orhan Pamuk)
  • The Inheritence of Loss (Kiran Desai)

8 songs i could listen to over and over again

8 people i think should do this tag

Don't have the energy to tag people after all the walking and strategizing in office. So I'll be happy if somebody chooses to take it up from here.

Can't stop humming this song from Subramaniapuram.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Grass Trouble

We are sitting in a poorly lit bar somewhere in the thronging metropolis of Chennai. The bar has a musty smell which the waiter, on enquiry, tells us is actually from the room freshener. However, the prices give no indication of the general seediness of the place – they are as high as their electricity bills are low (from the poor lighting and non-existent air conditioning). But they have draught, which is good enough for X, Y and Me. We were getting together after many months and any place with draught and chairs to sit on would have sufficed.

Conversation ranges from (as always) escapades in college to girlfriends (or more precisely the lack of it) to work. We are halfway through our second pitcher and there is a nice buzzing in our heads. This is the point when the silent-when-drunk guys go silent and the loquacious-when-drunk guys start making speeches in Swahili. But for us conversation continues as usual. The only change in us is that we are talking more serious issues now, mostly personal and family related ones.

X: Shit man! My brother has screwed up big time and I don't know what to do. [His hands leave the beer mug and slowly start massaging his forehead]

Me: What happened?

X: The thing is...see...he started doing weed in college a year back. I knew about it, but I thought that it's one of those things that guys do in engineering college, so I didn't bother much about it. But a few months back, he started acting crazy...I mean...you have seen 'A Beautiful Mind', right? He started acting like a schizophrenic...finding crazy connection between things and talking about the universe and stuff.

Y: Really?

X: Yeah. So we took him to a doctor who diagnosed him with cannabis psychosis. My parents didn't even know that he was a smoker, so cannabis psychosis was a shock to them. Whenever my mother calls me, she ends up crying and I have to console her saying it'll be all right and stuff. Whoever thought smoking grass would lead to such fuck-ups?

Y: Come on, yaar. Everybody does grass in college. But I've not heard of anybody who got this. It's hard to believe!

[Y used to be a ganja master while in college. He is a legend in his college for growing the finest marijuana inside his vast college campus when he started suspecting that the quality of grass supplied to him was not up to his standards. I, never having got high on anything other than alcohol, remain silent and commiserate with X]

X: I know, even I tried it while I was in college. The only reason I didn't continue doing it was because I didn't like the high it gave. The doctor told us that a very small percentage of people have a chance of getting cannabis psychosis and as luck would have it, my bro is one of those.

We all go silent for a while and wordlessly sip our beer. I was thinking about the mess my friend was in and many thoughts came to mind – most shocking was the discovery that 90% of the people of my age I knew had tried grass at least once in their life. In fact, soft drug usage in most of the engineering colleges in south India is pretty rampant. In other parts of the country it is fairly common in the Mallu and North-East groups, but is limited by the availability of good 'stuff'.

I remember the time I was in NIT Trichy for a couple of days. This was in my final year and I was standing in the corridor of the hostel, eyes wandering aimlessly. An NITTian joined me with what resembled a crude cigarette in his hand.

NITTian: Want a puff?

Me: No, thanks. I don't smoke.

NITTian: Quit?

Me: No, never even started.

NITTian: Oh, ok. If you don't smoke weed I've got cigarettes. Navy Cut?

Me: Thanks macha, but I don't smoke anything.

NITTian: !!??

Another thought also comes to mind as we sit around the table silently staring at our beer mugs – that no amount of momentary pleasure is worth the pain and suffering that the whole family would have to endure in a situation like this. My heart goes out to the mother for whom the world came crashing down when she heard of the condition of her younger son; to the father who was left wondering whether it was some mistake on the parents' part in bringing up the child that resulted in this; to the brother who for a lifetime will feel guilty about not doing something when he could have.

While each of us are doing all this thinking, the silence is becoming too stifling. So we go ahead and do the most rational thing we could – order a third pitcher to drown the silence.

Friday, July 04, 2008

My Name is Fish Curry

Psst..come closer, let me tell you my story. Closer, so that nobody can overhear.
I am Fish Curry. Before I begin my story, let me tell you that I am Master Philip's favourite. I occupy the pride of the place on his dinner table. Not surprisingly, Thoran and Avial - descendants of disgusting vegetables - have gone green with jealousy because of this. They ought to be thankful that they get to share space with me inside Master Philip's stomach. Instead, they rant and complain about 'injustice' and 'inequality' like the rest of the low-life. What disgraceful creatures, Thoran and Avial.

You'd think that being Master Philip's favourite would make me overjoyed. Yes, I'm happy; for who doesn't want approval from Master Philip? But I'm worried too about the future. Master Philip likes to think very highly of his own (supposedly) healthy food habits and - in spite of his ahhmm...intelligence - tends to get carried away by propagandist reports claiming health benefits of vegetables. And guess who'd ensure that he gets routinely assaulted with such reports? The jerks at PETA. Don't get me wrong, animals like to be treated ethically. So if you humans decide to heat the oceans during winter, we would welcome it wholeheartedly. After all, who doesn't like a heated swimming pool?

But, pray, what has ethical treatment of animals got to do with vegetarianism? Are you treating the tiger ethically if you feed it soya-meat instead of real meat? Do the PETA people think that lions should act ethically and not kill for food? Are you treating humans ethically if you deny them fish? But most importantly, are you treating the fish ethically if you campaign for vegetarianism?

Yes, dear human, fishes like to be eaten. The path to nirvana for a fish is through a human's stomach. If a fish dies a natural death, it goes straight to hell. When God Almighty put animals on earth, he meant them to be used by humans as food, recreation or inspiration for Hollywood movies. We like to think of ourselves as a special creation because we serve all three purposes. We swim together in shoals so that we are easy to spot and to ensure that maximum numbers are caught. When we roam around the sea, apparently directionless, we are searching for fishing nets, and in the process, enlightenment and moksha.

Let me ask you, dear listener - What do these PETA guys know about fish, or any animal for that matter? Have they even bothered to ask us before protesting on our behalf? Just see this obnoxious ad (NSFW, unless your boss likes Pam Anderson and/or PETA a lot). Notice the lettuce leaf bikini? It just proves my point that leaves and other green stuff serve only one purpose - they cover up all the really nice things.

I am now a Curry and about to be eaten by Master Philip. I will attain the greatest spiritual heights that a fish can ever hope for, but what about my brothers and sisters who spend their days and nights thinking, 'Mera number kab aayega?'. As a responsible fish, I have decided to do my bit by protesting against the slander.

I have decided to reciprocate in kind by posing nude - with strategically placed leaves for added effect. The photo that follows is NSFW if your boss is a member of PETA.

(With due respect to Master Philip, his idea of posing nude himself - who does he think he is? Pam Anderson? - with me all over his you-know-what really sucked. I somehow managed to convince him that such a photo would actually defeat the purpose.)

My story ends here. But if you, dear human, felt a tinge of sadness for my species or drooled uncontrollably on seeing the photo, go ahead and do something about it.

Photo courtesy Mishmash!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Truthiness about Santa and Banta

According to Captain Nanu and Prabhu, this story actually happened. Since both of them are not the kind of guys who say just about anything when drunk, I am inclined to believe the 'truthiness' of the story. And as Stephen Colbert never tires of saying, truthiness is more important than truth.

All the people who joined our company through campus recruitment had a common training programme for 4 months. During this time, we used to stay at our company's training centre in, let's say, Bangalore. Life in college hostel had set our bar for 'pretty nice places' quite low. Still, it was a pretty nice place - with landscaped gardens, good food, basketball courts and fantastic weather. The only problem was that they didn't provide internet in our rooms. So to access internet, we needed to go to the computer lab.

Our batch included two sardars - let's just call them Santa Singh and Banta Singh. They are true blue Surds, hailing from Bhatinda and Jalandhar (two of the biggest cities in Canada). Come Diwali and the Surds were feeling quite homesick. With the limited number of leaves available during training, they didn't want to waste time in trains which would have taken them close to 6 days in travel alone. So they decided to travel by air.

However, there was one small problem - all flights to Delhi during Diwali were prohibitively expensive. It was in such a situation that Santa's roomie Prabhu told him that early morning flights were much cheaper than the rest. Santa's face lit up on hearing this and he hurried away to give this info to Banta.

That night, Prabhu had a troubled sleep. He was woken up by Banta knocking on his door at 3 am. This was followed by Santa and Banta loudly discussing how to go about executing their strategy of procuring cheap tickets. Having come to a conclusion by 3.30 am, they both proceeded to the computer lab to book their flight tickets. Poor Prabhu, little did he know that Santa and Banta would confuse 'early morning flights' with 'flights booked early in the morning'.

Of course, Prabhu came to know about this only when a tired and frustrated Santa returned to the room at 6 am and shouted angrily, "Oye! I tried all night, but the flights were all the same price as before."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Lost and Dusty Mughal

There is a certain book that has been lying around on my table for a few months now, gathering dust and refusing to shift to make room for other stuff. It goes by the name of ‘The Last Mughal’ and it’s one of the best history books I’ve laid hands on (the other history books in the list being my CBSE History textbooks from class 6 to 10).

I’ve read only about three-fourths of the book and I don’t know when I’ll complete it. It’s very hard to go back to a book that you left halfway through – every passing day makes it a wee bit harder to get back. But let me assure you that the neglect is not due to lack of interest on my part or lack of interest-worthiness on the book’s part. It’s just plain lack of time.

However, the book did come handy to complete Rada’s tag. Thanks to him, I got to dust the book and put it in back on the cupboard where it deserves the space it currently occupies between two great books which I’ve not read (yet) Joseph Shigley’s ‘Machine Design’ and Richard Dawkins’ ‘The Ancestor’s Tale’. I know, even I’m surprised that I was allowed to design vehicles without reading Shigley ;)

So here are the rules of the tag:
Pick up the nearest book.
Open to page 123.
Find the fifth sentence.
Post the next three sentences.
Tag five people, and acknowledge the person who tagged you.

Page 123 takes me to the Chapter named ‘The Near Approach of the Storm’ which outlines the conditions in northern India before the outbreak of the 1857 Mutiny/Rebellion/War of Independence. The fifth sentence is an excerpt from a letter which Lord Canning (the Governor General) sent to Simon Fraser (the Resident at the Mughal court) dismissing Fraser’s suggestion that the Mughals were still popularly perceived as the rulers of the land although real power had shifted to the British.

“The presents which were at one time offered to the King by the Governor General and the Commander in Chief have been discontinued; the privilege of a coinage bearing his mark is now denied to him; the Governor General’s seal no longer bears a device of vassalage; and even the native chiefs have been prohibited from using one. It has been determined that these appearances of subordination and deference could not be kept up consistently with a due respect for the real and solid power of the British Government. This may also be said of the title of the King of Dehlie (sic), with the fiction of paramount sovereignty which attaches to it.”

Who do I tag now? In confusion I turn to my secret Random Tag Recipient Generator (RTRG) and it throws up the following names: Mathew (Spark), Zahra, Karthik, Thomas and Sid

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Obama for President

For an event that is likely to affect the lives of people in many countries at least for a few years to come, the US Presidential Elections (whatever of it that has transpired till now) largely passed me by. Although I used to read an article here and there and watch a speech on YouTube once in a while, I was not really into it (unlike the rest of blogosphere which just seems to have been possessed by the elections). From whatever little I knew about the elections, though, I'd deduced that Obama would be my man for the hot seat. However I wouldn't have fretted over it too much as long as it was a Democrat taking oath on Inauguration Day.

That was until I watched this video:

[Click here if the embedded video doesn't work.]

This video turned me into an unequivocal supporter of Obama. That the man is way more intelligent than the average American president is obvious. But the kind of clarity of thought and insight he has on issues is just amazing! After 8 years of evangelical right-wing rule, America (and the world) deserves a US President who has the ability to think. He may not have the answers to all the questions that presidency may throw at him. But he possesses a brain which thinks right and takes refuge in reason. He may make mistakes, but unlike leaders fettered by dogma he will have the courage to correct his mistakes.

"Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation, at least not just – we are also a Jewish nation, and a Muslim nation and a Buddhist nation... and a Hindu nation and a nation of non-believers."

Aah! A warm fuzzy feeling filled my heart when he said that. If I were an American citizen, I'd make sure I'd vote for him on Election Day – come rain, snow, cyclone or diarrhoea.

But the best lines in the whole speech for me were these:

"Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific values...It requires that their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice I can't simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke god's will. I have to explain why abortion violates a principle that is accessible to all faiths, including those with no faith at all."

There is hope yet for the world. Go Obama!

[YouTube link courtesy Pharyngula]

Saturday, May 31, 2008

I’m Reading, Listening, Thinking, Watching...

I haven't been actually tagged, but I decided to take this tag up because g-man saved me from Divine Wrath by taking up a previous tag of mine. This time, I've decided to tag people.

Reading: The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini), Games Indians Play (V. Raghunathan), The Argumentative Indian (Amartya Sen)

Finished reading: Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Listening: to anything that my Walkman throws up. My player is currently paused on "Smells like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana. Mallu, Tamil, Hindi and English songs are due to come up at random from this crazy playlist.

Wearing: my uniform (yes, you read that right - U-N-I-F-O-R-M). No, I'm not still in school. I'm at work and we have to wear uniforms to work. So I'm currently wearing light-blue coloured shirt and beige trousers.

Personally, I think uniforms are great. You don't have to worry about what to wear every day. Just put on the uniform and go to work every morning - saves a lot of time and money. When somebody casts aspersions on your taste, just blame the company for curtailing your creativity and freedom of expression by imposing uniforms.

Watching: my back to ensure that my boss doesn't sneak up on me and catch me blogging at work; Rome, an HBO-BBC series of outstanding quality; the IPL; birds.

Thinking: about life in general and where I fit into the scheme of things; when Kunz will buy a bike; where I left my keys.

Loving: restaurant hopping, blog hopping and the Chennai heat (43 deg C AND 80% humidity).

Hating: having to come to work on Saturdays.

Missing: nice homemade Mallu food.

Hoping: 10 Downing Street (the pub, silly) would start letting stags in.

Craving: for long holidays, like the ones I used to get during summer while in college.

And now, I tag thee:

Njan van Kalip (the Dutchman who won't be going to Amsterdam for some time, after all)

Badri (the Devil who refuses to Be Evil nowadays)

Jyotika (the prettiest computer geek ever, and a poet at heart)

Silverine (the diva of Mallu blogging, whose prolificacy is matched only by her spunk)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

‘Our’ Team?

Manchester United won the Champions League for the 3rd time last week. Half a dozen of my friends have changed their gtalk status messages to "We are the Champions" or something similar. When the last season of English Premier League was in progress, I couldn't drop in on my friends' house without getting embroiled in heated debates about which team was the best. One particular house had 2 ManU[1] fans and 2 Chelsea fans. I'd add fuel to the fire by claiming to be an Arsenal fan (I'm not, actually - but I love a good argument once in a while). Once, while staying in a hotel in Hyderabad, another ManU fan started hollering in his room at 2 am when his team lost. This woke up the entire hotel staff and brought them scrambling to his room.

It was surprising how people could feel such loyalty towards a football team in Manchester or Barcelona (of all the places in the world)- cities which they've never seen in their lives and whose people they have no connection with. With the advent of the IPL, I have found that I have started sharing many of the sentiments that possessed these guys while the EPL season was on (but with an intensity many orders of magnitude lesser). At the beginning of the IPL, I decided to put my weight behind the Chennai Super Kings while my other three flatmates decided to support three different teams - Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab.

So why support any team at all? I think that supporting a team is a bit like betting - you choose to 'invest' a lot of emotions while supporting your team in the hope that you will get good returns. The exhilaration that you feel when your team wins cannot be compared to the mere pleasure of watching a good game that dispassionate observer of the game would get. The flipside is that you'll feel equally (if not more) downcast if your team were to lose. The more emotion you put in, the more you get back. Supporting a team gives you a 'kick' out of the game that neutral observers will not get. This includes being able to tell your friend "my team kicked your team's ass" and sink him deeper into misery.

A lot of people don't have any real choice when it comes to supporting teams - people who have lived in Kolkata all their life and/or love the city and the game will not think twice before enrolling in the KKR Fan Club. This is the same reason why I support India in international matches. But others like me - the floaters, who don't have obvious IPL teams to support - support teams out of choice based on different reasons.

The 'betting factor' explains the choice of teams for a lot of the floaters. There is a natural tendency to go for the strongest horse in the race. Teams like ManU, Chelsea and Real Madrid are the strongest teams in their league and are more likely to privide good return on (emotional) investment. Among my two dozen EPL-follower friends I can't find even one who supports a Fulham or a Newcastle Utd. Like a friend who was born and brought up in London remarked, "I could support Fulham[2], but then I'd be living in perpetual misery". When I think about my choice of IPL team objectively, I have to admit that the biggest reason for supporting Chennai was that I thought it would be the strongest team (who doesn't like to end up on the winning side?). If I was really smart and had the ability to predict that Rajasthan Royals would emerge as the team to beat, I'd have supported them. To me, it doesn't make much difference - the RR team is as alien to me as the CSK.

Another factor in the choice of teams is cultural affinity. In the absence of teams from their cities and towns, many people would have chosen to side with teams from cities which they felt most affinity for. This certainly was one of my considerations in choosing to support CSK - I could argue that I've been living in Chennai for nearly 2 years and being a south Indian, Chennai is 'my' metro. So till they have a 'Trivandrum Kalip Payyans' team in the IPL, I'll be supporting CSK – provided, of course, that CSK field the strongest team in the competition.

For the EPL fans in India, though, I don't think there is much cultural affinity involved. Another factor comes into play here – their favourite players. Many of these players support ManU because a couple of their favourite players like Rooney and C. Ronaldo play for them. I know I liked Arsenal mainly because of the presence of Thierry Henry in their lineup and stopped following the team after he left for Barcelona. Similarly, many of the people I know support Mumbai Indians just because of the presence of Sachin Tendulkar and a lot of people from Jharkhand would be supporting CSK just because of the presence of Dhoni in the Chennai team.

The IPL is a hit. I was sceptical about whether IPL would be able to create city-based loyalties. The creation of the IPL teams was so artificial and inorganic that I was doubtful whether this would happen, especially with so few of the local players making it to the playing XI. But now I'm convinced that no matter how artificial the teams are, people just want to support some team or the other to be able to enjoy the game better. Since there is no team from Trivandrum, I support the Super Kings; since there isn't much football worth mentioning happening in India, all the football fans will root for Manchester United and Real Madrid and villages throughout north Kerala will erupt in a war-like frenzy when Germany plays Portugal in Euro-'08.

[1] A close friend and Manchester United devotee tells me that I'm supposed to write 'Man Utd' and say 'Man United' (not 'ManU' and 'Man You' respectively as many non-believers tend to) while abbreviating the club's name. But what the heck - remember I'm a Gunners fan ;)

[2] Fulham is one of the many football clubs based in London that he could support, the other prominent Premiership teams being Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham Utd. Ironically, many of his friends from London are supporters of Manchester United!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dial B for Violence

Everybody has friggin accents. Even the goras have accents, even though they'll be shocked if someone suggests that to them. But in a world of such variegated accents, some are funnier than others. The Mallu English accent, because of its obvious laughter inducing effect, has to be one of the most done-to-death accents in the world (probably one rung below Italian English). Which other accent has whole TV and radio shows dedicated to it? In office, I begin every day by clearing my inbox of mails which make fun of the way we pronounce 'auto' and 'office' sent to me by north Indian friends who think they are the first ones to discover the peculiar traits of Mallu English. I have seen all the Mallu accent-mocking mails that there is to be seen and honestly, they are not funny anymore. It's time they started sending me something different - like funny Bong English accent mails.

In my opinion, the Bong English accent has a lot of potential which people have not exploited fully. This was revealed to me a few days back when Kunz (yes, this is another one of the Kunz posts!) was very animatedly explaining to me the reasons for Kolkata Kinght Rider's disgraceful loss to Mumbai Indians.

Me: The KKRs are a bunch of losers, dude! Look how Mumbai Indians beat the shit out of them. Dada should go drown himself in the Hooghly.

Kunz: Nahin yaad! They lost because the peach was bad when Dada was batting.

It took me a few seconds to figure out that he was not blaming the quality of peaches and plums for the failure, but the quality of the pitch.

Kunz, unfortunately (or fortunately?), has a habit of shortening the 'ee' sound when it should be long and lengthening it when it should be short. The only times he says it correctly is when he says 'Eeesh!" (which is a popular Bong exclamation) and "Pheesh!" (which is a popular Bong food). On second thoughts, his pheesh would sound better if he shortened it to fish.

Once, Med had come home after roaming around Chennai seeing the sights and generally doing the experiencing-the-city thing.

Kunz: Where did you go, bitch?

Guys calling each other bitch may be fashionable in some circles, but neither Med nor Kunz belonged to such circles. Before anything unpleasant happened, I explained to Med that what Kunz meant to ask him was, "Where did you go? Beach?"

There are many such instances, one of which was at the end of a tiring day at work when Kunz declared that he was feeling like 'slipping'. By now you know the rules of Kunz's English and shouldn't have difficulty figuring out what he actually meant.

The lengthening and shortening of 'ee' is quite easy to figure out once you have heard Kunz speak for some days. But sometimes enigmatic gems emanate from him which takes a lot of effort in deciphering - like the one time he came to me very frustrated and declared that he badly needed to improve his 'bhaarbhal' ability. After about half an hour of tough mental gymnastics (sifting through words like 'barber' and 'bar-bell' to fit into the sentence), I too came to the conclusion that he badly needed to improve his 'verbal' ability.

But the one that takes the cake is this one:

One day I was sitting at my table, trying to post something on my blog, when Kunz came up to me.

Kunz: Hey, what is your hard dick's size?

I was shell-shocked and didn't know what to reply. Getting no reaction from me, he repeated the dreaded sentence, this time pointing to my laptop (and thankfully not to my lap). He was talking about my hard disk!

I've noticed that people from the North-East in general and some Bongs cannot pronounce the word 'disk' properly. Reminds me of the many times Tomba used to come to my room in college asking me whether he could 'have my hard dicks' when all he actually wanted to do was borrow my hard disk so that he could copy some movies. I have, since then, done the 'disk test' on many Bongs and North-East guys and most of them have failed, with hilarious consequences.

PS: Kunz has steadfastly refused to read my posts about him, maintaining that it's for my own safety - he says I won't be able to handle the 'bhaiyolance' that he'll unleash upon me. But I have a feeling he's been sneaking in to read when nobody's looking. So Kunz, if you're reading this, I'll continue to bombard you with the links until one day you read it in front of me.

[Other Kunz posts are here and here.]

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Love Trashan

This took a long time coming, but finally I have to admit it – I liked Tashan. Ironically, I had gone to the movie the day after its release with the specific purpose of getting sufficiently outraged so that I could write a review trashing the movie before most of the other bloggers did. I had, in fact, thought up some really funny (or so I thought) one liners to sum up the movie review like '100 Rupees fine and 3 hours imprisonment' and 'Trash-an' while the innumerable Yash Raj Films trailers kept coming up on screen one after the other. Unfortunately, I left the theatre with ambivalent feelings – I so badly wanted to hate the movie, but you cannot manufacture hate, can you?

Now that Tashan hunting season is over, I can safely come out of hiding and admit the embarrassing truth. I'm hoping that not many people would think I'm a pshycho for enjoying Tashan. Yes, I read all those scathing reviews of Tashan. Yes, I was fully aware that I was watching a bad movie while the sordid action-comedy-lovetriangle was being played out. When the interval started shortly after the 'Chaliya' song, I looked over to Dino who I had dragged along with me and ventured to say something that approximately meant, 'Not a bad watch, eh mate?' He glared at me for a full 5 seconds in reply – a look that contained signs of bitter resentment for a wasted Sunday afternoon. I realized then that I was alone in this world when it came to this movie.

In the 2 weeks or so that I had at my disposal to figure out reasons for my aberrant response to the movie, I could come up with only one reason – obsession with the heroine leading to distraction from the movie. It has happened to me before, especially with a movie called 'Hum Aapke Hai Kaun' (I'm sure you've heard of it...if you've not, just google for the worst Bollywood movie in the 90's. It's bound to be in the top 10 results). I sometimes obsess about the leading ladies in the movies to such an extent that the movie stops existing beyond the heroine. I was so fascinated by Madhuri Dixit while watching HAHK that I forgot about the movie altogether. Some 7 hours later when the movie got over, I was reluctant to leave the theatre. My watching 'Aja Nachle' even after being warned hundreds of times (Naaja bachle, they said) was proof that my heart still goes dhak-dhak for her. Chitragandha Singh in 'Hazaron Khwaishen Aisi' and Manisha Lamba in 'Yahan' were more recent example. Both these movies, however, were very good although I had to watch these more than a couple of times before I could stop concentrating on the ladies. Last night, I happened to catch a movie with Chitragandha (god, she's so beautiful!) on some Hindi movie channel. I watched the movie for a full hour, but I never found out what the name of the movie was – you see what I'm trying to say?

But Kareena Kapoor was different. I hated her the first time I saw her in her crappy debut with Abhishek Bachhan. The second time I saw her (in Ashoka), that feeling was reinforced. As a friend remarked then, she had bigger biceps than SRK. It was while I was watching 'Jab We Met' a few months back that my 'feelings' towards her started changing. By the end of the movie, I was head-over-heels in love with her. As soon as the DVD of JWM was released I went and bought one. To put this action in perspective, this is the only DVD of a movie that I've ever bought in my life.

Although Kareena looked prettier before she got the size-0 looks, I'm sure she wouldn't have cavorted in a bikini for a full 3 minutes if she wasn't size-0. That was a feast for the eyes. Dino said that the second half of the movie (the part of the movie I like to call the post-Chaliya part) was rife with bad action sequences and worse jokes than the first half. I didn't notice any of this – I was trying to figure out whether she had gone from a C cup-size to a B in her efforts to achieve size-0. When I voiced this concern about the B-rating of Kareena to my friends they reassured me that no such thing had happened and that I was being paranoid. So Kareena is not yet B-grade in my books, but I'll feel a lot better if she would abandon her efforts to look like a pile of bones and try to eating something. She may have had bigger biceps than SRK once, but that doesn't mean she needs to get tighter 6-pack abs than SRK now.

Coming back to the movie...er...what was its name - the one in which Kareena goes around killing the baddies with shotguns and prances around in a two-piece? Tashan? Well, whatever. I liked that one - phull paisa vasool.

Monday, May 05, 2008

An Exposition on the Similitude of Bikes and Babes

[Warning: Some heavy-duty self-indulgence ahead]

Before going to college, my parents had conveyed very explicitly that they wouldn't buy a bike for me - ever. They would have happily agreed to my sky-diving without parachutes before they agreed to let me ride bikes. My character didn't warrant such an attitude - I had always prided myself on being mature and responsible in whatever I did (It's funny how nearly every guy I know thinks that way about themselves - but I've got data to back me up. I've never crashed/scratched a bike or car in my 6 years of handling automobiles. That small scratch on the C-pillar of appa's car was the fault of the truck driver, and that broken rear-view mirror was because the Scorpio jumped out of nowhere)

So, throughout the four years of college, I was reduced to begging and borrowing bikes from friends (and sometimes even juniors – oh, the ignominy of it!) whenever I needed to go to Alankar for a movie or Dwarka for job treats from seniors or the railway station to book tickets. There's no public transportation in Nagpur and autos were mighty expensive for students like me subsisting on meagre handouts from parents. Thankfully, most of my friends were rather accommodative and agreed to lend the bike as long as I didn't bring it back completely dry.

While riding a Yamaha RX-100 around Chennai some days back (borrowed, of course, from Barry), I was reminded of those days in college and it was then that I realized something - if bikes were girlfriends, I'd have given Casanova a run for his money. I have ridden so many bikes in my short life so far that I have lost track of the number. In fact, I'd have gone one step ahead of Casanova - all my flames were other people's girlfriends and worse of all, most of the relationships were one-night stands.

So here's the list of ten of the relatively long-term relationships. I've decided to list this down as an act of thanksgiving to all my friends who lent me piece of their heart – their girlfriends bikes. And since I've not been able to put any serious thought into blogging for some time and won't be able to do so for some more time, I thought it would be a good idea to let you in on this. The complete list would be too long to even try to remember.

1. Vinayak's Pulsar 150 - The First Time, when a boy finally kick-starts the bike and makes that first twist of the accelerator to ride into manhood. I used this bike only once later, but the First Time is always special and I still remember it like it was yesterday.

2. Saxena's Freedom - Bad bike, threw more tantrums than a 15 year old (Yamaha that is). I used it more than the owner himself and hence this one is first on the list in terms of usage.

3. Dino's YBX - Not as fussy as the RX 100s, but a Yamaha all the same - second in the list of usage

4. Barry's Fiero - A great bike, my respect for bikes from the TVS stable owes its existence to this Fiero - third in my list.

5. Achal's RX 100 - Extremely temperamental and difficult to ride when I started out. If bikes were girlfriends, a Yamaha would be the plain looking girlfriend who nags a lot, consumes a lot of golden-brown liquid and smokes like a chimney; but with whom sex is amazing.

6. Sujai's RX 100 - Same as Achal's bike, but I ended up using this one a lot unlike Achal's.

7. Bala's Max100 - consistent performance even after 15 years, I've carried more drunk people back to hostel on this bike than on any other (I was usually invited to daaru parties so that I could bring the drunk guys back to hostel. I didn't start drinking until final year). This bike reinforced my respect for TVS-Suzuki bikes.

8. Naresh's Pulsar 180 - Definitely Male. If bikes were girlfriends, this one would be a girlfriend with a LOT of testosterone and I'd be gay. I used this bike very rarely because Barry was on it most of the time, poor Naresh never got to touch the seat covers.

9. Baone's Splendor - If bikes were girlfriends, a Splendor would be the girl to marry - not exactly a Victoria's Secret model but it does its job and never complains*.

10. Barry's RX-100 (his labour of love after the Fiero was taken from him) - made more sound than a train because of its modified silencer, but the power delivery was orgasmic. Saw a lot of this bike during the final year and now, after a long time, in Chennai.

Honourable mention: Anand's Discover, Anshul's Ambition and Amar's Unicorn.

*Before you say it, let me clarify that I'm no MCP. Just imagine what the world would be without sardar / dumb blonde jokes.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The South-East Oil Crisis

Kunz woke up at 12 noon - he likes to sleep late on Sundays. Still in his Jockey boxers, he started a semi-somnambular walk towards the kitchen, with a smile on his face. He'd been dreaming very nice dreams. Kunz in boxers (only) is not a sight you'd want to see first thing in the morning..or noon..or whatever time of you waking life. So when he bumped into me on the way, I was less than impressed.

"Geez man!, please don't touch me when you're practically nude. And put on some clothes, it's embarrassing having to watch you go around like this," I told him, shrinking away from his touch.

Kunz was not too happy either. The smile on his face had evaporated.

"What are you doing, sitting there in my way? Can't you move your chair a couple of centimetres to your right so that people can walk around this house without bumping into morons?" he asked and with that continued on his way to the kitchen.

I let the comment go because I was immersed in more important things - scrapping random girls on orkut, for example. I was just putting the finishing touches to one particularly good scrap when Kunz disturbed me with his skin show.

"There's nothing here to eat. I'm feeling hungry. WTF did you do with all the bananas I'd bought," Kunz shouted from the kitchen.

"There's a bag of green chilies next to the stove. Eat that for now," I replied, evading the question of what happened to the bananas.

"Hi thr, if u r intrstd in my fraanship pl add me as ur frnd. Ur foto is very butiful [:)]," Kunz was reading out my special scrap over my shoulder. I hadn't realized that he'd returned from the kitchen.

"Hey, that's personal stuff!" I told him, trying to cover the screen with my hand.

"Oh yeah! I would like to know what is so personal about an Orkut scrapbook. You are so pathetic! Hitting on girls like that on orkut - have some self-respect."

He was right, of course. But I knew just the answer to make him shut up for good.

"I know, da [*]. But what to do? Orkut is my only chance to get a girlfriend. I don't have the skills required to pataofy girls like you do. If only you'd teach me how to do it; I wouldn't have to denigrate myself doing this stuff."

That worked like a charm. He went back to bed to continue dreaming about Sona, Mona, Teena and the many other girls in his life [**] who, I'm sure, he was dreaming about before being woken up by the bump.

What woke up Kunz again was a hissing sound from the kitchen. As the smell of mustard oil wafted into Kunz's nostrils, he sat bolt upright and said, "Food."

Kunz considered the smell of mustard oil to be the official fragrance of Bengal (he maintains that the Communist Party distributes perfumes with mustard fragrance to its cadre, although a search for it on google didn't show up any results). And according to him, since Bengal is what heaven would smell like, mustard oil was the most heavenly smell on earth. Sniffing like a Labrador on the trail of a bone, Kunz made his way to the kitchen. DK had already made his world famous pulao and rajma.

"Hmm...smells divine," Kunz said. "Not like the horse-shit you get when you cook with coconut oil."

The last part of the sentence was delivered at a decibel level calculated to make sure that I heard it. No Mallu worth his drop of coconut oil could let a comment like that pass. But there were other thoughts in my mind - you see, I'd got this rather raunchy sounding girl on Messenger and she was promising me things which I'd only dreamed about till then. Mallu Pride or Raunchy Latino - that was the question.

After much deliberation, I realized that in the war between mustard oil and coconut oil, I was the last line of defence. The weight of the entire Mallu population was resting on my shoulder. Raunchy Latino could wait a few minut.... seconds.

So I made my way to the kitchen to restore hurt Mallu pride. Kunz's eyes turned towards me the moment I entered the kitchen. He was expecting a good fight and I was in a mood to give it to him.

"The next time you say anything about coconut oil, I'll fry your brains in it and feed it to the street dogs," I said.

"The dogs will cover their noses and run away."

"That's because they won't like the smell of your rotten brain, not because they don't like coconut oil."

DK was not enjoying this exchange. The only thing he cared about was lunch.

"Cut it out, guys. Are you going to eat this or not? I'm really hungry," DK said.

Kunz looked at me and said, "I'll give a reply to that after lunch."

I was more than happy to oblige. Food was more important than anything else.

Next day evening, as I was beating Kunz as usual in tennis, I couldn't help rubbing some salt into his wounds.

“You know, if you would use coconut oil instead of mustard oil, you would be a little bit better at tennis. Not better than me, of course. But a little better than the two left feet you are now."

No reply. The defeat had really got to him.

"How do you think Kerala produces such fine athletes? P T Usha didn’t win all those medals by drinking mustard oil. It’s coconut oil and fish, dear friend.”, I continued with no apparent hint of friendliness.

I was surprised that Kunz looked confused instead of angry, as if he was trying to figure out answers to some profound questions about the cosmos.

“Bengalis eat fish too, you moron”, he replied after some time.

It was then that I realized my mistake.

Thinking hard to correct my mistake I said, “Of course, you eat fish. But you cook it in mustard oil. So that screws up the fish. Besides, Bengalis eat fresh-water fish. It doesn’t have as much Omega-3 fatty acids as sea-fish”.

“That’s the biggest load of bullshit I’ve heard in my entire life. Apparently eating a lot of Omega-3 fatty acid-rich sea-fish cooked in coconut oil hasn’t made you any smarter. But look at us Bengalis - Rabindranath Tagore and Amartya Sen, both Nobel Prize winners; J C Bose and S N Bose were world-renowned scientists; India’s only Academy Award winner, Satyajit Ray, is also a Bong. How many coconut oil-using world-renowned scientists, Nobel Prize winners and Oscar awardees do you know?”

I wanted to say that it couldn’t be mustard oil that’s behind Bengalis being smart. Sardars also use mustard oil - but look at how many Santa-Banta jokes are going around. But I wasn’t sure whether Sardars used mustard oil. I didn’t want another argument to backfire and lose my face again. I made a point to check with my colleague Sardar Singh before proceeding along those lines.

That conclusively settled the debate on the court. My efforts to restore coconut oil to its exalted position had backfired.

The next day I checked with Sardar Singh about the correlation of mustard oil and intelligence of sardars. I had to be rescued from drowning in the water closet by sympathetic friends.

A week after that, my supply of coconut oil got over. Surprisingly, I didn't have the urge to buy another packet of coconut oil. Not only had I got used to mustard oil, I had (most shamefully) started liking its taste too. I now feel like a traitor, a defector who was ensnared by the enemies using pleasures that lesser mortals like myself simply couldn't resist.

So if you see me tucking into fish smothered in mustard paste and wrapped in banana leaf at "Hotel Annapoorna - Reputed Bengali Hotel" in Egmore, please show a little sympathy before you proceed to eliminate me from the face of the earth for betraying my Mallu brethren.

The Raunchy Latino turned out to be a guy.


* [For a long time after coming to Chennai, Kunz thought that the south Indian 'da' was a variation of the Bengali 'da' - a way of respectfully addressing one's elder brother. So he went around calling everyone 'da' till one day he came and asked us why he was getting nasty stares when addressing people. From then on, we started respectfully calling him 'da'.]

** [A little bit on Kunz's background here would be of immense help to you. Kunz is an alumnus of a great school in Kolkata called La Martiniere. A typical La Mars guy would have done enough to father a couple of kids before finishing school. By Kunz's age now, he would be almost living a retired life. The place where these guys took their baby steps in this direction was the playground separating La Mars Boys and La Mars Girls which, in Kunz's own words, "has seen many great rugby scrums". He now says that he was actually talking about rugby matches. I refuse to believe it because it spoils my story.]

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Vidharbha, So Not Shining

The tragedy of Vidharbha is not just that hundreds have been forced to commit suicide because of the crisis in the agricultural sector - it is also that a lot of the people who matter continue to bury their heads in the ground and maintain that there is nothing wrong. But worse of all is the fact that many people continue to spout fantastic theories about how this situation has been manufactured by the farmers of Vidharbha and how they are cheating the administration.

Consider Mohammed Wajihuddin's article in the Times of India on Apr 6th titled 'A Crop Called Suicide' for instance. Here's a quote from the article:

Yavatmal's Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) reads the figures aloud. In 2005, 92 farmers committed suicide. In 2006, the figure jumped to 196. He couldn't supply the number for 2007, but sources peg it at over 200. The sharp increase in the number of suicides after 2005 gives a clue. During the December 2005 winter session of the state assembly in Nagpur, chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had announced the Rs one lakh relief for the families of farmers who committed suicide due to severe debt.
His point is clear - families are passing off otherwise 'normal' deaths and suicides as debt-related ones to claim relief money (and hence the sharp increase in numbers). Firstly, the official numbers reported in government documents is hardly indicative of the scale of problems in Vidharbha. Till Deshmukh made the announcement of the Rs. 1 lakh relief, the Maharashtra government was in denial about the problems in Vidharbha (later the Chief Minister of the state, in fact, went so far as to call the cotton farmers of Vidharbha lazy and blamed them for the crisis). Prior to 2005, many suicides which were agricultural debt-related were recorded otherwise. In fact, in 2005, the Maharashtra Govt. admitted that the number of farmer's suicides since 2001 had crossed 1000 (an average of 250 deaths per year), a number arrived at mostly from reports in local newspapers. So much for the ACP's books showing 92 suicides in 2005. In choosing to quote statistics that they want to believe, people like Wajihudeen are ensuring that more farmers would be forced to take the extreme step in the absence of any meaningful efforts to solve the crisis.

Even if the statistics were true, his argument suffers from at least a couple of logical fallacies - confusing correlation with causation is one. An increase in officially recorded farmer suicides after the government announces relief does not imply that more suicides were reported because of the relief package. Increase in the number has a far simpler reason than the one Wajihuddin believes - deepening agrarian crisis. The more a farmer is in debt, the harder he finds it to raise a crop the next year. With prices of the crop falling and rising inflation, his problems are compounded. Logically speaking, even if the situation were to remain exactly the same year after year, the farmer's life would become increasing difficult in the absence of financing, drop in incomes and mounting interest of previous loans.

No scheme is foolproof and there definitely would have been cases of people claiming money for non-debt related deaths. However, attributing increases in the number of farmer's suicides to this alone shows unbelievable insensitivity in dealing with issues of such nature.

Here's another anecdote that he claims supports his theory:

On January 2, 2006, 58-year-old Ramji Rathod of Irthal village in the Yavatmal district went to Bhadegaon, three kilometres away, to meet his relatives. While returning, he strayed from the paved road and took a short-cut through the jungles. He was later found dead in an abandoned well. The case was reported as suicide by his family. "Why would he choose to jump into a well which was three kilometers away from his house when he could have easily killed himself by swallowing pesticide," says a television journalist who covers the region. [Emphasis added]
I have only one answer to that question – he did it for the same reasons that makes a man climb to the top floor of a building to jump down and commit suicide when "he could have easily killed himself by swallowing pesticide" on the ground floor.

PS: Having spent 4 years of my life in Nagpur ('capital' of Vidharbha), I couldn't help posting about this after reading yesterday's editorial in The Hindu about how even the recent waivers by the Central government is not going to improve life in the rural areas of Vidharbha. It just seems to go on and on and nobody seems to understand the problem, except for the highly respected Magsasay Award winner P. Sainath. His articles have been the source of most of my information. For a complete collection of articles by him, visit India Together.