- Terrorist attacks (related to point #1).
- no pretenses
- courageous, for choosing to do what she really wants to do.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
8 books I last read
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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]
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)
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 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, 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.
 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 ;)
 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!
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.
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.
[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.
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.]
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.