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 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.