Monday, December 17, 2007

Flux Is Difficult



Flux is difficult. I used to be bad to the bone, wearing a leather jacket, riding a powerful bike (by Indian standards), smoking cigarettes and playing drums for a rock band while my long curly hair swayed in the wind and the women with equal ease.

Then came the change. I got a job in Delhi.

The leather jacket now lies stuffed somewhere, the bike is sitting pretty (ugh!) in Bengaluru, the bad ass black t-shirts have been replaced by more sublime subtle colours and fashions, the cigarettes are being besieged by thoughts of quitting, the drumming now revolves around learning the waltz and the swing with not an electric guitar in sight, the long curly hair has been cut (although it's growing now) and it's been a pretty dry spell for a while now. Sigh! I miss the freedom that a corporate job and lifestyle curbs so efficiently.

The Ghost of Christmas Past never comes without the Ghost of Christmas Future. I am looking into the future and what I am able to make out in that dark murkiness is not entirely nice.

Friends are starting to get hitched. And these are my friends, not children of my parents' friends.

Am I going to be working this corporate rat race for the rest of my life? I don't want to. I want to be my own boss, set my own deadlines and work for myself.

I want to live in different cities, six months to a year per city - New York City, London, Paris, Boston, Sydney.

I want to be a writer, an author of books. I have the gift of the written word (at least so I've been led to believe). It would be criminal to let it fritter away while I slave at a desk day in and day out selling nobody's dream in particular.

I want to do theatre again, grace the stage, but only in serious big professional productions. I believe I have earned myself that right of not having to work with people who are doing theatre to look cool or to impress somebody from the opposite sex, but to work with people who are seriously into theatre and might even be doing it for a living.

I want to be able to savour a glorious morning extending into a truly breath-taking day instead of witnessing the morning on my commute to work and then hearing about the day in the news or from the free-lancer friend or from the colleague who ditched work that day.

But there is one hitch in all this dreaming and it's got Mahatma Gandhi's face on it. The money to support myself and my family and provide for a decent life and livelihood is a necessity and I have no means of making it right now apart from working that corporate rat race. I have to finish writing at least one book so that there exists a remote chance of a publishing house reading it and publishing it. That will then provide a glimmer of hope of a livelihood being eked out of writing. Bleak, huh?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cricket At Work, Statistically Speaking

It's Wednesday night and you've crossed the halfway mark of the week. It's been a bad 3 days so far and you're just trying to push yourself to the weekend that now seems a day closer than it did yesterday. Equate your work week to a 5 day cricket Test match. Whenever I've been having a less than average week, I draw my strength from a particular 5 day cricket Test match that happened nearly 7 years ago. Let me explain this magical piece of history.

The month is March, the year 2001, the city Kolkata. The harsh Indian summer is turning the corner, but its presence can already be felt. The Australian cricket team is in the middle of their tour of India and are in the midst of overcoming the "final frontier", as then captain Steve Waugh referred to the Indian tour. They had been doing pretty well, going into the second Test after having whipped India in the first one.

Day 1 went decently enough for both teams with Australia finishing on 291/8. India were looking to quickly mop up the tail, but Steve Waugh and Jason Gillespie thought otherwise. They put on a dogged partnership of 133 runs and Australia scored 445 in their first outing. India came out, were immediately in trouble and the rot never stopped for the rest of the day as they finished Day 2 on 128/8. VVS Laxman quickly gathered some runs in a last wicket stand of 42 as India were bowled out for 171 in their first innings, behind Australia by 264 runs and forced to follow on as they stared down the barrel at an imminent Test and series defeat. India came out for their second essay and, although they did better, lost key wickets along the way. They finished Day 3 at 254/4, still 10 runs behind Australia and VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, the last 2 specialist batsmen for India, at the crease.

VVS Laxman looked to be in good touch. He had scored 59 runs in the first innings before he became the last Indian wicket to fall. At the end of Day 3, he was unbeaten on 109. Rahul Dravid however, looked to be out of sorts, like all the other Indian batsmen had so far. He had managed just 25 runs in the first innings and had finished Day 3 unbeaten on 7, having just come in. So far, the entire Test, and series till that point, had been Australia all the way. They had simply walked all over India and the footprints were deep. Then Day 4 happened.

Exactly 90 overs were bowled by the Australians that day. Exactly 335 runs were scored by the Indians that day. Exactly 0 wickets fell that day. That was the day that changed VVS Laxman's initials from Vangipurappu Venkata Sai to Very Very Special, a nickname he carries with aplomb and lives up to to this day. Laxman added 166 runs to his overnight score of 109, finishing Day 4 unbeaten on 275. Rahul Dravid epitomised his nickname of "The Wall", adding 148 runs to his overnight score of 7, entering the pavillion unbeaten at the end of Day 4 on 155.

Australia, who had been eyeing and smelling a victory at the start of Day 4, achieved possibly by the end of day's play, had spent the entire day in the field without a single success and were now actually facing a possible defeat as they trailed the Indians by 325 runs with Laxman and Dravid still at the crease. The crowds, who hadn't really bothered coming in at the start of play on Day 4 but later turned up in surging waves as the news of Laxman and Dravid spread, were jostling and fighting to acquire a ticket to see an improbable Indian victory on Day 5, snatched from the jaws of defeat by 2 Indians against an army of 11 Australians, Spartan-like.

Laxman fell early on Day 5 as India sought to press their advantage. He had amassed a mammoth 281, the highest score ever by an Indian in Test cricket. He had single-handedly wiped out the first innings deficit of 264. Rahul Dravid fell soon after, trying to up the tempo. He had scored 180 and was an equal hero. Between the two of them, they racked up some voluminous statistics and records. They shared a partnership of 376 runs, scored a total of 461 runs, faced a total of 805 balls or 134.1 overs and spent a total of 1077 minutes or 17 hours 57 minutes at the crease. Phew!

India declared in about an hour on Day 5 at 657/7, setting the Australians a massive target of 384 with about 75 overs left in the day's play. The required run rate was well above 5 runs an over, a near impossible task in Test cricket, especially when your back's against the wall. That meant that India were in the clear. They were almost definite of a draw, but they were looking at a win. 10 wickets in 75 overs meant a wicket every 7.5 overs, a most definitely achievable task, especially with the Indians having their tails up and baying for Australian blood on a crumbling fifth day pitch.

Australia started solidly enough and the openers thwarted the Indians for nearly 2 hours before the first wicket fell. A half hour later, two more had fallen. Captain Steve Waugh and opener Matthew Hayden, the two top scorers for Australia in their first innings, set about their task of not getting out. Over an hour later, the two of them were still at the crease. With just 30 overs left in the day and 6 wickets to scalp, at an average of a wicket every 5 overs, and with impossibly difficult batsmen in the form of future captain Ricky Ponting, wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist and bowler-who-just-won't-get-out Jason Gillespie, an Indian victory was starting to look more than just a tad hard to achieve. But we couldn't have a draw after all that has happened, after all that our 2 brave Spartans had done the previous day. And that was when the Turbanator decided it was time he stepped up to the plate, again.

Harbhajan Singh was another man for whom the series provided a nickname, earned for his exploits with the ball and his turban. He had picked up 7 wickets in Australia's first innings and decided that a sequel was in order. He got rid of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting in the same over. That opened the floodgates. Sachin Tendulkar, who had had a rotten Test till then, sent back Adam Gilchrist in the next over and then accounted for Matthew Hayden 2 overs later. In less than 20 deliveries, Australia had gone from a potential drawing position at 166/3 to a headlong free fall into defeat at 173/7. 2 overs later, Tendulkar removed Shane Warne and Australia were tottering at 174/8 with another 25 overs left in the day. The Australian quickies tried to put up a brave front as they fought tooth and nail to stay at the crease for another ball, hoping against hope that they could last out the day. But it was just delaying the inevitable. The last Australian wicket fell about a half hour from the close of play. The Turbanator had sent home 6 Australian batsmen.

India had won a miraculous Test match, becoming only the third team in Test cricket's 137 year history, and the first in nearly 20 years, to win a Test match after following on. VVS Laxman was deservedly named Man-of-the-Match for having turned the Test match on its head with one unbelievable magical knock. That one day, Day 4 of Test 2, turned the series around. India became the dominant team and won the third Test as well to wrap up an improbable series win.

What does all this have to do with work? Well, day 3 of the week, Wednesday, is over and day 4 of the week, Thursday, is about to begin. And I'm an Indian.

Note: Much thanks to Cricinfo for all the numbers.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Aaja Nachle

I saw the movie Aaja Nachle, widely touted as Madhuri Dixit's comeback vehicle, today. I have pretty much stayed away from Bollywood this year, a result of a combination of disliked actors and poor reviews. But this one had Madhuri Dixit, and I don't really dislike her. She seems sensible and mature. I mean, if she was coming back from the US for this movie, it had to have something. Thankfully, we bought our tickets before I read the first review. Rediff (Raja Sen) pretty much trashed it, giving 2 stars for her smile. Hindustan Times (Khalid Mohammed) also tread the same path. This post will attempt to accomplish 2 things. One, it will attempt to give a decent review. Two, it will attempt to criticize the critics.

Aaja Nachle is very pretty. It has lovely images that appease the eye and the music, that otherwise sounds quite ordinary, is backed up by some very powerful visuals. The film has a nice languid pace to it without really getting boring. It quickly moves over the portions that can get really tedious if delved into whilst ensuring that it pretty much remains a film of equals with everybody getting a fairly meaty role, replete with dialogues and screen presence. The film touches upon the various relationships that exist between the characters, all of which are beautifully etched out and nicely portrayed, while keeping small town India, cliches and all, firmly in mind.

Madhuri Dixit is like wine, good then, much better and more mature now. Ranvir Shorey is very believable as the man jilted at the altar, but still harbouring feelings and misaligned anger for Madhuri. Vinay Pathak is beautifully government official-like. Akshaye Khanna and Irrfan Khan deserve more than just mentions as special appearance. They have a fairly big bearing on the plot. Kunal Kapoor looks bloody good and Konkona Sen Sharma is absolutely adorable. The film also shows the kind of oppression that the women in rural-ish India suffer from, reeling under familial pressures as well as husband induced ones. But what I really like and was touched by is the amount of heart that these characters portray, whether it is friendship overcoming the might of power and money or the boring stifling husband who wants to save his marriage by becoming more interesting. These characters are not afraid to swallow their pride and let their heart do the talking.

Just as the film starts to get a little meandering, the final show comes on, the timing just right. And what a show that is. Sure Ajanta, that otherwise might wear a forlorn and decrepit look in day, magically transforms to a portrayer of dreams at night rivalling even the famed Acropolis in its hey-day. But then that is what theatre is about. Turn a blind eye to the reality of it all. Where and how and when are these changes taking place? How does a policeman taken on at the last possible moment know all his lines and movements perfectly? How is the stage changing landscapes in between acts? Suspend belief just a little bit and then you will see the film for what it really is, a grand musical that any theatre hall would be proud to host. The final show is a grand spectacle that is powerfully and beautifully portrayed with some brilliant acting. Glad to see that our actors can do so much more than just run around trees and our directors can think of song sequences that don't involve trees. The final show doesn't demean or insult the audience's intelligence by treating them as rural India, as is wont with so many films that originate from the metros. The treatment of the film can be paralleled with Swades or Lagaan. Aaja Nachle is a must watch.

The reviews however have generally panned the film, picking on little things and sniggering about inane stuff like National Geographiya. Both Raja Sen and Khalid Mohammed have yet again earned my ire for behaving like immature imps. I'm starting to think that both of these gentlemen don't really know how to review a film and have become very cynical, going into theatres with a prejudice already formed and an opinion already biased. If they continue to tread this path of treating both the viewing public and the film fraternity with utter disdain and scant respect, then neither the public nor the film fraternity are going to accord them any respect. Farah Khan made her views quite clear on Koffee With Karan when she called film critics 'retards'. One only has to go through the comments in Raja Sen's reviews on rediff to realise that the public are thinking along similar lines.

A reviewer has the might of the pen and the command over the language to weave an intricate interpretation of the film, something that will tell the reader something about the film, something about what the reviewer saw and felt and heard. I believe I have done that in my review. (Have I? Let me know.) We do not want spoilers telling us the story and what happens in the film. Instead, we have reviewers like the above mentioned who choose to waste precious newsprint space as well as the readers' time by trying to come up funny lines. You are not a stand up comic act. Stop saying "Yikes!" so much. Treat each film on its own merit. Do not bring in the excess baggage of production house, histories of those associated with the film, etc. Just review the film, review the three hours you spent in that hall. Funny how dance themed movies from Hollywood received better reviews. All our film-makers are not bad. All our films do not suck. There are some genuinely good ones out there. Your friends are probably better reviewers than the so-called film critics who believe in only criticising.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Straight Jacket Of Life

I just spent this weekend attending a Bengali-Mallu wedding. I ought to be pretty happy, you should think, considering that I am not yet at that age when I think I'm getting too old and my options are dwindling. But I'm not. For one, I'm completely exhausted having gotten very little sporadic sleep. Right now, I can almost feel the bags under my eyes, but it's too early to sleep. I am yet to have dinner, and I shall sleep after that. However, when I'm in this state, I'm usually frustrated and angry. I've spent the greater part of my evening playing cricket on my computer. I'm depressed and lonely because I can't think of a single person to call and whine to, and I can't crib to mum and have her take care of me because I'm at the other end of the country from my family. I don't feel like calling anybody from my little black book (on my phone) either, I'm not very kicked by any of them at the moment. I don't feel like writing a mail.

Speaking of writing, I started this month with a mission - to write 50,000 words in one month. My novel should have been nearing completion now. I started the month well enough and I drove through over 10,000 words in just over a week of concentrated writing. However, after that I just lost interest and steam, despite well-intentioned pushes and prods from well-meaning friends and critics. My book has remained in exactly the same state as it was 2 weeks ago. I have done almost no writing in the last 2 weeks, not in my book, not on my blog, save for a few words in an article that I need to finish.

I am disgruntled. I am sick of it all. There is only so much I can do on my computer and on the internet. I need to get out of the house and do stuff outside, but living without transportation in Delhi can sort of nip that in the bud pretty quickly. I started drum classes this past week in a bid to achieve the above as well as tune up my drumming skills. The instructor didn't turn up the first class, so I went crazy on the drums, not having been on the throne for about 6 months, and had fun. The instructor did turn up the second class, and he quickly cut me down to size and made me play a waltz beat for the rest of the class, softly. It looks like he'll make me play different rhythms every class, because that's probably the proper way to condition a drummer who's been largely self-taught. He probably hasn't heard of Keith Moon. So, one month later, instead of gaining more independence, I'll probably be able to gain temporary employment in a wedding band. We always used to joke about how the biggest competition to The Unlike No Ones was the Maharaja Band in Bopal.

I am disgruntled. I am sick of it all. And I don't want to go to work tomorrow. As far as my job is concerned, I'm flogging a dead horse. I nearly put in my papers a few times this month, but I didn't. A new boss is joining next month, so I thought I'll stick around till then. Then I'll stick around for another month or so, breaking the new boss in, maybe doing an event. Then, if the new boss is good, I might stick around for another month. That puts me in the middle of February. Since I have to attend a wedding of 2 good friend-batchmates of mine around this time, I'll come back enthusiastic enough to stick around for another month. Towards the end of March, we have a nice huge fun conference that everybody who went for the previous one keep raving about. So I'll be enthused enough to stick around for another month. That puts me in the middle of April. Then, with nothing else to look forward to except the harsh summer of Delhi, I will put in my papers. The one month notice period, if I choose to serve it, will put me in the middle of May. My mother's birthday is on May 7. And so it will be that I will find myself back home in Bengaluru in early May, with another job or freelancing. Quite a plan, eh?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Winter

The afternoon sun is harsh
The strobes of light are diffused and weak
But it is in the order of things
For we need something, anything
To differentiate the winters from the summers

The morning sun is soft and caressing
The afternoon sun only warms the cockles of my heart
The evenings, the sun is nearly non-existent
The days are short and the nights are long
For darkness falls quickly when it is winter

There is a certain laziness in the air
As old, stiff leaves separate from their roots
In a dazzling rainfall of green and brown
Nostalgia, served in large cups
With time and the warmth of a hearth

There is a certain nip in the air
The cold leaves no longer flutter
Out come gloves and mittens
Wear those hats and caps
Wrap the scarves and mufflers
Drink your hot cocoa by the fire
Put your feet up
It's winter time

Monday, November 05, 2007

Monday Morning Blues

It's another Monday morning, again, and I'm at work, again. Crib, whine, grumble.

I'm trying to ease the pain by listening to Corinne Bailey Rae, recommended by my friend with the new york syndrome.

In related news, I plan to take up the saxophone. I've been fascinated by the sax for years and have always wanted to learn. I'm going to take the first step next week. This idea got re-invigorated after I saw a Simpsons episode called Moanin' Lisa about Lisa and her sax. Then, immediately after I made the call last night to enquire about sax classes and set up the date for next week, the first song that played on my Winamp that had my entire music collection and was on shuffle was Moanin' Lisa Blues, replete with a line right in the middle that goes "The saxophone's my best friend". And I knew it was a sign. It had to be. I'd like it to be.

In unrelated news, I'm writing a novel this month, courtesy NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I have to do 50,000 words in one month. So far, I'm pretty much on course. Of course, this will affect my blog the most, so don't expect major contributions this month to ragsrags.

And finally, I'm going home this Diwali. There's also a driving trip in the offing once I get home. So this weekend ought to be a great one.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Trip Back In Time

I was supposed to run the Delhi marathon this past Sunday. And I was really gearing up for it (trying to figure out how I could fake a sprained ankle when I was too exhausted to move any more due to my absolute lack of training) till I received a call mid-week from my new boss in Mumbai. She wanted me to come to Mumbai on Friday to attend a conference in my new division. Now my alma mater MICA was having its annual fest that weekend, and my company was paying for my flight tickets both ways. The decision was simple.

I've been sleeping very late of late, and Thursday night wasn't any different. And paranoid as I am about missing flights, trains and buses, or just generally being late, I got almost no sleep on Thursday night in preparation for the early morning flight on Friday morning. I knocked off immediately upon entering the flight and remained so till we landed. Then followed one hectic day of meeting, reviewing and planning, all with very little food. I was exhausted by the end of the day, a day that finished so late that all my plans of meeting batchmates in Mumbai came a cropper. I left the office, met my 2 batchmates with whom I was going to MICA, caught the bus, and crashed.

The bus hemmed and hawed its way towards Ahmedabad so that we finally reached MICA only around lunch-time. Then came all the hugs and the smiles and the nostalgia. I met batchmates I hadn't seen in nearly 7 months, caught up with my juniors, and got along with my super-juniors thanks to the presence of my brother in that batch. We checked out the new hostel, the spanking new music room and the air-conditioned mess and auditorium. We saw Zero jamming up close and personal. I participated in JAM on a last-minute whim and qualified for the finals, eventually coming in second. Then came evening and a rocking performance by Zero. This was followed by Parikrama, but having seen them many times before, we decided to slink away and drink (illegally, considering Gujarat is a dry state). We got sufficiently high and came back for the closing of Parikrama's performance. Then followed a night of revelry and more drinking and partying. A great night. I finally slept at dawn, just like the good ol' days.

Sleeping high or drunk never gives you a good night's sleep and I was up in about 5 hours. The rest of the day passed in a semi-buzzed state, and I was really worried that I would not be in any condition to drink again later that night, and with the MICANVAS party also happening that night, this was a worrying prospect indeed. I somehow made it through the day, nursing my body back to a decent state. That night saw a performance by Strings. They really got the crowd in and going. By the time the performance closed past midnight, I had willed my body back to accepting alcohol in copious amounts. And that is exactly what I did. The night also saw some tearful goodbyes, as batchmates started leaving to be present at office the next morning.

The next 3 hours saw solid drinking, partying, dancing, hugging, and reliving the good memories. Finally, in a nice high state, I got ready to leave for the airport along with a few other batchmates. I don't know how I managed to pack in those last few moments, but I did a pretty decent job, save for a mistakenly exchanged towel. I had never flown high before, and I wasn't exactly dressed to impress either, with my pajamas and flip-flops. But as before, I knocked off as soon as I sat in the flight and woke up only on landing. I rushed home, got ready for work and left, struggling through the rest of the day.

It was a fantastic weekend. With about a quarter of our batch on campus, it really felt like we had been transported back to our day. The juniors still respected us and welcomed us back as the breath of fresh air they were so used to. The super-juniors treated us as the Gods they had heard so much about and were now getting to see with their eyes, in complete awe and admiration. The staff and faculty were happy to see their old students back. Everybody was generally glad that we were back. I guess it only goes to show that we left a lasting impact during our stay there. And I am glad about that. Guys who had done logistics and security and various other allied functions during our outings at MICANVAS were back in their old roles, volunteering to help the juniors through. A beautiful weekend. Sigh!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Ache Inside

I did something very crazy today. I googled my ex-girlfriend. And as I was doing it and as I was going through the results, I kept telling myself "Stop it! You're just setting yourself up for depression. You don't need this. Don't do this."

Did I listen to myself? Eventually I did, but not before I had gotten myself well and truly affected. Then I got myself a cup of coffee and went out to the balcony to try and settle myself down. But it was too late. I had started thinking. I had started remembering.

And now, I'm sitting at my desk listening to the sad songs that I used to listen to at the lowest points of my depression, when I missed her tremendously and I knew that I had well and truly lost her forever. And I deepened my chasm by clinging onto a sliver of hope that one day we might be back together.

The ache inside has evolved over the months. For one, it's become less frequent. I also figured out that this ache is probably related with my home. Is home-sickness playing a part in this ache? Will I move home only to realise that the streets, the hang-out joints, the atmosphere, everything, will trigger off an uncontrollable reaction in me and actually amplify the hurt and the sorrow?

I'm going crazy in Delhi. It's not easy living alone when you want company. It absolutely sucks when you realise that there is nobody you can for a drink with, rather nobody you want to go with, and then you realise that the guys you do want to go for a drink with are all sitting in Bengaluru. And then they meet up for a drink and give you a call, and you feel like an absolute oaf.

But will I go even crazier in Bengaluru? I haven't really lived at home with the pain. I've always dealt with it outside the city, in some other city. Will it kill me if I move back? Will it open up old wounds and create fresh scars? Will it give me new hope of a re-union? What do I do? So many conflicting emotions, and no way to handle them, no shoulder to lean on, no way to divert thoughts and repress memories.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Photo Finish

Wow! What a race. What a race! It was beautiful. It was brilliant. And it nearly killed me.

I don't think I've held my breath for an hour and a half since I saw a horror movie as a child. But this season-ending-deciding Formula 1 race at Brazil changed all that. It was scripted like a well-scripted high octane movie thriller.

I'm sure all of you out there must know the position at the start of the race. Hamilton leads the championship with 107 points, aiming to become the first rookie, black and youngest champion. Alonso is second with 103 points, aiming to win successive titles with different teams for the first time in 5 decades since Juan Manuel Fangio. Kimi is third with 100 points, aiming to win his first world championship ever. History favoured Alonso.

Hamilton makes a slow start and then a driver error on the first lap. Alonso plays Brutus, while Massa and Kimi go hand in glove. Kimi 2, Alonso 3, Hamilton 8. The difference in advantages lessen. Ferrari have a tactical advantage.

Hamilton's inexperience leads to over-strenuous driving leads to car revolting. He drops 11 places to 18 before the car decides to give him another chance. Now, he's driving with his back to the wall and everything to gain, after having lost everything he had to lose.

Kubica goes past a slowing Alonso. Suddenly, Kimi is galvanised into action.

A spate of second pit-stops puts Alonso back into third, but Kimi has smelt blood. He puts in some absolutely astonishing laps between Massa's and his second pit-stops. Result: He comes out 0.7 seconds ahead of Massa in the race lead.

Now Alonso has to get past Massa to win the title. Hamilton is flying at the back of the order, but he needs to get all the way upto 6 to win the title. Advantage Kimi.

Kubica and Rosberg in 4 and 5 come achingly close to taking each other out as they battle for position. If that had happened, Hamilton would have gotten the trophy on a platter.

In the past, something has always gone wrong for Kimi. He's always been so near, yet so far. Today was a day of accidents. Whether it was the pit-crew behaving like bowling pins or cars getting up close and personal with other cars and the walls. But thankfully, everything fell in place for Kimi today. 1 point separated the top 3 drivers. Phew! Now that is close.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Writing Beetle

I have been contemplating restarting my book writing for a while now. And today, I decided to take some action. I'm revisiting my story in order to continue it and finish it. It's the first step towards becoming a published author - by finishing my book. After all, if I do want to sell the movie rights to my book, I first have to have a book.

So, as a tribute to the restarting of my writing, as a tribute to my efforts to make the writing bug bite me again, I am publishing a short story that I wrote a long time ago. I planned to extend this short story some more, but I felt that any extension to this story would start drawing it out and make it a bit forced. I like the way it's ending right now. Enjoy!

Warning: Long Post!

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Self Deprecation

“If there ever is anything on the face of this earth that is more worthless and parasitical than me, then it is yet to be discovered. I am the worst disease to have afflicted mankind – useful for absolutely nothing. I use up far too many resources compared to what I put back in. Air, water, money, food, time, everything that I am using should be going to someone else. More for them plus the added bonus of not having to deal with slime like me. Insecurity and guilt abound in me. When I walk, I always keep my head down with my chin almost buried into my chest. It may give me the look of a person deep in thought, concentrating very seriously and contemplating his next move, maybe a strategic business deal. The truth is I don’t want to look into their eyes, I can’t. It will give me away. Eyes have a tendency of doing that. One look into my eyes and people will find out what a fraud I am. I have to keep looking down and continue walking – to nowhere.”

Z lounged about in the aisle, letting his eyes drift over the books. There was a demeanor about him that looked lazy and bored, but a closer study might have revealed a different, more insightful picture. Z had spent the last 2 hours in this book shop, allowing himself to just be. He had slowly walked through every aisle glancing at every book with a feigned interest. The ones that seemed even remotely interesting, he had picked off the shelves and had leisurely absorbed the comments on the jackets. After a while, he had realised that just about every book in the shop was a bestseller, at least that’s what the New York Times said. Z was impressed. After all, if one couldn’t trust the New York Times, then who could one trust? Now, after having spent the entire evening in this bookshop in the gainful activity of lounging, Z felt like an expert on books. He felt like he could write a book himself, and he even knew by heart what comments were going to appear on the jacket of his soon-to-be bestseller.

Z also felt tired. It isn’t easy to spend an evening with the most prolific and profound thinkers and writers on this planet, all of whom have written bestsellers (according to the New York Times), and expect to get away without feeling mentally exhausted. Z needed to recharge his batteries and the neighborhood pub around the corner seemed like the perfect place to do the same. It was late evening. The sun was well into its descent and now looked like a ball of fire low on the horizon. The evening sky was doused in orange with a few smoky wisps of clouds floating around, almost like he himself was.

Z looked around him. He was right in the middle of a busy, bustling city. People were walking around with their heads down, not looking left or right, and taking short quick steps. They must be busy people. Traffic was jammed, vehicles were blaring their horns, and everybody’s tempers seemed to be on the shorter side. They probably wanted to go back home quickly, to their families and loved ones. Z ran his fingers through his hair, gave a look that is hard to describe, shrugged his shoulders ever so slightly, and turned his feet in the general direction of the neighborhood pub he had intended to visit in order to recharge his drained batteries.

There was a perceptible change that Z felt as he walked through the door. It took him a little while for his eyes to get adjusted to the dim lighting, too dim in his opinion. However, he immediately smelt the difference between the cleaner air outside and the alcohol and smoke-laden atmosphere inside the pub. Z clumsily groped his way in, affected more by the lack of light than his feeling of belonging. He made his way to a bar stool and ordered his usual beer. He then swiveled his chair slowly surveying the scene and its characters. Z didn’t look too out of place. He was wearing a crisp white shirt, unusually crisp for this time of day, and light beige flat-fronted trousers. With a stubble a couple of days old, he looked like a man who didn’t need to look good, yet made the effort to present himself well. Either he was consciously well-groomed or he had had a little too much free time on his hands. Z completed his swivel and came to face his beer again when he suddenly became aware of a figure sitting on the adjacent bar stool. The pot-bellied man wore clothes that could have looked good if they weren’t so faded and old. Z even thought he detected a tear or two. A shave and a hot bath couldn’t have hurt the man too much either.

“Tough world”, said the man, almost knocking Z over with surprise. “A man makes a decent buck and he can’t keep it. He has to spend it on society instead. That’s the only way to show everyone that he isn’t money-minded. Either which way, he is going to lose all his money, the poor bastard.”

The man looked like he would have liked to drain his beer, but instead took little sips. Z figured that he didn’t have as much money as compared to the time he had to spend here. Instead Z drained the remainder of his beer, paid and left.

Z didn’t like this kind of talk. It made him feel guilty and he didn’t like that feeling. Z was a businessman, head of a leather export company. The company was doing very well, evident from Z’s fine taste and ample time.

Z turned off the main road, away from the bustling traffic and into a little lane almost obscured by thick creepers. As Z walked under that arch of creepers, he felt like he was entering a completely different world. The noise started fading away and the city with its constraints was soon left behind. The lane was poker straight and had little houses on either side, evidently remnants from an era gone by. Each house presented a modern face though, with fresh coatings of paint and a car or a bike standing vigil in front of a little gate. Colourful faces of bright blue, red, yellow, green and a myriad of colours that Z could not even identify peered onto him as he ambled down that little pathway.

The houses soon ended and so did the lane which had started tapering down into nothing more than a well-worn path. Z continued walking. The shrubbery started gaining prominence. Soon, trees appeared in ever-increasing frequency until Z found himself in a little wood. It was so quiet that Z could hear the grass grow under his feet and the clouds slip by overhead. He felt blissful.

Z’s reverie was broken by sounds that, although perfectly complemented the surroundings, were very alien to the city-trained ears of Z. Birds chirped in the branches above. Twigs and dried leaves crackled under his feet. Z stopped and looked down. Twigs, grass and dried leaves greeted his eyes, but no path. Z looked behind him. Even more twigs, grass and dried leaves, but no path. Z looked around him. As far as the eye could reach, the ground was carpeted with twigs, grass and dried leaves. Trees abounded. There were no signs whatsoever that might have helped show Z the way back to civilization. Z turned around and went back the way he had come. However, soon it became quite obvious that he was lost.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Weekends: A Testimony To Closure

This weekend that just passed was an absolutely brilliant weekend. It was one of the best weekends I have had in a long long time.

On Saturday morning, three of us landed up at the Delhi Golf Course. The Indian Open was in progress. One of us was there on work, because her brand was associated with the tournament; the other two decided to tag along. So we landed up at about 10:45 am and picked up a sheet that gave us information on who was teeing off when. Jyoti Randhawa was teeing off at about 11:45 and we really wanted to watch him (also, there might be the off chance that his wife Chitrangdha Singh might be around; unfortunately, she didn't make the desired appearance). So we went and grabbed a bite of some really bad sandwich and came back to the first hole at precisely 11:45 am.

There are always three golfers who play together. Accompanying Jyoti Randhawa was U Park from Australia and R Gangjee from India. We followed them around for 5 holes in the blazing sun (my friend had unfortunately not brought any form of protection and had to face the brunt of the sun). Park lived up to his name as he sent the ball to all corners of the park and woods. Gangjee was a bit erratic. But the man in form was Randhawa. He eventually went on to win the Open coming from behind the next day. It was a surreal experience. And a lovely morning.

The evening saw a visit to Nehru Park in Chanakyapuri. There was a run happening and we were expected to participate in it. It was to help us gauge where we were in our preparations for the Delhi Marathon that is now happening in less than 2 weeks. The run was a grassroots running initiative by Adidas called the Otto Peltzer Run. The men were to run 5.6 km. Now, even though I've been meaning to train for the marathon for the last couple of months, I am very out of shape and unprepared for the marathon. It showed. I was wheezing and holding my stomach in no time. I managed to finish 2.8 km in under 20 min. That's all I managed to finish.

There was a Walkathon happening on Sunday morning in aid of breast cancer, and I had wanted to go for that. But come Sunday morning, and I was in no shape to participate, thanks to the exertions of the previous day. So I slept some more. When I finally awoke, I spent the rest of the morning and all afternoon playing cricket on my computer.

Sunday evening saw a reunion of MICAns. About 7-8 of us met up, celebrated a birthday, drank a couple of beers, talked, laughed, gossiped, wondered, got nostalgic, cribbed about work, and generally had a good time. It was lovely.

And then my room-mate packed up and left this morning for his new posting in Lucknow. It'll be weird living alone again. But he ought to be back in a couple of months. Till then, bring on the women, I say! Your place or mine?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

To Home And Back

"There comes a time in a man's life when he must find his way home, for whether he knows it or not at the time, the silken ties that bind him are tugging at his heart." - Venkat

I flew to Bengaluru over the weekend, extended to a 4 day trip by taking Monday off. It was my first trip home since March, over 6 months previously, when I had managed to catch Iron Maiden's maiden India visit, but had simultaneously lost out on the creation of memories back at MICA.

So I flew in on Friday night, knocked out cold due to the exhaustion of the 2 Music Today events of the previous 2 days, with my new hat propped over my face while I slept, like I had seen them do in the movies. Hence, I managed to escape being the nervous wreck that I usually end up being on flights. I was nervous and excited after I landed though. How would this trip turn out to be? Would it make me yearn longingly for a shift? Or would it shatter my dreams and make me realise that I was better off in Delhi?

I was faced with my old room. I had demanded the colours of its walls while I was sitting in MICA, but I've hardly spent any time in this room once it changed colour. I had battled many nights here. Delhi, in a lot of ways, was meant to be a fresh start. I was leaving all the baggage behind. I managed to make a clean break of things...almost. The thoughts assuaged me, the feelings surged and ebbed battering me, the mind dwelled on the past, on what could have been if only, the heart wept copiously and painfully, willing itself to believe in God just so that it could give itself hope of a miracle.

I survived the night, and subsequent nights. Am I healing? The next morning was a classic morning. The newspaper in a nice airy living room accompanied by steaming hot filter coffee (though I also know how to make it now, the old fashioned style). I spent most of the day going through the flood of mails that had accumulated over the last couple of days, and doing my bit of usual internet surfing and reading. The evening brought with it a visit to my grandmother followed by dinner in one of my favourite restaurants, exclusive to Bengaluru, Casa Piccola. Again, memories!

The next day, Sunday, I went to a theatre meeting of the first theatre group I was part of, BLT (Bangalore Little Theatre). It's grown by leaps and bounds over the years since, and makes me rue the fact that I've only spent about 6 months in Bengaluru in the 3.5 years since I graduated from college. A play reading was to happen with the playwright sitting amongst us. It was great, a great play, and the plans of rehearsed reading and performances made me wish my return to Bengaluru and miss such a professional set-up of which I could be a part in Delhi.

I met old friends that evening, as well as the next, some whom I hadn't seen since school and college. It was brilliant. I see life flowing on in Bengaluru. I was a part of that river of life, till I hit a stumbling block that made me take a detour. And now, I am part of my own stream, but it is an alien stream, and will remain so for the longest time, despite my sincere efforts to make it home. And then, when I finally convert this stream to achieve a more homely feel, what will happen to my home river? Will I ever be able to go back and be a part of it? And if and when I do, will it still be home? Or will it become as alien as Delhi is now to me? I already feel like an outsider. I barely feel like I'm a Bangalorean. And now the name's changed.

I also did a bit of shopping, mostly window, but I did manage to restrict myself to only one book at Landmark, after much heartburn though. So far, the book's turned out well. I now also feel that I should have probably called more people and met more people. Next time, then.

As I sat in the airport lounge, after just having seen my brother off to his MICA flight and having waved the goodbyes to my parents, I was seriously considering not going back. What would happen if I did not board that Delhi-bound flight? What could the worst consequence possibly be? Nothing came to my mind that made me recoil in terror.

I did a lot of soul-searching that weekend in Bengaluru. I saw the city creaking under its own weight, ready to implode. But I wanted to come back and help it survive and grow, not run away and cower in Delhi. I saw the difference in the freedom that I had in Delhi and at home, and freedom is a big necessity when you are a young man-about-town ready to paint it red. But I also saw the difference in the quality of life, the possibilities of living a full and meaningful life, something that I'm trying to do in Delhi, but it just seems so much easier in Bengaluru.

I watched a lot of Discovery and affiliated channels in Bengaluru. It made me see how small and worthless my life is currently. What am I doing? Helping sell more and more CDs? How am I helping society, the community, the earth? People out there are doing such good and I have to be stuck in a place I don't like worrying about meetings, dates and deadlines in order to earn more money for the company by stuffing music down people's throats. It made me rethink my life completely and I now have a more concrete goal and place to be and things to do. I feel very peaceful. Now I just have to figure out other stuff, like how and where I can do this.

All in all, a very satisfying trip. Now, when I get a little breather from my work, I'll sit and figure out all this stuff that needs figuring out, viz. my life.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Hisar Diaries

And so it happened that two batchmates of mine from MICA decided to get married, and that wedding was to happen this weekend gone past. And so it was that a bunch of us batchmates from MICA found ourselves winding our respective ways to Hisar, a Erode-Coimbatore-ish town about 4 hours from Delhi.

Three of us were taking an early morning (5am) bus, so that we could get there early enough and still be safe from night-prowling highway robbers and other general night-time related accidents. We started off bleary-eyed (because we hadn't slept all night catching up and waiting for the third person's flight to land in the dead of night) in a bus that sputtered, hissed and wheezed its way past fairly fast-moving traffic. It sounded like steaming water in a great gigantic machine that had just gone to work. The National Highway (NH) that had started out pretty well became worse once we crossed Rohtak. However, our heads continuously lolled. When my head did not loll, I was surprised to see that the bus had gotten over-full and the people who now occupied nooks and crannies were all also lolling and slipping in and out of their semi-conscious states.

At Hansi, near Hisar, I got a taste of "This is Haryana". People ran after the bus, even as the driver yelled at the people shuffling off the steps to hurry it up. The cops, yes the cops, directed us into the bus stand, even as people positioned themselves for the eagerly anticipated open door on a stopped bus. Our driver had no intentions of stopping for this unruly mob to launch into his already packed bus, and he coolly drove in the entrance of the bus stand and drove out the exit. We were on our way once again.

Throughout the trip, I liked the way the driver, the conductor and some random passengers, some of whom were known to them, some of whom just travelled in buses a lot, made themselves completely at home in the front of the bus. They were very comfortable up there, and although I made an effort to listen to what they were saying, I couldn't understand a word. That was when I realised that this probably was not Hindi, but probably Haryanvi or Rajasthani (the bus went to Jaipur and back).

Saturday started with meeting old batchmates and the couple-to-be. The day was becoming very hot and in the middle of that heat, in a quiet hall in "Panchayat Bhawan", my two batchmates exchanged rings and got engaged. A hot Coimbatore day gave way to a breezy cool Bangalore evening. We went to the guy's house later in the evening where a function was happening. The food quickly served its purpose, and then, after some ambling about on the terrace that included singing by the Haryanvi women, the cricket match between India and Australia, the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup started. The women sang and danced on the terrace, but the men's festivities were crowded in one room around a television set. It was a great atmosphere to watch the match in, and an Indian victory just made it better. Surprisingly enough, all the ads that we had dismissed in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, now seemed to make more sense and seemed more interesting as we sat in that small town. "Hmmm... a 100cc bike, looks promising. Wonder if I can afford it?"

The next morning, after having witnessed an exhilarating win the previous night, we took our time getting into the groove. The morning was free and we wanted to do something worthwhile rather than just waste in our room. A couple of sight-seeing ideas were shot down due to the heat and distance, but a visit to the market remained the firm favourite with all of us, helped by the fact that people were looking at adding to their ensemble for the wedding later that evening. News trickled in at noon that the market closed at noon. So we frantically got ready and rushed to the market to see if we could salvage anything of our shopping dreams. Luckily enough, the shop-keepers were all standing outside their respective, ready to sneak us in and sell stuff on the sly, away from the prying eyes of the shop inspector who was on his rounds. We did some solid shopping, mostly of Jootis (a style of footwear typical to North India) and some jewellery. I picked up three pairs of Jootis, one for myself, and one for each of my parents.

We came back in the evening, well satisfied with the day's exploits. Our initial group had grown bigger over the past day as more batchmates kept coming in from various cities of their postings. We quickly got ourselves ready and most of us went back to the guy's house for the famed baraat. The guy got on to a horse, the band struck up its music and we danced. The band, by the way, turned out to be Maharaja Band. Back in MICA, The Unlike No Ones always considered its greatest competitor as Maharaja Band from Bopal. Looks like they've started franchising.

So the evening wore on well into the night, with dance and food filling the air. The two most important people of that weekend were married in a nice quiet little ceremony, and everybody began to make preparations to leave. We had managed to get a Scorpio for five of us. I drove soon after leaving for about an hour and a half before I handed it back to the driver. We hit Delhi in the midst of a monstrous Monday morning rush hour, and got suitably delayed and frustrated. And that was how I got to work nearly an hour late on Monday morning with absolutely no sleep. Quite a lovely weekend, I must say.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Song Of The Day

Song: Cat's In The Cradle

Artiste: Harry Chapin


Cover: Ugly Kid Joe
See the video here.

So why is this song the "Song Of The Day"? I have a strong connection to my family and anything about family and familial bonds immediately strike a chord with me, possibly because I yearn for it. And the lyrics for this song are simply heart-wrenching. I bet every father and every son relates with this song in varying degrees. Read the lyrics and tell me you don't get goosebumps.

Lyrics:
My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew
He'd say "I'm gonna be like you dad
You know I'm gonna be like you"

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home dad?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, "Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let's play
Can you teach me to throw", I said "Not today
I got a lot to do", he said, "That's ok"
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, "I'm gonna be like him, yeah
You know I'm gonna be like him"

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home son?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then

Well, he came home from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
"Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for a while?"
He shook his head and said with a smile
"What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?"

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home son?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then

I've long since retired, my son's moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind"
He said, "I'd love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job's a hassle and kids have the flu
But it's sure nice talking to you, Dad
It's been sure nice talking to you"

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home son?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then

P.S.: I could have embedded the video here, but Universal Music Group has their own channel on YouTube, and they have disabled embedding of their videos. I could embed videos posted by other users, but then it's sort of like piracy, and I don't like piracy, especially when I can get the original version.

Honey, What's On The Telly?

I've watched television over the last couple of days. Seeing that I've barely heard the word 'television', much less seen any for the last 30 months, that's a fair bit of television viewing I've done in the last couple of days.

I was watching India's latest exploits in the Twenty20 World Cup, both on the field as well as off it.

On the field, we did pretty well, winning both our games against England and South Africa and sailing through to the semi-finals while we left the vanquished eating our dust on their way out of the tournament.

We forged 2 very good partnerships in the England game - between Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir for the first wicket, and between Andrew Flintoff and Yuvraj Singh for the nineteenth over. Both partnerships had the vital element of clear communication, so crucial to their success. Each member of either partnership was left in no doubt as to what the other one was saying, be it about a possible run or the genealogy of the other.

The South Africa game: I think Sreesanth is setting himself up for a plum Bollywood role, after seeing his bowling performance against the Proteas. He's already got an album under his belt, now he has the chance to get a movie. And Bollywood, being Bollywood, will seek inspiration from Hollywood. And hence, we will get to see the Hindi version of Major League with Sreesanth essaying the role of "Wild Thing". His awfully sporadic bowling will be rectified by the introduction of nice thick glasses (he wore almost invisible glasses while batting earlier in the tournament). Heck, I'll even go to South Africa and play "Wild Thing" from the stands every time Sreesanth comes into bowl and every time I feel like complimenting any one of those ultra-hot female cheerleaders. Drool, drool!

No cricket match on the telly is complete (or incomplete, for that matter) with the constant advertising breaks. I was watching television for the second day, and I was already sick of the ads. And they are so bad, almost every one of them. They just reek of petty commercialism and poor creativity as well as myopic brand management. Pepsi My Can, Reliance Mutual Fund, Zen Estilo, Havell, Nokia, Brylcreem and Vodafone.

Yes, Vodafone, with the little pug adopted from Hutch along with a screeching remix of the "You & I" song. The guys at O&M are really starting to get on my nerves. When Hutch first broke its first campaigns across Bangalore, it was a welcome relief from the clutter that cluttered the Indian advertising space. It was nice and clean. But then, after a while, it becomes irritating. Especially when O&M tried to keep a good thing going. The pug with the kid did wonders and it was a nice campaign too, but in my opinion, it was the beginning of the end, it was the top of the hill from where it was all downhill afterwards. I think the street lingo for this sort of thing is the "Mario Puzo effect". Your first piece of work (The Godfather) is so bloody good that you just can't top it. You are doomed to relative commercial failure because of your commercial success. So everything became crappy for Hutch after that, with over-simplified advertisements that sounded almost childlike and made me feel quite stupid. I can only hope that the advertising (as well as the service) for Vodafone improves. I don't want to see Hutch ads in red instead of pink instead of orange. And if "Hutch is now Vodafone", then why does my phone still show Hutch as the network provider? Shouldn't all Hutch phones now be saying Vodafone?

Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that Airtel and Vodafone might be using very similar brand colours. Now, for somebody like me who is colour deficient, that is a big problem. Atleast I could make out between the bright red, the loud orange and the positively garish pink. Now I have two shades of red to choose from and I am completely at a loss. I already have enough trouble figuring out which red I ought to be talking through and which red I should not be drinking (Coca-Cola, you nitwit; don't you know it's harmful for health, along with all its collaboratora and competitors?). And now this. I think I ought to become a painter (an artist, a painter of easels, not of walls, although I think painting walls is kind of therapeutic, as is painting of easels; let's just say painting in general is therapeutic, now shall we?).

So anyway, television sucks, except for a decent cricket match watched with friends, or the usually brilliant programming on Discovery, History, Travel & Living, National Geographic and other such channels. Amen!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ssh! They're Talking About You Behind Your Back

When you've been this tall for this long, you begin to learn the tricks of the trade. I have. As I have mentioned in one of my previous posts, I am 6'6" (198 cm or 1.98 m).

I was fairly average in height during my school years. The leap came towards the end of those years. In the one year that took me from Class 11 to Class 12, I put on 10 cm (4"). That made me a six footer and I finished school at a very respectable 6'2" or thereabouts.

I entered college as a geeky gawky too-tall-for-his-trousers kid with misaligned teeth wearing big round glasses and the safest hairstyle in the history of safe hairstyles. Of course, today everybody, especially the women, find this description and the accompanying pictures very cute, but let me tell you, it was anything but cute at that time when I was trying to establish myself in the big bad world outside the safe confines of home. I have never worn a pair of trousers that have fit me perfectly because the brands don't make clothes for people built like me and the tailors don't have enough experience tailoring clothes for people built like me.

Anyway, during my college years, I put on another 10 cm (4"), and when I exited college, dazed and confused, with braces to correct the misalignment of my teeth, I was 6'5" (196 cm or 1.96 m), or so I thought. I never bothered to properly check my height and told myself and everybody else that I was 6'5". I didn't want to be any taller. But then, sometime ago, I measured myself on one of those electronic machines, and it told me that I was 198 cm. So there you have it. 6'6" it is.

So, as you can see, I have some pretty impressive experience when it comes to matters of the altitude (I am "Sir Altitude", as one of my MICAn batchmates fondly calls me). I have developed a sort of a sixth sense, an intuition, that tells me exactly which person is going to be stupefied by my height, when two people are talking about my height. In fact, I often catch myself looking at the person who I think is about to shoot forward, grab his friend by the shirt and whisper in his ear. And then, as if for confirmation, the friend slowly or immediately turns his eyes towards me. And I chalk up another intuitive victory for me.

But it's also made me feel like a woman on the streets of India. I hate the way people look at me, I hate the way they pass comments. It's ok when little children come up and ask me my height. But it's not ok when grown-ups stand right next to me and stare at me and then loudly try to guess my height with their friend. I hate travelling in the elevator and especially in the metro. The metro is the worst.

I travelled in a school bus in Delhi a few months ago as I was accompanying a friend of mine. I can't stand straight in buses, they're too short. The children in that bus had the time of their lives. I'm sure they went and told their parents and their friends that they had seen a giant that afternoon. The teachers also had a blast. As we exited the bus and walked back, every head was stuck out of every available window, looking at my gigantic receding frame.

Ugh! The jokes, the comments, the questions, the stares, the comparisons, the giggles - I hate them all. If you want me to get something from the top shelf for you, I will. Heck, I was the only guy who could operate the A/Cs in class at MICA without a remote. I was the manual remote. Just don't make it into a joke to ease the tension, because there is no tension. I'm used to using my height to help others, so you don't need to be apologetic or overtly funny. And do not ask if everybody in my family is as tall as I am. I've had that conversation so many times with so many people, I know exactly what your response is going to be to everything I say in the order I say them. And my height is not a cause or effect of me playing basketball. I cannot just stand and drop the ball in the basket. And the only reason I'm an advantage to a basketball team is because of my talent. My height plays a small part in that talent, it is not the only part. I am not Amitabh Bachchan or Raghuvaran (in Tamil Nadu).

I know I'm taller than the average human, but that does not mean that you have the right to come up and ask me my height. Maybe once we get to know each other better. I don't ask you what area of your face that huge mole covers and whether moles on the face run in the family. I don't ask you how low your IQ is (and then try to make a lame joke to cover the obvious tension in the air like "I could just see how stupid you were by that duh look on your face. I rubbed my eyes, but it was still there.") and then ask you if stupidity runs in your family and whether you are the stupidest person in the family ("What? Your brother's not quite as stupid as you are? But he doesn't play chess, does he?")

This was meant to be a short post, but I guess that there is just so much that I need to get off my chest as far as this is concerned. There are times when I absolutely critically hate my height. When I have to sleep in discomfort in an otherwise perfectly comfortable room because the bed is too small for me. When I can't even consider a vast majority of the women because they're just too short for me. When the ready-made shirts, trousers, blazers, shoes I try on for size would have fit me perfectly had I been just a couple of inches shorter. When I have to constantly make do. When I'm left out of a normal life just because I'm a few inches too tall. People think it's a boon to have such great height and that I am extremely lucky to have all the avenues of my life open to me to do what I please with my life, simply because I'm so tall. People have even advised me to join the army or do other such national security related jobs because I'm so tall. They do not realise that being an extreme is also a bane. I feel like a circus freak. And yet you wonder why I'm such an elitist introvert who prefers solitude?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Freedom Of Music

This happens to me unfailingly every time I listen to music from the free era, the 1960s, the 1970s and a bit from the 1980s. I get transported, I start visualising that time, and all my visualisations are based completely on images received from films and television either from or set in that time period. Classic examples would include Almost Famous and That 70s Show. What an era that must have been! Their music just speaks so beautifully. It’s pure, it’s electrifying, it’s an era where anything was possible and where hope floated in the air.


I’m constantly trying to recreate that magic today. My first girl-friend always used to say that I was born in the wrong time period. I ought to have been born about thirty years previously. And I always used to feel weird whenever she said that because then I used to think that she and I wouldn’t have been together if we had been born thirty years apart. I always wanted that particular moment with her than the chance to have been born thirty years earlier to enjoy an era that I might or might not have enjoyed. Anyway, I have digressed, from this topic as well as from her, both of which I should not have.


And now when I return to the original track, I realise that the train of thought has moved on and left me behind. I’m listening to Jefferson Airplane, which is following Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. So I’m going to let their music fill my ears and let my thoughts wander.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Such Is Life

Don't you think it's about time a poem was demanded? I think the time demands a poem. So after a long hiatus/ with a monthly review snapping at my heels and looming large in front of me/ from my archives I shall produce/ a poem. (You expected a longer last line, didn't you? Snigger snigger)

Such Is Life

The screen is blinking
My eyes are glazed
How I'm wishing
My drink was laced

I can hear the hum
Flat in its drone
My mind is numb
My sanity gone

My fingers are in place
To type such melancholy
It fills this space
With its bitter cacophony

I want to scream
I want to break free
Of the chains that bind me
And hold me to this lie
Called life

I lock my door
And walk to the ledge
I've always wanted more
But now I'm on the edge

I look at the street below
At my millions of minions
Should I fly, float
Or crash into those simians?

Does Anybody Remember Laughter?

It's all happening! The biggest band in the world, Led Zeppelin, are re-uniting for one last concert, and it's happening in my lifetime. The only issue is that it's happening on November 26 in London. Now, how do I get to London? And how do I get the tickets for what will obviously be one of the most sought-after events in the history of the world? It all works out to be so expensive. Apparently, tickets were made available via a lottery system on Ahmettribute.com, costing 125 UKP (254 USD). The website exceeded its bandwidth allowance and crashed almost immediately following the announcement (Source). It's still down, I checked.

As I sat fretting over the prospect of missing the opportunity that will allow me to tell my grandkids proudly that I attended a Led Zeppelin concert (doesn't matter if the drummer's first name is different, the initial is still the same), one of my friends came up with an idea. She suggested that I start a charity to raise money to help me go to London and attend the Led Zeppelin concert. So, I will.

This is a plea to all music lovers as well as general humanitarians out there; this is a plea to kindly donate to the "Venkat For Led Zep" charity fund. Donations will be accepted in all manners and forms: money, flight tickets, concert tickets, Led Zep albums and merchandise, a dinner date, a plum role in a feature film, the chance to direct my own feature film, a puppy, a book publishing contract, a shiny new cruiser bike, a shiny new drum kit. You get the idea.

This is how you can donate. Leave a comment. I will reply. We can work out details. Oh, and if you donate to the "Venkat For Led Zep" charity fund, all your donations will be exempt from Income Tax under section 80D (if and only when I become the Income Tax Commissioner). So, donate generously.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Music For The Day

Song of the day:
Dancing Shoes - Arctic Monkeys (w/ Buena Vista Social Club)


Dancing Shoes is a song that's been done by Arctic Monkeys, and it sounds like the same band here jamming with probably Buena Vista Social Club. Either that or it's a brilliant cover version or it's been remixed really well. You can get the distinctive Cuban flavour in the song.

Artist of the day:
Joe Satriani

I was gifted a Joe Satriani album Engines Of Creation on my birthday by a couple of my classmates when I was in college. I had never heard of him till then. I will not say I was blown away because I wasn't, but this guy is still a great listen. I love instrumentals.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Friendly Tug

A funny thing happened today. I was going through the list of my friends in my gtalk and I chanced upon the pictures of two of my closest friends in Bangalore. Now I've seen these pictures before and I speak to these guys now and then, but this time I really scrutinised the pictures. And behind my eyes exploded this surge of emotion and memories. The three of us have been together since our school days and we have more than a decade of friendship to speak of. In the last few years, we have really gotten close, despite the distances that have often plagued us.

I now have a different reason to go back home. Both of them are in Bangalore. One of them came back from the States just as I was preparing to leave Bangalore for MICA and Ahmedabad. Since then, both of them have stayed on in Bangalore while I have been away, first in MICA, now in Delhi. The other one has really been the binding force. He stuck on in Bangalore and is living life to the hilt. If it weren't for him, I doubt that the three of us would have been the cohesive force we are today.

I am now imagining life in Bangalore. I see gym sessions, drinking sessions, discussing work over lunch, having philosophical discussions, talking about women (like the good old days). Why would I not want to move back home to Bangalore?

I keep having these flashes of Bangalore, visual images that make my stomach go into knots. Roads, the muggy weather, the cool breeze, the trees, some building, the crowd on Brigade Road, anything. Sigh!

On an aside, I've been off cigarettes for nearly a week now. I tried taking a couple of drags yesterday, but it tasted horrible. I still keep getting these occassional cravings though, that I've been fighting off. I've been fairly ill since I quit cold turkey on Friday, and I'm guessing it's a withdrawal effect. Still, I'm sticking to my guns.

Healthier life, here I come.

Bangalore and home, here I come.

P.S.: I've been featured in some guy's list of Indian blogs. You can see it here. I guess this is just the start to fame and fortune.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Of New Months And Resolutions

When I was growing up, every day was a new day. It's like you woke up and the world was new once again. And every new month brought with it greater excitement than the day had. The year generally came around pretty rarely, usually about once a year, and so it had a charm that was soon lost. But the charm with new months was that I got to write a new number in the date column every month. It wouldn't throw away that charm by changing every day, but it would make you wait in anticipation, so that when it finally changed (usually about once a month), you would savour it. And by the time you're done savouring it and have gotten used to the excitement of writing a new number for the month, it was time to look forward to the next month and let the anticipation grow. But all that was when I was growing up, during my school days primarily.

Now that I am working, the new month brings with it dread and defeat. I am the furthest away that I will ever be from my next pay-cheque. I am now closer to my deadlines, not only in date, but in month also. I have to reach my target in a shorter time period. The entire month stretches out in front of me, the end being sometimes 30, sometimes 31, only once 28 days away. So on such occassions, I try to break it down into smaller goals. Get past this week. In this week, what are the smaller goals that I can break it down into?

I quit smoking today. Cold turkey. The timing couldn't have been better. It's at the end of one month and at the start of another. Now, I can look forward to milestones. One day, one week, two weeks, one month, you get the idea. I will keep you updated on my progress.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Murud Janjira Diaries

We had decided some time back that we would go to Mumbai this weekend. My room-mate’s long-time girlfriend had been posted there on a temporary project, and they had to meet this weekend. Considering that she had flown down the previous weekend, it was now his turn. It was decided that this ought to be turned into a fun weekend trip where we would utilize this opportunity to meet up with our dear batch-mates, most of whom we hadn’t seen since our MICAn graduation about five months ago. So the plan was set. The two of us (roomie and I) would fly down to Mumbai on Friday night, meet the rest of our travel group, leave for Murud Janjira on Saturday morning, spend Saturday and Sunday there, and come back to Mumbai either Sunday night or Monday night, depending on circumstances. We fly back to Delhi on Tuesday morning.

We were flying Go Air both ways. The flight was to take off on Friday evening at 7:10. So, we decided to leave office by about 5 pm and get going to the airport. So far, so good. As we got to the airport, the first signs of trouble started appearing. I got two phone calls enquiring as to where I was and, when I replied, why I hadn’t bothered to inform the boss that I would be leaving early. Then, we got to the Go Air counter where we’re told that our 19:10 had been delayed and would now take off at 20:20. First blow. So, we went and got some grub and a smoke. Go Air is a low-cost carrier (LCC) and does not serve food on the flight. Instead you have to buy everything on board, even a bottle of water. We went into the terminal and checked in. We were carrying only hand luggage, a direct result of smart planning. We did the security check-in and walked into a very packed airport departure waiting lounge that was akin to a train or a bus station. The digital display boards had pushed our flight back to 20:30. We stood around, graduating to sitting around when flights came and went and cleared the lounge for a temporary period before it was refilled by the steady throng of people that had the need for wings. Close to 8 pm, the PA system announced that our flight had been further delayed to 21:30. We resigned ourselves to our fate and got a bite to eat. By about just past nine, the disgruntled Go Air ‘guests’ had started to crowd around a small, harried airline employee. So, to diffuse the situation, they announced that boarding is to begin. And we all stood and waited in line, then stood and waited in the bus, then sat and waited in the flight. Finally, we took off, over three hours late. The captain had sounded either drunk or sleepy as he got on to the PA system, and it showed in his flying. He pulled stunts that city bus drivers are well known for, weaving wildly during take-off and banking sharply thrice immediately after. The fact that the over-head storage compartment above our heads had shiny silver duct tape holding it in place didn’t ease our minds one bit. So, after a horrendous flight, that included a stop-over in Jaipur, we finally landed in Mumbai at 1:30 in the morning. I have never been so glad to set foot on terra firma.

We came out and there was roomie’s girlfriend, waiting with two signs in her hand - Abhishek Bacchan (me) and Hrithik Roshan (roomie). We had decided the previous week itself that we were going to pull this little stunt at the airport. Unfortunately, since we landed so late at night, the crowd at the airport, that we had hoped to get all excited at the prospect of seeing two celebrities, had thinned out considerably. We still had fun doing it though. We went to our batchmate’s house, had a nice reunion in the dead of night, and left early in the morning for Murud Janjira, with little or no sleep. The drive in the hired Qualis was beautiful, though the driver was a nasty lout who had trouble keeping his eyes open. Greenery became the norm of the day with lush rolling hills soon replacing the dreary concrete jungle that Mumbai is. Everything around us nearly screamed Kerala. The road got progressively worse as the potholes made their presence felt. Soon enough though, we reached, and the bumpy ride with the annoying driver suddenly seemed worth it.

The resort opened out into the most pristine flat beach untouched by the human hand. The sea was placid, gently lapping the shore and forming pretty designs while retreating. The beach looked like a place where we could shoot our version of “Chariots of Fire”, and we did seriously contemplate it. There was this vast expanse of water right in front of our eyes, and lovely hills of myriad colours flanking us on either side. It was breath-taking.

The plan was to do nothing, and that’s exactly what we did. Nothing. We just hung around, caught up with each other, lazed around, and felt content. The next day, we went to see the Janjira Fort that was in the middle of the sea, and had apparently never been conquered. We had to go in a little sail boat that put us completely at the mercy of the elements, mainly the wind, the sea and the sun. A peaceful calm came over me as the boat gently parted the water to allow itself through, and the water responded by softly lapping against the sides of the boat, almost as if they were having a conversation. All phone networks had conked out in Murud, except Airtel, and as if to prove its advertising line “Go Wherever, Do Whatever”, my roomie received a call in the middle of that sail boat journey. He was tickled as he answered it and said, “Ummm…listen, I’m in the middle of the sea. I’ll give you a call once I get back to the hotel.” Hutch flopped miserably.

So, anyway, we spent Monday also doing nothing, packed up our stuff, and caught a middle-of-the-afternoon bus back to Mumbai. It was an old rickety bus, but the driver was absolutely fantastic and we made it to Mumbai in record time (with a crab falling on me from a basket above en route) and in better shape than what the Qualis had left us in. We again spent a few hours in the middle of the night in the batchmate’s house and my roomie and I caught an early morning flight (Go Air again, but much better this time around) on Tuesday back to Delhi and work, thereby capping off a simply brilliant trip. One of the best trips I have been on in a long time. I feel really happy and content.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My Favourite Things

I was tagged sometime back by my Manni, insisting that I write down a list of my favourite things. And as I sat and thought about it, and then thought about it some more, it became increasingly clear to me that this was a very difficult exercise. I've spent a larger part of my free-thinking life brooding and moping, revelling in my depression and generally frittering my time away. But this is an important exercise that I must do, simply because it makes my life that much more beautiful and well-laid out. So, here is a list of my favourite things, neither in a particular order nor exhaustive.
  • Flowing Water: I love watching and listening to flowing water, be it the rain, a babbling brook, water racing down my window, a fountain. It puts me at immense peace and I can just be. One of the jingles for Radio Mirchi has a similar effect on me because it sounds a lot like flowing water. Some of my favourite songs like Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath and Riders On The Storm by The Doors also employ sounds of the rain.
  • Filter Coffee: Well-made strong South Indian filter coffee always makes me go weak at the knees, and I can go on drinking it. I have been deprived for over two years since I moved out of home and have had to satiate my desire by drinking instant coffee or the commercialised Italian varieties. On my trips home, I ensure I get a solid dose of caffeine, the way it's supposed to be made.
  • South Indian Food & Its Combinations: South Indian food, made South Indian style, tops my food preference list any day. Morkuzhambu, vathalkuzhambu, rasam, sambar, thohail (pudina, tengai), cabbage kootu, venn pongal, appalam; I love these food items. And when you eat them in various combinations, they just make you believe in God. Like I like only a particular kind of appalam, the yellow variety that has been in boiling oil, not the white rice ones or the ones burnt over the flame. And these appalams go brilliantly with anything but my all-time desert island favourite combinations for the appalam are:
    • Thohail Chaadam
    • Cabbage Kootu Chaadam
    • Rasam Chaadam
    • Sambar Chaadam
  • Working Out Logical Problems In My Head: These could be anything, from a math problem to figuring out the right drumming pattern. Drumming, or music for that matter, depends heavily on structure, and when you have to figure out stuff between 8 notes, 16 quarter notes and 32 quarter notes, along with variations like triplets and odd time signatures, I can sit around for hours just working out various permutations and combinations of the notes and the various drums (snare, bass, toms, etc.) that are available for use. Of course, then I want to try these out on the drums.
  • Philosophising: I sit and I philosophise, about life, about the need for women to wear high heels on cobblestoned roads, about the futility of it all, about the need for beauty and its appreciation, about anything that I think needs philosophising over. I feel infinitely cleverer.
  • Creative Expression: Expressing creatively is of prime importance to me. I write (blog posts, stories, poetry, scripts), I play the drums, I act (theatre, though I am looking at films), I act cute and childish, I sing, I laugh uncontrollably, I sketch and draw, I talk absolute gibberish, I build entire scenarios and stories in my head, I crack jokes (most of which only I laugh at), I hug, I love.
  • My Family: I love my family. I think it's the greatest family in the world, both immediate and extended. I love where we come from, our socialisations, the customs we follow, the orthodox-yet-modern approach to life that we have, the intellectualism that runs deep in our veins. My family is the reason for me being who I am, and I love me.
  • My Idiosyncrasies: I have strange quirks and I am proud of every one of them for making me as different and unique from the rest of the crowd as possible. Being different and unique is very important to me, and it reflects in what I do and how I think and how I look. I'm very tall (6'6" or 198 cm or 1.98 m). I exhibit obsessive-compulsive behaviour, everything has to be placed in some relation to the other, maybe straight lines or maybe some weird connection that I have formed in my head, everything has to be in even numbers or equally done or in some combination that satisfies my evenness equality quirk. I like to believe that I have numerous phobias and multiple personalities. I am colour deficient (I can't see all colours). I think I will dedicate an entire detailed blog post to this in the future.
  • My Own Special Brand Of Depression: Like I've mentioned earlier, I revel in my depression, I enjoy it, it makes me happy. It's comfortable and gives a nice fuzzy kind of warm feeling. I feel like I'm in familiar territory and I can relax. It's my fortress and nobody can touch me here. It has gone to such an extent that I can see the signs of an oncoming depression, what to expect during the depression phase, what to do, how to whine and mope, and even what to mope about to extend my depression phase.
  • Free Rock Music: By this, I don't mean rock music that's free to download and hear. I'm talking about rock music that is by itself and in itself free. This music usually belongs to the free-thinking era of the sixties and the seventies, when flower power and free love ruled the world. Music that is uninhibited and not specially made and produced to increase record sales. Music that truly speaks to your inner self without seeming contrived. Music that is free.