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.