Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Lake Town? 10 rupaye zyaada dena hoga."

"Theek hai, chalo."

I'd have to pay 10 bucks more for the taxi ride home. It was raining and empty cabs were few and far between. The extra tenner was worth an hour's waiting, or worse, haggling.

We drove off the Park Street Flury's crossing. Traffic wasn't sparse. It was 9:00 pm and the rain swept homecoming office crowd was looking for a dry journey. I looked around, snug in my seat. The howling wind was conducting the rain orchestra.

The taxi reached the Park Circus bridge. A grizzled man with a jovial grin, the driver guided the car through the sea of vehicles and water. The grin was more of a grimace - road rage runs high with cloistered spaces and reduced visibility.

"What idiots! Why are they all in such a tearing hurry!"

I wasn't in a mood to reply. It had been a long day and I'd rather take a nap in the one hour ride home. The driver turned around to look at me. I grunted a non-committal reply.

"Yeah... everyone needs to get home."

"They do, but that doesn't mean you do it at others' expense. Think about the blessings of science that have enabled people to drive instead of walk. This doesn't mean that they zoom through like blood in arteries."

The analogy was interesting. I leaned forward from my splat-on-the-seat position. He continued talking. The conversation that followed was entirely in Hindi.

"I was listening to the news on the radio, babu. It's delhi ka fm. Sometimes it tunes itself here. I listen to it every day and read the papers too." A neatly folded copy of Sanmarg was resting behind the fare meter. "They said that a robot has been bought by doctors in Delhi - for the first time in Asia - that will be able to do biosurgery. A doctor will guide it and it will perform the finest of operations and surgeries without any errors. Just think babu, how we have progressed. A machine to operate on human beings."

"Yeah, it's amazing. Science is making progress."

"And not just progress babu, it's moving forward at a tremendous speed. Where are we going?"

I was piqued. The cabbie wasn't just passing on information he'd heard or read about. He had given it some thought.

"In the satyug, you only had to imagine yourself in one place and you would be there. In the dwapara you had to work by physical labour. And after that it's been a downhill ride. We now travel in mechanical monsters. But we are making progress. It takes two hours on a plane now instead of an instant compared to thousands of years ago."

The car had reached the ITC Shonar Bangla by now. All plans of napping forgotten, I was leaning forward intently. I was desperate to show off my two bits of knowledge in front of this illiterate, uneducated man. My philosophical bantering tends towards non-materialism and non-wealth.

"At the end of your life, it doesn't matter how much you've earned or what name you've made. What really matters is whether you've been able to make somebody happy. Anybody."

"You are right babu. The Gita says -"

"Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani"

"- yes babu. Do your duty and not expect outcomes. Don't do the job for results but for the pleasure of getting the job done..."

I stopped. This man clearly knew what he was talking about and was more than your tobacco chewing, khaini spitting, passenger refusing Nana Shaw. Nana Shaw is a stereotype of the typical Calcutta taxi driver - leaves his mark on the city and on the mind of passengers by refusing them.

"Why did you become a taxi driver?", I asked completely oblivious of how I said it.

"I've got a school in my village. I'm from Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. I make enough foodgrains to last my entire family, and my brothers. And also run a school there. This taxi is just for my freedom. The 20 odd thousand Rupees I save every month goes into making the school. I started off my brother with teaching. He took the school forward. I plan to open a library for students. They walk 11 kilometres to buy books. My house in Kasba needs to be fixed. The shingles are falling in on the mud walls. But it's all for the children, babu. You said na that you need to make somebody happy?"

"Yes..... a thousand people..."

His statements weren't as random as my typing. I couldn't digest the information. This man had started a school for the village children. And not just any school, this institute had a thousand students on its roll with 13 qualified teachers registered under the State Higher Secondary Board. A man who drove someone else's cab for a living had a farm, a secondary school and burning ambition to his name. He might have been bluffing. I wouldn't know. His statements were crisp and purposeful. His voice was hard - accustomed to toil and turmoil. His message was soft. If you need to do something with life, contribute to science's robotic surgeries, make a school, make people happy - start with yourself.

The taxi had reached Lake Town.

"Bhaiyya, aap change rakh lo..." Keep the change.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

IST - Individual Suitable Time

This is the Independence Day post. It's on time, just take a look at the title. Blog titles are very important. They promise something else and then wander off to wherever the .....

As I was saying.

This year the shades of saffron and hues of green didn't hold much stock for me. Until dinner that is. At this point I decide that this is going to be a food review complete with pictures. I also decide that I need better flow of thoughts.

Now the purpose of having a picture smack there isn't just to fan the "them's" ego by saying that a picture speaks more than a 1000 words. (reference: They say that.. blah blah blah). The secret to selecting a good sizzler is to carefully see what everyone else is choosing and following suit. Herd mentality is a good thing except if you're a goat that has had the honour of being the main dish.

Caught 'N' Bowled at the Salt Lake City Center boasts of great continental food with a cricketing ambiance. They live up to it. The 15th Aug menu had its share of greens and oranges with a liberal white sauce. What you're looking at passed out on the 16th. But on the 15th it was a lamb steak sizzler. Add to that the carbohydrate addition of macaroni pasta cooked in a tangy tomato puree, American style French fries, a very Indian looking potato kebab and the salad to taste.

Incidentally, the salad rests on a bed of fresh lettuce. Remove the bed and feast your eyes on the crack in the sizzler plate. This is where they pour the alcohol and set fire to it. Hmmm... spirits in the crack that set it on fire.

Feeling particularly foodial, hence the second pic. At a different angle of course.
The hand you see is my sister's spearing the cauliflower. She doesn't have a blog. And for those on orkut who want to strike up a frandship about "Hey, you're [my name]'s sister! How is [my name] doing?" - ask me yourself. That was the compulsory comic twist which didn't really fit in, but anyway.

Keeping your eyes closed while eating is generally a good way of unlocking hidden flavours. The texture of the meat. The spicy tanginess of the sauce. There may be those herbs and spices which are missed out while engaging in intellectually stimulating conversation. The aftertaste the potato leaves when eaten with the dip. Then there's the aroma. A very important part of the taste is the way it smells. So inhale, chew carefully and keep your eyes closed.

The above statements do not apply if you're out with voracious eaters with a sense of humour. You'll end up smelling everything other than your food. And when you open your eyes you'll see the plate. Just the plate.

Final word: The secret to enjoying a great sizzler is to not get your tongue burnt on the first bite.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Chalk De India

The heading is inspired. So's the movie.

Take 80 parts inspiration, 18 parts bitterness, 1 part rationality and 1 part implications. Put it together. Get an insipid blog post about an inspiring movie. Inspiring. I love that word now. It begins with I. Just like India. And as they say, there is no "I" in team.

Chak De India chalks out a simple enough plot. Captain of National Hockey Team misses out the oh-so-important-this-shall-decide-the-fate-of-the-world penalty shot in a match against Pakistan. Curses, allegations and alligator like journalists (in collaboration with Times of India and Aaj Tak?) waste no time in attaching labels to the betrayer Kabir Khan. He disappears for seven years while the world leaves its mark on his address. But this isn't a movie review. That's for Sandy.

Movies like Chak De.. prove that we don't need songs and dance routines. Just put in a lot of sportsman spirit, comment about the same, show some mercenary politicians, mention sponsorships, raise hockey sticks and walk away in a blaze of teary eyed realizations. Come to think of it, just how much of it is a light on the current situation in the country? But then "this is India, yahaan pe kuchh bhi hota hai". Not surprising that sport body association leaders have flabby bodies, have their sideburns dyed one scene and whitened the next and don't much understand the intricacies of sportsmanship. No, this plot is about holding a mirror up to an obvious bias towards more marketable games, testosterone, gender bias and McDonalds.

deviation: The Calcutta McD is a pile of glass, steel, wood and curious passers by. The McD in the movie was a pile of upturned chairs, no food, vegetarianism and not in the screen passers by.

The storyline proceeds predictably. There can be only one villain in a team, and this one didn't have it. Jealousy, teamwork, oneupmanship - it's all there. Technically, oneupwomanship, but then we're Indians and selfless creatures who don't hog the glory. If the ball has to be swished alongside, so be it. It's a match we are winning. Two and a half hours in seventy minutes that no glory can take away. Some obvious jokes along the way of course. India faces six time champion Australia. Okay, good thing it wasn't cliche that Pakistan wasn't the opponent here. But then, there wasn't a single mention of them during the entire World Championship. Hmm...

If you're watching the movie (as you very well should), don't miss out on the obvious cricket references. The Team India huddle at the climax, the cricket world cup being the high point, newly elected gymmed physique vice-caption's take on the rest of the world and a few other things which I should have noted but didn't.

There's something about watching country related movies. Maybe the spontaneous clapping you get from the hyperactive Rs. 30 ticketers. Perhaps it's the vigorous shaking of the seats which remind you of earthquakes. Those, incidentally are the Rs. 50 ticketers who are stamping at the floor in newfound Rang-de-Basantish fervour.

Chak De.. makes you want to cheer. It makes you want to go watch women's hockey. Even the one year olds who were towed into the theatre were crying out their enthusiastic support. Although I'm not entirely convinced they were crying out for the right reasons....

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Spare the rod. Shove the entire pole instead.

Today's daily news carried an article about punishing children.

To sum it up, capitulate and otherwise round up - teachers are likely to be spanked by the men in uniform if they spank the children in uniform. Which might just be bad news for those who are in "the noblest of all professions" right now.

I disagree.

We are going the American way. Yeah truth, justice, child laws and all that jazz, but those blokes overdid it quite a bit. If there are any who take offence, please do. To not hit a child, or to point out their mistakes, or to not give them a scolding is wrong. The old wives who didn't spare the rod sure knew what they weren't spoiling. Obviously, the venerable bearded (and hairless) ones that passed this particular decree don't know either.

Have you ever been in a classroom? Ever corrected marksheets? Ever controlled a bunch of 50 odd angels who have their horns neatly combed over? Ever had to handle bawling 6 year olds one time and hormonal 16 year olds the next? No? Neither have I.

School isn't an arena. It's one of those places that actually attempt to get something into our brains. It teaches how to compete. It teaches how to fend for oneself among otherselves. From fighting over playground space to duking it out for the teachers' affections - it's all a part of growing up. Real life isn't that much different. We still fight over cubicle space and duke it out over the boss' favours. And those same people in positions of authority do take your case. They dole out criticisms which border on chaotically destructive. School is about preparing for the real life. It doesn't really matter whether you scored 98.7 or 83.4. What matters is what you are capable of. And if you aren't capable of cultivating a little "stupid" comment, you're pretty much keeping the plankton company in the food chain. At least nobody knocks plankton.

So if someone in a black cassock sans wig decides that the morale of the "citizens of tomorrow" is best guided by not calling a spade a spade, then bully taw. May their system face a rot of thought.

Which it already has.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The reel deal

I've never really gotten the deal about Japanese Animation. Other than the fact that it looks really sleek and the characters swagger in styles enough to throw Olympic swimmers into depression, what's so great about it?

Maybe, everything.

Sure they talk funny. The leading characters (and unleaded characters too) are fueled by a lot of energy. The kind that powers verbal diarrhea perhaps because their lips keep moving long after the actual speech has ended. That might be due to bad dubbing, but it's kinda trancelike to watch those itty bitty probosces keep fluttering. And then expand to the size of hippopotamus mouths while eating. Background score: Crunch, mmgah, chomp, deelish, gnaw, crunch. I already said crunch. The animators sure know how to make them sound good. The only time I heard someone actually eat like that was in a Bong marriage when competing over fish fries was still fashionable. The burp was still in vogue then. After that, health became fashionable and the quintessential Bong bourgeoise was sadly left behind...

Back to anime.

Most ingredients of a typical anime are liberally splashed with action, skin show, some more action, a storyline that involves either a treasure, dragon, parallel world, godlike power, cyborgs and fan service. Speaking of action, those blokes westwards could really take a few hints. Matrix style moves, flying kicks, crustaceans wielding nanchuckers with a taste for pizza leaves a funny taste in the mouth. More salt please. So there you have these long haired japs who look typically stereotyped in their ripped jeans, out of proportion physiques (I swear, if those characters were life size, they'd be over 8 feet tall with gorilla arms and no chest hair. We call them metrosexuals - just without the height). And they swing their arms as fluidly as cigarette smoke, make some grunting sounds that might or not be inspired by Jenna Jameson and then crack the skull of the not so attractive anime opponent.

Basically, it's fun. It's fun to imagine blasts of ultra heat from your eyes. Oyya, speaking of eyes - they're always lazily drooping until the sexy villain decides to beat the living daylights out of the poor wrong protagonist. This sounds very Bollywoodish, but villains here are never sexy. Maybe long haired and dyed beards at the most. Animes look cool with any colour of hair. It's mostly metallic yellow and purple, but the odd shade of red, green and blue are also there. Black hair sticks out like a misshapen mustache on a southie hero. Think pokemon.

Ultimately, it's about entertainment. It might just be about money as well, but we're prudish and don't cloud our thoughts about such materialistic things. (Also skin show). So if you'll excuse me, my Fatal Fury - the movie has finished streaming and I'm off to watch the ghost of lover the martial artiste coax him into wishing his new lady love good night.

Monday, August 6, 2007


The heading might sound like the product of a microwaved pigeon, but it's not. That much is obvious. It's more an Anglicization of the Taandav, which happens to be the final dance before the world bakes in a blaze of glory. We're only human. We like pre-heating our ovens to set temperatures. Only, the oven is 12756.1 kms wide - end to end. That was the diameter of the earth and it referred to global warming. Only this post is about neither the earth nor global warming. I'm not even sure what this is about.

But this heat is more of the sparking variety that comes when you pull out wires in a rage of composed frustration. You know, when the internet isn't working, when the wires are tangled and you suspect it might have something to do with not tipping the telephone guy when he came traipsing last time around wearing an expression similar to a voyeuristic teenage boy.

And I know what that expression resembles, so there.

Bottomline: If you're hopping mad, don't dance. Chances are you'll step on a few toes with your two left feet. And if it's anyone of consequence, you'll have two toes left. My internet is sucky, can you tell?

The alternative to being dead would be being employed.

That, perhaps, might be the reason why I spent friendship day at work with two equally luckless colleagues instead of gorging on bony chicken and melted rice. Just for the record, lunch consisted of a single cheese sandwich accompanied by mango juice. Not the tetra pack or bottled variety mind you. This version was literally squeezed, packed and oozed out the edge.

We were in Salt Lake at a printing press making sure the heaviest of our award winning anal reports were being done. Did I say anal? I meant annual.

The ride to the place was in an auto. It's weird the way everyone in the auto will hang on to the metallic rods that have an affinity towards the softer parts of the cranium. One jerk on the road and daytime stars materialize. One jerk in driver's seat and.. you get the picture. The passengers take a perverse pleasure in putting their hands, legs, arms, extra appendages wherever it seems to fit. Maybe everyone has acrobatic tendencies. It is said that we have abilities we aren't aware of...

But this post is getting longer. The press isn't set to function on a Sunday. I'm not too sure about the remaining six days either. However, they do have malt biscuits for every occasion. And on to City Center (touted as India's most favoured mall on some obscure billboards in India), for an attempted lunch.

Sunday afternoons at a favoured mall favours a lot of unfavourable crowds. The most entertaining of which can be found in Kookie Jar wondering aloud whether the nut corner cookie will contain nuts. By the same logic, there might be death hiding in the death by chocolate. Actual chocolate might not be there - don't ask. Don't wonder. Don't eat. We did eat a nut corner and shawarma. Two actually - the girls don't eat much. Washed that down with 25 bucks worth of crushed ice and grape juice marketed as international quality slush.

Footnote: my colleagues are all female. My boss is a male. Repeat previous statement.

From City Center to the Salt Lake Barista. There are lots of Baristas in Salt Lake. Barista is a coffee joint. If you didn't know this, then you probably don't know that they've come up with thirstbusters. These are incredibly expensive items that taste incredibly expansive. We'd come for, presumably, coffee which took 1 man to make and 4 men to put the cover on the paper cup. It was take away.

Speaking of take away... the thirstbusters have a very interesting menu card. My colleague filched it. And all in the name of design and print. No wonder I write anal reports.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Chip on my shoulder

And I'm not talking about the salted and packaged variety.

Whoever said that there's something new to be learnt everyday either had a really lousy day, or was under some divine grip. But divine grips have resulted in a few sudden floods and swallowed cities whole, so let's not go there.

It's more of the unacceptability of the fact that you're 21 going on 13.7 billion. That's the age of the Universe. But then given the fact that we reside in YOUniverses (I niverse maybe), it might as well be 21 years. And today is friendship day, so that's another universe of business and flooded inboxes. (I can hear my neighbours' phones beeping as this is typed)

No, right right now the thought is more towards the younguns who know more than we did. An ex colleague's daughter would be a good case study. ( A five minute break was taken at this point in which MY mobile started dinging. The sms beep is set to ding)

So, the case study:

Take one colleague who worked in JWT. Take same colleague and put her in a different organization. Take colleague's daughter who is 5 years old. Take daughter and put her in LMG from her old school.
Take an instance when colleague was contemplating leaving current organization and rejoin JWT. Incidentally, JWT has a crazy pay package and crazier work hours.
Colleague asked daughter if she would mind if she returned to her old job. Daughter looked thoughtful for a couple of minutes and asked, "Do you want me to return to my old school?"
Colleague was sent into a startled silence.
"No, I don't."
"Then why are you asking me this?"

So there you go.

This girl has more siglets of thought to her credit. Like in one of those social dos where old ladies make it a priority to squeeze every cheek in sight. If the lady in question is a spinster, other cheeks are at risque. That's a different story too. So you have an old lady with jingly jangly ornaments that sound like three out of tune tambourines sitting the kid on her lap. And cooing. About her jewellery.
"I've got two shiny earrings, one biiiiig shiny locket, fifteen bangles, toe rings and a hundred other squigglies. What do you have?"
I'd have been tempted to say "mere paas Ma hai", and it would be true too. But since I wasn't there, and this is not my story...

The kid looked contemplative.
"I've got lice", she said.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Truth, Justice and Moronic Delay

Quite a jump from the American way. Perhaps we're riding the paranoia wave. Perhaps we're just doing a 21 gun salute and waiting for the easel to pop. For all that it's worth, the sentence has generated a lot of divided opinions. Keyboards nationwide might complain of back problems. Bleary eyed journos might sift through megabits of material to find the $ 0.02 of information that might make sense.

What's the point of the pronouncement? To prove a point? To garner publicity? To show that in spite of every dirty thing that's been said about the speed of the judicial system they still function? No one's debating the guilt of the man. He is guilty. Period.

But of what?

This might raise more questions about the entire logic of the thing. Rest on cliches for a moment. We're wont to do it anyway...
They say justice delayed is justice denied. Pray, what justice are you donating to the devastadees? The dead don't come back. The pain which was forgotten over 13 years of mourning and mundane existence has been clawed again. It would be unfair to call this a publicity stunt, but isn't that what it is?

How exactly is it justice to showcase illegal gun possession and make a blitzkrieg of it. Maybe not as entertaining as showing a crusted criminal slitting a few throats, or drug money being peddled away in arms, or preteens screaming invective in the backwaters of the country on their firepower. These things don't just happen in movies.

You don't become a criminal if you dine with one. By those accounts, the chosen one's followers would have become saints and the sole turncoat would have induced cowardice. And this would generate further controversy.

All a lot of questions.
I'd promised myself I wouldn't blog. This post is a testimony to the fact that it was egg shellical. Maybe it should be testimoney. More on that later. Or not at all. There are some deals that shouldn't be disclosed.

Like the one with myself. But that isn't working anymore, touchwood. Or touch woody. Never touch woody. It's the British equivalent of the American weiner. Good grief, my sense of humour seems to have taken a permanent squatting position.

So a cheer to the pal who paid more in terms of attention. And the double essed techie who got the first glimpse into the spot anyway. But here's to some more irreverence, siphoned memories, untouched woods and copping feels.

Feeling cops is never a good idea.

Friday, August 3, 2007

It wasn't meant to be. The creation took infinitely longer. Far from passing off as divine bovines on the social networking website that shares its name from Finnish orgasms, this took more time than the prescribed 7 days.

And the colours aren't even chosen. Does this page use American spelling or British? Do I have access to different fonts? What's the bubble that says my drafts are saved automatically. Can i siphon thoughts here directly? Why doesn't my mobile show this page?

Wait, no comments on the mobile.