Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I'm no Truman

If, unknown to me, I were really the centerpiece of a theatrical production that revolved entirely around my life, rather than just being one of the billions of humans crawling on this planet, would it make sense for the producers of my life to keep airing "The Truman Show" every day on TBS? Wouldn't the constant bombardment of this movie on my conscious kinda make me think about the possibility of everything in my life being a sham?

But maybe that's what's supposed to happen. Maybe this is that penultimate phase of the show where, after watching the movie a hundred times, I finally come to realize the lie that my own life is. And finding out that I am not really me is an intentional part of this production. Maybe this is the part where the storyline dictates that I sail out to sea and find a gigantic wall where the horizon is supposed to be. Maybe it is time now for the show to end due to my sponsors backing out. I'm pretty sure my ratings are in the gutter. I'm not sure if I even have a viewership anymore. I haven't had anything exciting happen to me in a long time. The camera hates a slump.

But fuck it, even if this is just an illusion, let it be. I'm too lazy to disturb the status quo. If they want to end my life, they are gonna have to cancel it themselves. They are gonna have to climb down from their cabin in the moon and let me know it's been good knowing me and all that crap, but it's time for them to move on and let me out into the real world. In fact I am a bit curious as to how they are gonna broach the topic. I am also curious as to the nature of the real world. It should be interesting. But as I said, I won't take the initiative myself. I'm no Truman. I'm content in my inertia.

Bunty, Babli and Saif's right buttock

Continuing my time honored tradition of watching hindi movies about six months after they are released and then writing a review which no one will read since everybody's already watched it, I saw Bunty and Babli this weekend. I had high expectations from it. You know why Indians can take break-ups pretty well? Its because they have spent all their lives being let down time and time again by Hindi movies.

I guess the storyline was okay in that it was not a Suraj Barjatya movie. But someone needs to tell Ranee Mukherjee that if she needs to cry, she should cry in her mind. If she cries audibly, she sounds like Dharavi on the morning of Bakri Eid. Abhishek needs to stop talking like his father. I can sympathize with Jaya Bacchan. She is a woman who has spent her life in the midst of two Bacchans.

The script should have been written by a professional scriptwriter. Not by my uncle, who I love very much but whose punchlines make no sense whatsoever, and yet I have to pretend I enjoyed his joke and give him a high five because everytime he cracks one he looks at me for endorsement. eg : Ranee Mukherjee asks a tea guy for 2 cups of tea. Tea guy expresses puzzlement and asks why 2? Ranee says "I want 2. What will happen if you give me 2? Will Pakistan attack?" I wish he had given her the 2 cups without asking for more information. I fell asleep in the middle of the movie. I think my body continued to watch it even after I stopped because all my joints were aching the next morning.

There was one new bit of information I obtained after watching this movie though. Namely that Saif Ali Khan's right ass cheek is softer, smoother, silkier and in general, more touchable than his left one. I'm pretty sure of this because during the trailer of Salaam Namastey when Preity Zinta inserted her hand in his back pocket in order to look cool as she was walking with him, she put her left hand in his right back pocket when she was on his right, but put her right hand still in his right back pocket when she was on his left. Obviously, she enjoys the feel of his right ass-cheek better than his left one.

Monday, January 30, 2006

9/11 and the story of people who weren't there

As I was channel surfing on a rainy sunday, I noticed a program on A&E or Lifestyle or one of those shitty channels women pretend to like 'cause the programming on those channels is supposedly "oriented towards women", and men pretend to hate for the same goddamn reason. This program was called "I missed flight 93". No, I said to myself, there's just no fucking way it is what I think it is. So I looked at the program info, and there it was. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this program, I'm not kidding you, was a documentary based on accounts of people who, get this, missed the flights that crashed on 9/11.

I didn't watch the program. But I can imagine how it must have gone.

When Tom Smith woke up on September 11 2001, little did he know that today his life was about to change in ways that even he couldn't have imagined. He was flying to San Francisco. At Newark airport, he suddenly had a severe case of diarrhea. After spending the next two hours disposing of the sushi he had had last night into the Newark public sewage system, he went to his gate only to find that he had missed the flight. And then, Tom Smith's nightmare began.

The plane, which Tom Smith was not on due to his diarrhea, was hijacked. Islamic terrorists took over the California-bound jetliner and diverted it in Pennsylvania, intending to crash it into an unknown target, quite possibly a government building on the East coast. Tom Smith, if he had been on that flight instead of being perched upon a toilet bowl, trying to read a newspaper during the brief periods of calm between his violent bowel movements, would have been as terrified as were the other passengers of that ill-fated jet. And then, the passengers of the plane carried out an incredible act of bravery. All, except Tom Smith, who was at this very moment, debating whether it was safe enough for him to leave his stall and venture out into the world. The passengers of Flight 93 rebelled against the terrorists holding them hostage and brought down the plane in a Pennsylvania field. Tom Smith, not being in the plane, was not killed, thus, not being a martyr who had given up his life for his country.

"I couldn't sleep for weeks after that incident", says Tom Smith, when reminded of the flight he had never made it to. "I could have been dead. Thank God for Kobe's Japanese Steak House."

Friends of Tom Smith recollect the event that had changed America in so many different ways. "We had been debating on whether to go to China Panda or Kobe. It was a tough decision and a lot of factors were taken into account. But finally, Kobe turned out to be the correct choice since it wreaked havoc on Tom's digestive tract and made him incapable of boarding the plane, thus saving his life".

And people would have watched this program and marvelled over Tom Smith's luck and the poor performance of his gastric juices and the courage he surely would have displayed if he had been on that flight instead of lying curled up in a ball in the second stall from the left in Newark Airport's public restroom no. 5.

So what's next for the network? Do they come up with a documentary of people who heard about 9/11 on the radio and their harrowing experience? Or how about this? A documentary on people who were asleep on 9/11 and didn't know about it till the network did a documentary on them? Fuck, there are countless ways in which this event in American history can be milked to death. And I'm sure America's networks won't leave a single udder unsqueezed.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Football and boobs

Two years ago, I was watching the Superbowl halftime show with my wife who, while not actively watching it, was still looking at it dispassionately since the tv remote was under my control. Janet Jackson and the N'Sync guy who got to defile Britney Spears' virginity, can't remember his name, were dancing and dry humping and lip syncing onstage to the accompaniment of some music I couldn't hear since I had the tv set to mute. After all who the fuck wants to listen to that pop crap?

Suddenly, both idiots stopped their dancing and dry humping and then just before the camera swerved away and focussed into the jumping, fake-enthusiasm displaying crowd in the stands, something happened onstage that made both me and my wife give each other startled looks. Had Janet Jackson's boob just fallen out of its semi-protective casing? Both of us put into words the question that had quivered unspoken on our lips because the sheer notion of her boob falling out on live television was so fucking ridiculous, it just couldn't be true. Heck, it must have been a hallucination, we thought.

And then, after the Superbowl, everyone went berserk. It had actually happened. Her boob HAD fallen out during the show. And America was shocked at the implications of what had happened. Women had BOOBS! And these boobs could succumb to gravity! Fuck, America said, when Sir Isaac Newton had put forth his theory, he had omitted to mention any of its potential applications with regard to human mammaries!

And after that episode, it was basically lights out for tv and radio. Howard Stern got fired, Terrell Owens got reprimanded and anything that ever happened on television henceforth, was sharply scrutinized for any possible connection to sex or the female body.

Everything, except football that is. And that is kind of ironic in a way, since the Superbowl itself was the reason behind all this rampant censorship. Anyone who watches football on tv knows that the sport is a game of violence and sex. Violence caused by the relentless pummelling of football players by other football players, and sex caused by the relentless pummelling of pom poms by cheerleaders shaking their bodies on the sideline like a hydrophobic dog trying to get rid of the water in its fur.

It is extremely strange how, even though cheerleaders are there purely for the purpose of eye candy and, as a part of their job description, have to basically bestow sexual favors on football fans by throwing each other up in the air in a way that allows the average fan to find himself in a position conducive to a visual inspection of their undergarments, officially, they occupy the same asexual status as the goalpost.

But for some reason, the football viewing public tacitly refrains from calling cheerleading for what it is. For them, it is a part of the game. And so, deep in the American South, when a group of Bible thumping Jesus loving people who wouldn't think twice before calling for the execution of Janet Jackson's nipple for its abominable excursion into society, will still gather in bars to watch football games and admire the luscious beauties cavorting on the field without feeling the flames of hell licking at their feet.

Funnier still, is the television football commentator's stance on the issue. The commentator is a strange being, full of pathos. He is torn between being appreciative of the human body in its natural form and wary of saying anything that could possibly jeopardize his career in broadcasting. And so, during the game when the cameras suddenly show a shot of the cheerleaders pom-pomming away madly like Pat Robertson after an especially successful television fundraising gig, the commentator, very self-consciously, abruptly changes the subject, straying far away from what he was originally talking about. "And after this sack, Carolina has no other choice than to punt the ball. And now here comes the punting team, but how about the weather in Nairobi, people", he giggles, as the screen switches to fluttering skirts and heaving boobs."Pretty hot there ain't it? Hasn't rained for a while too. Bad for the crops, this hot weather", he continues, gasping for breath as he tries to reconcile his asexual commentary with the busy stroking of his hand off-camera.

But why all this artificial sterilization of football, I ask. Fuck political correctness, football is sex and violence, just like the rest of life. And fuck football, this goes for the rest of television too. Why should we try to depict something on television that doesn't really exist in real life either, which is far more sexual and violent than our perception of it?

Chill, my brothers in the FCC. We are adults. Don't impose your prudishness on us. And put that damn commentator out of his misery.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Strange coincidence

Yesterday, while blogsurfing, I found myself on Gaurav Sabnis's blog Vantage Point. While there, I got pissed off at a post of his which seemed to be attacking environmentalists for no apparent reason other than the fact that in this day and age it seems to be a fashionably libertarian thing to do. So, I wrote a post on it on my other blog. Now keep in mind that I'm not a regular reader of his blog. I only go there occasionally if any blogpage I am visiting happens to have a link to it.

So I wrote this post and then, after some random blogsurfing, arrived at a blog that I had never visited before, that of the Spaceman Spiff. And what did I find on his blog, but a post criticizing the very post I had vented at barely an hour ago . Not only that, his criticism seemed to encompass the very same points that my post did as well. So I left a comment on his blog apprising him of this fact and fucked off.

Fast forward a couple of hours. As I was checking the comments on my blog, I found a comment by who else, but Spaceman Spiff himself! It seems he, through various random links, had simultaneously happened upon my blog on his own, that too for the first time, and had seen my post and commented on it. And all this, within the time frame of a few hours. Strange or what?

As the Spaceman says, "Coincidence!? I say fate."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

My worst driving fear

I think my worst fear while driving is that one of the wheels on my car is somehow gonna detach itself from it's parent vehicle and roll off into the horizon. And like every other phobia and mental dysfunction I possess, I can clearly trace it back to my childhood.

It was a time when my dad used to commute to work in a company tempo, and one day he returned home and told us this amazing story, quite possibly fabricated in its entirety, of how that day he had been relaxing during his work commute, looking out through the window at the countryside passing by when suddenly he observed something that seemed to be strangely out of place. He saw a wheel with no car attached to it racing by, making pretty good speed for something without an engine. And then, with horror, he realized that it was the rear wheel of his own vehicle which was moving along at a pretty fast gallop.

Sadly, I cannot remember the rest of the story. For example, I don't remember how, with only three serviceable wheels the tempo came to a halt without causing bodily harm to it's occupants. Also, no matter how hard I tax my imagination, I just cannot envision a tempo losing a wheel and still cruising along at the same speed without crashing, with the only physical reminder of its handicapped status being the visual spectacle of a wheel racing along by its side.

So as I said, looking back, I now tend to believe that my dad fabricated this story, but still, no matter how much I try to convince myself of that possibility, every time I drive on the interstate, I still keep a sharp lookout for any orphan wheels in the lane next to mine.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Where'd all the hair go?

I'm currently reading Jared Diamond's "Guns Germs and Steel", which is quite possibly one of the most brilliant and interesting books on the history of mankind ever written. So as is my habit, I now try to apply its principles to every day-to-day situation. The quandary I found myself mulling over today happened to be where the fuck did all the hair go? As in all the hair on our bodies. Where'd it go man?

See, the way I understand it, every little aspect of the human body has attained its current form through evolution. This means that every human physical trait that could have been disadvantageous towards the survival of the species got eliminated because more humans who didn't possess that trait survived to pass on its non-existence to their progeny. For example, the tail humans used to have till it disappeared through evolution. Tails were a nuisance. I remember when I used to have a tail and each time I had to run away from a rabid dog or an angry father, my tail was the easiest thing for a predator or an ancestor to catch hold of. Soon, I realized that I had to lose my tail or perish. And so, through careful evolution, my tail as well as the tail of every other human being disappeared because only those of us who didn't have tails survived. And so, our children, in turn, having received the tail-less gene from us, didn't have tails either. In a similar fashion, evolution divested Bappi Lahiri of the heavy-ass jewellery around his neck that had made it difficult for him to survive attacks from people he had plagiarized tunes from, and turned him into a bling-less comical-cap-wearing Anu Malik.

But now we turn to the more difficult question of where did all the hair on our bodies disappear? We all know humans were hairy monsters back in the day. Yes, even Salman Khan's ancestors, contrary to popular belief, weren't clean shaven. And now we are pretty much hairless. Why is that? I don't remember hair to have caused any problems in my survival. In fact, hair, if anything, was beneficial because it kept me warm during winters. Why then, I mused, might hair have disappeared through evolution? Why would something apparently so useful for survival have vanished from the human body?

And then, it struck me. Of course! Hair doesn't lessen your chances of survival, but it does lessen the chances of survival for your baby. That is, it lessens the chances of you even having a baby. In other words, what I'm saying is, if you have a hairy body, your chances of getting laid are practically non-existent. A long time ago, when almost every human walking this earth was hairy and there were only a few hairless ones who were the exception, those hairless ones got all the attention and the ass. 'Cause let's face it, people. No one likes to cuddle and spoon with a gorilla. And so, the hairy guys and girls could find no one to fornicate with. Soon they died out, a hairy, horny, miserable species and so did their fuzzy-ass gene. That's what happened to all that freakin' hair.

And that's why I am extremely hopeful about the future of the human race. No matter how ugly most specimens in our race currently are, in the future we will be a much prettier race, a planet of greek gods and goddesses so to speak, simply because only the gorgeous among us will get laid and live to generate offspring. And thus will human beauty multiply till some day the fair people of that time will look back at Hrithik Roshan and say, "Huh .... people thought he was good-looking?" And then they will fall out of their seats laughing at the ugly bastard and the concept that women used to swoon for him, but they probably won't cry out in pain as they hit the ground because of their hyper-evolved extra-padded buttocks.

Monday, January 23, 2006

NBC brilliance

At 6:30 p.m, NBC showed the following news teaser : "Tonight, tune in to NBC News to find out how sports bras could help our troops in Iraq." Brilliant move!

There are three types of men : Men who like sports, men who like bras, and men who like war. This news item is guranteed to reel in all three types. Tonight, 100% of Philadelphia area males will be watching NBC news; some hoping to see some sports, some hoping to see a few bras and the rest hoping to see people shoot other people with guns.

Idiotic insomniacs

So there's this ad for a mattress, and it's one of those technologically advanced mattresses, either sleep number or tempurpedic or one of those crazy-ass supersoft mattresses, the mattresses that are so fucking soft 'cause they are filled with thousands of silky smooth currency bills, the very bills you used to pay for that mattress.

So anyways, they show this woman tossing and turning on her mattress, she just can't sleep, fuck, her insomnia is driving her crazy. So she does some research into mattresses and she slices open her own mattress to find...what? springs? Hell yeah, that explains why she can't get any sleep, it HAS to be 'cause of those nasty iron springs, she just can't imagine how the hell she was able to get any sleep at all with springs under her back. (Hint : Those springs are covered with a layer of foam, then a layer of something else, then a layer of something else, all in all ten different layers of soft padded shit, but goddamn, she is just so happy to have finally solved the problem of why she couldn't sleep that she throws all logic to the wind.)

But I know it's not due to the springs. 'Cause if you observe the commercial closely, you'll come to know the real reason for her tossing and turning. All the while they show her trying to get some sleep, her husband is sitting up in bed by her side with the lights on, reading a book. That's why she can't sleep. It's not the mattress, it's your asshole of a husband who just won't call it a day. See? That didn't have anything to do with the mattress. You could have saved a whole lot of money just by killing your husband rather than running off to the neighbourhood Mattress King.

And that's why, even as you tell us about this goshdarned freakin' awesome mattress that you've newly discovered, you still have circles under your eyes and look like you didn't take a shower today.

Friday, January 20, 2006

How technology has revolutionized drunken debating

There was a time as recent as a couple of years ago that chronically inebriated people didn't have a lot of say in geopolitical matters. What used to happen was when chronically inebriated people, who, for the sake of convenience, I'll call "drunks", used to meet together to discuss current affairs, pretty soon alcohol containers would make their appearance, would be cracked open and the discussion would be carried out accompanied by heavy drinking. The problem was that even if the political wisdom of the debaters exceeded that of the common man, once the increased blood alcohol level of the drunk began to derail his train of thought, he would be reduced to a babbling coot.

So old-time drinkbates would look something like this :

"The country did tremendously well during the BJP reign. I would give you concrete examples if I weren't so shitfaced."
"But what about everyone who is not a software engineer? Are they doing as well too? No. And the reason I know that is because ..... I can't remember, but I'm sure I had a darn good reason."
"It takes time for the money to trickle down. Trickling down is slow. Imagine a traffic jam. I forgot what I was gonna say."
"We need more investment in the rural sector. The Congress would do it. We need more investment in the rural sector. The Congress would do it."
"The Congress is just Sonia Gandhi's bitch. You know what?"
"What were you saying?"
"Forget it."
"I need to pee."

But that was before blogging arose as the medium of choice for every average Joe to put his political opinions into writing. So now, during the short periods of sobriety that dot every political drunk's day, he is free to ruminate on the affairs of the day and write his thesis on them while he is still clear headed. And afterwards, when the coterie of drunks meets again for their debate, it goes like this :

"The country did tremendously well during the BJP reign. I wrote a post on my blog on this topic yesterday which illustrates that point extremely well. You should read it."
"But what about everyone who is not a software engineer? Are they doing as well too? No. Refer to my post from a couple of days ago where I make that point abundantly clear."
"It takes time for the economy to trickle down. Trickling is slow. For an apt analogy, visit my blog and read today's post."

And so on and so forth. And instead of getting bogged down in a morass of undelivered viewpoints and unemptied bladders, the debate continues on to its logical conclusion. In fact, this technique works so well that I used it in practice while I was in India and can attest to it's effectiveness. The only problem is, since there is no computer nearby to verify whether the debater actually has written a post of which he speaks so proudly, it is possible for fake debaters to enter the argument and do pretty well too. But I guess every technological innovation has it's loopholes.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The starving people of Africa

So I'm sitting in Barista with my friends in India and eating a smoked chicken sandwich which costs 45 rupees or so. Thats one dollar. It's kinda funny that when I first came to the US, I used to convert everything into rupees. Now I do the opposite in India.

Anyways, I eat the sandwich but leave the hard edges uneaten. 'Cause I guess I've become Americanized and that's what Americans apparently do. Just like they leave the hard crust of a pizza untouched and uneaten while an Indian (apparently) will eat the whole thing wrapper and all. I have it on very good authority.

My friend D who is observing me closely with a hungry look on his face, frowns at me. D didn't order anything to eat. The reason he didn't order anything is because he was pissed off at the manager. D had wanted an iced coffee or some shit that had ice in it. And he had been told that they do not have ice. That made D mad because according to D, everytime he went to any Barista, they always told him that he couldn't have the iced shit because they were out of ice. So, D gave the Barista manager a piece of his mind, advising him that if they didn't have any ice they should just take down the fucking menu that contained any references to ice, for God's sake. And that just because they did not have any ice, he would not be ordering anything at all. They had just lost his business, D raged.

So now, as D watches me discarding the hard sandwich crust, he says, "What are you doing man? There are people starving in Africa and you are discarding food? Shame on you." And D opens a packet of ketchup lying on the table, spreads it all over my uneaten crusts and starts belting them.

And I say "But D, I don't understand. How are the starving people of Africa going to be benefited by you eating my bread crusts with ketchup?"

And far off in the distance, I hear a pin drop.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

How abbreviations hide uncoolness

There was a time long long ago when I used to chat on an internet chatroom along with this guy called zambezi who nowadays makes it a point to visit my blog and call me an idiot in my comments. We were a superb pair, quite funny and people used to laugh at us. The great thing was, since both of us are attention whores, we love being in the spotlight and so, that added chemistry to our comic routine.

But one day, like mold on a perfectly delicious loaf of bread, there arrived on the scene a guy. He was a nice guy. He was also a cute guy. He was both nice and cute, and how can I be so certain of that? Because his nick was nicecuteguy, and fuck, if you can't trust someone's chat nick then what can you trust? So anyways, he took the chatroom by storm. Being both nice and cute, he was a worthy opponent to our duo. By and by, because being nice and cute also sometimes makes people think you are funny, people began to laugh at his jokes as well. He became popular, as popular as a guy named nicecuteguy can be.

Now I'll be honest. When I see nicks like nicecuteguy, or cutecuddlyguy or lovelyfunnywellhungguy and so on, I feel nauseous. I feel like I just downed a bottle of vodka neat and followed it up by smoking the wrong end of a cigarette. You should try that by the way. It's a secret known only to tobacco companies and Dennis Leary; Namely that the best part of a cigarette is in its filter.

So anyways, nicecuteguy was giving me an attack of indigestion by his sheer presence. However, being the non-nicked nice cute guy that I am, I didn't allow it to interfere in my interaction with him. By and by, nicecuteguy, probably through dialog and dicussion with people who shared my viewpoint of his nick but not of his guts, abbreviated his nick to ncg. And after some more time, people forgot what that ncg used to stand for.

Except me. So one day, when I was in a particularly foul mood, I picked a fight with nicecuteguy. 'Cause to me, he was still nicecuteguy. The fight was over golf. I said to no one in particular that I thought golf was a pretty lame-ass sport. Now nicecuteguy turned out to be a golf enthusiast. He had probably lost his tv remote pretty early on in his childhood and been forced to watch the golf channel throughout his teen and adult years, thus leading to a fascination with the sport. 'Cause apart from that somewhat plausible reason, I can think of nothing that would ever incite a feeling within me any warmer than a casual dislike for the game.

So nicecuteguy threw a tantrum. He started babbling about the merits of the game. I said to him, "Listen nicecuteguy, I don't like the sport so save your breath." And then there was a pregnant pause in the conversation.

"What did you call me?", said nicecuteguy, seething behind his keyboard.
"I called you nicecuteguy, nicecuteguy", I said.
"Can you not read, my nick is ncg", said nicecuteguy.
"But ncg stands for nicecuteguy does it not?", I queried.
"Fuck you", said nicecuteguy, realizing that being an oldtimer, there were no truths that could be hidden from me.
"Ok nicecuteguy", I said, not willing to give up. He stopped responding. He had tried to hide behind an abbreviation and failed.

But the point of this story, apart from being a vehicle to highlight my ready wit and vindictiveness is also that frequently, seemingly cool abbreviations hide some totally uncool names. Like say, for instance, BEST. I bet most people living in Bombay today don't even know what BEST stands for, especially the younger generation which has no interest in history or how the world works and are just interested in being nice and cute. We have the BEST buses, they say. Oh yeah, Bombay's buses are the BEST. No, that's not how it works. BEST stands for "Bombay Electricity Supply and Transport". So Bombay buses are not the BEST. They might be the best, but not because they are the BEST.

Or take TELCO. When I was young, I thought fuck, my dad works in such a cool-sounding company. And then the cool-sounding abbreviation turned out to stand for Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company. What the fuck, I thought, that sounds so uncool.

Or here, in the US, we have this entity called NAMBLA. Is that a government run super secret anti-terrorist-pro-space-exploration organization, you might ask. Well, yes and no. Yes as in it's an organization but no, as in, it stands for the "North American Man Boy Love Association". They are a group lobbying for increased space exploration between men and boys. You may go throw up now.

But the best part about abbreviations is they can be used to make a fool out of the government. The company I used to work for earlier in my career, lets call it the Amitabh Bacchan Corporation. Just for kicks. So it existed as the Amitabh Bachhan Corporation. And then it went out of business. It owed, lets say a crore rupees to someone. The way it got out of this debt was astounding to say the least. It filed for bankruptcy and closed down so that the Amitabh Bacchan Corporation existed no more. Then it reopened as ABC with a clean sheet and no debt. And fuck, it was in business once more. Ah the joy of abbreviations. You gotta love em.

But if nicecuteguy is reading this piece, then I have one question for him. If you are nice and if you are cute, what's the need to hide under an abbreviation? Shout out to the world that you are nice and cute. And let the whole world drink in your niceness and your cuteness.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

HDFC commercial

While I was in India, this HDFC commercial kept playing on the tv. I will reproduce it for you in case you haven't seen it.

An old man is about to step from a train onto the railway platform. His son extends his hand in order to help him disembark. The old man frowns at him. The son, chastised, draws back. The old man steps off the train on his own. He maintains his dignity.

Background : "Na sar jukha hai kabhi aur na jukhayenge kabhi"

Now the old guy's wife tries to step off the train. The old guy lends her his hand. She frowns in turn. The old guy is chastised and takes back his hand. His wife steps off on her own. She maintains her dignity.

A little boy is playing on the platform, probably the old guy's grandson. He falls down. The old guy is about to run and pick him up. His son frowns at his father, saying no. The old guy is chastised. Little boy stands up on his own. He maintains his dignity.

Everyone walks to the parking lot. Old guy is about to cross the street. A car comes careening by. The son is about to pull the old guy back in order to save him from being run over. His mother frowns at him. The son, chastised, lets his father walk on. The car runs over the old guy. He maintains his dignity.

The old guy is hurt and bleeding. He tries to get up. His wife puts forth her hand to help him off the road. His son frowns at her. She pulls back, chastised. The old guy falls back onto the road. The old guy maintains his dignity.

A crowd gathers. Someone calls the ambulance. Paramedics are about to help the old guy onto a stretcher. The old guy frowns at them. They cease and desist. The old guy crawls onto the stretcher by himself, moaning in pain and leaving a trail of blood behind him. The old guy maintains his dignity.

He is then taken to the hospital. A doctor gets ready to operate on him. He is about to begin the surgery. Both the son and his mother frown at him. The doctor withdraws from the operating table, chastised. The old guy tries to operate on himself, using a mirror. While cutting open his stomach with a scalpel, he slices through his heart by mistake. Blood shoots through the air. He dies. He maintains his dignity.

Voiceover : "We value your self respect almost as much as your life. HDFC Standard Life Insurance. Respect yourself. And buy our life insurance. 'Cause respecting yourself almost certainly means you are gonna die early"

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Devolving Conscious

I am becoming stupid. No, let me rephrase that. My conscious is becoming stupid. See, your body has two controls, namely, the conscious and the subconscious. The conscious takes care of things you do deliberately with full awareness, while the subconscious takes care of things you do without really being aware of it.

Now I have reason to believe that my conscious has retired and gone to live in a small cottage overlooking the sea where it raises goats and pigs and carries out subsistence agriculture. The reason I believe this is because lately, I have found myself unable to do certain things which are usually performed by my subconscious, if I am aware that I am consciously doing them. Complicated? Let me explain.

Lets take the example of showering. Showering, for most people who make it a point to shower everyday, is an act of subconsciousness. The moment you step into the shower, your body guides itself automatically through the various motions of showering, including applying soap to various parts of your body, then directing a waterjet towards those parts to get rid of the soap. And along with the acts that comprise showering, the sequence in which they occur is also fixed subconsciously by your body. But this is what happened today in the shower. As usual, I was letting my subconscious do everything, while I meditated on various topics of little relevance. Then, suddenly, without any warning, I had soap in my eyes. It brought me out of my reverie, disengaging my subconscious and putting my conscious in control.

So picture my amazement when I realized that my conscious had no fucking clue as to how to go about cleansing my body for me. I tried operating the soap, but every move I made seemed to be totally unfamiliar. Do I rub the soap horizontally or vertically, how the fuck do I even reach my back, were some questions my conscious made a valiant attempt at answering, but ultimately, gave up as a lost cause. I emerged from the shower confused and less than sparkling clean.

The same thing happens to me sometimes while I'm driving. After cruising along on auto-pilot for a while, if suddenly I wake up and ask myself, which of these three levers is the brake, I have no idea. So frequently, people driving the car behind me will find themselves yelling at the idiot in front of them who suddenly brakes for no reason. But in reality, he's just testing to see if he knows where the brakes are. Be patient with him, his conscious has devolved.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday photo blogging

The lighthouse at Bass Harbor, Acadia National Park, Maine.


The rocks at the base of the lighthouse. It was superbly foggy and added to the already mystical aura of the lighthouse.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ode to a special Someone

Today I had a moment of enlightenment about a very special Someone in my life. Someone who, lately, I had not been paying a lot of attention to. Someone who I've always been taking for granted. Someone who has been a very giving someone all these days and yet, has not received a whole lot in return. Someone who means the world to me, yet someone I have been guilty of heaping shameful neglect upon.

My Work.

Today I received new evidence that my Work loves me a lot. My Work has been spending the past couple of weeks, while I was vacationing in India, pining for me. It is disgraceful that I, who took this brief opportunity to escape from my Work, should be informed after I returned that my Work hasn't been well. Work has suffered from the lack of me in her life. In fact, a mere minute and 22 seconds after I entered the office today morning, I was informed by a tearful, emotional Work that it would be a good move on my part to attend to Work's demands if I desired to have her in my life anymore.

And so, I have been slaving all morning listening to the long list of Work's demands and assuring her that they would be taken care of as soon as I get the fuck off this jet lag which is making me feel like I'm having a bad dream even as I walk around like a zombie who's just gnawed his own brains out and is at a loss as to how to cope with the situation.

But as it turns out, I do have a small entertaining (?) tidbit to share. Yesterday, as I was being driven from Grand Central Terminus to Penn Station in a squalid little bus, I noticed this little shop. It was called "Shun Da Trading Company". It was a shop selling bags, and it was closed. I was wondering if the shop belonged to someone who was making a statement about the need for America to reign in her obsession with buying a lot of stuff it didn't need. Or if it was just some Chinese guy who happened to have a funny name.

I would really like to think it was the former.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Last Day

Today is my last day for this year in my home country. Tomorrow, I leave for my foster nation. It is the same drill every year. I go out to meet my friends. I tell my folks I will be back by 12:00 am. I drive around with my friends, searching for liquor outlets, 'cause, you know, every year they close the liquor outlets an hour earlier. We try the usual suspects : Hotel Blue Diamond, Hotel Aurora Towers, the Pride, the Le Meridien. Only the Le Meridien serves alcohol past 12:00. But since we have been to Le Meridien just 2 days ago, and 'cause it's as expensive as a hooker on Mardi Gras, we decide on the alternate cheaper way : to go to Paud road to the Police sanctioned illegal liquor outlet that is always awake come hell or high water, till 2:00 am.

And that is where we get 6 bottles of Kingfisher beer extra strong, after which, we retire to my friend's outhouse to debate on Indian politics and drink Kingfisher Extra strong beer till 5:00 am. Then, the unfortunate friend, whose outhouse we have been infesting till now, offers to drive us non-vehicle owners home. I am left standing at the corner of my house and the lamppost. Since I am drunk and leaving for the US the next day, I squeeze my driver friend's hand a bit longer than usual, hug my friend sitting next to me on the backseat a bit harder than usual. I ring the bell.

My folks, who have been camping out on the living room sofa, turn the lights on even before I get out of the car. They have been waiting and listening for a car engine all night long. I am the son who is departing for the US. I am scolded as I go inside. "Dad's got to drive all the way to Bombay tomorrow", says my mom. I mumble something even I don't comprehend. I go upstairs to my bedroom, intending to fall asleep right away.

I don't fall asleep. I open the door to the balcony and go outside. I look down at our garden. I see our cat sitting on our porch. Our cat will save me.

Every year I come here for a vacation, my last night here is hell. The only way I salvage my sanity and keep myself from running home from the airport is to do the following : I let our cat back in. Our cat is a selfish bitch. Before I let her in, she is all appreciative and purring. After I let her in, she goes to her dish in the kitchen and eats the cat food left in it. And then, without even a look or a meow, she fucks off. And I close the door. I needed that so I wouldn't feel so bad about leaving. I needed some animal cynicism. So I let her in.

She purred about for a bit and ate her food. Loud cracking noises filled the house. Things were going according to plan. Then, she came to me and looked at me. I told her to get out of the house. Instead, she leapt on my lap. She made herself comfortable. I stroked her head, crying to myself. Things weren't going the way I had hoped they would.

I told her to get up. She refused. I picked her up and opened the door. I kept her outside on the porch. I kissed her stupid head and said "Goodbye sweetheart till next year. Hope you are still here then", and I let her go. She ran away into the darkness. I went back inside.

Tomorrow I leave. I won't be back for at least a year. I hope things won't change a lot by the time I come back. I hope my folks won't look older. I hope my cat is still alive. I hope my house is still in good shape. I hope I can still make out the entrance to our driveway.

I hope I come back next year.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Me against the mosquito

If at all there were to exist a silver lining somewhere between the destruction of all the greenery in the vicinity of your childhood home and the erection of ugly concrete structures that obstruct the view of the sunrise from your terrace, it has got to be the fact that the abovementioned destruction also leads to a decrease in the local mosquito population. This was the reason why I, after having returned from a night of revelry, dared to sleep with my balcony door open in order to let the cool night breeze inside which I hoped, would act as a sleeping aid.

No sooner had I placed my head upon the pillow and turned the light out than I heard the long-forgotten but ever-too-familiar siren of death at my ear; namely, the low monotonous hum of a mosquito. Now I don't know about you, but I hate mosquitoes humming at my ear due to the following two reasons; firstly, because mosquitoes drink your blood which is a good enough reason in itself, and secondly, when the damn thing is at your ear, you are not sure whether it is merely going to engage in the relatively pedestrian ritual of feasting on your bodily fluids or embark on the more enterprising mission of finding out what lies inside your auditory canal.

Since I am so finicky about things fucking around in my ear, I immediately got up and turned on the light. Actually, I had a two-fold objective in doing so : to capture and destroy the mosquito and also to locate the origin of that irritating knock knock sound that seemed to be emanating from somewhere outside the house.

So I got up from my bed, opened the balcony door and peered out into the darkness. The knocking sound seemed to be coming from a neighbour's garden. Cool, I thought, the neighbours are either being haunted or robbed, I thought. Mission accomplished, I was about to return back inside because it was actually quite nippy outside, when I spotted our cat sleeping on a neighbour's scooter seat. A different neighbour, not the one about to wake up in a pool of his own blood in the morning. Since I'm a bit of an asshole at 4:00 in the morning, I psssted at the cat. She immediately woke up and looked up in my direction. "Just wanted to say goodnight, sweetheart", I hissed at her. She bared a fang at me. I went back inside.

So back I went to carry out my main mission. I sat on the bed. The mosquito drew near. I waited till I could see the whites of its eyes and then just as I was about to swat at it, it cunningly flew in the direction of my black jacket that was lying on my suitcase and disappeared, melting into the blackness of its surroundings. Hmm, interesting twist to the situation, I said to myself. Harsher measures would be needed.

So I sat on my bed in a meditative pose reminiscent of that great sage in Hindu mythology (google the fucker if you feel like it) who engaged in similar meditation and so closely resembled a log of wood due to his inertness that vines and snakes crawled into his anus and out of his nostrils, thinking he was just part of the natural landscape. Thusly was I sitting on the bed for a prolonged duration of time with nothing happening, till I realized that evolution had probably trained the mosquito only to try and attack a human engaged in repose. So I then lay down on the bed and waited.

Sure enough, the old familiar drone reappeared at my ear. After I gauged the proximity of the damn thing to be close enough to venture a swat, I did so. Slapped myself silly, throwing my glasses off my nose and into oblivion. Note to self : Do not swat mosquitoes on your ear while wearing glasses. But glory be to the Lord, I discovered that I had also slaughtered the mosquito in the process. Turning the light off, I went back to sleep.



Friday, January 06, 2006

Maybe they don't sell coconuts after all

You know what just occurred to me an hour ago while I was lying on my back just staring at the ceiling fan, doing nothing, 'cause the electricity was out, thus precluding any possibility of my being able to turn on the tv and watch "Kajra Re" on ten different music channels simultaneously or watch NDTV, which, by the way, is supposed to be a news channel, have an hour-long special on the making of Abhishek Bacchan's "Ek main aur ek tu"? What the fuck am I talking about again? Oh yeah, so as I lay thinking about things that do not really matter, it suddenly occurred to me that the strange little shop back in the US near my apartment with "Coconuts Movies Music" written on it might not actually be selling coconuts, movies and music as I had originally believed. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I began to suspect that "Coconuts" might be the name of the shop and that it might only be in the business of selling movies and music cds. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's it.

I guess I'm lucky I didn't embarass myself the other day when I decided to go to the grocery to buy coconuts instead of that little shop when we made coconut chutney at my place.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Weddings n shit

The moment I woke up today at 10:00 a.m, I knew this was gonna be a long-ass day. For one, I hadn't slept well. I had fallen asleep at 5:00 a.m the previous night. And the reason for that was because I had watched "The Ring" the previous evening. A word of advice for people who are easily scared like I am. If you are gonna watch a horror movie that you've already watched once, watch it in its entirety. Don't wimp out just before the end. See, the thing is, if you get terrified and switch off the movie before its climactic end, then once the movie is over, the end you remember feels much scarier than the actual end you would have watched if you hadn't switched it off. And if you are staying in a house that you are not that familiar with anymore, which has a high roof that you can't see and a mirror which has the bad habit of suddenly catching flashes of light from outside and terrifying the shit out of you as you lie in bed trying to fall asleep, then just don't even watch the damned thing.

But, as I said, I did watch the movie and switched it off right before it ended. Yeah, I wimped out big time. So, as I woke up at 10:00 a.m, I was feeling slightly under the weather. Fuck, I need a few more hours, I muttered to myself as I changed positions under the sheet. But then, the reason I woke up in the first place, namely my mom, charged into the room. "We are going to a wedding", she announced. "You have 15 minutes". So 15 minutes it was. And as I emerged from the shower rubbing my bleary eyes, I knew it was going to be a long-ass day.

Pune traffic. Man oh man, I could write a volume on it, but it wouldn't sell. Just because it wouldn't have a happy ending. What the fuck is wrong with two-wheeler riders in Pune? They appear to be under the impression that they can coexist in the same physical space with other two-wheeler riders simulteneously unless it is proved otherwise. And at one particular intersection, two armies of oppositely headed two wheelers had taken over both the lanes of the road, thus, disallowing anyone from passing in any direction. As I sat in the backseat of my car yelling at those insane people from the safety of my car, my dad turned around and said to me in that disparaging tone usually reserved for people who return from America and complain about anything Indian, "This isn't America, you know, this is how we drive here in India". I replied, "Well, in that case, I'm just being Indian by yelling and cursing at other drivers. Wouldn't you say that's an Indian trait too?" Touche, said the old man. I took a bow. We drove on.

The wedding. I am sick and tired of weddings. I can't stand 'em. And I couldn't stand 'em even before I got married, which was 3 days of hard core revelry including one instance where I had to climb on and ride a horse as well as be photographed sitting on that same horse wearing a turban and wielding a sword, thus making me susceptible to blackmail for the rest of my life.

This wedding was no different. The bride and groom standing together on the stage had the same acrylic painted smiles on their faces which showed a hint of being replaced by tired scowls every small break they got between being photographed with groups of people filing in queues for that purpose. My parents, for some reason, overestimating my interest in the proceedings, began narrating brief histories of every sari and kurta clad person within viewing range, their relationship with us, as well as their relationship with the bride and / or the groom. I was falling asleep.

I woke up from my coma with a brilliant plan in mind. "I think I left the bathroom water heater on", I said to my dad. My folks are hard core energy conservationists, so I knew this would rattle them. My dad appeared unconcerned. "Your mom probably switched it off before we left", he said. My heart sinking, I confirmed this with my mom, who said yes, she had. I slouched back into my seat, resigned to spending the rest of my life in that wedding hall.

Lunch time. Anyone who has experienced a Maharashtrian wedding lunch knows the drill. Keep a sharp lookout for any signs of lunch being served downstairs. Lunch is served in batches, so before the previous batch of people eat, the next batch has to wait in line swearing at those already partaking of sustenance. There are two reasons for getting into the first batch of lunch-eaters. You get hot food. Secondly, you get new plates. The next batch gets used plates which might or might not have been cleansed of first-batch leftovers, depending on the rush. This time, luckily, we were in the first batch.

Another tip for non-Maharashtrians who might find themselves breaking bread in a Maharashtrian wedding lunch. People will come around and serve you things. But they will not stop at your table for long. No, they will move on before you have had the presence of mind to signal that yes, you want whatever it is that they are serving. So this is what you need to do. Say you are out of puris. You need puris. You need em bad. You keep a sharp lookout for the puri-guy. When he is 5 meters away from you, that is when you start nodding vigorously. You nod irrespective of the fact that you might be in a conversation and nodding might not be the appropriate thing to do. But nod you must. And finally when the puri-guy reaches you, your indiscriminate nodding will pay off and you will get your well earned puri. Otherwise he will pass you by and your puri will be lost in the swirling mists of time.

So after learning this tip the hard way and finally getting the hang of things, I relaxed and began to eat. It was then that an old guy who I didn't know from Adam showed up and placing a kindly arm on my shoulder, asked me not to be shy and to eat a lot and to ask for more if I ran out of things to eat. I graciously accepted this kind offer, which, if it hadn't been made, would certainly have resulted in me starving to death. Soon afterwards, another woman I didn't know from Eve, showed up and berated me for not bringing my wife along to the wedding. Before I, in turn, could berate her for not bringing her husband along for berating me, I saw the puri-guy enter the 5 meter threshold. I began nodding vigorously.

My dad was keeping a close eye on my uncle who was sitting at his side. To his brother, he made the observation that saying "no thanks" after the server had filled his plate served no purpose whatsoever. My uncle thanked him for this observation.

Finally, lunch was over. We were ready to leave. We walked downstairs and out of the building into the sunny Pune afternoon. I was still alive. I had made it through the day. Tomorrow would be another day. I just fucking hoped no one would be getting married tomorrow.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The tomato seller

It is 5:00 p.m Indian Standard Time. I am standing on the first floor balcony of my ancestral home in Pune, Maharashtra. Well, to be accurate, my father built this house in 82 so it's not really old enough to be called ancestral, but that's how it feels to me each time I return home for a vacation. Having lived here most of my life, every square foot of this house is inextricably linked to childhood memories, most of which I look back on with a fond nostalgia.

Last night's binge with my school friends has my innards in turmoil. My stomach feels heavy and my head hurts, the pain in no way being mitigated by the fact that I am also gazing in the direction of a towering concrete monstrosity that has appeared in front of my house, where, in the past, there used to be woods full of tamarind trees and a field where sugarcane stalks used to wave in the breeze. I know development is inevitable, especially in this city, but I wish it wouldn't destroy familiar things during the process.

I look at the road below, which is an extremely quiet and secluded lane in comparison to the rest of Pune. I hear a high pitched voice crying something out in Marathi. I strain to hear what it is. Soon the bearer of the voice comes into focus, as does the content of his yell. He is a pittance of a boy, maybe 6 - 8 years old, pushing a cart full of tomatoes. He is crying out "tomato 3 rupaye kilo" in that singsong tone vegetable vendors throughout Pune have patented to advertize their wares. He is so short in stature that he is barely taller than the cart itself.

But something's wrong. He seems to be having some trouble pushing the cart. And as he passes my gate, I can see why. The tire of one of the four wheels of the cart is totally flat, and in fact, has come off the wheel itself and has gotten entangled with the axle. The cart refuses to budge. The tiny guy sits down on the tarmac and proceeds to try and pull the tire off the wheel. He sits there, trying to tear apart vulcanized rubber with his bare hands, and I can see that he's not making any progress.

I run downstairs to my mom who is hanging around the kitchen looking busy like a mom usually does. Do we have any scissors, I ask. Big ones, I add. Mom reaches into the filing cabinet of her mind and before 2 seconds have elapsed, I have the requisite scissors in my hands. I go outside armed with my tools.

I go up to the little guy who is still in the same position I left him in. I ask him "Katrini kapun deu ka tire?" (Should I try slicing through the tire with these scissors) The kid nods and relinquishes his position under the cart to me. I sit down and try to cut through the damn thing. It won't cut. I try to ascertain why. I see that there's an iron thread running through the rubber. Of course, I should have realized that. I then cut through the rest of the tire, leaving just the iron thread to be broken through. I run back inside for reinforcements.

Do we have anything bigger than a scissor, I ask my mom. My mom, somehow already apprised of the situation, has a pair of big rusty garden shears in her hands. I gulp as I take those from her hands and go back outside, ready to tackle the iron thread in the tire.

The kid is now tearing at the rubber tube inside the tire. Somehow, he has broken the iron thread. I slice through the rubber tube, again with just the iron thread left to be broken. I pick up the garden shears. The kid tells me, "He nako, he bagha asa karun te tutnar" (we don't need those, I'll show you how to break this) He bends the thread, again straightens it out. Again bends it. Again straightens it out. Pretty soon, it breaks. The oldest trick in the book. I feel foolish. The kid then pulls out the tire and throws it on his cart. He is ready to set sail.

I walk back to the porch where my mom is waiting for me. We watch the little tomato seller walk away with his cart full of 3 rupee kilo tomatoes just as other little kids of his own age pass him by, walking home from school with bags on their backs.

And as I watch him walk away, I feel the vapid selfish glow of satisfaction people from a privileged background like me usually feel when they bestow an act of charity on someone less fortunate, in order to assuage the biting guilt they experience for living a life that is so vastly different from theirs.