Friday, March 31, 2006

Scott Adams

Scott Adams of Dilbertblog has apparently plagiarized borrowed independently confirmed my theory of "the law of conservation of happiness". D.N.A, who brought this fact to my attention, kindly suggests that I may be ahead of my peers. But I tend to believe that Scott Adams has been let go from his place of employment, thus allowing him to devote himself to musing upon things of an extreme irrelevance that usually fall within my domain and field of expertise.

Chewing gum

I have a terrible fear of swallowing chewing gum. Ever since I was a child I was told that if I ever swallowed chewing gum, I would have to be operated upon in order to surgically remove it from my stomach. And till then, the chewing gum would continue to chew on my stomach lining in order to avenge the chewing it itself had to undergo in my mouth and that would cause me acute abdomenal pain. Or in the worst case scenario, it would get stuck to my gullet and I would have to live my entire life with chewing gum stuck to my gullet. Can't even imagine how that would feel like. Although it would probably help me lose weight, I guess.

So now every time I chew gum, even after I spit it out, for the next few hours, when I need to swallow, I consciously stop and think about whether I still have gum in my mouth. It's really become a very irritating habit, but it will probably save my life in the near future.

But I'm not sure why chewing gum technology hasn't yet advanced to a point that allows people to swallow chewing gum by mistake without having to cut open their abdomens to get it back out. Or if it has, I'm not sure why it hasn't been more widely publicized. Surely it would benefit terrified chewers like myself who would then be able to chew gum with their minds at ease. Many people, I'm sure don't chew gum because of the same fear that I have. After all, it isn't that irrational. Now, if chewing gum companies were to attach a soothing disclaimer to their television commercial saying "And now, no more restrictions on swallowing", I'm pretty sure that it would be a shot in the arm for their business. Kinda similar to how air travel really took off after airline companies publicized the fact that your chances of getting a kicking screaming baby in the seat behind yours on the plane are only about one in five.

But for gum chewers who believe swallowing could result in serious injury, and yet continue to practice the art, I bow to your courage. Especially considering that I am one of you. Imagine throwing all safety to the wind and deliberately indulging in an occupation where a mere attack of terror caused by, say, a colleague popping out from behind the fridge and saying "boo" could cause one to swallow, thus putting one on an operating table. I salute your bravery. And mine.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A review of Roger Ebert's review of Crash

I was gonna write a review of Crash which I watched on DVD last weekend. Since it's won an Oscar n stuff, I was expecting to be overwhelmed. While I wasn't exactly underwhelmed by the movie, the amount of whelming that occurred during its screening was far short of the whelming I had prepared myself to be subjected to. So today I came ready with my notes and observations on the movie and was gonna be unkind to it in my review. But then, since it's an Oscar-winner, before I criticized it, I thought it might be a good idea to see what other people have written about it, just so I don't look like a fool. Hence, I went to Roger Ebert's site.

Roger Ebert is one of those reviewers. You know the kind I'm talking about. If you read one of Roger Ebert's reviews, one that speaks of a movie in glowing terms, even if you hated it when you saw it, after you are done reading his review, you will suddenly realize what an amazing movie it actually was. This happened to me after I saw Mulholland Drive. An awesome movie which is best enjoyed in print form as an internet review. All throughout the movie, the plot made absolutely no sense to me. It felt like I was watching George Bush's State of the Union address in Chinese and in reverse. And then, I went and read Ebert's review and even though things didn't make any more sense, I began to believe that I had just witnessed a cinematic masterpiece.

So accordingly, I went and read Ebert's review of Crash. And when I was done, I began to see some things that I had missed, some twists in the plot I should have grasped, but didn't, which I can now blame on overexposure to tequila during the viewing of the movie. So now this is what I'm gonna do. Instead of reviewing Crash, the movie that I actually saw, I will review Ebert's review of Crash since it paints the movie in a much better light than my actual recollection of it. Also, I really don't want to be the one giving a bad rating to the movie that has won critical acclaim as well as the best picture award.

Ebert starts out with the statement, "Crash tells interlocking stories of whites, blacks, Latinos, Koreans, Iranians, cops and criminals, the rich and the poor, the powerful and powerless, all defined in one way or another by racism." Here I agree with him. It's a story about racism and how it affects life in a homogenous society. But the way I saw it, the movie didn't offer anything new on the issue. There were no alternative views, no erudite commentary, nothing that you didn't know before.

It's like how, if the world's best chef told you, today's your lucky day, I'm gonna make you an amazing omlet, and you say, mmmkay, if you say so, but I just had an omlet in the morning so could you grill me some filet mignon or something, medium rare please, but the chef says, no wait, you're really gonna love my omlet, so he cooks up an omlet puts all kinds of stuff in it and when it's done, even though it is delicious and melts in your mouth and it's the best omlet you ever had, fuck it, after all's said and done, its still just an omlet and you wish it had been filet mignon.

Ebert then says, "It connects stories based on coincidence, serendipity, and luck, as the lives of the characters crash against one another like pinballs." Yes. Like pinballs they crash randomly. And hence, the title of the movie. Which is exactly my problem with it. Too much randomness in the movie. Too much arbitrary crashing. One likes one's plots to be more robust than characters merely interacting with each other through pure coincidence.

Ebert says, "One thing that happens, again and again, is that peoples' assumptions prevent them from seeing the actual person standing before them." That's very true. In fact, I would say that's the very foundation of the movie. All the characters in the movie have inbuilt racist tendencies within themselves and this has an effect on how they interact with each other, which then leads to strange and dramatic consequences. The moral of the movie appears to be that if you are a racist, your life is probably gonna be more interesting than if you were just a garden variety tolerant person.

Ebert brings out the hidden depths of Matt Dillon's character in his review in a way the movie itself didn't. The way Ebert explains it, you now realize the subtle reasons behind Dillon's racist prickery. To Ebert, Dillon is a tormented guy, lashing out at the world in the only way he can, by being racist. I can relate to it, for example, when the Chinese food I order turns out to be of an inferior quality, I go out and yell at the Mexican landscapers in my apartment complex. And although Ebert doesn't touch on it, I think one of the most profound statements the movie makes is about how some people, who would like to think of themselves as being tolerant and devoid of any racist tendencies, still have some latent prejudices lying deep within their souls just waiting to come out to the surface during times of turmoil. As Ebert says at the beginning of his review on racism, "All are victims of it, and all are guilty of it. Sometimes, yes, they rise above it, although it is never that simple."

So what lesson does this movie and Roger Ebert's review of this movie teach us? Simply that it's ok to be latently racist. Racism is within you. You cannot control how you feel about other races. Or other religions. Or boy bands. Your racist tendencies might have their roots in how you were brought up, what kind of company you kept as a kid, or if you ever got food poisoning from eating sushi. And some of it is just primal fear and mistrust of a culture other than yours. Kind of like your primal fear and mistrust of carrots even though they are a great source of vitamin A. So even if you might be a racist, the key is not to act on your racist impulses. You may be a cocked pistol, but you don't have to trigger-happy. The question is, will you fall prey to your fears and lash out irrationally against an African-American eating a carrot, or will you, as Ebert says, rise above your fears and be a better person for it?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The One Hit Wonders

March is a magical time in Pune. Not just because it comes after February which, frankly, is a month I don't much care for and detest with all my heart simply 'cause it ain't January, which is a month I gots the hots for. But anyways, getting back to the point, when March arrives in Pune, it brings with it an atmosphere of festivity and celebration to all the college campuses scattered across Pune. The reason behind all this youthful exuberance being, March is that time of the year when the most culturally significant event in any college-goer's life occurs. The Annual Social Gathering.

The Annual Social Gathering is a huge deal in Pune. It is a unifier of sorts, bringing together once every year the studious bookworms and the academically disinclined, the dysfunctional hostelites and the smug city-slickers, the musically challenged and the artistically handicapped, the overbearing professors and the overly sensitive janitors. And working together as a team, this melange of humanity, through sheer hard work, will power and the primal desire to leave its assprint on the bedsheet of history, organizes and puts in motion this event, the Annual Social Gathering.

The Gathering consists of a number of mutually exclusive events. Various competitions are held on the college campus that celebrate excellence in fields such as street art, street acting and street walking. The winners get to keep their dignity and also quite possibly receive an award at the hands of the college principal, subject, of course, to the extraordinarily remote possibility of the award money not already having been pilfered by the notoriously nimble-handed Gathering staff. Fashion shows are held, dances are performed, individual musical offerings of a classical nature are made to a largely apathetic audience and the entire thing finally comes to a close with the biggest event of them all, the great grand-daddy of the bunch; the orchestra show.

Being leader of the college band has its perks. For one, you get treated with a great deal of reverence. And even if you've actively campaigned for the other party in last year's elections for the Gathering administrative posts, as long as you're in the college band, you don't get dragged to the hostel and beaten up along with the rest of your buddies after your guys lose the elections. This invulnerability to post-election brawls surely is the biggest perk of them all.

But there are other minor perks associated with the title as well. You get to preside over the singing auditions that are held in order to choose the vocalists who will be presenting the "individual flowers encompassing the garland of songs that is the show" (to take a marathi phrase and tear it apart). Anyone who was present during the Samudra Manthan, that tumultuous event in mythical history when the Devas and Asuras embarked on a joint effort to churn up the oceans of milk to find out what lay beneath, will relate to what happens during Gathering singing auditions. As was the case during the Manthan when the relentless churning led to a number of agreeable artifacts coming up to the surface such as Kamadhenu (the wish fulfilling cow), Airavata (the white elephant) and the television remote control, singing auditions frequently bring to the surface a number of extremely talented singers who would otherwise have tragically lain hidden away from the public eye for all eternity. But just like how churning the ocean also led to a lethal pot of poison turning up, singing auditions can also inadvertently shine a glaring spotlight upon the malodorous dregs of society who walk this planet secure in the misguided belief that their singing talents lie somewhere between excellent and divine.

These folks can be categorized into various types. Some are plain crappy singers. Those are the easiest to deal with. Far more difficult are the ones who sing fairly well but have other bizarre behavioral idiosyncracies. Like the guy who holds the microphone in his left hand while he sings into his right. Or the girl from the production engineering department who goes into such paroxysms of ecstasy when the mostly male crowd applauds her entry on stage that she forgets to sing, instead, allowing the rest of the band to continue with the song as they wait for her gradual descent back to terra firma. Then there's the guy, your senior, kind of a pompous asshole, who's a decent singer, but who is never averse to replacing the lyrics of the song he is singing with products of his own imagination, some of them not even owing allegiance to any discernible language. Fortunately, he sings with his eyes closed, which allows you and the rest of the band to guffaw, albeit silently, at his goofiness.

But the cream of the crop is the One Hit Wonder. He belongs to a species comparable to none other. The One Hit Wonder is unique, in that, even before the onset of the academic year, he has already decided that he will be singing in the Gathering show. And since he is shrewd enough to diagnose the paucity of singing talent contained within himself, he resolves, through pure hard work and year-long perseverance, to finally nail down one and only one song that he will be able to see through to it's logical conclusion. And he has a formula. The formula is this : First he chooses a singer, most commonly Kumar Sanu 'cause singing in a nasal voice comes naturally to most people. Then, he chooses a song. Finally, through endless hours of practice, he manages to imitate the singer through every nuance of his vocal gyrations in that song until he and the singer sound exactly the same. And this impresses the judges at the auditions because, c'mon, sounding exactly like a singer is pretty hard to achieve. Little does the judge know the amount of hard work that went behind this feat.

However, there is a small problem. This is the last time we will see the One Hit Wonder on stage. Next year he will be gone. He will never be able to sing anything else again in his entire career. Like the male Atlantic salmon who spends his entire life fattening himself for the sole purpose of swimming all the way upstream for that single mating opportunity, and dies right after he sprays his jizz all over the female Atlantic salmon's eggs, the One Hit Wonder performs his one song and then, for all practical purposes, he is dead to the world. Because he has molded his voice into the likeness of Kumar Sanu in "Dil Hai ke maanta nahi" so thoroughly that his voice will never ever adjust to any other singer or song style again. Basically, his voice is similar to a block of stone that has already been hewed into a figurine. That stone will never again assume any form other than its current one. And that is fine. Because in his own small way, the One Hit Wonder has already acted out his part on the stage of life. He has shone at his performance and now he will move on to other, hopefully better things. But never, I repeat, never ever, will he sing again. And that is life.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The two clocks

I have two clocks that are in dissonance. One is my alarm clock. I set it to go off at 6:15 every morning. The other is my body clock. My body clock is somewhat of an asshole. Every morning it wakes me up at 5:45 for no reason at all. So I get up, rub my eyes and stare at my alarm clock, trying to figure out what time it is. The alarm clock shows 5:45. And after that, my body clock goes back to sleep while I stay awake for the next 30 minutes, waiting for my alarm clock to ring. 'Cause when you know you've got to wake up in half an hour, all you can do is lie in bed without getting a blink of sleep, ears pricked, waiting for that goddamned ring.

So now I've come up with a solution. I fake out my body clock. I set my alarm clock to wake me up at 3:30 in the morning. When I wake up, I look at the clock and see that it's still night, that I can sleep for 3 more hours. And then I drift back into a contented slumber. At the same time, my body clock, which has woken up because of all the pandemonium, is still groggily lurching around, trying to adjust itself to whatever the fuck's happening. It gets all disoriented and shit. So when it finally falls back asleep, it forgets to wake me up at 5:45 as it usually does. And when I finally jump out of bed at 6:15 to the bugle-call of my alarm clock, it is with a bounce in step and a buoyancy of spirit that is peculiar to someone who's had a full night's worth of repose.

Body clocks are easy to fool. They are stupid bastards, really.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The bike rack

It's getting kinda warmer so I guess it's time to take my bike rack out of the trunk of my car and put it back on. It's only been there a few weeks. See, I'm a lazy person. The last time I went biking was back in September. But the bike rack stayed on the car for 5 more months. I didn't take it off my car till late february and now it's time to put it back on. As I said, I'm a lazy person.

Laziness frequently has its advantages. For example, it helps you make social acquaintances. Like the time I was too lazy to take out my trash and kept it in my balcony for ten days and it started to stink up the entire neighbourhood and my neighbour who lived in the apartment next to mine banged on my door and asked me to throw it out before she called the apartment people. It wasn't really a conversation dripping with benevolence and amity but we did come to know who the fuck lived next door. It was an angry old woman who was fussy about garbage.

And then there's always the surge of happiness you experience when you accidentally brush against a glass on the coffee table, and it falls onto the carpet and you groan, looking forward to an evening of cleaning out whatever it is that was inside that glass from the carpet, but nothing happens since it's empty because it's been there for who knows how long since you've been too lazy to throw it into the dishwasher and so it makes your day because there's nothing to clean up.

However, being lazy about removing the bike rack has very few advantages, if any. For one, a bike rack isn't very aerodynamic. It slows the car down. And the strap keeps banging against the car creating a slap slap slapping sound that reminds you of the first adult film you ever saw that featured actual fornication. Secondly, it makes your car stand out on the road. There aren't too many black Volkswagen Jettas with yellow bike racks in the greater Philadelphia area. And that, in itself, wouldn't have been a problem if it weren't for the fact that that I'm not a very friendly driver. I demand the highest standards of driving excellence from my fellow travelers on the Pennsylvania turnpike. If their performance ever falls to sub-expectation levels, I get cranky. I tailgate. I flash my headlights. Sometimes I raise my finger to the high heavens. And the person I am making my presence felt to never fails to note that the fucker in the car behind him who's giving him grief is driving a black Volkswagen Jetta with a yellow cycle rack.

I take the same route to work the same time every day. And so do most people. So it happens that I meet the same cars frequently on the road during my work commute. And the black Volkswagen Jetta with the yellow bike rack does not enjoy a whole lot of popularity among those cars. Even if there's a tremendous amount of hostility being directed towards me by the guy in the car next to me, I am blissfully unaware of it till he gives me the finger and then cuts me off at the next opportunity he gets. I am left wondering what the fuck did I do to him till suddenly it dawns on me, hey, that's Silver SUV Guy I tailgated for half an hour last week from Norristown to Valley Forge 'cause he just wouldn't get off the fast lane.

And this has happened to me a number of times. Hey that's Jesus Fish Mazda Guy who I almost ran into. Aww Green Neon With Broken Bumper Guy, you still remember our unfortunate tryst at the tolls. And how you've grown Yellow Nissan Kid, you were a mere baby when I yelled at your mom 'cause she was going too slow.

And now it's gonna start again. The bike rack's back on. I will be seen and heard and detested. But it will be good. It will make me feel wanted. I will battle it out with the best of the best and I will become the stuff legends are made of.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Insensitive remark of the day

"You need to make sure that you don't bump into and cause things to fall off the desk, walking around with that on your face"

Colleague, referring to a newly visible zit on my face that's grown to monstrous proportions. I guess it's good 'cause it means I'm young for my age and still in the throes of puberty.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

What happened to the gentle spammers?

Has anyone else noticed that spam emails nowadays are gradually taking on an increasingly hostile tone? For example, take those emails that tout the miracle of viagra or some other erection inducing drug. Barely a year ago, these emails used to have a gentleness and compassion about them, somewhat akin to the sympathetic manner of the doctor who would be treating you for that condition. The emails used to be subtle, ask educated and precise questions such as "Do you find it difficult to perform in bed?" or "Awww, is she mad at you? Does she want it to be bigger?" and so on. Even as you deleted the email and added the address of the sender to your spam list, you couldn't help but feel a bit of tenderness towards the person who had sent it to you and appreciate his or her tactful handling of the delicate issue involved.

Nowadays, it's different. I don't know if it's the rapid commercialization of spam or the intense competition in the market for enlarging underperforming penises within the spamming community but spammers are fast losing the decorum and etiquette they were once famous for. The spammer no longer has the patience or the time to use flowery language or even assume the pretense of caring about the spammee's fragile feelings. Today if you get a spam email extolling the virtues of viagra, it's extremely brusque to the point of being hurtful.

"Your penis is like a sponge", snapped an email at me yesterday. "I can't see it, it's invisible, how do you live with yourself?", asked another mockingly. "She's going to leave you. She couldn't find it yesterday", said another. Tears streaming down my face (since I am an extremely sensitive person not used to such callous deprecation of my masculinity), I read and reread these harsh words, wishing to go back to those times in the past when having an (allegedly) small limp penis wasn't just a condition to be mocked and ridiculed by an anonymous bulk emailer. I wanted for things to be the way they were when spammers had a heart, they had feelings and they could empathize with men who they were trying to convince that what they lacked in intellect could be made up in size.

What happened to that breed? What are they doing now? Are they retired? Did they get married, settle down and buy Volvos? Or are they still toiling somewhere in the remote wastelands of cyberspace peddling newer and more useful marvels of technology that have been sadly marginalized from the mainstream? Maybe they are now call center employees in Bangalore, engaged in applying honeyed words to soothe irritated Americans who are unable to access their bank accounts. All I hope is for that precious talent not to go to waste and that somewhere someone is still enjoying the fruits of labor of these men and women who, in the past, not only performed the important service of gently calling into attention the miniscule size of your member, but actually proposed a solution to rectify the situation.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More on car dealerships

Car dealerships are great places to get your car repaired. Because when you go there, it is guaranteed that not only will your car's real problems be taken care of, but its imaginary ones as well. And seriously, lets be realistic here, those pesky imaginary problems are the ones that are so hard to pinpoint and fix. It's wonderful how, when you enter the place with a specific goal in mind, say, to get a quote on an oil change or to get your annual emissions test done, it is almost impossible to escape from it without purchasing new tires, a new transmission, new brake pads, new seats and a new steering wheel. And once you are done paying for all those things, you will also need to purchase a new wallet, one that is made of heavier material that will compensate for the new-found buoyancy of your previous one. But it all starts with the check engine light.

The check engine light is a ground-breaking invention that was meant to generate employment for thousands of Americans who, otherwise, would have had to depend on government hand-outs for a living. It is a product of the historic "Check-Engine Light" Act that was passed during the great American depression by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also known as FDR or F-Drive to his homies. FDR was a car mechanic by profession before he ascended to the presidency. During the depression, he recognized the imperative need to provide a jumpstart to the stagnating economy by putting people to work on projects that weren't really necessary, but which would generate employment and provide millions of Americans with living wages. One such project was the Hoover dam. The other was the "Check Engine Light" Act. FDR was shrewd enough to recognize that car ownership among Americans was about to explode in a big way. He therefore signed the "Check-Engine Light" Act into law, which required that all auto companies incorporate a hidden device into all their vehicles that would periodically activate and light up a small forbidding icon shaped like a leaky tap on the dashboard of the vehicle.

The meaning of this icon was deliberately left ambiguous in order to provide fuel to every paranoid car owner's feverish imagination. The Act also specified that once the check engine light was activated, it was mandatory for the car owner to visit his local dealership immediately, without any delay, accept the diagnosis unquestioningly and pay up the requisite amount. FDR's vision of the future proved to be prophetic and remains relevant upto this day. Most people do not realize it but it is FDR's legacy of wealth distribution via the check engine light that is responsible for America's booming economy and high standard of living of its citizens. Everyday, its periodic demonic blink sends millions of car owners rushing to their dealerships, thus leading to an infusion of cash into the economy and it's subsequent growth.

But enough about how great car dealerships are. They also have a dark side. Car mechanics have a tendency to treat vehicles under their care with great tenderness and attachment. What, you might ask, is the problem here? Wouldn't I want my mechanic to give my car the attention it deserves, you might add. The fact is, the mechanic doesn't stop at this. The problem arises when he proceeds to adjust all the settings on your car, rendering it entirely alien to your driving habits. It's as if the mechanic, for the few hours he is forced into the confines of your car's interior, refuses to make the adjustment to his new environment and instead, decides to make the car adjust to him by going on a settings-changing spree. The seat is pushed back. The steering wheel goes higher. The mirrors are rotated. The wiper speed is reset. All your favorite radio stations disappear. Your cds are rearranged in the cd changer. The body in your trunk is taken out, given a bath and issued a fresh set of clothes. And finally, once your car's done and you are behind the wheel again, it feels like you've never driven this vehicle before. The next few weeks are spent trying to get used to this vehicle from hell.

You know, it's like if you're an apartment maintenance technician and you are on an assignment to declog a resident's toilet and in addition to performing that task, you reset his thermostat, reprogram his television channels, throw away all his bedsheets 'cause they don't agree with your sense of fashion, go out and buy him new bedsheets, make him a roast turkey dinner but use your mom's recipe, not his, replace his regular condoms with the ones that are ribbed for her pleasure and then, finally, you exit his place with the satisfaction of a job well done. I should try that on my mechanic. It's time the shoe goes on the other foot.

Monday, March 13, 2006

It's gone

When I was writing it, it sounded funny. When I was done writing it, it didn't. So I deleted it. And now it's gone.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The hunt for Alice

The University of Pune is a much respected institute of higher learning. Nestled in a lush verdant campus that is almost entirely covered by a canopy of trees, it is also dotted with occasional meadows and stone buildings from the colonial era. Furthermore, it is also generously endowed with a number of those nooks and crannies that are indispensable to student lovers who prefer to engage in canoodling activities away from the public eye. A note to male canoodlers : Before embarking upon your canoodling expedition, please make sure you have 500 rupees in your wallet. That is the going rate, at least it was about 10 years ago, for being discovered in the act of canoodling by a university watchman, who, after the appropriate remuneration has been made, will reciprocate your philanthropy by refraining from reporting you to your canoodlee's parents.

However, the night this particular narrative begins, very little canoodling was going on in the university campus due to the lateness of the hour. There were more serious activities afoot. Ghost hunting. It was examination time and I, along with a few of my buddies, was sitting in a car by the side of the road in an isolated wooded section of the campus on the lookout for a ghost.

During the years I attended engineering college in Pune, examination time has always been the period during every academic year that has been spent indulging in activities of the least academic nature. For one, the onset of exams allows you to spend more time with your friends under the guise of overnight study sessions. And if you have been blessed with friends such as the ones I have, study sessions have always had less to do with textbooks and more to do with making tea, scrambling eggs, cooking up homemade methods of stealing the neighbour's cable tv and inventing newer and more efficient ways of travelling to the future by murdering time in the present.

However, this study night was different. Tomorrow was the math exam. The difficulty and extreme incomprehensibility of the study material cried out for a different approach to the problem. Going ghost hunting would be a perfect solution. So we piled into the car, drove to the university and made ourselves comfortable for the long night to follow.

One of the most famous and poignant ghosts in all of Pune has to be that of Alice Richman whose mortal remains lie buried on the university campus. Alice was a British / Australian woman who lived in Pune during the colonial era. She died of cholera and was buried in the exact spot of her death and has lain there ever since. Hers is a solitary grave at the end of a clearing in the woods that has always been popular among the more studious of the university's denizens who come there to meditate upon life, love and organic chemistry. But apparently Alice's material demise wasn't immediately followed by the demise of her soul, which, as legend goes, still prowls around her grave in a gown made of the customary translucent white fabric popular among members of the spirit community, terrifying hidden lovers into premature ejaculation.

So the night crept along as we sat in our car and gazed at the exact spot inside the forest where we knew Alice's grave was. There was no sign of ghosts or apparitions. It was dark and the road was illuminated by a single lamp which suddenly died out. Far ahead along the same road we could see the characteristic bobbing light of a drunken caretaker's torch. But we weren't interested in caretakers. We continued to stare.

After a lot of staring and fruitless vigilance, our patience gave out. "Let's walk upto the grave", someone said. "Maybe she's feeling lazy tonight and isn't gonna wander". "I'll do it if one of you comes with me", said M, a member of our troupe. A word about M. If you are planning to go on a ghost hunting trip, M shouldn't be your first choice as a partner in your endeavour. He has this very disagreeable trait of of accompanying you to the spot in question, then screaming aloud, feigning terror and running away, leaving you yammering wha? who? where? as you follow his fleeing silhouette. A few weeks ago, we had been to the other supposedly haunted location in Pune called the Napier hotel, a ruined structure that sits within dilapidated grounds in the cantonment area. Our objective, no doubt to bolster our budding manhoods, was to enter the hotel premises surreptitiously and urinate on the walls of the building.

So we had walked through the brush and overgrown weeds in the hotel yard, climbed into the darkened building over its crumbling walls and realized that we were too late. Like Captain Scott in his failed bid to capture the South Pole, we had been beaten to our destination by bovine intruders. The place was covered with a whole lot of cow faeces. But hey, if nothing else, we would at least leave our own mark on this hallowed ground. Collective urination began in earnest.

That was the perfect time for M to do his thing. After waiting for the strategically opportune moment of peak urinary discharge, he emitted a loud shriek and ran out of the building. Terrified by this sudden development, struggling with our zippers, the rest of us ran around like beheaded chickens, traipsing through all the cow dung, finally making it outside the building and onto the road where M was enjoying a bout of hysterics.

So that was the reason why none of us were individually agreeing to take M up on his challenge. After a prolonged deliberation, it was agreed upon by mutual consensus that we would all go into the woods. It was also made very clear that if M were to even consider repeating a Napier, the iron fist of retribution would fall upon him with deadly consequences.

We got out of the car and made our way through the woods. We had a single torch that was used by the person first in line to choose the path least conducive for the hike, thus leading to constant demands from people further behind in the line to give them the fucking torch if he didn't know what he was doing. We wandered around but we just couldn't find the grave. We had lost our bearings. It's very easy to do that in the dark. We continued to search for it. Suddenly, the torchlight shone on marble and fencing. We realized that we were actually standing on the grave. Alice was beneath us. This realization led to confusion, terror and a mass exodus. We ran through the woods in the direction opposite to which we had entered.

Suddenly, the woods ended and we stumbled into a clearing containing a pond with lotus leaves floating on top. Behind the pond was a square stone building that shone in the moonlight. And I couldn't help asking myself where the fuck had I seen this building before? Then I realized that the oil painting that hung above my bed back in my room portrayed this very structure. I also remembered that when we had purchased the painting, the artist had informed us that the subject of his art was located in the university campus.

So we went back to the car after finding the path back to the road. We drove home, my friends not very happy due to the failure of our mission to get aquainted with Alice. I, however, found myself musing with a strange contentment. The night had been productive for me.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Car dealership

Very busy. Very busy. It's a novel feeling. Anyways, my tip for the day : If your car dealership is offering to provide you with a free rental car for the two days it's in the garage, it probably means good times are ahead for him financially. And you, in most likelihood, are gonna be the purveyor of those good times.

Friday, March 03, 2006

An ode to zambezi

I was listening to Jagjit Singh yesterday. Everytime I listen to Jagjit Singh or ghazals in general, it reminds me of my friend zambezi who has been pretty active in the comments section lately but hasn't commented for a while now because he is sick. This post will be an ode to zambezi. We go back a long time, almost seven years now. Zambezi is a guy who lives in New Jersey. He is very good looking for a Kannadiga and not ashamed to let you know about it. The first time I met him he looked like a hippy DJ from Manhattan. He had a ring in his ear then. I don't know what happened to that ring and if he now wears it in his nose or somewhere else inside his pants which would be a painful place for a ring to be in. Zambezi had travelled from New Jersey to Massachusetts to meet me, where I was doing my masters degree.

I think the first time that we met we spent most of our time drinking all throughout the weekend because drinking was the only way friends spent time together in those days. We visited the Quabbin reservoir in central Massachusetts which is a pretty nice spot. The dam at Quabbin has a sign which bizarrely informs people that "Rolling down the side of the dam is prohibited". Quabbin is apparently the number one tourist destination for dam-side-rolling which sounds like an interesting hobby. After zambezi visited me, I then visited him in Jersey and was surprised and terrified to find that he lived in a ghetto. We had some adventures, which mostly consisted of driving around in the ghetto blasting rap music and acting like idiots. But it was a good time.

We went to Atlantic City and gambled with a couple of other friends. Zambezi did some strange things during that trip including assaulting one of our friends in the group for some vague reason. I think the friend kept touching and pushing zambezi around in a friendly fashion and zambezi didn't like it. It put a damper on the night. Zambezi is a big fellow and fighting him is kind of difficult. I tried once and ended up losing my virginity. We did Atlantic City once more. The second time it was just me and him and we had to drive around in Southern New Jersey for an hour in a drunken state to find a place to sleep. Finally, we found refuge in a Desi motel and shared a bed containing a visible infestation of bed bugs. We asked the motel manager where Wharton State forest was because we had seen it on a map and we desired to visit it. The guy said he didn't know. The next morning we came to know that we had stayed the night in Wharton state forest. I wonder if the manager was even aware that he was in the US.

Zambezi then came back to Massachusetts to visit me once more. I had just bought a new car then. Zambezi was enamored by the dashboard lighting of my car which, as one internet reviewer says, "Has a feel similar to the cockpit of a plane without the bother of fighting hijackers". This trip led to him buying a Volkswagen for himself a few years later, which was then stolen by someone else who had a similar fascination for Volkswagen dashboards. We drove up Mt Washington, the highest peak in New England. I barely knew how to drive then and I think I was an arrogant young prick because I wouldn't do it now even if you paid me to. I accept all payments through Paypal. It was summer and we were wearing shorts. At the foot of the mountain, it was a warm 75 degrees. When we reached the top of the mountain, the temperature was sub zero and ball freeze occurred within minutes. Back then we were smokers. After we scaled the summit, we had a smoke in celebration. And then our lungs gave out, we suddenly couldn't breathe and had to sit down because of the thin air. As I said, we were arrogant young pricks.

I think returning back from Mt Washington was one of the best drives I've ever had. We were driving through the green farmland of Vermont as seen in the title picture of this blog and dotted with those picturesque grain silos and farmhouses. Dusk was falling and there was no traffic so I put the car in cruise control, and then we put on some Ghulam Ali and spent a quiet two hours together. Ghulam Ali while cruising through the dusk in Vermont. Nothing quite like it.

Zambezi got married recently and he still lives in Jersey. If he put his mind to it, I think he could even run for Governor. He has a good personality and people seem to like him. I don't know why I compiled a post on zambezi. Probably because I don't have anything else to say today. I will probably compile a post on my other friend, Slime next.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Why lazy people shouldn't be environmentally conscious

It's been a busy week. And I've come to realize that blogging is kinda like working out. You really need to stay on schedule. If your schedule is shattered and you stop blogging for a couple of days, it's really hard to get back into the thick of things. But here's what I realized during the time I wasn't blogging. I need to stop being environmentally aware.

See I respect the environment and nature. I will never desecrate an area of wilderness with plastic bottles and used condoms. I won't even spit out my chewing gum onto the road. I always switch off the lights when I'm not in the room in order to conserve electricity. In fact, sometimes I switch them off even while I am in the room, peering through my neighbours' windows. And when I dispose my bodies through the process of interment, I make sure that I retrieve anything that is non bio-degradable from their person including their hair ('cause hair can cause some serious harm to the ecosystem, especially if it's been dyed), mail it to their nearest surviving relatives and then and only then will I lay them to rest in the ground.

But being an environment freak is screwing my lifestyle in many ways. It started when I was single and living in the US alone in an apartment with no furniture. Due to my eco-consciousness, I was averse to disposing the beer bottles I was consuming at a rapid rate directly into the trash. But I had no idea what to do with those bottles either. So I just didn't throw them out. Pretty soon every square inch of my apartment was covered with beer bottles. My apartment had turned into a theme park for alcoholics. A sea of bottles as far as the eye could see with quaint little pathways carved out of the glass that led to places of scenic beauty as well as strategic importance such as the bathroom, the television and the kitchen.

This sad state of affairs continued till I got a visit from a couple of friends from New Jersey and I realized that I had to do something about it. So I started double tiering. Bottles on top of other bottles. Soon the sea of bottles began to grow in a vertical direction as well. The beer meadow turned into a beer forest. It wasn't till I got married, bought furniture and began living a civilized life that I began to dispose of the bottles in a responsible way.

Now, at this stage in my life, with my apartment complex having provided me with the means to recycle my bottles, my newest environmental dilemma is with regard to plastic bags. I don't know what the fuck I'm supposed to do with the damn things. I hesitate to throw them into the garbage but every time I go to the grocery I come back with five or six more. I know there is some kind of plastic bag return policy in place at all the supermarkets but I am just too lazy to find out.

So I keep those things. There is a room in my apartment that is solely occupied by these plastic bags. Thousands and thousands of them. It's a virtual winter wonderland in there, except instead of snow, it's polythene. In fact, when it snows outside, my wife and I, we go to this room and frolic in the mountains of plastic. We have bagfights, construct bagmen, along with their cute little bag animals. Those animals then eat plastic bags by mistake and die of suffocation when the plastic bags get stuck inside their plastic throats. The bagmen, saddened by the demise of their animals, weep big tears of plastic and get rid of their bodies by stuffing them inside plastic bags and throwing them out into the plastic sea. It's wonderful. And environmentally safe.