Thursday, December 31, 2009

Turn Turn Turn

In a few hours from now it will be the final turn for this particluar linear period of turning we along with a few billion other homo sapiens would do around that predominantly hydrogenous ball which forms the centre of the solar system we have existed in since the turn was initiated. A plethora of mails and messages will be sent out wishes exchanged for peace, prosperity and well being. Every year it turns out with the same old acts of terrorism, molestations, rapes, bombings, climate talks which remain talks, insert your preferred mode of violence/disasters/evil or hopeless act here. The only happy souls not under induced happiness aided by sufficient intake of intoxicating liquids and other substances are the mobile service providers I guess!

As all including me prepare for celebrating this last turn and welcome- Surprise! Surprise!- a new turn, I feel glad, sad, mad and mostly apprehensive about bidding adieu to 2009 and in effect the decade termed the noughties. Glad that there are more days ahead to keep drifting, which at the moment looks like forever.

Mortality so far has never crossed my mind, having witnessed only close to two and a half decades on Terra Firma, two and a half decades of a rather peaceful existence marked by the usual highs and lows of growing up and coming to terms with the rat race that life offers. It has been a trial of understanding my horizons and limits of socio-eco-political nature were tested. The next decade and a half presumably should witness more than having to accept the way things have plodded on so far and cement my existence here.

Mad about the sheer stupidity we as a race can to stoop to and not realise it. Or probably realise and decide to keep mum about it. Speaking of keeping mum, many people dont realise the benefits they would endow on us if they decided to keep mum. We should probably legislate to insert a section in the Income Tax Act (a full year of study [or lack of it rather] of the subject in the final year of graduation, with frequent visits to Santhrupti Wines opposite our college to mellow the pain enthuses me to add various clauses and sub-clauses to the Act at random will) where people should be taxed quite heftily according to the amount of words they spout in public forums or even a one-on-one conversation. Anyway I dont see any changes in these uncalled for but nevertheless unbearable situations in the years to come.

Sad that a few fellow travellers had to get off the bus on this what I assumed neverending journey. Fellow travellers (both in spirit and physical)who have changed course on this unknown journey, some parallel, some at a tangent, some hopefully who will join the course of our run again, sometime...

The mood of apprehension is always visible when we decide to chart out a new route. And so I stand at the crossroads-the last few years have been spent adrift, experimenting, learning, doing new things. Some bad, some good, some worth forgetting, some entombed in the back alleys of my mind to resurface at specific moments of doubt/joy/grief/hope.

In the middle of all this not so semi-fake despair and cynicism mixed with nostalgia and an attempt at reclaiming a what I can say a dull to mildly interesting life I take comfort in a song by The Byrds-Turn Turn Turn. The words which were adapted from The Bible, book of Ecclesiastes and set to music by Pete Seeger reads-
To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

The 'heaven' mention apart it reads perfectly well to state New Year or not, we just need to keep on turning. To more turns ahead...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Case for a 4 Day Work Week

The economic crisis has led many corporates and others, mostly the suited and booted with serious smirks as if they have the astute powers to handle such situations (well, they haven't!) variety to re-look at their strategies to stay afloat. The bigger ones have more cash in their bank accounts and make a lot of noise about it to belie employees' notions that their employer is soon going to seek refuge under the small print of Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Some of the bigger ones were not (probably still not) in a state of financial liquidity to boast such things, as the money which they made in earlier days at a rate which was faster than the gestation period (fastest) record shared by three marsupials viz. the American and rare water opossums and the east native cat of Australia, approximately 12-13 days (which technically speaking is not fast, but its the parallel which is being drawn which is to be noted) whizzled out of their fingers as they counted the moolah at a rate faster than you could say WIP, which incidentally in certain officialese means 'work in progress' and if your basic numeracy is on a holiday half away around the other side of world let me take this moment to bring it back by stating, the aforementioned scalar quantity is faster than the previously established gestation period of three varieties of marsupials.

Anyway the fact is a lot of people have had to readjust their strategies to 'align themselves with the marginal drop (works out to more than 30% which could also tend towards 100% in preliminary back of the envelope calculations) in demand' or 'explore cost cutting measures (read as, "Thanks we think you have had a fair bit of fun at our expense, now its our time to laugh, so sod off!") keeping the best interests of all parties at stake' (quite naturally the HR teams have the highest stakes), 'rationalise annual performance benefits' (commensurate to the common name of that member of the legume family, Arachis hypogaea) and other such efforts by the top brass to satiate the ever edacious essence of shareholders with wolfish tending to piggish appetites for profits and such.

Creativity has also had a fair bit of airplay. One such piece of what I would call tremendous surge of activity in the right side of the cerebral cortex was witnessed or rather is being witnessed till the end of the calendar year at my current employers. Why might this excite me despite loss of one day's pay per month? I get a day off for each day's pay per month foregone. There were complains at the start, a readjustment in monthly expenditure, a cut in dining out, lets go to the theatre but lets not have the bucket of popcorn and cokes, that shirt looks good-looks even better on the mannequin and so on and so forth. I on the other hand was relieved. Here's one more day in a week to do a lot more things I always wanted to do but couldn't plainly because I had only the weekends to do whatever I had in mind.

The term used to describe this phenomenon of a day off to all employees was furlough. According to the dictionary a furlough is:
a. A leave of absence or vacation, especially one granted to a member of the armed forces.
b. A usually temporary layoff from work.
c. A leave of absence from prison granted to a prisoner

I rather liked option c for being brutally frank. I first came across the term in a Beetle Bailey strip where Sarge had out of desperation and a malicious fondness cuts short Beetle's furlough. Beetle returns long faced and wrathful. Now that I was facing it, I would probably react in similar fashion. The furlough days were well distributed to time around a Friday or a Monday with a festival in the near vicinity. This ensured extended weekends and more so on the other hand, shorter work weeks. Weekend getaways took a whole new dimension with an extra day to laze about or explore them. So did socialising, especially if the nights turned out to be all nighters fueled by sufficient amounts of that third favourite beverage on Earth, whose patron saint is Gambrinus. These extra non-working/nonpayable 24 hours per month also brought in benefits such as time to -
a. philosophise
b. sleep
c. philosophise and then go to sleep
d. sleep, wake up and then philosphise
and permutations and combinations of whatever you like best to do in such situations. Anyway the point of all this meandering is to drive home the point- that work is good, it occupies you, it helps you earn a living, it brings the bacon to the table, the clothes you wear and the roof under which you sleep; but despite this it isn't as important as to let go and relax, chill, loll, bum around, wake up at 12AM and go back to sleep. (of course if you sleep at 6AM its perfectly fine to go back to sleep at 12PM) So all you lazy lads and lasses reading this post, that's my case (rather weak I must say, on re-reading it) for the four day work week.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Getting back on one's feet...

...not that I didn't use the bipeds. The last couple of months I have started to walk more than I would normally exercise my feet. I get off some three stops before my scheduled cab drop point and proceed home, with a what now seems regular pitstop at a bakery to meet a friend for some chai and exchange of ideas, news and general banter on subjects varying from the latest offering by James Cameron to a brand of bread called Manna. The original idea to walk the distance was a) to get off my ass (this is the only form of exercise I indulge in, apart from Garfield's favourite, deep breathing) and b) never mind the b(it never came out the way I thought it would, or maybe I thwarted it at a rather early stage).

Many might lunge at me questioning, at my age how am I justifiably claiming to gain exercise (read as loose a few inches of the waist) out of a walk. And a full 15 minute one at that. I gently riposte with a quick reminder of my days in those most hallowed of sweat pits-the gym. The one I frequented or less frequented for the one month's fees which I had deposited with them was called Athena, and how cruelly she must be turning in her mythical grave, a goddess of wisdom, peace, strategy and a whole lot of other things[women being better multi-taskers, so is the claim of management books] relegated to the basement of a slightly dilapidated building to roof grotesque machines which when pulled or pushed would make your body ache, all in the name of shaping your physique! Add to that discordant songs of this variety, it was surprising that I didn't get physical with the DJ, who incidentally was also the instructor, leaving me with options to a) quit and b) quit really fast. There ends my story of any kind of body sculpting.

I have been at the end of many a joke about my, what i call rectangular physique. The latest being when the colleagues in office feel that the AC has been cranked up and feel rather chill while I don't, because of the extra lining of fat that I have endowed myself with since I developed pinniped like capabilities of subcutaneous storage of lipidinous substances. I shrugged at their attempts to get me to do something about it. I am naturally big-boned, I cant attempt to come in natures way!

Sometime back a friend who visits one of the more upmarket sweat pit generating institutions referred me to a site, which I promptly surfed for, explored and erased from my memory, until now of course. That was to bring it to your attention! I might subjugate myself into following its instructions seriously, one day, maybe tomorrow. Maybe not...

But in the mean time, I shall continue to walk. Its more enjoyable and less of a strain on the muscles, not to mention of other benefits of observing the world at a leisurely pace or having ideas (mostly unproductive, nevertheless Ideas, its the thought that counts at such moments, of being grateful for a semi-functional grey cell container) popping up every other minute. More on that in a separate post, for now I need to deep breathe in a state of dormanZZZs.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

When I was young

When Eric Burdon of The Animals lamented in his gritty rocker voice of the blues of lost youth he was not just creating a pioneering grunge metal number but voicing the cynicism which adulthood brings.

I am not yet a quarter century old on Terra Firma and yet the relative vacuousness of existence bothers me. I am aware there are so many sights to see and so many things to do, essentially how Robert Frost wraps up his Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. But to what avail?

Time travel a decade back and I was probably in the 8th standard, struggling to comprehend the, what at that time looked, abnormal characteristics of a trapezium or even worse, Hindi grammar. My biggest worry was why my first pair of spectacles had a power of -3.5 in the right and the plain glass in the left. Acne too had mysterious qualm creating qualities. The delights were plenty. Cycling down MG Road at 7 AM without a single soul honking at you was highly pleasurable. My Avon Montage was indeed a faithful velocipede, having safely carried me to and from the first Deep Purple show in Palace Grounds circa 2001. Cricket Sundays at the corporation ground, by 2 (sometimes 3 and 4 also)chat after school at Om Sai Ram, 2 month summer holidays, returning home to see the latest issue of Target or Tinkle in the mail earlier that day, ah sweet bliss.

A half decade further back and we used to have forceful afternoon siestas post lunch in school. Teachers, long wooden rulers in hand would patrol around heads resting on tables ensuring we were indeed sleeping. The only solace for them probably being the fact that 60 odd hyperactive boys and girls had finally decided to seal their mouths and limbs, not to mention scheming minds. But not for long, or we would not now know that "Seven sevens are forty nine"! Summer nights will never be the same like then. Tales from the Mahabharatha and Ramayana, local wits including Nadulpad and Muttasa Namboodiri, demons bearing a a single to hundreds of eyes and a multitude of other deformed organs sprung like an ever gushing stream from my grandfather's bottomless story well. Watering the gardens with him and checking every day if a rose had blossomed. Entering a toy shop and staking claim on all its wares, he gently dissuading me on my mental monopoly.

Somewhere a click happened and the next moment logic, reason and finally cynicism took over. It is of course a natural process to happen, as set a fact as that George w. Bush had evolved from a piece of rock. Escapist routes apart, I enjoy a most genuine sense of happiness in these memories. Maybe I over analyse things or just plain fret on the whole existentialism bit, but I cant agree more with good ole Eric when he wrote

"When I was young, IT WAS MORE IMPORTANT
Pain more painful
Laughter much louder
Yeah, when I was young
When I was young

My faith was so much stronger then
I believed in fellow men
And I was so much older then
When I was young"

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Meat-evil Tales

Last week I had been to the Majestic area to send off a friend. With its labyrinthine (old time Bangaloreans who can navigate the rather pompously named area like the back of their hands will rather see that I undergo an apoplexy at this point of time!) streets, lined with shady bars and hotels fronting shadier operations than providing lodging for the weary traveler(the bars, include a couple which I have on occasions patronised before to ease into particularly tedious journeys by bus, the hotels however are bowlderiseable) I found it apposite to meet her at the KFC outlet on Tank Bund Road opposite the KSRTC Bus Stand.

After an expedition through the dark wastes of a series of back alleys and an excruciating wait outside an ATM we settle into a booth at KFC, a banana smoothie and chicken snacker attempting to ward of mild borborygmi. The tray on which the aforementioned items were carried had a paper mat on it which expounded on the long kept secret recipe using 11 secret spices to cook up the world's so called favourite chicken. Apart from eulogising the 'finger licking good' poultry dish, the paper mat had rather interesting strips of cartoons at the bottom under the heading "Lesser known ingredients of our recipe for temptation".

Actually they were appalling and would appear so to any self-respecting meat eater. For an institution which had built its reputation on its juicy, mellow spiced strips of chicken it took a complete U-turn with its four different panels depicting integral components of the much loved piece of poultry. For me it cried totally foul! The first panel illustrated the different utensils to cook and and post that to gorge on the dishes they served. The devilishly horned spiked fork, a knife looking like it would be best put to use by Jack the Ripper and a round cutter looking like a medieval instrument of torture are labeled 'Non-Veg Utensils' as opposed to the less evil 'Veg Utensils' of saintly looking spoons, cookers and even a five petaled flower.

The next panel featured an Addams Familyesque trio (indicating the non veg crew) with black bibs to indicate their evil sides, long incised teeth and all. The veg crew looked rather sprightly, grinning ear to ear and dressed in spotless white.

KFC is a card holding right winging member of Republican USA. According to them non veg oil comes from the middle east (a member of the axis of evil). And veg oil comes from central asia presumably cleaner having been apparently cleared due to the US war on terror. The last cartoon shows a barbed fence surrounded factory spewing black smoke whereas on the other side where the grass is greener is a house with a pouting chimney emanating what looks like sweet smelling perfumes. Take a guess which side is the non veg cooking area?

I wonder why the marketing guys at KFC decided to take this approach when they are perfectly aware that they get to take home the 'bacon' on account of the plumpened, perfectly bred gallus domesticus, a fact made quite clear in the wares they sell viz. the fried chicken. Or maybe I was the only one who bothered to read the mat while the others followed a strategy of -I came. I ordered and ate. I left without bothering to read and fret. Bu'r'gger me!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I Scream for Happiness

Whats common to b-grade horrid slash and kill Hollywood movies inspired by J-Horror, rock shows, Wonder-La and K serials? They all make you scream (or at least attempt to), well the last point also witnesses bouts of physical abuse like smashing up TV screens, repeatedly beating your own head with the now defunct TV remote and early signs of balding considering most it has been pulled out due to aforementioned frustrations.

Now Wonder-La on the other hand has a precise manner in which it leads you on a path to happiness. 'A path' since everyone has their own internal GPS to such an end. My own understanding of Wonder-La's service to mankind came about with a visit to the amusement park (see it- amuses people) a month back. I have'nt seen such a happy lot, all assembled at one point in my life ever so far, except when doused in heady spirits or addled in some variety of chemically induced state of euphoria.

So why do people pay about 700 bucks to willfully be thrown around, jerked about, subjected to body bending experiences at various contortious angles and land down tall water slides with stinging wedgies? Because it lets them scream. Like when they used to as kids when taken spinning around their parents/grandparents/uncles/aunts/(fill in any person who spun you around or made you think you were a spaceship on a mission to Mars here)heads. Of course the kids who actually got thrown out of orbit and landed on their unfortunate bottoms or even worse, heads might be traumatised by the series of what they might not find amusing rides.

Apart from bringing back childhood memories screaming also has other benefits. Scream inducing movies are ideal to get those hormones going. Most Hollywood movies show a first date couple going for a scream-thon, where the girl and boy feign fear and make a lunge for each others bodies and finally end up in bed. Now where do you see that happening with a comedy or an art movie as your chosen date movie.

Screaming at an infuriating boss or when in a long queue outside an ATM can also prove beneficial. Others appear at the scene of screaming when your boss is with you and you can point an accusatory finger at the sexual deviant and you are either promoted replacing your boss or sent back home with enough compensation to keep you quiet and content till retirement and beyond. Screaming at an overcrowded ATM can leave many people disgruntled, vacating the queue before their over-burdened ear drums implode.

So create more opportunities where you can scream at the top of your lungs and caterwaul your way to happiness and success. If you cant bother I suggest opening a bottle of some potent amber liquid and a bag of sunshine. The downside being you could de-evolve to a vegetable sooner than expected.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Home Coming Part II

This post is a continuation of this.

Day 6

Going to sleep tucked into a warm blanket, crickets chirping into the night and the wind humming a soft lullaby in the trees is good. It’s even better to wake up with the sun gently kissing the cheeks, birds singing and celebrating a new morn, and a low mist welcoming you as soon as you open the door. The door opens into a semi-paradise, valley down below, thickly wooded, the only inhabitants in miles around being the caretaker of the guest house. The sun starts its slow journey overhead, the mist evaporating fast over Vagamon. Breakfast is a typical Kerala dish idiyappam doused in thick coconut milk. Fluffy appams and a coconut extravagant vegetable stew follow.

A plan is hatched to cover the sights of the land. Thekkady, 70km up and downhill towards the south is our destination for the day. The road leads as it has for the past two days through sea-like tea estates, leaves and branches trimmed to look like slow waves rolling in; past small rivulets, cool and fresh, waiting for feet to be dipped in. Slowly making way for settlements and finally a large junction filled with boards exhorting tourists to patronize various services including elephant safaris, boat rides, ayurvedic massages and variety of other touristy splendours. We follow signs to the Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady (one by-lane looked exactly like the road leading to Baga Beach, minus Titos) and finally arrive at a huge arch marking the entrance to the reserve.

Tickets in hand, camera batteries checked, caps firmly pulled down against the rather strong winds we occupy front row seats on the upper deck of the boat which will take us on a near two hour splash inside the reserve. Tall ghosts of trees stick their dead arms and heads out of the water, drowned since the river first flowed into the dam. Now they serve as perching posts for egrets, kingfishers, cormorants and storks hungrily scanning the rippling waters for potential prey. Since its May, the banks are also slightly exposed, small expanses on which turtles sun themselves, scurrying to the water as soon as a group of wild hogs appear out of a bush, porcine snouts sniffling for morsels in the undergrowth.

Further down we spy a shy herd of chital. Keeping a watchful eye for predators they nibble at the grass ever ready to make a dash. The sighs of delight and cries of “How cute!” are routine for them I guess, as they pose for a group of intrepid water safarists, me included. Suddenly there is cry from the bottom as one clever kid in the midst of all the ‘oh ah’ing over deer spotted an elephant and its child. Quite a distance away, the pachyderm escorted its ward gently through the tall grass disappearing for some time, before reappearing on the top of a slope and then vanished from sight. Elated to have seen a wild elephant and baby we continued down the river eagerly waiting to catch sight of the largest wild bovine, the Gaur. The wait was much lesser than expected when after taking a right at a blind curve, a knoll appeared, the entire mound of green being chomped up by an army of gaur, a helmet of hard skin tapering into two large trumpet- like horns above jaws continuously masticating the grass into cud. Most of these large Taurean characters stood chewing ignoring the boat, some eying us suspiciously wondering why we were all gaping at these massive chunks of meat. I am willing to consume anything in terms of meat (atleast once) as long as the meat in question is not from a group of animals going extinct. The gaur I believe is on that list and will be off my menu. Envisioning a porterhouse cut from a fellow domesticated bovine cosuin grilled to a T we head back to the guesthouse and Vagamon. An uninspiring yet nourishing vegetabe/chappati/rice laden table is set for us. Dining done I rest in the cane chair put out overlooking the same misty semi-paradise like valley, now ominous, the wind whispering among the tree tops, images of silent leopards lunging out of them in my mind. Horrifying contemplation over, I snuggle into the blankets,crickets clicking away a lullaby in Morse, Morpheus leading me on to his land.

More to follow...

Friday, July 24, 2009

These are the days that must happen to you

I work currently in Electronics City. My cab leaves at 8 in the morning. Promptly as soon as the window is opened I plug in earphones and turn oblivious to the cacophony of Radio One RJs(when one hears their Kannada influenced English and Hindi one automatically tends to switch off if not for reactions like condemning them for life to boiling oil vats, cleaning lavatories/pigeon poop outside window sills and other violently belittling things) , their repetitive Bollywood numbers (mostly rehashed words which talk about love, heart break/ache, and other emotions interspersed with the latest techno beats and scratches)and small talk about what was the undoing of a participant in a particular reality show where they challenge you against a psychophysiological detector of deception. One hour, the ears remain plugged; a book poised in front of the eyes, fingers occupied every few minutes to flick the pages. While Fugazi (currently) kicks into a blitzkrieg of fuzzy guitaring and berserk drumming I open my book to 'To be born again,' sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, 'first you have to die. Ho ji! Ho ji! To land upon the bosomy earth, first one needs to fly. Tat-taa! Taka-thun! How to ever smile again, if first you won't cry? How to win the darling's love, mister without a sigh? Baba, if you want to get born again...'(again currently). Apart from occasionally staring out of the windscreen of the Tempo Traveller to make sure no one is hurt when the vehicle lurches to a halt at signals, I dont move or utter much.

Duties complete at office it is time for a repeat show of the mornings actions in the 12 seater vehicle. The book is shut at just about the time we near the Koramangala National Games Village complex, daylight fails from this point onward. Attention shifted to hoardings and the backs of autorickshaws spouting gems of messages like "I date only models", this from a god-fearing,khufi wearing,devout, khol eyed driver. Also contemplate on the posible brand equity Jim Beam could generate out of sponsoring the Horanadu Bar and Restaurant at the Ejipura junction. Think its highly unlikely that the Horanadu's patrons'preferred poison would be a Kentucky Bourbon.

And so on and so forth 10 months have passed travelling up and down from the E-City. The routine is as numb as people who file within the campuses in E-City, tags around their necks summarising their personalities.

Today however has been rather different. At about 12:50 PM we decided to drive to Bangalore (as soon as I exit E-City there is a road sign welcoming one to the city of Bangalore and the distance to be traversed), Koramangala specifically. We lunched at The Jukebox. Unhurried, music from the 70's in the background, pretty ladies strutting outside the window, general buzz of conversation and peals of laughter from slightly beery drunk office goers, long forgotten LPs and sleeves hanging on fading walls, Elvis and James Dean staring down at your table, the sweet smell and smoke of a grill, a portion of garlic toast and perfect mayo to spread it on and a huge platter of smoky beef, ham, sausages, chicken, fries and rice staring up at you. These are the days that must happen to you.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Book of Jobs

I seem to choose careers based on what books I read. The current night burner is Run Like an Antelope by Sean Gibbon who follows Phish on a full tour covering the highs and lows(mostly highs) of the people who follow the enigmatic band. Suddenly I feel I could do that. Not, lying in bed thinking the alarm will go off at 7AM, followed by a hurried rush through the usual necessities to get ready for another day in front of a Lenovo T60 (why such a machine, no one knows, at least no one in the purchase department), wade through traffic which inevitably leaves you snarling at the work spot, positively baying for someones blood. Not that I can draw anyone's, infact its mine which is drained, I fall in quite near the bottom of the organisational structure. Anyway branching off...back to topic which is how books influence my career paths or at least mentally.

The previous one I was leafing through was Dan Walsh's These are the Days That Must Happen to You where he sets off across the Sahara and the rest of Africa and for the second leg on the Pan Americana from somewhere in Canada through the US of A and the unmotorable Darien Gap on ferry till the south of Argentina. As he with his rock-star attitude and all clicks gears through the black tar top I too feel a need to hit the road, thunder on my Machismo. I wouldnt mind. Only the road is open, but not free. Weekend trips can be sponsored by the paycheck, but who would fund a year or more on the road?

The visible connection I found between both books are that they both are about drifting on the road. One on two and the other on four wheels. I would prefer the two wheeled option, because as Dan states "A car is like watching a movie, a bike however is when you are the hero."

Now the only thing to do is to get these ideas in motion. But I dont have the confidence to let go off the comfort of a home, a 9-6 (most times more) job, the easy relaxed life of staying home. It looks good as an idea, idyllic riding around the world, writing about it, getting paid for it, but the wrath of the parents kind of scare me. Some more thought and planning has to be put into this though. It could be the ideal world I want to live in. On and off the road...drifting.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The List

Everyone makes a list at some point in their life. The hits and misses. The loves and spurns. The dids and almost mades. Mine joins the many, out there, those who cherish things the good old romantic way:
9 (thought I would try 24 but couldnt drum up that number) most cherished moments (in order of message being transmitted from memory to brain to motor nerves of my typing fingers)-
1) Sulaiman chai at Mecca
2) Riding my Avon Montage (bicycle) to Deep Purple in 2001
3) Being called at 2 AM by school Principal to be told I got 90 in Kannada, ICSE
4) First beer with Vergo and Maacha at Pecos after Gangs of New York
5) Setting clues to Treasure Hunt with the BOYS in Brigade Prince
6) My first reading of My Family and Other Animals
7) My first tape purchased- Morrison Hotel
8) Jumping up and down on the bed in Taj President after winning Tata Crucible
9) Bungee jumping listening to Aces High, Iron Maiden and Eddie in the foreground

A Quarter Yet

One short of a quarter
Plenty more shots to make a full
These are the days that must happen to you
Birthday or otherwise...keep drifting.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Home Coming

Day 1

Routine kills. As the road opens up, traffic-free and glistening, like a wet reptile sunning itself, in the mild rays of the rising sun, the routine killing drive to office on Hosur Road is the last thing on my mind. The speedometer sees a rapid surge as the needle shoots to the 100 mark. The trees and huts blur at the side, turning into a speck in the rearview mirror. Michael Monarch's languid riff kicks in as John Kay's gruff vocals begin to grumble. Minutes later we are all howling along with Steppenwolf, "Born to be Wild". And so begins my journey, not as wild, considering I am traveling with the family, but wild enough.

Though you could manage to speed around 90kmpha on the highways, a long stretch was being expanded into a 4 lane system, creating bottlenecks at junctions and also slowing us down with the numerous deviations. The route via Hosur, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri(bye-pass), Salem, Avinashi, Coimbatore(L&T bye-pass), Palakkad and Trichur(destination) is mix of hills, dusty open grounds, fertile paddy fields, crowded villages, shanty towns, dingy dhabas, et al; a veritable cross-section of most parts of India. Nine and a half hours later, 470 km clocked in, a full tank down to reserve, 6 bottles of water downed, 48 idlis decimated for breakfast as well as lunch, innumerable MintRox consumed, 4 cartons of sugar free Apple juice dry mostly the efforts of my father, 2 cartons of Mango juice(normal)drunk; we reached home.

Day 2

'Native' as is the colloquial term for your home town at least for the Kannadigas is best for extended meals, sleep and the same repeated as many days as you are there. Kerala being in the boom of mango season definitely enhanced these aforementioned activities. The king of fruits in its various forms presents with various culinary opportunities. Starting with the flavoured chutney for breakfast with idlis and dosa, diced into small pieces and mixed a with coconutty paste and curd it serves well as a side dish for meals, finely cut and marinated in spices it can be consumed as a ready to eat pickle, the ripe varieties when boiled with jaggery and pumpkins make a lip-smacking curry; and just after you groggily appear post your afternoon siesta it pops up in the form of a refreshing glass of juice or two.

During the short breaks in between meals, while poring over bound volumes of my father’s and uncle’s Phantom and Mandrake (for the umpteenth time) banana and jackfruit chips serve well.

Day 3

Today is the engagement of my cousin H. The venue is about 30 km from where we live. All of us pile into the car and leave at 7:30 AM having been asked to arrive in time for breakfast. Breakfast appears a kichdi of sorts (that’s what the person serving it claims). It’s a mixed upma of rava and semolina, doused in coconut chutney. A dollop of kesari bath and a cut piece sweet boiled nendra pazham complement the kichdi perfectly. Breakfast done, its time to wait for the senior members (their actual duties explained later) of the groom-to-be’s party. It’s also time to catch up with the rest of the extended family. Gup-shup is suddenly silenced at the arrival of the matchmaking seniors. Surprisingly the groom has no visible duties on his and the bride-to-be’s betrothal as is clear from the fact that he is absent. The seniors now refreshed arrange themselves on both sides of a quickly laid out mat. After hushed words are exchanged the actual engagement process ends with everyone bursting into a round of applause. They have discussed and finalised the date and muhurtam is what I am informed by a better knowing cousin. Another hour is spent chatting. Sudden questions arise on my MBA and I mumble prepared answers and escape from one corner to another.

Lunch is served. In the true traditional format as described here, the banana leaf is spread out and feasting begins. A healthy meal later, traditional games follow; cards and dumb charades!

The evening requires us to visit the Guruvayoor temple. My parents and sister take darshan of Sri Krishna. I rest in the car, driver-like, listening to Ustad Rashid Khan’s The Song of Shiva.

Day 4

Breakfast, nap, lunch, Malayalam movie on Asianet, late afternoon tending to evening siesta, read, IPL, dinner, IPL, sleep.

Day 5

The plains begin to fade. Rolling hills build up slowly and suddenly the board appears, ‘Hairpin Bend 1 of 16’. Another board welcomes us to Idukki, famous for its numerous hydro-electric projects, wondrous rains, breath-taking views, fascinating flora and fauna and its various shades of ‘green’. Vagamon, a small hillock is our final destination for the day, but we decide to drive to the Idukki dam first. En route we come across a well in the middle of the road. Investigations lead to the discovery of water, almost half way down, but defiled by cigarette butts, packs, plastic and other tourist discards. Our next stop is a view point from where the official authorised to dispense viewing point tickets points out Vagamon in the distance. It intermittently goes into hiding behind thick columns of Cirrus before appearing in full splendour, taller and prouder than the surrounding peaks.

We drive on till we reach the Kulamavu Dam. A huge dip covered like a tropical jungle on one side with the reservoir on the other. A bridge leads over the reservoir, wide enough space for a bus to move through. There are 2 Police Outposts at both ends to ensure peace, safety, aid and prevent people from capturing the beauty. A quick conversation struck with them however helps us as they sagely advice against visiting the Idukki Dam, as people cannot gain access without a special permit. Disappointed we take a U-turn and head back down the hill negotiating the same 16 hair-pin bends, this time covered in a mild yet delightful drizzle.Next stop Vagamon. More to follow...

When your on the road...keep drifting.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Great Indian Tamasha and other ideals

Cynicism apart thousands if not lakhs of people walked/rode/(insert mode of transport here) to their respective polling stations and exercised their adult secret franchise yesterday. Secret taking second priority, as most wear their political affiliations on their chests. For me secret remains equally important as the right to exercise my vote. A strong ideal ingrained in me by my father who in turn had been adviced similarly by his father.

A large part of the day was however spent in cynicism, evaluating the bios of the candidates and their manifestos. A mighty task made simpler by Mammoth rather, as the Bangalore Central constituency had 37 candidates battling it out including a certain candidate from the BSP whose symbol inspite of violent ideals incidentally is the gentle pachyderm. Of the 37 candidates, 22 were independents. Independents whose manifestos had agenda varying from shockingly turning their constituency vegetarian to more mundane ideas which most politicians (wannabes included) stand for like water/electricity/education for everyone. My father wondered why there were so many in number. It was quite clear that some were in it for working for the betterment of society, others for the pride, some for the mere fact that they could spare Rs 10,000 to contest; but for most, its their single easiest way to achieve higher hits on the media waves.

The Economist labelled the jumbo democratic exercise as "The worst possible way of choosing a government—apart from all the others". I say the method is fine, the participants ignorant (some gullible) and the politicains (at least most of them) whose fate will be sealed for another five (hopefully) years, delinquents. The end result of this massive exercise will be a hung parliament. Independents and regional parties will eat into the vote banks leading to no clear cut results. Parties will look at reworking alliances post results to best suit their power and monetary requirements. Regional parties will become more vociferous on the national front, as they alreay are. I am sure all points aforementioned have been discussed and digressed about by psephologists/journalists/campaign managers/the public. But the point is: Is there an end to this Tamasha? And no clear answer dawns.

My solution would be to eliminate the number of political parties for the Lok Sabha elections. What we require is a basic two party system. The government and an opposition. A government who has administrative powers. All laws and rules will have to be passed by the general public. It would be a rather long process but it can be implemented. The government would act like a CEO and his team would be answerable to us and we would be the final stake holders. In a country like ours with its (trumpets and drum roll) diverse and colourful paradoxes (where else would you see two ladies walk side by side, one with a pot of water extracted from a hand-pump miles away from home and the other ipod plugged into her ears with the latest Laptop strung across her shoulder) such a proposition is hard to dream about but given the right incentive it should take off. As Alan Moore puts it in V for Vendetta, "People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people." A situation which is very much the case here.

The ideal situation would be when we have the freedom to pursue ends for our own good. What we deem good for ourselves physically and mentally and without impinging or denying what others deem their own benfits. But, as is the scheming mentailty of the human species loopholes will be literally expoited at the drop of the coin. The key word being ideal, utilitarianism is again a distant reality which I dont see happening in my progeny's let alone my own lifetime. However the 'human will' will survive and that day will come...soon.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lets put a smile on that face

A trickster is a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and norms of behavior. And who better a trickster than....from an old photo album of mine gathering dust in the attics of my mountainside home Beetle Juice and The Joker.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

In the Middle of the Night and Death

Having wrongly read a news report of an electronica music show at the Max Muller Bhavan by Mouse on Mars a descendant of Kraftwerk and having also wrongly informed a friend M about the show, at about 22:00 hrs last night I felt it was only right that I make up for having brought her all the way from Koramangala to CMH Road. After downing a hot chocolate, a cappuccino and a rosemary chicken quiche at Gloria Jean's cafe and knowing she had traveled the distance to capture the electronic colours and hues on her Nikon I suggested that we go down the road to the Lakshmipuram Hindu Cemetery. A cemetery in the night time being one of the bullet points on her "To Capture" list.

A silence intermittently broken by the barks of dogs and ever excited, ubiquitous crickets welcomed us as we crossed the open gates. The quintessential cemetery, stood in the stark yellow light of street lamps throwing an occasional shadow which required a furtive second glance to make sure no mysterious characters were lurking in them. Having set up the tripod M got shutter happy and I just looked around, n stick glowering.

Knowing the area from childhood I was aware we were being observed by a couple of inquisitive characters. Ignoring them for a while didnt quite please them as one of them walked in and started questioning us in Hindi first followed by Kannada. On explaining that M was just taking a couple of snaps and not disturbing the environment or creating a ruckus the ruffled inquisitor inquired if we had permission from the gatekeeper who I assumed to be tucked in bed. The time being past 23:30hrs I contested his suggestion believing the gatekeeper didnt want to be disturbed and the fact that I rather didnt want to disturb him right now. On that repartee the inquisitor took the onus of knocking the door of the gatekeeper's ramshackle hut and after repeated knockings and pleas the lady of the house stepped. Much like Helga, wife of Hagar the Horrible in appearance, the rumpled lady was not in much too a friendly mood to have a chat on what we were doing there and our exact purposes. We explained that we were here just to take some photos of the cemetery in the night time and we would not create any issues natural or supernatural. The inquisitor tried convincing that we were upto no good and had to be evicted from the property immediately. "Helga", rubbing sleepy eyes thought otherwise, warned us not to venture into the crepier looking areas and promptly went back to bed. Inquisitor in question slightly ashamed, slunk away after threatening that we should not disturb the peace of the people in their final rest..supernatural blah...supernatural blah...

We moved ahead. M capturing gravestones, trees, the crescent, inquisitive(apparently our man was not the only one) dogs, smoke from my n stick (quite unsuccessfully though), boards advertising coffin and undertaking services. By about 00:30hrs we decided to head back home. On the way back there was another stop to capture the traffic below, on and beyond the flyover connecting the Inner Ring Road and 100 Feet Road. Some beautiful snaps later I saw M off at her home and called it a rather early Saturday morning.

10:30 hrs or so there was some commotion heard from my neighbour's house. On investigating I found that the purohit who had performed the annual death observance ceremonies had uttered the final ritual incantations and had himself collapsed. Further investigation led me to conclude from a body already quite cold as well as any visible lack of breathing that the man was dead. However to reassure the neighbour that such was not the case and that there could be hope I quickly put the man into the car and drove him to the nearest nursing home. The doctor on duty presumably shared my sentiments explaining that she could not feel a pulse and advised us to rush to Chinmaya Mission Hospital. After weaving in and out of traffic for about 15 minutes we reached the hospital only to be confirmed that the purohit had indeed died. Tight lipped the neighbour and I waited for the purohit's son and daughter in law to arrive, complete the necessary formalities and then returned home.

It was only at home when it struck me that I had a near reverse chronological experience of visiting the cemetery first and then the death, all in less than a span of half a day.
Its a funny thing how after a life of division; from birth through caste, creed, sex, wealth, knowledge, position, health; a life of being ahead or being beaten by someone; a life of compromises, competition, celebration, confusion; everyone meets the same end-Death. Death is the ultimate leveler.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Going down cancer street

when you re going...

it winds long and dark
tenacious muck dually lined
perceived emotions of lightness dawn
burdens add drawing deeper within oneself
yellow stains mark ends
constantly gnawed at to hide and cover
sticks in packs of ten add
false cheer and misery too
addicted comprehended realisation evades
rock n roll angst ridden rebel act
psychoanalytical reasons put forth
anthemic songs pour praise
denounced closer home
days of sunshine burn

...down cancer street

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Emosonal eat-achchar

Frank Zappa said "There are more love songs than anything else. If songs could make you do something we'd all love one another."
Now, we dont all love one another, do we? That's out of the question unless you are a saint or one too many down in a bar, suddenly you love all around except the one you made an attempt at dating. The "datee" in question comes at the wrong end of your spleen venting, foul tongued mouth. But then Zappa's statement would be rendered void. But then his statement is true only and only if "songs make you do something...". What if you listen to it and move onto the next song on your playlist? And that song turns out to be "Emosonal Atyachar"? That brings memories to your mind...bad memories, of course you hardly have any good memories.Its not meant to be. Of times when you thought you were in love, thought being the operative word. You tend to perceive Dev's emotions. His, being pickled in a bottle of Smirnoff and yours neatly bottled in the deep recesses of grey matter. You commiserate with him on the lack of spice in life. And then the answer dawns, The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything (love included) is not 42; it's achchar!
Rice, dal (pappu-charu) and pickle, 'As Gult as it Gets'.
Enough rambling...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Musical Journeys

Culture and all its siblings (cousins included) descended on Bangalore the last two weeks as she witnessed music, dance, theatre and all the assorted ensemble which makes up the wonderful world of art.

Starting with the Iron Maiden concert at Palace Grounds on February 15th, practically every evening was spent in a mood of complete intoxication of (mostly)divine music. Maiden, was a visit out of sheer habit, to attend any international rock act in Bangalore. Unlike last time as I heard, when I missed the show, from attendees that they had come to promote their at that point latest album, A Matter of Life and Death,they did belt out the classics. Song upon song, Bruce Dickinson and the Saggy Gang came at you like a dragon whose fire was not so hot anymore. Though he flung himself all over the stage, cavorted, head-banged, rabble-roused the crowd,etc. the essential trooper quality was missing. Or atleast, so I think. Having sufficiently doused the liver with products from Mallaya's stable, critical thought had been dumbed down to a certain extent. Anyway in between such numbers as The Number of the Beast, Fear of the Dark, 2 Minutes to Midnight and such, there were a couple of incidents worth a mention.

No 1. A tall, rather pretty, blonde, presumably from Poland, passing me, took a moment off from her conversation with her acquaintance, looked at me and said, "You have a nice beard!" Ah bliss. The moment too short, her legs too long and off she had gone.

No 2. Mallya's stable was opened on various occasions through the show and after 4 such runs in the stable, I decided I had to take a bungee jump, which was conveniently located outside the arena. Having taken a medical before the jump, I was buckled and hooked up onto a long elastic cable and then lifted into what at that point looked like the stratosphere (exaggerated now it seems, but nonetheless quite high.) On reaching the highest point I was asked to turn around, let go of the handles and step off. Two seconds later I fell, much like Gibreel and Saladin, though it was 1/222nd the height from where they took off, and I had a cord attached.

On day 2 regulation black tees were shunned and the bright kurtas took prominence. It was after all an evening of cultured grace. Having opened the concerto with Beethoven, the Scottish Chamber conducted by David Murphy were truly magnificent and beautiful. Adding beauty to the stage was a lady of East Asian origin on the cello weaving gracefully, with short flicks of her hair.
Later the stage was handed over to the venerable Amjad Ali Khan on the sarod accompanied by the Pt.Tanmoy Bose and even later the Scottish Orchestra joined the maestro, putting forth shimmering waves of the most divine kind. Each string was coaxed by his masterful hands to a point of no return when suddenly it was realised that there further levels to explore. His favourite tune (I have heard him play it atleast on three different stages before) Ekla Chalo Re by Rabindranath Tagore was rendered most beautifully with the minutest of vibrations being heard clearly across the hall. The latter half was equally exotic with a jugalbandi and hence the name of the concerto, Samagamam.

Day 3 was less cultured to the Day 2. Saw Dev D, and whatay movie. Anurag Kashyap truly blew the levels of societal comfort. His show of excesses realistic yet surreal in terms of its depiction. I especially liked the Twilight Players and what cannot be said about Emotional Atyachar...nothing.

Day 4 was reserved for some carnatic music, the Mysore Brothers, Nagaraj and Manjunath on violin. Three hours of ethereal divinity (though its a word I dont much associate with) and about 45 minutes of that period dedicated to understand the legerdemain of a certain Umayalpuram K Shivaraman and his adept sishya Arjun Kumar.

And so on and so forth...add a bit of Evam and their rib tickling Macbeth-The Original Spoof...some more ransacking of Mallya's entrance exam to a certain institute going wrong...more ransacking in honour or disregard of the exam...Playstation at Mr P's house...and a fortnight passed.

Day...? The evening sun mellowed into a purplish bruise as I set off from Mr.P's house. Ms M. picked up from a pre-designated spot, petrol tank filled and close to 27 kms later we were at the Srishti Institute of Design. A night of Sufi music infused with Kabir's lyrics awaited us. As we waited for the hostess of the evening Ms. S and Mr. A to arrive I met my cousin N.
What followed was an eclectic mix of nirgun style Hindustani classical (Vijay Sardeshmukh, later to be found as a disciple of the great Pt. Kumar Gandharva) thumris (Vidya Rao), hypnotic Rajasthani folk (Mahesha Ram) and ecstatic qawalis (Farid Ayaz, who sang with true aplomb). It was unlike anything I had experienced in a long while. Unfortunately the police as they usually do, played truant, and stopped the proceedings at about a quarter past two in the morning, in the process leaving a wide gap in the soul, having missed or rather forced to miss the performances of two other folk singers Mukhtiyar Ali and Shafi Faqir.
Having retired to N's abode and proceedings concluded including a viewing of favourite scenes from Snatch, topped by this, we crashed about four hours after the music was stopped at the design school.
The morn brought a bright sun out, leaving little but me out on the long ride to Ms.S's home for lunch. Nice wining and dining followed...

PS- This post was pending a long while since the first thought of it happened as soon as the tall, blond Pole complimented my beard. It took a while in the making...a couple of hours on the upper end in front of the comp...hazaar ransackings of Mallya's stable and pit-stops at various points across Bangalore as well as of the mind.

PPS- It is dedicated to cousin (removed twice?)A, who was the prime reason for me landing at the Maiden concert. If you are reading, lets RockNRolla!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bored at Work

When bored at work the internet is the proven answer to unleash you into a hyper-relistic world of stories that overwhelm you, leaving you gasping for more and more importantly not so bored anymore.
In a recent such incident I came across this and which later led me to this.

P.S.- My stomach lining was split in the process and is healing quite well now.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Family Functions

I was at a family function yesterday. Most of my family functions happen in Kerala. They work as great excuses to bunk office, travel by train and most importantly EAT. Once in Kerala the routine numbing weekday transforms into a highly orgiastic day of exercising number two and number four of the Seven Sins, Gluttony and Sloth.
This last visit saw me wolf down 8 appams with stew followed by 4 adas(a sweet preparation of jaggery and grated coconut in a flattened momo style rice flour, the whole preparation is then steamed in a banana leaf). There is nothing better than a Malayalam movie to keep you company in the midst of all this and Mukillyatha Rajyatha was heaven sent at that moment.
Promptly after the last ada vanished from my plate the eyelids turned heavy and the bed beckoned. Morning siesta over it was time for lunch. Though the fare was a simple rice/sambar affair the highlight for me was the unlimited servings of banana chips and 2 preparations of raw mango, one a chutney kind of curry and the other a freshly cut and spiced pickle. Lunch over it was time for another trip to a far far land. The heat tried playing spoilsport with a power failure but with such a laden tummy nothing could stop me.

The function was a "grand success" as such events are described in various sections of the media.

A general occurrence at such events is that all the seniors in attendance, out of curiosity and possibly ulterior motives of a future alliance making, enquire on my status education wise-"MBA not done still?" and work-"how is the new company?". These are the the two prime questions, followed by other meanderings. I have been wondering if there is a possibility in the near future where such curious peoples' lives is made easier with a tablet kind of contraption which lists out the tedious details of a person's bio-data matrimony-wise.

PS: Ennui continues unabated after the lazy weekend trip to Kerala.

Rest my weary limbs/soul/eyelids.

Reader's block

I am facing a major (atleast I think so) problem for the past couple of weeks or more. I cant read anything for more than 5 minutes. I start off something and then 5 or max 10 mins later I have turned to something else. Concentration is becoming highly economic. Irritability is also high. Withdrawal symptoms was my first guess, and then I asked from what?
Settings might be main cause I have decided. Most of the reading now happens on the way and back from office. Travel takes a good 2 hrs of my day. Its tough to concentrate when you are virtually in the middle of a death race with each driver taking out his bit of anger, with the world, on Hosur Road. Add to it the high bass effects of the latest hits from Hindi and Kannada mixed with the non stop raucous talk of RJs, and any reading goes for a toss.

The downside of such travel and 9 hours of work in between is when you are back home the only thing you wish to do is get numbed by the TV. Its quite unbothersome in the way it sits there and lets you stare at it. Apart from exercising your eyes It hardly troubles the body. The lone digit that has to change the channel gets slightly vexed at moments but never feels strained. But wait I am digressing, my reading habits were being talked about till a while ago. See, its the same with writing. I have in my to do list 3 posts pending, one on the trip to Bijapur, one a short story and the third about the Bullet ride to Sakleshpur. The topic of discussion wanders away, untethered. Is it a sign of a crossover from the classical to the days of hyperlinking and shortening of patience?

Maybe I just need a good lazy Sunday to put up the legs and open a taut thriller or a mellow travelogue.

Maybe I just need to put my mind to it.