December 30, 2008

Waiting for the New Year

It’s a cold night at Delhi and as usual I am at the airport. I perhaps could have stayed back for the night and met a few friends but that just didn’t feel right. Somehow, winters have always been Calcuttan to me. Even during my Pilani days, Christmas and New Year would be in Cal. Not that I would do much there but still it felt so very Christmas-y if you know what I mean. Even in Bangalore it was chilly. And I was the Santa. Mumbai just doesn’t have it in terms of a lovely winter.

I think I have this extremely sad habit of falling in love with cities. I dislike Delhi as a city, there’s no doubt about that. But today as I stopped under the Moolchand Flyover to have the most delicious Aloo paranthas in the evening chill, I could not but help love the weather, the aroma and of course the food of Delhi. It has its beauty in other areas too. The way consumers tell me “Haanji Beta”, it feels so much at home. That typical sing song of the Delhi tongue enthrals me.

Just a few more hour before another year comes to an end. This year too the 31st will be just like any other 31st. At office till evening and then a nice cosy bed and a good book or maybe very close friends. But as I look back, I see how different the situations in reality are. Last December, as a trainee I was fighting for survival. Fighting to pick up the broken pieces of my ego and build a collage out of them. I was worried about what the New Year would bring.

It’s not that I know what 2009 will bring for me. But I feel more confident about facing it. I don’t know if I have got any better at what I do. Maybe the academic in me is swooning under corporate delivery pressure and the professional in me is loving the adrenalin rush of it all. However, what I do know is that I have become less of an intellectual snob. In 2007, fresh out of college, I considered myself one of the best in terms of laddering techniques. I stand humbled by Ms. Pammi of Pant Nagar, Rinadi of Bagha Jatin, Urvashi Ben of Ahmedabad and Santhi Amma of Mylapore. When I know what they actually want, I might get a little snobbish again. But that day is far far away.

My wardrobe slowly is seeing a shift. Pathetically boring shirts and T shirts are coming in. My Spiderman T shirts are on their way out. Women I meet actually pass sniggering comments on them. If only they knew, how tough it is to find a Floyd T shirt, a customized Spiderman T shirt or even a Calvin one. The campus clothes also are on the back foot. I really wish I had R again to help me choose clothes just like she did before Placements. But hers being one of the many weddings I missed this year, I am too afraid to ask her. The number of my unmarried friends is dwindling drastically. It may soon be the case that V and I remain the sole bachelors amongst all the people I know.

As I step into 2009, I realize once again that I love my work. Yes I sell Oil, soaps, soups to earn some money (and blow them up by being a regular customer of legally printed copies of books and a regular at movie theatres) but as long as I feel nice I really don’t care. The problem happens when I try to explain to people what I do for a living. My grand mom got extremely suspicious when she heard that my company actually pays for my flight tickets so that I can go and speak to middle aged Indian homemakers. I am sure she still doesn’t believe me. After all she never liked the census guys getting into her kitchen and taking a tally of the number of LPG cylinders she had.

So 2008 is almost up. And surprisingly the flight is just a little delayed. The fog’s kind on me. In the misty mornings of Delhi, I suddenly realized that sometimes, however much we try; the old times never come back. The misty mornings (and evenings when the train was even more delayed) in Delhi once marked the beginning of a new term in college and the frantic search for a cab to deliver us and our luggage at the campus. Today, the misty mornings in Delhi just means delayed flights and flayed tempers.

But then Life goes on. And I must find a song for the New Year.

December 26, 2008

Khan Fan Versus Khan Fan

I went (rather had to) to watch Ghajini with the guy who introduced me to watching movies at theatres. We used to come back together in the same bus from school and I would listen with awe at his rendition of the greatest blockbusters of the year. He used to watch all movies either at the cinemas or in a VCR at home and tell me the stories in details. His eyes would grow wide as he recounted how Aamir Khan met with an accident when Madhuri Dixit came to call him in Dil. I would listen, speechless and in awe. My first movie with him was a Madhuri Dixit Starrer with Saif and Akshay in the male leads. We had just given our ICSE and was allowed for the first time to go to the movies alone, by ourselves. And it had to be Madhuri Dixit, for him. A couple of years later, on a fateful day in December, he took me to watch Mohabbatein. He had bought the tickets the day he went to get the entrance exam forms. We went there straight from the exam hall. That was our last movie together as high school students.

He was also (and luckily still remains) my oldest best friend. If we were a brand, I would perhaps call ourselves “Best Friends since 1989”. The reason why “I had to watch” was because if there was a Shahrukh Khan fan worth his salt, it would be him and I hadn’t ever watched an Aamir Khan movie with him. You perhaps would remember the discussion of the warring Khan camps. It all started in school. Sometimes I feel school friends who stick with you are a special breed. You do not remember how many runs they scored in the cricket matches, or their grades, or where they work, or how far they stay. What you do remember is how he stood up for you in Class 5 when everyone for the first time doubted you - that same you who till a few days ago could do no wrong.

There will be two types of people who would go to watch Ghajini. First the prude types like me, who have watched Memento and would constantly compare the two movies. The second would be the numerous people who wouldn’t have watched either the Tamizh version or the original memento.

Long long back in the early nineties, when Aamir was still in his chocolate hero image, SRK had redefined violence in the Indian movies with Bazzigar. He gave us our first Antihero. The guy actually killed an innocent girl in the movie and got away scot free. Everyone in the halls had tears in their eyes for the misguided young man. Then had come Darr, Anjaam and the rest. With that one move SRK had left competition far far behind.

With Ghajini, Aamir walks the same line, perhaps for the first time and he pulls it off with ease, just like you would expect him to be. This is NOT an Aamir Khan movie. This is not what makes him stand out and yet, you can see how he has humanized the entire dark humour of Christopher Nolan’s original. Of course, you might argue, the plot has thinned. The dividing lines between good and evil are distinct and you have no doubts about whose side you are on. It doesn’t tax your brain too much.

The movie is long, maybe a bit too long. And as my dear friend says, it’s a Sunny Deol or a Salman Khan movie. He would know. We had watched Garv - Pride and Honour and Gadar - Ek Prem Katha together. I get overtly excited by such movies. He longed for his SRK mushes.

But apart from that you would like to watch this movie for two things. Aamir’s expressions and Asin’s effortless acting. In fact, if Ghajini were two movies, I believe both would have done extremely well. One would be one of the best Love stories of the year and the other just another senseless violent movie. Of all women who came into Bollywood mainstream this year, she takes the cake and the cherry along with it.

So we walked out of the movie, no longer with arms on each others shoulders as that is banned in these post Dostana days and I just realized how we had swapped our roles. He no longer watched movies at the theatres. I, with a strange loyalty towards the movie making fraternity (after the opening credits of Mr. Incredible) watch almost every single movie released on the big screen. But then, when we are together, such things don’t seem to matter much.

By the way, why do sensible parents bring kids to watch such gory movies?

December 24, 2008

Prose and Poetry

One of the most endearing pictures of the quintessential Indian loser in love is walking crazily across the road, with a bottle in hand and speaking in his mind to his girl back home.

So yesterday I was in a similar situation with a few minor details changed. I had a benadryl bottle in my hand, I was walking unsteadily due to a hurt toe and I was on phone with my grandmom with the headset on. But anyway, my similarity with Dev D is a matter of a different post.

One of the many reasons I love talking to my grandparents is that they are the last remaining lexicons on Bengali poetry in my life. So as the Benadryl was beginning to have its effect on me and the taxis seemed to not notice my sizable bulk, she reminded me of a poem by Kalidas Roy.

Here’s the gist – The master and his disciple decide to go all the way on Rameshwaram to Tribeni to bring the sacred waters and pour it on the head of their deity in Rameshwaram. For days they walked and finally reached Tribeni, filled their container with water and started their long journey back.

On the way they meet a donkey almost dying of thirst amongst parched lands. The master stopped and asked the disciple to give the water to the donkey. A devoted disciple that he was, the disciple agreed without a question. But he wasn’t happy. 

After walking for a few more hours, the master asked, “What happened? You don’t seem to be happy.” 

The disciple burst out, “We went all the way, undertook all the hardships and now we are going back tired, dejected and empty handed because we gave the holy water to a donkey!”

The master smiled and answered, “Don’t you see how lucky we are? Because we were so tired, our Lord himself came all the way from Rameshwaram so that we could give him the water here itself. He did not want us to carry the water all the way with our tired bodies.”

Merry Christmas everyone. Spread the joy.

December 13, 2008

Dream Merchant

I am unabashedly a member of the Amir Khan Camp. I always thought Shahrukh was the hero, Amir was the actor. Even though I loved DTPH, DDLJ and every single one of his blockbusters, my loyalties lay with Amir. It was a matter of proving my snobbishness. Amir was the Thinker’s actor for me. Of course, post his ‘Love Love Love’ days. Kal Ho Na Ho changed a lot of my perceptions about Shahrukh. I always loved his movies though. But I thought with his age, he was becoming preachy. Remember Main Hoon Na? The third time onwards I was watching the movie for Sush and not SRK.

SRK is King Khan. He does not need my stamp of approval but something changed in him in the last couple of years. I think the turning point was KANK. After that horrible movie, maybe SRK realized he needed to explore newer territories. And one after the other, the surprises came. Not many people can pull off a Chak De and OSO simultaneously and make me consider changing camps.

It’s not that I do not respect Amir anymore. But then given the mass Govinda loving guy that I am who sometimes goes back into his shell to watch my Bergman and Ray, I need a SRK who can traverse both territories with perfect ease.

Anyway, now about Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. First day Third Show :) It’s much better than reading reviews and going with a warped mindset. Of course I will not tell you the story since there is no story. Taani is forced to marry Surinder Sahni and they both know she will never be in love with him. But he falls in love with his wife, for the first time in his life and invents Raj, all that he aspires to be.

If it was not for King Khan, it would have been one of the most boring movies ever. But somehow this movie is the redemption for Aditya Chopra and SRK. They finally made a movie making the hero out of the man who has filled up the stalls every day for their movies for the last 20 odd years. The Indian common man, going on trains everyday to office now has a hero he can identify with. It’s no longer about he NRI mansions and dream sequences in Switzerland. It’s about his dreams. It’s about his dreams of a foreign honeymoon. It’s about finding love in the day to day life. Maybe how he achieves his dream is still unreal but not SRK.

SRK pulls off his dual role with ease and showcases the strange workings of the human psyche where man and his alter ego are constantly at war till a co-existence comes to settle down between them. Sometimes for the one he loves, a man decides to give up his ego and be one with his alter ego. Before I keep on gushing about SRK, I should also say that Vinay Pathak is the new Middle Class Rahul Bose of Indian Cinema. He is our next door Dubeyji. He is us and he is getting better at becoming us.

The choices that Taani (newcomer Anouska Sharma) faces might seem harsh on her. One should not be put in front of such choices. As Vinay Pathak says, at the end of the day we are all human. But in putting these choices in front of her, SRK makes Surinder Sahni all the more believable.

The movie will not be a reviewer’s favourite but somehow I know a lot of Indians will identify with the movie. You will feel like crying during the movie seeing what SRK goes through but then you’ll love every time Raj comes out of the closet. This movie is a rebirth of SRK. He goes back to the days when he did Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman and was the one we grew up with. Oh, by the way, do not miss the ending credits.

A pop quiz for you – Where does this line occur? “All my life I wanted to be somebody. Now I know I should have been more specific.

December 09, 2008

Dance Like a Man

I have been keeping quite for sometime now as I do not want to judge anyone or anything prematurely. But I have finally given up. After visiting quite a few discos and lounges I have come to the conclusion that the Urban Indian Man actually does not know how to dance. Visit any discotheque in the country and I guarantee you that you will see similar steps being reproduced everywhere. In fact, I think if I spare some time, I can also categorize the steps. It’s not that the Urban Indian Woman is any better. However, she has one saving grace - The Delhite. As much as I dislike the National Capital Region as a place to live, I have to give it to the Delhi Women.

When I was in this village in Rajasthan, they used to come in like these angels from outer world, making our heartthrobs and village belles look like simpletons. I think after sometime, the women in my village gave up trying to rein in their meandering men with the Delhi women around. Bespectacled studious men could be found acting like zombies, Newsletter editors would bend rules of the competition to accommodate the LSR team and Presidents would take the job of a fresher in showing people to their rooms.

Around the Oasis when these nomads from Delhi pitched their tent, the villagers would eagerly lap up the knowledge and secrets of the dance moves and in the next community singing session called Music Nights, you would see those steps being repeated by the villagers. But let’s get back to our urban Indian disco.

So while the Delhi woman adds the class, South Indian film stars (barring Prabhudeva) adds the mass. So whenever the DJ gets bored of seeing everyone dancing in a similar fashion, you can often see him changing into a ‘mass Tam’ song or that sole Aaika Dajeeba from Maharashtra. A sudden change happens in the crowd. If these are crowds who have had initiation to the great histrionics of Telugu superstars, you will see amazing steps suddenly come alive on the dance floor, the Delhi women throw a sign of disgust and move back to their margaritas to reenergize. Mithunda and Govinda were dealt a raw deal I feel at times. If only they were born in these times, it might well have been their moves that would be scorching the dance floors.

In the last decade, another phenomenon has come up. While Punjab showed us the way toward prosperity through Green Revolution, they are also responsible for the complete breakdown of the Urban Indian Man’s understanding of dance. EVERY SONG CAN’T BE DANCED AS A BHANGRA. Someone should go and tell it to the poor little rich kids. Also Bhangra I feel is a beautiful art form and should not be danced to the tunes of Shakira. But then who cares for what I feel.

The saving grace all over India as I have said are the women from Delhi. Even at the cost of alienating friends I have to accept that they are the trendsetters at most discos across the country.

Anyway, I have never been fond of discos. I have finally zeroed in on what I like. Call me prudish but I feel that it’s a dance if only if you ask someone to dance and lead her to the floor. And since I can not do that to the tunes of “Come on Baby light my fire” I’d rather sit back on the sofa and dream of waltzing in the French Riviera. If you have seen the Tango in “Scent of a Woman” you’ll know what I mean.

So, discos are out for me. It shall only be lounges with 70s rock, Jazz and country (if any at all) - Me, my kind of music and my Peach Iced tea. And if I can’t find them, I shall stay away to keep my sanity.

December 04, 2008

Life As A Soap Opera

A friend and I were having dinner the other day after watching Dasvidaniya. After a lot of real life experiences I have come to the conclusion that most of my life’s problems have their roots in the minds of intelligent women I have had the privilege of knowing. Take for example this movie. Had I watched it with an intelligent man, we would have watched it, he would have listened to my dard bhari dastaan of something under the sun (I never run out of them), we would have dinner and coffee, shaken hands and plan the next movie. If he were an ubersexual man, we would perhaps have discussed how brilliant the acting was. How non-melodramatic and therefore lovable the movie turned out to be. We might also have analyzed the characters and told each other how badly it hurts when friends change, how on-top-of-the-world you feel when you finally are able to say what’s in your heart to your childhood sweetheart, how painful it is for the family to accept that a member will soon be no more amongst them.

In effect, we would have decided that it was one of the really good movies we have seen in some time, in these dark days of enjoying Hello and Golmaal Returns. In an aside, when I went to watch Fashion with an intelligent man, we had watched it, felt really depressed and in complete unanimity decided that the only way to lift our spirits up was to watch Golmaal Returns.

But intelligent women, hell bent on causing trouble choose to do things differently. As I looked intently about the menu wondering why the Thai had to give me such choices like the Green and the Red Curry she suddenly asks me, “So what would the movie on your life be like?” This is essentially a no-brainer if a guy puts the question to you. You would agree that both your lives are soap operas, make fun at the K serials and then go back to decide between the Thai Red and the Thai Green Curries.

But intelligent women ask it in such a manner that they make you think. And they seldom take an answer which is not well thought out. Either the Thai Green Curry that she had ordered or my safe answer of “My life is like a new age multiplex movie” might have saved the day for me but it got me thinking. This is the other problem of having dinner with intelligent health conscious women. Not only do they make you conscious of your food intake, but they also make you think. Men, on the other hand, order more than they can eat and keep thinking topics out of the dinner table. We discuss cricket.

So after a lot of thought, like a true blue diploma holder in management, I decided to go by the elimination route. The last time I actually fought was with a fellow bong in my wing in third year when he, draped in his shawl, came running towards me with a broom, for lack of a better weapon of course. My response to such dastardly attack was to pick up my own unused broom and defend myself. Since this won’t be an exciting fight sequence Action is out.

Being a Bong I believe I have a birthright on romanticism, but when I bounced this idea off a few close friends, they started laughing like there was no tomorrow. Apparently for a romantic movie, you first need the romance between two individuals. Uncouth people, what will they know of ‘thought-romanticism’ where you are in love with a thought, an image!!!

So Romance was out. And as comical I might be to look at, I definitely do not have incidents in my life that will make an audience begging for more. People in my college could not grasp the worth of my jokes, what will the world understand?

Mythologies and period epics are out for obvious reasons. Last time I defied my father was over choosing something for the house which later was vetoed out by mom who obviously chose the best and something completely different from both our choices. It’s not like I found some Anarkali, took her to dad who threatened to cut me off from takht-e-hindustan. I think the way things are going, mom and dad would be very happy if I announce one day, “here is my Anarkali.” And it actually turns out to be a woman and not a pomegranate.

Superheroes were a possibility. I avidly watched Shaktimaan when I was a kid. But then, travelling in a crowded Mumbai local everyday is not exactly a super power. And I haven’t yet been able to get up on a Virar Fast and get down at Dadar at 7:30 in the evening.

College was a strong possibility. Friends form a big part of my existence. But Indian audiences need the romance in college. There has to be a triangle somewhere. So that went out. My musical prowess is tending towards minus infinity so anything like a Rock On is also out of the question.

So finally I came across this one movie which can be the story of my life. But it’s late in the night and I’m feeling like I’m the re-incarnation of Fermat. So long then, Adios.

December 01, 2008

On Dec 1st

Sit, drink your coffee here; your work can wait awhile.

You're twenty-six, and still have some of life ahead.

No need for wit; just talk vacuities, and I'll

Reciprocate in kind, or laugh at you instead.

The world is too opaque, distressing and profound.

This twenty minutes' rendezvous will make my day:

To sit here in the sun, with grackles all around,

Staring with beady eyes, and you two feet away.

-- Vikram Seth

November 30, 2008

The Last Vestiges of Sanity

It happened. Finally at my doorstep. The newspaper headlines that always seemed so distant happened just beside me; at the places I walk everyday. The Trident, The Taj, Leopold’s – everything was so much a part of the Mumbai I had come to live and love. Having my office in South Mumbai made me feel like a townie even after the travel every day on local trains. I felt I belonged. If it makes any sense to you, I felt like Shantaram.

I don’t know how many of you have read the book. Whether you love Mumbai or not you might love this book just for its story. I haven’t read many books which were written straight from the heart. I haven’t read many books where every word spoke of an emotional turmoil. Yes, maybe just maybe the author gets excited at the smallest of things. Maybe, his life is too exciting to be considered “normal” yet his loyalty, his friendship, his love and his heartbreaks are as real as it can get. I have seen my Karla, may be not at Colaba. I have been called back by Abdullah, maybe not at Hazi Ali, I have felt the Ecstasy of Mumbai, maybe not at his Bombay.

The characters – they were all so real. Karla, the woman for whom you bet everything - knowing fully well that behind her smiles the dagger is hidden. Lisa, the woman who loves you despite your faults. Abdullah, your friend who comes back for you from the dead and Khader – the superhero in your life for whom you have risked everything.

That night as calls started coming in, I started shaking. Every call was a reminder of what was going on. Every call told me that I could have been there. Fate, I do not know if she exists. But if she does, then she rolled the dice in my favour this time. I felt like a coward for being thankful that I wasn’t there and therefore every message that came in asking how I was seemed to mock at my impotency. For every message I sent out enquiring about friends and their families, there was at least ten whom I had forgotten. Have you seen “A Wednesday”? I kept remembering a scene where Naseeruddin Shah describes his shock at not seeing a familiar face one day in his regular compartment at the Local Train. I do not know when I return to Mumbai how many of such people I will not see.

They say everyone has their own way of dealing with trauma. I shrank back to my books. I re read Shantaram that night. I brought out the tub of ice cream after 7 long years from the refrigerator and in the chilly night of November, the afraid, impotent me read Shantaram and cried for the city I had come to love so much. Comfort food, sometimes, even that is of no use.
The next few days were horrible. Mumbai was everyone’s favourite topic. My cousin and one of my oldest friends was getting married and yet everyone was talking about Mumbai. My Mumbai, molested and left dying was the centre of every discussion. And I just kept silent.

The headache is terrible. The Crocin does not seem to have any effect. And yet there are words forming on my keyboard. Words that are asking me to go back as fast as I can, to stand once again at the Gateway and help my city stand up and be counted once again. Sometimes in hallucination we find our last vestiges of sanity.

November 21, 2008

The Massager and the Masseuse

Most Indian men’s fascination with the erotic begins with the dream of the Sandwich Massage in Bangkok. Taking the form of an urban legend, the exact details of what happens in such massages depends on who is telling you the story. Having only access to untrusted massage parlours and the Kerala clinics, men in India had to be content with knowing Phoebe Buffay as the most famous Masseuse in India but then she killed the fantasy out of the story. Anyway, what Indian youth, especially men, consider a massage to be has been brilliantly portrayed in The Inscrutable Americans so let me not dwell on that.

The best massage I have got has always been from my old barber. After pounding on the skulls of my grandfather and father, he loved to get my young tender head. I am sure that the reason behind my lack of intelligence can be attributed to those massages that must have shifted the Nobel Prize winning sections of my head. I still remember my last massage from him. When I came back from my second year in college looking like a well fed Lennon with an Elvis sideburn, my mom refused to allow me into the house. Dumping my bags, I moved out to search for my good old barber. Tears of joy rolled down his cheeks when he grabbed hold of my ‘mane’ and reduced me to a new recruit at the Army and played a Zakir Hussain number on my skull.

The often mentioned thing about CEOs is that they have a full understanding of the value chain. No one knows it better than me when it comes to football. I started by shouting my lungs out for Mohun Bagan and Germany when I was a kid. Then by virtue of my position as the class monitor I used to kick off the ball and be the striker in the matches at lunch break. That was Class 2 I guess. Good sense prevailed soon and I handled the mid field. By around Class 7 I was defending. Lothar Matthheus inspired a short Libero stint before I was a full back. Ultimately, just before the basketball bug bit me, I was happily guarding the goal. At this point, while working for the school team, I also handled the first aid box and because most school kids miss the ball and hit on the legs, I slowly learnt to give an awesome massage to hurt shins, thighs and calf muscles. Value chain can’t get better than this.

Anyway, so while I was at the Radisson, I had an option of choosing between a Balinese massage and the Sports Massage. My school days came back and I actually wanted to know how the real one goes. So, yes as illogical as it might sound I opted for the Sports Massage. As I entered the room and looked for the lady whose name I saw on my card, in came a man smiling profusely. It was not going to be a masseuse but a massager. I believe he gets similar looks like the one on my face. So he gives me a cherubic smile and leads me to the sacrificial table. If you have seen the Seinfeld episode where George finds his massage therapist is a man, you will get what I am talking about.

But, he was good. Real good. Sports Massage rocks and hurts a bit too.

November 17, 2008

Moving Out and Moving In

I have been in Mumbai on and off for about a year now. And most of the time has been spent with friends in this one particular apartment building. So it was finally time for me to explore the opportunities as the group slowly started moving out. Gladly, I did not have to go through the usual painful process of searching for a house in Mumbai, so this I guess is not a post about that ordeal which I know I have to face very soon.

Tomorrow is another day, as Scarlett had rightly said.

Anyway, the apartment I left was lovingly called the Wadala Sheraton. It had a lovely graveyard on one side, a hill on the other, and a rail track somewhere along the road. But I guess what made Wadala Sheraton so engrossing were the people you stayed with. People with whom you could chat up till late in the night, people who would call you up to get the numbers of the restaurants nearby, people who would wake you up from your pre sleep slumber at 10 in the night on Friday to take you to the disco.

Move on, as everyone always tells me.

My new house is nice. I have a great roommate. We don’t see each other often though as we are travelling most of the time. But we both seem to have similar cuteness quotient ratings for women we know in common. Also, like me, he’s a great follower of the Bro Code. So I have no issues in introducing the future hypothetical woman in my life to him, if need be. Most men I know are scared these days and the Bro Code is breaking down.

The greatest thing about the apartment is the amazing sofa cum bed (if you have watched Bachna Aye Haseno, remember the bed of Ranvir just before Bips moves in with him? Unfortunately no such luck here. The building is teeming with spoilt and irritating kids but no one who can hold a candle to Bips. But man lives in Hope.) and the amazing view that the window provides – a vast expanse of empty land. Incidentally that is something you get only if you are rich enough or lucky enough to afford a sea facing apartment in this city. So the smell in the morning not withstanding, it’s a great place. And it helps that a movie theatre is nearby. Not helpful on my wallet though as it’s turning out. Also the travel time to anywhere has increased exponentially. Such is life in Mumbai. You can never get everything.

A move is again on the cards soon. Let’s see where Siddhi Vinayak takes me.

November 05, 2008

The Answer

When we were together, we mostly played with words and tried to laugh away our best opportunities to see each other clearly… Whenever there is the least sign of the nest becoming a zealous rival of the sky, my mind, like a migrant bird, tries to take… flight to a distant shore.

Not my words. But I am too small a person to comment on this. Find out who said this to whom and it will give you new insights into relationships.

November 03, 2008

A Bong at a Tam Bram Wedding

I am often looking out for alternative professions. Not that I dislike my current job. In fact, I consider myself one of the most content soap sellers across the world, but then it always is nice to keep an option open. You never know when people decide they no longer need to take a bath.

So even though I may not be as hot as JLo and there are already too many relatives planning an Indian Wedding, I think I do have a future as a Wedding Lifter. Let me try to explain the concept of a lifter. In every Bong movie which has a wedding, at some point of time or the other there will be a scene where the haggard looking parents of the bride/groom will tell some friends (this friend might be the sacrificing hero/heroine), “Biyeta tule de.” This roughly translates as “ensure that everything goes off smoothly” but literally it translates to “Lift the wedding.” Having been in such a situation quite a few times in Bong weddings, of course never as the hero leave alone the sacrificing type, I consider myself a professional “Wedding Lifter”.

So when I made this sort of promise to myself that I will try and attend every wedding of my friends, I realized that my capabilities can now extend beyond Bengal. So I had been to hard core Traditional Indian weddings and numerous Fraud weddings but yet was to see a full blown Tam Bram Wedding.

Now two people deciding to bug each other for the rest of their lives seem to give an evil satisfaction to people all around who make the bride and the groom feel the same false sense of joy and they disregard my sane advice to run away from the wedding. Anyway, it helps me become a Pan Indian Wedding Lifter.

But a Bong and a Tam Bram wedding feels a little better than a fish out of water, just a little better, no more. Especially if the person is as callous about his dressing sense as I am, you begin to feel completely lost in the maze of Kanzivaram Sarees and glittering jewellery. The men however are not as bad. Thank God Tam men do not see normal Hindi movies. Everyone above the Vindhyas have heard Kajol say those prophetic words in K3G – something about men looking like a loser with out the Kurta of Lucknow or something like that. You get my point. I loved SRK’s reply. Like typical SRK, he comes along in the suggested dress and says,

“na lucknow da kurta na pathani salwar mard wo hai jo dil de warna hai bekaar”

He could be so smug. His dad bought helicopters in the movie like I buy Vada Pav at Mumbai Stations.

Anyway, this guy is a very good friend of mine so when he refused my last offer of running away from the wedding, I decided, “What the hell!!! Let me help him out a bit.” So I stood there behind him, doing something like the best man at the Christian Wedding, completely following the non verbal communication of the priest whose eyes seemed to disapprove of everything I did. I sincerely hope no body watches the video later and asks about me. Half of the time I wasn’t sure if I was to laugh or look solemn.

The best part, like any other Indian wedding, was however the beautiful traditions (ok, some of them can be considered chauvinist) and ceremonies that form such an integral part of what we are. The music, the chants, the fire and the similarities with other Indian weddings and yet, the quintessential Tamilian touch made it one of the best weddings I have attended. And of course the food and the filter coffee. As much a tea lover I am that I am wedded to a good cup of tea, filter coffee is like the extra marital affair which has its own charms. But let me not dwell on food.

I also think it’s unfair that in Indian weddings, no one gifts the guy anything. It’s always either the bride who has the gift or it’s a gift for them. Why is the guy so deprived?

And to think I went all the way to Chennai to attend a wedding. Chennai – the city I am mortally afraid of. But two things happened at Chennai. I finally stepped on the roads of T Nagar. Anyone who had gone through the rigmarole of Brilliant Tutorials in their 12th will know what I am talking about. And I did what was a dream for a long time. I actually interviewed someone from Mylapore. You see, for any soap seller worth his 100 g soap, the Ladies of Mylapore or the Mylapore Mamis as they are called remain the toughest nut to crack in the Indian consumer scenario. Luckily, once you speak to them, Chennai didn’t seem any scarier. After all, grand moms cutting across geographies and cultures love me.

October 31, 2008

The Changing Face of Movies

Even though I am suffering from a severe cash flow issue and might have to be bailed out soon, I just can not seem to let go off the habit of watching every movie that gets released. At the cost of getting disowned by most people, I have to admit that I have watched Heroes, Roadside Romeo and Body of Lies at a stretch over the last few days. The point however is not to discuss how the movies were. It’s for you to decide. You have the choice to go and watch the movie and like or dislike it. And also say it out or not.

Long back, someone said to me, there are good movies and bad movies, just like there are books. I somehow do not agree. Every movie and book has something you might want to carry back with you. And if it doesn’t make sense to you, it might make to someone else. For example, I never found what was so extraordinary about Catcher in the Rye.

Anyway, the point of the post was how things have changed and how some things have not. We have travelled far from the enemy bashing jingoistic patriotism of Gadar and LOC. Heroes poses an important question, “Why should someone join the Indian Army?” It has been a question I have been asking myself for a long time. None of my friends are in the Army. From a total batch strength of around 200 in school, around 800 in BITS and around 230 odd in IIMB, not a single young man or woman moved into the armed forces.

Heroes could have become a second Lakshya if it did not try to placate all the friends the director and producer had made on their way. I would not want to see Sunny Deol fight 20 goons with his bare hands. I have seen Prahaar and after its realities I did not want to see a super human Sunny Deol.

There was an extremely telling moment in the movie lost in the histrionics of Sohail Khan. When a kid was asked if he went to the army who would take care of his mom, the kid answered, “Mom takes care of everyone. She can take care of herself. I shall take care of the nation.”

I think that’s what the movie was all about. Pride

Roadside Romeo is the first step of Indian animation towards adulthood and I do not care two hoots if Disney lent us a hand. If I can go and spend money on Meet the Robinsons, I can very well spend my money on Roadside Romeo. Javed Jaffrey steals the show with his overdone accent that reminds you of the stereotypes of the South that Bollywood so lovingly treasures. But seriously, someone should go and tell YashRaj Films that one can not live off DDLJ for ever. But frankly, after all the 2-D animations that hit the Indian screens recently, this was a step change.

I was watching True Lies on Star the other night, having come back from a morning show of Body of Lies. And I suddenly realized how the entire ball game had changed. Hollywood has no more any place for a Rambo or an Arnold. Of course till Bruce Willis can ride a wheelchair, he’ll continue to make Die Hard. But even then, Hollywood has agreed that terror is smarter and deadlier than it ever was imagined. It’s no longer about the Chinese stealing nuclear secrets or some mad hatter Russian scientist out to rule the world. It’s about terror that lives amongst us. Terror that’s full of lies, deceit, pawns and kings and a game of chess.

October 30, 2008

The Festival of Lights

Ojas had come down to Mumbai on his way back to his home and he made an interesting statement. He said Maharashtra liked to celebrate its festivals over a long period of time. After the week long Diwali Celebrations in Mumbai I guess I agree with him. My Diwali started almost a week back when I was forced to walk half my way back from Dadar as everyone seemed to have gone crazy over shopping. This is a craze I have seen only during Pre Puja shopping in the markets of Gariahaat and Hatibagan in Calcutta. And Mumbai almost matched the insanity. Due to unfortunate incidents that make almost everyone ask, “Whose Mumbai is it anyway?” few of the days saw almost all shops down their shutters, Shivaji Park always being in the centre of news these days for all the wrong reasons.

In fact, on the day everyone advised people to stay back at home, I decided to walk around Mahim and Shivaji Park just to figure out the pulse of the city and the pulse was throbbing with pain over lost sales on a day that was perfect otherwise for shopping.

We had a small wing get together at the TIFR campus and I realized how badly I miss the campus life. Lying down after lunch under the shades of a tree on a beautiful lawn transferred me back into time, to a terrestrial green sky I had left behind. Opening your eyes after a good afternoon siesta to a vast expanse of the ocean can do wonders to your spirit, battered from the daily travels in local trains in order to plug in your laptops and fight for market share. And to see Kishor and Ojas still have their craze for Rubick’s cube makes me want to smile. And remember.

While we sat on the rocks in the evening, the fireworks went up from Navinagar. The army had rung in Diwali and when the rockets burst over the sea without the city skyline blocking your view, you can feel an exhilarating sense of belonging, even though Diwali might not be the most important festival for the part of the country you come from.

Even though The Times of India is known for Mumbai Mirror more than anything else, I think they should be given credit for organizing some of the best free concerts in the city. On Sunday night, Times Diwali Festival hosted U. Srinivasan and Shivkumar Sharma for a concert at Bandra Fort. Just like Kochi Fort has no fort, Bandra also has no Fort but with lights adorning the trees and flowers strewn on the paths, the atmosphere does make you forget that you are in Mumbai. And Of course, the crowd is much more down to earth than the usual NCPA crowd.

The night before Diwali something nice happened. I was walking in the middle of nowhere. There was a huge traffic condition that I had left behind and there was no way a bus or a cab would come along. I was also too near my house for any self respecting Indian cabbie to agree to go. Suddenly however a cab stopped by my side and asked me if I wanted to go to my house. It turned out to be a cab I had used before to go to Dadar. He actually stopped on the way seeing me. It felt nice. They make all sorts of feel good movies for Christmas in Hollywood. Maybe we should do one for Diwali.

It’s Diwali night. The people in my apartment building seem to have been not affected at all by the financial crunch. The amount of sparklers and fire crackers that have been burning outside on the road could very well substitute for my annual income for the next five years. I of course am not complaining. I have drawn aside the curtains of the window and it looks beautiful. Whether you have celebrated Diwali as an invocation to Goddess Laxmi, as the homecoming of Rama to Ayodhya or as the destruction of Narkasur it doesn’t matter. As my grandma used to say, “Let good things happen to everyone- Sobar Bhalo hok

Afterthought: Why on earth can the societies/ public take responsibility for the general mess that they make with all the debris left behind from the crackers and clean up the streets? In Pilani too people just left things scattered on the road. Would we do it in our own homes?

October 23, 2008

A Reconciliation Post and The Goalkeeper Theory

Yesterday’s post seemed to have ruffled quite a few feathers. Normally docile men and women who have forgiven many of my crazy theories have taken a strong exception to my last post, especially since it seemed to be misaligned completely to the popularly held theories. The point being sometimes it is good to incite people. At least they call you up to ask you to get your head checked or better still get married.

As if relatives weren’t enough.

Let me try to put my view point straight. I have always said, friendship is more important than love. Friendship can exist without love but love can not exist without friendship. It is purely a case of logical reasoning. I mean leaving aside the complications of the heart; it is merely a matter of a mathematical equation of A meeting B to give rise to situation C. Now the fun part is that once the first few moments of anxiety and excitement of the process of courtship is over, the relationship becomes a compromise for existing in a comfortable position. You are just comfortable being in the relationship. Any change just creates chaos. Like most other cases of living a static life, it is then that people look out for better options. The greener pastures may come in the form of a second honeymoon, an extra marital affair, or maybe just a simple double timing of your existing partner. So what is so great about this whole thing about being in relationship that people spend reams of paper and aeons of time writing about?

In fact I think this is just an extension of the Goalkeeper theory. For those uninitiated, I first came to know about this great theory in the hallowed portals of IIMB. Many great men have researched this topic extensively so I will not go into the gory details. Let me just jot down the main points.

First, imagine the woman of your dream to be The Goal. For all you geeks, the Goal need not be one of the best books on Operations. Normally, most goals have a Goalkeeper in the form of a current boyfriend or an imaginary boyfriend or an aura of mystery that you can not penetrate. There are also a lot of defenders. Some of the defenders come in the form of family, the most difficult being an elder brother or an Amrish Puri type father. There are also “brothers” that the woman makes. These often are men who would have loved to be the Goalkeeper but were unable to. So they now defend like there’s no tomorrow. The penultimate set of defenders is the most dangerous. These are people who would have loved to be the Goalkeeper themselves but since there is someone already for that post, they are trying to prevent all the other hopefuls and waiting to foul the other defenders. The last set of defenders is of course a result of Cold War Spy stories. These are your friends whom you have put as defenders in order to give you inside story about the opposition. Non Family Defenders often make a self goal. Some love the experience. Some go through a guilt phase and then love it anyway.

The beauty of this game is that once you score you yourself become the goalkeeper and the game continues. This is the classical goalkeeper theory.

Now I present to you Banjo’s Postulate I – If a goalkeeper is able to sustain his position for a long time, slowly he will get frustrated and leave for scoring a goal somewhere else. One by one, the defenders will lose interest and finally the big burly Big Brother defender and the Amrish Puri think-alike father will grudgingly accept him as an inevitable pest. As a result, he’ll take it easy, the goal will take it easy and both the parties involved will be comfortable in their peaceful co-existence.

Given such a situation, if you are as lazy as the average Homo sapiens, you’ll just stick on here since it is comfortable and you do not think that there is any merit in going through the entire rigmarole of trying to defend, score and be the Goalkeeper for another goal, even though you are aware of the existence of better goals.

I mean, it is just plain and simple economics people. You do not want to invest money in new ventures when the existing business is a Star in the BCG 2X2.

Oh by the way, this is very gender specific. I do not know if women have the same theory. If I knew what women think, I would at least have sold some more soaps and asked for a pay hike in order to pay my credit card bills.

But knowing God is easier than knowing women. So I continue to live on plastic money.