Monday, April 24, 2006

Drive To The Finish

For those of you waiting for Abhishek's next Guest Post on my blog, the wait is over. Time to fasten our seat belts. Abhishek in the driver's seat.

I have been travelling a lot in the last few months. By rail, by road and by air. And when you travel, you are bound to get co-passengers. When I board a flight, I have my eyes open, "looking forward" to a pleasant flight with some pretty stranger(read female) who will bring some sort of romance to my rather mundane existence. Well mundane is only partially correct, as I generally don't have an idea of where am I going to spend my next night. But then again, working till 3 in the morning isn't the most romantic thing either. Also, factories and offices in far flung areas are not particularly high in beauty quotient. So the eyes, do look forward to some NSP(for those who don't know this term it means - Nayan Sukh Prapti) which one can usually get on most airports and flights. Hence, the "looking forward" on my part. And during security check and while waiting for the flight, one can generally identify a few "good uns" and then hope for the best. But as luck will have it my co-passengers invariably turn out to be middle aged corporates or veteran grandpas. And the "good uns" are always tantalisingly close..... a row or two in front or behind. Close, but not close enough..... But then again, that has been the story of my romantic career.... one which hasn't gone an inch ahead since I came down a mini-bus at Deshopriyo Park sometime in August,2001.

If our railway stations can screw it up, can our airport be far behind?? While waiting for a train to Kolkata at the Bhubaneswar railway station, we go to the Enquiry to know the platform no. We get a prompt response - its coming on Platform no. 2. So we cross the over head bridge(it was tempting to cross over the tracks, but carrying luggage which had our company logos, prevented us from the misadventure!!) at mid-day carrying our luggages. 10 mins later we are informed that the train will arrive on Platform no. 1, where we were previously standing. Unnecessary hassles for passengers getting baked in nearly 40* C temperatures. The next day I am in the Netaji Subhash Airport to catch a flight to Mumbai. After the security check, there is this immaculately dressed airlines official who tells me that boarding will be from the first floor. And you feel how far the railways are lagging behind their more "elevated" competitors. But wait a second mate, rather half an hour!! 10 mins before the flight when people have already begun to make a queue at the designated gate, that same immaculately dressed airlines official comes to tell the folks that the boarding will be from the ground floor!! An announcement like that can sure bring one back down to earth all those already dreaming about the sky and what they intend to do up there( people like me i.e.).

Just another topic "about being on the move", a slightly dicey one though. I spent my childhood in Patna, a city which ,despite having some fatal flaws such as lawlessness and a lack of good roads and public transport, I love the most. And I also identify myself with Biharis everywhere as my own people. And I have to say that Biharis have given me more love and acceptance than any other community. So every time I meet someone from Bihar, I feel I am meeting someone from my land. Rather, I am someone which they have made me as their own( I happen to be Bengali by birth who spent his first 15 years and 10 months as a resident of Patna). And I can instinctively recognise a Bihari, the moment I hear one speaking Hindi. I understand the expressions and the flavour too well to mistake it. The thing is from Hyderabad to Mumbai and to taxis in Kolkata, I meet lots of Bihari drivers. Poor people, who have had to leave the state to search for a livelihood. So the thoughts that come to my mind are:

1) Why should so many Biharis (still) have to leave the state and look for their livelihood by working as cheap labour, drivers etc. I am not looking down at these people. In fact I am proud of the fact that they earn their living by sheer hard work and courage. The thing that bothers me is the lack of opportunity for employment for the people of Bihar coming out of places such as Darbhanga or Bhagalpur or Chhapra.

2) Education + Bihari = Deadly combo, there is a community in Orkut which goes by this name or something like it. What is the educated Bihari youth which has the world at its feet(I honestly believe that Biharis are the smartest people out there) doing for Bihar?? In how many years will Bihar be a part of India's economic mainstream, when will people from Punjab and Tamil Nadu aspire to work in a company in Patna as they do now to work in Bangalore or Hyderabad??

3) To end on a more positive note, considering the number of Bihari drivers going around, the next Narain Karthikeyan should be a Bihari, we have a natural inclination for the wheel (think steerings, Chakka Jam rallies, Janata Dal etc).

4) Looking at the "punnier" side of things, I am inclined to say that all said and done, it is the Biharis who are "driving" our nation ahead! Forgive me for this one, I couldn't resist it.

Any Bihari or a well wisher of Bihar should at least think about what I have written and post a comment. A more proactive response is desirable, though.

Take care


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Shubho Noboborsho

It was around seven thrity in the evening. Eighteen dignified and sophisticated employees of one of the largest MNC met outside a posh Hyderabad restaurant on the 15th of April 2006. The ones who were late profusely apologised in the most refined tones. The terrace garden restaurant was on the top floor of the building. They got out of the lift and .............

The date changed from the aforementioned to Poila Baisakh 1413 ( Baisakh 1, 1413). No they were not testing the time machine brought out by their company. They had just become a part of an expatriate group of Bangalis( we are not bengalis, just like the Japanese are actually Nippons) celebrating their new year. The new year by itself did not mean much to them because the Gregorian calender was as much a part of their lives as David Beckham, Ashley Giles or Sir Richard Attenborough's. This was just an occassion to bring out the Bangali in them. If one is allowed to simplify further this was an occassion for them to just be.

They were accompanied by a hundred other of their clan in this foreign city, all part of this Bangali Food Festival in this particular restaurant. If you have ever met a Bangali you would not have a doubt about which community was kept in mind when someone said for the first time , "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach". Probably during those days our women were a little shy about their love for good food but surely not anymore. The ambiance could not have been more appropriate for a full-up to-the-throat dinner. This particlar group 'managed' (we Bangali's don't do, we manage) to get four large round tables together for themselves. Uttam Kumar (Bangla's Amitabh Bachchan, just thrice the popularity) was at his comic best in Mouchak (an all time Bangali favorite comedy) on the large screen put up there. You could hear more chatse Bangla (complete with acolorful words and devoid of English/American slangs) on that terrace than on any of the terraces of any South Kolkata high rise.

The adda session was just about getting started but the how long can you keep a bunch of hungry Bangalis ( and a few obangali friends) away from food, that too Bangla khabar. The bunch of men and women surrounded the fuchkawalla (pani puri/gol gappe/ gup chup wallah) and even though the entire dinner was a buffet for a fixed amount per plate, which meant they could take as much as they wanted of everything, not many forgot to ask the fuchka walla their fair share of 'fau' (one extra) and helpings of the legendary tetuler jol mixed with gondhoraj lebu (tamarind water mixed with a particularly Bangla variety of lemon). No sooner than five to six rounds of this fuchka session was over, the Bangla appetite reared its head in all of their faces. Immediately there was a beeline for the buffet menu, which of course was devoured in five to seven rounds to the table. What follows is a description of the menu skittled to down to the following few lines, which could as well have been the size of the next Harry Potter book.

Fuchka - Hollow balls of flour, filled with a tangy potato and chick pea paste and some of the tamarind water described above.

Salad - not very different from the salad from any other part of the country or other other countries, besides Russia of course.

Aamer Chatni - A tangy and sweet syrupy side dish made from raw mango.

Tomato Chatni - Pretty much like the aamer chutni, only difference being this one is made of tomato.

Alu Sheddho - Mashed Potatoes with some of the skin not peeled, some sprinkling of of spices and ghee and very different from the Western Variety of the same dish that we know. This one is synonymous with traditional and daily banagali meals.

Kumro Sheddho - Mashed pumpkins, mixed with salt and mustard oil, another perennial favourite starter.

Neem Begun - This is one of the many fried side dishes Bangla food is so full off. Diced egg plant and Neem leaves (yes the same ones the Americans are trying to take out a patent for) fried in, what else, but mustard oil.

Dharosh Bhaja - More fried items on the platter, diced ladies fingers this time around.

Kurkure Alu Bhaja - And now comes the king of Bangla fried side dishes, circular slices of crispy deep fried potato. Most Bangalis claim they can spend their entire lifetime by eating just this and luchi. Description of the latter follows soon.

Bhat - Plain old steamed rice, and the entire Bangali cuisine has developed keeping this as constant as the rocks of Gibraltar.

Luchi - Small UFO shaped flour dumplingd deep fried in oil. Very close to the puri variety as is better known as in the rest of the country. Aloo bhaja's partner in crime in helping the bangalis add those extra kilos.

Veg. Pulao - The most non bengali dish of the night. As the name suggests it is Vegetarian Rice of the aristrocatic pulao variety. Again a little fried with lots of spices and condiments and nuts and raisins to boot.

Shukto - This one again is more Bangali than the Howrah Bridge or Victoria Memorial. (Funny isn't it how the monument in the memory of the British Queen has become a symbol of Bangaliana (bengalism)?). So this shukto is a hotchpotch of slices of vegetables like potatoes (yes we use that in almost all our dishes), radish, bitter gourd, nuggets made from dal (called bori in Bangla), Egg plant, beans and whatever else our moms find close at hand. Sort of cloose to the Avial from South India, but Shukto doesn't have any trace of curd.

Dhokar Dalna - I am not certain about this one, but I think its a curr of barfis made from dal paste. Please do a Google search for more on Dhokar dalna. And yes its a tricky name, as dhoka as a standalone term is to betray!

Alu Potoler Torkari - Alu is potato again and its a curry again, but for the life of me I cannot come up with an English translation of Potol. Padwal for those who know a bit of hindi, but in case you don't then just assume its one of those local vegetables, superstar in its state but an unknown entity elsewhere.

Chholar Dal - A must go with Luchi. A sweetish dal made from whole chick peas. Short, simple and sweet.

Alu Posto - By now you don't need me to tell you alu is potato, and we Bangalis just can't seem to have enough of it. Posto, as far as I have been taught, are poppy seeds. Not at all related to the deadly drugs, but some bangalis will tell you, just as addictive.

Murighonto - This one requires a warning message. The description is not suited for those with not-strong-enough-stomachs or vegetarians. A particular kind of rice, gobindobhog for the more curious, mixed with all the various parts of the heads of fish. The high intellectual level of Bengalis is sometimes attributed to this particular preparation.

Lau Chingri - Now the non-veg part of the menu has come in all its glory. This one is a snake gourd and prawns curry. Just the perfect blend of both the ingredients gives it that heavenly touch.

Kosha Mangsho - This one again definitely comes in the Bangali Top 5 of all time. Mangsho is mutton, and Kosha here stands for just the right amount of gravy required to take it to the Top 3.

Rui Machh - Bangalis have tasted all kinds, forms and shapes if fishes possible, but this one is a little special. Its not exactly a delicacy, but its one which we start having before Lactogen or Cerelac. Okay a slight exaggeration, but you get the drift, don't you? And there are those clear divisions between the lovers of rui machher - peti, gada and lyaaja. Well lets just leave those divisions as various parts of the fish.

Pona Machh - In most cases this machh (or fish) is the same rui machh mentioned above, but in its infancy. And the preparations and taste are totally different. Another exaggerated comparison would be with that of the egg and the chicken. We are just talking about taste here.

Ilish Machh - This one will arguable win the 'Bengal's Favorite Food' Award by a neat margin. In case the name Ilish mach doesn't familiar, try replacing it with Hilsa fish. If the choice is between one whole months salary versus no hilsa fish for one entire season, we will happily accept a paycheck less. Long live Ilish. And may it come straight to our plates after that.

Mishti Doi - Doi stands for curd, and mishti for sweet. So a pretty uncreative name I guess, but its as much a part of Bnagali culture as curd rice of Tamil Nadu or its neighboring states. A major Bangali export actually.

Rosogolla - Trying to describe a rosogolla might be blasphamous enough to have me excomunicated.

Langcha - In simplest terms its a Gulab Jamun in Jalebi form. More forms coming up.

Ledikeni - Gulab Jamun in a sausage form.

Sandesh - Low calorie easy to digest sweets made from cottage cheese. Unlike the ones mentioned above, this one is very dry and has hundreds of varieties by itself.

All this was completed in five to six trip to the buffet table. And yes the kata chamoch (fork and spoon) were well substituted by the haath (hand).

[Click here for the photos of the night]

The Venue: Hotel R V, Hyderabad

Time: 7:30 PM - 10:00 PM

Attendees: Soumyajit, Dipanjan, Swayambhu, Chirantan, Mahesh, Maheswari, Sushmita, Natasha, Ujjyini, Antara, Kanupriya, Sujasha, Nidhi and Your's truly.

Aschhe Bocchor Abar Hobe ( I will NOT translate that!!)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Essay Machine

After months of drought, punctuated only by the one-off post once in a while and those couple of guest posts by Abhishek, its raining posts here at verrrymuchme. The reason behind the avalanche of thoughts was a project whereby I had to complete seventeen essays over the past half year or so. Friday was the deadline, and as you have guessed I hadn't started yet. So last night I made one of those vows which materialize less often than not, and with the help of some luck, I actually found writing the best way to keep myself occupied in the sweltering Hyderabad summer.

The topics were provided. The only condition was that each essay should consist of at least three paragraphs and a sum total of fifteen lines. Thus I set about my task of typing two hundred and fifty five lines of thoughts. Started at 11 PM on the 8th of April, 2006 and by the time I finished it was past 5 AM on the 9th of the same month and year. I had perhaps completed the first assembly line production of essays.

All of those are posted below, in the same order as they were written, i.e the one immediately below this was written first and so on. They are all unedited and unabridged. The would be legendary manuscript hereby lies unlocked before you, complete with some sense, a lot more non sense, spelling errors (genuine ones), spelling errors (typos), bad grammar, feeble attempt at wit and humor and what not. Please read at your own risk:)

A Twentieth Century Invention

Rejection, rebuke, acceptance and ultimately a part of our daily lives. This 20th century invention’s life-cycle was like most of its other counterparts. The puritans couldn’t stand the fact that the good old squirting marvel was being substituted by this machine with balls (all sorts of pun intended). Students were punished in the severest manner possible if they advocated its use, government officials did their best to make the law abiding citizen’s life miserable if these subjects of the state used this blasphemous tool. Yes we are indeed talking about the ubiquitous ball point pen.

Waterman invented the fountain pen and contributed more to literacy then even Guttenburg had managed a few centuries before him. Mankind was thus provided the easy way of recording their pearls of wisdom and other utterances forever, well almost. But then there were leaking nibs, inked fingertips, smudged manuscripts and a few other obstacles yet to be removed. Along came the ball point pen, its inventor conveniently pushed into the back room of obscurity, and made life so much simpler. Perhaps the most under rated of all inventions was this ball point pen.

Many countries had parliamentary debates about the authenticity of documents written using these contraptions. Well, some parliaments have all the time in the world. Finally it became the rebel in us rose, and thanks to a worldwide mutiny, the ball point pen took pride of place in our pen stands and those fountain pens found a new place in the antique cupboards and gift boxes which were not meant to be opened in the first place. It was a historic moment when the Rolls Royce of pens, Parker Co. Ltd. rolled out ( do I need to point out the puncs everytime?) the first batch of these pens. The rest as they say is history. Writing became a totally different ball game after that and we, the present generation users of it, are having a ball of a time.

A Stereotype

If you believe in birth and rebirth, and the theory of your next life being decided on the acts committed in the present one, then you have to agree with me on the following point: murderers, rapists, hijackers who crash airplanes into high-rises and other similarly sinful people are reborn as stereotypes in their next lives. Being a stereotype is like reliving a life already led by countless others before you, and neither will you be the last one to do so, well at least in most fields of life. We first have a prototype, and then based on its success or failure the process is automated and assembly line production of the same begins. That’s as true for products as human beings.

A long, long time ago there must have been a Marwari kid, who after dropping out of middle school opened a shop, and in spite of failing his math lessons time and again, somehow managed to make more profits than he could calculate. Or let’s talk about that Bengali youth in the ‘70s who, sitting in his comfortable old Kolkata verandah, read Marx, Gorky and others and made his contribution by voting the communists to power. He was extremely active during strikes and book launches, and hibernated just during his working hours sitting in that den of inefficiency, which also goes by the name of government offices at times. The Parsi grandfather, Pestonji, who was the first one to drive his old jalopy well past its best before date, also initiated another series of stereotypes. In the present age you ask any kid between the age of seven and fourteen what does he/she want to become after growing up and pat comes the answer, computer engineer and an MBA, and they immediately re-immerse themselves in their quest of understanding Einstein’s laws .

Today if you do not adhere to the rules that have already been laid out, you are different, eccentric, odd-ball etc. If you don’t do much in life, here much is the stereotype much, that is making money kinds, then you die an odd-ball who was talked more than talked to. If by some queer stroke of fate you happen to make it big, again big being the conventional big, you will just succeed in starting a new breed of stereotypes. Your grandson will be forced to eat his dessert before the main course, because you did so and became big. A whole new stereotype story will start all over again.

500 Television Channels

I have vague recollections of my earlier years of the entire locality descending on our drawing room every Sunday morning without fail. No, my father didn’t run a weekly panchayat a la Sarkar or Godfather, and neither did our neighbor’s love for us sprung in such coordinated weekly basis. It was actually Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana aired on television (read Doordarshan) which played the role of Kama’s bow (his bow was made of sugarcane and the bowstring of bees). During that time ours was the only house to have a television, or perhaps a color television, and so that explains this odd social behavior. Those were the days when I just couldn’t figure out why the remote control had buttons for eight channels, whereas there was just on television, Doordarshan.

Along came Rupert Murdoch and his cable television revolution in the early 1990s and watching television was never the same again. Channles multiplied faster than my friend’s pet rabbits. And the users became spoilt for choices of programs. Mind you all this was even before eKta Kapoor (wrong capitalization intentional, please overlook) and her K-revolution overtook the Indian television industry. Anyway coming back to the numbers game, it suddenly became a fad to have a television with more channels than your next door neighbor or the one next to this one. For quite some time 20-30 channels was the norm and the friends staying in some fancy area in New Delhi come over and use the most condescending tone to tell us how difficult life is without 43 channels.

Cut to circa 2006, and the remote control makers have given up the impossible war against the television channels. They have stopped putting in further efforts of inserting a zillion buttons on those 8 inches by 3 inches life-controls. They have instead put in things like, +10, +100, single digit/double digit/triple digit etc making watching television a mathematically challenging experience. 500 television channels is still not exactly a reality but it’s so much ‘almost there’ that we won’t even notice when we start getting a new channel on pressing the ‘next’ button while watching channel no. 499.


First thoughts on reading the topic of this essay on ‘Time’ were as follows:

“Aha, this could be a clever allusion to that classy American magazine. Nah, more probably I should take off on a tangent and talk about Arthur Clarke and his famous time machine. No way, am I mad, this is a clear cut indication to write an essay about our good old time (shouldn’t it be good new time?) and eulogize about how important it is to be on time and sometime even to leave on time. Not to overstay one’s welcome as they say. C’mon that would have been okay had I still been pondering over the essay topic while playing book cricket with my friend in my second last bench in the seventh standard class. Now I must write about how well John Lennon spoke about time and how it is changing , oops sorry he actually spoke about times and how they are changing. Whatever be it, I have spent enough time pondering over the start lets see what comes of it without thinking any further.”

Time and tide waits for none is a proverb which is repeated too often, though its lost its relevance to a certain extent in today’s context since we do not rely so much for the tide to take us to those far far away lands. A stitch in time saves nine is perhaps a little more relevant, but then with so much of dispensable income by the time we realize that a particular piece of clothing requires a stitch, we would have bought a whole new wardrobe. Time is the greatest healer is one line you can be sure to come across while dealing with a friend’s (or maybe your own) break-up. And the person concerned will come up with something as deep and original as “easier said than done” and reach out for the next tissue you offer.

Time and again I come across these idioms, (or phrases are they?) but right now when they would be so timely, they are conveniently absconding themselves. I will carry on with it when I have a little more time on my hand. I had a whale of a time writing these lines. Only time will tell whether I could have better use of this time.

Violence In Movies

Gone are they days of the hero very theatrically punching the villain three inches below the chin and the extras making unconvincing sounds of ‘dhishum dhishum’. In today’s movie world violence is so real that after some of the more convincing scenes there is a greater no. of people making a beeline for the theatre washrooms. This a trend that has been observed across cultures. Among other things technology and the real life happenings are responsible for these reels of gore and blood.

They say movies are a reflection of society, to a certain extent at least. That given, when you have planes crashing into tall buildings, pictures of soldiers being stripped naked and tortured doing the rounds, video clips of beheading of journalists circulated through the internet, can you really blame the movie mongers to be showing those blood curdling scenes? Every alternate day in the newspaper you hear stories about how a 16 year old boy was killed by his 17 year old friend because they both happened to love the same 14 year old girl. Isn’t that very similar to a stammering Shah Rukh Khan doing every negative thing possible to get his Juhi Chawla, including killing her screen husband Sunny Deol?

Is it a chicken and egg story? Which is replicating what? There is no clear answer, but one thing is for sure, if the world actually buys the concept of peace unconditionally then these movies will have to do away with the violence. If for nothing else at least for commercial reasons because then violence won’t sell. Ask Neha Dhupia what sells most after sex and Shah Rukh Khan and she will agree with me.

A Successful Person

[NOTE: I have just assumed the gender of the imaginary successful person as male to do away with he/she, his/her, him/her problems. Any form of mental stress caused by this to anybody is purely unintentional and you are more than welcome to edit the document by changing the gender. The ‘replace all’ option in MS Word will come in very helpful in this pursuit]

A successful person starts life as a precocious child. In most cases he is born to a well-to-do family, in few others his legend becomes even bigger. He starts off a dozen paces ahead of his peers and he knows his nursery rhymes while the others are still fumbling with their ‘maa s’ and ‘papa s’. He is a teachers pet and knows more at the age of three than the teacher knew in her third standard. He comes first in class, and his parents mourn every report card day when this other guy pips him to the post by a mark or two. He puts in those three extra hours per day for that one mark, and the parents take a more than eager in interest in comparing the mark sheet with that other boy, who just manages to barely get ninety percent marks.

He does equally well at all subjects, but his favorite subject changes from history to math and science subjects as soon as his parents tell him that those are the ones which will make him the only thing worth being, an engineer. In today’s world his parents can’t let him remain just a mug pot, so he takes classes galore. After those eight periods in school, he scoots to his teacher’s place for extra private lessons. No sooner than that is over that he will be dutifully drawing the village scene at the neighborhood drawing class. He will be reading the newspaper, of course as a chore. Then he will answer the question about the highest temperature recorded in the Atacama desert in the year in which the fortieth president of the United States visited Pyong Yong, in the inter school quiz contest. As his board exams appear he will get into a shell, add more weight in kilograms than the no. of movies he would have seen in his entire life. He will look down at other kids who go out to play during evenings and lose precious study hours. He will make himself, his teachers and the housemaid proud by getting the highest marks in the exams in the thirty year history of his school. By the way, he will have girls swooning over him, but he will continue with his vocation, which will put even the sages in the Hindu epics to shame.

He will shine brighter than ever in the higher secondary years and will be reprimanded for sleeping one minute after four in the morning. He will join all forms of coaching available in his city and any other in a radius of hundred kilometers which will guarantee him a place in the best engineering college in the country. He will obviously get through the entrance exams and will breathe easy.

Having finished a majority of the hard work, he will out perform all his friends at all extra curricular activities in college and still maintain astronomical figures in his marksheet. He will break more relationships then he will enter. He will have the best years of his life. Just before leaving college, he will realize that the past twenty some years were spent with only purpose in mind, to become an engineer. Then being in that rebellious stage he will question himself why. He will realize it’s the money, honey. And that would be the end of all engineering dreams and getting admission into the countries premier management school will become the new target. He will complete this one with equal ease. After a couple of years he will come out of the hallowed portals with eight figure salaries in US dollars. He will start his life, in cooler climes of the western world as an consultant, using his slave, the personal computer to help him decide the best investment options for his clients. Then he will realize its high time he married. Girls and their parents will lay themselves prostrate before him and his parents and like Draupadi our hero will make his choice. Amid pomp and show and joy unbridled his marriage will be solemnized and thus the fairy tale will begin. Junior genius will come in three years time and the story will repeat itself.

We hereby come to then end of yet another story of the stereotypical successful Indian. He succeeded in maintaining the standards of the society. He did not go astray in search of hypothetical objects like his personal goals, desires, wishes etc. He did not become a traveler that he guiltily once dreamt about becoming one winter night in his tenth year. He did not marry his first love, the dark daughter of the grocery store keeper, who belonged to the other community. Every time he heard the national anthem in the latest Karan Johar blockbuster in his plush US home, he dutifully stood up and remained so for the whole fifty two seconds of the anthem.

He became the symbol of success in his small hometown and every kid was put to sleep by her mother with the success story of this Kumaraswami, Ganguly, Patel or Verma uncle. They too had to be like him, a successful man.


To err and regret is human, to forgive and forget divine. However hard I try to keep my tear glands under check after accidentally toppling my glass of milk, the tears form a crooked line along my cheeks. This is not saying that we should brood over our mistakes or could-have-beens, but its just perfect to look back and clear the throat about missed chances. Ask Alan Donald if he doesn’t regret having not gone for that one run in the last ball of the south Africa versus Australia 1999 World Cup semi-final. Or go to Roberto Baggio and speak about the last penalty kick he took in the 1994 World Cup final versus Brazil, and what do you think will be his first emotion? Regret is obviously not restricted to sportsmen, the person after whose name the yardstick of greatness is measured, Alfred Nobel, himself regretted having invented the dynamite when he learnt about the destructive ways it was being put to use.

Again it’s not just the rich and famous who are aware of this human emotion. What do you feel when you reach the airport five minutes too late because you stayed back for the last five minutes of a re-run of your favorite soap? Or for that matter haven’t we heard so many incidents where a person missed meeting some of their close ones for one last time because of some avoidable circumstances? What else will you except in such a situation but regret?

Even our literature is replete with stories of regret. Take our favorite English couple, Romeo and Juliet for example. Had they known that they could live, and that too happily ever after, would they have given up their lives and would we have regretted till date? Would our desi Devdas have been portrayed by K.L. Sehgal, Promothesh Baruah, Dilip Kumar and Shahrukh Khan if like a good lover he had married his sweetheart while there was still time? Regret is the most nagging of all feelings and leaves us totally helpless because however rich and powerful we are cannot undo something which has been done once and is beyond repair. I hope I will not live to regret writing these seventeen essays in one night, only time will tell.

An Unsatisfactory Relationship

At the age of fourteen one is not mature enough to enter relationships. Neither was I. But even before I knew I was in one and except for the first few days I could start to feel something amiss. Since it wasn’t my first I was a little cocky and had this supreme confidence that I had enough experience to over come all hurdles. If I had listened to a little more Western music during those days I would probably have listened to just one track all the time, ‘Love Will Keep Us Alive’.

Things started going sour after the first month or so. Commitment was just another of the few ten letter words that I knew at that time. I never gave a third of the time I promised to the relationship. I must have been too naïve not to have expected any repercussions. Within a quarter of a year it became so bad that my parents got to know about it too, and being the personification of honesty that they are, they bluntly told me it was all my fault and if I did not do something about it they will not be there to help me out. It was my problem and I had to solve it.

Looking back I think I did not give anywhere near my hundred percent to the relationship. Even thinking about it became a torture, I just wanted to close my eyes to the fact that I was in this situation. Somehow we continued for three years, with our fair share of fights. Finally we called it quits, and ironically enough the parting was the sweetest thing that happened in the whole relationship. I didn’t believe that I could actually get those high marks in my chemistry board exams, the last time I ever took a chemistry exam.

Borrowing Money

Every time I check my wallet and find some powerless (remember that PPP theory from your Economics classes?) ten rupee notes staring innocently at me, I go to the nearest ATM machine ( by the way ATM actually stands for Automated Teller Machine and not the smarter All Time Money). If there are no such magic machines around, as is the case most often, I turn to a friend indeed. I secretly try to visualize him/her as a twenty first century Brutus cum Shylock. “Will I have to pay an equal pound, or even worse, kilogram, of my flesh if by any chance I forget to repay in time?” “Will I too enter history books by saying et tu my friend?” These questions flash through my mind while the friend takes out some helpful notes from the wallet or purse as is the situation.

I feel eternally indebted to this friend for that act of kindness, at least till I am with that person and haven’t returned the money. I make mental notes, and then use the mental formatting toolbar to modify the note into bold letters, and generally underline them too. As soon as I get back home, after a movie or a dinner, paid by the friend of course, I take out my favorite calculator, the one with trigonometric and logarithmic functions, pens of minimum two colors and a lot of scrap paper. I write down the amount I borrowed right on top in all the colors. Then I get down doing the real hard work like diving into the depths of my memory and try and remember the amount of bill at the restaurant or how much we doled out to the pot bellied tout who sold us the movie tickets in black. Then I form columns and write down mine and the friend’s name and rows for the various categories under which we spent, namely transport, movie, food, tips etc. After that I apply rocket science to find out how much I owe the friend who helped me when I was in need. It’s also during these times that I feel so indebted that I decide to split the whole amount 70:30 rather than the general 50:50. So I redo my calculations. Make reminders and set alarm on my cell phone so that I repay the money at the right time.

The alarm goes off on time and I ignore it without fail. I meet that friend at least ten times after that and forget all about the money. Finally after a month or so when the friend casually brings up the subject all I do is give back just that amount I borrowed and after coming back home I throw the piece of paper with all the calculations in the trash can.

Endangered Species

Human beings as such are nowhere near being an endangered species. Even if by any chance you get such feeling during your summer trips to Godthab (the capital of Greenland) or the occasional expeditions to Antarctica, you can always come back home to India and feel safe about the long future we seem to have. But one major mistake we commit is taking the human race as a species. I vehemently object such generalization. I will die, and reduce one of my quizzing species, but not accept that perpetrators of violence (or terrorists if that makes them sound worse) and noble men like myself belong to the same species. There is something terribly wrong with this entire classification system. So after starting with the kingdom and finally coming down to species we should further classify based on characteristics and qualities. So if we follow this logic each of us can belong to more than one species, like lets say I will proclaim loyalty to the honorable species of Lazy bones, Trivia Hunters, Sufferers of Verbal and Written Diarrhea and many others.

With this new definition of species I will say the most endangered of all species are those people who do not use/require names to be themselves. I am sure that did not make any sense at all, so the further explanation. Most of the people we meet will tell you the huge multinational he/she (their spouse) works for, the countries he/she went to for his/her last vacation, the institute he/she passed out from and endless such information before coming to less important facts like his/her name. So we have largely become a species of name droppers and one who uses these names/brands as crutches to prod through their dull lives.

The species which has become endangered according to me is the one who can well carry on a conversation and become your friend (giving you the benefit of doubt that you belong to this endangered species who won’t mind making friend’s whose name and interests you know but none of the big names/brands he/she is associated with) without bombarding you with snippets from his CV. These are people who do not require these established names to prove that they are also a force to reckon with. I mean these are people who will work for companies as large as Google maybe, but still not mention it in any of their essays.

Credit Cards

Those small, little. hard plastic cards are the diciest invention of man after nuclear energy. The effects, both positive and negative, are so immense that it has led to saving of lives and break-up of marriages and more. If I am to take a stand I will force myself to see the larger picture and shout out ‘aye’ along with the others when the poll is taken for its existence, but I will also shout out a rejoinder ‘handle with care’.

I am not a MCP, or a MCH for that matter (H=Horse) but from my unlimited interactions with women of all ages, types and forms are ‘in general’ happiest shopping. And I have seen interacted with women with IQ which puts mine to shame and EQ which is too high to even put mine to shame, and all of them have shopped in ways which have made me feel ashamed to be standing beside them while they swipe their credit cards at the counter. I heart has bled for all those husbands who send up silent prayers before handing over their credit cards to their wives just before the wives go shopping. I have even read in newspapers that some of these husbands, especially those whose prayers were not answered, cited misuse of credit cards as the primary reason asking for a divorce. I am sure they do their alimony versus future credit card spending options calculations before deciding to call the divorce lawyers.

Men are better but just marginally, I think many of us are closet ‘shopoholics’ (MS Word please allow these witty and unoriginal word variations, please). We will never openly admit how we love to shop, and neither is it a common thin among us to spend hours showing our friends the perfumes we have stocked for the year 2010. But let some of them lose in a pub with a credit card, or others like me at some restaurant with other similar ‘foodoholics’ (MS Word, that was not just witty but original, please let it pass). Yeah so coming back to those men on the prowl, by the time they leave the pub, which is surely after the place has closed down. The credit card would be swiped sore and next day when these people will pay their bills online, they will use the choicest curse words to describe the banking technology and how it has been installed just to fleece men who are just ‘slightly high’ on food and drinks, like us. Although I haven’t read about such cases, but in case these men use their wives credit cards for such purposes a little too often, then they should be ready to welcome the divorce lawyer with the wives signatures already on the paper.

A Myth Or A Legend

I am not sure if the following story falls under either of the two categories of myth or legend, but I will use my discretion and assume that the following story deserves to be in such elite company. It all started on the 29th of February, 1900 in a small hamlet in northern Pakistan, the name of which I forget.

The place was a naval base and almost all the men were sailors in that place. They had this strange belief that if their voyages would never be successful unless they took the blessings of the Queen of England and the Queen also granted them this wish and she would bless them before they left for their trips. On that particular day the sailors set sail for England to meet the Queen, and after a few days of traveling they came to the Suez Canal and suddenly they were caught in the doldrums, the situation where the sea almost comes to a standstill and there isn’t anything left for the sailors to do but wait for winds. So to pass time they decided to play Rubik’s cube and the one who won would be allowed to go home. While playing the game one of them suddenly noticed a seagull and this was a clear sign of the doldrums moving away…..

Okay enough, I can’t make any more of this legend myself, please help me with some creative ideas and if possible please send me some stinker mails because of the following, which even if you missed, will make you feel as bad as you would have had you noticed them:

· The year 1900 was not a leap year, in case of century years, only if it’s divisible by 400 does it become a leap year. 2000 was a leap year and so was 1600.

· There was no country in 1900 called Pakistan.

· Northern Pakistan is a land locked area and so there can be no naval base there and generally no soldiers either.

· At that point of time England had a king and not a queen.

· The Suez Canal was not built by then.

· The doldrums are near 40 degree latitude in the southern hemisphere and nowhere near the Mediterranean Sea

· Rubik’s cube was invented much later

· Seagulls are found mainly in the Southern hemisphere and definitely not in that area

Please do tell me if there were any more bloopers (rest are unintentional) in the legend of ….

Movie Review

It’s a big thing when you are in college and you get this assignment as a part time freelancer to go to the best theatre in the city and review the movie for which your friends will have to wait for at least another two weeks, before even making an attempt at getting tickets will be fruitful. To add to that the newspaper also provides for snacks during the interval, a concept which is as alien as going to sleep at ten at night for a nineteen year old hostelite. Finally of course there is the five hundred bucks which you will get to pocket for writing a few lines about the movie featuring your favorite star, about which you would have written paeans in your emails to your friends anyway.

So I entered the hall in my best attire, and for some unknown reason I carried the notion that a full length picture of mine will appear alongside the article, that too in color. So I borrowed my friend’s brown shoe polish and the brown show from another friend of mine. How can a movie reviewer wear plain black shoes? Suede it was for me, and each strand of hair lay obediently where I ordered them to. Since it was a big occasion I hailed a cab instead of the usual half hanging from the minibus routine. Intentionally I brought up the topic of this particular movie with the cabbie and tried to get a reaction it has made in the grass root level. I was confident I was going to become the next big thing in the world of sting journalism and I would be a darling of the masses and maybe an award would be named after me like the Pulitzer Prize. Who knows maybe like Joseph Pulitzer they would name some kind of journalism after some color (Pulitzer is credited for having yellow journalism, for more detailed check out and then associate that color with me. Maybe red would no longer remain red, but become Suhel red. After paying twenty times my bus fare to that cabbie, who did not seem to come from the grass roots anymore, I made my way towards the theatre.

The movie had not yet started and I experimented with the leather push back seats and the soft drink glass holder and decided that from then on I would never watch any movie at any theatre but a multiplex. I stuck to my word till that weekend, that’s till the next movie we watched in the cheapest theatre in the city. The movie started and I clapped when my star’s name appeared on the screen. A fat, elegant and stinking rich smelling nice lady sitting next to gave me the most condescending look of my life. I sank back into my seat. The movie played on and it was one of those where even your idol cannot stop making you repeatedly look at the watch and the end of the ordeal. Finally after one hundred and ninety two minutes the credits started rolling and only after coming out of the theatre I remembered that I was supposed to be writing a review for the movie, and I did not even note down the name of the director. Since that day for the next two weeks my friends always answered my cell whenever the newspaper office called, and they informed the newspaper that I was down with some mutated form of terminal disease and they should prepare an obituary for the person who would have been their greatest movie reviewer.


Technically expectations are different from hope, the former has its foundation more in facts and figures and ground realities, the latter more like expectations added with some divine help. It’s a fine line though which separate one from the other, and it requires just a few unexpected events to turn hopes or hopes of miracles into expectations. But because of its very nature when hopes don’t come true we are depressed and sad. In the case of expectations we feel let down and mad. Sorry for the horrible rhyme, but just couldn’t help it.

So to give a current example, till a month or so ago in a one-day cricket match 250 was considered a good total on most grounds, 280 a real tough one to chase, anything between 300 to 340 as good as the match is in the pocket and above that the audience thinned out even before the second innings began. In the Australia versus South Africa final one-dayer at the Wanderer, Australia batting first scored a world record 424 and the match was of only academic interest after that. Australia had already broken a bunch of one day records, and so it was to be seen if they could take care of the remaining ones too. Not a soul, not even a South African one hoped, forget about expected, that the Proteas could come anywhere near a mile of victory. The match started with some hard hitting by the proteas, but that was taken to be a flash in the pan. After the greatest four hours of one day cricket that any cricket fan has ever seen, Mark Boucher hit the winning runs and thus created history in front of our eyes. Besides the small insignificant task of creating he also made chasing 400+ targets a matter of expectations for other fans from the realms of hoping for miracles.

The box –office and the advertising world has all its hopes pinned on the long life and good health of Amitabh Bachchan. The Indian electorate, even after being hoodwinked time and again, expect their leaders to actually implement the heady party manifestoes released before the elections. This actually should be a better example of hope rather than expectations, but for once let me be a little nice towards my netas. A student expects to do well when he puts in his best efforts, he hopes to do well when the efforts are not exactly best. Boyfriends and girlfriends expect more from each other than what the world of bicycling expects from Lance Armstrong. Parents expect their kids to be better than the best. Sansui expects its audio systems to sell because of its ad line. You probably expect that the most non-sensical piece you will ever read is behind you. I expect that even though its five thirty in the morning, I will be fully refreshed when I get up for work tomorrow at seven thirty.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Guest post II: Deja Vu

Me still on my sabbatical, so over to Abhishek.

Think of France and certain thinks come straight to my mind. Thierry Henry (aka GOD), Patrick Vieira, Zinedine Zidane, Robert Pires and company come first up. Especially since I am fan of Arsenal FC, which is a club with an English heart and a French soul. Then comes the red clay of Rolland Garos and the many afternoons and evenings that I have spent watching the rivetting tennis matches played there. Also when I think French, the Tour de France, the Eiffel Tower, Amelie( the film) all come up. And finally I think about my mother who knows the language, and once taught it in a school in Patna. Despite all her best efforts, I have refused to learn the language till date, but do happen to know a few phrases here and there, courtsey being the typist for her question papers!!

Something which none of us can deny is that the French have a certain flair about them and their words have added a certain zing to the English language. How about tour de force, or bon appetit, or for that matter deja vu. Deja vu is one of the numerous french words that has become part of the English language. The word web dictionary defines it as the experience of thinking that a new situation had occurred before. Think about it. You must have felt it before. I certainly have, or else I would'nt be writing about it.

Let me give a few examples. When Glenn Mcgrath bowls just outside the offstump, and gets a nick through to the keeper, don't you feel that you have seen that before. Or when our very own Anil Kumble traps a hapless opposition batsman plumb in front - LBW you do get the feeling. Or when Michael Bevan or Lance Klusener (2 of my favourites) used to play those unbelievable innings chasing down totals, the opposition, I am sure must have had this feeling. I sure did. Or say about 30 ODIs ago when our much vaunted batting line up used to collapse frequently chasing totals, it used to be deja vu, all over again.

How about about those moments in the classroom, when a certain teacher used to target us, without any rhyme or reason (most of the times that is!), did we not get the feeling of deja vu. Or how about when you used to listen to the news on polling day in Bihar, and all you got was news about booth capturing and gun fighting. Many times while coming in a bus at 5.20 in the morning to good old Xavier's, following exactly the same routine of getting down at Jeevandeep, walking down Middleton Street, crossing Camac Street, through Wood Street and in through the back gate, the feeling of deja vu on some mornings was unmistakable.

Deja vu happens to us every now and then. Just the other day I was being briefed by my senior at the client's place and I felt that this had happened before. Happened in the sense that (I felt) we were sitting exactly in the same place, at the same time, (probably 11 in the night) he was wearing the same shirt and talking the same stuff. Actually, what happened was that the feeling came so strongly and suddenly, that the net result was that I did'nt listen to what was being told to me and had to ask my senior to repeat what had said.

The point is that I am sure this happens to all of you. But what I don't know is that why does it happen. It is an intriguing problem that has often puzzled me. If any of you out there have an explanation just let me know. I am sure some of you will have some really interesting insights about this word for which I have a penchant, and one which should be spoken with a panache, worthy of its beauty and meaning.

PS: Thierry Henry is not GOD but simply great, he is to me what SRK is to Suhel. Also did you not get the feeling of deja vu of reading all this non sense once again, just days after reading my first guest post on "serendipity". Got You on that one!! Ha ha!!. I promise the next one won't be so soon.

Take care. Abhishek.