Saturday, November 1, 2008

Karzzz */5


The makers of this movie should remove the 'Kar' from the name of the movie and rename it 'zzzz'. The very intention of this movie is not a tribute to the original but to cash in on the original but to cash in on Himesh's popularity. Karzzz is a remake of Rishi Kapoor, Tina Munim, Simi Garewal starrer. When you remake a film, at least ensure that the characters are likeable.

How on earth can u think of Himesh Reshammiya as a 25 year old pop star when you have already had enough of his ranting on reality television ?Newcomer Shweta Kumar has no clue about what is going on around her,which is good because I donot think she would have signed up for the film otherwise.

Urmila Matondkar as the 50 something vamp gives 'over the top' a redefinition. Her golden,shiny pants, her constant frowning and twitching. i have a hunch she charged money for 3 actors for all the overacting she has done in the movie.Finally, Himesh Reshamiya seems earnest and eager to make the film work. His new look and hair donot help the cause much as the film is a colossal exercise in absurdity.

The earlier Karz wasn't pathbreaking cinema but the characters especially Rishi Kapoor had the panache to carry the film on their shoulders. This Karzzz  doesn't have that. Finally, the original had fabulous music. The only decent song in this one, 'Ek Hasina Thi', is a rip-off of the original one so zero marks for the music too. Satish Kaushik had made on of my worst movies, 'Badhai Ho Badhai' and he comes close to surpassing his earlier efforts with this one.

Watch it if you re a die hard fan of Himesh, otherwise watch the original. It's much, much better.

HELLO - */5



If you are into reviewing movies, Hello is the kind of movie that you love, for different reasons altogether. It's so bad in all aspects, and so sublime in its badness, u cant resist going all out at it. Here's a bit of trivia. The book is based n the novel "One night at the call center". Chetan Bhagat is not a literary genius, but to his credit, he has u hooked. I'd never go to watch a movie that stars Salman Khan, Sohail Khan and Amrita Arora, but I did it only when I learnt that Chetan Bhagat was doing the screenplay. Sadly, Hello is a disaster. The only good thing about watching the movie is that I get to review it, and I have a broader canvas, if you know what I mean!

Hello is the story of a few call center employees who are unsatisfied with their lives. As someone who has worked in call centers, the problem I'd had with the novel was that the BPO industry was paraded as a mecca for non-achievers, have-beens and useless people. Its certainly not the case. The characters in the film are pissed off with their lives till they get intervention in the form of a call from God. I do not have the patience to explain what happens before or after that. 

Coming back to the film, the trademark cynicism is missing. Director Atul Agnihotri doesn't care if you like the characters or not. I cant say much about the performances because most of the star cast seems to be sleepwalking through the film. Sharman Joshi is the saving grace and seems to have a penchant for holding his own in otherwise bad films. This is one instance when I say don't judge a book by its movie.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Welcome to Sajjanpur - The Hri-view */5


'Welcome to Sajjanpur' is directed by Shyam Benegal, one of the most reputed directors of our country.That must have been the reason he got such an ensemble cast for the film and that was also why I wanted to watch the movie.

Sadly,the movie doesn't live upto the reputation or the body of work of Shyam Benegal.

Talking about the flaws of the movie will take really long,because even the first shot seems to be stretched beyond comfort, and the rest of the movie lives upto the 1st shot.

Shreyas Talpade plays Mahadev, a letter-writer.His work involves writing letters for the people in Sajjanpur.He is good with words and gets emotionally attached to the letters he is writing.This leads to him getting into various situations and meeting different people.What could have been an entertaining film sadly turns out to be a treacherously long story that makes you wait for the climax, but just so that you could rush home.

There are too many characters, too many sub-plots, too many cliches that it would be futile to get into them in detail.Amrita Rao plays a married potter whose husband is away.Ravi Kisen plays a compounder hitting on a widow.Yashpal Sharma plays a notorious local politician.

The characters are cliches and Benegal takes a lot of time establishing them.The screenplay drags on for eternity and the music is not pleasant to the ear.In short, the film fails on all fronts.

I cannot say much of the cast.Its a Shreyas Talpade show all the way. He succeeds in inducing whatever little interest you have in the movie. Amrita Rao is unsure, Divya Dutta has exactly one expression through the movie.Ravi Kisen overacts and Yashpal Sharma seems bored with the character he is playing.

'Welcome to Sajjanpur' will rank as probably the worst of Shyam Benegal's works.If you miss it, you aren't missing much.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

BAD HAIR DAYS?? Not Anymore


Someone once said that we get the politicians we deserve.He forgot to mention we also get the barbers we deserve. Barbers set low standards for themselves and then consistently outsurpass themselves.

I have had some bad experience with barbers. And then some more.The problem with barbers is that you have to convey exactly what you want, otherwise you take what he gives you.



I have always had long hair. I don't know why. I mean long hair. If you kept it in front of my face, it used to reach my mouth. In 2003, when Tere Naam released, I even had my hair like that for a few months. I also got into crazy pacts with my friends to cut my hair once a year with them.



The result was that I always had a large mop of hair in front of my eyes.



For 6 years, I tolerated taunts ( Girls telling me "Tere baal mere se lambe hai " ), sarcasm ( My dad - "This hairstyle was very popular in the 70's.... like Shashi Kapoor and all") and dirty looks ( my maid and all the shopkeepers I used to buy hairbands from).



I had to use lots of hairgel and shampoos and conditioners. And my right hand was always pushing the hair from the front of my eyes and keeping it behind the ear ( It's so girlish I am squirming even while writing about it ). Whenever I got wet in the rain, it inevitably meant cold and headaches.


On Sunday morning , I woke up and realised I was stupid. I had to get a hair-cut.


Coming back to barbers, there are 2 kinds : The foolish ones and the Absolute morons.

Since I keep on changing my barbers, I hav seen the entire range from absurd to asinine. There was this one guy who would ask me again and agian how exactly he should cut every part. And when he was done, I realised he had done whatever the hell he wanted to my hair. And there was this other guy who always sang a lot while cutting my hair. Imagine, a guy has a blade on your neck and he's singing "Main hoon Don.." !!


The worst part is, since I have to take off my specs, I can't even monitor how he's cutting it. I was completely at the barber's mercy.


This time I found a salon called ''Curl Up 'n' Dye''. I wanted to just check out the place because I was intriuged by the name. It was pretty decent.


My instructions were precise : "You see all this hair? Chop it all off. Please don't make me look stupid". He switched on the music system and a song started playing. "Main duniya bhula doonga..."


After he was done, I looked into the mirror and I couldn't recognise myself. I ran my hand over my head. This felt good.


So how did he cut my hair ? I don't know. I am enjoying the freedom right now.

But so that you get a brief idea, I will post some of the opinions ( with my comments) here for you.



Akka : It's such a relief to see you like this.You look like a kid (Thanks, that's so touching !!!)



Shruti :"Send me a pic...(I'll see)...Nautanki mat kar, and send me a pic"



Pooja : "Ab insaan ki tarah lag raha hai".("What was I with long hair then?Greek God?)



Sarmistha : "Hehehe..hehe...(*#@*#!...)


Amamma : "He cut a little more than required. Your grandfather had long hair, you know. But
anyway, this is also nice"(She can never find any flaw in me)


Prashant : "Finally, dude.Congrats. But its like a part of you is missing. I have always seen you
with lots of hair.


Anil : "He should have cut a little lesser. You almost look stupid, man."(If you weren't so
tall, I'd have bashed you up


The Barber: "Mast hai saab, ekdum hero."(I was speechless, didn't know what to say!)



I don't know whose opinion to believe.


But anyway, if you still have long hair, get a life. (And then a haircut)
?

Monday, September 15, 2008

'A Wednesday' - The Hri-view ****/5



If you're planning to catch up on Rock On,The Dark Knight,or Singh is King,chuck the plan,and go watch 'A Wednesday'!

Its a small film with a big heart.Neither is it overbearing, nor preachy.Minimalistic to the point of seeming underplayed,'A Wednesday' is one of the better movies to hit the theaters this year.
The story revolves around a man who holds a city ransom,threatening to blow it apart.He demands the release of 4 dreaded terrorists.Initially,the Commissioner doubts his credibility,but soon realises that the caller means business.

You have to watch the film to know what happens after that.But take my word for one thing, if you are expecting the usual thriller, you are in for a big surprise.

'A Wednesday' is fabulous for 2 reasons: 1.It is very honest in its approach.There are no glitches in the plot,no unwanted romances,and it's not very lengthy (At one point, I was afraid the film was getting over too quickly !!).The plot is neither compromised for songs nor for idolising the hero,as is the norm these days.Here,plot is king.

2.The characters are played to near perfection.Anupam Kher is restrained but effective.Aamir Bashir is good as the younger cop.The surprise package is Jimmy Shergill, in probably his best role till now.

But the film is held together by that one man who continues to surprise you with every movie.Naseruddin Shah.As the caller,he obviously has the most important role and has you hooked through-out.Another gem of a performance.

Kudos to debutant director Neeraj Pandey.Its a very well made movie.

Go watch it and tell me if I went over the top !

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bachna Ae Haseeno - The Hri-view **




After dabbling with sports,women oriented and children's movies,Yash Raj is back to what it does best.Soppy love stories.

There are innumerable references to DDLJ.The characters are ready to burst into song at exactly at the right moments,the locales are post card perfect.There are actors doing guest appearances,children,a little bit of family sentiment thrown in.They have mastered the formula.

Sad part is,I think the audience has matured alarmingly over the few years.

Coming back to the film, I expected either a crazy story-less,all song drama like Dil Maange More,or an insane story like Singh is King. Thankfully,its not that bad.

Raj is a guy from Delhi.He has it all.But when it comes to girls, he's a killer.He doesnt fall in love and all that.He gets the girls easily.He reconts his life and the three girls in his life.The sweet Mahi,the confident Radhika and the smart,intelligent Gayatri.He dumps the first two and the last one dumps him.

He realises his life now sucks and ventures out to correct the wrong he has done.

Its a Yash Raj movie so I need not say anything else.Its self explanatory.

The movie is saved solely by the performances.Deepika Padukone and Minisha Lamba never over-act,they are restrained but sure of what they want to do.Bipasha Basu is the surprise package,But the film clearly belongs to Ranbir Kapoor who plays the Casanova with perfection.

Finally,its a movie you may enjoy but its definitely not one you will remember.Theres no towel scene in this one so I think even the girls do not have any special reason to watch this one.

PHOONK - The Hri-view ** 1/2


If Ram Gopal Verma was offering 5 lakhs to watch it alone, I think I deserve at least 1 lakh.There were hardly 10 people in the theatre I went to watch it in.That's the thing about Ramu.Those who watch his movies watch it for the reason that they are made by him.And those who don't watch his movies,avoid them because of the same reason.They are made by him.I think he's the only filmmaker who has actually become larger than his movies.Whenever a movie is to be released,less importance is given to the movie per se,but to RGV and his exploits.

But anyway,coming back to the story.Here's what was interesting.The remaining guys in the hall were there just to have a nice time,I think.They were the kind of morons who whistle and mouth obscene stuff when the heroine comes on screen.

These 2 guys were shouting "Vande Mataram" and "Bhoot hoon main" whenever they could,attempting to scare us but I was so pissed I could have kicked his butt to Lucknow.

As the movie went on,on of those guys came to me and said ''Can I sit here?".I asked him to sit a few seats away and keep his mouth shut.That guy was a nuthead.The movie isn't that scary.

But it has its moments.RGV's knack for zooming on supposedly inanimate things comes to the fore in the cinematography.The sound effects are good.

The only flaw here lies in the dearth of ideas to scare.Like in most Hindi movies made these days,whenever anything scary happens,it inevitably has to end with the person waking up and realising it was a dream.Also,the climax could have been far better,considering that the first half was successful in raising a few scares.

The actors essay their characters with ease,considering that its a horror movie and most of the action is supposed to take place in our minds.But the person who steals the show is the little kid.Kids nowadays act pretty well in our Hindi movies,exceptthe kids in Yash Raj movies.You feel like buying a big pack of Kitkat Chunkey and smacking their faces with it,but I'll get to that later.


Overall,Phoonk is an average movie.If you have an option to go to a movie,go for Rock On or the Dark Knight.But if you want to go watch Bachna Ae Haseeno or Singh is King,please watch this movie instead.At least you are not subjected to lip-syncing lover boys and dances at marriages.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Taare Zameen Par, and on my nerves too...

My dad hailed from an unknown village in Balasore district in Orissa.He had four younger brothers and 2 sisters under him.He was a topper,went to Bhubaneswar and started living there,working,studying and dreaming.

He also started taking tuitions.My mother was one of his students (They both learnt their lessons, I think.).They fell in love,married and he went on to start his own coaching institute that he used to finance the three cars that he bought to start his own travel agency.

I do not have the brains or the resolve like my dad.But I was inspired nonetheless.I decided to give tuitions too.At that time, I was managing my graduation,MBA coaching,and a job as a Customer Care Agent.I wanted a student who was easy to teach.

My first student was Sai Kumar, a 11th standard student who wanted help with Accountancy.I almost finished his course in 2 months,and he surprisingly understood everything.

After Sai Kumar left for his boarding school,I was confident about my abilities as a teacher.Then, Litton walked into my life. On to my nerves, rather.

If ever the calamity of tutoring children befalls you,remember the golden rule.CHILDREN ARE NOT EASIER TO TEACH.I learnt it the hard way.

Litton ('Lit-awn') was a 5 year old.He had been living in his native place all his life till his parents realised he was too street smart for the place and sent him to stay with his uncle, who stayed below our house.

Litton was a thin,little kid.He was not tall, not fair. There was nothing abut his appearance that stood out. Except one thing. He always wore a smirk on his face. It was a cross between a sarcastic and a 'know-it-all' smirk.

His aunt requested me to teach him.I was supposed to teach a 4 year old for 2 hours a day, and be paid for it.Walk in the park, I thought.

His aunt had forgotten to mention that he was an incorrigibly disobedient and naughty kid. I only got to know of this aspect of his from a few friends later on.

Apparently, Litton would bunk his tuitions and pocket the money meant for his tuitions every month.He was also whacked a lot by his uncle because he would use his uncle's perfumes before he went to school.Yes, he was a 4 year old !

Whenever we played cricket, Litton would stand there and be ready to fetch the ball if it went out of the park.I did not know that he could be naughty. I was in for a rude shock.

The day arrived when I had to start teaching him.

I did not know this, but his aunt had given him strict instructions not to have anything in our house.The first day, I offered him some biscuits.

"No." he said without even looking at them. But I am a couch potato and keep on munching on something or the other. He always declined the offer to eat anything but I could see his resolve was now weakening. One day when I was having Brittania Jim Jam biscuits and asked him,he said in a sing song tone. "If you want to give me...."

From that day, my sister and grandmother and sister pampered him. Inspite of his abysmal academics, he was given Horlicks made by my amamma and biscuits that were hidden away from me in the kitchen.

Litton was a smart kid and knew whom to be polite and sweet with. He always greeted my granny and sister and smiled when they said anything.

"Such a sweet kid,na?" my grandmother one day said.

She had no clue.Since I was his tutor, all his attitude was reserved for me.He wasn't great at studies and it didn't take long for me to notice that.

Maths and English to a 4 year old. What could have been easier ?

Anything !!

Litton was fascinated with Maths.When I say fascinated, I donot mean that he was interested in the subject and wanted to learn it. Far from it.

Whenever I explained anything in Maths to him, he stared at me.He kept on staring at me as if I was singing some melodious song for him.

I tried another technique. "If you have 5 apples and I give you 2 more, how many will you have?"

He continued staring at me as if he was wondering if the apples would be ripe or not.Then, he scratched his head and said,

''Apples?''

"Yes".

"I don;t know."

And then he smiled. It was as if deep within, he knew that my maths sucked and yet I was teaching him.

I am more confident about my English so I thought that would have been easier to teach.

All his life was spent in his native place and he had as much an idea bout English as I had about cows.

His spellings were sacrilegiously bad.And that all-knowing smile was un-nerving.

After many attempts at spelling that would have given the Queen a definite heart failure, i asked him to read out the spellings from his book.He was to read a word in English, and then say its meaning in Oriya.

The first page had a picture of a healthy,smiling cow (quite difficult to find these days).After all, he had been tending to cows for a while and had an idea about them.

'Read that out', I told him.

" C-O-Oww...Cow.Cow maane gaay"

"Good." I said, ignoring the c-o-oww.Read the next one.

"H-o-r-s = Horse. Horse maane ....jersey gaay ? "

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

PRAVEEN ICE CREAM ( MIX BADAM )

It's a little shop in the market near my house. A Bihari man runs the shop and is helped by his apprentice, a 14 year old called 'Golu'.

He gives amazing Kulfi cone ice cream for 6 bucks and badam shake for 12 bucks. No prizes for guessing which one I have !

The place is a very interesting one. Positioned strategically at the entry gate of the market to ensure maximum visibility, the stall is visited by people of all ages, genders, and income groups. I once saw a man get down from an Audi and take 20 ice creams as 'parcel'. The shop is also resort to jobless,pennyless vagabonds like me.

The Bihari guy has been here for 12 years and proudly says that the rates have been hiked only twice since then.For more than a decade now, he has been dishing out slurpy kulfi to people at affordable prices. He also dishes out dollops of sarcasm, mostly directed at Golu.

His assistant, Golu, has picked up the tricks of the trade but is never given the cresit by his boss.The other day I had a kulfi cone and asked for change for 50 bucks. Rajesh promptly handed the note to Golu and gave me the cone.

Golu put the note in the cash box and cautiously started counting the change he needed to give me back. Before handing me the money, he asked

'Chauvvalis rupay de raha hoon.." he said,half to me and half to Rajesh, probably to show he knew how to count.

'Nahi, poore Pachaas lauta de.Saab dost hai humaare...'

The smile on Golu's face vanished and was replaced by a scowl.

I can always sympathise with someone whose Maths is bad, considering that I once answered a sum in which the son's age was 12 years more than the dad's age.

'Bachha hai woh.Seekhne do usey...' I told Rajesh.

'Nahi, saab. Gobar bhara hai uske dimaag mein.Bahut saara gobar' he said, knocking on the sides of his head.

Poor Golu, my boss seemed like Lady Diana compared to his.

The shop is also interesting for another reason.Rajesh can speak perfect Oriya. But everybody who visits the shop speaks to him in Hindi. No matter how broken, pathetic or Godforsaken their Hindi is, a sudden, inexplicable love for the National language dawns on them when they reach Praveen Ice cream ( Mix Badam).

A few days back, a hefty man aged about 40 who looked like he should have quit ice creams long back,landed at his shop.

'Ram Ram, Bhaiyya' he greeted Rajesh. Quite unnecassary, but he probably wanted to show that he knew Hindi, or had Hindi speaking friends.

'Kya doon,saab?'

' 2 shake do, 'phool' wala '

'Phool wala nahi hai, saab. Pista, Badam, chocolate...kaun sa doon?'

'Chocolate do,phool'

'sirf chocolate hai,saab...chocolate phool nahi hai'

'Arey nahi,mujhe phool do,half nahi'

'Oh, 'full' doon,saab?'

I am not sure but I think that the permanent smile on his face had a smirk-ish twitch to it !!!

Subho

I was returning from Vizag yesterday in the Inter-City Express.Somewhere along the journey, a little kid came and started sweeping the floor near my feet.I generally discourage begging and so shooed him away.I feel disgusted by people who make the poor kids sweep the floor and don't even pay them for it.

After half an hour,i see the same kid.he's standing near the wash basin,his broom in one hand.He is short and skinny.He must be around 5 years old.A hawker was selling samosas. 'How much for one?' he asks.

2 rupees

He looks in his pocket,takes out a coin,and gives the man.The hawker gives him the samosa in his hand.The kid asks him for some salt.The hawker gives it to him in his hand.i stand up and ask him why he dint give the kid the usual paper plate and sauce.

'Why should i give him,saab?I can use it for some other customer.'

'Give him a paper plate and sauce', I told the hawker.He gave the kid the plate throwing me a dirty look.

The kid ate up the samosa greedily.

'You want one more?'

He looks at me,turns his head in a no and walks away,casting me a final glance before hurrying on to the next compartment.

At Vizianagaram, I get down to buy some snacks.When I return,the kid is sitting next to a boy who's about 12 years old in the seat next to me.The two kids are talking.I look at them.One of them is dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. The other is a scrawny kid with many scars on his hands,face,and legs.

I lean in to listen to what they are talking.The elder kid was asking the little one about his home.

'I have no home,sir.I live on the train.The other boys on the train always beat me up.They have also pushed me out of the train a few times.'

'What's your name?'

'Subho'

I smiled at the irony.'Subho' means auspicious in Oriya.The kid was actually pretty cute.If he had normal parents and went to school and had a normal life,he would have been pretty cute looking.But his hands were dirty,there were scars all over his hands and legs and he held on to his broom like it was precious.

When we reached Berhampur, I asked him if he wanted to eat something.He looked at me,as if he was shocked someone would ask him that.

'Yes', he said and his eyes lit up.

I got down and signaled him to get down too. 'Lets find something to eat,I am hungry too'

'I cant get down.Someone will flick my broom if i get down'.

'Bring it with you then, and come quickly'

He brought his broom and I helped him get down.'We have to come back quickly,the train stops for very little time here', he said trying to sound like he knew what he was talking about.

'You want to have Poori?' He nodded in the affirmative.

I bought a packet for each of us.The train sounded the whistle.I purposely waited for it to pick up a little pace and when it did,I ran to the door and lifting him up with both hands threw him inside the train.He was laughing loudly.

'Wash your hands before you eat'. He obediently washed his hands and started devouring the Pooris.

'Can I lie down here?' , he asks after he is done with the Pooris.

I shift a little and give him my book to rest his head on.He lay down on the seat.

I looked at him.What could I do for this kid ? How could I suggest that he go to a school? What good would an education do him ?

I knew that I had found a topic for my next blog. Was I a creep ? Was I using this situation just so that I had something new to write about?

I don't know that.But if you ever travel by the Vishakapatnam-Bhubaneswar Inter City Express and see a little kid called Subho,be nice to him.He's actually very sweet.

Hi

8th August
Hi !

I wanted to tell you this since long. Everything I say to you may not be right. Most of it is what I have gathered from the time I have known you.

You're not the most popular one. So what ? Others with lesser potential are better than you. But that shouldn't bog you down. You are destined for great things. That's because you have the one sure shot ingredient for success - Potential.

You are young And romantic. You wear your heart on your sleeve. You are emotional about people you love and sometimes err.But you have the cushion of the future to learn from. You sometimes get agitated quickly, but that's alright. At heart, you are loving and tolerant. Sometimes a little too tolerant, so that others take advantage of you. But nevertheless, don;t change. There are others who are taken advantage of because they are arrogant or stupid, You are still better off.

You are emotional. About your people, your loved ones. About their likes, dislikes, choice and tastes. You have had an illustrous past before you. But your future is yours. I am confident it will be enviable.

Look around you. People are changing. Times are changing. Some for the better. Some otherwise. You need to change too.

But which way should you go? Your family ? Friends? Culture? Your aims ? Aspirations? You are confused. You have many options in front of you and sometimes get depressed because you don't know whats right for you.What about status? Recognition? Your friends achieving more than you.
But remember that the world is vast.Your understanding of the world is the people you know.Your people.Your every step should keep them in mind as they are the ones that matter to you.
Equip yourself with knowledge.Success will come.I can see it.In the way you talk.Your enthusiasm and your behaviour.
There are times when I may have been cross with you.Times when I have complained.I shouldn't have done that and instead contributed in any small way that was possible.There were times when I laughed with you and others when I laughed at you.
I have never told you this.But I am proud of you.I couldn't have asked for anything more.You are perfect for me and I count my blessings everyday for having you.
Your birthday falls this Friday.I know most will say that your birthdays are superficial.
But I want this day to be different.I want you to realise your potential and know that I'll always be there for you.
You turn 60 this year.It doesn't feel that way.From what I know of you,you have been one,cool, dude.
me.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rakhi,Raksha and Akka

As a kid in a boarding school, Rakshabandhan was not very exciting. Three days before Rakshabandhan, we would start receiveing rakhis in our mails. The teachers would tie the rakhis on our hands.

Later, if the rakhis came off, we;d ask our friends to tie them back for us with a slight warning, 'You have to protect me,ok?'

I never got into the habit of gifting anything on Rakshabandhan and still do not gift my sister anything. I think its unfair. You tie a rakhi worth 50 bucks and expect a gift worth 500 !

Moreover, its because me and my sister's equation has never been one in which I have to protect her or anything. On the contrary, it is she who takes care of me all the time.

We are not very close to each other. My years at the hostel, my demented parents and numerous fights caused us to drift apart.

I do not believe in social bonds. Family, marriage, relatives. It all seems like a compulsion to me. I lived alone for a few years because I felt I did not need a family around me. I now live with them because I like their company.

My sister is an exceptionally talented person. It's only because of my mom, an educated but ideologically backward woman who didn't think it was important to encourage a daughter's talents,that she never got to pursue any of her talents.

She's a painter. Initially, she was sent to accompany me as I could not cross the road alone. The art teacher soon noticed that she had a talent and I did not. Sadly, she was asked to stop the classes once she reached 9th standard. She sketches, paints my T-shirts for me, helps me with my posters, gives me ideas for my work and blogs. She also teaches basic education and dance to children of poor families on Sundays.

All of her childhood was spent in either pandering to my parents' wishes or my tantrums during my holidays. In the time when girls play with dolls and miniature kitchen sets, her days were spent witnessing fights between my parents. No wonder there's still a child in her.

As a kid, she was always honest. I was a natural when it came to lying. But she was always honest. After getting whacked, she would tell me with great pride, 'At least I spoke the truth'.

I was very happy lying and getting away, Thank You very much !

There was an incident that had occurred in our childhood. She had taken the money needed to pay her school fees. For some strange reason, she had kept the money in her tiffin box. As she was having her tiffin and playing in the school grounds, a cow came and ate up her tiffin and the notes of currency as well.

Of course no one believed her.Some truths are even more stranger than fiction than others !

She was always bringing stray pups and kitten from the school in her bag.The kitten would later be given absurd names like 'Jyothi' or 'Sai Deepthi' by her.

She is actually the man of the house. She runs our family. Changing the lights and fans, fixing the cylinders, shopping for grocery, and cooking. She's perfect sister material.

As a kid, she was cute and cherubic. My parents loved her but hated each other so much that they overlooked her interests and wishes as a child.

An uncle of mine had noticed her as a chirpy kid who was always making people smile and nick-named her 'Titli'. She's a butterfly alright, one whose wings were clipped.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

MY 'RAM' FIXATION

I was born on a Friday .it was the 18th of April, at 10.30 PM. According to the Hindu calendar, it was Ram Navami.

I don’t know if it’s a planetary link, but I’ve always had a Ram fixation.

Ram was the first superhero in my life. All of my childhood was spent in listening to stories from my father and grandmother about Ram’s heroics. There was also Ramanand Sagar. Nobody could have explained the story better.

Watching Arun Govil portray Ram as he conquered evil and protected the good, I was mighty impressed. I’d wait for Ramayan to show on television every Sunday. I wanted to be Ram.

At school, while other kids were playing their abysmal versions of cricket and football, I’d run around the ground playing Ramayan with a few other friends. We were so bad at games that they didn’t let us play with them, I think. I nursed a secret wish to be Ram at least in those games but the casting director for our game never considered me good enough to play Ram. I was always made one of those loyal monkeys that fought for him.

There was an old man who worked at the school my mother worked in. he was considered wise by one and all. When he first saw me, he named me “Ram Babu”. Instead of feeling sad that there was an addition to my already sufficient list of ridiculous pet names, I was very happy.

There was another incident that took place when I was a kid. There was another such wise man who’d visit our home regularly. This man was a complete astrological package. He could read palms, advice on Vaastu, talk about Rahukalam and all the other things associated with astrology.

When he saw my palm, he told my parents,

“This boy is destined for great things. He may even go on to become a Minister.”

My dad remembers me leaving the place in a hurry, visible annoyed.

“But I don’t want to be a minister, Nana. I want to be the King” was my logic.

It took me sometime to understand that kings dint exist anymore because they had been replaced by this all-powerful person called “The Government”. Whenever I asked him to whom a particular building or a park belonged, he’d say “It belongs to the Government”. I always thought that the Government was a person.

My dad had a simple way of explaining things to me. But I always had a complicated way of understanding them. I remember him explaining that it’s important to plant trees because they take in Carbon Dioxide and give out Oxygen and so it’d mean more Oxygen for us to breathe. I was around 4 years old, so the process of Photosynthesis would be too difficult to understand.

Of course, I was interested in trees for a different reason altogether. I’d been pestering my sister to make me a bow and arrow forever.

My sister was good at all that. Since I later went to study in a boarding school, I was always given preferential treatment. At least during the 2 months that I came home for holidays, I just had to pull a face and she’d agree to anything I said.

She finally agreed to make me a bow and arrow. It took her around 2 days, because she had to hide it from everyone else at home. But when she finally showed it to me, I caught my breath. It was beautiful!!! The edges were polished and the bow formed a perfect arch. It was the correct size for my hands. The bowstring was perfectly strung. She had also made 3 equal-sized arrows from the stems of the same tree. There was a slight incision at the bottom end of the arrows so they could be fit on to the bowstring. The upper ends were sharpened with a blade.

Holding it made me feel powerful, like my hero Ram!!

We went to the balcony. I was ready to release my first arrow. I fit the arrow, and pulled the string. Then, I raised the bow with the arrow fitted in it. I brought it upto my forehead and closed my eyes and muttered some imaginary mantra. I took aim at a tree in front of me and released the arrow.

The feeling was exhilarating.

The arrow, however, went zooming downwards and hit the person who lived downstairs on the foot. It must have hurt, because I remember him shouting as we ran to hide inside the house.

The 2nd arrow was sent unceremoniously into nothingness.

The 3rd one was bang on target. It hit the TV and the glass came crashing to the ground. I knew I was screwed. My sister knew better.


That evening when Nana came home from the office, I ran to greet him wearing a beautiful smile.

“Nana, you won’t believe what happened ….a HUGE frog jumped out of the TV today.

He inspected the damage done. And to my relief, laughed.

My sister was whacked when she returned from school, of course. I never understood why she always spoke the truth. When it came to lying, I was a natural. But she was the truthful one who got whacked for her honesty.

On expected lines, she never made me a bow and arrow again. But I was still fascinated by Ram.

Till a few years later. At school, when teachers told us the story of Ramayan many times. Ram is considered “Purushottam” – meaning the “the Ideal Man”. However, I think the major blemish on his character was that he doubted Sita’s loyalty. None of the teachers’ explanations seemed satisfactory. That was a dumb thing to do.

I mean, if I listened to everything the Dhobi said, I’d have set up 3 paan shops next to his.

Since then, I somehow lost interest in Ram. But I still think the bow and arrow is the sexiest weapon ever made.

GOODBYE,HOUSE !!!!

Is it possible to get attached to a house? To four walls and a roof? I realized it is.

We have been living in this house for 23 years. I was born here (in the hospital, actually. But I was later on brought here.) And this house has many fond memories.

As a kid, I used to scribble on the walls with a pencil. There are markings on the wall to record my height (was I really 3 feet 8 inches at some time?). There are the paint marks where, in my excitement I had started painting the windows too. There is the corner where I had hidden all the matchboxes (when my mother asked me why, I told her I collect them for the jokes written at the back). There’s the kitchen, the location for numerous experiments with different cuisines (some were good, most were horrible) the terrace where I was caught drunk by Akka on Diwali (she seemed to notice that all the crackers were bursting in my hands itself. When she asked me, I said “Happy Diwali” with a wide smile. That’d be my last smile for weeks to come!!)


And what’s a house without neighbours? The lady downstairs who was perennially pissed off. The lady next door who washes the stairs thrice a day. The old, bearded Postman chacha who has been delivering letters to the locality for 30 years now. The girl who is now is 9th standard that Pintu Bhai can’t take his eyes off (“Her face is like the moon...”). The road in front of our house and the cricket matches played there (I hold the record for bowling 14 wides in over)

This house has been with us through thick and thin. When the Super Cyclone was ravaging the region, my sister and mom were happily eating Dosa and Milkmaid!!

The balcony where I’d stand after a work-out, trying to show off my nearly invisible biceps. And the place where my grandmother would leave a few grains of rice everyday for the crows.

The jackfruit tree right in front of our balcony that the miserly owners would neither have themselves nor let anyone else has any.

The one person who made my life beautiful, Pintu Bhai. I remember the innumerable times I’ve appeared at his doorstep asking for toothpaste because I was drunk.

I have said goodbye to this house many times. After every holiday or when I left home to stay alone.

We are leaving this house permanently. It’s hard to believe that this house will not be home anymore. It’s only befitting that we are shifting on Friendship Day.

This house has been a very good friend.

MY FIRST BEER....

Santu came to my home at around 7 PM.

“Mandir chalega?”

That’s the thing about him. He may be an asshole, but he goes to the temple every Tuesday. I don’t know why he chooses that day, but I always accompany his if he asks me to.

I am not a theist. I couldn’t care less about God or the damn rituals. But going to the temple has its benefits. Chicks. And since nobody expects you to stare at them in a temple, you can ogle as much as you want. It’s better on the big festivals. T hey are all in their best clothes and for some fabulous reason, they leave their hair open on those days.

But anyway, we go to the temple. He prays, I stare. We leave the temple.

All of a sudden, he turns to me and says, “Wanna booze?”

“What??” I ask

“Wanna have beer? There’s a shop just there.” He says, pointing to a liquor shop right in front of the temple. Nice place to set up shop. If you believe in God, go right. If you wanna have a blast, take left.

“You wanna go or not?”

Of course I did. Who wouldn’t want to? The only problem was that I had never had a beer in all my life.

“Hmm… I don’t know, man. I’m not in the mood.” I said, trying to sound like a guy who’d otherwise guzzle down 6 beers (if he was in the mood, that is)

“Come on, man. Its just beer. Won’t harm you. It’s good for hair, too. I read that somewhere.”

It’s evident he isn’t very experienced either. But how did he know I was obsessed about my hair? Anyway, I agree.

“But I’ll have only one, yaar. It’s evening time, na?”

I am not sure he bought that, but we went to the shop and bought the beers.

“Foster’s ok with you, na?” he asked.

“Oh… I love Foster. Australian for beer.” I said, immediately feeling foolish.

I looked at the dark green bottle, raised it and gulped it down. I could feel the beer flowing down my throat and into my stomach.

It was bitter. And confusing. It was chilled beer. Then why did it feel hot inside me? Was I drunk already?

I looked at Santu. As he gulped down his bottle and made a face as he swallowed it.

“How’s it?”

“Awesome, man. I love it.”

I hated it.

'MOHANTY'...

When someone mentions the word “genius”, what’s the image that comes to your mind?

A man, who seems a little crazy, with a shabby workplace, shabby clothes, and difficult to understand??

Satyajeet Mohanty was exactly that. A fifteen year version of the weird, wacko scientist.

As a kid, he was always falling sick. He had to take painful injections every 21 days for his joint pains. He kept on finding innovative ways to get injured. Even early this January when we went on a 3 day trip to our old school and were playing a crazy game called “King Kong”, he twisted his ankle and sprained it!!!

As he grew up, his triangular head seemed to confine in it a very able brain. He was one of those cool guys who somehow scored the top marks in every test.

Both of us were from Orissa. We know each other from the age of 5. He was inquisitive as a kid. To the point of getting on your nerves, sometimes!

As he grew older, his talents and intelligence seemed to grow even more. Sadly, so did his weird, wacko side. It was like a Dr. Jekyll - Mr. Hyde symptom that the teachers failed to comprehend. How could a guy who was so vastly talented be such a complete weirdo?

He gained the reputation of the guy who knew a lot. I knew stuff. But my knowledge was basically GK stuff. ‘Mohanty’ was the Maths and Science guy.

So, people generally listened to him. And guess how he used to take advantage of our credulity?

In class 3, he said that eating the seeds of drumstick would make you better at Maths. Since he was the best in Maths, nobody questioned the logic. I would have eaten probably a thousand drumstick seeds, but my Maths still sucks like a vacuum cleaner.

All these theories seemed true only because he said them. Half of them believed him. The other half probably agreed so that he’d stop his damn ‘explanation’ sessions!

The theories always went above our heads. Geometrically speaking (Now, I am trying to sound like him when he’d explain his theories…here’s a taste of your own, bitter
Medicine!) If our heads were like circles, his logic was like a tangent that went right over our heads!!

Another theory of this child prodigy. We were in a boarding school, and the proper functioning of our bowel movements depended on the teacher. If the teacher didn’t let us go to the bathroom when we asked her, we were doomed.

But we had the wise Mohanty to go to for advice:
“If you want to feel better, keep 2 big stones in your pant pockets. It’ll reduce the pressure”.

We guys must have been really dumb if he could have got away with this stuff.

As he grew older, it was clear we hadn’t seen the last of his talents yet. His health improved and he started showing an avid interest in games. He could play cricket, football, basketball, table-tennis, badminton, chess and any other game that we had a chance to play. In one of the most memorable matches in my life, the two of us had an 8th wicket partnership that saved the match for our class.

Though he had no inclination towards music back then, in 4 years, he plays the guitar for his college band and now is also learning to play drums and the saxophone too. He’s like an irritating version of Forrest Gump!!!

The two of us got along fabulously because of our common interests. We were interested in films and books. We used to read Harry Potter, Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer on the sly. We’d also stared attempting to solve the Hindu crossword from Class 9.

You must be thinking he’s this fabulous, talented person, right? Good. That means I can now get to my favourite part.

This guy is too weird to be true. The reason he’s a teetotaler is simple. You cannot act drunk than he does when he’s normal.

In our younger days, he was a pain in the ass. If the entire class was the UPA, he was the CPM. I remember, when we guys wanted to play carom, he’d come and sit right in the middle so that nobody got to play.

And when a teacher asked us in class, “Should I teach some more or should we continue in the next class?”

Mohanty would be the only guy to say, “Yes, sir. Please teach, sir.” And then turn and smile at us.

We were roommates in 9th standard. He was my room leader. And not an ideal one at that, because all our night study hours would be spent in devising ways to pour water on the guys in VRR’s room, opposite to ours.

When we would read the newspaper, what’d you expect a guy to notice everyday? This guy used to count the number of people reported dead everyday!!

And he used to say at the end of it, “Aah…today, our population went down by 57!!!!”

Didn’t I say geniuses were weird?

Friday, August 1, 2008

WHY EVERYONE CANNOT BE A POET...

I have always wanted to be a poet. It fascinates me. A poem conveys far more than prose can. Also, a poem seems more life-like. The rhythm, the rhyme, and the structuring give it a realistic feel.

I have always been a fan of poetry. Read ‘The Ancient Mariner’, I bet nobody could have written it better, or in any other form. ‘The Solitary Reaper’ is another one that I like. Some of them do go over my head, though. Like the poem ‘Snake’. I can’t make head or tail of it no matter how many times I read it. But generally, poems are brilliant.

We all wrote poems as kids. Juvenile stuff like

“Today’s a bright day.
I am happy and gay.”

I think children are more inclined towards poetry. Ask a kid “Why?” and he’ll say

“Because the sky is so high”, ........ immediately followed by

“You don’t know how to multiply” ........and then

“My grandfather married a butterfly”, ..............and if he’s a snob, probably

“Go and live in a pigsty.”


But after growing up, we kind of stop trying to rhyme words or write a poem.

Sarmistha and I had met in college. We had participated in the debate competition. We both had won the joint 1st prize. The professor who judged the event said that in 26 years of his career, this was the first time that he couldn’t pick a clear winner. We are still the best of friends today. Though I still feel that I should have been given the 1st prize, she doesn’t agree. I think I am a better speaker. But she has an edge. She can write poems. Really good ones. I used to laugh at them because they always seemed like some unreleased Norah Jones number. But now I realise how tough it is to write one.

My friend, Poetic Soul is another brilliant poet. One of her poems “My dad loved me” is about a dad who abuses his daughter. It’s spine-chilling. Somehow, poems have an effect that words as such can never achieve. So inspired was I by that poem that I decided that I have to write a poem.

I asked Poetic Soul for a few tips. She taught me the basic structures of poems.

AaBb,
AbAb,
BABA,
ABBA.

and similar such combinations. Ok, I had my work cut out.

Now I had to find words that rhyme. Easy. Cheesy. Sleazy.

See what my problem was? All my rhyming words always seemed to revolve around the same topic.

Change of Plan. Now, I decided I needed to speak in poetry. How do you speak in poetry? You don’t wanna know!!

Monica agreed to be my guinea pig. She didn’t agree as such, but who asks her? I started talking to her in poetry.

So when I answered the phone, I’d say

“Hello...” and after a pause,

“Why are you sounding mellow?”

I felt stupid but I was determined to do it somehow. It’d have gone on smoothly, if only she didn’t start laughing after every line of mine.

Proceed to Step 2: Compose small poems.

This was the toughest step. I just couldn’t do it. My first poem was an SMS to Poetic Soul. I had told her that I would have at least one poem with me by that evening. And I couldn’t come up with anything that wasn’t trash. So my poem to her went like:

”ssup Poetic Soul
Hope u dn’t think ’m an asshole
Was trying a bit of poetry
Shud’ve known aint my cup of tea
Coz no matter how hard I work
My poems, they always suck

And I sent it to her, expecting at least a “They ACTUALLY suck” kind of a reaction. All I got was a reply saying “Don’t worry. Happens. You’ll get better”.

What could be worse? She didn’t even realize that it was a poem!!

But I didn’t give up. My next target was Monica again. She never remembers the menu after having dinner. So my very special, personalized poem for her was:

“Every night if you have dinner
In life you will be a winner
But if you don’t remember the menus
Then the dinner is of no use

Again, no reaction. She thought it was another of my jokes that she couldn’t understand.

I composed a few more poems with each of them being bigger disasters than the previous ones.


Finally, I realized why I couldn’t write a poem. If everyone became a poet, then who would appreciate them? God had bigger plans for me. I was to be one of those guys who appreciate a good poem (while envying the poet at the same time).

So go ahead, Poetic Soul. I’ll cheer you from the sidelines.

That’s all I can do.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
It’s unfair but true
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
Coz no matter how hard I work
.
.
.
.
.
My poems, you know they suck!!

WHY I AM A GOVINDA FAN

Firstly, if any of you take consider Bollywood seriously, you should not. To think that we okay with films that have the hero lip-syncing in 5 different voices is preposterous in the first place.

And on top of that, we argue about who’s a better actor and who’s worse. Some are called kings, we have a Big B, a Small A, and a voluptuous M. among all these, one guy stands out is Govinda.

You can’t take him seriously because his films don’t take themselves seriously in the first place. It’s not about GAP wearing friends realizing that they are in love, nor are they about the problems faced my children. They are about the badly dressed simpleton who falls for the sexy, urban girl who has a rich dad (who for a strange reason wears a bathrobe even in the afternoon!). For all our talks of who’s the actual Boss of Bollywod, you have to go to the villages to find out who’s the actual boss. Most of rural India would pass a ‘Taare Zameen Par’ for a ‘Dulhe Raja’ or a ‘Saajan Chale Sasuraal’.

I think the main reason is that you do not have to possess a lot of brains to watch his movies. I mean, a guy in a village would find the idea of adultery in KANK abominable, let alone watch them singing songs together. Also, the high-tech gadgets in Dhoom 2 would go zooming over their heads. But a simpleton running after a hot chick? Bring it on!

Govinda’s films are not pretentious. They don’t preach. Try deriving some moral values from ‘Ek aur Ek Gyarah’. Then what’s it about him that draws them to him? His flaws, obviously. What we perceive as ‘flaws’ are actually appreciated. The not so flattering figure, the wardrobe that could give a designer a stroke, the mouth gaping open when he dances. Who wants a Hrithik Roshan who looks like a Greek God? They want a Govinda who looks like an Indian Idiot!!

Frankly, I have watched some movies purely to test how far I can go. Me, and David Dhawan, that is. Watch Govinda’s gangster accent in “Akhiyon Se Goli Maare”, or him making faces like a Chinese guy through the TV in ‘Hadh Kardi Aapne’, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

But within half an hour into any of his movie, you drop your senses.

No wonder, when Aamir Khan (who’s considered the most intelligent actor among the current bunch) was asked who his favourite actor, he answered that it was Govinda.

There’s another movie of his getting released, ‘Money Hai Toh Honey Hai’. It’ll be crazy. But I’ll watch it anyway

I am tired of intelligence. You guys can watch intelligent movies, I am very happy with kitsch, non-sensical humour. Thank you very much.

Bring on the madness!!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

MY FIRST...

I have always hated growing up. I think life is always in phases. First, you have childhood. You are an infant; you grow up, see new things, meet new people, and learn new things. It’s pretty awesome.

Then you grow even more and out of your teens. That’s it. By then you know your stuff. You know who's good and who's bad. You know what to do with your life, and where to get the cheapest Paav Bhaaji. Life becomes stagnant.

The only new thing left to experience is getting married and having kids.

This thought made me ponder. When was the last time something happened to me that made me go, "Hey, that has never happened to me before”? So, this month I am going to dedicate to "My first...".Its going to be an account of all the things that happened to me for the first time and how they happened. My first crush, my first book, my first embarrassing moment, my first kiss, my first movie, my first peg of alcohol, my first pizza, my first pair of jeans, my first cricket bat, my first speech, my first guilt...


MY FIRST EMBARASSING MOMENT:

Let me start with my forte, embarrassing situations. Now, some people just have the talent. It’s like Lycra. You either have it or you don’t. And Yours Truly? HAS IT!!

I have had countless embarrassing situations. Like accepting a prize from the Principal and my tongue cleaner falling from my trouser pocket with a loud clang. Or meeting a guy with a new crew cut and telling him, “Hey dude, nice hairstyle”, only to realize his dad had passed away a few weeks earlier. I am an expert at it. Right through my childhood, I can recall countless experiences when I have made a fool of myself in public.

But this one is my earliest memory and I thought I should share it with you.

I never went to school as a kid. My dad taught me all the basics at home. It was fun, I could study with him. He was a very cool dad. But then I was to join a school from Class 1 and they needed that I have gotten enrolled in some school earlier. So I was admitted in a school here for 6 months, for a course called “Prep”. I still don’t know what that means.

Now that I think of it, I shouldn’t have gone to the school even for the 6 months. The incidents there scarred me forever. The school was pretty decent. Classes till 11 ‘o’ clock, then they let you play what you wanted and then I could go home standing in the front of my dad’s scooter. I always heard his voice telling me from the back of my head, “Puppu, don’t fall asleep, keep your eyes open.” There was something about a hot afternoon, the wind blowing my hair back, and the continuous drone of the Bajaj scooter. It put me to sleep in minutes. To add to the fun, my dad always rode the scooter very slowly. I am sure even bicycles overtook us on the way, but I was never awake to notice that.

I used to go to a Christian woman for tuitions. She was the one who taught me how to speak in English. The woman was very kind. I remember her urging me to read Tinkle at her home. She always fed me sweets, biscuits, and pastries when I went to her house for tuitions. Either she loved kids, or she charged an exorbitant rate for the tuitions that included the snacks.

Anyway, turns out I had joined the school during the most exciting time of the year. There were a lot of games and competitions going on then. One of them was the Fancy Dress competition.

Now, if you were a family, and you had a kid, and the kid had a fancy dress competition to go to, what would you make your kid go dressed as?

There were a lot of things I would have loved to be. Police officer, train engine driver, cricketer, or Mithun Chakroborty. My cousins tell me that as a kid, I always wanted to be Mithun Chakroborty. He was my idol. I mean, for someone as bad looking as he was, he danced with pretty girls, bashed up the baddies, and sang songs. I would have loved to dress up as Mithun and go and shout out in front of everyone, “Ayee…Maa Kasam...”

All my suggestions were turned down. And my great parents, what did they finally decide that I should be dressed as? Believe it or not, I was to be dressed as a crow!! Yes, a crow!!

I agreed, because Dad always knew what he was doing. They convinced me that I was going to be the show-stealer, so I was pretty kicked about it. Preparations began 3 days before the actual event. I was taken to the tuition madam. As if one wasn’t enough, I was now the subject of 3 persons’ creatitivity. Mom, Dad, and the teacher.

The day arrived. I was first made to wear the basics. A black shirt and a black pant. (If they left it at that, I could probably go as ‘The Undertaker’). Then, they attached a very suspicious thing to my arm. It was black, thick and nothing like what I had seen all my life. It was made of cardboard and paper. Another congruent piece was attached to my left arm too. Then, I got it. My lovely parents…They gave me wings!!!

As if that wasn’t enough, next came the feather in the cap, the jewel of the crown. The beak of the crow!! Made of cardboard, it was about half a foot long and had an elastic band at the back so it could be strapped on to my face. Once she was done, my teacher moved a few paces back and inspected me and said, “Hmmm…beautiful. (I was elated. Nobody had called me that before) you are going to win”. I was over the moon. I had never won anything. Quite simply because I had never participated in anything earlier.

“Flap your wings, go on”, she urged me. I did that. “Okay, now for your dialogue. Repeat after me,” she said. “Kkaaa, kkaaa. I am the thirsty crow.”

“Kkaaa, kkaaa. I am the thirsty crow.” I repeated after her, with earnest. Oh! You should have seen me. I was like Shaimak Davar. Flapping my wings, cawing like a crow, mouthing my dialogues and frantically looking for the pot of water I would throw stones into. I was a man-made wonder.

Ready to kick everyone’s ass, I was rearing to go. The teacher stuffed a last sweet into my mouth and kissed me goodbye. I was already late for the show.

Now that I think of it, my dad hadn’t lost it completely. He had the sense not to take me on his scooter that day. Imagine what a sight it would have been. Man, Woman, and Crow. The other extreme of Family Planning! So anyway, I was taken to school in a rickshaw that day.

I was excited and my heart was probably beating as fast as a crow. (Getting into character, see?) We finally reached the school compound. We were late. I rushed into the building. The competition had nearly begun.
Everybody had to go on to the stage in a few minutes. I looked at everybody else around me. One guy was a policeman, another a hero with a guitar, yet another was an army officer, another, cricketer. The girls were all either princesses or fairies. They all looked smart and suave. Compared to them, I looked like a prop of a low budget play. I still remember thick, hot tears welling up in my eyes. As a child, you are more honest about your feelings. I cried because I was ashamed of my entire costume.

But Nana had accompanied me for show. He was in the audience. He was the producer, creative supervisor, the make up artist, script and dialogue writer. More importantly, he was my Dad. I just didn’t know what to do if I backed out. So, when my turn came, I remember walking on to the stage. I don’t remember if the crowd cheered, booed, or were just plain dumbstruck by the absurdity of it all. My eyes were too filled with tears to notice anything. I looked at him, mouthed my dialogues, and left the stage in a hurry.

Now that I think of it, none of the other guys were innovative. I mean, what’s different about a policeman, or a cricketer? And I could bet my fake beak on the fact that none of the other guys’ dads had stayed up all night preparing their costume with their own hands. Maybe if I had performed properly, I would have even won the competition. But I will never know.

It was probably the first lesson that our parents know much more than we do, at any point of our life.

But on that day, I was glad the damn thing was finally over!!

MY FIRST INJECTION

My life has always been hospital-free. I haven’t had a single sprain, fracture, tear, muscle strain, or a stitch in all my life. I took my first capsule when I was in 5th standard. And even that was a dumb ‘Memory Plus’ tablet that Vishwanath Anand endorsed.

I am dead scared of injections. And all the stitching and dressing and all that. The very sight of scissors, syringes, and scalpels freaks me out. I had my first injection (that I can remember) in Class 3. It was during the holidays.

During my childhood, there was a brand of bubblegum called "Big Babool". The packaging was colourful. They came in various flavours like cream, vanilla, mixed fruit, and they gave off a lot of free goodies. Every pack cost 1 re. There was also the 'Multipack'. It consisted of 6 bubble gums for 5 Rs.

They also gave off small comic books free with every Multipack. These comics contained adventures of a group of kids who were clearly a rip-off from Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five”. They even had a dog that formed part of their gang. The stories were predictable. The kind of stuff you’d expect in comics that you’d find if you were going through your childhood stuff. Using some scientific technique unknown to mankind, the kids got away from the thugs by blowing bubbles. I mean, even Chacha Chaudhry seemed believable compared to these guys. I wouldn’t prescribe it to a kid with learning disabilities.

Of course, I didn’t know all this back then,

I was out with Akka. And I remembered that I had forgotten to collect the free comic book with my ‘Multipack’. So I insisted that we go back and collect it.

She didn’t want to, but I can be a stubborn oaf even if I don’t want to, and so we went back to the store.

The shop stands where it was even today. “Subudhi General Store.” The owner was a bald man with a crooked nose. His teeth were brown because of all the ‘paan’s
he chewed. He always smiled, desperately trying to look kind and friendly. But there’s something suspicious about people who smile all the time. Like Shakuni from Mahabharat.

He had a dog. A white, Pomeranian one. It was a regular, normal dog. You wouldn’t even look at it twice. But not for my sister. She thought the dog was adorable. Whenever she went to the shop, she’d pet the dog and talk to it in that coochie-coo baby language. You know, the “Ulllluuulluuu Chunnu Munnu” gibberish?

“Does it bite?” I asked. “No, he doesn’t. Look at me. Go on, pet him. He likes it.” she urged me.

My sister lived here all her life and met him everyday. I had come here for holidays and had never seen the dog earlier. No one bothered to remind either me or the dog about that. If the dog could speak, he would probably ask me to buzz off.

I stretch my hand to pet it. Unknown to me, the dog, just then, notices a few dogs out on the streets.

Now, a barking dog seldom bites. But a growing dog always does. Another thing I ahould have known.

Before I could pull out my hand, he bit me. I pulled my hand out of his mouth, but not before he had taken off a bit of my skin. I looked at my hand, it was bleeding.

I don’t cry much. That’s not my style. People think those who cry are weak and those who don’t are brave. Well, they don’t know shit. I was scared stiff.

All the stories that I had heard about dog bites came back to me. That if you don’t take an injection, you start behaving like a dog. Or that you had to take 21 injections, and for some reason (probably an aesthetic design), they would be given around your navel. Another one was that you’d make to lie down on your back on the table, and the syringes would be dropped one by one around your navel. That one freaked me out. It seemed like someone’s cruel, perverted idea of a game of darts.

The shopkeeper confirmed by suspicion about his character.

“Don’t worry. We have given the dog all the necessary vaccinations already. Nothing will happen.”

He took out a Band-aid and plastered the wound and sent me home. “Don’t tell anyone. It will heal itself.” The Good Samaritan didn’t even charge for the Band-aid.

I went home. My grandmother was home. Though my sister was making weird expressions and asking me to keep my mouth shut, I told my granny about our adventure.

“Ayyo…Rama…” she said, holding her hand to her wide open mouth. She told my mom, who thrashed me, as if it was my fault that the dog bit me.

I was taken to the doctor. Dr. Jagannath Mahapatra is a very reputed doctor and was also the Mayor of Bhubaneswar for a few years. But he scared children into listening to him. When I was a kid, he used to reprimand me for eating too many chocolates. I hated him.

He was inspecting my wound and making that face again. For some strange reason, the shop-keeper’s words stuck with me. “It was a domestic dog. They had given him all the necessary vaccinations.”

“Yeah? Why didn’t you show him your pinky then? He could have bitten that instead.”

“What’s a pinky?”

But he was busy laughing at his own joke.
He prescribed anti- rabid and anti-tetanus injections. Just 5 of them.

When I returned to school and the teacher was asking all of us if anything exciting
happened during the holidays. It was Shivani mam, she always acted smart.

I narrated the entire incident with some minor changes. The dog was a huge Alsatian and had chased me before biting me.

“Is everything alright now?”

“Yes, mam. Nothing to worry about. The dog was given all the necessary vaccinations.”

“What?” she said. “Who bit whom?”

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

ONE LIFE AT THE CALL CENTRE...

It was in the year 2004.I was fresh out of High School.Having been successfully kicked out of both my dad's and mom's houses,I need a job.I wanted a job that would pay me well, and that wasn't anything like the dumb 'Tour Operator' work I used to do for my dad.God answered my prayers and the BPO boom happened in India.

Back then,call centres weren't as popular.I was looking for a job that didn't require travelling and I thought this one fit the bill perfectly.On hindsight,I should have realised that if a person named his company "Ripplesoft Ltd.",he couldn't be serious about doing business.(Whenever I told anyone where I worked,they would give me a smile,thinking the name had something to do with the female anatomy !!)

But I was desperate then.So after the initial interviews which I could clear even in my sleep ("Tell me something about yourself?","What is a call centre ?"),I was given the job.


I was the youngest guy in the office.Everybody was as confused as I was,having no clue as to what was going on.I got to meet a lot of interesting people.Krishna Khandelwal (Kishu-an awesome person,and a really good friend ),N.Debashis(who sang really well).There was Jitendra ,who was built like Hercules but had a brain like Obelix.

There was Lakshmi Narayan.He had come from Berhampur,and was an MA in English.There was Surya Narayan,44 years old,half bald and fully mad.He pissed off anyone who came in his way.There was Raj,who was to get married in 6 months and so wanted a job ( The last time I spoke to him,he said "Bloody girls,all they want is money,they don't care about feelings",so I think he is still unmarried).There was Debashis Patnaik,a cool dude Engineering student who was always doped.Monika and Barnali (both pretty but unfortunately elder to me ).There were a lot of other people too,each thinking that he or she was better than everyone else.

Our team leader(TL) was a guy called "Sam" (Santosh Rawat ).He had worked at IBM,Delhi and was all enthusiastic about giving back to his motherland what he had learnt in life.When the poor guy saw the standard of the guys he was supposed to train,I swear I saw tears in his eyes !! It happened like this :

On the day of our 'Orientation Class',he wanted to judge all of us.So,he asked us one by one to come up to the whiteboard and speak about "My Latest Crush".

The first guy went up and spoke " I...we...basically...recently, me and my mother had to travel in Konkan Express.We were late and so couldn't get tickets and so we boarded the General Compartment.There was a lot of rush and push.People were fighting for a place to sit.We had to stand and travel.This was my latest crush..."

When he finished,Sam,me,and Kishu were staring at him with our mouths wide open !!

He was asked to sit,the next person was asked to speak.Sam gave her instructions in his Delhi acquired American accent :

"Wotcha doin',man ? A crush is something that you feel for someone you like or admire.."

The girl,Nivedita went up to speak.She was a student who was doing her BA in English.She started off :"Uh..well..basically...my latest crush is William Shakespeare.I really love his writings..."

We continued to stare.She was asked to sit.The next girl was sent to speak.Her name was Santoshi.Sam gave her instructions too :

"Watcha guys doin',man ? How can ya have a crush on Shakespeare? You have a crush on someone you know,someone you like,you see everyday,you like to be with..."

The poor girl who was already terrified out of her wits and was able to understand exactly half of what Sam was saying because of his accent,proceeded to speak, "Eh...I...my latest crush is my Father.I love him very much.."

"Go and sit" shouted Sam. I think the trauma was too much for him to handle.He never seemed the same friendly guy ever again after that day !!


After the orientation was done,we were given accent training for a month.We Indians speak with an Indian accent.The plan was to first teach us a neutral accent and then proceed to the British,American and Australian accents. Its pretty simple,actually.The basic difference between ours and their accents is that we pronounce the hard letters really hard.The letters 'p,k,b,t' are actually pronounced as 'ph,kh,bh,th' by Americans.Try using only these 4 letters and you will sound like an American anyway.Then there are the subtle things like rolling the 'r' s ,and intonations and all that.

But the guys there made it seem like Rocket Science.We were shown films,made to listen to tapes,taught theory about vowels and consonants,and made to have boring conversations with each other in our fake accented English. This confused some of the guys.Like Jeetendra.He had started saying "Ma namez Zitendar" and twisting his lips in wierd positions everytime he spoke.His accent wasn't okayed and he was made to shift from the US process to the UK to the Australian process within a month.All this caused him to panic so much that he inculcated bits of all the three accents and was a complete mess by the end of it all.

One Saturday,he stopped me saying, "Whay o goin' Munzay ?"

"What ?" I asked

"Whay o goin o Munzay ma ?

After 5 minutes,I figured out he was asking me "Where are you going on Monday?"


After the training was over,we were to 'hit the floor',which meant we had to start taking calls.But before that,we were to choose Pseudonyms (fake English names )for ourselves.Now,you'd think that the guys would give themselves common,everyday names ? No. While me and Kishu rechristened ourselves Sean and Mike, the other guys were fighting over names like "Randy Orton,Pierce Brosnan,Shane Bond' and what not !!

After a week of taking calls,Sam realised that none of the guys' calls had lasted for more than 2 minutes in the entire week.So he decided to find out why.He listened to all the recorded calls.A typical call would go like :

"Good Morning.This is George Michael and I would like to tell you about some of the offers we have for you today.."

And the guy on the other end would say "Yeah,right.I am Tom Cruise and you can shove them up your ass...' THUD !!

Later,all the guys were forced to use more common sounding names.

Well,things took off.But we all knew it was disaster from day one.The management was abysmal.The security guard was being paid regularly whereas we weren't.But it wasn't all that gloomy.You see,hope keeps us alive.And some of the guys were really cool.Kishu,Debashis ( the doper) and me always hung out together and sometimes went off to the beach after the night shift.All the guys in a batch would fight over one Gold Flake cigarette and everybody would get exactly 2 puffs each.It evoked a feeling of brotherhood that I cannot describe here.But the timings were erratic.
We took great pride in saying "I work in a call centre",but the truth was that it was already 2 months and we were as close to being paid as we were to sounding American !! Gradually,things started to worsen.Some of the guys started getting agitated.Our new TL,Kumar Raja was too busy screwing one of the girls to give a rat's ass about our salaries.Some of the guys had come from other towns to work.There was one guy who would only have the dinner provided in the office and survive on a packet of Tiger biscuit all day.He later told me,"This is my last option,yaar.I am a post graduate.I have been convincing my parents that I want to do something else.If I am not able to do anything this time,I will have to go back to my hometown and do what my parents ask me to."

Finally after 6 months of toiling and ruining all the known accents in the world,we decided enough was enough.We all resigned. How much was I paid for all the work ?

Me and Kishu got 1000 Rs, and the other guys got 500 Rs each !!

Yeah,the money was scarce,but I loved every moment of it.

SANIA !!

“Wake up, man. Guess who the chief guest is today?”
“Who?” I mumbled in my sleep.
“Sania Mirza!!! Man, she’s hot. Can I borrow your camera?”
“Yeah. And cover me with blankets and close the door after you leave.”
“Why?”
“Well, one, I don’t think she’s hot. And two, I am very sleepy.
“Dude, you serious? You aren’t coming? C’mon, man. She’s a national icon. And she’s also going to speak. You can ask her a few questions. Remember what you did to Shashi Tharoor last time?”

That was a waste of time. I had objected to his comments on RK Narayan on Sunday Times. He got uncomfortable, and my professors screwed me for it. But what the heck? My name had featured in the local newspaper. Any publicity is good publicity, I thought.

Feeling a bit like Rakhi Sawant, I reached for my tube of toothpaste, squeezed a little into my mouth and rinsed it. I quickly changed my shirt, washed my face, and gelled my hair. I looked in the mirror. No one would be able to tell I hadn’t bathed in 3 days. I left for the auditorium.

************

“…..a national icon who has inspired many young Indian girls to take up the racket….” I could hear the thick, bass voice of Prof. Shastry. So the event had begun.

I saw Satish sitting in one of the front rows and clicking away to glory. There are a lot of media people and a lot of cameras were taking pics.

Then I see her, sitting in the first row next to the Dean. She’s dressed in a t-shirt and jeans and I can see her Durga-devi like nose ring.

Wondering how she can sit there listening to all this crap, I take my seat in the last row.

“...continue to evoke patriotic feelings in our country of 1 crore people…..” Prof. Shastry was going on, and the damn speaker was right next to me.

I connect my i-pod to my ears and settle comfortably into the chair. I can see the audience in front of me. Slowly, I fall asleep….


***********

“YOU FOOL!! YOU DON”T REALISE THE value, DO YOU??”

Prof. Shastry was screaming. I woke up with a start and looked around. He wasn’t around.

“…you divide the nation with your selfish motives and ignore the talent of earnest sportspersons…”

Damn. Prof. Shastry. Why didn’t he just walk up to her and lick her feet? I could stand it no more. I stand up, crouch down, and sneak out of the hall. Freedom!

*******

I walk into the empty corridors, checking out the portraits and posters on the wall. I walk into the administrative section. I could hear someone speaking on the mike in the auditorium. The administration section was right next to the auditorium. Not wanting to get caught, I quickly retrace my steps.

Just as I am stepping into the hallway, I see a person looking at the posters. Good, I had company. I walk a little closer to the person. Nice ass, I notice. I walk closer, and she turns towards me upon hearing my footsteps.

“What the…?”

“Sssshh. Don’t make a noise. They’ll notice.”

“But aren’t you the chief guest? My friend woke up at 5 AM just so that he could see you. What are you doing here?”

“I got bored. But what about you? You don’t look like a sweeper. Why are you bunking?”

“Bitch.” I mutter under my breath.

I turn and walk out of the corridor. I did not need more trouble from the professors this year.



A hand taps me on my shoulder. I turn to look at her for the first time.
“Sorry. You dropped your sense of humour. I thought you might need it.”
Not bad, man. I think.

“What do you want?”
“Nothing. Was looking around your campus. The program doesn’t end till another two hours. Is this it? Your campus is supposed to be huge, right ?”
“I would have loved to show you around. But right now I am very sleepy so I guess I will just go up to my room and sleep”

“Hriday Ranjan, eh?” she says, squinting her eyes at the identity card hanging around my neck. “What if I tell your professors you were bunking the function?”

The galls she has!

“Ok, fine. I’ll show you the tennis courts. If I was a girl, I bet I could kick your ass at it.”
“No tennis courts. I’ve seen enough of them for 3 lifetimes now. Where do you guys hang out normally?”
“On the terrace. But we are not going there. It’s pretty visible. You wanna come to our secret hideout? It’s a deserted terrace on the B-floor that’s not used anymore.

********

We are sitting on the floor. I can see she’s not used to it.
“So. How does it feel? I ask.
“What?”
“ You know…’national icon who inspired many young girls to take up the racket’….” I said mimicking Prof. Shastry.
“Ha-ha. So you found your sense of humour”

“I’m waiting…”

“It’s ok, I guess. I used to get overwhelmed in the beginning. I used to collect cutouts of all my news articles and interviews. Now I’ve gotten used to it.”

“You know, my friend thinks you are hot.”

“Yeah. And what about you?”

“Hmmm… Naah.” I said, checking her out.

“Bastard. You just checked me out.”

I chuckled. “You asked for it.”

“I don’t think you’re hot either.” she said with a smile.

“I know. I wouldn’t have chosen you anyway. I have a girlfriend.”

“By the way, your librarian specs? They sucked!” I said.

“Oh, yeah? I read somewhere that I’d started a trend among girls in
India.”

“It wasn’t you. It was Preity Zinta. And I think SHE’s hot”, I said, turning to her.

“Hahaha…”
***********

“Beep, beep” It was her watch. I looked at mine. It was 12 ‘o’ clock.
Shit, we had been chatting for an hour now. She stood up and stretched her arms.

“Sit down.” I said. I’ll get screwed if I am caught here with you.”

It’s obvious she doesn’t care. She walks up to the parapet wall of the terrace. There’s an old ladder against the wall. We use it to climb up here from the ground when we feel like bunking a few classes. I stand up and join her. I can see a few people standing below.

“Funny…it’s almost surreal. To think that you’d be bunking a function where you yourself are the chief guest...”
“You know what? Sometimes, I imagine I am a celebrity and am being interviewed by Karan Thapar. I even start saying my lines….”

“Shit” she says. She is looking down.

I look down. One of the press guys seems to have noticed us.

Looking confused, he raises his camera and takes a picture.
“Fuck, fuck, fuckety fuck...” she says and bends down. “Just what I needed at the moment.”

I look at the group of men. Some more of them are looking in our
direction and they start advancing towards the ladder. “Crap.” I say. She raises her head up and all the guys immediately raise their cameras. One of them was already at the bottom of the ladder.

“Run...”
We run inside the corridor. Just as we leave the terrace, I turn back to see the guy. He’s already climbed onto the terrace and was taking snaps.
We run faster and the guy starts to chase us, all the while clicking with his camera.
Amidst flashes of light in the dark corridor, we run faster and reach a secluded corridor. I reach our room, enter it and bolt it from inside.
She stands next to the wall, catching her breath. “Shit”, she says.
I hear the footsteps of the guy running across the room into the corridor.

“There are many more of them… what do we do?”
“There’s an exit from the other door. You can sneak out from there and leave.”
“Yeah. And they won’t notice?”
“Ok, do something. Wear one of my shirts, and a cap and shades. No one will know.”

“No way.”

“There IS no other way.”

I give her one of my shirts. “Turn around.” she says. I do that, and when I turn back, she’s wearing my shirt.

“Yuck, this stinks”, she stays.

“Sorry. Now wear the cap, and the shades. Walk confidently, and don’t turn around if anyone calls out. GO.”

She leaves the room. I turn around to my cupboard, looking for my cell phone to inform the security guard about the intruders.

“Hey”. I hear a voice behind it. I turn around.

“What’s it now?”

“Thanks.”

“Yeah. Now get out of my room.” I smile.

“You’re not that bad, you know.” She says and walks away with a smile.

I can’t help smiling too.
I turn around, and fall on my bed, wondering what to tell Satish when he comes back….and I fall asleep.


**********

“Wake up, man. You slept off yet again?” I hear his voice.

“The function was crap, man. No one knows when she left. I couldn’t get a single picture….” He stopped halfway. He was staring at something lying near his feet. He picked it up. It was a pink T-shirt. “I AM CUTE? NO SHIT!” was written over it. He was staring at it, mouth wide open. He brought it close to his face and smelt it

“What the…How did…Was she…What the…”

“I don’t know. She must have left it here…” I said and left the room, leaving him with a bewildered look.