Saturday, December 18, 2010

BACK TO BHUBANESWAR

You know what I love most about train journeys? The fact that you really get to meet so many people. I know this is a cliché, but this is more true about train journeys than any other. Now, bus journeys are spent in bumping into people and feeling to see if your wallet is still there. Flights are too short. But in a train, you spend over a day in other people's company, getting to know them, see their little quirks.

So anyway, I met some really interesting people on the journey (one man who had worked as a cinematographer with Satyajit Ray, another man who devised a way to smoke in Rajdhani Express without getting caught - “Blow your smoke inside the commode”, and a child who cried continuous for
seven hours). After enduring many such people, I finally reached New Delhi.

I know this has been spoken about a number of times, but the truly amazing thing about Delhi is the abuses that people dole out to each other. I got a sample of this even before I had gotten down at the station. I was adjusting my hair in front of the mirror when I heard a voice say, “Oye hero, bas kar”

I turned back to see a small chai selling boy who was waiting to get down behind me. Once I got down at the platform, it was a string of b****chods and m*****chods flung around without a care in the world. I think there is a sense of camaraderie among the people that gives them the confidence to shower such abuses without being taken seriously. So anyway, I then got into a metro, and the door closed centimetres away from my face, giving me memories of Shoorpanaka, from The Ramayana. And since it was so congested and I was carrying two bags, I put my hand behind me to feel if my wallet was intact from time to time.

On one such attempt, a papaji standing on one of my feet turned around to give me an uncomfortable glare when my hand grazed his derriere.

“Kya kar raha hai?”, he says.

“Bhaiyya jagah nahi hai.”

“Meri ***** mein haath daal de, bahut jagah hai.” he retorts, to loud cheers among co-passengers.


Things do not happen like that in Bhubaneswar. Here, one abuse about a family member could give you two black eyes. And another thing I notice about the place is that nothing really changes around here. After reaching the platform, I recognised three people in five minutes straight. It's not because there are less people, but I think the same people hang out in the same places all the time.

But then, that's the thing I love about the place. There are no people rushing, no worried brows on people's faces. People here are more calm, more laid-back, and ( I think) more spiritual. You will never find people here talking about work, fussing about targets. The discussions would revolve more around bitching, and who did what to whom at what time and where, and other such important stuff.

Another thing that is amazing about this place is the creativity that goes into naming their businesses. Where else can you find a saloon called 'Curl up and Dye'? Or a shop that is named 'Omm Licky – A gift shop'? Or 'Bichi Communication'? And just yesterday, I noticed one that was painted on a wall. It went:

Homeopathy Clinic, Backside of Pappu Saloon, Front of Shauchalaya.

Not exactly the best image you are trying to give out, my friend.

But it doesn't take long for someone who has been even four months away from here to realise what it is about the place that one misses the most. We do not have IT parks and amazing pubs and all that. But we have the best goddamned junk food in the entire bloody world. For those who have had paani puri in other places and believe that is the real thing, you are light years away from the truth. Pani puri is supposed to have potato in it, not matar/chana/other crap. And there is no point having pani puri in one of those hygienic places where the people wear gloves and stuff. There is no fun in that.

The actual taste is at those places where bacteria would have a blast and the Dettol guy who goes about giving gyan to people would faint. The potato is mashed with the hand, and the puri is smashed with the finger, and then dipped in the pani, and then served. I know it sounds a little odd, but when you eat it, you realise how much of a difference the personal touch of the maker makes.

Then there is Aludam Dahibara. This is another junk food item that is probably only found here. Aludam Dahibara sellers tie two steel pots to the rods of their cycle. If you look at it from the front, it gives the impression that the cycle has got hydrocele. One of the pots contains dahi vada and the other contains alu dam – a red spicy potato curry with gravy that's so hot it would qualify as rocket fuel. The man first rolls up his sleeve, dips his hand into the dahi, takes out the vada,puts them in the plate, and presses them down, cleanliness can take a well deserved holiday. He then takes out a ladle, dips it into the curry and pours pieces of potato, along with the red, shiny gravy on top of the dahi vada. He then gives you a small toothpick like stick that you dip into the vadas and potato pieces and eat. The flavour created when the vadas mix with the red hot gravy is out of the world. Once you are done with the second or third helping, he takes a small katori and pours dahi, and on top of that the red gravy. You mix all of it, and slurrrp it up. Your stomach is full, your immunity to germs increases several notches, and it just costs you ten bucks.

Then there's the chaat. Before I begin to describe Orissa's chaat, I have to mention what passes off as chaat in Hyderabad. It's got matar, and some onions and tomatoes and a lot of whatnots. The taste treads a thin balancing line between sour, spicy and shitty and costs four times what it costs here. That, my friends, is not chaat. It is bullshit. To have real chaat, you have to come to one of the small shops here. Again, the big ones are corrupted by consumerism and go all out to give hygiene a priority, thus negating the meaning of junk food in the first place. It's JUNK FOOD, dodos. If you want to wear gloves, go play Shaktimaan somewhere.

Anyway, the chaat is a red, orangy assortment of all things spicy. He piles it up on your plate, and then crushes some papad with his bare hands, and adds a lot of tomato (?) sauce on it. He will ask you if you want to add the dahi vada on it as well, which you have to politely refuse, as it kills the taste a wee bit. You then proceed to eat it, making small talk with the seller about the weather, the rising costs, or anything else under the sun. You can ask for more of anything you please, and he would definitely give it to you.

Then there are the rolls. They are called frankies everywhere else. But before I begin, I have a message for the Frankie sellers of Hyderabad:

The things you sell suck. Big Time. You can take your frankie and shove it up your crankie. Fuck you!

The rolls you get here actually have stuff in them. So, if it is a chicken roll, there is more than just the smell of chicken in it. The rolls are cooked on a large black, flat plate. The person adds four to five naans/parathas on the plate and cooks them simultaneously. He then flips them over, and brings them on to the small slab of marble tile that is in front of him. Again, with his own ungloved hand, he adds fried onions, tomatoes, and pieces of chicken/panneer, and sprinkles it with dry onions and tomato sauce. The rolls here make the frankies everywhere else seem malnourished and poor. The ones here are thick, and bursting at the seams with stuffing.

This has led me to the conclusion, that it is the bacteria and germs that make junk food tasty. As soon as you try to become hygienic, you lose it. The thing is, if it was sold in expensive hotels by waiters dressed like Rin models, it wouldn't be junk food. The junk food sellers in Orissa understand this and operate on a business model that is more volume based than margin based (whatever that is). And yeah, they are generous with the bacteria.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Kimbo Slice




If you ever visit the University of Hyderabad, go down to Gops and meet Kimbo.

Kimbo is the right creature in the wrong species. Brown, slim, with long legs and brown eyes that are as deep as the sea, Kimbo would have been a total stud if he was a sapien (using the word Homo for Kimbo seems criminal). He is Casanova the Lover meets Alexander the Great meets Chenghis Khan the Horny.

Kimbo was brought to the University as a puppy by a few seniors. Since then, he has been pampered so much that within 6 months, he became the undisputed king of Gops, the largest canteen area in the University. I have been close to a lot of dogs in my life, but I am yet to meet someone with as much character as Kimbo.

I guess what makes him different is that he is not very nice. Dogs are essentially nice creatures, and that’s why they get bullied, chained and petted by humans (cats are a different story altogether). We are always used to dogs sticking around with their owners through thick or thin, faithful as ever. Doesn’t work that way with Kimbo.

To befriend him, you treat him as a friend, as an equal. He does not eat vegetarian food. Only chicken, mutton, or fish. And no aaltu-faaltu biscuits either. Tiger biscuits only, thank you very much. He doesn’t respond to names like ‘Cheeku’, ‘Chiklu’ or other crap. The name is Kimbo and you only call him that. And he doesn’t like people smoking around him, so if you want to smoke, please walk away. Follow these simple rules and you have Kimbo as your friend.

Kimbo doesn’t suck up to you for food by wagging his tail. He will approach you, size you up, wait for a few seconds, and then move. And once Kimbo has approved of your company, you cannot cheat on him with some other dog. He does not let any other dog come close to you. Fiercely possessive about his friends, many dogs have realised it the hard way. Especially 50.

50 is Kimbo’s archrival, and the favourite of some people in the university, but they are a minority. Named after the rapper 50 Cent, 50 is black, cool and a total badass. He is the only one who stands up to Kimbo in a fight. But he is unwell and aging and I think all the other dogs realize that too, and so have anointed Kimbo as their leader. When there is a group of dogs and Kimbo approaches, they all duly stand up and wag their tails. And he has the prettiest girl in the group, a beautiful white bitch who is sometimes allowed to walk with him, and never allowed to mingle with any of the others. I think Kimbo has male ego issues.

You see, Kimbo has been castrated. But that doesn’t in any way mean he doesn't have balls. There are legendary stories about Kimbo’s fighting prowess. Says Ditti, a 2nd year Literature student and a fan of 50. “The other day we were going from Gops to ShopCom, and Kimbo was following us. He seemed to be in a pissed off mood from the beginning, but we had no idea what was in store. When he reached ShopCom, he saw four local dogs and decided to vent his anger on them. He took on three of them, beat their asses hollow, and shooed away the fourth. Kimbo is a fighter, I have to admit”.

Another remarkable quality about Kimbo is that he attends classes. He sits in the front of the classroom in the Literature department, and does not disturb the class. The professors are used to him now, and I suspect his name might be on the attendance roll in a few years.

And he is also with us when we hang out within the university. There have been nights when I had to walk alone from Gops to my hostel (which is 4 kms away). I just called out to him, and he walked with me to my hostel, saw me off to my room, and came back. There are lots of rocks in the university where students hang out, and he comes along with us, sits quietly next to us, and barks if he senses anyone approaching.

Kimbo's only enemy, however, is RGPB Old Man. He is a sweeper at Gops. The initials RGPB is because of the Rapist Glasses and Pedophile Beard he wears. While he never does his primary work of keeping Gops clean, he takes great pleasure in whacking the hell out of dogs. So even if Kimbo is the Goddog among his peers, he is but a meek, whining dog when RGPB Old Man approaches with his broom and basket. However, Kimbo's slowly increasing fan base has begun putting up a fight and asking him to shove his broom somewhere within himself.

Now that the holidays are going on, I can't stop thinking of dear old Kimbo. Who would be feeding him his daily quota of Tiger biscuits and chicken? And who would he come running to when he hears a whistle? I can't wait to get back to the University, to the sight of Kimbo running to me, with that 'Where the fuck were you?' look on his face.

Really, you should meet him sometime. The dog is a dude.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Guzarish - Movie Review

Starring: Hrithik's hair and Aishwarya's cleavage
Director: His Intelligency Mr. Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Sufferer: Me

There are some things that one has come to associate a Bhansali film. The dialogues would be a lot in English, the sets would be opulent, the visuals stunning, and the story - boring.

Guzarish comes (joins thumb and index finger and makes a face) this close to breaking the mould, but alas, fails to.

Guzaarish is the story of Ethan Masceranhas, a one time magician (though all we see him doing is an extremely gay dance, and another trick in which he rises in the air holding a candle) who is now quadriplegic. Aishwarya plays his nurse who has been taking care of him for 12 years now. Ethan has been a survivor, for he has written a book inspiring quadriplegics to fight on. He is also an RJ who dishes out gyan to people in a tackily named radio station called 'Radio Zindagi'. One day, he decides that he wants to end his life. Ethanasia - as he puts it.

Now, here is where logic is raped. If you want to take a crucial and personal decision like this, who would you consult? Your doctor, lawyer, mother? Na. Magic-boy asks his listeners to 'vote' for or against his decision. His lawyer grudgingly agrees to fight his case, but the judge and public prosecutor (terribly cliched roles)turn down his wish. Finally, he manages to find a solution.

Now that we are done with the storyline, I have some questions to ask. Why do the characters in Bhansali's films always talk in English? And why is there a sense of loss of time and space in his movies? And why are they always about disabled people? And why does Aishwarya dress up as if she is going to attend the Boston Tea Party?

I think it is this pseudo sense of intellectualism that Bhansali wants to portray. Tell you what, we audiences are smarter than that. We don't mind watching a film that is dumb, but acknowledges it. And yes, if we wanted to watch art movies, Torrent zindabad!

Performance wise, Hrithik is in good form. He is the only reason you can tolerate the movie, but in the end scenes, even he seems to have grown tired of this madness. His accent sounds fake and his long drawn speech seems like it was forced down his throat. Aishwarya has nothing much to do, except apply extremely red lipstick and flaunt her cleavage (which is a lot, actually. I am sure this is the most cleavage an actor has shown in recent times). The music is lackluster and seems to be lifted from Saawariya and HDDCS.

Guzarish, sadly, is another serving of pseudo intellectual bullshit dished out by Bhansali. Carry a pack of Eno with you!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Action Replay - Bakwaas Screenplay

It was a dark hall. The screams fell to deaf ears, as the miscreants came closer. Slowly but surely, they proved to be too much of a match. After it was finally over, my brain sat in the corner, crying, after being gang-raped repeatedly.

Action Replay, like the cliche goes, is one of those movies you need to leave your brains home and go watch. Trust me, its for your brain's good.

Action Replay is the story of a guy ( I don't even remember his name) who has parents who keep fighting with each other. His father is Akshay Kumar, who owns a big hotel, and his mom, Aish, who keeps spending his money and her time shopping. One day, he sees them fight and decides he needs to stop them from getting a divorce.

Go to a marriage counsellor? Try talking to them about it? No.

He decides to go back to the past and change their equation. Quite conveniently, his girlfriends's grandfather is working on a Time Machine. This time machine looks like the skeleton of a huge egg with blue lightnings running all over it. The scientist, totally non-cliched, has a beard and wears shabby clothes. So, smart son goes back into the past.

In the past, we see that Akshay Kumar is a loser and Aish the hot chick neighbour who plays pranks on him. Very cute. The guy befriends his father, and helps him woo the girl. I slept off after that, and when I woke up, there was a dance competition going on in which the winner had to sing in many voices. There were quite a few voices in my head, all of them saying two words.

Anyway, so this guy finally wins her heart and the son comes back to the present. All is well. Action Replay ranks among the huge number of crappy films I have watched in movie theatres. The clothes are loud, the characters louder. Not a single scene in this comedy made me laugh. The only entertainment for me was to watch this set of girls laughing away to glory. I was sitting behind them trying to figure out which was the dumbest of the lot. I concluded they were all at par, together stretching the limit of dumbness known to mankind.

Anyway, the film is a sad comedy. Akshay Kumar must have charged three times his fee for the film, going by all the overacting he does in the film. Aishwarya is bearable in the scenes where her cleavage is visible. Neha Dhupia is wasted. The only surprise was Ranvijay. Somewhere in the movie, you wished it was Roadies, and he asked the leads to go and put their heads in a lion's mouth as a 'task'.

But even his 'guy who can sing with two voices' gag gets repetitive and can't save the film. The music is not great either.

Do your brain a favour this November, don't take it to Action Replay. You will be responsible for the violation it will be subjected to. Stay far away from this one.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Inception is Mind-bending!!




Trust Christopher Nolan to play around with your mind. As you would have known after watching Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, you will know Nolan is not the kind of guy who gives you stories that have a logical or chronological happenings of events. If you still liked his movies, you will love this one.

I'll be honest. When I first watched the movie, I didn't understand all of it. I found some of the action sequences to be stretched out, and lost track quite a few minutes. But I am yet to meet a person who has understood the film fully on the first viewing.

'Inception' is the story of a thief, the highest sort of thief who enters people's minds and steals their thoughts. Along with his gang of friends (each of them having a special skill of their own), they enter people's minds through their dreams. As layer after layer of the movie is peeled off, you realise that Di Caprio is scarred by the memory of his wife. And since dreams are an extension of our sub-consciousness, his wife keeps coming in all his dreams.

Cobb (Caprio) wants to end his career and spend time with his children and takes up a last job. This time, he does not have to steal a thought or a secret, but he has to influence the thoughts of a person, by planting an idea in his head. This can be done by suitably altering his sub-consciousness.

I know by now you must be wondering what on earth is going. Thing is, I am not Christopher Nolan. For, when you watch the movie, you get sucked into the plot, incredulous as it may seem now. Without stressing too much on the equipment used for the act (like Hindi films, which emphasise on credibility by showing machines - remember the ballot box kind of musical machine in Koi Mil Gaya??), Nolan concentrates more on the characters, and the visual effects to transport you to another world altogether.

Don't worry too much about understanding every bit of it. Neither Roger Ebert nor Rajeev Masand did. Watch the movie, and then come out of the hall and peel it off with your friends. But watch this movie, nonetheless. This is a movie that requires extreme patience and rewards you for it at the end. Like all of Nolan's movies, there are minute details that help you grasp the point. After Memento, Dark Knight, and Prestige, it was expected that he would take things one step forward. He has.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Spare the rod, save a child

A few five year olds are waiting for their class to begin. They are chanting the class prayer before the period starts, and the teacher is lighting an agarbathi for the alter. Suddenly, the teacher notices that one of the kids in the first row opens one eye to look around. Immediately, the agarbathi is poked into his cheek. The child is scarred for life and years later, no one tells believes him when he says that it is actually a small dimple!

Like most of my generation, getting punished was a part and parcel of education. More so in my case as I studied in a spiritual school. Very early in life, we were taught about good and bad. About rewards in heaven and punishments in hell.

So when there is a lot of debate on the recent suicide committed by a child at a school in Kolkata, I was talking about it with people around me. My sister used to go to a tuition master and he was popular among parents because he used to hit his students. He used to go to Puri once in a while so he could a special variety of thin canes that were very effective. The parents would ask the teacher to resort to force if the student was lagging.

It worked for us. We listened to what the teacher had to say, did our homework in time. We thought thrice before breaking a rule, and had immense respect (and fear) for our teachers.

Look at the other extreme of the spectrum - the system of education in other countries, like the US. There, the teacher cannot touch the students. The standard of education is much lower than the standard in India. The children are worse behaved, and there have been numerous instances when children carry guns to school and begin shooting people.

Are we better off? Is it because we were scared of our teachers and this fear helped us in not committing mistakes? Most of the elders I have spoken to feel that this is indeed the case. One teacher also said that it is easy for us to sit and discuss morality in our homes, but a teacher who has to control a set of 35 young imps running about here and there, cannot do it by cajoling and coaxing.

However, there is a thin line between what is acceptable and what is ethical. Just because it is common does not mean that it is right.

Twisting a child's ears, or rapping him on the knuckle might seem alright once in a while. But for a child who is not good at studies, it happens everyday, in every period. Not only is his self-esteem at its lowest because of the incessant pressure put on him by his parents, teachers, and peers, the beating adds to his complex.

And we are talking about children who are about ten years old. An age where academic proficiency does not mean success in life, and failure does not mean a child is doomed. Most of the time, the children who are hit are weak in studies. They are the silent, introvert children who are also bullied in class. The stronger, more popular children think that since the teachers are hitting them, it must be alright for them to do so too. The child gets drawn into a shell, and before he has even matured, he has become a shy, reserved young man.

Also, we have grown up in cities and towns, where we had to go to school no matter how strict the teacher was. But in rural areas, if the teacher hits the students too much, the child drops out of school. Is it really the way this is to be done?

If we think about our school days, each of us will remember this one teacher who was the most loved among the students. She was kind (and mostly taught English), she never hit anyone, and yet everyone listened to her when she spoke. We had one teacher like that. Her name was Loka mam.

Loka mam was my first English teacher. She never shouted at anyone, leave alone hitting. She was kind, always smiling, and always spent more time with the weaker children, rather than boost the ego of the children good at studies. If a child wasnt great at studies, but had a good handwriting, she would point it out to the entire class. She had a large repertoire of stories, and in free classes, we would ask her to tell us those stories.

She taught me in class 1, and then again in class 5. By then, I had developed a reputation of being a pest. But I was good at English and was developing an interest in the subject. Loka mam did encourage me in class. She introduced me to crosswords, and suggested books I could read during holidays. But she never tolerated my indiscipline. I remember one incident when I was caught in a huge fiasco and her class was going on when I was called to the Principal's room. After her class, she came to ask what had happened. When I told her, she just looked at me, and I could see her disappointment. Since then, it was the look on her face that made me feel guilty. I made it a point to behave in her class, and generally avoided getting into trouble when she was around.

I have seen many teachers since and none of them, no matter how strict they were, never seemed to have as much control over the class as her. I sometimes think what was it that made all of us listen to her. We were never scared of her, she seemed incapable of hitting anyone. Why then did we behave? Why was English our favourite subject?

It was because with her, we saw that she wanted to teach us. She loved talking to each and every student, she wanted each and every child to do well. Children can be called immature, but even the most heartless child would not want to trouble such a person.

So do we really need caning?

Rajneeti




You can understand why Prakash Jha would make a Raajneeti. He has been making gritty political movies for years, but has acquired as much fame as Laxmi Ratan Shukla for all his efforts. He has also contested elections in Bihar twice and lost. Finally, Mr. Jha falls back on the most used formula in Hindi films - multi starrers.

Ok, now that that is out of the way, what do we need next? A story. A kickass story that can stand the test of time. How about picking an action packed epic about warring brothers fighting for power that is nearly 2000 years old? The Mahabharat? Bingo!

So we have Naseruddin Shah in flashback who is in a cottage with a young female party member. It starts raining, and this has an aphrodisiacal effect on Shah'. Within seconds, Shah does his thing, and leaves the girl with the lamest excuse. As it is with Bollywood films, the guys who do their thing are supremely fertile, and there is no surprise that the incident leads to the girl conceiving and giving birth to a child. Nana Patekar, who is an upcoming party member gives the child to the party boss' driver and gets the girl married to one of the sons.

Cut to 30 years ahead, and you have the Mahabharat in front of you. The child who was given to the driver grows up to become Surya (The Sun God, from whom Karna was born) and to make things more subtle, wears earrings - kundalas. He is some sort of Bradman at kabaddi in his village and he is shown lifting a cup that he won for his village. Meanwhile, in the party boss' house, the elder brother has a son, Manoj Bajpai who always groans, frowns and seethes. Arjun Rampal is the son of the younger brother, and Ranbir Kapoor has returned from the US to visit his father. Obviously, he has no interest in politics and wants to return to his firang girlfriend (who surprisingly looks like Sonia Gandhi in her earlier days). Katrina Kaif plays a chirpy, irritating daughter of a rich dad. No prizes for guessing she is the Draupadi in the tale, and sorry, 'that' scene is not there in the movie!

The two factions are unmistakably Pandavas and Kauravas. Now, Jha must have thought things would get predictable. Or may be he thought the Shiv Sena, the trustees of Hinduism in our country, would take offence. So here's what he does. Have you heard of this movie called 'The Godfather?'. Yes, that movie Ram Gopal Verma has squeezed to the last drop. Jha tweaks the characters so that Arjun Rampal is Sunny Corleone and young Ranbir is Michael Corleone.

There, you have it. You have created a movie that is supposed to cater to the 'intelligent Indian', who has somehow neither read the Mahabharat, or watched The Godfather. And you have a big cast of actors to cater to fans of all categories and sizes.

The only confusion for me was the character essayed by Nana Patekar. Was he Shakuni Mama? Or Krishna? He showed traits of both. I was a tad disappointed there were no scenes of a younger Nana doing the raasa with some gopis. Imagine him going about dancing, clapping his hands, and talking about the effects that ek machhar can have on an aadmi.

But since there are such large gaps, Rajneeti turns out to be a very predictable movie. By the time you are through with the interval, it is more like a game where you can link characters and situations to its two inspirations.

The performances are alright, but the story being extremely unoriginal, I was terribly disappointed. Go watch it if you wish, but don’t blame me for not warning you that it is no masterpiece.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kites: No strings of logic attached




Rakesh Roshan's movies were always about the underdog. Be it Kaho na Pyar Hai, where a dead Rohit comes back to life, or a Koi mil Gaya, where a challenged person becomes a stud, or Khoon Bhari Maang, where crocodiles do not like the taste of Rekha, and whatever is left of her goes on to kick Kabir Bedi's arse. It was always about the underdog.

Sadly, 'Kites' is the story of an over-bitch. Hrithik is 'J', a person who marries girls to give them Green Cards. We are told he has married 11 girls already, and the American police (the worst portrayal of cops in a movie. The guys give Indian cops a superiority complex with their inefficiencies) have no clue about it whatsoever. He also works in some sort of nightclub (he is a good dancer. How else do they show his skills?) and his eyes set on Kangana Ranaut (who has mastered the role of the screaming, psycho woman). Then, he meets Barbara Mori.

Ah! Barbara Mori. Kahaan gayi sex-appeal tori? For the last six months, we were told incessantly about the goddess that she is. I had never heard of her earlier, and had this image of piping hot sexy sultry seductress.

Sad thing is, she is not all that sexy. The Chemistry between the leads is interesting as Social Science. Well, anyway, so J falls for her and they run away after J has rescued her from her inhumane, physically abusive boyfriend. They set off on a trip across the deserts of Mexico, beating the cops each and every time.

'Kites' is the KLPD movie of the year. There is nothing new in the movie, ridden with so many stereotypes, you will feel have a future in Astrology. Cars are blown up, but that has been done to death in 'Race' and Rohit Shetty's films. So, while the cast move from one cliche to another, their story ends with the biggest cliche, that of their atmas meeting in water after their shedding their mortal coils.

The cinematography is superb, but that's the only good part. I wonder what Papa Roshan was doing with his three co-writers. The film has nothing new to speak of, including those slo-mo moments with loud background music. The performances are nothing to speak of. Hrithik flares his nostrils, and when he does that, you know its bad news for the viewer. Barbara Mori looks good at times, but nothing to steal your heart away. The villians in the movie are a joke, looking as dangerous as GI Joe toys. Kangana Ranaut plays the psychotic, screaming role yet again, and seems believable because she has done it so many times, you feel that is how she is in real life too.

Director Anurag Basu ( I wonder what is the hype about him. Gangster was the only decent film, provided you managed to stay awake for the first two light years of the film) successfully manages to make a mess of what could have been a crossover film. While we are pandering to American audiences shamelessly, they will view it and laugh it off as another silly melodramatic Hindi film.

Watching 'Kites' is a bit like eating Pani Puri in KFC. It may be more hygienic and classy, but who cares?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kadai Paalak Matar Paneer

Cooking has always been among the sexiest things to do according to me. I have told a lot of girls that I love cooking. Its a white lie. Truth is, while I love it, my knowledge of cooking is marginally more than my knowledge of the Uruguayan economy.

Its not as if I haven't tried. I did volunteer to help at home in the kitchen. I tried making rotis but they ended up looking like diligently made briefs. My attempts at Gajar halwa resulted in flying colours, most of which were hitherto unknown to mankind. So, I gradually gave up, and reconciled to honing my skills at Maggi and ready to eat soups.

Yesterday, Sarthak got one of his impulses to cook. He is a supermarket owner's wet dream, and there is no stopping him when he goes shopping. We made a few phone calls and got all the ingredients required. We decided that since we were making rice anyway, we should make it from the best quality. We were shocked to find that a packet of Basmati rice costs 153 rupees. I opine the government should start selling Basmati rice at a subsidised price too.

Around 8 o clock, we began. First, cut the palak. I did my best, but the instructions were to cut them to really small shreds. After wrestling with the palak for half an hour, we decided to shred it with our bare hands. Meanwhile, the rice should be cooked.

Sarthak set up the rice. Problem was, we have an induction stove, and were not sure if pressure cookers work on induction stoves. So we borrowed Raj's cooker, put in the rice and water, set it on the stove and prayed to God. We were told one whistle will do. We waited for 20 minutes, and were expecting a whistle like Rajesh Khanna's from 'Yeh Shaam Mastani'. It was nearly half an hour now, and there was no sign of a whimper, leave alone a whistle. We opened the cooker anyway and tasted the rice, to see that it was alright. Our friend Raj later informed us that the whistle might have been spoilt.

Now, for the curry. We had shredded the palak and were on the call with Aunty.

Aunty: Now add some oil, wait till it is heated and then add the palak.
Me: Wait till the oil is heated, or boiled?
Aunty: Heated.
Me: But it has started boiling.
Aunty: Then add the palak, and then add the salt. Be careful how much salt you add.

Sarthak took this advice with two large pinches of salt.

Sarthak: Will this much salt do?
Aunty(who was clearly getting put off with our inquisitiveness): Can I see from here how much you have added?
Sarthak: Oh, ok ok .
Aunty: Now put the lid on and leave it for five minutes.

After five minutes, we saw that the palak, which looked quite a lot in the beginning, had shrunk to the size of a dark green version of flubber. This was clearly not going to be enough for three of us. What to do?

Sarthak: Let's add green peas to it.
Me: Aren't we making palak paneer?
(Awkward silence for a few seconds, and we begin soaking the peas in water)

Following which, Raj walks in and nonchalantly informs us that he is quite a good cook. He has sarcastic timing, this guy! He took over and we were mere side-cooks. "Cut the onions now."

Me: "Horizontally or in rings?"
Raj: "Leave it, I'll do it. You add the paneers in the oil."
Me: "Till they become brown, or reddish" (Angry stare, followed by Raj doing it himself)

Somewhere in between, we realised the quantity seemed on the lesser side. What to do? No problem! Lets make it a gravy-rich curry. I promptly added two glasses of water to it.

To pass time, me and Sarthak helped ourselves to three glasses of lemonade and one each of Jaljeera.

After an hour of going from the drawing room to the kitchen, taking the lid off and stirring th curry, getting fingers burnt, and trying to act busy, it was ready.

It was a two hour ordeal. We finally sat down to eat.

We were hungry as horses, the curry was giving off an enchanting smell, and England were kicking Australia's ass in the final. Perfect!

When we launched into the curry, we had mixed feelings. It seemed a trifle salty, the colour was somewhere in between dark green and dark brown, and Raj and Sarthak seemed to have got more curry than me (even after switching the bowls after careful consideration)

But it was the best damn Kadai Paalak Matar Paneer I have ever had.

Monday, May 3, 2010



I had been to the University of Hyderabad in the afternoon today. It was a pleasant day, and the view of the cloudy sky while lying down on the grass was so appealing that I fell asleep after a while. One of the lecturers had to wake me up, asking me who I was, what I was doing here, and what course I had applied for. (M.Tech - Mathematics Specialisation, I answered)

While I was leaving the campus, it started drizzling. Now, there is something so beautiful about the first rain, that one never tires from talking about it, no matter how cliched the topic is. And for someone who loves getting wet in the rain, I love the way people run helter skelter when it starts raining. I always look around for other people, but I always find it is children who know the real fun of getting drenched in the rain.

After getting wet thoroughly, I was on my way back in a "7 seater". It was a Tata Ace that carried seven people and got dirty looks from auto drivers all through the journey. Seated in front of me were a family. There was a mother and her two children, one by the window and another on the woman's lap.

I am not great with children. I can talk to them and play with them, but I am not good at the "Ullu-lullu, coochie-mocchie baby" kind of talking, so I generally do not get along well with babies. The kid in front of me must have been six years and old and his brother about three.

The elder one would keep looking out of the window and nudging his mother, and she would keep asking him to keep shut, glaring at him all the while. All of a sudden, he covered his mouth with his hand and stood up. "Vanti Vanti!!", the people shouted and the 'helper' rushed to open the screen that was pulled up to keep out the rain. Too late!

The kid had already cleared half of his digestive system inside the vehicle, and half of it was on my leg. The window was opened to allow him to add finishing touches, and his mother was both reprimanding him and holding the younger baby in her hands.

The little kid was woken out of sleep and had started wailing. I offered to hold her baby for her, and the mother pushed almost half of the older guy out of the window, so he could vomit outside. Poor guy had had too much watermelon!

The little kid in my arms meanwhile, had calmed down. He was dark, and had big, round eyes on which his mother had applied copious amount of kaajal. He kept looking up at me and saying 'Gaga' or 'Baba' or 'Tata' or something, expecting me to talk to him. However, I just smiled and gave him my finger.

While his mother kept saying Sorry for her elder son's mess, this little devil in my arms would hold my finger, put it in his mouth, and bite it. And everytime I pulled out my finger with an 'Ah', he would give a gargling laughter. I did it a few more times and each time his laughter grew louder.

There is something about a child's laughter, that brings warmth to your heart. I continued playing with him for a while. Slowly, I could feel the warmth flow into my shirt and my trouser. The child had happily peed all over me!!!

His mother took him back, smacked his bottom, got down in the next stoppage. The driver apologised for all the trouble and took 5 rupees instead of 6. I was surprised. I was covered in puke and pee, and somehow I wasn't feeling like stabbing someone around me.

As I walked to my home, the last drops of the drizzle soaked me completely. I was surprised at myself, for not getting pissed off.

The first rains not only bring drops of water, they bring with them happiness. A wish to run and play, and get dirty. A memory of childhood, and that smell of wet earth.

Officials at the meteorological department have predicted good monsoons this year. When the first rains strike your city, don't run away. Walk into the rain and get soaked.

You'll feel good.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Hurt Locker - Review


Walking into the hall, I saw the poster that said "War is a drug". I didn't understand what it meant.

'The Hurt Locker' is a film about a Bomb Disposal Squad (called EOD) in Iraq. Sergeant William joins an EOD team after their Sergeant dies in an explosion. William, played by Jeremy Renner, is a daredevil. He defies protocol and walks into bomb territory all by himself, much to the chagrin of his teammates the protocol-abiding Sanborn and the newbie in the army Eldridge. In spite of his teammates insisting on following guidelines, William pretty much does his own thing - walks into situations, getting rid of bombs and wires like weeding out grass. In an interesting scene, his teammates ponder killing him and reporting it as a 'mistake'.

Gradually, the team members bond and get to know each other, as they go from one mission to the other. As the movie progresses, director Kathryn Bigelow shows you the different facets of war. She makes you wonder if the experience is worth it, or if it something that cannot be done without. She makes you wonder if the lives of common people can be sacrificed on the basis of hunches and suspicions.

'The Hurt Locker' is neither overwhelming, nor underwhelming. It is a gritty representation of war, and the effect on the many people who are party to it. In the penultimate scene when Sergeant William goes back home and is in a supermarket, totally at sea when he has to choose from a hundred varieties of cereal.

It is then that I understood what the quote meant. For those involved in it, war is after all, a drug. You know it is not the right solution, you know it is something to be condemned. But once you have been in it, you know there cannot be a life without it.

Watch 'The Hurt Locker'. You might love it, or you might be bored. But you will have something to think about.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

There was a power-cut last night and I was left with no option to sit at home, sweating on a bean bag. Since everything these days runs on electricity, I decided to listen to the radio. Since most of the FM stations were playing, I was listening to AIR Rainbow. This is an often ignored radio station, lost amidst the Mirchis and the Reds, that runs on government funds and listeners' patience.

Listening to the songs sent me back into the past. Most of the songs were Nadeem Shravan hits of the 90s, which we used to call Barber Songs, as you could hear them being played in barber shops all across the country. Now, Nadeem Shravan might not be AR Rahman or RD Burman, but they surely are amongst the largest selling music composers in the Hindi Film Industry. Much of it is due to the fact that they had simple, hummable tunes and easy understable lyrics by Sameer. Of course, Kumar Sanu lent his nose to all their songs. I remember scenes in my village every time I hear the Nadeem Shravan songs.

Add to that, there was this RJ hosting the show. He wasn't exactly Ameen Sayani. I suspect he was an insurance agent in the day, going by the number of times he reminded his listeners that "Zindago bahut chhoti hai" and "Kise pata kab chali jaye?" I also thought he was upto some other fishy business in the daytime because he kept reminding his listeners that "Mujhe aapki massage ka intezaar rahega". Thankfully, he got to speak for a minute at every interval. He made up for that by the songs he played. None of the listeners were responding to his nocturnal calls for 'massages' and so I was treated to some hits by Nadeem Shravan.

Now, the angst of Hyderabad youth about Sania Mirza marrying someone from across the border is well-known. It seemed like this young man was hell bent on taking potshots at Shoaib Malik.

The first song was 'Saason ki zaroorat' from Aashiqui. After talking of the importance of 0xygen and Carbon Di-oxide for survival, it says spoke about how just ONE lover is required for love.

Here, there was another appeal for the listeners to send in their massages. The next song was an appeal to return home, "Chitthi aayi hai". With mindblowing lyrics like

Tere Bin Jab Aayi Diwali, (When the festival of Diwali came without you)

Deep Nahin Dil Jale Hain Khaali (Not the lamps, but the hearts have burned only)

Tere Bin Jab Aayi Holi, (When the festival of Holi came without you)

Pichkaari Se Chhooti Goli (Bullets shot through the watergun)

The next song was the extremely sarcastic 'Pehli pehli baar mohabbat ki hai' from Sirf Tum. This song has a banter between the boy and the girl. Sample this:

Guy: Tum kitni bholi ho (Oh you are so innocent)
Girl: (sarcastically) Tum kitne achhe ho
Guy: Tum kitni seedhi ho (Oh, you are so simple)
Girl: Tum kitne sache ho (Oh, how honest you are!)

By the end of this song, I drifted off to sleep, wondering what the ruckus was about.

In the morning today, I saw that Shoaib and Sania had married in a preponed ceremony last night.

Ah! The angst of a resented lover!

Friday, April 9, 2010

'Clash of the Titans' is a Sunny Deol film shot in 3D in Hollywood



I had never watched a film in 3D. I watched 'Avatar' on my laptop, and going by the orgasmic responses that my friends gave to the film and the technology, I was quite kicked about going to watch a 3D film. Another reason was that I have always been a fan of the Greek mythology stories. They are as full of action as our epics, but with lots more of sex. And then, there was this hero, Sam Worthington, who, according to my friends, "acts well in 3D films".

You know something is wrong with a film when the catch phrase is "From the hero of 'Avatar'. But then, I was not paying for the tickets so I thought it must be alright. We waited in line to get the 3D glasses and I was disappointed. I thought the 3D glasses were something cool. One look at it, and I knew I would like someone who was suffering from conjunctivitis.

Then the film began. There was the initial excitement about the 3D technique. Pretty soon, I realised it wasn't going to be a comfortable feeling. I wear specs. And it is impossible to wear the 3D glasses on top of my regular 2D glasses. I had the option of watching hazy pictures on 3D, or watching clear images on 2D. Since we had paid for the 3D tickets, I chose to watch the film in 3D. I had to hold the glasses over my regular glasses.

Now, coming to the film. It really is terrible. It is like a Bollywood film of the 80s. Hero found as a baby by poor man who raises him and in typical Ramu kaka fashion, dies in front of the hero. The hero gives a "Dog! Rascal! I will drink your blood" look to the camera. You know what happens after that. He meets villian after villian but nothing happens to him. Don't bother about the plot. It is about the hero here.

I was surprised that the hero did not ask the villain to "Step out if he drank his mother's milk". I wouldn't be surprised. But anyway, since this is supposed to be a review and I am obliged to tell you the story, here goes. Zeus, the king of Gods (in a white shiny suit that looked like it had been saved from the sets of 'Ajooba') has a 'najayaz aulad' with a human queen. He is sent to earth and then later realises he is a demi-god. The Gods decide to teach human beings a lesson because human beings are mutinying against the Gods. Zeus has an evil brother, Hades (who wears a black dress. Evil, dummy!) who wants to wipe away human beings. So, anyway, our hero goes from one level to another till he kills off all the villains and is helped by huge, scorpions, mummy-like characters etc.

The action scenes are nothing to speak of, and the Perseus' encounter with Medusa seemed more interesting in Gulmohar Graded English Course, Part V. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes are part of the film, but it is like Amitabh Bachhan doing 'God Tussi Great Ho'.

Don't watch this movie, unless someone else is paying for the tickets. If you wear specs, don't even think about it!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Smile now, Ms. Roy



On Monday, 73 security personnel were ambushed and killed by Maoists in the jungle of Dhantewada. I am sure this must have brought a contended smile on the face of Ms. Roy. Ms. Roy, (for those of you who do not know who) is an intellectual. She is above us mortals, and her logic is not to be understood by us. Her enemies are the state of India, the US of A, the large corporations, HInduism, the common man, and many others whom she will gradually discover. She has won the Booker prize and written numerous essays and so that by default makes everything she says true.

Ms. Roy has a surprising number of followers in India. Most of them belong to the middle/upper class. They are well educated and are aware of situations around them. Arundhati Roy is their pagan Goddess. It is, after all, cool to quote her. Such disciples can be found debating on a variety of topics, ranging from atrocities of the USA, to the injustice meted out to the tribal populations, or, 'tribals' (as they put it, with full sensitivity, of course). Imagine walking into a room of lesser mortals with your kurta and khadi bag, and talking about the injustice of the capitalist world. Isn't that the coolest thing? It sure is.

Some would argue that Ms. Roy is a fundamentalist. But surely, she cannot be one? She has won a Booker prize. She wants Kashmir to be a separate state. And she thinks that Mohd. Afzal is just a spoilt brat who in one of his childish pranks, ordered his comrades to attack the Parliament. It is ghastly that the government tried to hang him. Oh, and yeah, she and her husband own a posh 4,346 sq. ft bungalow in Panchmarhi, which violate forest laws. But she is not God, is she? She is only human. And a very intellectual human.

For Ms. Roy's followers, wearing a Nike shirt is a vulgar endorsement of capitalism, and buying a kurta from Fab India for Rs. 554 is alright. "It is made by Indian weavers. I do not mind paying a high price for it." Such patriotism!

Ms. Roy and her band of intellectuals have been staunch supporters of the Naxal movement and endorse the right of the tribal people to use violence as a means. "Who is going to listen to them? What about the injustice meted out to them? What about those who cannot speak out like you and me?" Point well noted.

The security personnel are not human beings. There has been no injustice done to them. They have been slaughtered and shot at, but surely that can't be injustice? For, they do not have families, and they earn salaries as high as 12,000 a month. They are a privileged lot. So let us not speak about them.

The Maoists have said that they want to 'take over' the country by 2050. I am sure they mean it in a good way. Blow up a few police stations here and there, damage a few schools, recruit some young teenagers into their ranks. Nothing very serious. Of course, then there is the spreading of chaos in the administration. And as a means of connecting with the common man, they would stop trains and lay a few friendly bombs here and there. You know, just regular 'Hi-Bye'. The Maoists are the answer to the problem faced by the tribal people.

Construction of buildings of any kind is again a sign of globalisation. There should be no buildings at all. The Maoist areas are run on the simple principle of brotherhood of man. As a result, there are no police stations in these areas. There are no hospitals as well. Government hospitals and dispensaries are regularly blown up, as they propagate something as sinister as free medical facilities for all. There are no schools in these areas as well. Children do not need to study. Whie their counterparts across the country are whiling away their time learning about World Wars and the Freedom Movement, the children in these areas are actually contributing towards such issues. They are recruited in the ranks and wield guns. They lay their lives down for their land. They are not children, they are martyrs. We are talking of generations of injustice towards the tribal people here. None of the Maoist areas have such unnecessary side-effects of globalisation as schools, hospitals and police stations. Roads are another unnecessary expense that the government is incurring. Not needed.

Our intellectual brothers also remind us time and again of the atrocities of the Government towards the tribal people. Tribal people are the same as the Maoists, not to be confused as two different people. It is the tribal people who are trained in guns, run drills, and plant landmines. It is the tribal people who are fighting their war, and they are not being instigated by Maoists. They are one and the same.

These intellectuals are also the only people aware of the skewed R&R policies of the government. Of course, wearing chappals and kurtas entitles them to a greater understanding of such issues, issues which the common man has absolutely no idea about. None of us, the common men, are aware that there has been injustice meted out to them, we are not concerned. We do not care about them. We are lost in our own world, mere spokes in the vicious cycle of globalisation-development and injustice that is going on. They have been historically sinned against, something that none of us admit or acknowledge, cruel and myopic as we are. This fact is to be hammered into our brains till we turn into intellectuals ourselves. What is the way forward? How do we resolve the issue from here on?

That is not important. It is important that no force is used against the Maoists. They have suffered so much, it is only humane to give them time and space to express their angst. Evil conspiracies like laying down their arms and dialogues across the tables are for the mediocre. Ideologies as rich as the Maoists need not succumb to these. There is no point in looking at the future. There is no point in trying to find a solution. Letting them be is the only way the tribal populations can have a better life.

The Maoists have plans and social schemes that can ensure that the tribal people are ensured of their land, their rights, and to a better socio-economic status. There is an agenda for social well-being, yes. It hasn't been implemented in any of the areas as of yet (the movement has only been in effect for the last 30 years. Revolution is a lengthy process). So, there is not a single area that is run by the Maoists where the tribal people lead lives of economic independance and well-being. But those days are not far away.

Utopia will arrive in 2050. When the Maoists will 'take over' the country. Only then, my friends, will we be an intellectual country.

Till then, take homage in the knowledge of Ms. Roy. There is hope for salvation.

Monday, April 5, 2010

An open letter to the Indian Premier League




From someone who has been tracking the ups and downs of the IPL over the last few years, here is a kind letter to the Who's who and WTF's WTF at IPL.

Mr. Lalit Modi: Please ask the guys on TV to stop referring to you as the Primo/Supremo/Numero Uno/One and Only and other such adjectives. Not only does it stink of sycophancy, it makes our ears bleed. The IPL is a great concept and now I am sure inhabitants of other galaxies will be aware that it is your brainchild. Now please stop appearing on every match. Relegate yourself to the background now. You do not add to the glamour quotients. And yes, your ties, do something about them

Preity Zinta: Lets face it. Your team sucks. There is not one single player in your team whom we feel like rooting for. Each one of them seems to be on their own trip. The only reason I watch your matches these days is to see you. Please do not wear a Salwar Kameez with the Kings XI Punjab insignia on it again. Ever. I am sure Kirron Kher would look real hot in it. Not you.

Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar: Admitted, you guys are the only two Indian ex-cricketers who make sense behind the mike. But after ten years, it has become repetitive. I can predict in advance every line you are going to say. Please reinvent yourselves. It's crunch time now. It's do or die (Please stop saying lines like that anymore)

Angad/Anshuman/Gourav/Samir: Agreed, Mandira Bedi knew as much about cricket as you guys. But she wore noodle-strap blouses. Till the day you guys start growing female body parts please try to consume as little screen time as possible. Talk lesser, save energy. Listen to what Arun Lal has to say. Laughing is good for health!!

Other Commentators: What on earth is a Citi Moment of Success? Or a Karbonn Kamaal Catch? What happened to that thing called originality? And please stop mentioning that MRF Blimp and Dennis Lillee's contribution to Indian Cricket. His greatest contribution was when he tried to kick Javed Miandad. But that's it. For heavens' sake. The Blimp is just a huge, idiotic balloon shaped like an aeroplane , something you would expect Mr. Mallya to gift his grandchildren. It's not all that cool.


Mr. Navjot Singh Sidhu: Shut the f*ck up!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

OF SICKNESS AND WELLNESS




What would 'Anand' be if Rajesh Khanna was a healthy, 6-pack abs flaunting fit-fat guy? Or if SRK was Mr. Universe in Kal Ho Na Ho? I have always found something romantically tragic in being sick. Right from my childhood.

I was surprised when a friend told me that she experienced stomach-ache for the first time in her life. This reminded me of the days when I used to boast to people around me that I had not once in my life had a sprain, a fracture, stitches, or even a capsule. It's still the same, except in Class 5 when our class teacher added me to the list of poor students in the class after my performance in Maths and I was asked to eat the Memory Plus tablets that were endorsed by Vishwanath Anand.

The reason I was drawn to being sick was all the attention and sympathy that the 'sick boys', (as they were called then in our hostel) got when they fell sick. My favourite teachers would check upon them regularly, they would be allowed to skip classes and prayer sessions, and they would get sweets, comics and chocolates. It was so much fun. If you got a fracture, you would be sent home, and if you got a contagious disease, you would be quarantined away in the hospital, away from the cruel world of mathematical tables and 6 AM prayer sessions.

Another reason that I liked falling sick was my eternal crushes on nurses. Though I still maintain that it is a myth and there actually are no sexy nurses in the world. Of course, there was Zeenat Aman in Don, but then she was masquerading as a nurse to get Don out of the hospital. And Don was Don. Even though the intelligence agencies of eleven countries were after him, they forgot that it was not only difficult to catch him, it was impossible!

My point is that there are no sexy nurses in the world. Only kind nurses and cruel nurses. Coming back to my childhood, I always wanted to fall sick and be fussed over. But thanks to the healthy diet and some strong White Blood Cells, I was more or less disease-free. Not that I didn't try.

There was this really kind teacher at school who was incharge of medicines. We would rush to her for the smallest of ailments. Even something as silly as a mosquito bite. And she would pop in a few pills of unmedicated homeopathy pills in our mouth. When we went on doing it for some days, she would say, 'This is serious. Turn around, I think we need to give you an injection". We'd quickly say "No, ma'am. We are fine, and rush out of the dispensary".

I was always looking for methods to injure myself or get a disease. Of course, the most obvious way was to climb up the giant wheel and jump from it. But I was too scared of that, and moreover I was always playing more genteel games like Ramayan and Mahabharat.

There was this guy in our class called Vishnu who had just recovered from mumps.I would keep asking him how he got it. May be he was sick of me pestering him or that he was interested in becoming a doctor back then, but he gave me a remedy. He said, "When you are in the bathroom, keep your hand immersed in the mug with the tap running for a lot of time, and you will get mumps". Now, this would sound ridiculous even if you said it at Hogwarts, but for someone who believed he could get better at Maths by eating drumstick seeds, it sounded reasonable. So I would sit in the potty, my hand in the mug, and my mind full of dreams of mumps. After many such futile attempts, I got a cold but no sign of mumps.

Finally, at the end of the year, I successfully acquired Chicken Pox. While everyone was in misery, I was over the moon. We were taken to the hospital beside our school. There were no teachers to monitor us over here. And the best part was that the girls were in the room opposite us. We could sit in our rooms and look out of the door with hope, expecting one of them to step out. There were mountains behind us, and the seniors there would tell us amazing stories about how they killed snakes and ghosts that had creeped into the room. We were asked to give the annual exams from the hospital itself, and I remember Loka mam, my favourite teacher, gently hinting to me what the answers could be.

When my father came to collect me from the hospital, I was surprised to see that he was touching me and not staying away. When he told me the reason, I was crest-fallen. Like true love, Chicken Pox happens only once in a lifetime. I felt cheated!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

DIVING WITH CHICKS AND SWIMMING WITH THE FISHES

I was in Sambalpur a few weeks back and we'd gone to a picnic spot beside a lake. While everyone was playing in the water, I was basking in the sun near the bank. They proceeded deeper and deeper into the water, diving down and raising their arm to show how deep the water was. I was playing with pebbles, splashing water, trying to act busy. But not for long. “Don’t you want to come inside the water? There’s no fun just sitting there!” No response. “Are you like, scared of water or something?”

******

I know Pamela Anderson is the most famous Baywatch girl. But for me, she will always remain second to Yasmine Bleeth. I had caught a glimpse on an episode on one of the lucky afternoons in my summer holidays. I know this has been talked about many times, but there is something about the beach, the sea, and red swimsuits that sends teenage hormones on a sprint.

Swimming was among the cool things on my list of cool things since that day. But I had never got the opportunity to learn it. I finally decided to learn in my XI standard.

I registered myself at a swimming coaching class. What I dint know that the oldest guy in the batch was eleven years old. After bearing the ignobility of standing in my briefs with kids who reached up to my knee, I quit the coaching.

A few months later, we went to Balasore, my father’s native place. There is a pond behind our house and the kids all learn swimming in it. My father called me to the pond with the promise that he would teach me swimming. He told me how he and his five brothers had learnt swimming on their own. It was just something you learnt while growing up. “We learnt it on out own, in a month. We just dived into the water and learnt it”.

When I gingerly stepped into the water, I was expecting my father to come in behind me. I was already in the water and to my horror, I realised he was going to teach me swimming the way he had learnt it. “Paddle your feet and move your arms.” How easy it sounds, like “Switch off the lights and close the windows.” I was unable to move a muscle. After a few minutes of struggle, I gave up. I could see my father on the edge, egging me to go on with his hand raised. Looking like Rocky Balboa’s coach when he was badly beaten in the eye. Seconds later, my cousin brother jumped in to the water and pulled me out to safety. I came out of the pond, shaken, and shivering. Strike 1.

Just about 2 weeks later, I went to my bodo bapa’s house. There is a canal that flows right next to my uncle’s house where people bathe. Bathing is a community event. You came in groups with your friends, swam a bit, bathed, and went home. My cousin brother Raja Bhai had taken me along with him to bathe. I think there is something about the people of Balasore and has to do with their helpful nature. When he learnt I didn’t know how to, he offered to teach me how to swim. After some insisting, he took me into the water holding my hand. I waded into the water, my legs in the water, my hand in Raja Bhai’s and my heart in my mouth. Once we were a little inside, he left my hand, asked me to paddle, and turned to speak to his friend. Same result. That sinking feeling again. When he turned, he saw my hand struggling above the water and pulled me to safety. Strike 2

A few months later, I was at Puri. I had gone with a few friends to the beach and we were playing in the water. While the rest were diving into the water, I was playing safe, staying well behind the others and tamely splashing water like the Gopis do in those ISCKON pictures.

After a while, we noticed a girl in a red swimsuit nearby. Now, it is difficult to find anyone below 75 kilos in a swimsuit in Puri. And she was young and pretty. The sight of her caused an exodus among the guys on the beach and everyone including out group gradually moved a little closer.

They would wait for the girl to look in their direction, and then with a loud “Yaaaaaaay” dive into the water. I joined them for a number of reasons. Adrenaline rush, peer pressure, memories of Yasmine Bleeth. Red swimsuit.

“Yaaaaaaaay” and Splash! I went diving into one of the waves. The next wave was a bigger one, and I dived right into it, and when it was going back, I realised I couldn’t feel any sand below my feet. The red swimsuit girl was among the first to notice me screaming. “Somebody, pull him out. He doesn’t know how to swim”. The same sight again, a haze of brown and water getting into my mouth and ears. A bihari guy jumped into the water and pulled me out. Even within the water, I could hear him screaming out to me not to pull him in too. The last thing I remember was a light brown colour everywhere around me and water entering into my eyes, nose, and mouth.

When I opened my eyes, I saw the beard of a man who looked like Sivapathacus from our history text book, inches from my face. Yes, I had drowned again. Yes, I had been given CPR by that early old man. Strike 3.

*****

“No, no. Nothing like that. You guys go enjoy! I’ll just sit here and relax.” If ever that proverbial situation comes when I have to choose between the devil and the dark sea, I will embrace the Devil and try to bargain with him!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Maharaja Talkies

Nothing remarkable happened on 24.7.2002, it was just another Wednesday. But it was a red letter day for me. It was the first time I went to a cinema hall to watch a movie. Considering I was born in 1986, which was 2 decades back, it had to be special.

As a child, I was not allowed to watch movies even on television. The hottest woman I saw on television was Tara of Chandrakanta. My mother had even shut down the TV when the Draupadi Vastraharan scene was going on in Mahabharat, so you can imagine the levels of deprivation I was going through. The logic was simple. Going to movies was not in the list of activities that would help you to go to heaven. And so I was never taken to a cinema hall. I tried hinting about it a few times, but I might have as well asked for a trip to the moon.

Not that I hadn’t watched movies. We were shown films in our hostel. Mostly English films. And in the rare moments that my mother wasn’t at home or I was at someone else’s home, I used to catch whatever little on the existing movie channels. So, by the time I had finished my Class 10, I had watched a total of four hindi movies in my life.

Maine Pyar Kiya: (Being Diwali, my mother was busy in Puja),
HatimTai: (I remember Jitendra surrounded by girls doing aerobics holding duffs. Additional bonus, Dimple Kapadia in an item number).
Lagaan: Shown at school, with the Madhuban song edited out. Frustrated lot as we were, they might have wanted to avoid an uncomfortable situation.
Avatar: Rajesh Khanna is a mechanic who loses his hand while repairing an Ambasador and teaches his sons a lesson in caring for parents, with one hand. This emotional prostitute of a film was followed by a discourse on how children today do not care about their parents.

The idea of watching a film in a cinema hall thrilled me. My friends at school had described what the inside was like. I was told about the stall, the balcony, the whistling and hooting. It seemed like wonderland.

I returned home early and rushed on my bicycle to a cinema near my house that was screening Devdas – the bumper hit at that time. By the time I reached the hall, about 30 minutes had lapsed. I reached the ticket counter was looking left and right to check if anyone I knew was around. But all the people I knew were the kinds who spent Saturday evenings in Bhajans and would never come to watch a movie about a drunkard who falls in love with a prostitute and dies in front of his married lover’s gate.

The usher standing in front of the grill with his torch noticed me loitering around and asked me if i wanted a ticket. I said yes and he asked me to shell out 40 rs. If I had looked at the ticket counter, I’d have seen that the costliest ticket at that time was 22 Rs. But anyway, I was entering the hall for the first time and it seemed too good to be true. It was like a magical place. There were statues of fairies and posters of other films that were to be released soon. Even while climbing the stairs, I could faintly hear the dialogues. It felt like I belonged here.

I recalled my friends’ description of the balcony and the stall. Strangely, the man seemed to keep walking to the front rows. He kept walking till he reached the first row in the entire hall. He pulled a wooden bench from the side and asked me to sit. By then, I realised I had been royally duped. But what the heck? I was in a cinema hall.

I had to crane my neck up to look at the screen. Since I was closest to the screen, I felt like a fly sitting on people’s faces whenever they came on screen. SRK’s nose looked the size of a blackboard and everything else seemed magnified beyond recognition. If someone was at the left of the screen, I had to turn my head to the left and then look to the right again. Within 15 minutes, my neck began to hurt. I turned to look behind me. I was expecting to see people staring at the screen in awe. What I saw was a bunch of rickshaw walas and coolies, some of them drunk, the others showering Aishwarya Rai with a string of abuses I did not the meaning of. It felt like a 3D, larger than life experience, the hero was drinking bottles of booze and the area around me stank of it too.

After 2 long hours, Aishwarya realises SRK is outside her gates and runs to meet him. After what seems like a 200 m relay race, she reaches the gates, only for it to be shut on her face. The hero lies dead, mumbling her name. The end credits roll. I stand up.

Only to be pulled back to my seat by my shirt. “Bose, sola. Hero uthibo”. (Sit down, brother in law. The hero will get up). After about 2 minutes, they realised hero wouldn’t get up. This was followed by another string of abuses directed at the hero’s ancestral lineage. The lights got switched on. Someone had thrown something at the screen and people were making a rush for the exit. And a fight broke out. No fight in Orissa is considered big enough till someone screams out ‘Maaaaghiyaaaa’. Someone sounded the war cry and a riot broke out.

I struggled my way out, losing two buttons in the process.

I haven’t forgiven SRK to date.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What is it with insurance advertisements in our country? I liked the one which had rupee notes falling off trees. That one was a childhood fantasy, but the others seemed like a trap. They show you the promise of a good life, followed by an InsureanceisthesubjectmatterofsolicitationPleasereadtheofferdocumentcarefullybeforeinvesting. I understand there is cut-throat competition in the industry and all that, but why are they hell bent on using scare-tactics so that we run and get ourselves one of their panaceas for a happily-ever after life?

As it is, the earlier ads were an eye sore. There is this one ad in which a kid goes around the house saying ‘Statue’ to everything. When her had asks her the reason, she says, “Papa, ab kuchh nahi badlega”. I mean, what do you expect? Your audience has the intelligence levels of an anteater?

The there was that one with this kid with a bad hairstyle which talks too much. “Papa, kya aap mere future ke baare mein soche hain?” Which child talks to his father like that? They are more into video games/clothes/latest mobiles, that kind of stuff. Future? Really?? Bad research, dude. They are children. They don’t bother about that their future.

But the recent ad from HDFC just takes things to a different sphere of what-the-fuckness.

There is this guy who is leaving on some tour. Next to him is his ‘friend’. Now, if you were leaving somewhere and someone was coming to see off, what would you expect him to do? Wish you good luck, give you a hug, promise to call, that kind of stuff. No? This dude has to sell you insurance. He has to sound like a pain in the ass. How else can he do it?

So, our guy is about to leave and is in the taxi. He takes out some money that he forgot to give his wife. Hint 1 that he is leading a good life: His wife doesn’t control his finances. On careful observation, he has about ten notes in his wallet, of which he takes out 3-4 for his wife. Hint 2: He is not miserly with his wife.

The ‘friend’ takes the money and then asks, “Listen, dude. What if you don’t come back for a week?”

“You are right. Here’s some more.” You can see the glint in his eye as he takes the additional amount of money. Not to be satisfied, he goes on.

“Listen, what if you don’t come for a month.”
“Haha, you got to be kidding.”

(Our insurance selling dickhead pauses for effect)

“What if you never return? Will this money be enough for your wife?”

ONE TIGHT SLAP!! “Get the fuck out of the car. You are eyeing my wife, and you are a pessimistic-fatalist-death predicting-cheapskate insurance seller who exploits his friends”. In normal life that is. But no, not happening here.

Our guy falls for the moron’s lame efforts and his head is bent with sorrow. He has to go on a trip, mind you. Then, wise insurance guy says, “Sar jhukake kyun baitha hai yaar?”

Well, let me guess. He is going away from his wife and kids, has forgotten to give them some money. His friend is probably eyeing his wife, and is basically being a dick. Isi liye sar jhukake baitha hai.

Wise insurance guy then tells him, “Sar utha ke jiyo”. What exactly is this ‘Sar uthake jiyo’ wala funda? I am not covered by any insurance and if I die, my family will only inherit lots of diaries and unwashed clothes. But I don’t walk with my head stooped down in sorrow. And do people who have their lives covered walk with their head held high, like cranes? Absolute rubbish, I say.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The 'FAMILY'

I was in college, hopping jobs and looking for easy money. Painting t-shirts, odd jobs at call centres, part time stints and freelancing.

One morning, I was having chai at the stall near my house and talking to someone when this person overheard me and introduced himself. He was in formals, clean clothes, ready smile, and spoke in a syrupy-sweet manner.

“Do you want to change your life?”

What sort of a lame question is that? Who doesn’t want that?

“Yes.”

“Come with me, give me just half an hour and if you think it was worthwhile, well and good. Otherwise, it is completely your wish.”

He made me sit behind his scooter. It is always uncomfortable sitting behind someone in a scooter. Scooters do not have long seats like bikes. There are two seats – one for the rider and one for the pillion, with the oil tank in between you both. And everytime the rider brakes, you brush against him. I half wondered if he was some sort of paedophile. But he was not.

He took me to his home. He had a wife and a little son. He took me to his room and proudly showed me a photo of himself and his wife in Goa. I am a ‘Diamond Member’, we get one fully-paid holiday in a year, he said with pride. You can become a Gold Member within six months; I can see future in you".

For the next half an hour, I was completely lost in his talk. He told me how things worked. It was about exposing people to the luxury of good products. The investment needed was marginal. And if I worked hard, I could earn anything within 6,000 to 8,000 a month. I was already beginning to dream of what I would do with all the money. After an hour I was completely brain-dry cleaned. This was easy shit, I could do this.

“Don’t worry. For any support, I am with you. After all, we should join hands and help each other improve our lives together”. He asked me to attend a meeting conference for all members of the ‘Family’. I was thrilled.

I attended the conference. Though I felt like some distant, long forgotten cousin in the family, it was fun. People, many of them married women, clapped loudly when the speaker spoke about how his life had changed since he joined the ‘family’. The food was great and I met my mentor too. “Ah, come come.” he said, and made me meet some other people who all had smiled pasted to their faces. “Welcome Mr. Ranjan, the latest star in the block”. This was good, man. Even my own family wasn’t so proud of me.

The next week was a Monday. I was itching to begin. But who do I contact? I couldn’t even think of selling my sister anything. By default, she thinks that I am upto some kind of suspicious business. I tried selling it to my neighbour, Pintu Bhai.

I called him to the terrace to speak to him about it. “Do you want to change your life?”

He looked at me suspiciously and nodded.

I began the ‘life-changing’ sermon. After 20 minutes, I was convinced he wanted to extend his hand so that we could improve our lives together too. I explained to him about the products, how they were the means for thousands of people around us to change their lives. I explained about the marginal investment he had to make the loads of products he could get, that were far superior to the ones that were available in the market.

“How much does the toothpaste cost?”
“100 rs.”
“And do they give anything free? Like a toothbrush or white-meter?”
“No. But the product is much better than Colgate and Pepsodent.”

I could see he was sinking by the minute. When I was done, he said he would ‘let me know’. I smiled, stood up and extended his hand, and he gave me an amused look. We played cricket together, and knew each other since childhood. But we had never shaken hands. “Let us hold hands and improve our lives together”. My dialogue seemed as original as Rakhi Sawant's assets, but I was mouthing them just the same.

This was a good feeling, helping people use better products, become independent and transform their lives in the process. I felt I was doing mankind a service, redeeming people from their lives. For the next two weeks, in every conversation with people around me, I shook hands. Whenever I met Pintu Bhai, he would say he had some work, or change the topic. My mentor would call me to his house now and then and show me more photos of him and his wife in Goa. “This year, we are going to Himachal”, he said, looking at his wife with an endearing look that I could only give to a sizzling brownie.

A month had passed since I had transformed my life. I noticed that Pintu Bhai rarely met me these days. My conversations with the guys at work were slowly becomingly shorter. I spoke to my mentor about it. He warned me that the initial days could be a little taxing, but there was no substitute for hard work if I wanted to enjoy my life to the fullest.

After about 2 weeks, I cornered Pintu Bhai and asked him about his plans. He told me why he wasn’t up for it. He explained the reason. And I understood why.

We always hear the phrase “We don’t sell products, we sell dreams”. This company was actually selling dreams. The shit-expensive, arty-farty sounding trash was just by-products. No one wanted to use the products, or even spoke about them. They were just means to a better life. You joined the queue, found a bakra, bullshat him, dumped unwanted crap on his head and told him he was changing his life.

I looked in my room. I had a toothpaste, a shaving cream, a car and bike (both of which I dint have) polishing solution, a dishwashing cream, four powders that could make me look like Saahil Khan. And a wallet that was lighter by 4,000 bucks.

Even now, I don’t like people who ask me if I want to improve my life, or who shake hands with me. I am happy with my life, thank you very much. I don’t want your crap, and I don’t have a fat wife nagging me to take her to Himachal. Pretty soon, I got kicked out of the family, but I got my life back.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sardarji and his son


Is watching a match in the stadium really an experience better than watching it at home on television?

We had gone to watch the match against Sri Lanka that was played in Cuttack. We took our seats in the stands by 12.00 and the match was set to begin around 2.00 PM.

The waiting for the match can be quite frustrating, and people were kind of getting restless, waiting for the match to start. We guys had taken chart paper and sketch pens and were ready with our placards (“Dhoni, We miss you”, “Sorry, boss. I have fever”, “Plant Trees”).

A Sardar and his son were in the row in front of us. The son was young, must be 10 years old, around class 4. Around the age when you collect posters and cards, with nothing much more on your mind. They were one of the first persons to arrive and you could see that he was really interested in cricket.

The thing is, the day your luck is fucked, it is fucked. You can’t do much about it.

When the match was about to begin, some policemen came and started making people settle down. There was this couple of guys. One of them was dark and bulky, and looked like the Before of a “Before After’ in a Zambian weight-loss infomercial. The other guy was lanky. These guys had been standing for quite sometime and finally the policeman found an empty chair. The one in front of Sardarji’s son. But there is only one chair? No problemo!

The hefty guy, a veritable Duryodhan, offered his friend to sit on his lap. And After readily obliged.

And just like that, the poor boy’s vision was completely blocked. For the entire match! But ‘Before After’ hardly noticed. When one thigh ached, Before would make After stand up briefly, and then sit in on his other thigh. The poor boy wore a smug the entire match.

As it is, Oriya people are rather interesting. You will never find us sitting idle, ideating, thinking of world peace, that kind of crap. There is always something or the other going on in our minds.

To add to Sardarji & Son’s misery, all of a sudden a man hops in front of them, takes out his mobile phone and brings it in front of Sardarji’s face.

We were sitting behind them so we couldn’t see their expressions, but I am sure it must have been one of pure horror. And he takes a picture of Sardarji. He then looked at his phone, put it in his pocket and smiled.

“I have a friend. In Punjab. Vijay Singh. Bilkul aap ke jaisa dikhta hai.” The day your luck is screwed, it is screwed.

Now, gradually the match progressed. India was well on its way to a victory. When India was fielding, you should have seen the crowd’s behaviour. Sachin was fielding in the boundary near us, and the adulation had to be seen to be believed. Every time he so much as turned his head, the entire gallery would stand up and scream out his name. However, there was a Jekyl-Hyde kind of transformation when the Sri Lankan team came to field. Some of them had come up with innovative one-liners and would scream it out. One went,

“Malinga… tujhe ch*denga” (in the tune of the usual “India….India…”). Someone in the galleries above us must have gotten a little bored, so he decided to start throwing things at the people sitting below. It began in the form of paper rockets.

We looked up, pointed at it and laughed. After a while, a banana peel comes flying and landed on the head of one of the persons in the stands. Not funny. He throws it back and with a detailed chronology of the person’s ancestors.

What ensued next can only be called a water pouch/samosa/banana peel/biriyani packet slinging duel between the stands and the galleries. After a while, we saw that the same thing was going on in the other galleries as well.

It looked like a scene from those black and white comedy movies where people start hurling cakes at each other’s faces. Only, it wasn’t funny. By the time the innings reached the 40th over, the people who had come with families had left. The last I saw Sardarji and his son; they were getting up from their chairs. The war ensued till the end of the match and by the time it was over, the entire stand was empty but for a handful of us.

Coming back to the question I asked in the beginning. If a ten year old was asked the same question, he would say it is much better to sit at home, and enjoy the match with smoking hot parathas and tandoori chicken.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Way to go,da!


Deve Gowda has done it again. Just when I thought our political leaders were digging new depths of boredom, Gowda, the old warhorse of clumsy politicians, shows us he’s still got it. Which makes me think, why do we expect our politicians to be honourable, respectable and genteel in their dealings anyway? Come on, they are humans too. They have egos, fight, and call each other “bloody bastards”. What’s the big deal?

I firmly believe politicians be left alone. Let them make asses of themselves, at least they will be providing their constituencies with comic relief. Won’t it be fun to listen to them go at each other? Compared to the usual tripe of “Yeh opposition party ki saazish hai”. Imagine the pleasure of listening to a politician go “Honourable Speaker, I would like to point out that Mr. Tiwari is a bloody asshole!”. It will be a sure-shot way to get the youth interested in politics. The other option is to have prettier politicians. I mean, Priyanka Vadra is kind of cute, but then anyone in the midst of Mamta Banerjee and Mayawati ought to feel like a princess.

But keeping boring politicians aside, the two words “Bloody, Bastard” do ring a bell. At one point of time, being able to say ‘bloody bastard’ meant that we had grown up. There was an unwritten law in our school. There was an accepted level of profanity for every stage of growing up. Till Class 2, we were not allowed to use any unpleasant words. Going to Class 3 meant that we could say “Shut Up”. We couldn’t be blamed. We were surrounded by spiritual vibes. We were protected from movies, with the only abuse being when some God would appear in the demon’s dream and say, “Moorkh!” or “Paapi!” or something like that.

Class 4 wasn’t much of a progress, with words like ‘ass’ being thrown around when someone was real bugged.

Class 5 was our coming of age year. We were allowed to bathe ourselves once a month, we were allowed to write with pens. It felt great to see our shirts’ pockets stained with ink. And we were allowed to say ‘Bloody, Bastard’. There was a dramatic transformation in the way we conversed. Even a small irritation would be met with, “Get lost, you. Bloody, Bum, Bastard!” The three Bs. The elusive three Bs. It felt like such an achievement when you could call someone that.

There was this classmate of mine, Nishant. Overwhelmed with his newfound adulthood, he once asked our classmate to “go, mind your own bloody business”. While everyone went “O” in surprise, our Chacha Chaudhry immediately came up with, “Check the dictionary, ma’am. ‘Bloody’ means smeared with blood. So actually I haven’t said anything terrible”. If only teachers fell for that kind of crap! Another guy, Shivram, believed in making maximum use of abuse. When he had a fight with anyone, he went on saying “Bloody, bloody, bloody, bloody” at a very fast pace till his opponent gave up, or put his index finger to his head and made the “mental” gesture.

But anyway, going further in our progression of profanities, it was kind of alright to use ‘fuck’ in Class 9. Of course, if a teacher heard you, you’d have to clean the toilets, or clean the corridor. Since profanities came at such a premium price, I have always reserved mine for the best moments. And the choicest of abuses. But seeing these politicians go at each other like Class 3 girls makes me go “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!!!!!!”

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bribing Sunday Baba

In Bhubaneswar, there is a strange practice prevalent. The begging is pretty organised. They have studied the market and choose to venture out only on weekends. As a result, you will always come across a beggar on a weekend morning.

And the sad part is that they sing. And loudly at that. One such person who would frequent me was a Baba who spread the gospel of Shirdi Sai Baba on Sunday afternoons. Now, being a baba is better than being unemployed. You will never be denied food anywhere. Partly because how foolish superstitious people are. Or someone will take pity on you. Or probably just give you something so that you leave.

As a result, you get to see a lot of interesting babas. There was this one guy who would go about shouting. Yes, shouting. He would keep screaming at the top of his lungs. And what was most astonishing. He would scream for hours on end, and absolute gibberish! Imagine screaming yourself hoarse for hours, and actually not making any sense.
And then there was this baba whom you could see near the railway station. He would sit on a mat on the footpath next to the highway and do the unthinkable. And then there is this baba who waltzes in and out of babadom whenever he feels like. He is actually a “ranga mistri” – a labourer who paints houses. But whenever he feels, he stops shaving and becomes a baba. And hard times make him come back to the world. So he just shaves, and is off to painting houses again. People in the area call him Sansari baba.

Now this baba, whom I like to call Sunday baba blesses our locality only on Sundays. I first noticed him on a lazy, sleepy Sunday. I had just had lunch and was on the threshold of beautiful sleep, when I was startled out of my senses when I heard a voice. “Sai Baba Aae, Sai Baba Aae….” I initially thought someone was standing next to me and started screaming. On opening my eyes, I realised it was someone on the road outside. It was like the sound of a loudspeaker tied to your head in a cruel punishment. When I went out to see, I saw it was just one guy.

He had one irritating voice. And he would come every Sunday. And sing the same damn song.

After tolerating him for about 3 months, I decided to do something about it. I waited at the chhak around the time he would come there. Before he entered the lane, I walked up to him. You could hear him from a mile anyway. Only when I stood about a metre from him and stared at him for a full five minutes did he shut up.

Baba, I have a request.

He gave me the “Ah, come my son. You have come to the right person look”.

“Ah…tell me. Sai is the answer to all problems.”

“Baba, my grandmother is unwell and you are very loud. When you pass our house, she jolts out of her wits. So please do not sing when you are in front of our house.”

You should have seen the look on his face. As if I had surgically removed his vocal chords, he gave me a disgusting look and said. “We are here to do Baba’s work. No one can stop us in this.”

If I hadn’t left after the ten minutes of requesting, he would have pushed me away. Finally, I took out a 50 note and put it in his plate. “Baba, please. We are devotees of Baba. My grandmother would love it. And I also would.”

He gave me one last disgusting look and walked away to the next lane. It has been two weeks, and we do get to listen to him on Sunday afternoons. But only like someone is playing a radio (a badly screwed one) nearby. And that too when he is in the next lane!

It seems a relief. But Sharad Pawar has announced that sugar prices might go up to 100 rupees. I wonder how long the offer will last!