Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Double Bill

Money is trouble. Two back to back incidents just re-affirmed my faith in this age old saying.

Money for Nothing

I might be working now, and reached an age where the kids in the neighbourhood have started calling me 'uncle', but yesterday I found myself in a situation best suited for pre-teen sitcoms.

We were having our daily afternoon post lunch walk downstairs, laughing our way along as we always do. A pretty female came next to me, pausing to say something. In my universe this is an event with probability almost zero, whatever be the circumstance. So it did surprise me more than it should have. I literally froze.

"Excuse me", she politely said.

I looked around, she might very well have had the wrong person. I felt like enacting the "You talking to me?" routine in front of her. Words failed me, as they often do in such situations (they do, don't they?). The least I could manage was a surprised smile.

"Yes", still smiling. Plastic smile.

"I think you have dropped some money back there", she said.

There. She put a full stop on the purpose. I looked back and saw a 10 rupee note lying there. It wasn't mine, but the expression I made was like I'm not the kind of person who drops 10 rupee notes. On the contrary, maybe the expression went something like I'm the kind of person who drops 500 rupee notes and doesn't care to look back. It failed me that there were other people with me and they could be the concerned people. First words failed me, now my mind.

"ME ????" , I asked with all the surprise I could garner.

It came out sounding like I was excited that she had selected me, out of the 5 people, to give that information. Something of the "swayamwar" type thingie of the ancient ages. Or the ancient ages as depicted by Ramanand Sagar and co.

It was her turn to be surprised. Very surprised.

She said, "No, any one of you?". The tone of that sentence was much like Priyanka Chopra's iconic "Your silly village girl" in the Scooty ad. In fact the sentence came back to haunt me, much long after the incident, with emphasis on a different word each time.

No, any one of you?
No, any one of you?
No, any one of you?
No, any one of you?

Those weren't pleasing thoughts I tell you. I just tried to figure out which one of the versions would have been the mildest. I gave up.

My friend, I don't care much which one, saved the situation by claiming the money to be his. But somehow, the habit of getting the last word did not fail me here too.

As she walked away trying to figure out what creeps they have in office these days, I had to shout out "Thank you", like she had just saved a million lives.

She turned back, smiled and went away nodding. The kind of smile and nod that says "You'll never, ever improve, will you?"

I try madame. I try.

My unforgiving friends did not spare me after this.

"What did you think? This was some new generation improvisation of 'Excuse me, kya ye aapka rumaal hai?' type of pickup line?".

You got me :)

Meet the Fakers

If the previous incident was fit for pre-teen sitcoms, this one would have been suitable for a crime thriller. A seemingly harmless trip to the neighbourhood bank took a chilling turn when I got a phone call just after I thought I had wrapped up the whole rent paying business this month for good.

"Is this Mr. XYZ?" XYZ being my landlord.
"Wrong number." I said without even thinking twice.
Then it struck me. I had written his name on the money deposit envelope and my number, so this was no coincidence.

The phone rang again and I explained the scenario. The voice on the other side had a tone that couldn't care less. That is partially because of the bomb that was dropped after that.

"One 500 rupee note that you have deposited just now is fake. Either come to replace it or get 500 less deposited."

My world came crashing down. 500 Note? Fake? I had just take the damn money out of the adjacent ATM and shoved it in the bloody envelope without even looking. This is what you get for trust? They slip one of them phoneys in between? And why is she all cool about the fake note? Aren't they going to like arrest me for this fake racket? Take me to the prison and torture out the name of my imaginary accomplices and the make of the fake printing machine?

"I'll be there in 15 minutes." I told her in a voice just short of breakdown.

On the way, I was telling my roomie of the fate that awaited us. Snipers would waiting on the gates. They already had our images on the CCTV, where we were so cutely trying to figure out just how the heck does the coupon dispensing system work. They would shoot us on sight and get accolades for encountering masterminds of the fake currency racket. Then find our IIT ID-Cards in the wallet and media would be full of 'The Departed-esque' type conspiracy 'rat' theories. Rats planted young. He patiently pointed out that a fake 500 did not deserve this much drama.

After reaching there, I had to tell a billion people embarrassingly about my story, so that they would guide me to the place to get it resolved. The weekend crowd was overflowing in the bank and everyone seemed to look at me penetratingly as if to say "These be the rotten phoneys, what did they think?". Finally one person guided us to the basement.

In such circumstances, the basement is not an ideal place to settle issues. I mean if you visualise bank basements as made immortal by so many movies, the ultra modern security measures and unforgiving treatment they promise to goons, a very reassuring picture does not emerge out. Nevertheless it had to be done.

We were greeted by two very sceptical ladies, who shooed us out of the room. On narrating my problem, again, it did register something in one of their minds and out came a very shiny looking 500 rupee bill from an envelope. It looked perfectly normal otherwise, but maybe too much makeup is out of fashion these days. Sure the note was shiny and the Gandhi insignia had bit too much ink, but fake? Unfortunately I wasn't the one who works in banks.

I did try the melodrama bit here too, which famously had taken me out of a soup at a Mumbai local station. Didn't work out. This time though, I was happy just to come out alive. And kick the bloody ATM on the way back.

Alive and kicking. Ha.

Friday, November 02, 2007

She Don't Lie

Martina Hingis has said she is horrified by her positive cocaine test and that she is "absolutely, one hundred per cent innocent".


If you got bad news, you wanna kick them blues.
Cocaine.

When your day is done and you wanna run.
Cocaine.

She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie;
Cocaine.

~ JJ Cale (Well, Clapton too)


I trust you Martina.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Nothing But the Tooth Redux : Root of all evil

Some of you might be familiar with my last rendezvous with a dentist, which culminated in an extracted tooth. Those who aren't, better 'brush up'.

The last time I fell in trouble, I decided that I won't let it happen again. Like every time else. I did try, mind you. I brushed at nights for 2 nights straight before I realised that brushing before bedtime at 4 AM and then again at 8.25 AM before turning up for lectures doesn't make a hell lot of difference. I used a funny tasting, funnier looking medical toothpaste to kill those goddamn germs. I gave up because it produced no foam and did not leave that cool, tangy, minty aftertaste. I am a man with clear cut priorities after all.

More importantly I had vowed not be my own doctor again. The last time around, I had mistaken my toothache for the onset of wisdom tooth; a concept based on the one paragraph I got to read in some school biology course. Some argued that wisdom tooth doesn't take 4 months to grow, which was the duration of my ache with increasing magnitude of pain. It is proportional to the amount of person's wisdom, I argued back. To no logical response of course.

After the extraction last year, I thought I had seen the last of the intimidating sight of a dentist's chair. Unfortunately, going by the turn of events, that was just a beginning. The pain returned after exactly one year, like a much awaited annual event. It returned with an entirely different dogma though, last time it was left, this time it was right. I just have too quote 'The Who' here.

And the parting on the left
Is now the parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight
- Won't Get Fooled Again


When the pain started, I assured myself that it had to be the wisdom tooth this time. No chance of anything else. Even by my standards, it was high time that wisdom dawned upon me. Like last time, and most other times as well, I couldn't be more wrong. Last time it was a fallen tooth fragment while eating a dosa and the instantaneous chilling pain that followed which jolted me to reality. This time it was a toothpick half covered in blood, taken over by searing pain that was the revelation. Each time is a new learning experience you see.

After 15 days of doing extensive study on dentists in the area and listening to a million harrowing tales, I decided to go with the closest Hospital in my area. Proximity beats expertise anytime. The hospital was new, evident by the still freshly painted advertisement boards hanging over neighbourhood trees. Being the gentleman that I am, I decided to give it some serious business.

I took an appointment and waited patiently outside the dentist's cabin. Accompanied by pesky toothless kids about 20 years younger or serene toothless elders about 50 years older, I did feel slightly out of place. I was greeted by an affable doctor who took stock of the situation and laughed occasionally when I narrated most of what I have narrated here. Apparently patients with a sense of humour are appreciated, and it is not hard to see why.

Things took an interesting turn when she learnt that I was from Jamshedpur. She was from Jamshedpur too, and excitedly narrated about her school, Sacred Heart Convent, a name which meant so much back in schooldays for reasons not tough to fathom. Half of the appointed time was spent sharing memories of our hometown, the end of which put me in social situation I am ill accustomed to handle. Delighted to meet someone from the same place, she invited me over to meet her husband and 2 year old kid. I could only smile in return, this time and every other time.

The treatment itself started the second day. It gave me an indication that things were going to be very tough. For about an hour I had to keep my mouth open, to its maximum stretchable limit, while instruments emitting suspicious lights and emanating funny noises were inserted one after another into my mouth. Injections in the palate and obnoxious tasting medicines, which I was warned not to swallow, made the going even tougher. But this was just an inkling compared to what was coming up. I was told that the only way out was the Root Canal Treatment (RCT) which would begin the next time. I was explained about how infection reaches the nerve ending, how the canals are found out and cleared and filled and how the crown is fitted with an excellent illustrated diagram of the tooth. I probably looked like someone who would take an active interest.

The next day's session would rank close to the longest one hour of my life. The ones on the third, fourth and fifth day would give it a tough competition. The premise on which entire RCT is based is where do you experience the pain. And how much. This takes out the option of using a local anesthesia. So first the cavity was cleared and a hideous water nozzle inserted in my mouth. The water jet was directed into the cavity, with increasing force, and I was asked to tell if I experienced any pain. I told I did. I was instructed to hold on till it became unbearable. I would have liked to point out that I could be dead by then. Nevertheless it was managed, and it was established that as suspected, I did, indeed, need to undergo RCT. Bah!

The process of locating the canal comes close to the most sadistic thing that could be done to you (assuming....ahem! forget it..). Needles of various lengths, but invariably pointed and sharp and sometimes with those tiny screws near the end are inserted into the cavity at different angles. As the needle is poked into the cavity, you are supposed to convulse, you can't shout, when the pain takes your breath away. Makes it easy for the doctor to define unbearable. It is like Clockwork Orange with the eye replaced by the tooth. Sometimes two needles are inserted making intersecting angles and x-rays taken in all cases. With the needles and the small cardboard piece inserted for the x-ray and the looming radiation gun pointed at the cheek, it does get a bit intimidating. And more than a mouthful. On the brighter side the x-rays do look kind of cool with needles criss-crossing the tooth, reminds you of the pirate sign.

Locating the canal does take some time. Till then the entire sadistic process is repeated. Poke a needle. Push it inside. Bear it. Bear it. Bear it. Shriek. Wipe the tears. I went home looking like an exhausted warrior after every session. At times I begged to just extract the tooth and let go. To no avail.

Once the canal was found, thankfully, it was duly filled. The process though did not end here. I was told that since the tooth has no source of nutrition would become brittle. I was more alarmed when pointed out that this means that one day while biting an apple, the tooth may remain embedded in the apple itself. Which further meant that I had to get a crown on top. This required a process in which the guilty tooth had to be sized down. Which meant another painful session in which some kind of drill, with an irritating high frequency noise was inserted into my mouth. Tired of keeping it open for so long, I twitched a bit. That was enough for a gush of blood form the cheek to fill my mouth. And it hurt.

Finally after all these gory procedures, my dental imprint was taken and a crown ordered. I was advised to go with a ceramic crown which resembles the tooth, instead of the much cooler (and less expensive) gold one.

The overall bill was handed out to me, and my situation best summed up by the dentist's comment "I guess you guys are reimbursed by your company, right?".

No we aren't. I didn't opt for that plan, thank you. But I do have the satisfaction of telling people that I gifted myself a crown with my first salary. An exquisitely crafted ceramic crown.

I'm still waiting for the wisdom tooth.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sreesanth: The Modern Black Knight?

Sreesanth is being a prick. I have reservations about show of too much enthusiasm, let alone over the top enthusiasm, and Sreesanth is taking things way beyond the limit. Probably you are a part of the group of people whose blood would have boiled reading Symond's article and hence support everything Sreesanth does, but I detested what he was doing in the T20 WC even when he was doing well.

In this series, especially after what Symonds has done to him, his plight reminds of the Black Knight from Monty Python. A refresher course just in case:


Monty Python's Black Knight - Click here for another funny movie.

Imagine Symonds as King Arthur and Sreesanth as the Black Knight, and the legendary dialogues take a new meaning.


ARTHUR: Look, you stupid bastard. You've got no arms left.
BLACK KNIGHT: Yes, I have.
ARTHUR: Look!
BLACK KNIGHT: Just a flesh wound.
BLACK KNIGHT: Right. I'll do you for that!
ARTHUR: You'll what?
BLACK KNIGHT: Come here!
ARTHUR: What are you going to do, bleed on me?
BLACK KNIGHT: I'm invincible!
ARTHUR: You're a looney.


I'm no Symonds fan or a fan of Aussie brand of mental disintegration. But I think there are better things in the world than to irk someone of his nature. Sportsmen, the best kind, have a tendency to perform when they are irked thus. Just ask Flintoff and Yuvraj.

However I have serious issues with the 'monkey chant' racist claims that Symonds has made. The last time I heard a thing like this was the infamous Eto'o incident, and I doubt whether word came to the Indian spectators that such a thing can be construed as a racist remark. After all who are we to pass racist comments? Also, I have been to international matches to stadiums across the country (not too many mind you) , and trust me, there are far far worse abuses that are hurled across, it just depends if you want to make it an issue or not.

All this does make it real interesting for India's tour to Australia. One thing we can be sure of is that there would be no incident like the one in which Srinath apologised to Ponting for a bouncer who then rudely pointed his bat and asked him to f-off and get back to the bowling crease. How times change!


UPDATE: It was a pleasant surprise to look at the morning papers and find that my favourite batsman, someone whose Slazenger bat still is in my wishlist, has views not very different from mine on the 'racist chants' issue. Even Border agrees on the whole taunting thing. Makes my morning :)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Two good books, the odd bad movie, and the amazing eat out place

The lack of things to write about alarms me. It is though an indication of the kind of unwritable daily routine that the work life imposes. The little time that is left to pursue an interest is made little use of owing to the even littler enthusiasm left. No time to read books, save the odd cab/bus/rail journey or the wait outside a dentist. No time, drive to watch movies, except those imposed by the odd social gathering. A far, far cry from the excitedly hatched grand plans of reading and watching movies and doing little else just a few months back.

All things taken into consideration, I did manage to finish two books in the interim. That these were the first books in much of recent past that I had bought with my own money, (CBT and NBT publications don't count for much do they?) fill me with all the more joy that I had my money worth.

One of those was the delightful Bill Bryson's "Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid". If you have read Bryson, there is no point reviewing it. If you haven't, it is time you should. This particular book is an account of Bryson's growing up years in his hometown Des Moines, which co-incided with the growing up years of US as an economy and superpower. Needless to say it is funny as ever, still managing to be thought provoking at times.

The second book was a part of "I'll-read-the-book-and-watch-the-movie" series that I plan to follow in the near future. The book of choice this time was Capote's masterpiece "In Cold Blood". You would think that a real life crime, where you know the killers right from the start, would present a very shaky premise for a crime thriller. This is where Capote takes it one notch higher, with his literary journalism, building the story, the characters, the suspense, the setting and make it a better read that most of the crime fiction you would ever come across. The psyche of the killers, and the background behind such homicidal behaviour is brought out in a way that it generates empathy for two people who slaughtered four innocents in cold blood. Towards the end you have to remind of the grotesque nature of the killings to not feel bad of the final fate of the killers. Can't wait to watch the movie now.

The third book in line happens to be Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum", and given the sheer incomprehensibility it presents, it might be some time before it can find a mention here. The struggle took me back to my efforts at reading "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man", which by the way, I have bought and reserved for reading at a later date. Finishing the current one just might help.

One of the two movies I saw was 'Chak De India', what else. Given my stance towards popular movies, I would have avoided it, but the other option was to wander alone aimlessly in a shopping mall. The sport and true incident angles played a part in softening my stand too. The time spent there was slightly better than the other option, that I must admit. And it also gave me a whole lot of corny dialogues to pester my friends with, so no complaints.

The other movie is something I won't talk about. Not even name it. Just one of those collective mistakes that people make when they have nothing else to pass time with in a shopping mall. What makes matter worse is that this movie has been released in only two cities, to gauge the public reaction before deciding on the next step. I feel so used. So probably would the 7 other people who happened to be trapped in the same hall as us. If you are not in those two cities, you will surely be exempted from the sin of seeing of poster of this movie. Let alone the unabsolvable damnation of having watched it. It is not even a mainstream movie, with at least some people you know who you can curse till your money's worth when you come out. Which leaves the only other option of cursing yourself and your equally stupid friends, of which I do a good job.

Treated a friend, who had made his journey from IIM-L for a seemingly stupid purpose, at a nice place last weekend. Quite famous in circles these things get famous, "The Big Chill" was where we ended up searching for place to eat. Not having any prior information about this place, I was pleasantly surprised by the entire noir theme when we went upstairs to have a table booked. Original (I presume), hand painted posters of classic movies hung like ornaments on the wall. The 'Big' in "The Big Chill" started making sense then. I half expected Sam Spade waiting round the corner, ready for a fist fight with some shadowy, hatted stranger.

While we waited downstairs, we treated ourselves to Kababs, apparently popular themselves too. The smoke from these shops seemed to concentrate near the neon sign of "The Big Chill". Only silhouettes were visible in the dark, lonesome alley with the odd spiral iron staircase. I was already having visions of the numerous Noirs I have enjoyed not so long ago, and a chill went down my spine in anticipation. The Big Chill?

We got a table after a moderate wait, and I was pleasantly surprised by the movie poster collection on display. As a retro movie buff, I spent more time looking around, trying to remember now that scene, now that line from the multitude of movies, while my friend had to do the task of wading through the fairytale of a menu to have something to eat. The front page of the menu had Audrey Hepburn staring at me, which meant that I hardly opened to look beyond the cover once I did manage to divert my attention. My trance was broken by the noise of a ring tone that went "Aaj ki Raat, hota hai jo.." which gave me a stern reminder of the place we were at, on a macro level. The music in the restaurant itself was a big, big letdown. Anything but pop would have done.

I'm not a foodie, quite the opposite, to let you know about the food, or the famous desserts. Then, who goes there for food anyway?

I don't want to end up writing about N-Deals, imminent elections, sport happenings or my deepest, darkest feelings, fears. Then it might get to that stage, the way things are going.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What the Chak?

The final was at 5.30 PM, the exact time my office hours end. I am not one to take chances though. Certainly not in cases like these. I took the entire day off, on account of 'mild fever'. The next day people laughed at me, more so at my made up 'fever'. Then they touched my hand, then my head and agreed in unison that in fact I was serious. The discovery startled me much more than it did them, but I learnt to keep a straight, sober and slightly pale face, almost as an acknowledgement of what I had told them, all along. The doubters were the ones feeding me Crocins then. I must have developed some superpower to fall sick at will, being transformed into your normal looking next door, unenviable 'Sick Man'. And no, he can't fly. But yes he can wear the Blue tee with the S written in Red on the front.

Anyway I hadn't taken a day off to see India lose. They didn't. But there were things that made me wish otherwise. The pop-patriots whose definition of courage rarely exceeds waving flags at stadia and shouting hoarse in India colours would be charging me with treason already. Then who is afraid of them anyway.

I haven't written a reader friendly point wise post for ages now. Rather I haven't written anything for ages now. So here is a list of reasons that gave me, and probably you too, serious second thoughts about the outcome of the match.

1. The 'Chak De' song being played till you eardrums hurt, your heart churned over, your mind became numb. Add the entire Shahrukh 'Kabir' Khan fellow being present there, and noticed and plastered all over the channels....you begin to wish that poor Misbah should have lofted Joginder Sharma out of the park. For good.

(Aside: By the way, they should have a movie with an infidel hero who speaks english with a call centrish accent, has the occasional 'high' time, zooms around in a phoren dhoom type bike and has visions of him being Zidane. The hero of course would have to be Shoaib Akhtar and the movie? 'Chuck De Pakistan'. Darrel Hair would love be a guest act, with his muse Murali. )

2. Joginder Sharma. If you have seen a more useless bowler since Subroto Banerjee (anyone remember our legendary team from WC '92. This guy was from Jamshedpur btw) then please update me. He is so pathetic that a lame, limping Sehwag had to bowl an over against the mighty Oz and ended up matching him in runs conceded. The runs were 20, and it was a tough task to match. Credits to Sehwag, and Dhoni too. Don't tell me that you ever believed that someone like Misbah wouldn't take his skin out in the final over. And don't tell me you did not lose any remaining hope after watching that wobbly, wayward, shaky wide delivery and then that whack for six. Poor Misbah..

3. The sight of TV channel crew members invading every possible abode of a cricketer, interviewing their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, kids, friends, girl friends, neighbours, shopkeepers, bystanders......Tell me have you ever seen Ponting's mom and dad with a confused yet beaming look on their faces telling that they always trusted their kid would do well with his uncle nodding fervently in the background. Then why torture us. And them?

4. Them new made fans. They who go 'Oh I knew India would win, they had such a great team.' They who can't name about half the team. They who declared after the WC that Cricket is a game for the retarded. They who came back to liking cricket because T20 is such a time saver, and entertainer. They who think T20 is the best form of cricket. They who think T20 is a form of cricket. Get back to the phony twisted talks of F1 and made up gibberish of EPL, punks. When you love sports, you love sports. You never love something because you hate something else. And you never love something because it makes you look cooler and contemporary.

Oh Misbah...


Yes I got internet at home. Finally. It pinches having to pay for it now. Anyhow, I'll back. More often.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Degree of Freedom





Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

~Frost

Monday, July 30, 2007

Conditioned Life

Inside, people sip on their coffee and tea
(Which by the way can be got for free)
And gaze through the glass window to see
A world in motion outside, busy as can be
Falling raindrops, wind blowing through the trees
While inside, life is stagnant at 23 degrees.

Friday, July 27, 2007

How Gud is my Gaon

The few images I have seen over the past 3 weeks that I’ve been here, give me an impression of a city that had no time to cope up with the sudden growth it has witnessed. Like a child in some fantasy movie who takes a magic potion and wakes up the next day to find out that he has outgrown all his clothes. Real estate was the magic potion in this case.

Venture for a 5 minute walk around and you see all the signs.

There are huge, tall buildings, adjacent to each other, jostling for space. Right in front there are vast empty fields, occasionally camped on in by the gypsy types, probably waiting for their turn to be transformed. The roads are busy. High end cars zooming past at speeds only they are capable of, stealthily. But, very often, they have to wait and line up for that noisy rickety tractor probably headed to utilize the fields that remain. And justify the latter part of this place’s name. Cows, bulls and the odd dog posing a threat is a common sight too, but that is common to almost the entire country.

Then there are the malls. Huge ones, and still newer ones coming up. Right in front of them are makeshift shanties, with hay roof covering, the ones that don’t present a pretty sight in rains. Or present no sight at all, come strong winds. Some of them serve alcohol, but not the ones you would generally associate with such places. There are huge billboards with Jack Daniels or Absolut Vodka printed over them, and luxurious cars parked in front.

There are traffic jams of scary proportions, just when the office hours get over. The problem is compounded by the Delhi Metro detours, which promise you a better and faster commute if you suffer till the time they are completed. These are the snapshot images that get published in newspapers and government sponsored advertisements that brag about India’s development. Tall cranes stationed over piles of building materials, engineers in yellow helmets manning over things, long iron rods projecting out of round and stout concrete columns. Look closely and you’ll find a mile long queue of impatient honking cars in the background. Just out of Mumbai which is in the ‘block-roads-and-build-flyovers’ phase, I always seem to be caught at wrong end of development.

How’s job? Well, like most others, only with a much smaller smile on the face the first of every month. It takes some getting used to, one day you’re waking up 5 minutes before the lecture, dragging your dirty, stained jeans and ragged, stinking tee out of a heap and putting them on for class, with a noisy chappal to accompany. The next day you’re required to get up an hour before office time, shave, comb, put on ironed shirt and trousers and a tie along with uncomfortable formal black shoes. Every day when I go through this routine, this ‘The Who’ snippet plays into my mind:

You think we look pretty good together
You think my shoes are made of leather

But I'm a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated
I look pretty young, but I'm just back-dated, yeah


These days, I’m beginning to find out the importance of weekends.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Postcards from Jamshedpur: The Zoo

There are only so many things that can be done in my town. We decided (rather I decided and forced others, nothing new) to visit this place which was the object of such fascination only a decade ago. Only the coaxing and cajoling and waiting took long enough so that we neared closing time when we got there. Nevertheless we did manage to get up close with some animals before that and I'll present a brief pictorial proof.



The rabbit showed us the way


The elephant was there to welcome us


The duck posed with the quacks



OMG!! The bear attacked us!


New generation of croc hunters


Eco friendly dino. 100% vegetarian.


Emu. Just in case you doubted if we really visited the zoo. And boy these birds are big!


And you doubted that?


Then they lived happily ever after. I love happy endings.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Immediate Concerns

This template I have used for too long. Been thinking of changing it. Would have, had the net at home been even a hundredth as fast as in IIT. Here you lose the patience to do things after a while.

In the meanwhile, getting back here has inspired me to raise this near dead blog back into life. Do have a read if you can spare the time.

http://back2jsr.blogspot.com


****

A day or two back I had to get a passport photograph taken. I went in at the wrong time when the shop was about to close and the reel for day had already been sent to develop. I was told to return the next day. The next day I went there and reminded them this. The guy looked at me and said,

"Look at you. Unshaven, not wearing a shirt (tees don't count). Yesterday you were ready, today you are not. Come back tomorrow"

I couldn't help laughing. I could have told him that this photo isn't going to be sent as a marriage portfolio. (Look there's this guy who looks like a bear and even dresses to prove that, how can anyone marry him? ) Even if it is I'm not about to marry his daughter. I could have gone to another studio too to get the job done. But, seeing how sentimental he was about his job, and by extension his subject, I decided to give him a chance.

Next day I walk in all shaved and dressed up (which means wearing a shirt in my world). He leads me to the chamber. He switches on the blinding lights. I get all watery eyed and ask for time to adjust. He waits and takes the picture after a while.I come out and rub my eyes to take away the pain. He looks at me and says, concerned,

"You spend too much time near TV, or computer?"
''Lately, yes'', I respond. Bemused.
"Your eyes get strained too easily. Go check with an optician soon enough", he added.

Now that is all round care. All you want is a photograph and you get advice on grooming and eyesight. Small town thing I guess. Everybody concerned about everyone else. And everything else.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Drift

It is never a good idea to talk about people. Praise leads to flattery, truth goes down bitterly. From where I come from, friends don't feel bad if they are not acknowledged, they feel embarrassed if they are. Try sending someone a birthday card, or present a juvenile thing like a friendship band, and wait for the wrath to fall upon you. I love it that way, where you don't really have to say, prove materially what others mean to you, they just know. I know.

Which is why I won't talk about people here. There are many things I've wanted to say to many people. Somethings I have said, some for fear of being misunderstood and being accused of showing a condescending attitude I have held back. Rightly so, for who am I to preach? Preachers I have grown to hate, and I don't want to hate myself. There are things I wish would change. The idol worship, the 'king's clothes syndrome', the desperation for things unnecessary, the perennial wannabe behaviour, the pretense, the fickle ideals, false self consolations ; there are just too many of them. I have wanted to say to many people, what Lester Bangs said to William Miller in 'Almost Famous'.

Lester Bangs: Aw, man. You made friends with them. See, friendship is the booze they feed you. They want you to get drunk on feeling like you belong.
William Miller: Well, it was fun.
Lester Bangs: They make you feel cool. And hey. I met you. You are not cool.
William Miller: I know. Even when I thought I was, I knew I wasn't.


This means much more than you might think it does. Unfortunately there aren't enough William Millers around. Probably all the pretenders get around and make a world that seems real to all of them. Probably I'm a part of of that world. I'm fighting with all I've got to get out. Only that I really can't get the people around me to come with me. The worst it leads to is frustration, something I have learnt to get over soon enough. I'm glad I didn't end up disliking many people, I wish the many would have been any. I wish the same with me, although I know that hate is often reciprocated.

The easiest explanation would be that everyone around is growing up and I'm lagging far behind. Suddenly people are becoming possessive of their 'private life', a phrase to cover up all the cheesy messages and mails and other secret correspondences, and a friendship worth years becomes an instant liability to protect these new acquaintances. Everyone of which is a prospective partner for life. A premature obsession with money is becoming an epidemic. Some yearn for fame to add to that. Reconciling and waiting for the right time are out of fashion. Probably the side effects of ambition; I'll never get to know. I never want to know.

Or, of course, all this could be an immediate effect of listening to The Ramones in loop, with part of lyrics being highlighted and flashing before the eyes.

When I'm lyin' in my bed at night
I don't wanna grow up
Nothin' ever seems to turn out right
I don't wanna grow up
How do you move in a world of fog
That's always changing things
Makes me wish that I could be a dog
When I see the price that you pay
I don't wanna grow up
I don't ever wanna be that way
I don't wanna grow up

Seems like folks turn into things
That they'd never want
The only thing to live for
Is today
I'm gonna put a hole in my TV set
I don't wanna grow up
Open up the medicine chest
And I don't wanna grow up
I don't wnna have to shout it out
I don't want my hair to fall out
I don't wanna be filled with doubt
I don't wanna be a good boy scout
I don't wanna have to learn to count
I don't wanna have the biggest amount
I don't wanna grow up

Well when I see my parents fight
I don't wanna grow up
They all go out and drinking all night
And I don't wanna grow up
I'd rather stay here in my room
Nothin' out there but sad and gloom
I don't wanna live in a big old Tomb
On Grand Street

When I see the 5 o'clock news
I don't wanna grow up
Comb their hair and shine their shoes
I don't wanna grow up
Stay around in my old hometown
I don't wanna put no money down
I don't wanna get me a big old loan
Work them fingers to the bone
I don't wanna float a broom
Fall in and get married then boom
How the hell did I get here so soon
I don't wanna grow up


Ramones - I Don't Want To Grow Up

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I wish I could quote Shakespeare or someone suitably profound and quotable that people quote to add gravity to their views. But, for now, The Ramones are all I have.

Even with all the vices I might have, I yearn for innocence, ignorance. Even if it is forced. Someday probably they'll yearn for it too. Before it's too late.

Monday, June 04, 2007

It takes all sorts

Vaibhav's winning performance in college category of Mahaquizzer led to us having 500/- to spend in Landmark. As seniors, the choice of books to take was given to Lath and me. We needed no second invitations to rush to the sports section. Unfortunately 500/- is not a good enough amount if you intend to buy books other than those from Vishwa Bharti or Mir publications. That explains why at least the last 20 books I've read haven't been bought by me.

Given the scarcity of choices, for Steve Waugh and Lance Armstrong do not come that cheap, we decided to buy a book called "It takes all sorts: celebrating cricket's colourful characters" written by Peter Roebuck. Regular Sportstar readers and cricket column followers would be very familiar with the famous journalist's and former player's name. I like his columns and the title of the book, apart from having all c's in the description, did sound very inviting.

In retrospect it was a great buy. The book is all anecdote, a collection of the columns Roebuck has written over the years. And since it is a book, the columns are the better ones he has written. The book though has a theme, to discover the strength of character and the focus in a cricketer at various stages in his career. As the title suggests, all sorts of players are taken. From those who became legends in their lifetime to those who lost focus and gave up their game before they could make it big. From those who played with the greatest pride without once thinking of the rewards, to those who betrayed their country for that extra bit of money. Those who led a private life, away from attention, to those who cashed in on their fame showing great disparity between their exploits on the field and off it.

The best ones though are those that touch emotions that people don't imagine cricketers as having. The one on Hansie Cronje after his death chronicling his rise and ultimate fall and the probable redemption in death and another one on David Gower where he is portrayed as a person knowing his limitations and playing his best within it, knowing he can be no Boycott as far as averages are concerned, yet everyone else wanting him to be, are a great read.

After reading I spent hours wondering what my sporting anecdotes would sound like and what they would reveal about my character. What stands out? The premature end to a cricket career with a bouncer or the winning hat-trick in a footer match with a goal down? The unfinished dream of having a rugby match after having procured the ball from NZ no less or the endless skateboarding lessons to peers and the run down the LT slopes during the treasure hunt? The shunning of swimming pool without properly learning to swim or the overly enthusiastic tennis court trips, sometimes twice a day?

Probably the sum total of all these.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Then and Now

The look back with a difference. Opinions, and how they change.

Smokers

15 years ago: Evil people.
10 years ago: Grown up people.
5 years ago: Et tu Brutus?
Now: Passive smoking kills too?

Drinkers

15 years ago: What?
10 years ago: Why?
5 years ago: Et tu Brutus?
Now: Can I have the chips, please?

Pr0n

15 years ago: What?
10 years ago: Baywatch. Run Pamela. Run Yasmine. Save some lives.
5 years ago: omg!
Now: Yawn...

Gaali

15 years ago: abe
10 years ago: kutte, kamine et al
5 years ago: c**, a** et al
Now: Ha Ha Ha

Pick up lines

15 years ago: I'll kill you.
10 years ago: Can I borrow your notebook?
5 years ago: Do you eat?
Now: Do you sleep?

Long Hair

15 years ago: Mommy
10 years ago: College does that you?
5 years ago: Dude look like a lady
Now: Wtf, 25 bucks for a haircut?

A Joke

15 years ago:

Teacher- Raju, A for?
Raju: Apple (inaudible)
Teacher: Jor se bolo
Raju: Jai Mata Di

10 years ago:

Q: What is red, round, has seeds in it and looks like one half of a tomato?
A: The other half

5 years ago:

A panda walks into a bar. Orders food and drink. Finishes eating, takes out a pistol and shoots a guy. Bartender objects.
Bartender: What did you do that for?
Panda: Look up 'Panda' in the dictionary. Read out loud.
Bartender: Panda- Eats shoots and leaves

Now:

Teacher- Raju, A for?
Raju: Apple (inaudible)
Teacher: Jor se bolo
Raju: Jai Mata Di


For lack of anything better to do, anything worse to write.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Two Lives

Behind every door on every ordinary street,in every hut in every ordinary village on this middling planet of a trivial star, such riches are to be found. The strange journeys that we undertake on our earthly pilgrimage, the joy and suffering we taste and confer, the chance events that cleave us together or apart, what a complex trace they leave: so personal as to be almost incommunicable, so fugitive as to be almost irrevocable.

These lines, taken from the last page of Seth's latest novel, are in essence all the novel is about. Had it not been written, and so wonderfully at that, the story of his uncle Shanti and his German born aunt Henny would have remain untold, like the billions of others which meet a similar fate. This book, through the journeys of two separate lives which later became one, affirms that the stories of people are not only glimpses into their private lives, but, on a much larger scale, the story of the times they lived in. It gives an insight into a somewhat strange marriage, of two people in a foreign land brought closer to each other, owing much more to circumstance than anything else. One an Indian studying to be a dentist in Germany and forced to go to England for a job owing to the conditions in pre war Germany. The other, a Jew, having to leave her homeland and relatives and friends behind in such heart rending circumstances. The story of the times they tell happens to be historically the most important time in the previous century, or for that matter any century.

The novel has a narrative tone throughout, something Seth is so good at. The book is divided into 5 very logically created chapters. One detailing the author's initial stay with his uncle and aunt at London as a school boy. Second focusing on Shanti uncle, his leaving India and going to Germany, living in a house owned by Henny's mother, studying to be a dentist in Germany, leaving Germany and going to England to look for a job, joining the Army and getting posted various places as an Army dentist, losing his arm in Italy, coming back to England and starting all over again with an artificial arm and setting up a very successful practice. In between the letters he wrote to Henny to woo her also form a very important of the story.

The third chapter and the best and most emotionally moving part of the book deals with the life of aunt Henny. As she was already dead when Seth had the idea to write the book, he had taken it for granted that the life story that he was going to portray would have to be a second hand description from his uncle and a few friends, thus failing to capture her inner emotional turmoil and feelings. Feelings that she never shared even with her husband Shanti. But a chance discovery of correspondence with her friends in form of letters stacked in a forgotten box ensured that this did not happen. The letters, spanning the course of war, describe in detail the barbaric rule that Hitler had imposed and also expose how erstwhile friends become indifferent and shun the oppressed to save their skins. The research work that accompanies this letter exchange makes the whole experience of Jewish people in pre and post war Germany come to life and is very sentimentally charged. Curiously enough Henny never discusses her great losses with her husband which make the premises of this strange marriage all the more mysterious.

The fourth chapter tracks the lives of Seth's uncle and aunt as a couple and the dynamics of their relations with friends and family. The fifth deals with the life of uncle Shanti alone after losing Henny and is based on the series of interviews that the author had with his uncle to get material to write the book. It also sheds a light on the weaknesses of old age, both physical and mental and incidences which lead to the final ambivalent approach of the author towards the very subject of his book.

In my personal opinion, though it is unfair to compare a biography with fiction, A Suitable Boy has been the best Seth creation. I have already discussed my disappointment with An Equal Music and Golden Gate though brilliant in its composition and concept is not something you would read again and again for pleasure. I still read parts of A Suitable Boy and laugh, smile, get angry or shrug in disbelief; whatever the situation demands.

Judging by the volume of books he writes, it will be a long time since another Seth novel will be available, but I'll be waiting eagerly for the moment. And, for a change, will buy the book to read it :)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Main Madhuri Dixit banna chahta hoon

A carry over post from May 15

Yet another birthday post right? About how I am a year older, and the thing about standing at the crossroads and putting life into perspective. Pondering about the things that have been and the could have beens. No way! If I intended you to sleep I would have sent a sleeping pill, would have been much easier (for once I thank God that some 100 people aren’t reading this). As I already mentioned last year, superheroes and cartoon characters don’t grow old (what category I fall into is open for interpretation). They are created and after a while the creator dies. Or just gets bored.

This concerns a fortunate co-incidence by which my birth day exactly matches that of a certain Madhuri Dixit and that I happened to spend all these in years in Jamshedpur to cash in on this fact. Any place else and this fact would just have remained on “You share your birthday with” columns and in all probability I wouldn’t have given a damn. A sardar who runs an average chat stall is what makes all the difference.

This sardar mentioned is Pappu sardar.
Not happy with the usual chat shop routine of having to make a spicy mish mash to please the palates of customers, he decided to do something different. In a modern case of idol worship, he transformed his shop, Manohar Chat, to a temple of worship, dedicated whole heartedly to his obsession or more appropriately his devotion: Madhuri Dixit.

Even on a normal day if you happen to walk into the shop, you’ll notice the degree of devotion. Every imaginable corner of the rather modest, even by small town standards, shop you’ll find posters of Madhuri staring at you in all poses, from movies spanning her career. If that’s not enough, the usual chatter of any eatery is subdued by speakers playing songs of movies she was part of, those which she ‘sings’ on screen.

On 15th May, things are taken a few notches higher. The road in front of shop is decorated lavishly, like in marriage ceremonies.
A huge banner is put up, saying “Happy Birthday Madhuri”. An image attached, taken with my hugely inadequate ‘camera’ would present some hint.

Ads are put up in local papers wishing her on the day, and inviting people to come over and celebrate and eat for free. This is where things get easy for me. I make it a permanent venue for my treats.

Lately, Pappu sardar has decided to achieve something good and productive out of this celebration. For the last few years he has been spending most of the money to buy gifts and support the Cheshire Home, more can be read here. Also he has been made a somewhat national figure, owing to the plethora of news channels, some of which cover his festivities live. Needless to say, it helps bring on the customers, who want to be a part of a live news happening.

But these things hardly matter for Pappu sardar. He is just over the moon, even now, over the fact that he got a letter acknowledging his devotion from Madhuri herself. If he carries on, probably a meeting won’t be to far off.

All said and done, I spared my friends a trip to this place for my treat. Also I feel better to say that I share my birthday with Andy Murray, the next British hope or Ted Dexter, the former English captain. But, these people are unlikely to make the “You share your birthday with” column in local papers sometime soon. Or more importantly guarantee me and a few friends free food on my birthday.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Good Times, Bad Times

So Led Zep beats Charles Dickens for the that-usual-looking-back-cliched title for this post. For a guy who thinks he's both into Rock 'n Roll and literature, that was a tough choice. Anyway, I'm no longer a student of IIT officially, and that does deserve a look back.

The cliches end with the title. I wish I had added thankfully to that, but I can't. Time did not fly, four years did not roll over just like that and I do not feel that everything happened in a blur. Sure there were short moments that did feel like zipping by, but then there were those long, uncertain, lonely moments which made me hate what I had turned into. Not that I was a masterpiece to begin with.

Like most bad things, it all begun badly. The whole concept of relative grading made me think I just had to keep my head above water level, and I never was under the illusion that I could be a trailblazer. Never meant to be. Mediocre targets often lead to disastrous goals. Second sem hit me hard. Third wasn't better, but the fourth was the knockout punch. Two years down, I wished I could go back all over again. I was indifferent to begin with, not even doing things that I loved. Quizzing, football, cricket: everything was lost when I could have done so much more. In my entire second year I hardly played football a single time. You'll have to lock me up all tied up in a chamber to have that happen now.

There is no tale of magic transformation after the interval, but at least I decided not to let the good things suffer because of the unfortunately bad ones. That did not save me from having another torrid year. But at least I had the satisfaction of doing things I wanted to. Fourth year is too recent to revisit, the pre-placement mood is all over the blog some 10 posts back.

I wished it would all end relatively happily. But then I am not the one who gets to write the script. Like an actor written out of a play, they had to figuratively kill me off just when I wanted to leave the stage with a smile on my face. Incredible and sad.

For consolation, which I get in excess these days, my future isn't getting affected much. At least not the immediate one. Just 2 days of headache, marathon sessions of M*A*S*H seasons and having Tottenham Hotspur powered by Berbatov/Keane goals beat the hell out of every other club on my computer screen are what it took to soak it all in.

Goodbye, Farewell and Amen. Or Abyssinia, Henry. Whatever you prefer (non M*A*S*H watchers may forget this one.)

And to think of all those beautiful things I would have written had the mood been otherwise.

Dear friends, thanks for the memories. I hope I be a part of the happier ones of yours.

May the future be slightly brighter, I'm not asking for much. Amen.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Greatest entertainer of our generation


Bless BBC and their old world cricket commentary team back in 1994, and their hourly commentary updates with Jonathan Agnew. At a time when watching anything but an India match was a rarity, we were kept updated and had extended commentary sessions of test matches and county championships from far away. I recall that late April night when they excitedly switched back to Antigua to report about a certain Brian Lara batting on 365, just about to break the single most important batting record. A pull shot, that went for four, later he had done exactly that, in what was just his third century. Considering that his first two were that famous 277 against Australia and 167 against England, this was not very surprising. He had arrived a long time ago, this was just stamping his authority.

Lara was one of the reasons why I became a compulsive test match cricket watcher. Mark Waugh's finesse, Warne's magic, wrists of Azhar and Laxman, patience of Atherton, fire of Donald, concentration of Dravid, swing and reverse of Waqar and Wasim also rank high up. But Lara and his single handed genius, focus and resolve has to take the cake. You just have to recall the series in which West Indies were all out for 51 in the first innings of the series against Australia and were ridiculed throughout. Lara took over after that, and two unforgettable test matches later had the much less talented West Indies side win the series 2-1.

Sure there were disappointments. His 5-0 test series loss in South Africa, frequent disciplinary actions, fickle ODI form, the never ending cycle of sacking and re-appointing as captain and the but natural loss of form. There always are. But, if ever the form-is-temporary-class-is-permanent cliche was personified, it was through Brian Charles Lara. What else could explain a horrid run of form going into Murali's territory and coming out with 650+ runs in a 3 match series. Widely regarded as the best single handed batting performance in a series.

Then he has to get all those records to statistically prove that he is a cut above the rest. England come to Antigua again and he gets 400. Scores 501 for Warwickshire. Destroys Peterson to get the maximum in an over. The maximum centuries. The maximum runs. Every record that's worth anything is against his name. Even for someone who doesn't watch cricket and looks at figures that define the game, choosing the best would be but a formality.

A year which sees first Warne and then Lara retire. What would happen to test cricket now?

Friday, April 13, 2007

BTP

B Tech Project: what we stand for, what separates us from them, what is the showcase of all that we possess and can deliver and a lot more. At least that was the idea. For me, and a whole lot of other people, it has been the hugest obstacle to the oh-so-near degree that we spent our 4 years here for. As always it all boils down to the very last moment where things have to be done. Only this time there are no tutorials to cog, no photocopied notes to cram and no guarantee of the time spent being in direct proportion to the result achieved. Unpredictability makes it so different.

Nevertheless the last few days have been a great experience, working like we have never ever worked before. Amidst all this gloom and apprehension small joys like speaker in a lab or the company of friends with similar fate at 4 am in the lab come as divine blessings.

Lab floor for bed, Giddu for pillow

I would be lying if I said that the joy of doing something new and not done before, at least in our department hasn't spurred me on. But enthusiasm doesn't always count for everything. Deva, my BTP soul mate, and I am finding that out the hard way right now. In fact both of us decided to stay back in the summers for one month and complete the project properly. We approached our guide, who happened to be the JEE chairman by the way, and told him so.

"Sir, we would like to stay back in the summers and do this properly", said I.
"Stay back? I think that is a ridiculous idea. Don't you think that is a ridiculous idea?", said he.

The only option that was left with me was to brand my own idea ridiculous. For others, like Rajeev, things are just the opposite. His guide asks him for his summer plans and joining date and casually says that he has enough time to complete it in May. We realise that we are not the worst affected. Giddu has to wait for 3 hours everyday to get an error message in his simulation, and then start all over again. At such inhumane hours like 3 in the morning. Giving up is not an option. Joshi broke the only sample he had prepared all this while and has had to prepare three more in the space of one week with the promise of 2 more in the recent future. The only thing that guide, or for that matter anyone says, is that we should have started early. Easy thing to say.

I fell into a burning ring of fire

Nevertheless we continue to play with fire. Literally.

I don't know what memories I'll take with me from here. But things like staying till dawn in a lab with a couple of friends for company, talking about everything from the futility of such existence to out of place feeling that grips us daily and the uneasy apprehension of the life ahead, chatting (the real life kind), singing, sometimes dancing to keep us awake, singing the sickest of Hindi songs in chorus, shouting at every passerby from our safe positions on the bike while going back at 5 am and singing at the top of our voices simultaneously will surely stand out for long. Taking pictures to remember these moments by too :)

For now the report is submitted. The work and fight for survival continues.

Friday, April 06, 2007

110 meter hurdles

Until late, poems meant but rhyming words;
Without the rhyme they seemed utter nonsense.
I would read through Birches or Mending Wall,
And wonder how they were poems at all?
The worst part of this all being that in
School this apparent anomaly was
Not even discussed. Infuriates me.
My sincere thanks- that wretched lit course,
For teaching me at least this much in time
That it always is not about the rhyme.
I wish now to be a Birch swinger too.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Plan 9 From Outer Space

Recently while idling and looking for a movie to download (Aside: I know this will cause panic if any of the IITB wise men read this. Someone who downloads movies AND blogs about it. Sacrilege. Read this, if you haven't read enough already; especially the 4th paragraph.) I came across this piece of information:
In the television series The X-Files, Fox Mulder watches Plan 9 whenever he needs to focus on a difficult problem, claiming that the film is so incredibly bad that it shuts down the logic centers of his brain, allowing him to make intuitive leaps of logic.

Having Mulder as one of my childhood idols, I decided I needed intuitive leaps of logic too. If this wasn't enough, I recalled this conversation from a Seinfeld episode:

"This isn't plans 1 through 8 from outer space, this is plan 9, this is the one that worked! The worst movie ever made!"


Now I have watched "My Cousin Vinny" beacuse of George's obsession with Marisa Tomei, and decided not to watch "The English Patient" because Elaine hates it so much. I have also searched for "Sack Lunch" and "Rochelle, Rochelle: A young girl's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk" only to learn that they were fictious movies. So given the X-Files and Seinfeld connection and the obvious attraction of watching the worst movie ever made made my choice very easy. I decided to get Plan 9 and watch it.

I do not belong to the majority of people of my age who are prejudiced against black and white movies and hence term each and every one of them equally bad. Infact I might have watched more B&W movies than colour ones. I'm saying this beacuse Plan 9 happens to have no colour too, but that doesn't affect my judgement in any way. I found the movie fitting to all the praise it has gathered nevertheless.

To be honest there are far, far worse movies that have been made and that is reflected by the fact that this does not make to the IMDb bottom 100. But most of them lack things of such fantastic proportions like aliens digging graves to raise the living dead in order to convince their existence. Which is why this movie has stood the test of time. If we forget the story for a while, Plan 9 is guilty on every other count you care to charge it on. There are whole pages of details you will get, so I won't bother to cite my amateurish observations.

You get the flavour right from the first lines that are spoken:

Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.

Those living in the past may take note. And learn.

The UFO's they show in this movie are a site to watch. Small, shiny, wobbly looking like cheap plastic plates. The magnum opus is the ending scene, a burning UFO over the LA skyline and the final explosion. Sight of a century. Why were these aliens concerned about us anyway? To prove supremacy and rule us? No, the answer is simple:

Colonel Tom Edwards: Why is it so important that you want to contact the governments of our earth?
Eros: Because of death. Because all you of Earth are idiots.
Jeff Trent: Now you just hold on, Buster.
Eros: No, you hold on. First was your firecracker, a harmless explosive. Then your hand grenade: you began to kill your own people, a few at a time. Then the bomb. Then a larger bomb: many people are killed at one time. Then your scientists stumbled upon the atom bomb, split the atom. Then the hydrogen bomb, where you actually explode the air itself. Now you can arrange the total destruction of the entire universe served by our sun: The only explosion left is the Solaranite.


I'll come to the fantastic concept of Solaranite later. First what would they do if stopped from their mission? You guessed it right, invoke Plan 9. The emperor, very feminine for some reason, rolls it out nonchalantly, like it was some item in the shopping list his wife gave and he forgot at the shopkeeper's. Umissable dialogue delivery:

The Ruler: Plan 9? Ah, yes. Plan 9 deals with the resurrection of the dead. Long distance electrodes shot into the pineal and pituitary gland of the recently dead.


Effortless. Now coming back to their concern about Solaranite, here's what it is. Be prepared for a sense numbing explanation:

Colonel Tom Edwards: You speak of Solaranite. But just what is it?
Eros: Take a can of your gasoline. Say this can of gasoline is the sun. Now, you spread a thin line of it to a ball, representing the earth. Now, the gasoline represents the sunlight, the sun particles. Here we saturate the ball with the gasoline, the sunlight. Then we put a flame to the ball. The flame will speedily travel around the earth, back along the line of gasoline to the can, or the sun itself. It will explode this source and spread to every place that gasoline, our sunlight, touches. Explode the sunlight here, gentlemen, you explode the universe. Explode the sunlight here and a chain reaction will occur direct to the sun itself and to all the planets that sunlight touches, to every planet in the universe. This is why you must be stopped. This is why any means must be used to stop you. In a friendly manner or as (it seems) you want it.


Wow! Just wow! What imagination. Unprecedented. These are things that make this movie immemorable.

I found the scene with an old man stepping outside his house, mourning his wife's death and in a confused state of mind, very corny. Turned out it was the footage of Bela Lugosi, the famed Dracula star, which the director Ed Wood had shot for some other purpose. He decided to incorporate it anyway as a homage to Lugosi and had to complete the rest of the scenes by Tom Mason, the chiropractor of Wood's wife at the time, who played his scenes holding the character's cape in front of his face. Wood was apparently undeterred by the numerous physical differences such as height and build that distinguished Mason from Lugosi; i.e., that Mason was nearly bald while Lugosi retained a full head of hair until his death. (Years later, one video distributor made light of this, adding the blurb "Almost Starring Bela Lugosi" on the tape box.)

After watching the movie I began the post movie research, which almost takes the same time as the movie itself. There I realised that a movie had been made on Ed Wood, the director of such consistently bad movies with such fantastic scripts. The movie, released in 1994 was titled Ed Wood and starred Johnny Depp in the lead role. I realised I might be one the few people of my generation to have watched Plan 9 first and then Ed Wood.

It was a very enjoyable experience watching Ed Wood after Plan 9. For those willing, I would make it compulsory viewing in that order. The movie depicts the life of the cross dressing director, with a love for Angorra sweaters, and his strange ensemble as crew. Orson Welles and Bela Lugosi are his idols and he decides to revive the career and provide employment to an ailing Lugosi in his movies. That part is very touching and Martin Landau even got a supporting actor Oscar for portrayal of Lugosi.

The movie references many of the movies Ed Wood had done, including one "Glen or Glenda" where he portrays his own life and plays Glen/Glenda in the movie. He compares this performance with his idol Welles and his acting and direction in Citizen Kane. Welles would have been so proud. Also Wood showed the movie to his girlfriend and she found out about his dual life after watching the movie and promptly broke up. This whole setting reminded me of 8 1/2. No offences to Fellini but we might just have him too as long as Welles is getting referenced.

Ed Wood climaxes and ends with Eddie directing his greatest creation: Plan 9 From Outer Space which he convinced the the Baptist Church of Beverly Hills to fund, no less. As a homage to his idol and friend Lugosi, he included that footage I mentioned earlier. The same sequence I found corny after watching Plan 9 suddenly seemed to be so touching after watching Ed Wood.

So go watch both of them if you can. Those here may get Ed Wood easily. If you want Plan 9, you know who to buzz :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

In many ways we'll miss the good old days. Someday.

With just one month left in college, nostalgia is in the air these days. I'll spill some overe here, with one my favourite bands presenting one of my favourite videos.




No, these were not the 'best days of my life'. Being an optimist, I hope there will be better days. Nor will I 'cherish the memories' and change my Orkut name to reiterate that. It would be strange to be nostalgic for something that never happened to me. Things like heart pouring sessions over booze, chasing girls, intellectual smoke sessions, parties and a group of people sitting on couches in coffee shops. It's the last day of school all over again. The only thing I miss is playing cricket and football with friends. One more thing that gets added here is creating nuisance in classes and labs with friends having similar intentions. The intention of not studying and not learning.

Nostalgia requires involvement. I am too indifferent to experience it probably. Someday.

On the contrary I am nostalgic about 2003. The goosebumps when Sachin pulled Caddick for six or blasted Shoaib away. The punched fist when Yuvraj hit the winning runs against Pakistan. The gloated sense of achievement when I cleared JEE and entered IIT.

Those days are a distant memory now.

I'm working so I wont have to try so hard
Tables they turn sometimes, oh someday
I ain't wasting no more time

Wonderful song.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The ultimate question, and search for answers


The answer to Life, Universe and beating Australia?


Last year, in the same Chappell Hadlee series, NZ had won almost both matches that involved chasing in excess of 300. They fell short by a heart rending 2 runs while chasing 322 in Wellington in the 2nd ODI. They made amends in the 3rd chasing a then record of 331 in Christchurch with an over to spare. I remember watching those chases and then excitedly explaining the details to everyone who asked. Or didn't. I thought I saw something special in those 2 back to back matches.

I was wrong. This time they went a notch higher. Higher targets, achieved with few balls to spare. In the first one you almost felt pity for Australia not to get the wicket of Ross Taylor early on, the way alsmot every run until his fifty came from the edge of his bat. He played very well after that and supported by McMillan, Fulton and McCullum NZ won with over an a half to spare. The six off McGrath that McCullum hit will remain in memory for a long time. Coming up to a bouncer and pulling with all his might, ball hittting the middle and disappearing way beyond.

The last ODI was even better. For the last few overs while Australia were batting, fours were a rarity. The way Hayden was nonchalantly hitting sixes, with a fractured toe, was unbelievable. Especially the one with one hand that went miles high in the stands. Putting the exams I had the next day on lower priority, I knew I just had to watch the NZ response. And you all know what happened. McMillan's innings and again the last part of McCullum's knock again with a winning six, though under much more pressure this time, was a joy to watch.

Which brings me to McCullum. Here are his contributions in the four matches I mentioned:

2006, ODI 2 : 48 of 33 balls, run out.
2006, ODI 3: 50 of 25 balls, not out.
2007, ODI 2: 22 of 15 balls, not out.
2007, ODI 3: 86 of 91 balls, not out.

Had he not been run out, and that was pretty unnecessary, NZ would have won that match too. Amazing consistency under pressure. No wonder he wears the jersey number 42.

Also these four matches point out to the size of grounds in NZ. It was certainly a huge factor in these amazing run chases.

The last time Australia lost 3-0 in the erstwhile Texaco trophy in '97, I remember what the mood was. Mark Taylor, the captain for the tour and the first two ODI'd had to drop himself in the third, something unprecedented. Steve Waugh captained in that match, Australia lost (by 6 wickets in all 3 matches!). But that phased Taylor out of the team and put Waugh in charge. We all know what happened then.

So are Australia on a shaky ground before the world cup? Results certainly point that way, although I think this well help off shake whatever complacency there would have been. They might just emerge a better outfit in the WC. Can't wait for that.

I watched the match and then slept to wake up in time for the Bayern vs. Real Champions league match. Real won 3-2 and it was 3.15 am by the time they did that. I had an exam at 9.30 am and hence this was another record for the least time spent on preparation of an exam. I slept in an hour, thank God it was only a humanities course.

As an afterthought, they have art appreciation, movie appreciation etc. courses as electives. Time to have a sport appreciation probably?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The one minute movie review post

Like the previous time, the idea is to list all the movies I've seen lately so that at a later time I won't have to go halfway through a movie to realise that I've already watched it.

This time most of the movies I saw had some themes. Have them categorised accordingly.

Star Wars

It was rather shameful that I hadn't seen the 'real' Star Wars movies yet. Decided to rectify that. Though after such a long time all three parts have blended into one another and it is difficult to remember what was when.

A New Hope: Honestly for me the better parts were the conversation between C-3PO and R2-D2. Visual effects are way beyond their age. Wait, you don't need me telling that.

The Empire Strikes Back: Forget everything, I discovered Chewbacca's blog! hrrrrrrrrrrrrnnnhhhh!! Coming back, people say this is the best Star Wars movie. Would have loved to agree had I been able to recall.

Return of the Jedi: Seriously what was with the teddy bears for half the movie? Imagine those fuzzy little primitive bears beating laser gun armed empirical guards. What about evolution baby? The dark side dialogues were impressive nonetheless.


Bergman

Persona: Completely blown away by this. Cinematography is such that it feels like watching high resolution award winning photographs one frame after another. Script is riveting, dealing with human pysche, dark sides of it. Cast is perfect and minimal with just two very beautiful actresses, Ullman and Andersson playing the intentionally mute actress and the nurse. I realised how little I understood of this movie when I went through the multitude of essays about it. These are the movies they study in movie making PhD courses I guess, so I won't even pretend beginning to describe exactly what everything meant. Unforgettable experience.

Wild Strawberries: Had very, very high hopes after watching Persona. A totally different movie, chronicling the life of an aging man who goes on a journey, both literally and figuratively, figuring out all the mistakes he has done through his lifetime. Again thought provoking.

Seventh Seal: Most famous of Bergman's works. Very symbolic. Kind of reminded me of a poem we had done back in school, 'Journey of the Magi'.

Hitchcock


The Lady Vanishes: I could watch this over and over again just for the two cricket obsessed characters whose only motive is to get to England and watch the Ashes test match. At one point of time they refuse seeing the 'vanished' lady just because they do not want any trouble that would stop the train to England! Wonderful.

Shadow of a Doubt: Easily one of the best Hitchcock movies. Set in a suburban home where a girl discovers that her uncle might be a serial killer. Given the constraints of the home and the realtions they have to keep, no one can make a decisive move, but someone has to. Classic.

Strangers on a Train: Back to the murder mystery type, but with a special twist. The Hitchcock twist. A stranger convinces a tennis star switch murders. Enjoyable.

Westerns

Shane: This movie leaves quite a few things open to interpretation. None more than the almost mysterious and superhuman character of Shane, the good cowboy who moves from town to town to make them a better place, risking his life in the process. Why, no one knows. Best remembered for the last lines, "Shane, Shane come back Shane." He must have been used to hearing that by then.

Rio Grande: A western with a family touch, a 'family western'. John Wayne and his son do a good job of driving away the Indians though.

Unforgiven: I'm used to seeing the Clint Eastwood of early years, the nonchalant sharpshooter with his trademark poncho. Was shocking to see an old guy struggling to ride a horse to go on one last mission. And the fact that after showing him struggling for about 80% of the movie, he does what is suited for a Hindi film hero. Inexplicable.

AFI's 100 Years 100 laughs

I had the urge to complete all the top movies in this list. Sadly had to do the job of the bringing the movies myself. It was a great thing that I managed that though.

The Producers: Two producers trying to produce the biggest flop play and hiring pathetic actors, directors to implement an insanely numb script called 'Springtime for Hitler'. Even thinking of such a thing makes me laugh. 'Springtime for Hitler' was genius, would love to watch a real life rendition :)

One Night at the Opera: Marx Brothers, enough said. Liked Duck Soup better though.

Young Frankenstein: Another Mel Brooks movie. Hilarious script, funny for most part.

Blazing Saddles: Mel Brooks again. The ultimate western spoof. Imagine a black guy as the sheriff of a town. And that is just the beginning. A satire I gather, and a good one.

Recent Releases

Apocalypto: I did not find it gross as people warned me it would be. A great tale of survival instincts and evolution. Loved the ending. Now everytime someone stands next to us waiting for us to get off a table after we've finished eating, I can't help but recall the ending. (Nothing to do with restaurants, don't worry!)

The Prestige: Great storytelling. I wondered if would ever like Bale after having watched American Pyscho. But Batman Begins and now this movie have changed my opinion.

Blood Diamond: Saw this in Regal as a part of the job treat. The fact that Di Caprio got nominated for this movie and not The Departed does speak volumes about his acting. A few scenes with the mindless killings and the children reminded me of City of God. And the exclamatory sighs when India's name was mentioned as a part of the whole diamond nexus, though not in a derogatory manner, was unmissable.

The Good Shepherd: I thought a movie based on CIA, Cuba, Cold war and having Matt Damon and De Niro (director) could not be boring. I was proved terribly wrong.

Generally..

The Thing: The fan base this movie has generated is huge and remains Kurt Russell's probably only megahit movie. The underlying theme of mistrust is very well executed and the isolated setting of a research station in Siberia add to the chill. The ending is quite good too, kind of reminds me of Orr in Catch-22. The graphic details of the slimy 'Thing' are supposed to be highly repulsive, but I'm way past that stage I guess.

Gosford Park: Only the second Altman movie I have seen after MASH and I don't need to reiterate how big a MASH fan I am. Loved this movie form start to end, a murder mystery in a British country house. Brings out the 'upstair' and 'downstair' relationships pretty well too. Wonder why it isn't that widely acclaimed.

Raging Bull: I'm sceptical of watching boxing movies, but this one is an exception. My favourite De Niro movie now. The 'I coulda had class' lines from On the Waterfront came back to haunt me again at the end of this one and also inspired two lines of the poem, if I have the liberty to call that so, I had written a while back.

It Happened One Night: It is tough to watch a movie when you know everything that is going to happen beacuse you happen to have seen the Hindi remake about 3-4 times already. Once you get rid of that scepticism, this is one wonderful movie. Worth watching only for the dialogue exchanges if you still need a reason.

Big Fish: Strange movie. How facts get exaggerated and change into unbelievable fiction which sound like fables when passed on from one generation to another. I didn't think the ending was sad in any way though, discussed in a lot of places. Nice movie.

Glory: Watched this movie after I found out that Blood Diamond was by the same director. Based on the true story of the general who led the first black battalion. Inspiring in parts.

The Night of the Hunter: I've never seen a movie with such great visual symbolisms used to such haunting effects. One of the chilliest villians in movie history, posing as a priest and having the words 'LOVE' and 'HATE' tattooed on his knuckles, chasing two little innocent kids who know the secret to a fortune. The underlying religious themes are quite intense too.

American Graffiti: Felt like watching 'Happy Days' all over again. Underrated Lucas movie.


Not only this, compulsivley got all seasons of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and gobbled them up. Larry David provided the long needed respite from the popular, unfunny, drab sitcoms I see floating around these days. Hadn't had the Larry David dose since Seinfeld. Feels much better now.

Meanwhile life goes on. Exams are due in 2 days time. The last midsems ever.