21.12.07

Insult Upon Injury

Fellow denizens of Bangalore, especially those hailing from the 'Gulf's Own Country' will join me in mourning, as I tell them of the gastronomic disaster that has struck Little Home - the Mallu mess in Koramangala.

Mysterious menace or malicious malady has made misanthropic maniacs of the men at the mess and mercilessly marred their once marvellous menu.

For the anti-alliterate amongst you, let me get to the point.
Little Home, has banned beef.

Gone forever, that beautiful beef roast.
Gone forever, that brilliant beef fry.

An unsuspecting victim was I,
accompanied by three mallus staunch (and stout).
As they mumbled for meen,
I ordered beef, my stomach growling out.

But a shake of an oiled head
greeted my humble request.

He couldn't really turn red,
but his epidermis tried its best.


"No beef", he said,
another shake of the head.
"No beef", he said,
as my appetite fled.

"Why?" I enquired,
my brow one big furrow.
"Because of something said
by some North Indian fellow."


In shock and awe, were my companions and I.
"North Indian" I said, "well technically, so am I."
But it made no difference. Nay, not a whit.
Another bit of Bangalore, ruined by some complete twit.

4.12.07

Curse at the Golden Flower

Okay. Okay. so it's supposed to be 'Curse of the Golden Flower'. Or 'Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia' for those of you who are sticklers for detail.

The point is not whether you say "fly lice" or I say "fried rice".

The point, is that this film is crap.
Utter, total, irredeemable fecal matter.

Oh it's impressive crap, to be sure. But then so is what you find floating in the rest room at a truck stop. I mean it's awe-inspiring to think that any one human being, could be filled with so much shit.

It's immaculately art directed.
(Though I have doubts about the historical accuracy of some of the costumes.)

It's a visual spectacle.
(Though that's not always a good thing.)

It has a cast of ten thousand extras.
(And funnily enough, the scenes with the extras, are the only redeeming feature.)

It has a script with holes wide enough to drive a Mack truck through.
(Which will probably then be found parked outside the afore-mentioned truck stop.)

I sat through and finished this paen to pain, only because I'd begun it, and felt compelled to see the thing through. (Sort of like a root canal).

This, is what happens when the wife pushes off for Sunday evening dinner with her folks, and I decide not to tag along. It's all karmic. Or quantum. Or something.

If you missed the original release in 2006, and the video release thereafter, count your lucky fortune cookies, and don't lose any sleep. It'll put you right off your kung pao chicken.

14.11.07

Nuke This

Is it just me, or is it so transparently hypocritical of the Left to volte face on the nuclear power issue mere days after CPI(M) cadres ran amok in Nandigram?

Are we as a nation truly so obsessed with the conspicuous consumerism bestowed upon us by this tottery economic boom, that we comfortably ignore the actions being taken on behalf of us all?

Will the state of the pitch, tomorrow, once again displace the state of the nation in our newspapers?

Is nuclear power suddenly acceptable again, because a few months ago The Economist ran a biased cover story?

Is it just me, or has renewable energy been erased from our lexicons, to make way for the market returns of Reliance Energy?

If this is truly how things are, then here's how I see the future panning out:

Sooner or later, the Chinese will conquer their accents.
Sooner or later, Africa will find peace.

And we'll be faced with two huge demographies, comfortable with the English language, offering better priced slave labour. And infinitely more real estate.

Then, goodbye IT sector.
Farewell, BPO sector.
Adios, BT sector.

And we'll be left with a bunch of nuclear plants we can't pay for, a vast pool of 20-somethings who are un-trained for anything beyond "Hi, How ya doon?", and an economy with a rather large vacuum.

None of which will really worry us, because we'll all be sitting on large heaps of irradiated waste, wondering what to do with our 7-thumbed kids.

If this comes true, remember, you heard it here first.
(Assuming, that is, your ears haven't dribbled off the side of your head.)

13.11.07

Here's why I'm no good at meetings...

I've always had a problem staying focussed during meetings. The mind, tends to wander. And then find bizzare things to laugh about. Then, of cuorse, there are meetings like the one I had earlier today. Meetings, where the folks on the other side of the desk lead my mind down the expressway to hilarity.

A bit of background... This was the first time I was meeting this young woman, at this particular client. We had exchanged a few phone calls, which accomplished precisely nothing. So, in the hope of finally getting some productive work done, we scheduled a meeting. This, is what what happened...

*Disclaimer: This is a true story. No clients were harmed during the course of this meeting.

(Within the first few seconds, after the obligatory Meet-Greet-Grin-Shake bit...)

Young Woman: "I really like your pants."
Self: (nonplussed) "Thanks."
Byker's Mind: "Okay. But there's no way I'm taking them off."

Blah. Blah.
Blah. Blah.

Young Woman: "So, where are you from?"
Self: "Bangalore."
YW: "No I mean your home town."
S: "Well, I was born in Bombay."
YW: (Vaguely discontent) "Oh. I thought you might be from somewhere abroad. The way you look."
S: "The way I look...?"
YW: "Yeah. You look like Jesus."
S: (Sickly grin) "Hah-fullstop-hah."
Byker's Mind: "And you act like Mary Magdalene."

Blah. Blah.
Blah. Blah.

YW: "So please do something creative. Ok? I don't know how you guys do it."
S: "We just try not be boring."
YW: "Well I'm more into writing for theatre, you know. It's my calling."
Byker's Mind: "Exit, stage left. Pursued by bear."

Blah. Blah.
Blah. Blah.

YW: "So, I could take you upstairs for lunch..."
Byker's Mind: "Note to self: Garlic. Always carry garlic."
YW: "...or do you have something better in mind?"
Byker's Mind: "Run Forrest Run."

Quick thinking, by our man on the spot.
Goodbye. So long. Farewell. Adios.
Start bike.
Scoot.
Laughing.
But only on the inside.

Pass a poster for 'Sree Raajeshwari' theatre.
They're now showing Dhoodh Waali.
And the baseline goes:
"Desire with young womens."

Forced to pull over. Paroxysm of laughter.
2 minutes, before I wipe my eyes and ride on.

Brilliant

24.10.07

DJ Democracy

For a while now, I've been looking for the perfect analogy for the Indian political scenario.

Perfect, not in the descriptive sense; a number of words that describe bodily waste, industrial waste, or any combination of the two, spring to mind. No, what I sought, was the perfection in accuracy.

An analogy, in other words that would capture the essence of Indian politics, in all its gory glory.

Then I remembered something that a friend named Gene came up with, to describe the rather dysfunctional sex life of a mutual friend. Believe me, when I say it didn't take much adaptation.
Politics in India, is much like being stuck, for life, with a 3 cd changer, and just 3 cds in your collection.

On Disc 1, we have the Greatest Hits of the Congress, and other Golden Oldies. We've heard them all before. We know all the words by heart. They've been around forever. They get too much air time.

Disc 2, has the harsh, incoherent, death-metal-meets-jingoism of the Hindutva brigade. Music for moshing, in other words. The perfect accompaniment to mindless violence, mayhem and an all around gore fest.

Last of all, we have Disc 3, on which may be found the JD, the Left, and other artists, who gained some popularity, but never quite made it to the sopping-wet-womens'-undergarments-flung-on-stage level of popularity.

So sometimes we play them consecutively.
Sometimes, we hit the shuffle button, and waltz randomly through.
And sometimes we programme them, in a Disc 1/Disc 3 sort of way.

Then, there are those very bad times, when Disc 2, gets stuck on repeat. And all we hear, are the Wagnerian overtones to something like the Gujarat riots. Or Disc 1, declares an Emergency, to save itself from the trash bin. Or Disc 3, can't figure out who it should play after.

Then, it's time to pull the plug.

I figure we're long overdue for some serious plug-pulling.

23.10.07

While you weren't looking...

... somebody made a really good film starring Kevin Costner.

No, he's not a golfer.
No, he's not a ball player.
No, he's not a post-apocalyptic messiah.

Yes, Kevin Costner does act.
Yes, he plays someone other than Kevin Costner.
Yes, it's very much worth watching.

Meet Mr. Brooks.

22.10.07

Save Rs. 4,100,000. Or, save a few hundred.

You could even do both, if you're feeling energetic enough.

Here's the funny part though. Saving a few hundred bucks will involve a hell of a lot more effort, while saving Rs. 4,100,000 (that's 41 lakh, for those who prefer it) is astoundingly simple.

Now for a brief explanation. If you've been reading the papers recently, or (heaven forbid) watching the idiot box, you've been inundated with images of the Mysore Palace all lit up for the festivities. Just click here and you'll see that simply switching all those lights over to CFL, will save tax payers the afore-mentioned 4,100,000 simoleons.

And last time I looked, everyone was griping about taxes.

So does this mean you can give the Maharaja a call and tell him to get his act together?

Well, no.

What you can do, is sign up for a petition that aims to make our trained monkeys in parliament pass effective legislation. The kind of legislation that will ensure the Mysore palace and other monuments that just "need" to be lit up, don't stay a royal pain in our collective, tax-paying ass.

Just click here.

(By the way, legislation of this sort will also be environmentally beneficial. But think of that as just a fringe benefit to your savings bank account.)

Now here's why saving a few hundred bucks, takes a little more effort.

(If, that is, you actually care about addressing climate change enough to do more than bring up Al Gore-Nobel Prize jokes at cocktail hour.)

What you'll have to do, is switch over to CFL personally. Change all the bulbs at home. And if possible, in the office.

I'll try and make it easier for you. If you're in Bangalore, just head to
Mahaveer Electric Co.
#2 A. M. Lane, Chickpet,
Bangalore 560 053.

Ph: 2226 4557 or 2220 6689.

These guys have the best deals on CFLs, which is where you'll save a few hundred. You'll also save on your electricity bill. And as an inconcsequential aside, you'll be doing your two bits for the envionment.

All of which, should leave you with a warm, fuzzy glow every time you flick the light switch.

17.10.07

Concentrate on the subtitles

Whoever did this, is infinitely patient.

1 degree...

Finally.

After 3 decades on this planet, someone I personally know, stars in a no-holds-barred interview.

3.10.07

Songs To Shave By...

One of the few enduring memories of my rather forgettable childhood, is watching my father shave.

I'm talking about the good old days, when shaving meant a Topaz blade, shaving cream in tubes, a brush, and Brut.

The days when a safety razor had a screw on the bootom of a faux wood handle, that opened the casing to insert the blade. The days, before Gillette messed it all up with gels and ball bearings and light sabers.

It used to be a ritualistic process. And if you weren't paying attention, you risked walking around doing a passable impersonation of Al Pacino, in Scarface.

I think one of the reasons I found it all so fascinating, was that the razor, was taboo. (Plus the odd chance of getting a splash of Brut - also normally well inside forbidden teritory.)

The other reason, is what this post is all about.

The music.

I remember an old, portable transistor radio - made by Bush, if I'm not mistaken - that was always cranked up at shaving time.

(Like all card carrying, red-blooded males, my father had his Technic amp and floor standing speakers and stuff, but it was always the old radio that grabbed center stage in the mornings.)

In its tinny voice, I first heard all the songs that we all know by heart. Kishore Kumar. Hemant Kumar. Mukesh. I learned the words to Paanch rupaiyya, baarah aana well before I figured out what they meant. So too with Hai apna dil, toh awaara and myriad others.

Time passed. We changed cities. We moved into, and out of, multiple houses. And somewhere along the line, that old radio went kaput, and was eventually disposed off.

In a fit of adolescent wanna-be-ism, I also insisted I'd have nothing more to do with Hindi music and tuned out, completely.

Thankfully, at some point, I grew up.

(Part of this growing up included shaving, but that soon lost its charm, having been reduced from mesmeric razor-edged ritual, to mere gadgetry. And as my photograph shows, I've regressed completely, into full blown facial fur.)

I never did forget the music on that radio. The sound, the timbre, the words, the melody.

And every now and then, in the wee hours of the night, or on a suddenly quiet Sunday afternoon, I hear the same old songs, in a similar tinny voice, piping up from the security guard's little radio, four storeys below.

And every now and then, indulgently nostalgic, I think about not giving in, to my own red-blooded male desire for the ultimate audio experience.

Someday, I may even convince myself.

11.9.07

Family Planning, by Bajaj

I'm not very clear what it is the Bajaj family is seeking retribution for, but the Bajaj Avenger certainly lives up to its name. It takes revenge, with ruthless efficiency, upon the scrotal sacs of an unsuspecting Indian public.

I spent 4 days last week in Goa.

I made the incredible error of renting one of these fiendish contraptions, instead of getting off my lazy ass and looking for an Enfield.

I now feel like apologising to the Bros. Bajaj for anything and everything, from the existence of Dan Brown, to the state of Manmohan Singh's wardrobe.

My only other theory is that I have stumbled upon a conspiracy to ensure that Indian men who attain the height of 6', are rendered incapable of reproduction.

The other party to this heinous plot would appear to be Capt. Gopinath, who stands to gain incalculably, if the avg. Indian height is say 5'4". Just imagine two whole rows more, on every Air Deccan flight.

6.8.07

Paradox

As a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist, who anticipates the very worst from people, I expect I'll hardly ever be disappointed.

Is this optimism?

Biography

He was born, shortly after his thirty-first birthday, at the bottom of a bottle of rum, in a boom town bar.

He walked a crooked line out of the bar, straight out of the lives of those who knew him. The doting parents. The loving wife. The frolicsome friends. The dependable colleagues.

An arrhythmic lope led him far away from all those who depended on him. All those with needs. And wants. And obligations.

The city, had many cracks. He found one. And with no fuss whatsoever, slipped comfortably through.

Time passed.

Masked in graceless anonymity, mired in the accumulated grime of months without soap and water, he scratched his bristly, lice covered jaw, and discovered how to smile again.

His, now, were the stand-up bars that were packed at 9 am.
His, now, the backdoors of the idly-dosa joints, with kindly cooks.
His, now, shady nooks in leafy parks with cold concrete for comfort.

She, found him there one day.
Smiling in his sleep.

Wrapped in words that told the story of the rich and shameless.
Covered in the comfort known only to those, with nothing left to lose.

She looked down, a barely discernible twitch, on her mirthless lips.
To the perceptive, it would have appeared as though she hesitated for the briefest of moments. One millionth, of a nanosecond.

The perceptive, could easily have been mistaken.

With a languid ease that bespoke aeons of repetition, she swung the scythe.

4.8.07

The Men In Charge

I'm convinced that somewhere, someone in this city has found a way to solidify memes of idiocy into some kind of micron level dust, which they have sprinkled all over the coke our glorious leaders snort with their evening whiskey-and-curd-rice.

"Proof", you scream.
Very well, Your Graces.
Very well.

The Govt. of Karnataka outsources construction of a flyover at a major intersection, to an outfit from UP - a state renowned for upright business practices and impeccable honesty.

Years after the deadline passed, the GoK made a fetching display of naivete and evinced convincing disappointment that the project was still not complete.

Of course, now that it has been completed, everyone's so busy patting themselves on the back, that they've conveniently overlooked the tons of scrap and debris that lie around like orgasmic detritus of Transformers mating.

More, Your Graces? But of course.

Real estate prices are through the roof. Everyone from the assistant bum washer of the quasi-sub-registrar, to the white kurta brigrade, is raking it in.

Now, the city is over-crowded. It's primed to implode. And all those lovely IT firms that the GoK is lending its collective arse to, threaten to flitter away to Chennai, or Hyderabad, with their dainty little digital noses held high in the air.

So the minions of the mighty, those masters of mental masturbation, that holy order of organised onanism, the BDA, come up with a Master Plan.

This, is the plan. Open more residential areas, for commercial purposes. And increase the height to sq.ft. ratio for construction. Brilliant.

Not convinced of the theory I postulate, Your Graces? Read on.

Shedding faux tears all over the faux leather of their gigantic offices, the babus decide to apply an enema to the city's constipated channels, by building a Metro rail system.

Holes, have been dug. Boards, have been placed. And a deadline has been set.


Given that I pass these proposed sites for posts twice a week, I can say with some authority, that I have seen sweet fuck all happening around them, for months now.

And last, but not least, Your Eminences, as a little post-coital dribble down the thigh of this once fair, now bloated city, the aftermath of the fucked-up flyovers, was this: the men in charge have decided that henceforth, only underpasses will be used to alleviate Bangalore's clogged arteries. whether they're needed, or not.

I submit that if these pinheads in power are not ingesting my proposed powdered idiocy memes, then they're all part of a vast conspiracy to de-stabilise planet Earth, wrought by the dog-headed denizens of Sirius B who are looking for a little more room to raise a leg in.

20.7.07

Good Reads, Lazy Post

Came across a well-written article on the standoff at the Lal Masjid and its aftermath, written from a refreshingly original perspective.

A few links later, stumbled upon a lovely piece, that drips critic acid, about what one can buy for NRI dollars today.

Enjoy.

18.7.07

What Happened To That Guy?

Picture a 20 something guy,
duffel bag slung on his shoulder,
walking through customs.

Clear of eye. Fit as a fiddle.
To borrow a phrase from Pratchett,
the world, is his mollusc.

He figures he'll work, for a while.
He figures he'll save, for a while.
And then, he figures, he'll give it a shot.

He'll learn to sail. He'll learn to fish.
Then take a loan, buy a boat.
And float a deep-sea charter fishing business,
somewhere off the West Coast of India.

He'll cater to the rich and shameless, the fat cats,
while the work ensures he stays thin and sun baked.

He doesn't plan on being rich.
He just plans on being happy.

What happened to that guy?

And who is this slob, balancing a laptop on the beginnings of a belly, keying in stories of faded glory that never were?

14.7.07

Ode to Friday, the 13th of July, 2007

Fuck-a-di-doo-dah,
Fuck-a-de-day.


My, oh my,
it was a fucked up day.


Profane. But so painstakingly accurate.

Some days you fee like you shouldn't have gotten out of bed.
This one, raised existential questions about beds in general.

Now, since I'm not going to crib about what happened, this is all going to seem quite cryptic. And pointless. It is, however, actually quite cathartic, and much more acceptable than my original plan - heading to the terrace with a drink and a smoke, and berating whatever powers may be, with all the lung power at my disposal.

(The neighbours - though ignorant of Plan A - will, I'm sure, enjoy a moment of profound, sub-conscious gratitude.)

12.7.07

Worth Watching

The Fountain (2006)

The History Boys (2006)

Crime Spree (2003)



8.7.07

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Author

Some people compare well written books, to fine wine.

They sputter on about vintage and bouquet and a lot of other stuff that, if personified, would be wrapped in a turtleneck, with a 4 figure haircut, loads of sensitivity and the sort of lisp that the word "fetching" was invented to describe.

I know nothing about wine. I know even less about fetching lisps.

I do know that I've read and re-read the George Smiley novels by John le Carré a number of times. And I'd like to think I've enjoyed them every single time, more due to my geo-political view maturing, than the accumulation of oxidisation on these valued, but aged paperbacks.

For me, it was in le Carré's novels, that Fleming's theatrics died. Quickly. Painlessly. A demise that had nothing to do with better guns, girls and gadgets. A death wrought solely by the magnificent interplay of words and the creation of eerily human characters.

Something that remains, to this day, le Carré's genius. Borne out by The Constant Gardener, amongst others.

But whenever I'm in between bouts of bookstore induced bankruptcy, and feel the need for a good, light read of the le Carré stamp, it's to the world of 'The Circus' and Smiley & Co., that I turn.

Where knot, upon twisted knot, is undone by Smiley himself, whilst wiping his glasses upon the fat end of his tie. Where the brief, but vivid introductions to those who populate this world, keep one coming back for more.

The cameos by assorted, derelict East Europeans. The evergreen references to crass American materialism. The constant stench of decaying British imperialism. The nepotism of the "Old Boy" network - that ever present affliction of so many of the former possessions of Perfidious Albion. And, of course, the unfaithful Ann. The tasteful, murmurred allusions to her numerous infidelitites and indiscretions.

Most of all though, le Carré writes so very well about the disillusioned man, that it makes me rather comfortble about retaining the few I have left.

26.6.07

She

She wept,
as she took his parents.

She chuckled, conspiratorially,
as she introduced him
to his bride.

She sang softly,
to lull his children to sleep.

She raged, with jealousy,
and made him, all hers again.

Her every twist, reflected,
in the lines on his face.

Every shifting sandbank,
a vein on his gnarled hands.

The river. His mistress.

Written, for the photograph. Because of the photograph.
Shot by Sujith. See more of his stuff here.

About That Time Again...

The signs, are all there.

A mind that's constantly wandering.
Feeling boxed-in, even with the windows open.

4 a.m. and half-remembered-half-imagined scents
carried on the breeze, whisper tales of past adventures,

as I stand out in the balcony, with a cigarette for company.

Paring down the stuff in my backpack.
Sub-consciously taking the longer way, everywhere.
Looking at rough stretches of road,
with inexplicable fondness.

Reading the little words that roadrash
has inscribed upon my battered hide.

'Ole Hoss', the beast that carries my burden,
seems restless.

It's been a year since we hit the road.
And that one didn't end too well.

Hoss is going into the shop this evening.
Some oil here, a tweak there.

The weekend draws closer.
Time to go riding again.

Way past time.

21.6.07

Of Cabbages And Kings

The last few days have seen a perptual parade of populist pedants posing as potential presidents on pg. 1.

So inexorably intrusive has the process become, that even my calloused consciousness has been goaded into awareness. Which has naturally resulted in a question.

Is the appointment of an individual to the most pointless political office in the country, really worth so much front page real estate?

And what individuals.

Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who has the dubious distinction of having been a "proper" politician.

Pratibha Patil, who has the dubious distinction of having performed an equally pointless function, at the State level.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who has the dubious distinction of already having performed effectively as head PR man for the masses.

Of Shekhawat, nothing more need be said, other than that he was Vice President. (A post who's importance is well understood throughout the corporate world, the political world and even that funny little world inhabited by cultists.)

It seems hardly credible that the nomination (and possible appointment) of Madame Patil, to this pedantic, powerless post, can be considered a great step for womens' rights.

Kalam has discharged his duties with photogenic panache, enduring elan and a trademark flowing, silver mane. However, while he has gained tremendous popularity by sending bills he doesn't agree with, back to the House, they have eventually been passed. (Obviously he didn't feel strongly enough about them, to give up the presidential perks, in protest.)

I don't see how the decision as to which of these people will enjoy a rent free mansion, landscaped gardens, etc., will really make such a difference to the state of the nation. Instead, I propose that our superlative scribes and cereberal columnists devote their time to matters of real import.

Such as speculating when Guinness draught, will be available in India.

20.6.07

Thou Shalt Not Die

Users of Vatican 2.0 [a Second Coming compliant programme] be warned. Spokespersons for the organisation have issued a statement saying: "Overtaking dangerously can be a sin."

Apparently, users who do not apply the recommended 10 step patch [derived from the 10 Commandments coded for V1.0] to their mobile environment suffer not only the risk of a fatal system crash, but also ETERNAL DAMNATION.

The Reserva Companion

The rain clouds tease, as they have all day, without intimidating. In the meanwhile, JJ Cale is conducting a mildly torrid affair with a dark, long-legged Bacardi Reserva and Coke.

16.6.07

Watch This

Quite apart from the antics of the world's most heavily guarded mammal and his two bit Timex, the G8 meet-n-greet has held my attention for a number of reasons.

I'd write about it, except for the simple fact that I couldn't do it with anything remotely like the erudition or stilleto-like sarcasm of George Monbiot, in this piece, originally published in The Guardian.

14.6.07

This Morning

The shock of impending sobriety jarred me awake.

13.6.07

The Mild Wild West

Always wanted to try my hand at a pulp western short. Since I was doing a piss poor job, I decided to play the fool instead.

You couldn't see much of the stranger's face, the day he rode into town.

Small dust devils rose up with every step his horse took. And chased themselves into oblivion, before the next hoof landed. The creaking of his saddle, seemed like the only sound for miles around.

You couldn't see much of his face. But you could tell he didn't seem to think too highly of the town.

Truth to tell, Rickman's Ford wasn't much of a town. But then it didn't have much of a creek to ford either.

It was just a handful of ramshackle houses; a large, rambling saloon built by a man who used to be an optimist; a livery fit only for the crowbait it housed; trading post; and the usual leavenings of defunct commercial enterprises found in most any defunct town west of the Big Muddy.

Every structure, a conglomeration of wood and rusty nails, seemed held together only by an agglomeration of dust. The buildings had long since been browbeaten into submission by the merciless sun, stripped of the last vestiges of painted pride by the hot winds and casually raped by the occassional passing tornado.

Main St., was a shameful misnomer. There were alleys back East, that had it beat hands-down for grandiosity. Cowboys from the outlying ranches rode 20 miles through Apache territory, to Bentworth, when they were looking for a night on the town. (Because even the West's famous hookers-with-hearts-of-gold, had real stomachs to fill.)

The barbershop, had just one chair. And most times, a body hankering after a shave and cut had to shake Toomes - the barber - out of it first.

Hell. Even the bandidos didn't raid around Rickman's Ford. Nobody here had anything worth stealing. All in all, a miserable, sorry excuse for a town. Where nothing ever happened. Until today. The day the stranger picked, to ride into town.

The denizens of Rickman's Ford were about to be treated to a social event. The social event.

Old Man Rickworth's daughter, Shannon, was getting hitched.

The girl was the only redeeming factor in the whole damn town. A figure that could make a buck Apache swear off killing the white man. (At least until he'd got his way with Shannon.) A permanent blush on her cheeks, like the first bloom after a desert storm. Long, golden tresses, that any self-respecting bedbug would pay New York hotel rates for.

And she was marrying young Tom Pickett. Heir to the uncounted acres of the Tumbling 'P'. He'd swung a wide loop around the country. But since heifers and lambs just weren't cutting it for him anymore, he settled for Shannon.

The saloon had stopped serving liquor for the duration of the ceremony. The circuit preacher had been shanghaied away from his usual beat, by the promise of an open bar. And everyone was in their Sunday go-to-meetin' best, for all the good that did them.

The stranger's horse found its way, seemingly unguided, to the scrawny limb that served as a hitching post outside the saloon. With a muffled grunt, the stranger slid off.

Inside, the service commenced.

The stranger patted his horse. And then his pockets, looking for the makings.

The preacher's parched voice, was scurrying on through the words, leaping eagerly towards that promised land of rye.

With one effortless, almost languid move, the stranger flipped his pistol out of the holster, it's well-worn grips coming to rest with easy familiarity in his hand. Just like it had, a million times before.

Smith & Wesson had always made a good lookin', straight shootin' gun and the .44 Russian, was no exception. He flipped open the chamber, spun it to check the action and deftly flipped it shut again. The gun, was slipped back into its holster. For now.

The stranger, headed into the saloon.

Inside, the preacher had got to the part where audience participation, while hardly expected, had to be paid its dues. With a pause, and a longing look at the bar, he squawked on:

"And if any man here knows why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, let him speak now, or forever hold his peace."

The stranger's broad shoulders sent the batwing doors flying open with a resounding crash. Voice tight with tension, he said "Ah reckon ah've got me somethin' tuh say about this here shindig."

Tom Pickett was getting married. He'd bought a new hat. A new suit. And new boots. But he kept his old reliable Colt .44 Pecemaker. And marriage or no, like any man who grew up in those parts and those times, he kept it on during the ceremony.

The stranger glared at Tom.

Tom, said "Draw."

The stranger's hand swept down.

The millionth time, plus one.

The stranger's gun, slipping from his grasp, skittered along the dusty floor.

When they buried him, he was still looking surprised.

As young Tom Pickett, and his newly acquired better half, rode past Boot Hill, he stopped the buggy. Mumbling an excuse to the starry eyed Shannon, he walked over, had a word with the undertaker, and then carried on with his missus to the Tumbling 'P.'

The undertaker scratched his head, but then figured if anyone had the right, Tom did. He got to work with an old branding iron, and a couple of slats of wood. Puzzled or not, he did a mighty fine job.

To this day, the marker up on Boot Hill reads:
Stranger
Died August 7, 1869.
"He couldn't hold his piece."

6.6.07

The Alms Race

"Now remember..."


"?"


"...if they pull a gun, you pull a knife."


"!"


"Yes. Now, if they pull a knife, you use a chain."


"Are you sure about this?"


"Yes. And, if they pull a chain, you grab a lathi."


"I'm a little confused."


"Just listen. If they bring lathis, you use your fists."


"But Dad, what if they're unarmed too?"


"Hmmm... Then wheel out the handicapped."


"The handicapped? But... But... in a fight?"


"Of course.
We've got to show everyone we're more backward than they are.
Right?"


"Ah!"


[A tribute to Sir Sean Connery, in The Untouchables; recent events in Rajasthan; and Nehruvian socialism.]

28.5.07

Lords of the Dance

For all those of you worried about the degenerative effects of the BPO boom on our precious cultural heritage, a few words to warm the cockles of your hearts. The economic renaissance notwithstanding, the idiosyncracies of our heritage are being well preserved by none other than our nimble netas.

It's true. Take my word for it. Or, if you're part of that world-wide conspiracy that doesn't ajudge me the authority on just about anything, just drop by the morgue of your local news rag. Flip through the back issues of the past couple of months, and you'll soon see what I mean.

With dubious dexterity and reprehensible rhythm, our geriatric gents in parliament continue, day after day, to uphold that most ancient of Indian traditions - dance.

Except, of course, in keeping with the zeitgeist of "India Poised", they've adapted their routines to include some of the more popular dances from around the world.

For example, the Bengaluru Boogie:
A hip-swivelling Vidhana Soudha step, that sashays wildly between appeasing the increasingly Americanised technocrats, and renaming the city bangalore.com, and appeasing the increasingly important voters in Karnataka's heartland, by renaming the city Bengaluru.

Again, from Bangalore, but without the violent gyrations of the Boogie, we have the Bangalore Backstep:
More classical in nature, this genteel form is largely a solo performance. Shuffling out of the shadowed corridors for a brief stint under the spots, one of our perspiring politicos gently inserts his foot in his mouth. This is usually accompanied by some garbled incantation, for instance a chant about banning women from working the night shift. The taste of shoe leather being largely unpleasant, thanks to bovine blessings on our roads, the politico then retreats completely from his assumed position, with little grace and veiled face.

Casting our eyes to the North, we have the Singh Shimmy:
This little number has the distinction of having none other than our Prime Hypocrite for a choreographer. Deeply inspired by the waltz form, it requires the performer to grab hold of Uncle Sam's coat tails, and twirl all the way to the far end of the room. Here are exchanged promises of nuclear technology and radiation poisoning for us all. The next step, is to slide all the way back to position one, on a thick layer of phantom crude and LPG, from Iran. Where one is refreshed with vows of asphyxiation through fossil fuel, for all.

Gaining popularity these days, is the Mumbai Mamba:
After decades of being the playground of a curmudgeonly caricaturist and a dastardly don, Mumbai has shaken off its slumber. Snaking its way through the pitfalls and pratfalls of its politicos, this dance is a celebration of the fact that the biggest threat to our nation has been disposed off, with the ban on beer bars. It is accompanied by the sweet sounds of scams, conducted with great elan, by the denizens of Dalal Street.

And last, but not least, we have the Chennai Cha Cha:
Essentially a variant of an ancient, almost forgotten tribal ritual, this is conducted with complete impunity around the burning embers and charred remains of what was once a newspaper.

So rest easy. And let the sound of the shuffling slippers of our flexible, fleet-footed friends in Parliament lull you into a soothing trance.

21.5.07

A Summer's Moon

For those of you who don't know Bangalore as anything other than the city on the other end of your phone when you call for customer support on just about anything, allow me to introduce you to Blossoms.

Blossoms, is a used book store. It is, to the bibliophile, what miniskirts are to an all boys' school.

Instant, absolute loss of control.

I, was there yesterday.
I, instantly, absolutely, lost control.
(For the second time, this month.)

That, is not the crux of the story.
(But it does provide a prologue.)

Shift, to today.
A hot summer evening.

Deeply engrossed in one of my new acquisitions, I decide to beat the heat. I decide, to change into my ratty old gym shorts.

Years of reading religiously (not the other way around) have ensured that I can now do most non-essential tasks - changing, eating, mixing the perfect rum-n-coke, etc. - one-handed.

I gathered the requisite materials. I applied the skills.

Feeling 200 degrees cooler, and having not missed a fraction of a sub-plot, I was about to crawl back into bed, when I realised... the balcony door was wide open.

I, had mooned the neighbours.

About 8 floors worth of neighbours.

I, shall avoid Blossoms.
For at least another week.

3.5.07

Eaves-Droppings

The recent exchange of pre-nuptial agreements between gliteratti having dislodged from Pg 1. the latest edition of the debate on reservation, I felt it my duty to bring you the most recent developments on the matter.

To get the inside info, I got in touch with my source at the Supreme Court, Dharam Sankat, the-man-with-the-fan. From his vantage point, a-posterori the Chief Justice, to your screens, here's the scoop.

Proceedings have (expectedly) ground to a screeching halt, due not to jurisprudential jousting, but rather to acronymical awkwardness.

It appears that the legal eagles of our nation are rather embarassed by the collective pronounciation of the dimunitive forms of the two most vocal opposing lobbies.

Many of those vehemently against further reservation, have recently banded together under the umbrella of Anti Reservation and Scheduled-caste Exemptions, while the strongest faction of their opponents, have now elected to be known as Hopeful OBC Litigants (East).

The font of justice is in a supreme quandary, and considering the use of sub judice.

Why? Well, it is felt that the combined acronyms, will be used by the media, and citizenry at large, in derogatory (albeit accurate) fashion to describe the legislature, for dragging out this (clearly) vote-bank related issue.

And as those who truly need help, lie by the wayside, and those who have attained merit, ponder the futility of effort, the show, goes on, and on, and on.

Dharam Sankat, in the meantime, is angling for a post as Head Coffee Boiler at the Ministry of Info. Tech, because he is proud, he says, that India is being outsourced.

2.5.07

Ivanhoe

Perhaps the only known instance in English literature, where the name 'Wilfred' is applied to a man who is not bespectacled/geeky/white-collar-wimp/all of the above.

I make it a point, every year, to interrupt my regularly scheduled consumption of contemporary literature, and re-read a select few books from the days of yore. And having just finished my annual pilgrimage to medieval England, let me confess, unashamedly, to having enjoyed it as much as when I was an impressionable youngster.

As an impressionable 30 year old, I read Gore Vidal's 'A search for the King' a few months ago. While absolutely different in literary style from Sir Walter Scott's tale, and in fact, taking quite a few digs at the genre, it is chronologiacally just prior to the events portrayed in Ivanhoe.

So, some day, when I've nothing else to do, I'm going to read them one after the other, while liberally offering suitable libation to the memory of the immortal, dipsomaniacal Friar Tuck.

5.4.07

The Terrorist Diaries - An Excerpt

What if the most dangerous terrorist in the world kept a diary? I think it would read something like this...

... indeed, Blessed am I, to be the one to carry out this holy task. I know this. It is my glorious duty, in the name of all that is sacred, to cleanse the land of the unbeliever. To rid the land of the infidel.

Their mouthpieces in the media scream at me - accusing me of murdering innocents. I ask them... is anyone truly innocent in this world?

The dogs. Who are they, to sit in judgement upon me? What do they know of faith?

As a true believer, I put none above my faith. Or my task. Not friends. Not family. That, is true sacrifice. True faith.

Even my wife looks at me with accusing eyes. I can hear the bitterness in her voice when she speaks to me. I can hear the scorn drip as she says

"George... it's Condoleeza. On the red phone. Again. "

Let me take this opportunity to personally endorse George W Bush as my candidate for War Criminal of the Millenium.

6.3.07

una mas cervesa

Life was kinda hectic,
And I was having trouble sleeping.

I was going crazy,
And I had to get away.

Loaded up my pick-up,
For a Mexican vacation.

I didn't know the language,
But I quickly learned to say...

Una mas cervesa,
por favor, senorita.

(muchas gracias, el Texas Tornados.)

says it all, really.

22.2.07

a.m.

Diagonally across from me, is the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. (I think I've got their name right.)

In the opposite direction, and down the road a ways, are the Methodists.

Turn left, before you hit the Methodists, walk a while, and there's the Mosque.

Turn left, after the Mosque, walk a while, and you'll find the Roman Catholics.

Turn left, after the Roman Catholics, go around the block, enter my building, and in the apartment directly below, are devout Hindus.

I'm not a morning person.

About the only time I'm intimate with Dawn's crack, is when I've been up all night. This either happens after I've been working hard. Or drinking hard. At times like these, about all I want to do is crawl into bed, without waking up the wife.

(She, is not a morning person either.)

Just about the time I've accomplished this flannel-footed agility,
it starts.


Bells. Prayers. Bells. Prayers.

Some days, it makes for a bizzarely soothing combination of sound. And like all those vague, sleep deprived, early morning thoughts, I believe this incredible combination could happen only in India.

Other days, I think it's a bloody racket that makes me wish a plague of agnostics (I'm one, by the way.) would descend upon the land.

Then, come those days that are worst of all. When the construction crew at bloody Gold's Gym, across the road, decide to start tossing debris into a steel bed dump truck.

In a few days the idiots at Gold's Gym will open for business. There'll be loud, bad music, in the wee hours of the morning. And people, mostly over-weight, sweating in synchrony.

This, will happen on Sundays too.

Dawn, has never looked darker.

20.2.07

Overdue

A year or two ago, a kind soul gave me a couple of discs.
Packed, to the gills, with reading material.
("Finest kind." to quote Richard Hooker.)

I accepted them, with about all the grace of a migraine hit rhinoceros.
Then, put them away and forgot all about them.

About a week ago, bereft of all literary stimuli, I dug them out, and spun them up.

And found salvation.

I met two absolutely unforgettable people.
Spider Jerusalem; the writer I wish I was.
And Dream; proof that the word is actually 'protagonist' and not 'hero'.

So, without further ado (and long overdue) thank you, pi.

The drinks are on me, amigo.

Bacardi Time

Putumayo has some wicked reggae compilations.

I'm sure the more hip, have already heard them.
For those who haven't, they are world reggae compilations.
Not just the Jamaican variety.

And though I don't understand many of the songs (I don't speak Arabic, for instance.) they certainly do a grand job of stimulating the rum glands.

WARNING: Listening to this music on a sunny day in an office with the windows open, is conducive to no work getting done. It may cause hallucinations of palm trees and sunny beaches. It may arouse the thirst with a vengeance.

5.2.07

The Renaissance Is Aparently Upon Us

Funny, nobody told me. But apparently, this is the bloke in charge.

Can you imagine referring to YOURSELF as a "new age Renaissance man"? To quote Mastercard, it's priceless.