12.11.08

Summertime

In every boy's life, there is 'The Summer'. (Or if there isn't, there certainly ought to be.) Not just any summer. The Summer.

For some, it was The Summer of the Cycle. When you spent weeks perfecting the art of racing downhill without holding on to the handlebar. When every scraped knee was a badge of honour. Every grazed elbow, the price of admission. And the boy with the plaster cast, the most envied lad of the lot.

For others, The Summer by the Pool. When you learnt to swim. When you held competitions to see who could cling longest to the bottom of the ladder in the deep end. (And when a water proof watch was THE accessory.)

Some enjoyed The Summer of Basketball. When 8 hours a day of running, shooting and jumping under the blazing sun, burned away the awkwardness of adolescence. And your parents winced at the thought of you growing out of shoes and clothes for the fourth time in the year.

For many, it was The Summer of The Internal Combustion Engine. When you learned to ride your first motorcycle. Or got behind the wheel of the first car. For some strange reason, this generally also wound up being The Summer of The First Beer.

For many more, The Summer involves The Girl. And no more need be said about this.

The luckiest, of course, had more than just one such summer. But whether you had one, or more, they all had great similarities. An endless succession of bright, cheerfully hot days. Blue skies and wisps of white clouds, straight out of fiction. Fresh, clean air (well, relative to today, at least). Warm nights filled with chirping bugs and the hypnotic drone of a pessimistic ceiling fan. An incredible feeling of health and well-being. And an unspoken, but firm belief in one's immortality.

I count myself fortunate, in that I got to spend the college years working outdoors. Four years, with four spectacular summers spent working with my hands, and building up an honest sweat in the fresh air. Lying on the freshly cropped grass in the evenings, to take a breather, and then strolling back home for a light dinner and the solitary brew, before falling into a deep, deep sleep.

And it's this, that I hate most about working in an office. Even an airy, window-happy one with a garden and ducks, like ours. There's something about an office, that kills the summer. I suppose it has everything to do with riding a desk, instead spending all day riding a cycle, no hands.

29.9.08

Kleenex at the movies.

Sniffle. Sniffle.
Shiver. Shiver.

Novaclox LB. 
Water.

Allerid D.
Water.

Sniffle. Sniffle.
Shiver. Shiver.

Chuckle. Chuckle.
Guffaw. Guffaw.

Novaclox LB.
Water.

Sniffle.
Shiver.

Wish I'd written that.
Wish I'd written that.

Sniffle.
Shiver.

What crap What utter cra... Zzz... Zzz.

Novaclox LB.
Water.

Allerid D.
Water.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.
No way I could ever have written that.

Snif...
Oh-shit-I've-got-to-go-to-work-tomorrow!

Zzz.

(Perhaps the only good thing about being under the weather over the weekend, apart from giving the old liver a break, is the amount of quality cinema you can justifiably spend all day on the couch watching, without middle-class morality raising its ugly little productive head.)

13.8.08

One good. One bad.

Let's start with the bad first.

Sea of Poppies, by Amitav Ghosh.

This man does not like trees. There's no other explanation for such a waste of paper.

Okay. So I was sold on the hype. To be honest, it's a truly interesting setting for a novel. Set in a time when whitey was cheerfully lining his pockets with the proceeds of the opium trade, and sowing the seeds for generations of conflict, addiction and general mayhem, in that inimitably British fashion.

Then, I read the book. (Having coughed up hard earned cash for the hard cover, mind you.)

Despite having no fondness for those who are pigmentally challenged, I have to wonder why pretty much all the Brits in this book were either sexual deviants or ethically challenged, or both. If the intent wa to create a caricature of the Brit of the Raj, it's come off rather badly. Sort of like a child maliciously imitating a dis-liked older relative.

Then we have the Indian (not to forget one mulatto lad and one french lass) characters. They are multi-dimensional, to some extent, but they too seem rather obsessed with throbbing members and heaving cleavage.

The occasional digressions do pop up - indentured labour, womens' lib, annexation, botany, the lot of the agrarian class, and even the odd references to opium. By and large, however, the story revolves a lot more around bonking than doping. Which is not a crime in itself, but it does make one feel the book would have been better titled Cream of Poppies.

The scary part is, it's just the beginning of a trilogy. Someone tell this man how fast the Amazon forest cover is depleting. Please.

Which brings us, to the good.

A case of exploding mangoes, by Mohd. Hanif.

Well written. Well structured. Well crafted. Okay. Fuck all that Siskel-Ebert crap. It was fucking brilliant. Haven't enjoyed a book from this part of the world, this much, in ages.

Funny where it has to be. Bizarre where it needs to be. Beautiful premise. Incredible characters. In short, a great entertainer. It doesn't promise to open your eyes, or change your life, or any such highbrow crap. And it bloody well doesn't pretend to try and do it either.

Fast paced, reasonably tight, and manages to keep you guessing pretty well. And worth every penny.

If you're at the airport, and stuck for a choice between one of these, well, you're not, actually. Buy A case of exploding mangoes, with my very best wishes. Enjoy it. And if that jerk Amitav Ghosh is ahead of you in the security check queue, stick an aluminium foil cutout of a hand gun in his carry-on baggage.

27.5.08

Nailed

There is no reason on earth to suppose that people in advertising are a fit, healthy lot. Especially those of us who, inspired by the wild, swinging tales of the ad men of the '80s, joined the industry ourselves. Too many of us smoke. And drink. And whole lot more indulge in substance abuse of some other kind.

So it begs disbelief when the Advertising Association of Bangalore holds a five-a-side football tournament. And it's especially silly to shamble on to the field with a couple of other ageing jocks (with the stress on age). Especially when you realise the other team are a bunch of 20 something blokes who look like they'd enjoy running rings around you all day, before buzzing off to drink all night.

But it all gets downright embarassing, when you make what you fondly imagine to be a swift, graceful, elegant tackle, only to realise you've lost more than half a step in the intervening decade, and wind up striking the underside of a well worn pair of football boots, rather than the ball.

As the very essence of your being suddenly concentrates itself upon the nail of your right big toe, as every nerve ending heads shrieking, for the self same spot, as the pain rips up from the shredded nail, past the metacarpals, up your leg, through your gut, past your heart, and straight to your brain, you realise one thing.

You really couldn't give a fuck if the ball went into the goal, or not.

And with the sweat pouring into your eyes, you can't see to make out anyway. And even if you could see, you'd rather be combing the field for your left lung, which you think you hacked up somewhere near the half. And even if you've convinced yourself that you're a going concern on one lung, your calf muscles have formed a union and called a strike, claiming flagrant abuse by management.

So no. At this stage, sweat pouring off, sucking in deep draughts of air, hopping on one foot and gasping out your four-lettered vocabulary, you don't give a good god damn about the ball.

About all you do, is turn to the ref, and in a croaking, wheezing, half-plea, half-query, say "Time?".

A few hours, a second match, and many pain-numbing beers later, you limp home, promising yourself never to indulge in such childish hi-jinks again.

Your wife, with the patience borne of 4 years of salvaging the wreck of the Hesperus, greets you with a gentle smile. To save you the time and trouble, she quickly confirms that you have no intention of visiting a qualified physician of any denomination. She silently, but effectively, delivers a hint by placing your towel within easy reach.

And as you gently disentangle your sock from the remains of your toe-nail, she dutifully ignores your unsuccessfully stifled gasps, and considerately turns away to hide her wry grin.

Perhaps next year, the Ad Club will hold a chess tournament. Or bowling. Or a Halo 3 shootout. Perhaps. But somehow, I don't think so. I think the wives enjoy football too much.

21.5.08

Salvation Is Nigh

Given that we, as a nation, are currently devoting more money, attention and political weightage to the IPL, than to the agrarian crisis, I'm left with just one thing to say.

Let's put Lalit Modi in charge of things on that side of the urban divide as well.

So he does his thing, and starts up a league. (And he's certainly experienced enough to handle it.)

Then the farmers get auctioned off. (And they're certainly more experienced at being bought and sold like so much chaff, than those poor firang cricketers.)

And then we bring bollywood into the picture. Aamir Khan gets a team. (But thanks to Lagaan he gets icon status.) And the Big B. And the Little Big B. And all the other Bs. And Cs. And SOBs.

Lalit bhai can con the sponsors. And sell the TV rights. The filmi types can flaunt it. We can import the Nebraska Corn Huskers to come and cheer things up. And maybe some of the famed Irish Potato Skin Dancers. Nautrally, qualified referees will be provided by the UN and other interested parties. The big agencies can figue out how to pimp it all to the public. (But with celebrities and big ole corn pones shaking their husks, it shouldn't take much.)

And if people get tired of trying to keep track of who's out-harvested who, we can always bring Harbhajan in for some light entertainment.

Of course, there will be those who say "it just isn't cricket, old chap". The die hard fans, who'll swear there's nothing like a good, old fashioned 5 year drought. And the captains of capital, who'll swear that it's no substitute for the old debt-and-death days. But who cares about them anyway? They're just crying after sour GM crops.

So there you have it. The mounting food crisis. The sky-rocketing acriculturalist suicide rate. That pesky inflation thing that just won't go away. All sorted out, in one fell swoop.

What?

Trust me.

2.4.08

Saving Jaguars, Killing Turtles.

A few days ago, to the accompaniment of jingoistic headlines courtesy The Crimes of India (and other rags), Ratan Tata broke open his piggy bank and acquired Jaguar (and Land Rover).

The flag wavers, waved flags.
The chest thumpers, thumped chests.
The rich, got richer.

The poor, rather inconsiderately, stayed poor.

TELCO saving Jaguar, however, overshadowed other TATA group activity in the animal kingdom - the construction of the TATA Steel port in Dhamra, Orissa.

To put the whole thing in a nutshell, Dhamra is an ecological soft spot, on this battered old planet we infest with such blissful ignorance. Among other things, it is cheek by jowl with the world's largest mass nesting site of Olive Ridley sea turtles. Massive construction (the only sort that comes to mind when one is talking about ports) would wreak the sort of havoc in the turtle world, that George W has wrought in ours. Collateral damage would include King Crabs, Crab-eating Frogs, and others. To know more, from people who know more, read this.

So what's my point here?

Quite simple, really.
The Jaguar, is not native to India.
The Olive Ridley sea turtle, is.
Perhaps it's time to remind Mr. Tata of the fact.
To write to Ratan Tata, just click here.

27.3.08

Holy Handjobs, Batman

The Onion: Queen Will Leave Behind Long Legacy Of Waving

26.3.08

The Old Man And The Pee

With age, comes incontinence.

A commonly known fact, the ramifications of which have been discussed everywhere from Gray's Anatomy to Garcia Marquez's Love in the time of cholera.

Of late, however, the problem has hit closer to home, here in India, for readers of Outlook magazine, thanks to editor Vinod Mehta.

With depressing, metronomic regularity, this geriatric gasbag garrulously generates graph upon graph of gibbering garbage. Halcyon days in Lucknow, for example. (Or was it something equally inconsequential about Kanpur?) And that ode to some editorial crony of an insignificant tabloid that enjoyed an existence of no pith, and even less moment, in the '80s. (But then, they were the '80s.)

Of course, when he's not slathering us with septugenarian syllogisms, Mr. Mehta sees fit to turn his magazine over to the ravings and rantings of pseudo-socialists, pseudo-secularists and just good, old-fashioned pseudo-intellectuals.

Outlook used to be a good magazine.

Now it seems to be a collection of pages spasmodically splattered with sepia splotches and suspicious stains, such as last week's cover story on the Indian youth's renewed lust for the English language. Is this really the most important thing that happened anywhere in the world over the last fortnight?

Might as well read Time.

6.3.08

Listening to Arundhati Roy...

... one gets the feeling that impassioned concern, has now been patented, trademarked and copyrighted. By Ms Roy, of course.

Is Ms Roy truly the only Indian horrified by the ease with which the pogrom has been powdered, primped and rouged into progressive Gujarat? Is she the only writer on the sub-continent with a socialist conscience? Is she the only one possessed by a slow burning anger at the pandering of succesive central and state governments, to the ultra-rich and the elite? Is she the only one who sees the burgeoning apathy and self-centeredness of the middle class as worrisome? Is she the only one worried about the rather tottery foundations and bizzare judgements of the nation's courts?

I don't think so.

What I can say for sure, is this. Arundhati Roy, seems to be the only one who uses the privilege of regular access to national (and international) soap boxes, to rant.

Immediately after the Gujarat riots, when we were flooded by political posturing, right-wing propaganda, and patently unbelievable statements from police officials, the need of the hour was fact.

Ms Roy, responded with a piece in Outlook, that later proved to be (at least) partly fictional.

One of India's most recent "shining moments" - Nandigram. Once again, investigative journalism, is what was required. Someone to dig down deep enough, to tell us precisely what happened, and more importantly, who was responsible.

Ms Roy, provides a long-winded diatribe and blames it all on big business and capitalism, with a few grasshoppers thrown in, for literary effect.

There are a few hundred thousand concerned Indian citizens. (A reasonable assumption, given that there are about a billion of us infesting the globe.) Many of us, are equally concerned. Many, feel the need to express this concern. Some, do all they can, and are more effective. (Tarun Tejpal, for instance.) Some, through actions, bring about change. (Medha Patkar, for instance.) Some persist in battling on, largely ignored. Some use the system, to improve the system. Some, ineffectively, just blog and rant. (Myself.)

If Ms Roy does not accept that objective reasoning, or an unbiased autopsy of the facts, will help change the minds of a lot more people, perhaps she would be better off confining herself to a blog.

25.2.08

Account Planners @ the circle


There were three, originally.
One drowned.
I'm serious.
A duck, drowned.
Planners. I tell you.

Have camera. No clue.

So fine. I won't quit my day job.

Ole Hoss






12.2.08

Worth Reading

Please consider this a shameless plug for Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra.

It's been a while since I've read something as entertaining, by an Indian author. Most of what's on the shelves nowadays seems to be trying very hard to be meaningful or insightful. (The end result of these efforts is generally an impression that the author has tried too hard, or that India is a depressing place to live.)

Chandra, on the other hand, manages to make his points without NGO-esque angst. He writes about India's many woes, but with the understanding that there is often a constructive side to the chaos. From Napien Sea Rd. to the North East, from spy games to sex games, you'll find it all here.

So, read all 900 pages of Sacred Games. Enjoy the masala, with my very best wishes. And maybe if enough of us by the book, Vikram Chandra will have enough in his pockets to churn out another top-notch entertainer.

8.2.08

Intelligence Will Out

This is why my wife, is the only person allowed to send me forwards.

3.1.08

Guns don't kill people. Americans kill people.

Or at least that's what I'm led to believe after watching The Kingdom.

Remember all those clich├ęd old films from the Cold War? The ones where ideological and cultural boundaries are effortlessly overcome in a single bound by two strong men out to "do good". The ones where years of fear, suspicion and misunderstanding are all cleared 15 minutes before the interval, so that the second half can have decent gun play, puns and witty asides.

Well some Hollywood hack dug up a bombed script circa 1980, polished up the political differences to reflect today's religious tensions, and plugged it straight into post 9/11 celluloid. And since Genocidal Americans vs. Islamic Zealots are cinema du jour, it saw the light of day, complete with de-sat, dramatic grading, "meaningful" music and lots of blood and gore.

And before you ask, the film doesn't require the mere suspension of disbelief. No. It means putting disbelief in a plain brown envelope, along with a little white chalk powder, and sending it through the U S Mail.

Are we seriously expected to believe that a lowly FBI Special Agent is going to be able to arm twist the Saudis into giving him permission to take his team to the scene of the crime, in Saudi, after having been denied said permission by the US State Dept., the US Attorney General's Office, and the White House coffee boy?

Then, are we seriously expected to believe that said gung-ho team of FBI agents will be allowed to run amok through inner-city Riyadh, going hand-to-hand with the Saudi armed forces and indulging in a 20 minute shoot-out with "the bad guys"?

And last of all, are we seriously expected to believe that these G.I. Joe feebs manage to get through it all unscathed, thanks to their superior training, but that the Saudi cop manages to get himself killed?

(As a puzzling aside, why is it this film - and all its zillions of predecessors - rely so heavily on cops, to be the buddies-through-it-all? And why does one of them always have to die? Has anyone ever asked the cops - any cops - what they feel about it?)

If there is one redeeming feature about the film, it's the main title sequence. Interesting. Well done. And though I don't much care for its 60-second-TV-commercial approach to the history involved, it really did get my attention.

The main title, was good. But not good enough to warrant sitting through an hour and a half of a Jamie Foxx playing an intellectual Rambo in the heart of Riyadh.