Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bring it on pop

It may have been good or bad but it was familiar. As I watch 2008 fading in my rearview mirror, I feel like I am waving an old friend goodbye. Lots may happen in my life but not 2008. It's gone and will never come back. Time is a shrew you can't tame and this year I feel its passage more than ever. And now as I read my balance sheet for 2008, I am glad I am alive and so is everyone I love. I know I have been luckier than many and I am grateful for it. So here's to your health and happiness in 2009. Bring it on Father Time.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Art doesn't come easy

For some reason, Norman Maclean's words in A River Runs Through It, comes to me this morning. And I quote: All good things, trout as well as eternal salvation, come by grace and grace comes by art and art is not easy.
No sir, it doesn't come easy at all. Neither do words.

The inscrutable Japs

I know a smattering of Japanese, like I know a bit of German. If you have ever read Commando Comics, you would too. Achtung, Nicht Schiessen ... that's two German words for you and Aieeeeeee ... that's Japanese. Seriously.
The Japs, they are a fascinating race ... and so inscrutable and unique. I mean who would make an art of deforming plants or talk to electronic pets. You have to see Takeshi Kitano's Brother to understand a little more about how obsessively disciplined the Japanese are about everything, including violence and Jap Karma. Don't watch it if you don't have a stomach for graphic violence and you will not learn any Japanese because it is in English. Banzai, that's Japanese and it doesn't mean growing orange trees in flower pots ok.

Paradise city

Mumbai's scars are still raw. Was in the city for a day, the first time I have gone back since the attack. Everything seems normal till you bring it up with friends, cabbies, waiters, just about anyone. It's like stoking simmering ember, the rage and the tears well up again.
Went to watch some old friends in concert at Not Just Jazz By the Bay, just about spitting distance from the Trident. The band played Paradise City for Mumbai and I could see people with tears in their eyes. The song never made more sense to me and it never seemed clearer that it's going to take time to mend Mumbai's broken heart.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's torn at the shoulder

Famous Blue Raincoat plays in my head today. It is a Cohenesque day ... magical and melancholic in equal measure. There is something about this twilight stage which we call the end of the year. Never is the passage of time more stark than when a year calls it a night. It's a time to forgive, forget, hope, pray and Cohen. Famous Blue Raincoat plays in my head ...

What can I possibly say?
I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
I am glad you stood in my way ...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Top coppy

"Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?"
Ever since I watched Clint Eastwood growl those words, I have been sold on the badge and bullets genre. There is something about a good cop movie ... here are my favourite cops in no particular order.

Bud White: This was before he won an Oscar for wearing a short skirt in Gladiator. Russell Crowe as the brooding Bud White who doesn't always play by the book. White has a beef with creeps who abuse women and doesn't quite shy away from using violence to counter violence. LA Confidential is about good cops and bad cops against a setting of debauchery and stardust in tinsel town and Bud White is the toughest knuckle on the mean streets.

Frank Serpico: Sydney Lumet's masterpiece on corruption in the NYPD is one of the greatest cop movies ever. Al Pacino is Francisco Serpico, the ramrod straight cop, who exposes the corrupt underbelly of the force. The entire department turns against Serpico, leaving him hanging on to his life and sanity. Pacino, in one of his greatest roles, was described by a critic as "tiny terror".

Harry Callahan: "Go ahead, make my day," growls Harry Callahan, legs akimbo, hands ready to whip out that .44 magnum. Clint Eastwood, walked straight out of the Spaghetti Westerns and into the sewers of San Francisco as Dirty Harry, the original urban cowboy. Harry is an equal-opportunity bigot, a cop who bends the law to enforce it. Eastwood is rivetting as the narrow-eyed, tough talking gun-slinger.

Frank Bullitt: The uber cool Steve McQueen is Lt.Frank Bullitt in the most iconic cop movie of all. Set in 60s San Francisco, Bullitt has McQueen assigned to protect a Mafia squeal on whom the mob has taken out a hit. The movie features one of the greatest car chases ever and as the laconic Frank Bullitt, McQueen delivers a sparkling, alpha male presence.

Donnie Brasco: Johnny Depp was never more slicker than playing Joe Pistone aka Donnie Brasco the undercover cop who infiltrates the Bonano mob in Brooklyn. Depp is pitted against Pacino who plays Lefty Ruggiero a small time hood who is Brasco's entry into the mob. It's tough to outshine Pacino in a mob movie, but Depp does it effortlessly with plenty to spare.

Will have a worst cop movie list sometime ... stay tuned.

Friday, December 19, 2008

At the altar of dreams

The culvert where the road curves before going its merry way still stands. For you it's a block of concrete, for me it's the altar where a million dreams were laid out ... some fulfilled, some long shattered.
We spent many a teenage evening around it, wondering where life would take us. Would we be rich, would we find love, would we die trying. We were many, all in different stages of existential confusion. We smoked, argued, fought, won and lost our way to adulthood. The culvert stood mute witness to some boys turning men and some just bobbing with the tide. As I drive away from my childhood, I see a bunch of young boys settle down on the culvert, laughing, ribbing, dreaming. I watch them in my rearview mirror, new dreams being set on cold concrete.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Third eye blink

I am the eye in the sky
Looking at you
I can read your mind

Since life began in the Garden of Eden, man has been writing about the mystic beauty of the human eye. From Cleopatra to Bette Davis and across the high seas to Waheeda Rehman, those eyes have inspired hypnotic verse.
If two eyes didn't inspire enough, there is a third. In Hindu and Buddhist mythology, the enlightened ones had a divine third eye. Buddha has a third eye or the Urna, a symbol of wisdom; Shiva's third is the eye of destruction, when it opens it is apocalypse.
Interestingly, in Greek mythology, the third eye has a glint of evil. Cyclops, uneducated creature with an extra eye in the forehead, is a mean beast of immense strength and a flaky temper. You would have met some of his family in the LOTR flicks.
Conceding that mythology is as much fantasy as reality, it is still fascinating how cultures as diverse as Chinese and Greek, have references to the mythical third eye. Apparently, as late as the 60s, the flower children could connect with their third eye through a magic potion brewed out of the Beatles, LSD and good old fashioned whiskey. Don't try it at home.

Angels and demons

"If you kill off all my demons ... my angels might die too."

How frigging true Tennessee ...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Railroad freeze

Trans Siberian is a sinister rail movie, much like Hitchcock's Murder on the Orient Express but not quite the same vintage. However, this is not about the movie. There is a leg on the Trans Siberian Railway which connects Ulan Ude in Russia to the Chinese city of Jining. This leg is actually covered by the Trans Mongolian Railway and it cuts through some of the coldest and most desolate parts of the world.
Since the rail gauge in Russia is 1520 mm and the one in China is 1200 mm, the wheels of the rail carriages have to be physically changed at the border. Each carriage has to be physically hauled up and the wheels changed. It takes hours for this to be done while the passengers wait frozen in time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bullish on the Ox year

It's crawling towards that time of the year when you set your chin firmly and resolve to be less of an idiot next year. I usually fail hopelessly but I am not the type who gives up.

Here's my "get better or claim refund" agenda for 09. Terms and conditions apply.

Not hurl my remote control at the TV set when I see Arnab Goswami, Barkha Butt, Aishwariya Rai and other annoying people. For one, it doesn't hit them -- and TV sets -- I discovered, break when you throw things at it.

Not laugh at people who wear wigs. It's rude I realise and it must be tough to shampoo.

Also not laugh at fat people who jog on the streets. With practice they might get fast enough to catch you and paste you. Not safe.

Pick up one posh habit. Like become a posh environmentalist ... drink green tea, listen to some organic music that sounds like monkey mating calls.

Get rid of one bad habit ... like calling Karan Johar gay. They don't want him either, I am told.

And finally to find and take up one cause I genuinely believe in. I am thinking of the right to not pay tax if the Government can't ensure that I am safe in my own country.

Keep you posted.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sing it aloud Bobby

Bob Dylan's Someday Baby is No. 37 on Rolling Stones' Best singles of 2008 list. The alternate version of the track from Modern Times has climbed steadily to find a perch among the top 50 of the year. For the record, Modern Times, the album, had raced to No.1 on release in 2006.
And my point is?
My point is Dylan is just about a year younger than God. He has been America's rasping voice of unrest since 1959 and some. And he continues to write and sing about changing times and continues to teach people quarter his age a thing or two about writing music. There ain't no songwriter like Dylan and if there is one, I haven't heard him ... or her.
Don't hang up that harmonica Bob, coz the times they are a changing still and we need someone to sing it out to us.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lonely shade of grey

It's business as usual for the London weather Gods. It's cold and blustery and bleak here. The mood on the street is a dark shade of grey as well. Huddled outside the pubs, in the tubes, at the water cooler, the R word is being spoken in hushed tones. Recession is the flavour of the Christmas season.
The iconic Woolworth chain has gone bust, thirty thousand Woolies jobs are at risk. Unemployment is at its lowest, the Pound has lost ground against the Euro disrupting European holiday plans. Londoners are hoping for a better 2009 much like the rest of the world. Does winter turn into spring or summer? Right now, they will take anything but the cold and lonely winter.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The right to die

I watched it on Sky, the controversial and highly disturbing documentary on assisted suicide. Craig Ewart decided the pain was too much after a long and unsuccessful battle with motor neuron disease. The ailment left him dependent on his family for things most of us don't even notice like eating and breathing.
Craig didn't want to live and it is illegal to take your own life in the UK, even for the lifeless. So Craig persuaded his family to cross over to Switzerland where the Dignitas Clinic has been helping terminally ill people like Craig end their misery. A lethal dose of barbiturates, which Craig had to consume himself (with help, of course), and it was all over.
The jury is still out on the right of terminally ill patients to take their own lives. Debbie Prudy, who is in a hopeless stage of multiple sclerosis, is waging a public battle with the Director of Public Prosecutions in the UK. She wants to end her life at the Dignitas clinic but doesn't want her husband prosecuted because it is a crime in the UK to aid or abet suicide. Her Cuban husband Oman Poente knows it is a criminal offence but is willing to sacrifice his life to ease his wife's pain. It's all too sad.
The tragedy is multiple sclerosis has not just claimed Prudy, it has claimed her husband's life too. More important, it's not a choice between life and death, it's a choice between death and suffering ... and death. Euthanasia is an individual's right to freedom from a life of misery. I believe it is as sacred as the right to live happily.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Us and Them

Who knows which is which ... and who is who ...

What use of securing your home with the sturdiest lock if the thief is hiding inside. Mighty Caesar could not have been felled without Brutus ... the Mumbai massacre couldn't have happened without inside help.
Securing this country needs more than guns and bullet proof vests. A country is about its people and we are not a united lot. Over the past few days, I have heard educated, worldly wise people whispering how "they" should be sent back to Pakistan. That's a whisper tied to a powder keg, waiting for someone to light a fuse.
Terrorism feeds off poverty and ignorance much more than it does on blind faith. The more we alienate minorities in our country, more hands we line up to carry guns. We need to educate and embrace. We need to make them believe they are us. It's just a small minority who are sitting on a malnourished fence uncertain of which side they belong. We need to reach out and help them.
And by we, I mean, people who still have the ability to reason.

PS: Listen son, said the man with the gun..There's room for you inside.

Calling Alanis - Part II

My friend Deena, no relation to Alanis, has got me thinking of irony again. So, isn't it ironic then Alanis that the martyr cops of the Mumbai mayhem get Rs 5,00,000 only as compensation for firing bullets at terrrorists and stopping a few with their bodies. Vilasrao "tour operator" Deshmukh has pegged the value of their lives at 5 measly lakhs. But that's not the point Deena was trying to make. A multiplicity of State Governments fell over each other to put together Rs 2 crore to reward Abhinav Bhindra for shooting at concentric circles that couldn't fire back. Tour operatorji himself cut Bindra a cheque for a cool 10 lakhs. Oh no sir, I am not grudging Bindra his money. All I am saying to my friends Alanis and Deena ... it's so ironic no.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Isn't it ironic

Isn't it ironic Alanis that in one of the earliest cradles of civilisation man is now intent on ending civilisation in the name of God. The good Pakistanis and the bad ones, good Indians and the bad ones, we all came from the dirt of the Indus valley. Chances are we will mingle in the dust of chordite if we do not see reason soon enough. Isn't it ironic Alanis that we slept through our history lessons. Who has ever won a war for God or man?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Play on ye piper

Needed a distraction from the macabre happenings in Mumbai so went along to watch The Piper and the Princess in concert. On a chilly Bangalore night, Ian Anderson took me to a better place coaxing a mix of Celtic, folk, rock and fusion music from that magical pipe.
It was just heavenly to be at peace with the world and its people. I realised more than ever, how music can save our mortal souls. As Anderson and Anoushka launched an interplay of Western folk strains and Indian classical ragas, it was easy to believe why Louis Armstrong said it is a wonderful world.
It's by no means the best concert I have seen but it will perhaps remain the most meaningful. It's all up to us really, to be good or evil. For two hours, under a twinkling winter sky, I regained my faith in the inherent goodness of people. God bless you Ian Anderson, play on ye piper.

PS: Friends of mine managed to smuggle into the concert bottles of alcohol and packets of cigarettes without raising a sweat. The nation is on high security alert indeed.

Idiot-boxed out

I am idiot-boxed out. I don't have the will or the strength to sit through Messrs. Barkha, Arnab and Hysteria company. I am horrified at their ability to get distracted by every little sideshow of the tragedy. Our TV channels have been pouncing on every quote, misquote or in the case of the Thackerays no quote.
They have lost all sense of perspective or focus in a frenzied effort to squeeze this tragedy of every ounce of sensationalism. Do we really care if Ramgopal Varma was sitting in Deshmukh's car or his lap? Do we really care what some half-wit BJP leader feels about urbane protestors? What we want to know is what is being done to bring the pupeteers of this ghastly crime to book and what is being done to protect us from future attacks. That will do for now Barkha; you can blow out the candle, thank you.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Don't back off now

Like many moderates, I have always believed that you cannot vilify a nation for the actions of a misguided few. But you have to draw the line somewhere and something stronger than the line of control. We have a ceasefire at the border but they are now inside the country attacking our homes. The Pakistan government claims terror is not State-sponsored but the terror camps are definitely based in that country with or without State patronage.
And as long as these camps exist in Pakistan, we should take an uncompromising position against it. Sure, all Pakistanis are not terrorists but we should take no chances, it's our lives at stake here. We should severe all diplomatic, sporting and trade ties with Pakistan till they are willing to take a stand. Tough times call for tough measures.
Let's not fire a shot in anger but let's not back off either. Let's stop talking till they can speak the truth. It's about time. Let them not feed off our indifference or riches: No trade, no talks, no ICL or IPL booty, no mercy.

Stuck in the Mumbai moment

I am stuck in the Mumbai moment. I can't move on. I feel rage but I don't quite know how to channelise that. The zealots have not just hit Mumbai, they have hit at the heart of freedom. For a philosophy that gives women no rights, to burn down a city where women can move around safely, might be an irrepressible urge. A city where dreams can be fulfilled is evil to people whose own dreams have been interred in hatred.
I really don't know where I am going with this diatribe, but I feel as much anger towards the apathy of our own. Faces I never ever want to see again include:
R R Patil: For the singlemost pathetic, insensitive and foolish statement I have ever heard in my life. I would wring his ugly, illiterate neck if I could.
Shobhaa De: All dolled up, eyebrows done to perfection, pearl necklace and voice quivering, raging "enough is enough." Did you practice those lines at the salon? So, can you do something about it? Because you can.
Arnab Goswami: If there is a worse television anchor in the world (Barkha comes a close second), I will watch Times Now all my life as punishment. Arnab, brazenly pimping the exclusives that his channel managed, is more pathetic than our coastal security.
Somebody tell me what to do because I don't feel like moving on. It's affected me more than I thought it would. Because what has happened in Mumbai is my problem.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mumbai or Beirut

How long will our leaders hide behind the spirit of Mumbai? And how long will they pass that bloodied buck. Everyone is blaming everyone else, Modi is blaming Manmohan who is blaming intelligence failure. And they are all collectively blaming Pakistan. I feel ashamed of our leaders whose salaries I pay with my taxes. These jokers talk of transforming India. Yeah, they have successfully transformed Mumbai into Beirut. Shame on you incompetent fools.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Look ma, the cops are fat

Mumbai continues to be held hostage. I have never watched more television in my life than I have over the last 30-odd hours. The TV screens are full of combat troops in various uniforms ... the blue fatigues of the Rapid Action Force, the olive green battle fatigues of the army, the black jumpers of the elite National Security Guard and the khaki of the Mumbai police.
When you watch these men in Khaki, you get a sense of why it is so easy for a bunch of 20-odd kids to hold a country to ransom. The Mumbai police looks listless, scared and well fed on petty bribes. They look in no shape, physically or mentally, to combat well-trained, brainwashed militants. A photographer friend who was on location at one of the terror-hit venues in Mumbai said the cops were as scared and clueless as the public when the militants stuck.
How do these poor sods in khaki protect a teeming megapolis of 20 million people and a 100 million hiding places. This certainly is not the last time Mumbai is going to be hit. Scary.

PS: I am told India's most important city does not have a company of NSG posted there permanently, they had to be flown in. Smart.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Terror has a chocolate face

I saw the face of terror on television today. He didn't look anything like Osama or sundry rabid mullahs on Hollywood terror flicks. He was floppy haired, wore a black tee and cargos and looked like any other teenager hanging out at a city mall. There was just the small matter of an Ak-47 he was slinging.
We have learned to live with bomb blasts and the odd riot but I don't think we have seen anything as scary as this. Terrorists come in from the high seas on boats, dock at the Gateway of India and take over high-security hotels and clean out top Mumbai cops. In between they race through the streets firing at people in restaurants and outside cinema halls. It's all too simple and all too eerie for comfort.
Mumbai's greatness is its weakness. It's been hit in the gut again but having lived there a significant part of my life I know it won't buckle or budge. Life will go on but the next time you are out watch out for floppy haired boys with dangerous toys. Terror has a chocolate face now.

Top of the movie charts

Jean Dominique Bauby has "locked-in syndrome". In English, it means he is completely paralysed except for one eye. He can blink, that's about that, thank you. However, he can think, imagine, hear and of course see half of everything.
Jean is the Editor of fashion magazine Elle, in his mid-40s and now comatose. The nasty ones in fashion circles say "Jean is a vegetable."
"What sort of a vegetable," Jean wonders, "a carrot?" Ironical, sad, brave and totally rivetting, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly has stormed into the Top 5 of my all time favourite movies. And believe me that's an exclusive club.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bikini bond

There was a time when James Bond movies meant a gorgeous Honey Ryder rising from the Carribean sea in a bikini. Now, a wet James Bond rises from the sea in a bikini, Proteinex-abs and all. Sigh, how the mighty have fallen.
My friend Dipta has written a solemn treatise on the death of Bond as we know him. Read it here: http://diptakirti.blogspot.com/2008/11/james-bond-rip.html
And don't laugh, it's not funny ok.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Kamikaze firefly

I thought moths were not very bright till I saw the Kamikaze firefly. It was a rivetting sight, the firefly glided into my darkened apartment, like an aircraft on a sortie in hostile skies. It fluttered and twinkled in abandon before Lucifer whispered in its ears. Without warning, it dived straight into the waiting warmth of a solitary candle. Burning firefly in molten wax. Stupid insect.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wintry sundries

I like the winter. The air is crisper, the days are shorter, sleep is sweeter and most of humanity is hidden under layers of clothing which is a delightful thing.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Smile Obama weep Obama

Obama has been smiling a lot on television. I just don't get it. Americans are getting fatter and their wallets thinner, the globe is a hot plate, there is nothing left in Iraq or Afghanistan to bomb and he can't even bring back jobs from India because they have all been fired. That's a messy world you have inherited my friend. He can't even be stupid, Dubya has exhausted the world's stupidity. Tough eh?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

To the camera born

If anyone was born to act, it's Matthew Carter. In case you have been hiding under a rock with sunglasses on, Carter is Juno's ultrasound baby. Always watch the credit roll of a movie: Old jungle saying.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A tale of two movies

The Visitor is an exceptional film. A film without big moments, theatrics or even great surprises, but it takes you to a very warm place. Can't tell you much without giving it all away but it's about a near-depressive professor with a very unremarkable existence who redisovers a lost rhythm through the eyes of two unwanted guests ... a Syrian drummer and his Senegalese girlfriend. Rent it, steal it, pirate it ... own it.
And then I put myself through Madhur Bhandarkar's Fashion. The film has more cliches than a cricket commentator's vocab and more potholes in the plot than a Bangalore road. Bhandarkar is obviously much more at home in Chandni Bar than in the trippy underbelly of high fashion. It shows.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ashes to gold dust

I once found myself sitting across a table from Rajesh Khanna in an airline lounge in Mumbai. The old man in the black kurta looked defeated by age, harsh lights and whiskey. I couldn't help but gawk. Here was a man, who according to my mom and aunts, had an entire generation of women eating out of his hands. He didn't look like much of a lady killer to me, he looked half dead. I could never bear to tell the women in my family that their hero aged and rotted like the rest of us.
There is something about the lives of role models whose lives run parallel to yours. Their fragility reminds you of the transience of everything ... fame, beauty, youth, life. As I watched Anil Kumble doff his cap to the TV cameras in farewell, it brought back a flood of memories, not just Kumble's life but my own. I can't remember watching cricket without Kumble playing. He has been there forever, like me. And now he's gone. One day Sachin will go too. Ashes to gold dust.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Gene blues

If my parents had decided to have me a year earlier or a year later or even a month later would I have been the same person? Would I have looked the same, behaved the same?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy whatever

We celebrate like no other. Bunch of nice people down the road have been setting off crackers well past midnight, five nights in a row now. I should remember to send them some sweets for keeping me and most of the neighbourhood awake all week. Unfortunately, other nice people haven't thought of taking out long processions that create really cute traffic snarls. Diwali is a no-procession festival. Damn. We celebrate like no other ... really ... because the prime objective of our celebration must be to harrass others. Celebration has to be a loud, vulgar public display of boorishness. Happy Diwali, can't wait for the next one.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hope I never see the rain

This one is for the rain worshippers. I hate rain. I have always associated rain with a lack of freedom. When I was a kid, rain meant staying indoors. The playground would be soggy, my friends would be locked up in their homes. It was like being in prison, watching the rain through the window.
I don't know what's so nice about rain in the city. It just washes all the squalor from the underbelly and displays it on the street. The traffic crawls, the city stinks, the clothes don't dry, the drains get clogged, epidemics break out. What's so cute about that?
Most people who claim to love the rain don't have a good enough reason to love it. Yeah, the rain is great when you have a little cottage by a gurgling brook like they describe in the 50s novels, not much fun in Dadar or Parel. Yeah?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Marbles for mobiles

A twelve-year-old with a 1000-watt mouth, chattering into a 25k mobile phone. I can hear the whirr in my head as my mind furiously rewinds to me at twelve. Not much joy there, no mobile phones, no PSP3, no bit role on reality TV either. In fact, I owned nothing at fourteen other than some free trouble.
I also owned shiny marbles won at hard fought contests on the road, tadpoles tucked away in jam bottles, a slingshot traded for comic books I had gotten bored with and an assortment of empty cigarette packs. Would I have traded my wealth for a mobile phone? Not a chance in hell because a fight-unto-death marbles contest is cooler than any mobile phone ever made.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Free fall into empty space

Take off the safety jacket, jump into the deep end. Live. How sanitised our lives have become with the fixed deposits and insurance policies. We live at the epicentre of paranoia, so obsessed with saving for a rainy day that we don't notice the rain. So what if the stock markets crashed, no body died. So what if money is difficult to come by, we managed with none some years ago. What's the big deal with this job anyway, any monkey with half a brain can do mine. So why am I special? Why have I always been encouraged to chase an Indian dream of a roof over my head and gold in my locker. It's made me an educated vegetable. I need to take that plunge, that free fall into empty space.

Anger raj

Raj Thackeray wants to be a benevolent despot on the lines of his infamous uncle,the son of the soil who marks his territory by pissing on intruders. When his uncle launched a campaign of hatred and violence against ethnic minorities in Maharashtra, he received the tacit support of a local populace that was clinging to any straw that promised to paddle them to a better life. That was the India of the 60s, opportunities were rare and you needed a licence from the Government to flush your toilet.
This is 2008. Raj, like our Bollywood film-makers, is rehashing a 60s plot and serving it to a multiplex audience. It's even more retrogade than Himesh Bhai's Karzzz. One of Raj's key gripes is he is not being taken more seriously. Fact is, he is not bereft of ideas. Unfortunately, most of his sensible plans for Maharashtra are being hidden under layers of xenophobia. It will work best for everyone, other than the stupid TV channels of course, if he takes a more inclusive approach to his politics. Anger, like water, can be channelised to construct or destruct and Raj's anger can still be useful. Because despotic he may be, but there is something about Raj Thackeray.

Monday, October 20, 2008

хорошая ночь, удача

I made a new friend at a bar in Munich last week. It was a big night for Sasha, was his wife's birthday, and he was high on happiness and a barrel of vodka. Sasha insisted we have a drink to celebrate with him. He was prepared to buy us the bar though he had met us only about 30 seconds ago when he was picking himself off the ground having toppled over.
We didn't want to rain on his parade, so we agreed to let him buy a round. Turned out to be a mistake since his idea of a round was a bottle of vodka each to be diluted with nothing but love. I managed to pour most of my vodka back into his glass during one of his many trips to the floor.
Sasha came from kazhakstan and sold mountain bikes in Germany. He couldn't quite place where India was but he seemed happy enough to be friends with me. We were one big happy family at the bar till my colleague called him Borat. Sasha didn't speak much English but he didn't like the Borat thing. No sir, he didn't. After a few menacing words in Russian, he sulked in the corner. His wife finally managed to drag him out of the bar but Sasha was upset, I could tell. The friendliness had been replaced by a cold menace.
Before he stumbled out, he dropped his business card on the table. Jorge Sternberg, it said. Dodgy. Never say no when a Russian offers you vodka, they say, and never ever ever mess with Russians or vodka. Walking back to my hotel, hunched in the cold Munich rain, I figured Borat wasn't a good idea. It was a chilly night.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Us and them

Every time I travel to any part of the world, I run into Indians. That's hardly meant to shock considering our impressive numbers. But there is a pattern to these expatriates. Indians blend into most landscapes rather comfortably, so much so that they often become more local than the weather.
I find it amusing to watch them react to other traveling Indians. They can always tell you are a visitor and they are not sure how to react to you. Often, they are almost scared to display any kind of camraderie lest their loyalty to their adopted country be questioned.
So while a Spaniard or a German always has a smile and a nod when they meet you at a bar or in the lift, the Indian either puts on a superior smirk or avoids any kind of eye contact. It almost always amuses me enough to start up a conversation which almost always ends abruptly. But I won't stop trying, it's too much fun.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


There is a part deep inside you that is untouched, uncorrupted and pristine. It can't be tempted with diamonds or fat bonuses, can't be scared with cancer or cleansed with designer creams. It's there, just there, that you feel the unbearable pain of loss. The white coats haven't found a balm for it yet.

Is the devil left handed?

Did Saurav dance with the devil or is he the devil himself? The television channels have been whipping up conspiracy theories with Jason Bournish fervour. Did he or didn't he?
Does it matter really? Is it too much for the battle-scarred warrior to ask for a semi-dignified exit? The breast-thumpers say Indian cricket should not carry any passengers anymore and it's foolishy sentimental to let him play four tests against the World Champions. Amen. But is there someone so bright knocking on Indian cricket's door to deny Saurav twenty days under the sun? I doubt it.
Let the man play. He's done enough to book his last passage into the sunset.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Day tripper

It's the kind of day that needs to be eaten in little warm helpings with generous dollops of butter. It's a day to dust the sepia catalog and bask in all the lovely things that have happened to you. It's a U2esque beautiful beautiful day.

Fair and lowly

If you go by the number of fairness cream commercials on television, you get a fair idea of how proud we are of who we are. There is a whole industry out there that promises to make us white and superior at the price of a tube of cream. Check any matrimonial ad and it's a fair Gujarati or a fair Brahmin girl. Even our movies and music refer to beauty as "gori".
To be dark skinned is a class thing as much as a caste thing. In India's dark ages, dark skin was associated with the lower castes but now, in more evolved times, it's almost a handicap. I routinely come across people dismissing other Indians as "black" like it's some disease. We simply are the most racist people in the world because we persecute our own on degrees of darkness. No proud African will ever use fairness cream to become white. Neither should we, really.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Smoke signals

In a country where a man's life costs less than his birth certificate, an anti-smoking crusade is hilarious. They care for our lungs, they say. Ha, I say. Go get a real job Mr.Minister.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Papa don't teach

Teach your children well
Their father's hell
Did slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The one they pick's
The one you'll know by

What will we teach our children? Not to help the man who has dropped his bag because it may be a bomb that he wanted to drop. Not to smile at the stranger in the bus because he might be a paedophile. We will teach them to be scared of a monstrous world that we created for them. Our children will grow up caged and insulated because we looked away when they burnt churches in India or bombed babies in Beirut. We have lost the right to teach.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dream deposit

I take the dream out of my locker, dust it and put it away for a rainy day. I might have some use for it someday when I am no longer scared of it. I am not sure if dreams come with an expiry date but I am certain this one won't die. Almost.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

747 to yesterday

I used to be fascinated by airplanes. Mysterious fireflies racing through an inky small city sky. The unmistakable roar of the engines, full of promise of faraway lands. I could tell them from a mnemonic ... Air France to Paris, BA to London. I was envious of these travelers of the night on their way to unknown lands. How excited they must be. Life is a romantic riot when you are a little boy; miles to fly before I sleep.
When did it all change. I hate aircraft food now. The thought of spending 10 cigarette-less hours in a deodorized cabin with some crashing bore who snores is as romantic as filing tax. Miles to fly makes me weep.
But even now when I am woken up from my sleep by the roar of an aircraft, it takes me back to a better place. I wonder where they are headed. How many serial snores on that BA 118 to Heathrow?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Play on ye piper

My heroes have always been from the Byzanite era. Something to do with my reluctance to value the present. The problem with having ageing heroes is that they die sooner than you think. I grew up listening to the magic of his rich keyboard strains. If anyone defined the sound of art rock, it was him. Rick Wright is gone now. A piper at the gates of dawn, how appropriate.


A life of love and longing
blood stains in the drain

Hopes, dreams and defeat
concur in a hopeless wail

Takes so much to give life
takes so little to erase

You kill for an angry God
when he needs no help

Monday, September 15, 2008

For whom the drum beats

I can hear the drum beats knifing through the raven night. It's a haunting, questioning, persistent beat. It perches on my ear and whispers to my heart. It tells me I am running out of sand. My life, with its contradictions and abstractions, education and ignorance, needs to find a signature. I need to make one tiny difference for all the oxygen and patience I have used up. I can hear it call out to me from the distance. Just one tiny difference.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The king is dead. Long live the king

They said Fedex don't stop at no Grand Slam station no more. They said underwear-tugging Spanish Popeye had destroyed his soul and his forehand. But champions don't fade away, they crash or burn. For the moment, the flame burns even if it's just a mellow orange. And so when Fedex rolls into the hard courts of Melbourne on steel wheels and a prayer, we hope that there is some magic left in that wand. Amen.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bahadur the brave

Long before Star Gold made Batman (or was it Spider Man) speak Hindi, India had its own super hero. No, don't say Hanu Man, that's a bad joke and a capital offence in the court of the VHP. I am talking Bahadur. The super hero in the orange Fabindia kurta and the bad 70s Jeetendra haircut.
Bahadur, founder of the Citizens Security Force (CSF) in dacoit-infested Jaigarh, is a crime fighter with no super powers. He hides his underwear under his trousers and battles real dacoits. No goblins and jokers for Bahadur.
He is strong, brave, clever and named after my security guard. Fact is, all of the characters in Bahadur comics are imaginatively named. Mukhiya is the village headman, Inspector Vishal is the cop, Shaitan Singh is the daaku and Bela is his Lara Croftish belle. Can't understand why his dog is called Chamiya, but then super heroes think differently no.
Bahadur saw me through many mathematics classes. Was easy to hide his orange kurta under a big math book cover and disappear into a world where he fought moustachioed dacoits in the Chambal and vanquished them. This one's for you Bahadur.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Little red bicycle

I was ten when the shiny red bicycle in the shop window claimed me. I was obsessed with it. Every day I would check on the bike, hoping they hadn't taken it away from me, like it was the last bike on earth. But my dad wouldn't buy it for me. I couldn't have everything I wanted and I had to learn that early, was his answer to my persistent whimpering. And one day it was gone.
I am a little older than 10 now and I can buy many shiny red bikes but I have no use for them and they have no use for me. The little red bike refuses to set me free.

Monday, August 25, 2008

All aboard the night train

The violent rocking that lulled you into sleep eases into a weary hiss and you wake up to the smells and sounds of the railway station. You weave your way past dreams, snores and runaway bags on to solid ground. The railway station, at night, has a life of its own, like an alert sentry in a groggy world.
You smell the poisoned air, you drink sickeningly sweet tea in reused plastic cups, you stretch numb limbs. You observe humanity in a maddening hurry to clamber aboard. Then you hear the bell toll and the warning horn. You stay in rhythm with the clanging steel till you feel the earth move under your feet. You watch the lights of the station receding and the warm glow of the sleeping town flashing past. You sink back into the comfortable darkness. You have crossed another milestone without pausing to wonder. Your eyes are riveted on the destination.

Money for nothing

I want lots of easy money without robbing a bank or selling my kidneys. I want to talk rubbish all day and I want the world to listen. I want to sit in airconditioned comfort and get fat while the others slog it out in the sun. I want to be a cricket commentator my sweet lord. Pretty please.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The city breathes

The next time you wake up in the heart of the night, listen carefully to the city breathe. The reassuring buzz of collective snoring, the creaking of weary bones, the sighs that slip out between a toss and a turn. Listen to its heartbeat. Listen in on its dreams. Breathe with it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rainy day blues

The neon lights blaze
a radio blares
Rain beats a staccato
on the hood of a car
I pause at the window
hunched against the sleet
The warm aroma of tea
the harshness of light
The jukebox plays
a kettle sings
The heart remembers
those little things

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Give me a D

It's a brooding darkness, even the stars seem jaded and in need of a wash. I feel one with the still of the night. Silvery smoke rings coaxed out from my burdened lung float up in orderly unison. My fingers find the steel strings, the sweet twang of a Dmajor. Everything seems lighter. Will music save my mortal soul.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

shooting stars

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (RBI) has announced that it will reward Abhinav Bindra for bringing home a gold medal. Sweet. In return, will you please shoot some of our ageing cricket superstars in the bum and put them out to pasture, Abhinav? Think about it ok.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hell's matinee

I am scared. I think I will go to hell and they will force me to watch Om Shanti Om every day. Good lord, I promise not to throw stones at dogs and push fat people down the stairs. I will not fudge my Income Tax and not make Karan Johar jokes as well. Please lord, not that movie.


Do you ever think of that girl on the bus? The one with the braces who smiled at you just before the bus drove away. And you waited at the bus stop for days after, hoping she would come by again, and she never did.
Do you ever think of what could have possibly happened? That she may have grown up to be a rabbit-cooking psycho or Mayawati. That she may have forced you to listen to Britney Spears and eat dog biscuits all your life. Possibility is such a delicious word.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sole propriety

I have been trying to put my best foot forward all day. And all people have done is step on it. Kind of pissing off, having to walk with dirty shoes and a bruised soul. What I need is Edward Scissortoes shoes. You step on my foot again and I am going to borrow your toes my friend. No violence, my foot.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Beijing bytes

I am so excited about the chopsuey Olympics. Can't wait to see the protestors getting beaten up by Shaolin cops. Do they know kung fu, I wonder? I am super excited about the Indian contingent too. They were all dressed like the extras in Monsoon Wedding. Cute. Would have been nice for Lee and Hesh to have done a chest bump in the middle of the ceremony. And I wonder if Shah Rukh is in Beijing to promote his new movie?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Water con

"An elegant velvet character when served at room temperature."
That's Australian for water. Kable's, a restaurant in Sydney, is sexing up water. The Kable's menu offers 20 types of water, with descriptions that would shame the most pretentious vintage. For the discerning water drinker, you have variants that you can sip or have by the mouthfull. That's not all. According to the restaurant, you can match a mouth feel of the water to the mouth feel of the food.
What next? I am thinking Cholera-flavoured water in Mumbai to be sold to tourists for an authentic Indian experience. Sir, would you like to try our house special, the gastroentritis vintage?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sense and sensibility

I am waiting for wisdom, not just a tooth, but the whole beast. I need one last waltz with wisdom before the white coats carry me away. Every time I walk into a glass door, I think it has arrived with that bump in my head. But it has not. I will wait for wisdom like Florentina Ariza waited for Fermina Daza. It will be mine one day, give or take a few hundred bumps.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Mud on the dancefloor

My mama don't dance and my daddy don't rock and roll.
Because the cops didn't let them dance when they were young.
Bangalore's kids will grow up to sing this retarded verse twenty years from now because a retarded government is driving this city into an antiseptic age.
The Disco Nazis are out on the street, making sure young people in this city have no fun. First it was a 11 pm lights-out diktat, now it's no dancing and no live music. I am no nightclub faithful but this medieval law goes against a person's fundamental right to have legal fun.
And just what are these jokers trying to control. Is it our collective morality? Go catch those guys who are planting bombs. Immorality is an evil we can live with, life is something we can't live without.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Waiting for rain

The raindrop perches on my window sill, pauses a minute to ponder, and then topples silently on to the ground, mingling with the earth. In no time, another litle drop takes its position. And then I see them, they are all around, on the leaves, on the trees, hanging from my brow. It's a battlefield of raindrops, crawling into their earthern bunkers after a happy assault. Up in rain country, thunder claps in glee, announcing a fresh formation. The drops shudder and fall in quick succession, making way for the new. It's mesmerising, waiting for the rain.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Beautiful myth

How do you build a myth? To begin with, you can't have colour photographs of it. It helps if the myth is dead, like Madhubala is. It's kind of rude to call Madhubala a myth but it's ruder to call her ordinary. I was watching Howrah Bridge the other night, and I couldn't help but think that Madhubala's beauty is such a romantic notion. Sure, she was pretty but there have been better. Unfortunately, the better ones didn't live in the black and white era and didn't die tragically. It's those damn historians who have made us believe that all good things are either in museums or dead. My vote for Madhuri Dixit any day.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dud bomb

Our newspapers find creative ways to sound idiotic. Today, I woke up to a report on how RGV's Contract inspired the recent bombings across the country. The genius who wrote that should be locked up in some cave in Afghanistan with Osama's rabid donkey for company.
Every bomb that RGV has tried to build since Urmila has been a dud, including Antara Mali and Nisha Kothari. Yes, he should be dispatched to the same cave for remaking Sholay but holding him responsible for inspiring terrorism is giving him too much credit.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Green eyes glowing in the dark

She used to seek shelter in the portals of the school down the road from where I lived. She had three mongrels, a cat and her insanity for company. I was five years old and believed in stories of witches with evil green eyes, who would eat up little boys who didn't do their homework.
I always wondered where she wandered off during the day, but come twilight and she would be back on the verandah of my school. The school was at the end of a desolate lane which I had to cross during my daily routine of running errands for my mum. I would try and cross the school as fast as I could run, taking great care not to look at the witch with the green eyes. Come to think of it, I never looked her in the eye, it was just what the other kids made me believe.
It was my first real experience with fear. I had to work on it. I had to will myself to walk slower when I crossed the witch's lair. I can't remember if I completely conquered the demons in my five-year-old head but I did stop looking under my bed. I don't believe in ghost stories anymore. But there was a time, when I used to see green eyes glowing in the dark.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Go play

No body wants to go to Pakistan. Not Botham's ma-in-law, not the Aussie cricketers, not even Sunny Deol. It's a scary place, straight out of The Mighty Heart, though that was Pune masquerading as Karachi.
I think our fear is making this world a scarier place. People do go about the business of living in Pakistan. Every white man who steps off a plan is not abducted and butchered and made a movie out of. Bombs do go off in other places of the world as well. By refusing to travel to Pakistan for the Champions Trophy, our big, brave heroes are endorsing a diabolic cause. Fear is the key weapon for terrorism, the more fear we show, the stronger they get.
More than anyone else, sportsmen have got to show the way. That they are above politics, that they are winners, that some cowards with bombs can't kill their spirit. Go play, for the love of life.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The moment hasn't passed

I stand still in the middle of the city. Blazing neons, blaring horns, the cackle of people in the business of living. I wait for the flash in my head. It crackles but doesn't combust. Some other day, perhaps. I know it will come. The moment.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cast me in stone

If you had to inscribe your life on your own tombstone, what would it be? I reckon it would be the most evolved form of advertising, writing your own life's copy for posterity.
Would you be honest though?

Star gazing

When we were young, Sanjana and I liked watching the stars. It cost us five bucks apiece to buy tickets at the planetarium. It was absolutely magical, watching the stars in a rum-drenched haze.
Was her name Sangita I wonder.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Prayer for the living

God give me the courage
to sleep at work
God give me the wisdom
to change stapler pins
God give me the patience
to last commercial breaks (without killing myself)
God give me the strength
to finish that last drink
God give me foresight
to find empty parking spaces
God give me the generosity
to pay my credit card bills
God be kind
send me a black BMW with beige leather seats (and an oil well)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Runaway purple bus

I am on the purple bus to heaven. We take a left on Mahatma Gandhi Road and hurtle through Nelson Mandela promenade. Good People's square is lined with orange trees and twinkling ferry lights.
We stop at the intersection. Which way to heaven now? Should we follow the great unwashed or do we just follow the pink cadillac.
I ask my neighbour. "Go to hell," he says.
I look around. The purple bus is moving but it has no driver. I am headed to hell in a headless bus.
Damn, it's the vodka.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bloody old men

I want to go back to being fourteen, meet Paul McArtney in school, and form The Beatles. This time around, I would even spell it right and make sure it's Yoko who gets shot.
It's annoying me today, all those missed buses. I need some rum and some compassion. It's not my fault that all the good things were invented before I was born, yeah, even Old Monk.
They didn't leave anything for me to discover, invent or kill.
It's not that I am not bright or anything.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Six string muse

I wish I could play guitar like Gilmour. Watching him play is a spiritual experience, pure and primal. I would give an arm and a leg to play like that. On second thoughts, leg would do, little difficult to play without an arm no.

And the awards suck

Rolling Stones is out with its list of 100 greatest guitar songs. Reinforces my theory that lists suck, no matter who does it, even RS.
100 greatest guitar songs does not feature Black Dog by Led Zeppelin, nothing from Deep Purple, no Hey You or Wish you Were Here from Floyd, no Aqua Lung from Tull and most shockingly no All Along the Watch Tower.
I agree you can't have more than 100 songs in a list of 100, so some gems will be left out but you can't miss the obvious. Not you revered RS.
In an earlier list, Rolling Stone had voted for Like a Rolling Stone as the greatest song ever. Even Dylan would agree he has written better songs than that.
In case you still want to trawl that list, knock yourself out at: http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/20947527/page/41
PS: Like a Rolling Stone is the Rolling Stone mag's greatest song:) Providence?

Monday, July 14, 2008

So long, Asif

People who consume banned substances, shouldn't pee into bottles. Eh, Asif? His ability to get nailed every time he is up to mischief almost matches his ability to nail perfectly good batsmen.
So long, Asif. What a talent. What a monumental idiot.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Here and now

Right now, the earth is revolving around its axis. I sure hope so. Right now, someone is looking for Elvis Presely. I hope he is dead, he must be dreadfully old and fat by now. There are others looking for Subhash Chandra Bose; they have a lot of time in Kolkotta.
Right now, those two are tossing names in the air for their new-born. All the good baby names have been reserved for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Right now Shah Rukh is wondering if he should buy a dog. It's more sensible than buying a team. It's easier to name for sure.
Right now, people are asleep in Los Angeles. Others are dreaming a pure vegetarian American dream in Bangalore. Brinjal burgers and Linux. Yummy.
Right now, the truth about Aarushi is being buried under layers of Noida dust. Right now, the devil is scouting for disciples while God is away in China for the Olympics.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A few clever men

Look ma, they are seeding clouds over the lakes to create rain. They are making babies in test tubes. Out there in Dubai, they are creating snow indoors when it's 50 degrees out on the tarmac.
My question then ma is why can't we let these clever men run nations. Surely, clever men can find peace on earth without bombing babies and shooting monks. Come to think of it, they could teach our batsmen to read Ajantha Mendis too.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

It's about time

Time seems to be stuck in peak hour traffic today. I want to go out there and do something. Find an oil well in my backyard, find a cure for congenital stupidity or mirrors that make fat people look fatter.
I could set up a call center for God but he is just a thought I think, like Kaiser Soze. The smartest thing he did was to make you believe he exists.
But that's not the point. The point is I need to do something useful today. Do aliens like Coca Cola I wonder. I must find out.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Boys will be ... different

He is nine. Lugs a 4-kilogram haversack to school, then lugs it to tuition classes. He loves football but drags a cricket kit to the ground, perfecting the art of keeping the head still, toes pointing in the direction of the ball. His father knows Banerjees don't get paid as much as Dhonis.
He is a good boy, he doesn't eat on the road because mummy says cholera is bad, he plays with his bowl of healthy veggies instead. He eats his calcium and protein supplements on time. He drinks filtered water and doesn't mess about in muddy puddles. He doesn't own a slingshot because there are no trees and the mangoes come in cases.
He has never stepped into a library, they let him watch TV. He doesn't fight with other boys, he has a PlayStation 3. He will never pick a six-string, he has a computer, he will be a DJ.
Aaah, the joy of growing up in malls.

PS: He doesn't have dirty finger nails. Mummy and him have pedicures regularly.

A Rickshaw named Bulbul

It's our chariot with purple grapes and twinkling lights. On its nose hangs a resigned disk of songs forgotten. It has weary creases on its seat and dark secrets in its heart.
Let us, you and I, ride through these memory lanes, in a rickshaw named Bulbul.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Evil dead

The evil that men do lives after them
the good is oft interred with their bones ...

-- Marc Anthony at Caesar's funeral.

It does. Mr.Muralitharan you have left a morbid fear of math in me. I still wake up at night in icy sweat having flunked another math exam. I remember the evil in your eyes as you mocked my desperate attempts at cracking rudimentary equations. I hope you married an ugly hag who likes Shah Rukh Khan movies.

Man eats dog eats

It's an angry morning. The rage has spilt out on the roads like red rain, hissing and spitting. Honk clashes with honk, temper with temper, fender with fender. The world's in a angry hurry; no one has time to pipe down and smell the monoxide.
Except him and his mongrel, eating of their dusty pan. He pauses between scratching and eating to throw a morsel at a circling intruder cat. Mutt, man, ticks and rags in perfect symphony.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Play it again, Fed

How many roads must a man walk down
before you call him a man ...
-- Bob Dylan, Blowin' in the wind.
For some men the road seems endless. I am shell-shocked at the way every two-bit sports writer on good earth has jumped up and declared Roger Federer dead-on-arrival at Wimbeldon.
On television the other night, the five-times champion, amazingly polite in the face of boorish questions from the media, said, "Don't write me off yet."
Federer may lose Wimbeldon. But that will not change the fact that he remains one of the greatest sportsmen of all time. For the sake of all things beautiful in life, I hope he wins. Because on song, there is no better sight in sport than FedEx in motion.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Who wants to be an idiot

Watching Indian television is a mind-numbing experience. Life generally evolves, so does Mallika Sherawat, but not television. With every new game show hosted by ageing botoxed superstars, every recycled soap, every Noida murder drama, television drives home the point why it is an idiot's box.
Indian television is just about as original as an Anu Malik score (ok, most Malik tunes). The beast feeds on about five ideas:
Who wants to be Amitabh Bachchan.
Ekta ke paas saans hai, mere paas maa hai.
American Idol and its shrieky children.
I am the nuisance between songs, they call me VJ.
I want to be Christina Amanpour but they want me to be Raakhi Sawant (or vice versa).
It's possible I may have missed a trick or two but at the heart of it, the idiot box is run on a stunningly original philosophy: We all have the same thing, but mine is bigger.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Helter Skelter

He presses his face against the windshield of my car. I can see the soot that has staked claim to the lines of his face. It's a face that has been defeated by time but his insolent grin suggests a spirit. I try avoiding his gaze but I can't escape the disturbing presence. The face pressed against my pane is not looking for pity, it is looking for recognition.I distract myself, fiddling with the knobs of the car. I am willing the traffic lights to go green so the moment shall pass. I don't want to acknowledge his existence. But that stubborn gaze forces me to give in; I look him squarely in the eye.He is not really looking for anything. He is laughing at me, secure in his insane world. He has no green lights to wait on, I am the one who is running.

Buena Vida

It's amazing how you can live a lifetime without impacting life in any anyway.You eat, you crap, you fall sick, you bitch, you borrow, you pay credit card bills, you go on holidays, you fornicate, you procreate, you seethe, you vegetate, you help, you harm, you hurt, you inflict pain, you cry, you pretend, you get diabetes, you criticize, you feel, you are numb, you fear, you desire, you wait, you sleep, you buy flowers, you spread disease, you curse, you heal, you yearn, you shun, you run, you pray, you turn away when they kill in the name of God.
You have used up the earth's water, oxygen, chicken legs and patience. In the end you are just a life insurance policy number.
Could life have done without you and carbon monoxide?

The joy of madness

It would be fun to be insane.
I think insanity is liberating. It frees your mind, your tongue and your credit cards. Imagine a Lenonesque world where there is nothing to kill or die for and no religion too. In an insane world it wouldn't matter if it's Obama or Clinton as long as they didn't kill people in Baghdad. It wouldn't matter if Laloo cut railway fares, the insane travel ticketless everywhere.
The insane are honest. You've got to be insane to say "yes darling, not only do you look fat in that dress but you really are." The insane don't hurt when she flings that heavy crystal vase. They just fling it back.
Insanity is freedom from everything that made you less of you. The insane dont wear Prada, don't push people down to climb up, don't envy their neighbour's success or wife, don't bribe God, don't need to suffer Shah Rukh Khan, don't need to laugh at the boss's jokes. The insane are free to walk earth the way they choose.
The insane are naked. And even the lord is scared of a man who doesn't really care.

To catch a falling star

Running blind, with the wind, against it, stumbling, falling. Chasing a dream, chasing many. Much has happened in between.
And when you do catch that flaming star, you wonder if that's what you really wanted. It looked so incandescent from a distance. It's just burning ash when you find it.
Oh, the business of dreamcatching. It's so tiringly futile.
It's like the puppy who chases the car down the street. When the car stops, the puppy doesn't quite know what to do.
Go boy, get that star. The world is waiting to applaud.

The dead stay dumb

They say when you die your life flashes by in that last nano second before it's all over. I don't know of anyone who can confirm this but I wonder how the brain puts together this little highlights package.Does that incredible machine in your head just put together those happy moments? Or are they those painful memories that you have tucked away in the recesses? Or are they things that you never got down to doing, like getting your nostril hair trimmed?It's a pity the dead stay dumb.

Dream Catcher

Freddie Krueger, to me, is one of the most enduring movie characters of all time. Freddie, in the 80s slasher flick, A Nightmare on Elm Street, stalks that unmarked line between dreams and reality, this world and the other one. He is powerless in the real world, but he can kill you in your dreams. I have read that Wes Craven was inspired to make Nightmare after reading a news story about Taiwanese children who died in their sleep after experiencing horrific nightmares.
I have always been fascinated by the surreality of dreams. This whole vividity of REM dreams is more Alladinesque to me than Einsteinish. I am told, the congenital blind do not have vivid dreams because they have no visual references. But they do experience dreams that are sensory. That's incredible, to be able to dream a little dream that you sense and not see.
The interpretation of a dream, Freudian or Floydian, is just that ... an interpretation. What interests me is the construct. Imagine having the power to engineer your dream. To be able to create a world that you want to inhabit in your dreams; drag and drop people, places, emotions, colours, situations.
To be able to paint your dreamscape, would be to play God. To create that parallel universe where you never lose, where everybody loves you and not Raymond, where you pay no taxes, and everyone looked like Michelle Pfieffer. Imagine, John.

Waiting for the sun

I find myself being sucked into a blackhole of mediocrity. It's like falling in a dream, arms and legs flaying, gagged, mute, helpless. I am surrounded by it, I am part of it, I am consumed by it.I find myself living in a world of short cuts, I don't need to be informed because I can Google on demand, then erase my hard drive, and Google again if I need to. I don't need to express lucidly any more because smileys do it for me. I don't even need to spell right, there is predictive text. I could even be a vegetable if I chose to, there is nothing VLCC cannot fix.What's scary is I have started using smileys. What's scary is I am hoping someone else will solve my problem while I assimilate home truths around me like Saif's tattoo and Bipasha's new squeeze.I need divine intervention, I key in "miracle" into a little white box, Mr.Google says it was released in 2004 and stars Kurt Russell and Patricia Clarkson. :)

Champagne Sky

I look up and see a champagne sky.I can see the clouds jostle and joust, trying to give themselves shape. The incandescent silvery cumulus humilis has painted itself into a polar bear. It's like a beautiful barren mother that can't conceive rain. A low sweeping one becomes a white christmas tree. The stars twinkle in applause.It's a champagne sky, intoxicating and transient.

Our Galaxy

On S.V.Road in Bandra, there is a little hole in the wall called Galaxy. It's very close to my stomach. Galaxy saw me through my heady impoverished years. And what a time it was. It's a freedom I have never known since, where the biggest decision to make was between vada pav and omlette pav. Vada pav allowed me the luxury of a post-feast smoke.
Galaxy loved me. Every morning when I walked in bleary eyed, the good men there would plonk a cup of the vilest tea, alongwith the newspaper and a cigarette. No matter who was reading the newspaper, they would snatch it and hand it over to me, always with a smile.
I met Tanvir across the newspaper. He had this annoying habit of peeping into my newspaper and it used to tick me off no end till I discovered he was illiterate. Tanvir worked as a stuntman, crashing through glass, breaking bones and jumping off heights while Bollywood heroes powdered their noses in the shade.
We formed an easy camraderie. I taught Tanvir ABC, he regaled me with tales from the movie studios, many of which I suspect were flaming red lies. Over many omlettes and chai, I learned to love the man for who he couldn't be. He wanted a better life and for him English was a passport to that other world.
Tanvir never learned much. Though he could say "how are you my friend" with a Meerutish flourish. I learned much more. He could talk without fear or shame about his life, his people, his fears and ambition. He had a fresh scar to prove it everyday, a broken bone, a gash or just a burning heart.
I moved on from Galaxy. I hope so has Tanvir ... with a newspaper tucked under his scarred arms. Inshallah.

I remember the time

In my first year in school I had a fragrant pencil eraser which was white in colour with a green crown. It smelt so good, I tried to eat it once. It tasted like rubber.I am always amazed how my handicapped brain can go that far back and retrieve pieces of useless information and play it out like a scratchy old record.I can remember the Casuarina pines at school, the taste of that birthday cake, the smell of fear in the examination hall, the wrinkles on Ms.Ramachandran's face as she struggled to teach us the syntax and the semantics. I remember listening to the radio, watching Amitabh Bachchan beat up Amjad Khan who was about three times his size.I can remember Preeti and her braces. She used to coyly slip Melody chocolates on to my desk during lunch time. How I hated those chocolates and how much my six-year-old heart beat for that girl.And I can't remember a lot. I can't remember my first lie. I can't remember the first time I hated someone so much that I wanted to kill them. No, not the first pang of jealousy or envy either. Try as I may, I can't recollect the day I grew up.I can't remember the end of innocence.

Stranger in the rearview mirror

Have you ever been touched by a stranger's simple act of kindness ...The man in the Dadar local who offered to hold your bag while you held on to dear life.The two boys who pushed your car when it sulked and died on the busiest road in the world and the world just honked you into shameThe lady who let you see the doc first, after alcohol had bludgeoned your body into submission.The math teacher who gave you that one extra mark that saved you a year.I am sometimes ashamed I don't remember them often enough ... how they just faded away from my consciousness like objects in a rearview mirror.

When the Wind Burns

I used to spend my summers in Thalassery, a sleepy, windswept town that rolled from the hills to the Arabian sea in one lazy turn of green. It used to be a place untouched by progress, a pretty little postcard suspended in a time capsule all its own.
Anand used to be my companion of the summers -- first cousin, friend and fellow conspirator of my teenage years. He was closest in age and temperament to me among a gaggle of younger pests who came to town come April.
The problem with sleepy towns is they aren't made for teenage hormones. After the initial thrill of the sound of rain and the smell of earth, we spent hours watching the grass grow. Anand and I found inventive ways to beat the boredom. One trick was to walk along the railway track which ran parallel to the farm land that my granny owned. We walked along the steel lines all the way up to the single track railway station. The station was the busiest place in town, noisy, smelly, dusty and alive. We would sit for hours on end on wooden benches, watching the trains come and go, bitching, laughing, plotting and dreaming. It was even more thrilling because we sat there ticketless; the danger of being caught out on the trudge back home was supremely exciting. And of course, no one at home, had any clue where we were.
We would walk up to the football stadium sometimes and watch the locals kick the ball around in their lungis or swagger up to the seafront promendade to check out the local beauties. We were 14 and 11 respectively (and looked about 8) and didnt get a second look from the girls but we strutted around believing otherwise.
The boldest thing we ever did was to smoke our first cigarette. After much plotting and planning we gathered enough courage to walk up to the store where our fathers bought their stock, and demand cigarettes. Our nervousness was a dead giveaway but the old man behind the till didn't ask too many questions. The tough part was lighting a cigarette on a man-forsaken bridge that was blustery as hell. We couldn't risk lighting up on an open road, so it had to be on the bridge. Let's just say we burnt more fingers than cigarettes.
Thalaserry has changed much since then. It even has Chinese restaurants. The main station block, however, remains the same. When I walk into its post-colonial portals, it feels warm and familiar, like an old friend. So does the wooden bench on which Anand and I had a 100 cups of sickeningly sweet tea while we checked out the humanity that tumbled in and out of trains.
And I miss him. My brother, my friend and my partner in crime, who left us when just out of his teens. This one's for you dude, I think of you everytime I light up in the wind.