Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Final Episodes

D. is getting married. Somewhere in the first week of February. I am not aware of the exact date. D. never was very good with exact dates. The man possesses the dubious tendency of communicating approximate dates. He once did that with the arrival time of his flight and as a result, drove my habitually nervous father to report him as a missing person to the police. The details are not relevant. For that fact, the astute reader will also discern that this post and this whole blog in general is not exactly dripping relevance. At the end of the day however, hardly anything drips it. The point is that those details are not relevant to this irrelevant post. The bigger point is that D. is getting married.

There is an aura of finality around the whole occasion. D. was the last standing symbol for an era gone by. An era of dirty socks, frustration with the system, drinking binges, aimless wandering, amusing boredom, undying faith in the power of kulfi-falooda, laughing with the rain, late night football matches, the unending search for the perfect tandoori chicken, and possibilities. Those days will now be finally packed and unceremoniously consigned to the recesses of a few rebukes from G. and the dusty corners of some rarely narrated anectodes.

Henceforth, D. and I will probably meet once every few years and update each other of the disappointments which inevitably accompany the arrival of the desired. Apart from that, D. will follow his determined path and I mine. Such is time.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Cellphone Dilemma

The sad news the grapevine unships is that cell phones are not what the doctor ordered for the general sharpening of the brain. Fellow humans have had an inkling for some time now, but now it is nearly official ! So, this is the gist of the hot stuff -- Cell phones tend to fuddle up that grey stuff. Post-cell-phone-conversation, the addled victim does not remember large parts of the conversation. That does not bother me. It generally happens to me very frequently when I am talking G., irrespective of cellphones. What bothers me however, is that one of the additional side-effects is that one cannot find one's way to the refrigerator and the munchies. That is rather alarming I am afraid.

Leaving my petty concerns aside, let us delve into the greater implications. These pathbreaking discoveries might ultimately answer a few burning questions. I finally have a semblance of an explanation for the density of the fellow human being attempting to navigate his car with two legs while his right hand holds the phone and his left gesticulates, explaining the finer points of his repartee. I now realise that it is not his fault. It sadly is a condition. The cellphone has pickled the poor man's upper quarters. As his condition aggravates, he will be seen doing the same on a motorcycle. Cellphone-cuckoo fills a human with the conviction that it is physically possible for a wall, a car, a motorcycle rider and a cellphone user to exist at the same point of space at the same point of time. He eventually will put his conviction to test.

The problem is that the moment you have put the cellphone to your ear, you are doomed. You have instantly started hurtling down a recursive abyss of stupidity. What else otherwise could explain Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor endorsing Airtel, and yet, the general populace is still offering them their custom and the shop is roping in the doubloons like there is no tomorrow. I was always rather puzzled by this widespread bad taste. Now I know. It is those cell phones at work.

It might also shed some light on the odious match fixing scandal which had made a blotched appearance some time back. Ajay Jadeja would make numerous calls to a particular fan of his ( from his cellphone of course ) during cricket matches. The reason he would do so was that he did not want this fan to call his cellphone and disturb him. The poor fellow was also oblivious of the fact that this fan of his, was quite the captain of the cricket betting industry. We all mistook his yarn and disallowed him for all the boy scout camps. None suspected the cellphone-cuckoo. Had these precious findings been available then, Ajay Jadeja would probably be the captain of the cricket team by now. A promising career beaned by a bulky cellphone I would say. ( Cellphones were bulky at that time. )

My erudite friend AK. however, has had the facts under his wings for some time now. He had chanced upon the knowledge that cellphones spout death rays like there is no tomorrow rather early in his life. Pre-enlightenment, he would sport his nifty nokia in a waist holster. Rather hip. Then somebody unleashed the sad tidings unto him that those death rays just did not soup up the brains, they are equally effective on other parts of the anatomy too. As is the fact with nearly all men, he did value his waist and adjoining areas like no other. He promptly moved his cellphone to the breast pocket of his shirt. The problem now is proximity to the heart. I did flash him the news that a phone in the shirt pocket is not wholesome for the aortas and the tricuspid valves too, and he came back with a nonchalant que sera sera. He is a shining example of a man who puts his waist before his heart I presume. I however, in my benevolent nature, worry for the man a bit. As he has made a priority to keep his waist ready for action, I am concerned that his heart might just fail in action.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Leave us alone !

The witty little lady we call the Marauder's Map in a rather exasparated post has posed the perennial question -- What does one do with the men in their lives ? I in my officious, yet helpful nature have decided to pitch in with a few sizzling tips on behalf of the unfairer sex. So, here goes.
  1. We Jump the Gun: This particular habit emanated from the fact that as soon as the hairy mammoth would make an appearence, we just had to bung that spear at it. The fact that the hairy mammoth would either make a vigorous beeline for the sunset or the spear-chucker directly after it made its appearance, necessiated such rapid action. One will notice that the described scenario leaves very little scope for one to ruminate upon the finer feelings of the hairy mammoth in question. The spear has to be chucked. When we opine, we opine without much thought. Our opinions are very much akin the spear. They cater to the Ensuing Situation. We really do not take into consideration what we had said to whom roughly three years back, or that fact, yesterday or the wider emotional ramifications of the opinion. If what has been unshipped results in the entry of another metaphorical hairy mammoth(HM), we shall attempt to garner another object to bean it with or, die gaping at it.
  2. We Answer Questions: Coming back to the previous (bad) example, when the HM is proceeding in the general direction where one is situated, one does not ponder on what the deeper, finer justifications for which the poor pachyderm is perturbed. One takes Prompt Action. One thinks of a solution. The nature of this prompt action also happens to be the prerogative of the pursued. When posed with a problem, we answer and we opine. We do not nod the sympathetic head and agree with a problem. They are meant to be cracked and not gently agreed upon. We are also very sorry, but we are oblivious of the answer that we are supposed to give. We give the answer we think will bring the biscuit home. There are times(which frequently occur) when these solutions seem to cause undue emotional distress because it does not concur with the predetermined, sensitive, understanding answer. If one has already decided on the solution to the poser, one should not pose it. Ask the question to yourself and please answer it yourself too.
  3. We love you but there are some other things to do Right Now: We love you with heart and soul. We would, without batting an eyelid give up everything we have to see you happy. We however, sadly have other things to do too. There are times when it of prime importance to serve flaming death to the three Overwatch Soldiers around the corner because one has been struggling with this level for the last three days. One is really not interested in how the distant friend of yours has been mean to another distant friend of yours and as a result, through some convoluted reason, the cat has refused her milk once.
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Thursday, December 01, 2005

The 1st of December

I remember, I remember
 The fir trees dark and high; 
I used to think their slender tops 
 Were close against the sky: 
It was a childish ignorance; 
 But now 'tis little joy
To know I'm farther off from heaven 
 Than when I was a boy.
               -T. Hood

The 1st of December was when school closed for the winter vacations. The onerous final exams (The Third Term as we would call it) would meet its painful death on that fortunate day. The exact moment of the demise would be 11:30 AM. After Bro. G. would very carefully explain the winter night sky to a rather uninterested, ungrateful and impatient lot, we would hurriedly collect our pencils, rubbers ( I still call them the politically incorrect rubber because that is what I grew up calling those things which are called erasers these days ) and pinecone battered clipboards and run out into the warm december sunshine. I use the word run very carelessly. That annual phenomenon could be more accurately termed as a mass movement for the great, wide, open spaces. Whereas bland souls like me would employ conventional modes of transport to get going, the more adventurous ones would employ rapid dashes, wildly flailing arms and loud screaming. The stairs would be navigated by sliding down the bright orange balustrade.

We were free for the next 100 days !

I would feel an incredible sense of lightness I remember. I would feel relieved from all burdens. Burdens were not possible anymore. There would be a sense of accomplishment without any palpable victory. As we would chatter down the steps past the old hospital block and past the second field, we were happy.

Old habits die hard. Till today, on the 1st of december, I keep very careful track of time. At about 11:30 AM, I know there are a bunch of unruly boys running out of the exam halls. It still brings a smile on my face.

I however have not felt the same lightness in years and years now.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Sunset

The sunset is bland.

In his dreams, it was red ruby and fiery orange. It was from within the wild whirligig of colour, the silk voiced enchantress with rose lips had sung sweet, mad melodies for him.

He is now in Dry Dusty Grey.

Death comes in many ways, but always brings black, stony numbness.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Rule of Four -- Oh My God !

Never has it happened to me, that I have rushed through the book because it is so bad. This entry is about the mind numbing experience -- The book is markedly forgettable and absolutely nothing to write about.

This was my second grapple with this exercise in self importance. The first time I tried to handle it, I was taken completely by surprise. The sheer enormity of the ridiculousness of the first five chapters floored me. With a meek wave of the white flag, I retreated, curling up with an old volume of Wodehouse. Wodehouse always has a soothing balm like effect on me. A single Jeeves yarn was good enough for the Bourne Ultimatum, but the above mentioned five chapters required the combined powers of three complete books from the Psmith Omnibus. Thus renewed, I returned for a rematch.

I think that the rematch idea was a bad one. I had given up the first time because the book bored me. I never realised, the first time around that apart from being singularly insipid, the book also does not have a point, apart from the dripping pretentiousness. I had been trying very hard to finish it for the last four days, but last night, as I slept I kept having the same nightmare -- I am reading the ridiculous ramblings from the The Rule of Four. Trust me, that is scary shit. I had no option left. Any hot Bene Gesserit would say, "I will face my fear.I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path." Any hot Bene Gesserit would do what I did. I decided to let the damn thing pass over me. I woke up at 3:30 in the morning, and by 7 am I was through the Vapid Volume. I might not exactly be a finer deeper man after doing so but am certainly a much more relieved one.

For those who might be interested, the book is about nothing. Unrelated to the plot, it mentions a bunch of college students who generally trudge the snow and prepare for some thesis thingy about some 16th century text. Also totally unrelated to the plot, it mentions an art collector running amok with a pistol because somebody stole his blueprint or thunder or mojo or something. This art collector eventually sets fire to an alcohol soaked clubhouse and in the process, burns himself to a cinder. Oh yes, there is a girl there also, but again, not really a part of the plot.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

The Effed Fourth Estate

Rarely does the Indian MSM dole out such wholesome entertainment. They generally fail to deliver when they trying. However, extremely efficient reporting has come up with some scintillating news. Monica Bedi hates Indian prisons and is getting wildly nostalgic about her comfy old days in Portugese prison. To make it worse, she has been estranged from her bosom buddies who lovingly have been referred to as 'those two' by the erudite reporter. Sad, since they were moved out 'before she could develop friendship' with the comely 'those two'. When will the bad english, braindead reporting and the numbskulls stop ?

These are sad times for Monica Bedi in particular and the Indian fourth estate in general.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Puri-Sabji of Bangalore

When it has to be told, it has to be told. I have been witholding it long enough, but I can no longer do so. Ladies and gentlemen, the puri-sabji in Bangalore is not the Happy Combination. It is not the Right Stuff.

Back in my wild, younger days when I was in Gurgaon (about a four months back), after a hot and dusty week out in the open, roping in a herd of inexplicable deadlocks and taming a bunch of difficult memory leaks, I would go to Om Sweets in Sector 14, kick back and unwind over a plate of puri-sabji. That plate of puri-sabji, single handedly would restore the deep scars left behind by unindented code, non-recursive locks and team meetings. In short, it rejuvenated.

The Bangalorean Puri-Sabji in sharp contradistinction, depresses me. It leaves me glassy eyed, silent and markedly unfulfilled. There is a very distinct and profound flaw in the Bangalorean Puri-Sabji -- It Lacks Zing (as Dr. M.D. so correctly points out). This singular lack of zing saddens one. It leaves the poor spirit wanting more. I am a lost soul trudging the weary desert without the Manna raining from heaven.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My foray into Karaoke

I had a short stint in Japan. About a three months. At the end of my three months of badly pronouncing wrong japanese (nihongo), all my japanese (nihonjin) colleagues decided to celebrate the fact that I was finally leaving. For their entertainment purposes, they took me along too. The place we went to had small karaoke cabins and they were not soundproof. Due to this slight flaw in the design of these cabins, the musical exertions of the denizens in neighbouring cabin were no secrets to us. Noting my slight puzzlement at exactly which song the artiste in the adjoining room was rendering, S-san opined that it was 'Careless Whisper'. T-san however thought it was 'Killing Me Softly'. I thought that it was an original -- 'Carelessly Killing Me'. O-san, being the perpetual philosopher that he is, sipped his beer elegantly, and in his rather curtailed, utility-english apologized, "B-san, bad musicians". He then gave a deep, understanding nod. I was totally convinced. I dove into my sushi.

Last weekend, I went over to U.'s place. He has got this Karaoke application which runs on windows. To be truthful, U. turned out to be rather good at the karaoke thing. He sang me a few songs to which I had to admit that the man was not very tonedeaf. I then decided to try my vocal skills with 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. I am a bad musician.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Switched To Opera

I just switched to Opera. Very nice browser. Two reasons why I switched.
  • The tab browsing extension for firefox just broke.
  • Opera went free ! Hated those pesky ads on the top.
  • Things that I discovered about it, after I started using it
  • It has a nice look and feel on linux. The fonts are very pleasing and the skin interface is very convenient. Also, the tabbed browsing is just perfect. The desktop is never cluttered with runaway windows. Has a links sidebar which is also very nice. Displays all links on the page you are browsing. Very convenient.
  • The mail interface is very cool. Has the google mail style label thingy which is rather neat. Combines it with the evolution style vfolder thing. It also categorizes the attachments in you mailbox which is really helpful. It also incorporates a very usable RSS feed reader. The sad thing is that I will return to evolution after my company has shifted to Exchange calendaring.
  • The mail client does NOT have any LDAP support. AAARGH !! That is rather stupid. Imagine a mail client not having LDAP support. I did not even bother to look up the documentation whether LDAP was supported. I kept trying to configure it. Then I discover that in a rather curt reply that it might eventually get LDAP support. I have to do this aargh thing again.. AARRRRGHHH !
  • It crashes rather abrubtly at times. Did it a couple of times on itself. Go in to edit a draft and the whole browser just disappears. Also it does not have a bug reporting system in case it crashes. So this fellow is crashing away and the developers do not even know. The open vs closed source debate again I guess....
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    Sunday, July 10, 2005

    A Settled Man

    Met H. after such a long long time yesterday. It was lovely to see him. He has been happily domesticated -- settled down with a girl and everything. That was something I never saw happening. H. settling down ? Well surely. But with a girl was a long shot. I was thinking that he probably would settle down with a nice gigabit ethernet card or a very efficient filesystem implementation. Nice to see him happy and in love. We talked after for a long long time. Had a very relaxed time after a long long time. It felt like the old days when H., me and the whole gang would be burning the midnight oil making the Generic Protocol Emulator.

    Wednesday, February 16, 2005

    St Valentines Day!

    Valentine's day for me, always has been one of the harder nuts to crack. It has continually been a source of mystery, confusion and apprehension. In short, it is an inexplicable blot on the foggy landscape of life. I am happy to announce that the The History Channel also happens to concur with me. They too, do not have a clue.

    Let me put forth the facts before I begin foaming at my mouth. I love G. I have done so for the last 8 years that I have known her. I am thankful for all those clean pairs of socks which I have now -- a simple pleasure which somehow had eluded me before she decided to take charge. Saying that, I would also like to state that G. bays for my blood on Valentines Day. The 14th of February is the day G. turns into a lurking werewolf stalking my happy home all ready to ambush me with the dreaded question -- "So what have you planned for today ?" I have immediately proved myself to be the insensitive clod.

    The pressure of being the flamboyant romantic does not really mix well with me. It is one of my major failings. I have commented on the relative merits of 10 different sarees with supremely feigned expertise, without batting an eyelid. I have dined on the most vague tasting preparations with the air of a gourmet and even came out with encouragement and extremely well measured, polygram defeating praise. However, to metamorphose from a clumsy nerd into the tango-with-rose-between-my-teeth smoothie is completely beyond me. Please do not misconstrue this as obdurateness. It is sheer ineptness. This very lack of skill is the single reason for being labeled the unsophisticated boor for at least this day of the year.

    Coming back to the dreaded question -- "What have I planned ?". The honest answer for that would of course be "to lie low". Honesty being the best policy in the context of relationships however, is not an established fact. For I have tried it previously and it has not proved to be the best for me, to say the very least. Under such stressful conditions, there have been times when I have been able to come out with gems like "Its a surprise !" to bloopers like "Actually there are 3 bugs to fix -- one particularly vicious memory leak has been troubling me for long." Responses like the latter bring about swift retribution but the clever rejoinder like the former are the real harbingers of doom. When it comes to planning out something of the nature of a romantic episode, the mind flounders. I have already exhausted the usuals (Movie and dinner), very early in the life of the relationship and somehow I simply cannot conjure up anything better. So after a brain racking three hours I come up with... Movie and dinner ! One will have noticed that, after a brilliant promise of a surprise, a movie and a steak does not really bring the biscuit home. Now, not only am I insensitive, I am also boring. I should really take a lesson from what (insert any number of names here) are doing.

    Any person moulded from the common clay (which I think I am) will inevitably collapse under such trying circumstances. So do I. Sometimes this nervous breakdown manifests itself as stolid silence, and at times as exasperated mumbling. I however have some advice to give to all like minded fellow humans. However sombre the ensuing situation might become, however hopeless life seems, avoid the three dreaded words -- "Lets go dancing".

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    Tuesday, February 08, 2005

    BLACK -- Sanjay Leela Bhansali

    I went and watched Black by Sanjay Leela Bhansali this weekend. It was a rather refreshing change from the usual Bollywood kitsch.

    Start of Review

    Has Bollywood finally arrived ? Have we finally been able to produce a movie that tells an universal, human story rather than an Indian story? In all honesty, all crossover (whatever that means) cinema that Bollywood has been able to produce has tried very hard to give the audience an Indian experience. The question is -- will Bollywood ever start producing movies with universal human appeal, transcending geography, lingual groups and race ? That I think is a very good question.

    The beauty of Black is that it does not attempt to narrate a story -- what it tries to do is share an experience. The experience of two human beings each grappling with their own darknesses, with their own Black.

    The movie shares the experiences of two human beings Michelle McNally(Rani Mukherjii) and Devraj Sahay(Amitabh Bacchan). Mr. Sahay, an alcoholic, retired and failed teacher for the deaf and blind and Michelle, his deaf and blind student. Michelle is the elder daughter of the McNally family an Anglo-Indian family living in a picture perfect Bhansali-esque Shimla. The story is spread over 40 years but the movie does not suggest the actual era or date of the happenings -- instead Bhansali decides to go for a colonial, baroque ambiance independent of the time axis. The story delves with Michelle trying to find the light in her black and Sahay finding meaning in a broken life and redemption for the guilt of seeing a sister being swallowed by the wrought iron gates of a mental asylum. The experience is narrated through the eyes of Michelle for whom a Bachelor�s Degree in Arts represents her emergence into the light and for Sahay, his redemption. What is breathtaking about the movie is the communication of the beauty in the world Michelle perceives which other normal people fail to see. Bhansali pits Michelle against Sarah, her younger, normal sibling who sees the world through normal eyes. Bhansali then goes on to compare both their interpretations of the world. Sarah somehow fails to see the beauty that surrounds us which Michelle does not fail to perceive.

    The leitmotif of the story is Robert Frost�s ��Stopping by woods on a snowy evening�� which Bhansali literally introduces in the movie -- scribbled starkly in white over a black background in the scene which Sahay(Amitabh Bacchan) is introduced. The idea of going miles before getting any sleep is constantly reinforced in Michelle and Sahay�s attempts to overcome Michelle�s academic failures despite Michelle�s disabilities and Sahay�s Alzheimer�s Disease. At the end of the movie, the roles are reversed when Michelle finds a debilitated, broken down Sahay, devoid of any memories and thus starts another battle against the black which has now enveloped her former teacher's life.

    In short, the movie is brilliant. The editing for the movie is perhaps one of the best I have seen. I have a feeling Bhansali has got himself a new bunch of editors after Devdas. The cinematography is again Sanjay Leela Bhansali -- fabulous as usual. The story for a change, is also great.

    Now we return to the original question -- is Bollywood there ? The answer would for me be a yes and a no. A yes because Black does not waste talent trying to narrate the story of a hackneyed, unconvincing bharitiya-pativrata woman and nor does it horribly mutilate a literary classic so that Madhuri Dixit and Aishwariya Rai can have a song and dance number. Instead it speaks of a story of universal human courage and grit. The story of the Indomitable Human Being. That my is an universal story. A no because Bhansali has unnecessarily added dollops of melodrama to wrench those tears into your eyes which I think is the failing of the movie. Black is a happy story which speaks of the triumph of the human spirit against all odds. It does not need banal sentiments to make it a tear jerker. Some people would go on to say that Black has the chance to finally get that Oscar, but I am slightly sceptical. I think it is a trifle maudlin to make the cut. Let us all hope that I am wrong.

    End of Review

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