Category Archives: Choice

Of Anna Hazare and Chai Latte

“He broke his fast!” screamed Viju as I pulled over on his apartment driveway.

“What?” I asked him through the window. I did not hear him over my Mazda’s ambient hum.

“He broke his fast today. They passed the bill! Death to babus!” he shouted as he sat in the passenger seat.

“Settle down Dorothy. They only accepted his three conditions. The bill is still a long way from being passed. But yes, it’s a start,” I said as I did not want ruin his moment. Viju was the naïve optimist in our trio. I was supposed to be the practical one.

“Yeah. That’s what I’m saying. Atleast now there will be a law to get those fuckers. I mean the poor guy was starving for twelve days. The government had to do something, right?”

“Fasting. He was fasting for twelve days. So where to?” I asked as we pulled out to join Duck Street.

“Starbucks. I need a Frappe. So check this out. I was talking to my cousin in UFL and he said that all the Indian students in Gainesville did a morcha kinda thing against corruption to support him. Why did we not think of something like that?”­

“Well might be because I was too busy with my research and you were away on your all American roadtrip. How was Florida by the way?”

“It was good. Anyway, this cousin told me that the campus police showed up ‘coz they thought they had a student riot on their hands. They even got tasers. Tasers! Man that is wild! Where are you going?” he asked as I turned on Main Street. “We have to pick up Todd.”

Todd was the third. His real name was Haripriya but his American name was Todd. Todd was a stupid name. I did not get it. I mean, if it was up to you to pick an English name why not pick a cool name like Irving, Arnold or even Lucifer. “Hi, I am Lucifer and I’ll be your TA for Visual Basic Programming.”

“Oh. He’s coming? I heard he was wasted last night.”

“Yeah, he called me up. Anyway, I was talking to this other cousin in D.C and he said that Best Buy has a firesale going on. I feel like I wanna buy something. I don’t know what. I have some balance left on my Chase card. Did you know that fifteen lakh people showed up on Ramlila Maidan for the celebration?” Viju’s attention span is less than that of a hummingbird.

“Don’t you think fifteen lakh is a bit too much?”

“I don’t know. My roommate told me that. But I think it’s true. There’s a revolution going on man. Don’t doubt it. Anyway, my cousin in San Jose told me that NVIDIA is hiring. Why am telling this to you? You are a Chemy. Todd will be interested. I’ll tell him to wait for us downstairs.” He called up Todd.

“Yeah he’ll be down in two. So this cousin in D.C said he got a sweet deal on an Android tablet.”

We pulled over in Todd’s driveway. He was waiting for us, clearly hung over. Eyes swollen and hair astray he climbed in and announced “I need a coffee. Like, right now.”

“He broke his fast man! And Best Buy is having a firesale!” screamed Viju.

“Settle down Dorothy. My head hurts. And enough of Lokpal already,” informed Todd.

“Why?” asked Viju.

 “It was a failure from the start. You can never do away with corruption in India. And which cousin told you about Best Buy?” said Todd. Todd was the all hating ever complaining cynic of the lot.

“’ssup Toddji.” I greeted him.

“Man nothing can happen with India. The corruption is just too deep in the system. There is no political will for change. Look at the US. Look at the way they are handling the health reforms right now. There is a system in place here. The politicians are accountable for stuff.”

“How can you say that? India is changing man. The sheer support we saw last week tells us that. And political will? They accepted the bill, didn’t they? I think great things are gonna happen in India in the next five years,” retorted Viju clearly upset.

We had reached Perkins. I parked the car and we started making our way to the coffee shop. Those two were at it and I found it best to keep quiet. To be honest I always kept quiet.

“Well, your opinion does not matter. No one’s opinion matters in India. This Lokpal is gonna introduce even more bureaucracy in the system. The common man will matter even less after it.”

“What bureaucracy? The bill is gonna hold the politicians accountable. Did you not watch the Karan Thapar video I shared on facebook?” asked Viju. He was big on sharing videos on facebook.

 “Do you guys know what the Lokpal draft actually demands?” I asked them. I had a feeling neither of them did.

“Shut up man!” both of them said. Clearly they were more interested in arguing about it.

“Yeah I saw the video. And it does not help your argument. But that’s not the point. Say a construction project is underway in a village. And a local politician is demanding money from the contractor. The contractor lodges a complaint under the lokpal bill. This case appears in a local court. The local court defers it to a higher one. This case could take years to reach a verdict.”

“But that’s a convenient example. There will be amendments,” argued Viju.

We were in the line for ordering and these two were almost at crescendo.

“Forget the amendments man,” Todd dismissed Viju.

“Now you are just being cynical. Oh yes, before I forget. My cousin in San Jose said that NVIDIA is hiring in California. Interested? ”

Suddenly Todd’s frowns seemed to wash away. He actually looked excited.

“Brilliant! What’s the position?”

“I think it’s Hardware Engineer. And more importantly they are ready to sponsor. I applied last night,” informed Viju.

“Alright. I’ll get my resume ready and…”

“What can I get you Sir?” asked the blonde at the counter.

“Hey. I’d like a Frappuccino, a Mocha latte and a Chai Latte,” Todd ordered pointing towards me.



Filed under Choice, Fiction, Lifestyle, Opinion, Patriotic, Uncategorized

Bed and Breakfast

He wakes up and sits up on his bed. It’s morning. He tries to shake off his dream. It’s the same one every night. He dreams of a different life. He dreams of a life with lesser questions and more answers. He dreams of going through an entire day without making decisions. Then he wonders, ‘Will today be that day?’

He smiles and dismisses the thought while he passionately scratches his ass. He smiles again. Happy Birthday he tells himself. Twenty five, huh? Funny how time passes. It seemed only yesterday that he was twenty four. He smiles again. ‘Too early in the morning for jokes’, he tells himself. Save it for later. He reminds himself that he needs to shave. The Professors expects him to be clean shaven. He goes through the things waiting for him. Nope. Nothing much to look forward to. A few assignments. A few errands. And laundry- he is almost out of clean underwear.

He gets up and makes his way to the bathroom. Stumbling. He grabs his tooth brush, puts the tooth paste on it and puts it in his mouth. He looks up in the mirror. He sees me. He wishes me happy birthday and regards my swollen eyes with genuine disinterest. ‘You look like I feel,’ he tells me. I nod. He continues brushing, still making a list of things to do. ‘Do you know what I’m doing here?’ he asks me. I tell him I don’t. He spits. Puts the brush back in and continues brushing. ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here. I know I’m supposed to know but I really have no clue.’ He spits again. He rinses his mouth and makes a face at me. He finally smiles again. ‘I think I’ll have the banana cereal for breakfast,’ he tells me. ‘Have a good day. I’ll see you tomorrow then?’ I nod. I always do.


Filed under Absurd, Choice, Fiction, Lifestyle, stupid

2009: Don’t look back in anger….

There was something weird about the last one. I knew it from day one (January 1 that is). I did not wake up with a ritualistic hangover to say the least. Instead, on that very day my wisdom tooth had decided to encroach on its neighbour’s property who so rightfully had cried foul. The neighbour was not an ideal tenant either. He had illegally developed a deep cavity (not the one guys can ogle at) that my wisdom tooth had claimed to be its own. Root canal!-was what Chinmay the Dentist declared smacking his nicotine crusted lips. 2009 started with a painfully long oral surgery in which I was subjected to absolute torture. I was asked to keep my mouth open for a change while a dozen bloodthirsty rookie dentists grabbed balcony seats for the ‘extraction process’. After the four hour labour the head of surgery gladly informed me that I had successfully delivered a bloody and withered wisdom tooth; it was almost an inch long- the biggest one in his relatively young career. He was smiling, I wasn’t. (To be honest I couldn’t.)

Fast forward three months- Finally used to the big hole at the end of my lower jaw and the fact that I was unemployed again (not necessarily in that order) I was beginning to enjoy doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. I had managed to get a deceptively good score in a mediocre exam and demanded some rest. But doing nothing can get frightfully complicated. There are just so many things in this world worth not doing. I did not exercise regularly (read not at all); I did not wander like a nomad in the Western Ghats- a romantic vow I had taken when I was employed; and I definitely did not stop drinking you-know-what -another romantic vow that I had taken in the New Year Resolution frenzy. However, I did start writing delightfully observant ‘articles’ and posted them on this very blog. With shameless self promotion ranging from incessant namedropping to pressing a face against the monitor, I managed to increase traffic here. It felt nice.

Fast forward another three months- Like most disillusioned engineers in this country I was convinced that doing post graduation in the same field that ruined four years of my life would be an awesome idea. And I decided that doing it abroad would be an even awesome one. I wasted utilized the next two months decorating smart looking application packets to foreign universities; I reckon this tenacity of overdoing cosmetics can be shared only with a two pony-tailed five year old girl on the day of her barbie’s wedding (don’t ask how I know this). I bid adieu to the little ones. Then boredom hit me like a stray bullet in Baghdad (it did). So I decided to start working again. For reasons unknown I chose marketing over designing cryogenic air separation plants. This was an interesting change.

Fast forward six months- All settled in the marketing job-check. Getting a good salary for a cool job-check. So, bank balance positive-check. Speaking with strangers in Western Europe over the phone and explaining to them before they hang up why they should do business with us-double check. Indulging in passive chain smoking-check. Improving knowledge of corporate jargon-check. Meeting really cool people- check. Realizing importance of people skills- check. Then realizing I don’t have any-check.

I learnt no new songs on the guitar. I forgot most of the earlier ones. I discovered Samit Basu. I found Lamb of God, No Quarter, Porcupine Tree, Amit Trivedi and vividly experienced side effects of tequila. I saw Iron Maiden live for the second time. I made friends with Mr. Barron and was happy that our relationship was short lived. I learnt that fluorobenzene and water do not mix. So do sarcasm and weddings. I did not visit Ladakh, Sikkim and Kolkata. I found time not to play badminton. I realized that on an average it takes me exactly eight seconds to invoke sarcasm. Alcohol doubles that.

Samit Basu deserves a second mention. So does tequila.

Retrospection is not one of my stronger points. But the culmination of the-year-that-wasn’t warranted its presence. So, I now know that making plans and elaborate wish lists in January is lame and stupid. I am above it all now. I can mathematically prove that longer the resolution list, lesser is the probability of finding it. And when you actually do find it, it is time to make a new one. So I am not  making one this time.


Filed under Absurd, Choice, Lifestyle, Non Fiction, Opinion, stupid, Uncategorized

GREat Expectations

In the last couple of months, I’ve been asked over a million times what any unemployed-unmarried- recent graduate male hates to answer – ‘What next?’.    ‘I am studying for the GRE’ is my furtive answer. What follows is an annoying generic pregnant pause which threatens to kill the conversation. But my inquisitor ends it with an even more annoying comeback like ‘Oh…I see. America huh?’ (Other slangs for the country like USA, US of A, States, Uncle Sam’s Land, Dollar Dreams, Stars and Stripes are often used generously).

I hate it. They judge me. In that pregnant pause I can see them scripting the next 200 years of my life. I guess it goes like this-

Sanket goes to US; completes his MS; gets a job in the US; the job is in LA; he visits India once a year; after three years his mother persuades him to get married; he gets married to a nice Indian girl with a dollar sign for pupils; they move to the suburbs; he buys a Ford sedan which burns more gas than all of  Kothrud; their house is BIG; it has a swimming pool; they have a couple of kids; they name them Krishna and Soundarya; he gets a green ca…….

Is that how they want my life to be? Is that how I want my life to be? I don’t want the movie of my life to be scripted that way. Except for the girl maybe (without the scary pupils) I don’t want a Ford sedan. And I hate the name Soundarya.

Then why am I giving GRE? I don’t know. Everybody else is doing it. All my friends have given it. Most of my friends are already there. It sounds cool. Convinced? No? Me neither. The truth now. I’m not smart enough to get into an IIT. Or, I’m smart enough not to slog for the IIT entrance and learn fifty different words for ‘lust’ to clear GRE. Because my dad can afford it. Because I want to be exposed to  ‘International Educational Standards’ (borrowed directly from visa interview forums).

The plot demands it. The career graph should go upward, right? Or in this case westward. Oh the West! We Indians Love it. The movies, the music, the women, the accent. I mean who wouldn’t. My beloved IT geeks from Bangalore worship it. Their sun rises in the Occident. They drop the names of western cities like eight year old Sanket would do with the WWF wrestlers’ physical attributes. They construct their conversations around it. I don’t blame them. It is their USP in the job market, matrimonial sites or any other social endeavors. It’s in our DNA. I believe if our DNA is kept in an isolated atmosphere, it will point west.

Looking at the overwhelming presence of the western pop-culture in India, one wouldn’t think twice before joining the mass exodus to the west. More than half of the people I knew from my college are already there. And hell, they love it there! By a quick look at their bulging orkut albums sporting the names like ‘Fall-2008’ or ‘My department’ or ‘My first snow’, one wouldn’t think otherwise. I wouldn’t blame them either. It is their prerogative. It is their script.

The Act Two of mine however, is giving a lot of problems. Too many plot holes, too many extras, mean producers and no heroine. It promises to be a rollercoaster for the initial part, but the plot-mein-twist is nowhere to be seen. I realize it is too early for me to go gaga over The Meaning of Life (not the movie), but somewhere between learning the words like subpoena, usury or bourgeois and deciphering an esoteric essay of an obscure author on ‘Social effects of the tribal wars in the Aztec Civilization’, I just feel lost.

May be Mr. Barron can show me the way.





Filed under Choice, Non Fiction


The Preface-Prologue-Disclaimer Thingy –

Ok. My first blog. Big deal right? (Not!) Nowadays many want to do it. Most don’t do it coz they don’t find a good topic to start with. C’mon lets face it, others don’t want to know when you woke up today or why you scratch your *** only in odd numbers right away! I found myself in a similar dilemma. I did plan to write about heavy metal, a Tarantino movie, White Tiger (which I still haven’t read btw) or any other pop-centric trivialities, as most do write about them and others (me included) write pithy comments under them. Its not that I won’t write about them (chances are they’ll be all I’ll write about), its just that I needed a simple idea. Coz I don’t know how these things go- their length, their content, their punctuation (or the lack of) or the optimum funny-ness in every para. So I chose ‘me being fat’. Coz that’s the only thing I have truly done in quite sometime-be fat. What follows is a mostly true partly fictitious account of my coming-of-weight episode. Also try and not get distracted by the rather liberal use of brackets. (I’ll use less of those in the next one!)

The Catch-38 Thingy-

On January 5th 2009 (totally made up !) while I was looking at myself in the mirror (don’t ask why) I realized that I am fat. It was more like OMG I AM FAT! An epiphany of sorts. As the seconds passed I realized why most people addressed me with apparent misnomers like fatso, jad, jadya, gubbya, mote, lathth among (many) others. As (a few more seconds passed) I thought about it and it occurred to me that they all were true. Why I was Alok’s chubby friend or Anuj’s big-boned brother or the healthy fella at Nikhil’s wedding or That Fat Guy On Third Floor (ok…you get the gist right?) I felt guilty. I remembered all those moments of honesty in which I told myself ‘You don’t fit into those jeans anymore… new ones’. I got the answer to the seemingly rhetorical question- ‘Mirror mirror on the wall…who’s the fattest of them all?’ (Overkill?…)

I got over the moment (rather quickly) and found myself standing on our very loyal weighing machine hoping for a refuge. That bastard! That twofaced, back-stabbing liar! ‘Omega-R200’-us you too!! I couldn’t believe it. I was 82kg! Overweight by 17kg. That’s a lot for my rather small, vertically challenged stature. But why? I always considered myself to be on the wrong side of seventies. This was just unacceptable. I was not planning for this. I had never planned for this. As I dug deeper into my loose T-shirt and my mind for a remotely conceivable reason I realized (yet again) that it was inevitable.

For the last year and a half I had lead a life of absolute freedom. You see I was working in Bangalore. Where beer flows like water and people drink it like water. The quintessential pub-infested, rock loving Shangri-La that undergrads long to be in. In Bangalore it is hip to be fat (pun not intended!). IT geeks come together on weekends and chant ‘If you are fat then you are doing well. Then why not eat more, so more you will swell. If you are not fat….work harder and catch up rat!’ This ill stated maxim guarantees a 38 inch waist if not a promotion. These IT geeks flaunt their bulging waist lines like sultry starlets do with their plunging necklines. Flab is a sign of opulence. May be the following can perhaps elaborate on this:

IT Geek 1: Hey look at my waistline. I got the Catch-38

ITG 2: Been there done that. I did that last quarter. I’m a 40 now!

ITG 3 (To 1 and 2): Keep it down you two! Did you see the email HR has sent    us? We need to have an average of 41 from last Feb. Else all our leaves will be cancelled!

ITG1: Damn it…Hey isn’t that our T.L.  Mr. Lippofatsrulerao. He’s a 42. They say he’s trying hard for a 44.

ITG 1, 2 & 3 (together) :Sighhhh …

Well such conversations can be overheard quite frequently. So I was quite intrigued with the Catch-38. I mean who wouldn’t? You get to have two of the three best things there are-beer and money (third being girls). I was hooked. I started drinking beer with monotonous regularity. I went to beer-buffets.  And beer makes you hungrier (a world known fact!). So I used to order the cheapest side dish available in pubs-finger chips. Also, after a delightful evening at the pub why ruin it with a heavy dinner? McDonalds, KFC here I come!

In retrospect I can only say,” It figures!” (Quite literally!).

With renewed enthusiasm I started to think on deciding when I should join a gym…..fourth attempt in the last eighteen months (the previous three were compromised because of my rising faith in the now fabled Catch-38). Joining a gym is a natural response to any urban youth dealing with weight issues. So like any other urban youth I confirmed with this established notion and decided to join a gym. Me and a couple of other guys, in our college days had always fancied joining a cool gym with a spa and a lounge. Me and my buddies wanted to join such a gym primarily to gawk at the girls (who appeared out of nowhere) who adorned the treadmills and the blessed ‘aerobics floor’. These things were now reachable (not affordable) since I had made a few bucks by tricking an MNC into hiring me.

Without my friends (who are a 40 and a 41 now….rich buggers) I joined the most renowned fitness club in the city called ‘Exorbitance’. It was love at first sight. The gym is in a multiplex. They have a greeting desk where members have to do a fingerprint check to punch their attendance. They have glass cabin which sells those frighteningly big cans of whey or wheytever and have pictures of even more frightening guys with impossible abs and biceps. The men’s changing room is bigger than my previous gym. The person at the ‘greeting desk’ even farts in English. All the ‘Customer Relationship Executives’ are female (my first sight!). One such Petite, Impressive, Mod and Pretty C.R.E approached me. I think our conversation went like this:

P.I.M.P. C.R.E.: Good Morning Sir! How are you today?

ME: Oh…Good Morni….

P.I.M.P. C.R.E.: Is there anything I can help you with?

ME: Yes….I was planning to joi…..

P.I.M.P. C.R.E.: Please follow me in to the office Sir.

(I am pleased to follow her into the office)

P.I.M.P. C.R.E.: Yes Sir. You were saying?

ME: Yes….I was planning to joi…..

P.I.M.P. C.R.E.: This is our membership inquiry catalogue.(handing it over to me)

ME (going through the membership inquiry catalogue): Ummm…

P.I.M.P. C.R.E. (without being asked): Sir the weightloss batch is included in our regular hours.

ME (without taking offense): Oh…ok….then I think I’ll opt for tha….

P.I.M.P. C.R.E.: Will that be cash or card Sir?

I was out of the office in less than three minutes with a considerable deficit in my already desiccating finances when an intimidating man with burly muscles approached me and introduced himself as Chandrashekhar. The P.I.M.P. C.R.E. then happily informed me that ‘C’ will be ‘handling’ me. ‘C’-as helpful as he was- took me through a guided tour of the gym. He showed me all the machines and their use. He also informed me that in my ‘case’ I should do more of calorie-burning exercises (which basically meant that I will be confined to the fat corner). My workout for that day was

1. Jogging for five minutes

2. Elliptical cycle for five minutes

3. Lifting miniscule looking dumbbells over my head in a variety of rigid patterns

4. And stretching-apparently the most important one ! (I couldn’t get my hands below my knees)

I went home that day totally exhausted. I decided to stop eating junk food (my first idea was to stop eating), stop snacking, no drinks- NO BEER! It was a sacrifice I had to make in order to dissociate myself from the other f-word.

It’s been almost a month now since I joined Exorbitance (I think the name is making sense now!). I have not missed a single day. I haven’t lost a single kg. But I have learned that cardio-exercise and thrash metal is a pair made in heaven. With Hetfield and Mustaine screaming in your ears who wouldn’t be charged with energy? I still gawk a girls on the treadmills. I want to be back in the comfortable seventies. I want to use those discarded jeans again (yes I still have those….everybody does). I want a helmet that fits. I want my relatives to recognize me at a wedding. I want to look in the mirror without an epi-funny. I dont want a 38 inch waist anymore. I want to be thin again.

J. Heller Forever.


Filed under Choice, FAT, Lifestyle