Category Archives: Non Fiction

Arrested Development 1

I owe my self-pity to my inertia. I owe my inertia to my indecision. I owe my indecision to my complete lack of inspiration. Amen.

-Adbhut Bhave

And now for something completely different. I just started a sentence with a conjunction.  Apparently I can do that. The last time when I tried this, the result was abysmal. I just googled that last word. I tend to do that. To look clever you know. Not that I’m not. At least I think I am. Well let’s just say on most days I’m as clever as I am on the rest. There, I did it again.

I have a chilled beer next to me while I write this. And I’m enjoying it. I also have Explosions in The Sky bursting in my ears. The song playing right now is called The Moment We Were Alone. Incidentally I’m alone right now. And as usual I’m bored. I’m out of TV Shows and movies to watch. I finished watching Breaking Bad, Coupling and The Wire in the last few weeks. I watched Kick Ass last night right after watching Gus Van Sant’s enthralling film Finding Forrester. I’m a mile away from inspiration. The Wire was a nice find. It’s a brilliantly crafted HBO crime drama that ended a few years ago. Nothing more to say about it other than WATCH IT BEFORE YOU DIE!

On the brighter side I made a remarkable breakthrough in my research today. I am a graduate researcher by profession nowadays. I now know what I’m doing/ supposed to be doing/going to be doing in the coming months. It’s good to know what’s in store for you. The sudden dip in uncertainty is a welcome change. Oddly unsettling feeling though.

Coming back to the only constant in my life-beer. I’m a beer bottle collector now. I have a collection of thirty six different beers (empty beer bottles). The legality of this collection on campus is questionable. Admitting it on the internet is not. This collection has been a combined effort between yours truly and a fellow beer enthusiast-my roommate. We split the fortune spent on beer each month. And trust me when I say fortune. The one I’m drinking right now is called Boulevard Wheat. It is a cheap wheat beer with a very nice bottle. The most distinguished beer in my collection till date is called Rasputin. It is a dark lager with a mild bitter taste but a bitter-er hangover.

The song playing now is Yasmin the Light. If you have stuck around till now, go ahead and check it out. It won’t disappoint you.

Anna Hazare broke his fast today. God bless that man. I wonder what he ate first.

3 Comments

Filed under Absurd, Film, Non Fiction, Opinion, 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.

14 Comments

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

When Uncle Sam frowns…..

While writing my previous woe-is-me rant, I was ignorant of the numerous hurdles a dollar dreamer has to jump over to finally make it in the ‘Promised Land’.

After bidding farewell to Mr. Barron, I now find myself writing and replying in ‘Get–me-the-hell-outta-here!’ forums. I chat with guys/gals who sport names like newyorkhereicum, angelfuryinUSA or vegasbaby86. We share a common passion of exchanging trivial information like- ‘how cheap Texas is’ or ‘how expensive LA is’ or ‘how big USA is’. We indulge ourselves in debating who is the most likely to get admitted in which university and why. I am so far away that the line is a dot to me.

It’s the same for everybody else I guess. Every body is as clueless as ever. We pride ourselves of being a product of an Engineer Making Machine that is second only to the Chinese. We leave the safety of our college desks and hide under the ‘workstations’ in the companies who have the audacity to hire us. We sit tight, thanking God for the windfall on the day of the interview, when the interviewer didn’t get a joke and hired you. As the months pass and as our butt cheeks begin to unclench we realize a big con that we are in. We write programs, create websites, design (read copy) machines and invent more efficient toilet sprays to get that gift wrapped box of peanuts. We soon realize where the real paycheck goes- the dollar tax payer. The workstations around start getting replaced by new suckers as the previous occupants are off to do their MS’s, MBA’s, CFA’s and WTF’s. And before you know it, the ‘Acquired Dollar Deficiency Syndrome’ has you.

“….Actually the ADDS is not as harmful as it sounds. Studies have revealed that homo sapiens residing primarily in the Indian Subcontinent have a suppressed gene called ‘$4ever-A’ which remains dormant till a particular age. Experts believe that the males are particularly susceptible to trigger it at an early age. A bad salary hike, lack of job satisfaction or sheer boredom are known causes of trigger. The affected subjects have shown symptoms like- mood swings, excessive use of foreign lingo or consuming copious amounts of alcohol (especially the aerated variety). Females show different symptoms altogether. Females normally have shown excessive……..”
-From an article by Dr. Adhbhut Bhave, published in the Journal of Bullshit, dated 29th September 2004

The 90’s saw the first wave of ADDS. The second wave claimed many more than the first. The third however, has coincided with Lehman Bandhu filing Chapter 11. Some of my best buds were affected and are now in rehab-the US. Getting in is quite easy. Hopping on H1-Bs, applying for post grad, marrying another ADDS victim or jumping over the fence of US-Mexico border are considered the normal ways of entering the rehab. Once in, there are many withdrawal symptoms. The first being the habit of multiplying by a factor of fifty to anything after the sign ‘$’. They say time is the greatest healer. It is. Slowly the victims start using jargon like miles, gallons, cents, central time, credit history or Beyonce.

My college buds and peers who entered the rehab in the most respective way, are currently recovering from a recent epidemic of self-loathing and self-pity. I don’t blame them. No one could have foretold an apparently imminent economic downturn. But my mates are paying for it. Through their overwhelmed noses. One is sleepless in Seattle, one has taken an early summer hibernation in Buffalo, the Miami guy is wondering why his 3 liter car is costing him more lately and the one in Oklahoma is curious to know why the water is so still (you see, he lives in a place called Stillwater). Believe me-I’m not using their misery as fodder for my insatiable appetite of coming up with something witty. Well, maybe a little.

Then Mr. Obama comes into the picture. The crusader who is relentlessly pursuing to pass a bill in the senate that will wipe out ADDS. I hear that the rehab ‘coupons’ will be less this year as the affected victims are….well, too many! Another literal nail in the proverbial coffin. Not good news, definitely.

Most of the times, when the first guy jumps into a dark ditch, the second one calls for help. But here, we have a beeline to be the first guy, and I’m in it.

In my last appointment with the doctor (a friend) I learnt that I have most of the symptoms for the ADDS, except for the foreign lingo thing-need to work on that. I really need to get myself fixed early, coz my friend the doctor-he’s headed off to Alaska this fall.

22 Comments

Filed under Non Fiction, Opinion

Kyon ki aadmi bhi kabhi bandar tha….

‘Main tumhare bachche ki maa banne wali hu’

‘…..fir hum uske jahidat ke mallik ban jayenge’

‘Bahu – Yeh lo ghar ki tijori ki chawi’

Sounds familiar? Yes – Clichés from Indian soaps (well….actually any genre of video media). The iconic aphorisms created by the immensely talented writers/screenwriters/producers/spot boys who caused a revolution in our drawing rooms. These gifted scribblers discovered an inexhaustible source of permutations and combinations from the mistress-illegitimate child-amnesia-rape-death-rebirth -amnesia-vamp-seduction-amnesia warehouse. These penny for a page auteurs invented cheap plots, cheaper productions and cheapest camera tricks which would put the makers of Zee Horror Show to shame. They fathered ‘The Great Indian Soap Opera’- that dominates the prime time entertainment today (except maybe for the tearfests they call the talent shows).

Now, one cannot blame them for copying the Mexican, American or even Srilankan soaps. They never planned to reinvent the wheel, did they? They were simply ‘inspired’ by All My Children (an American daily soap which is still running from 1970). They thought that Santa Barbara is like any Ghar Ki kahani. They tapped on Ugly Betty and made her the ugly beti (Jassi Jasi koi…) – another one inspired from the Columbian soap Betty la fea.

Why am I writing this? Well- I’m a huge fan of western TV shows. Not the soaps, mind you. Entourage, True Blood, Arrested development, Six Feet Under, Scrubs,Coupling, Yes Minister, Dexter, Californication, Burn Notice are only a few of the shows that I follow. And every time I finish watching an episode I mentally recite the ‘what if this could happen in India’ prayer. It used to-once upon a time. Indian television has seen better days than today. It was never the reign of these prevailing orgies of bahus and their presumably badass saases.

Good ol’ doordarshan had shows like Circus, Malgudi Days, Mungerilal Ke Haseen Sapne, Nukkad, Dekh Bhai Dekh. These shows had a more creative appeal to them. They churned out a lot of talent in the form of directors- Saeed Mirza or Anurag Kashyap are prime examples of film makers who started with TV. But these shows were not soap operas. They were more real. They didn’t have the men eating dinners in three piece suits or the women dressed for Diwali while sipping the morning tea. I could identify with these shows.

A look at the TV guide today, was a real treat. These writers have brought the hyphen ‘-’ in the TV shows. A few years ago these used to adorn the films like Daag-The Fire or Dushman-The Enemy. The scribblers are now showing off their prowess over punctuation by creating names like-
Aathvaan Vachan….Saath Vachano Se Badhkar, Ek Safar Aisa…Kabhi Socha Na Tha, Jeevan Saathi-Hum Safar Zindagi Ke, Balika Vadhu-Kacchi Umar Ke Pakke Raste or Agle Janam Mohe Betiya Hi Kijo (wtf !)

**shiver**

As a part of my ‘research’ for writing this hate blog I managed to sit through a show for an entire minute. After that I couldn’t. I physically couldn’t. I actually felt like throwing up. The scene which was thrown at me was supposed to tell me how a particular phone call was attended in the house by someone who was not supposed to. The character who unwittingly attends the call becomes aware of an evil scheme. After the call ends the actor all of a sudden starts talking to himself. Now don’t get me wrong here- soliloquy is a method of acting used by Shakespearean actors, but no- this guy starts walking into the camera as if he’s angry at the spot boy behind the camera and then continues to talk at the wall behind the camera! He then makes a face as if he stepped on his own or someone else’s morning glory. What the hell man! Who does that!?! Do you talk over your shoulder to your father or mother? Does your family stand in a line in the drawing room while talking? Do you sweat every time you hear something you don’t want to?

The thing is-they conceived it to entertain an audience that doesn’t mind if it is treated as morons. Giving the audience the credit for its intelligence (or the lack of) is bad for business. Ekta Kapoor, the fairy godmother for bad actors-who have a penchant for bad acting, does this in a rather emphatic fashion. And these actors have their faces stapled to my newspaper copy telling me how a certain soap actor invokes pain in a scene by recalling how he broke his wrist when he was three.

I hear one of the cable networks is giving Hi-Def service. What the hell will you watch in HD? The gory details of a vamps makeup? The transformation of a hospital wing to the drawing room of Singhania family in consecutive scenes? The tears of a talent show contestant? I don’t think so.

I long for the day when the Indian TV shows will make sense. May be that day we’ll see pigs handglide.

6 Comments

Filed under Non Fiction, Opinion

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.

 

 

 

19 Comments

Filed under Choice, Non Fiction

Eddie’s Day Out

Ever since I had heard that Iron Maiden will be coming back to India for the third consecutive year to perform in Bangalore, I had promised myself and almost everybody else that I’ll be there. Last year I had attended their Mumbai concert (\m/) and I have a T-shirt to prove it. But this time round I had to face the grim reality that I was not earning anymore. The ticket was 1600 bucks. Pretty steep for a guy with stagnant funds. But I thought heck with it. I’ll go anyway.

Ignoring my parents’ raised eyebrows I boarded the bus to Bangalore hoping for a performance that would be more brutal than the last one (the last one literally brutal….I had been punched, kicked, jabbed without being in the mosh pit!….I had to come out of the crowd for water which made me and Alok miss Fear of the Dark…..my apologies Alok). The journey was like the many others that I had endured in the last two years- loud Kannad movies, uncomfortable seats, erratic air conditioning and a co-passenger who either snores or farts all night long. The latter is almost always constant.

On reaching Bangalore I had the familiar nauseating feeling. But this time I was just a tourist. No quick showers and making a run to the office. My roomies picked me up and by noon we were on Palace Grounds. On our way there we could see scores of metal heads coming out of pubs like Purple Haze, Guzzlers, Pecos after finishing the traditional pre-concert binges.

Every time I enter Palace Grounds I get goose bumps. That place has so many awesome memories- Scorpions, Megadeth, Machine Head, Satyricon, Parikrama…The excitement starts right from the entrance where you can see rock fans sporting and representing their fav bands which vary from heavy metal like Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth, Sepultura, Bodom, Dimmu Borgir to the oldies like Frank Zappa, Led Zep, Sabbath, Floyd. It’s like a heavy metal red-carpet. You just want to be one in the crowd. People trying to sneak in- cigarettes, weed, lighters, digi cams or other contrabands- is not an unfamiliar sight. At the end of the day I think that place has more cigarette butts than all of Bangalore!

The arena was the same as the Megadeth concert. Two stages- Smaller one for the opening bands and the bigger one for the headlining bands. The smaller bands started at about 2 pm. The first band to play was called ‘Slayed’ (Obvious Slayer rip-off). Their songs were okay-ish. The second band up was a Pune based band called Abraxas. They had recently won the CRI contest and I was really looking forward to see a Pune band perform. And boy were they awesome! Their lead vocalist was a skinny guy with an absolute brutal voice. After singing about four originals they did a Lamb of God cover. That song had the biggest mosh pit. It was crazy. But I ended up banging my head on the periphery of the pit. The last couple of encounters in the pit were rather unpleasant (I know they are supposed to be that way). A hard kick in the stomach in Mumbai, a blow on the nose at the Satyricon concert and a vicious punch in the chin at the Megadeth gig (the last one was a result of my own drunken jive-my roomie Nikhil had later happily informed me) 

The bands that followed were Bangalore’s own Synaps and Kryptos, a British band called Cyanide Serenity (stupid name….stupid band) and an Italian band called ‘Brandon Ashley & The Silver Bugs’- I wish their songs were as interesting as their name!(also I’m pretty sure that one of the ‘Bugs’ was gay)

The main act was opened by one of my fav Indian bands- Parikrama. They belted out a few originals only after starting with a trademark AC/DC cover.  The crowd had started to gather in front of the main stage. With military precision everybody took out their cigarettes, joints, bongs or other inebriating devices and started smoking. The atmosphere was already hazy. I don’t smoke- but a rock show is not complete without that familiar revolting smell of marijuana. A guy in front of me had managed to sneak in a joint under his collar. After enjoying a few cushes (I hope that’s the word) he passed it on to a friend. After much cursing he got it back with only the butt or what was left of it. Poor bloke….he was really disappointed!

After Parikrama the stage was empty for  twenty minutes. The crowd was almost at its wits end and we could here the familiar catcalls like ‘Start the f*cking show!’ After shouting ‘Maiden!’ for what seemed to be an eternity suddenly the stage went dark…..and we heard that awesome opening riff of Aces High. I went crazy. We all went crazy. Everybody ran and tried to get as close to the stage as they could (A common phenomenon triggered by mass hysteria and mounting impatience). After the crowd found its rhythm and I found my other hand, everybody started banging their heads and throwing up the devils horns. The regulars were swaying wildly to start a pit while the less regulars (like me) were busy taking pictures. Iron Maiden was in business.

After the first song, Bruce Dickinson informed us that we were ‘one fu*king wild lot’. He took a moment and happily let us know that Iron Maiden had outsold Pink Floyd and Beatles in the last year. So why not celebrate? What followed was a relentless onslaught of some brilliant operatic vocals and five minute guitar solos.

The setlist was like my own fav playlist- Aces High, 2 minutes to midnight, Number of the beast, The Trooper (during which I went berserk…..I hit three guys in the head and kicked one in the shin), Run to the hills, Wasted Years, Powerslave, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Evil That Men Do, Phantom of the Opera, Children of the Damned, Fear of the Dark and Hallowed be thy Name.

After getting Fear of the Dark and Hallowed back to back I was dizzy with ecstasy. I shouted every last word I knew from the songs. I think I even shouted the guitar solos. I banged my head till I could bang no more. I punched everybody within an arms distance. I also got punched by everybody within an arms distance.

Andy Murray played the perfect guitar solos (which I have by-hearted after a million repeats), Steve Harris’ bass was spot on and Bruce Dickinson was just himself- crazy, energetic and entertaining. Be it changing into outrageous costumes after every song or monkeying across the stage-he kept the adrenaline pumping. Before the last song they promised that they’ll be back the next year.

 

So, my second Maiden concert was a blast. Picked up another tour T-shirt this time. Only 800 bucks. Given the cash deficit after this concert, I really need to start saving for the next one.

 

(Eddie is the Iron Maiden’s mascot. ‘He is a perennial fixture in the often violent album cover art’- Wikipedia)

    

 

7 Comments

Filed under Lifestyle, Non Fiction