Category Archives: Opinion

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.

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

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.

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

Raavan: A Review or ‘Raavan is a bad bad movie!!’

I cannot believe I fall for it everytime! Good promotion seems to be my weakness. 3 Idiots, Rajneeti and now this! But then again was Raavan well promoted?- that shall be left for another day.

Today I watched Mani Ratnam’s Raavan. This movie belongs to the yeah-they-can-make-that-crap-and-get-away-with-it genre. It is so disappointing that it inspired me to write something after almost three months. The fundamental flaw is that the producers thought that they could sell a movie by casting two actors in roles that would constitute a Freudian Nightmare. With that deceptive trump card in their pockets they went ahead indulged in sheer mediocrity. And so the plot never thickens; the water stays well below the bridge and the cookie never crumbles.

Abhishek Bachchan deserves a separate paragraph. This fellow is clearly not versatile in his craft. He did a good job in Yuva, Guru and Bluffmaster. But to portray an eternal Hindu badass I think you need to ACT better. He reduces Raavan to an idiotic stubborn juvenile delinquent who refuses to return the stolen mangoes. I think the director invented an innate quirkiness in Beera to distract us from his incompetence. So instead of having ten heads Beera makes an interesting noise ten times before/after or in the middle of every noteworthy scene. Some Most times it ends up being funny. But not everything is bad. Small B has an amazing screen presence that you cannot just throw out of the window. It is ruined everytime he opens his mouth(kinda like Dia Mirza). But like someone I know said: Write him a brooding role and he will win you an oscar; or at least a filmfare.

Ash- I don’t like her much so she didn’t really disappoint me. But thanks to Santosh Sivan’s mindblowing cinematography we can ignore her ultra sonic dialogue delivery.

Mani Ratnam- Why would you ruin that for us? It looked so promising. I think Mr. Ratnam and Mr. Jha met and flipped a coin to decide who would get which epic to ruin. Mr. Jha won Mahabharatasque Godfather and Mr. Mani ended up with Raavan.

The story- well there isn’t any. Pretty predictable if you had religious fanatics for grandparents: Raavan abducts Sita. Ram gets angry. He finds a Hanuman and gathers a hunting party and enters Lanka. Meanwhile Sita is busy issuing high frequency protests when she is not jumping off cliffs (too many people jump of cliffs!). We then see that thanks to a phenomenon called Stockholm Syndrome she seems to fall in love with Raavan (that’s sacrilege I tell you!) and there’s a reason other than her beauty why Raavan kidnapped her. After a few insignificant twists there is a pre-climactic out of this world (read bullshit) fight sequence on a shabbily made bridge (a literal metaphor of the Ram Setu which most people didn’t get because of the sheer obviousness). In which we see our actual hero Raavan giving a technically perfect tombstone to Ram and then proceeds to further kick Ram’s rear and then free Sita (Ram plays absolutely no role in her rescue). The tension never really builds up and yet Govinda manages to relieve it.

How could I sit through this ordeal?: Because  of one guy called Santosh Sivan. The cinematography is so wonderful that he makes it almost worth it. It’s a treat for the eyes. Using a variety styles he has captured the landscapes, portraits and what not, perfectly. I’ve been a fan of his work for ages. I think he started from where he left off in Asoka. The palette used also adds to the mood. All the colors used in the jungle belong to the jungle. Tremendous work by the art department. You see the problem here.? I have to try really hard to appreciate the movie.

But I know what will happen: The box office earnings will cross Australia’s GDP next weekend thanks to its release in 2 million screens.

On the bright side: While walking out of the theater, Salil heard the guy in front of him say after a moments thought,”I think it was better than Kites.” I found it hard to disagree with him.

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Filed under Film, Opinion

Simple?

A man walks into an eatery with a bag. He takes a seat and orders something. A helpful waiter brings the food and the man eats it (?). After spending sometime the man walks out minus the bag. The waiter notices and lifts the bag (?). The bag is a bomb. It explodes and kills 11 people. Is it so simple?

May be I noticed the obvious ease in this act of terror because it was done in my hometown. But fuck man! Is it really so simple?

Result of the act: 11 dead; temporary panic; lesser known babus at press releases; opposition party strikes gold; so does a bollywood film.

Blame the politicians. Blame the police. Blame the media. Blame public ignorance?

Yes. It is simple.

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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.

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

Let there be Beer….

[This is a post about beer. Inevitably, it contains a lot of beerhetoric. It does not intend to challenge anyone’s take on alcohol consumption nor does it promote alcoholism. It is a product of an unhealthy urban youth’s genuine fascination about beer.]


“A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it’s better to be thoroughly sure.” -Czech proverb.

My fascination about beer can be traced back to my childhood. When my dad used to entertain his buddies, there used to be beer in the house. My brother and I used to have a laugh watching all the uncles make their half-hourly pilgrimage to the loo- each one longer than the one before. That time I didn’t get why all of them kept on drinking this particular aerated beverage knowing fully well that they’ll have to ‘go’ again before grabbing the next one. It seemed so pointless. The whole exercise seemed ridiculous. It was one of life’s greatest mysteries for me. But in time when I started doing such pilgrimages on my own, some how life was simple again.

The truth be told- my dad bought me my first beer. Not a sign of bad parenting but purely awesome parenting. A fact my drinking buddies hate, as they have to go through an entire stack of mints before going back home, while I have to go through only half of it. My first impression of beer was- absolute piss. But like most Coen Bros’ movies, it grew on me. I’ll always remember the first pint that I actually managed to enjoy. A feeling of unfounded joy had washed over me. My jaws had clenched and unclenched with every sip. As the can in my hand started feeling lighter, so did I. It was the best 40 bucks I ever spent.

Most of the times, beer invokes extreme opinions among liquor enthusiasts. You either like beer or you don’t. And you can’t just like beer. You love it. A mild acquaintance with beer is like being half pregnant. It is impossible. Once you develop a taste for it, it has a power over you. It is not addiction. I mean I won’t sell my treasured watch just to get hold of a pint. Its just that every once in a while, the mysterious unsettling feeling that nags you day in and day out can be easily fixed by a chilled glass of refreshing beer. The feeling of guilt or rejection can be washed down just as easily. One can even cleverly say that a beer in hand is worth two in the fridge.

Now as you start drinking it more often, you start learning the finer nuances of the art of beer drinking. You can tell what variety of peanuts goes well with which brand. Which beer when served cold is best with rock n roll. The number of pints it takes to catch up with already drunk lunatics. It is almost an exact science. You can tell so much about a person from the way he drinks beer. If he gulps down the first couple of pints and starts looking for the basin- he’s a greedy rookie. If he doesn’t touch the cold sparkling glass for half an hour- he has recently visited a dentist. And if he steadily keeps the pints coming, we have a true pro. There are so many! I’ll save the others for my stand up routine.

One thing that I have expertly noted is that beer has never been out of fashion. Scotch was and always will be a royal drink. But it has had its share out of the limelight when the Russians brought with them the colourless and allegedly odourless vodka. With the tequilas and bourbons fighting their way up the liquor menu, beer has remained like an interesting looking regular at the end of the bar. This guy (the regular) is always on a first name basis with the bartender. And by one look at him you know that this fella is well travelled and has many a story to tell. This is a drink I can identify with. It is cheap yet rich. It is not pretentious or overtly ostentatious like most cocktails which I believe are lemon juice in different costumes. In its simplicity lies its sophistication.

Beer renders the drinker with a presumed sense of well being, which in some cases leads to a hilarious chain of events. Beer can cure despondence, shyness, overconfidence and even constipation. This brewed social lubricant is responsible for a sizable percentage of promotions, demotions, friendships, marriages and divorces. It can make a Yashraj movie almost bearable. It is known to start conversations wherein people actually talk a lot about nothing. A few pints later, they can be found quarreling over the same nothing. Too much of it however is not advisable. Overindulgence of beer in one sitting, most of the times makes the drinker profess his love for a nearby commode the next morning. I have a string of heartbroken commodes in my wake.

In my experience I feel that Kingfisher is a neighbourhood hero. Corona is a supermodel on the cover of a glossy magazine (complete with a slice of lemon). Khajurao, Godfather, Thunderbolt, Spencer10000, Haywards Black, Ambero, King’s, Canon 10000 and Tennent’s are thugs with a heart of gold. Heineken is an expensive consultant with valuable experience. Carlsberg and Tuborg are the cousins who are raised abroad. Foster’s, Budweiser and Tiger are regulars at the comic bookstore. Tsingtao and Suntory are my friends from China.

You see, I cannot write enough about beer. Beer amazes me to no end. I love beer. I have a waist pouch to prove it. And I don’t mind it. I think of it as a tattoo to remind me of the (too many) good times I’ve had.

Vote for Vijay Mallaya.

[Last weekend I missed an opening of a pub in Pune which has one of India’a first home brewing facility. As blasphemous as it sounds, I did not attend this and missed a great deal of fun and frolic. Bidi loves teasing me about it.]

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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.

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Filed under Non Fiction, Opinion