Thursday, January 26, 2006

republic day

this is the day when a nation that chooses its rulers in a more or less democratic manner opts to behave in a fashion more apt for a dictatorship. we have various contingents of the armed forces prance around in a show of arms that would make mugabe smile. and how can one miss the colourful floats that showcase each of the states of the union.

thankfully the guy taking the salute during the march past isnt a fragile old has been, who can't stand for the duration. we're at least spared the ignominy of seeing a head of state take a tumble.

adding a touch of irony and contradiction to the entire proceedings is the fact that the chief guest for the days events is a despotic monarch. who comes up with the list of potential invitees? i'd like to know their rationale for shortlisting.

even when i was a little kid in school i couldnt understand the fuss everyone made for the 26th of january. its an awkward holiday to say the least, when was the last time you wished someone "happy republic day"? if you did then please dont let me know.

independence day has its raison d'etre, we managed to get the english out. maybe its because i dont know much about the law/constitution and hence fail to get excited about it but as far as i can tell theres very little emotional drama that can be squeezed out of the fact that we released a draft copy of a document that would be edited/amended on numberous occasions. thats probably why even the marketers give it a miss. why, it even gets lesser ad spend than fathers day.

thank heavens i dont live in delhi. from what i hear its denizens are forced to put up with a greater number of inconveniences in the days leading up to the grand occasion. all under the name of security measures for the high and mighty servants of the public.

but hey! why am i complaining? yet another public holiday, the second this year. i intend to count them as they go along. the joys of being a public sector official.

Monday, January 23, 2006

a wannabe dictator's birthday

thats what some unemployed maharashtrian youth seemed to be celebrating today. from what i hear this was a citywide expression of happiness for a stubborn geriatric.

some of these chaps were expressing their joy by lighting noisy firecrackers next to a hospital. in fact right in front of a "no honking - silence zone" signboard. to compound the misery inflicted on hapless passersby, they even blocked and slowed traffic.

well! its a free country and everyone has rights, i suppose, even hard-core, right wing, communal proselytisers and their followers. of course, the above mentioned octogenarian would never do the rest of us the favor of being courteous enough to accept the fact that those of us who aren't "sons of the soil" by his definition have any rights in this part of the nation, if he had anything to say about it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

a lack of skill sets and a fall from grace

i happened to speak with a watchman the other evening and during the course of the conversation i discovered that the guy was a tamil brahmin, descendant of a powerful upper caste priestly clan. this bit of information got me curious and i tried to dig for further information about his family as discreetly as was possible. its amazing how gossip, or even the hint of it, can get us enthusiastic.

it so transpired that less than four generations ago, this chap's ancestors led the lordly life. they had always been temple priests and were hence assured of a comfortable life, with enough money to go around, and of course a respectable position in society.

it all went wrong when these guys didn't adapt to the changing times by getting a relevant education. they refused to study anything but sanskrit shlokas, or were refused permission by their elders to study anything remotely more useful. as time went by the descendants of this family found themselves increasingly unemployable in a qualification driven, job oriented marketplace that had considerably lesser time for temple priests.

the slide downwards began, and they found themselves trapped in the proverbial vicious cycle of poverty. a lack of relevant education made sure that they didnt have many employment opportunities, which led to their wealth being eroded and not enough of it being generated. this affected the level and quality of education they could get, which pushed them further into the morass.

so it went from his grandfather to his father to our fellow at the gate. but there's light even at the end of this tunnel. this guys son is apparently doing really well in school and the family makes the necessary sacrifices to make sure the kid gets the resources he needs. the father is of the opinion that this little fellow is their ticket for an entry into the middle classes once again.

i don't know what it is about such stories that really moves me but personally i'm a sucker for them. now i'm going to believe and hope that the little kid continues to do well and achieves everything that his family expects him to. i accept the fact that its too much of a burden for little shoulders but we've all got a raison d'etre, this just happens to be the job he's supposed to do. in this endeavour i wish him and his father all the luck and good fortune they might need.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

cellphone invaders

if you can get by, for even a week, without an intrusion on your privacy by the ubiquitous call centre sales teams then do let me know how you manage it. i find myself bombarded by these callers every other day, they sound pretty anxious to give me various loans, credit cards, and other such goodies. invariably its from some bank or financial institution so i guess i must feel good about the fact that at least these guys consider me a good credit risk, which frankly wasnt the case even a year ago. but i could really do without all the attention.

initially, i did get pretty worked up whenever i got calls like this. but now i've decided to use them as de-stressers. i happily agree to subscribe to whatever service they want me to utilise, then give them a fictional identity and address to contact. i did this last week with some of these callers and they're still out on the streets looking for buildings that don't exist.

yes, i agree that it might be inhuman to have the poor guys who're actually doing the legwork run around in the hot sun, but hey, i'm only retaliating with my own brand of firepower in the cellphone wars. i'm just hoping that after sending enough guys on runarounds i'll get knocked off some of these databases that call centres probably maintain. if they do that because i'm a loony liar thats just as good a reason as any, as far as i'm concerned. if its any consolation to these guys, i'll have them know that they havent been the only people to have branded me such.

it works better for me cause i've threatened and abused demanding to be struck off these lists to no avail. of course, i wont deny that i have an unnecessarily idiotic streak. i extend this logic to hapless folks who make the mistake of dialling the wrong number and in the process reach me.

i pretend to be the person who they're looking for and continue the conversation till such a time as i'm found out. only recently, i received a call from a chap who wanted to order some furniture. i went to the extent of taking down the specified dimensions he needed and even gave him an expected date of delivery in addition to bargaining a fair price for the deal and also settled on a 30% advance commission.

i'd recommend these methods personally. the plus points are that theres absolutely no negative fallout, since termination is completely in your control. its totally amazing as a relaxation technique. and of course, you get to be a little bit of an actor, play different roles, characters, people and gauge how convincing you can be.

Friday, January 13, 2006

walking to goa

thats what some chaps claimed to be doing last evening if you can take their banners at face value.

normally, i wouldn't really care what some unemployed marathi youth did with their spare time. but this once it got my attention since a thousand or so of these guys were walking on the road, and of course blocking traffic. so all motor vehicles around these fellows had to slow down and hence caused a jam that extended for miles till i managed to overtake the walkers.

these guys had banners proclaiming their love for sai baba and their intention to walk till goa as proof of the above mentioned love and affection. i mistakenly assumed that it was a cricket related demonstration since these road blockers were all wearing floppy cricket hats on their heads. mind you, it was past eight in the evening and they had just begun their walk from bombay to goa so there was no way they encountered any sun.

once i got through the chaos that had resulted from their walking i stopped cursing them and started thinking about the motivation that would make a lot of people undertake a task of this magnitude. i'm trying to imagine how recruitment for this kind of thing happens? then of course there's the entire cost factor, what manner of funding do such plans attract?

and what in sai baba's name will these guys do when they get to goa? which happens to be quite far from shirdi, as a matter of fact its even in the wrong direction.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

eid mubarak

the year's first public holiday. i'm so glad i work for a bank. its awesome to have a day off in the middle of the week. this should happen every once in a while, the good news is that since i work for a public sector bank its actually going to happen quite regularly.

its especially nice since my last job was with a retail chain that didn't believe in the concept of having days off for employees. not a bad idea considering most people shop on their days off and hence retail stores stay open almost all through the year. it used to try my patience no end when i had to explain to people that i worked sundays, then they'll look at you with a dead pan expression and ask you once again about the necessity to work on sundays. i've stayed out of jail and away from life sentences only because of the will power i've managed to muster so as to not bludgeon people to death while explaining that most of humanity reserves sundays for their mall visits.

inspite of much editing, everything i've written that attempts to get past this point is a digression and hence has been deleted. i'll sign off here with my best wishes to all of you who sacrificed goats today. and a reminder to invite me to the next partaking of such a feast.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

long delayed book review

i meant to do this almost as soon as i had the blog going actually. since i like reading so much (my wife can testify to that statement, i think it bothers her sometimes), i thought my blog posts will be heavily dominated by review of books i've just read or am in the process of reading. but surprisingly, i've done two slots of movie reviews and not a single one on my reading.

the best book i read in 2005 was definitely 'shantaram' by gregory david roberts. i wont say a thing about it, except that if you haven't read it yet then you're missing something. if you live in bombay and the city is in your blood, then you can't help liking it. especially, if you've hung out long enough in the colaba/south-bombay area.

in a moment of good fortune i happened to find an old classic that i've been looking for since a while now. neal stephenson's 'the diamond age'. this one's a futuristic story, thankfully without the trappings that befall science fiction. brilliant book. best 100 bucks i ever spent. it so happened that i took a couple of friends from out of town over to the british council library, this is when i scanned through their withdrawn shelves and found this one selling for what i thought was a ridiculously low price. anyways, its now a proud addition to my bookshelf.

i'm also halfway through 'white mughals' by william dalrymple. this one's a history lesson in the middle of the love affair between a high born muslim lady and the british resident at the hyderabad court during the days of the raj. this one's a little heavy and not exactly a page turner but it sure is captivating.

just to remove any misconceptions that you might have about me only reading good stuff here are the bad ones.

i'm very sorry that i read susan hill's 'the various haunts of men' and i especially regret having read 'the codex' by douglas preston. this was a particularly bad time since i followed these up by a really mediocre effort on the part of john grisham that goes by the name of 'the last juror'. this could have been traumatic but i was rescued in time by 'the curious incident of the dog in the night time' by mark haddon. this last one is a brilliantly written piece of work. it introduces you into the world as seen from the eyes of a fifteen year old autistic boy.

anybody have a different view on any of the above, please let me know. what would really be helpful are some recommendations.

Monday, January 09, 2006

missing shoe polish guy

i moved into a new neighbourhood last july. we can't mark territory the good old way but we still seek to get comfortable with our surroundings when we find ourselves in a new environment. after the initial exploring is done, what helps us settle down a little more are the service providers in and around our area. they make life a little easier.

of course, over a period of time we take them for granted and expect them to be there on a daily basis. we only notice them when they aren't around. we argue with them about pricing, regularity and the quality of their service. its not all smooth sailing, we have our ups and downs.

so among the various domestic helps, the laundry guy, the chap who cleans my motorcycle every morning, the grocery delivery fellows, the delivery guy from the local wine shop, there used to be this really frail old man who had a shack right outside our apartment block. he'd polish my shoes almost every morning, but of late he's disappeared. i havent seen him for more than a month and i'm missing the guy's services.

since he was a really old chap, poor, not very healthy, lived in uncomfortable conditions (for anybody, not just an old man), and had no immediate family (as far as i could tell) it makes me a little worried that the old chap must have bought his little piece of the big farm in the sky.

what makes it really sad is that i didnt even know his name. i dont know what he mush have done with his life when he was younger. i'm wondering what he must have done (or rather, not done) to spend his last days in this manner. i sincerely hope his passing was observed by others too. and hopefully, some of them would know more about him than me.

"go in peace old man who always had a smile for me". as eulogies go, that's not much but it's the best i can do with the limited knowledge i have about him. it's true that all of us touch many lives, in many ways, everyday. what's more honest is that when someone you know dies, no matter how well or little you knew them, a little bit of you dies with them.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

gods of the elevator lobby

i'm sure that in our ever expanding pantheon of hindu gods and godesses we could squeeze in enough shelf space for a few of these guys. the esteemed entities i refer to here are none other than the almighty lift operators at the sbi head office.

no smirks please. if you've ever seen them at work you'll agree that these are not ordinary sentient humanoids but rather a little more like mischevious sprites. they lord it over on their turf, which is spread over two lobbies in the building, and their weapons of choice travel through the twelve elevator shafts in this very abode.

now you might think, that for a building that has twenty floors and maybe houses two thousand people during the average working day, it would be sufficient to have twelve elevators catering to these needs. if you haven't seen these guys at work, then we'll forgive you your folly of assumption.

to add anger to misery there's a board on display at the lobby on which you can track the movements of all the lifts. this is a very helpful tool since it helps you appreciate the beauty of synchronisation. i kid you not, all the elevators display a solidarity that would put our communist trade union leaders in the shadow. they all travel in the same direction together at the same time.

so if you are waiting for a lift to carry you to one of the top floors and are on the point of praying fervently for one to at least look like its coming down, thats when you'll see all the elevators going up together(it's not that difficult to imagine them doing this hand in hand). then they'll all come down in sync with each other. they'll also make it a point to stop on each floor in the interim.

akin to rubbing salt in fresh wounds, when they do come down to the ground floor you'll be spoilt for choice. thats of course when the operator chooses to let you access the lifts. they have a lock and key system for each of their pets. he can thus turn a key and make your visit to the lobby that much longer. when the guy feels benevolent enough, he'll turn the key yet again and revel in the rush of the crowd to the transport that he has so graciously deigned to open to the public.

then of course you can hear the cruel, evil god laughing in your head when the elevator then stops at every floor along the way. at this point you could be forgiven for wanting to kill the daftoids who get off at the first floor. hello! if you're going to spend so much time waiting for the god-damned thing when all you need to do is go to the first floor, why will you not take the stairs? i want to understand this rationale.

since i dont usually visit temples unless obligated to, i extend the logic to these deities too. i usually take the stairs. since my desk resides on the third floor, this means a four storey climb every day(also counting the mezzanine floor between ground and first).since this is all the exercise i get on an average day, i also give thanks to these gods in the lobby with their powerful machines for doing their part in keeping me a little more active than i would normally be.

Friday, January 06, 2006

always the bridesmaid, never the bride

thats the one phrase that comes to mind when i think of arshad warsi's acting career.

lets not even venture into those films where he plays the supporting cast. thats just too obvious. he does lots of them. even wins much praise for the amazing performances that he pulls off. maybe an award too, every once in a while.

but the real clinchers are in movies where he plays the lead. they're more often than not gutsy movies, with drastically different storylines, sub-plots, able supporting casts, brilliantly executed projects and all in all a good way to spend a few hours. cases in point being 'waisa bhi hota hai' and 'sehar'.

ok! the marketing and hype that accompanies the usual bollywood product is missing in the above mentioned movies but hey 'mangal pandey' couldnt be saved with aamir khan himself indulging in direct selling whereas 'iqbal' managed to float through a lot of movie halls and generate enough interest considering its budget, which was a little more than that of a documentary.

so i'm a little confused. obviously the word of mouth plan isnt working here either, if thats what the makers were betting on. lets just hope that the poor sod doesnt give up and continues to do the good work inspite of the lack of adulation.

if this guy was a listed stock, i'd recommend a buy. he's an undervalued performer, and that too with a consistent track record. any of you producers out there reading this, pick this boy. he'll provide more bang for the buck.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

a diploma in intellectual property rights

as an addition to her degree in law makes my sister view everything from the standpoint of a paranoid lawyer.(the last two words might be repititive, excuse them, they're there for emphasis)

ever since i started posting blogs here, she's been giving me dire warnings about how some unscrupulous reader would plagiarise my texts and get them published someplace else. not to mention the fame and riches that will befall this dishonest person, all at my expense. so as a competent lawyer would, she advises me to register my trademark and at the very least append a copyright symbol to the essays here.

initially i believed that having a copyright on postings would take something away from the spirit of the blog, but she's relentless. she even sends me links to other blogs that carry a copyright symbol. she's obviously been trained well at law school. (i'm beginning to get an insight into how she managed to top the rankings there). in the face of such dogged recriminations i have chickened out and taken the easier option.

hence, all writing here is protected by this shield ©. so you evil, non-creative, plagiarising demons now be gone.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

two bandaids

thats all that i have to show for a providential escape on the bombay roads.

last evening, on the way home after work the wife and i were in thick traffic near byculla station. there was a taxi on my right and a car a little behind on the left. an enterprising driver tried to squeeze his car in the gap between the car on my left. this resulted in him hitting me on the side. thankfully he didnt hit me head on. the side of his car hit my handle bars and i went on to the taxicab on the right, bounced off and went right back on to the side mirrors of the traffic miscreant.

two of my fingers came into contact with the mirror at around 50kmph. this caused lots of pain and some bleeding. my wife's leg got a little bump in this melee too. everybody took off from the scene instantly. neither the taxicab, the miscreant nor me even stopped for a second. all concerned parties promptly disappeared. thankfully no one seemed very interested in getting into a fight.

i rode the rest of the way home with just three fingers on the clutch. and thats pretty much how i'm going to be changing gears for a while now.

a lucky scrape in more ways than one. i dont even want to think of the possibility that the bike could have skidded and led to us falling on the road which would have caused much more injury, thats assuming we wouldnt have fallen into oncoming traffic.

there are moments in life when one realises how lucky one is and gives thanks to a greater power for a favourable roll of the dice. this was definitely one of them.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

the folly of the poor

no other term would be more appropriate in certain instances where the unrich do what they do so as to propogate their economic backwardness.

this recent outrage on my part has been brought on by the resignation tendered by our household's domestic help. now this is a woman who gets paid 250 bucks a month from us. that she scrubs, cleans and dusts other peoples houses for such sums obviously means that she needs the amount pretty badly. unlike most cases, she's actually the second earner in her family since her husband works as a security guard in a nearby housing complex. no disrespect meant, but he probably doesnt rake it in either. add multpile child care expenses to the monthly bill and their household looks precariously placed on the economic ledge.

at this point of time, the rational reaction would be to take on additional revenue generating duties. but surprisingly, this is not the case. in fact reality is far from the truth. the domestic help needs to get up early in the morning and make breakfast for her husband before she comes to our house. since she has to come over pretty early in the day, since we leave before 9, her mornings are rushed and her husband is unhappy with the state of things. so she decides to stop coming over to our place and also to forgo the earnings generated from this exercise. hello! how is this the natural reaction? i would have thought that the response to this situation would be to wake up a little earlier everyday so as to satisfy all parties.

i grew up in a house where the mother woke up at 4:30 in the morning so as to complete all her tasks for the day so as to be able to be at work at 8. if my mom could do this why cant this chick?

i'm seriously curious. i've been in situations where 250 bucks used to make a sizeable difference to the monthly personal balance sheet. which makes it even more uncomprehensible. why do the poor turn down potential economic opportunities on a consistent basis? is it because they are poor? or are they poor because they turn down these very opportunities?

for those of you who cant identify the scenario with the domestic help, and there must be some of you since even i never had to deal with this till about 6 months ago, here's another more relevant example: autorickshaw/taxicab drivers. these guys would much rather hang around at their designated stands than take fares. their apparent reluctance to ferry you anywhere is made obvious through their extortionary pricing mechanism. but this could be an article for another time.

personally, and this opinion could be biased by way too many things, i guess that if i was as miserably poor as these people are then i'd be stopping just finely short of running myself into the ground in the pursuit of economic comfort. so i'm sure you can see why i cant comprehend the lack of rationality on the part of these guys. if any of you have clarifications or can throw some light on this aspect of their behaviour i'd be much obliged.

Monday, January 02, 2006

a wedding in the family

actually it happened almost a week ago, but i've been wondering if it would be prudent to mention my views on it on a public forum. for the record, i still havent made up my mind on the matter but i'm going to be doing it anyways. there's a good possibility that this posting might get deleted.

it began with a disadvantaged second cousin to my mom getting her daughter married off. now it so happens that the above mentioned aunt had run away from home in her teens and gotten married to some poor sod who happened to be a few rungs below on the socio-economic ladder and from a different religion, no less. given such a history i'm sure she was petrified her daughter would make a similar mistake, to pre-empt such a situation from arising she decided to have her daughter engaged as soon as she turned eighteen.

so far so good but the family the kids getting married into also comes from a similar background. the evident problem at the wedding was that there was a huge disconnect between mom's side of the family and everyone else at the wedding reception. the problems began in the church itself. oddly, it was the hindu crowd that kept their peace and children in check while the christians there were distracted and their kids ran amok in the middle of the service. it got to such a level where the priest cut short the wedding mass and performed the marriage ceremony without much ado while lamenting the lack of attention paid by the congregation.

at this point, i was well and truly aghast for i had never known a scene like this to occur. i was sure that things could go no lower. but surprisingly, it did. there was the reception to follow and the less said about that the better. very soon it started looking like the gatherings the poor slum folk have on every occasion. there was a loudspeaker blaring the latest bollywood item numbers in the middle of really outdated and ancient english club music. all of this was played at low quality, high decibel levels.

as if this wasnt bad enough there were the ubiquitous drunken revellers that gather around loudspeakers everywhere. that this happens and is practiced by certain sections of the society is really fine but what i had trouble accepting was that i suddenly found myself related to these sections, albeit tenuously.

the icing on the proverbial cake was just that. the mini-stampede that took place near the ice-cream stand was a fitting finale to the evening.

but in every cloud there lies a silver lining. in this case i was glad for my aunt who managed to pull this event off on pretty much her own steam. i'm sure she had to plan, strategise and budget for an eternity. in spite of the brouhaha it was in more ways than one her crowning moment and a commemoration to her long years of hard work, tenacity and perseverance in the face of adversity.

what gave me hope was the young couple who had their big day. from all that i could perceive they appear to be decent, level headed and hardworking folk who might just make a good future and a comfortable life for themselves. here's wishing them all the very best.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

three movies and a year goes by

thats pretty much how it transpired. the wife fell ill on friday and that ruled out the new years eve party in colaba. so we settled down to a movie marathon with a bottle of genuine french wine. the grape extract definitely helped the settling down process.

so we watched "garam masala", "shark tale", and "paheli". the first one was your stereotypical bollywood nonsensical musical comedy. it was hilariously funny, of course i only got the humour after i decided to try and stop connecting the scenes in my head, especially since the filmmakers had evidently given up the battle to do so. theres absolutely no semblance of flow to the script, but taken in isolation the individual scenes generate enough laughter to make the cost of the cd worthwhile.

shark tale is a brilliant animated movie. it reaffirms my faith in animation, i'm yet to be disappointed by a movie thats been sketched and drawn rather than shot and cut. so far so good but three in a row would have made me suspicious of the new year. too much laughing is never a great way to begin anything, it only looks that way.

so right then we ran into paheli. now this was a special disappointment since i was expecting some good work from amol palekar's directorial venture. this movie took the concept of a daftoid storyline to a whole new level. and since its been nominated to the oscar's as the official indian entry i'm sure that this will just confirm the notion many firangis would have about weird stuff happening in the land of the sadhus, snakecharmers and elephants.

thankfully, this is when the wine kicked in and i happily slept off and missed the last quarter of the movie. all in all, a great way to begin the new year.

happy 2006!