A Toast to 2012

Good bye! Thanks a ton! Good riddens!

But wait! Was it really that bad? Introspection, deep reflection and countless glasses of rum later, I begin to wonder if 2012 really was that bad a year? Let me look back at my year, my year of reckoning, discovery, loss, renewal and flickers of hope here and there.

The year began on a somber note for me when my aunt, who I have loved and admired all my life decided she needed a better place, then this world, to live in. She was always a true inspiration in just the way she conducted herself and her tenacity for many things in life. She doted on me and it was and still is tough to see her contact on my phone and not be able to dial her number. Makes me realize that you just can never have enough conversations with the people you love and I cringe at the thought that I didn’t call her more. She is surely in a better place now and she is quite probably tuning into her favorite TV show or cursing the plight of our society while she keeps a keen eye on me and hopes for the best for my life. You will always be missed.

For a year that started on such a low note, it did find it very tough to give me any highs. But seeing my beautiful niece go from being a couple of months old to a year old, will surely be the crowning glory of this year. Incredibly intelligent, naughty and cruelly cute, she has brought out a protective, quasi-fatherly side to me that I did not know existed. Now I understand when close family are so shocked every year to see me all grown up. I used to laugh at their incredulity but I’m very sure my niece will be doing the same when I look at her and tear up every time I see her. She is truly the apple of my eye and seeing her grow will undoubtedly be my favorite moments of 2013. That’s already guaranteed!

My love and appreciation for one of my most celebrated interests only strengthened this year. It began with Agneepath and was wrapped up quite tautly by Talaash. It wasn’t my favorite year of Bollywood but it surely was the year when I took it most seriously. I betted heavily on good content and I must say, I was let down a bit. But a few movies did sure warm the heart. Kahaani stunned me, Barfi wowed me but by far the movie of the year would, without a single iota of doubt be, Gangs of Wasseypur. A true classic and I fail to understand how that wasn’t our Oscar entry. The five hour, two part revenge saga was pretty much how I would like to define my life from this point. Watch it and you will know what I mean. This was also the year I discovered ‘The Secret in their eyes’, an Argentine thriller which is just beyond comparison. A movie that I urge you to watch just to understand how powerful cinema can truly be. Let Bollywood aspire for such heights this year and with possibly the most exciting February of movies lined up in my movie watching history, I cannot wait for 2013.

This also was the year of understanding love. It was warming, it was comforting, it was tiring, it gave me hope and encouragement, it made me feel all conquering, helped me realize what’s important and also was disappointing and outright shocking at times. I have seen my greatest lows and hit my most intoxicating highs this year and it’s all because of a few relationships that involved people very close to me. I’m ending the year with possibly my belief in love shaken, but not stirred. I have won some and possibly lost the most important one but I vow to continue fighting in 2013. Top of my list is to regain my love for the city of Chennai which has been an unsuspecting bystander in all my tribulations this year and has been blamed for most of it. In rediscovering my love for this city I believe lies the key to my renewal. As for relationships that seem to have gone out of my hand now, they need to know they will remain in the heart but my desire to fight back is at it’s strongest. So this is me hoping to be a better man who will be accepted better by people around him and this is me submitting myself to the greater conspiracies of the universe.

Finally, this was also the year of independence. My first full year standing on my own feet. My first year with my own transport independence – my first bike and car. This was also the year I took care of myself. This was the year my writing came into its own as for the first time I actually seem to have a plan for it and I hope 2013 will give me the right direction for my writing exploits. This was the year I decided to take control of my life and never let anyone or anything bring me to my knees. This was the year my career began to take serious shape and I truly believe I have a lot to prove and I have everything in place to do just that. 2012 will always be the year I decided to take control..

A huge thanks to everyone and everything who made this year brilliant. A special mention to killer roommates, my cozy family, all my friends –rich, fat, thin and the ones holding on tight. My cubicle mates, my zippy Activa, my smooth Indica, Old Monk and Bafat Pork, Flat 3A, Swedish House Mafia and Mumford & Sons, Manchester United, money in the bank, biryanis across Chennai and of course, the girl with the lovely voice. There were many others but I promise to add you in my Welcome to 2013 post J

Take care 2012 and yes, before I start drinking, Cheers!!     

Ranting over a Filter Kaapi

Welcome back to my world of rants. After I lost my cool over a Chicken Fried rice and blew my top over a Chicken Dindigul Biryani, I was hoping the world would allow me to kick back and enjoy my Filter Kaapi. But no… Oh no. All the usual suspects: Bollywood, politics, idiots on the road, the Republicans and the Brady Bunch. Ok the last one just helped complete that sentence in some sort of a conclusive way. But you are getting the drift and my Kaapi is going cold!!

Let’s begin with my favorite. Bollywood! I have immense respect for the late Mr. Yash Chopra and irrespective of him being alive or dead I can never get myself to speak a word against him because, simply, we owe a huge debt to the man for all that he has created. His latest Jab Tak Hain Jaan was surely flawed beyond repair but my angst isn’t against him. I’m not even angry at Shahrukh coz if you were disappointed with him, then I’m disappointed at you for expecting more from him. My angst, and at the risk of getting shot at a street corner in Triplicane, is at AR Rahman. I mean really man, have you given up? Did that Oscar kill ‘the bollywood’ in you? If we wanted Jatin-Lalit, we would have just gotten Jatin-Lalit, right? Please don’t torture us with your Hollywood and Tollywood rejects. We expect more from you, for crying out loud we have begun to expect more from Pritam too. Pritam!! They key word being, ‘expect’, let’s not take that and stamp it below that JBL headphones gifted to you by Mani Ratnam and some change from Danny Boyle.

Arrests because of posts on Facebook!! Have you guys even been following other posts on Facebook? Long before Thackeray decided to kick the living daylights out of that bucket being used to fill water for that toilet in Dharawi, there was enough and more shit on it. Have you seen a post that says, ‘ ZZZZZZ’!!?? That’s it, that’s what it says. ‘ZZZZZ!!’ Arrest that guy!! Couple of slaps and jail food will do his sleep some good. Two girls getting flustered about their own city in a state of Bandh because a man just died a death that was due to old age and possibly a lot of pent up rage, and that becomes wrong now!! Friends, Mumbaikars and you silly cops/party workers/AR Rahman, lend me your beers, coz you guys sure need some sense to be knocked into you. Get Facebook accounts and start poking each other and you will soon realize, that the only thing that needs arresting is your senses!! And before I close on this, I just have to salute Shreya Singhal, you are one brave girl. Google her!!
Slurrrpp. Now that’s how a Kaapi should roll.

I generally like to keep things domestic, but I just can’t resist this coz it really has irked me like none else. The Republicans. Yes yes I know, our politicians ain’t any better but we got freedom a little over 60 years ago. That in human years is maybe 12 or 13 at best, so we are still hitting puberty. So we can be granted the excited bursts of energy and the confusion over that facial hair and cracking voice but no excuses in the USA and their political party system. They easily are equivalent to a 50 year old grown up man who is ready for his second divorce and third affair. Basically, he has seen it all. Isn’t it time they act their age? To see a constantly bungling Mitt Romney was beyond hilarious. Always backtracking, never consistent and with smugness written all over his backside, or his face, whatever, it’s all the same. Obama too wasn’t really Gerard Butler in 300 but then again he spent an entire term cleaning up close to a trillion dollar deficit legacy left behind by the President Sesame Street elected, George Bush. So Romney had the burden of expectation on him, and man, did he deliver on the stand-up comedy with his international policy, especially the tickler on the West Bank issue. Republicans, wake up! Smell the Kaapi and please stop spending your free calling cards speaking to your counterparts at the BJP in India, they are 13 year old puberty stricken kids who are still wondering why everything goes weird down there when they see Didi or Amma walk by.

Now for some quickies, not the sexual kind.

Katrina, my love. I forgot you earlier. We know you have legs, we all have legs. Agreed ours may not be as watchable as yours but remember this, your legs can’t do the acting for you. That starts way up there. And we can figure that out over a cup of Kaapi sometime.

Who the hell gave Pervez Musharraf the permission to even enter India? Forget that, why are we paying him Indian Rupees to open his mouth and talk nonsense about us and the Indian Army. I’m sorry but this man waged an ISI backed war against our country while we were arranging the rose petals on our honeymoon night with Pakistan. I say we dump him in the backseat of a Tata Nano and ditch him over the Wagah border or maybe Siachen and allow those fundamentalists out there to have their share of Musharraf Sheek Kabab. Wake up Indian Government, broker peace with the guys who care for it.

Now to a favorite. Rahul Gandhi!! Why are you already mute? Haan. Ok let me repharse that, why are you already Manmohan Singh? Who is filling you with shit that ‘silence maketh the man’. No it ain’t, it just maketh you a dumb ass and yes ‘dumb’ has been used to make a point. We are waiting here, out of breath now, for your supposed youth to shine through. You make Romney seem smart, hell you make Rahman’s latest music sound good coz atleast it’s not mute. SPEAK UP!!

And finally I bought the following guys tickets to Jab Tak Hain Jaan with the following seating arrangement:
  • Guy who made the movie ‘Innocence of Muslims’ right alongside a couple of guys I found on the streets of Beirut.  
  • Rahul Gandhi just a seat away from Kareena Kapoor from Jab We Met
  • Mitt Romney next to a rabid dog. Apparently they hit it off quite well!
  • AR Rahman found a seat next to the 6 year old kid I saw at my guitar class the other day. He can really play the guitar now!
  • And finally, last and surely not the least Pervez Musharraf next to a hungry Richard Parker.
  • If you didn’t get the last one, you have to watch Life of Pi!! Back to Kaapi now..dammit its gone cold. Screw you Shahrukh Khan and don’t ask me why.

Arz karte hain

Hum sadak ke is paar the aur who sadak ki us par thi.
Hum sadak ke is paar the aur who sadak ki us par thi.

The coffee looked strangely like tea and the people in the coffee shop, strangely, all seemed sugary. That bright smile, that overdone bubbliness. I cringed at the various forms of dripping praise that was being showered around at couples holding hands and platitudes of love and hope. I sipped my coffee and it was, indeed, tea. ‘WAITER!!!!’

I think I unintentionally disturbed the cuteness around me. And thank god for that but everyone just shot me a look and I’m sure all the men went, ‘what a jerk, can’t he behave himself?’ And the girls gave them understanding looks filled with this great discovery of dignity in their Prince Charming. Before I threw up in one of their cups, the waiter returned with what was just a whiff of coffee and a lot of milk. I cursed the coffee shop and the fact that as a native of Coorg, the land of coffee, I was being treated to this absurdity they insisted on calling coffee. And then she smiled..

Hum kuch aage badhe aur who kuch aage badhi
Hum kuch aur age badhe aur who kuch aura aage badhi..

She had been observing me for sometime or that’s what my masculine gut insisted on impressing upon me. She looked back into her book which I tried hard to squint and see which one it was. It couldn’t have been ‘chick flick’ inspired literature. It better not be that shallow! I kept shooting her the most unsubtle of glances until she turned the cover of the book a bit to reveal a Tom Clancy!! Tom Clancy, the special ops expert who wrote about elite soldiers being dropped in the middle of nowhere, wiping out the enemy with silencers and automatics and flying back to base in a rundown transporter plane in the guise of Cambodian immigrants with only their army bayonet sticking out of their pant pockets. This chick liked ‘dick flicks’ and all of a sudden I was attracted.

She shot me a glance and I lost it and began my round of Mastermind India. (Read this as one fluid thought)

Was she attracted to me? Wait, is she really looking at me. Quickly turn around and check. Ha there is no one around. Maybe she digs the whole ‘all alone with my book and thoughts’ thing.  I should have worn my kurta. Start looking aloof, stop staring. But she is so cute. No she is hot. She is both. Damn!! She is both. The kind I can take home to Mom and take home to you know..AArghh don’t be like other men. This one has real verve. Man I just want to talk to her. Like know why she is reading Clancy. How does a girl so unbelievably beautiful and delicate and with those legs and look at her feet. Do I have a feet fetish? That is just weird. Anyhow but how does she read such stuff with such relish. She is like that girl I have always wanted but man she might be complicated. But aren’t they all? But if she likes to sit alone in a coffee shop with a book then she sure likes to talk and spend lazy Sunday afternoons and isn’t the compulsive joy seeker. Ah perfection awaits you, lo and behold the one you have always been looking for. Should I just speak to her? I have never done this before but there is always a first time, right? Plus I do look the polished and dignified kind. Atleast I look it. Wait I am it. Past girlfriends have ratified. So she won’t take me as a jerk. Even if she does how can you not give it a shot? Act aloof she is looking at you!!! Look down now, coffee coffee, drink, drink. Aarggh this is horrible. ‘WAITER!!!’ Shit shit that was loud, she is looking at you. Please god I want to disappear. Now now.

We looked at each other and she smiled. I froze and melted at the same time. The waiter walked towards me with a look very similar to what most terrorists may have before they blow themselves up and took the coffee away before conveniently dropping some on my book. I stared at him and then returned my gaze on her. She was already packing up to leave. She tied her hair in three graceful moves, picked her bag up with those lovely fingers of hers, swished her ethnic Fabindia-esque skirt and walked out. I stood up and was stuck mid motion as I saw her cross the road and walk away into the crowd with her cute ponytail in view until the crowds took her away..

Hum sadak ke iss paar the aur woh sadak  ki uss par thi.
Hum sadak ke iss paar the aur woh sadak ki uss par thi.
Hum kuch aage badhe aur woh kuch aage badhi
Hum kuch aur age badhe aur woh kuch aura aage badhi..
Kuch samay baad hum sadak ke us paar the aur woh sadak ki is paar thi...

A Crude Resurrection

Barmer is a little town in Rajasthan that generally has escaped attention in every conceivable way. There isn’t much I could have done in introducing the town, until yesterday. I was reading the Open magazine (8th October) which is a magazine I recommend to everyone who wants to read some light yet insightful journalism at display. In that I was surprised to find a 4 page article dedicated to Barmer. I was instantly captivated. Barmer had changed; desperately and drastically.

When I was 11, I went to Barmer for the first time. My dad was in the Army and we were stationed in Jodhpur. Visiting every nook of Rajasthan had become a mission in the family and we didn’t leave tiny Barmer too. Now every city we visited in Rajasthan was of immense interest to my Mom for the unbelievable shopping and to me for the history. Barmer, and this is with no offense to anyone, has neither. But the beauty of a shopaholic’s mind is that any market with a bunch of shopkeepers ready for a good bargain becomes a shopping festival. As I trudged from shop to shop and my mom skipped the same distance, I began to wonder what hope there is for this town. I began to questions its very existence as a destination for any traveler. Bordering the Thar desert, the heat was scorching and the apathy on people’s faces was painful. This was a town destined for ignominy. We later lunched at the District Collector’s house and I was surprised that a man so young and so sharp had landed himself in a place so backward and desperately hurtling towards nothingness. I hoped and prayed that this place would see a brighter light and I was told by my Dad to keep my opinions to myself.

So it came as a huge surprise when I read that Barmer has now transformed itself into a potential Dubai. And please take the word ‘potential’ very seriously in the last sentence as this story can go very wrong too. But the desert sands engulfing Barmer on most days, has been found to have amazing reserves of crude oil below. Reserves of crude oil that can accommodate a tenth of India’s total demand in another couple of years and this will continue increasing. Oilmen from Cairn to Halliburton to ONGC have descended upon this piece of nothingness, as I had described it many years ago. There are Harleys, swanky SUVs, farm houses with wood finish and glass panels and parties with Red Labels. Oil has changed the town. It has ensured there is no ignominy anymore. There are many questions that Barmer still has to answer: Can they sustain the projects? Will the influx of expats influence local culture? Will the public infrastructure keep up with the growth of the city? Are there going to be 2 Barmers – the one I knew and the one where they discovered crude oil? These are questions the town will continue to grapple with. But my thoughts steer to something very different.

I wonder if that is all it takes. It takes a little black liquid to change everything and every way we think of a town, a country and possibly our civilization many years later. Pardon the philosophical deep dive I am going to take here, but are we really hostages to fantasy? Because for me this is a fantasy. I cannot envisage Barmer to be what this article describes it. I suddenly want to go there again, not due to some material delinquency, but just because it seems so unreal. Here is a town that has existed for the same amount of years as me since the day I went there and has gone through such a dynamic or let’s make that, drastic change. Where have I gotten in that time? Am I competing with a town? No. I am thinking of evolution, of change and of rash judgments we make in our everyday lives. Barmer has turned the corner, announced its arrival and now it will deal with the consequences. In finding crude oil it has found a solution to its problems and possibly created some new ones too. But most importantly, it has resurrected itself, just that it’s a very crude resurrection.

Now how do I go about my own resurrection?

Barfi and me

So I was wondering how to best to sum up my appreciation for the hours spent in a dark room, surrounded by equally astounded people and genius on the screen in front of us. I decided that I must do what I believe I can do best and here is my tribute to a movie that will rarely come again in form, class and subtelty.

I have admired many Bollywood movies over the year : Swades, Lakshya, Wake Up Sid just forming a sprinkling but these have survived in my sub conscious for purely cinematic and story telling elements. They moved me and keep me thinking till this day. They always find relevance in my life. Everyday sometimes! But Barfi did something different. This was a movie that like many movies I had been following from production to the first trailer to boring everyone I know of how undeniably great the movie will be. But it surpassed that.

It really wasn't about the characters or actors or cinematography for me. Each of those elements were spotless and so well strung together that it makes you wonder how will any movie ever match up. But that's how I felt about the movie above too. Barfi was about moments. Moments that will never leave me. I do understand that many of you still have to see the movie and I obviously do not want to spoil this for you so I shall tread carefully. There is no need to get into the story though, this isn't about that. This is just about my experience watching this movie. It felt like I had travelled, like I was being physically moved through the characters lives. I was there with them, I was mute and ecstatic, depressed and reluctant to let go. Most of all I felt the despair of loss and the loss of hope, yet it also showed me a way ahead. Painful as it must be, patient as I must be, a journey indeed. It felt like it was a lesson full of entertainment and humor and tears, but a lesson at the end of the day of all that I have done and possibly how I have to deal with it.

Barfi doesn't stand for anything specific. He stands for what you want to and maybe, need to believe. For me he stood for resilience in the face of innocence. A virtue very few of us can boast of, but a virtue I surely need to carry with me. There are countless moments when you are caught with a stream of tears while you are laughing and he makes you realise that that is what life is about, but it all just happens so quickly here. Keeping up with him is a task, so just keep up with all that wonder, curiosity and hope within you. Coz in the end you can only hope you have an arm to lie on and see the love of all the world in those eyes lying right next to you.

That is the essence and soul of Barfi. And you never need to go looking for those eyes, they are just always with you..  

I could really use a wish right now

I have recently been quite unhealthily obsessed with this one song called Airplanes. I cannot seem to get it out of my mind and after further inspection I have realized that the words somehow, unerringly, manage to capture my current mindset. Listen to the song and read the lyrics and you shall know what I was talking about. Also, I feel I need to come clean and pour out what has been an extremely difficult time for me. I will break down the past couple of weeks into stages that will explain how it all unfolded.

Stage 1 - The screws come off

I'm not sure how it all began and I wish I did because I would never let it happen again. But it crept up on me, tiptoed and quietly brushed me but I paid no attention. I was so sure I was on my way to conquering the world. As usual it hit when everything around me was just fighting to get better than it already was. Within a few days it was all gone. I had become sullen, heading towards stoicism not so much out of choice but due to conditioning. I stopped waking up with a smile, I stopped wanting to wake up, I just stopped wanting. The routine became so terribly predictable that it began to take a toll on my psyche. Nothing and no one could offer me solace or an option to break away. I would ride back at night from work with the same music, the same route, the same potholes and the same mistakes. Constantly holding back emotions and wishes to just scream out and run. Questioning why I had become like this and falling short of any answer that could closely suffice.

I had become my worst nightmare. Devoid of all things optimistic and cheerful. I had become the antithesis of myself. I could hear the creaking, alone in bed every night staring at the roof. The creaking got louder every night. It was the noise of the screws coming off..

Stage 2 -The 38th Parallel

I began to consistently absent myself  from myself. Reclusive, distant and cold. It became natural and then began a strange obsession. An obsession with the North Koreans. In them, their country and their very existence I found a sanctuary. A place where I would rest myself every night for a couple of hours understanding them and strangely relating. I told everyone else that this was just an educational pursuit but I guess they saw right through it but chose to let me handle it. I consistently began to drift away from reality. I would draw up maps and routes to get away. Make plans, laugh at them and then promise myself to go through with it. I felt I belonged on the other side of the 38th parallel, the line that divides Korea. I felt alone, a self imposed exile. I could not handle people, I did not want to handle noise and I surely was receding. I began to see that line and I continued to believe that I was in some terrible joke, stuck in Pyongyang in some desolate part of my mind. I could see the 38th Parallel and even though it was hazy it had begun to look real..

Stage 3 - Loss, pain and renewal

Then I started to lose it and in the process lost what I may never get back. Relationships, family, people and the belief that all will be okay had established themselves as myths in my mind. I started losing control on some and I just completely lost some. I forced my mind to open up and explain what was happening in there. I sprang up a couple of times only to be pushed back. I began to find my peace at work, I re-engaged but I couldn't do the same with life. I ploughed ahead and have now created a world where all roads lead to renewal. I still am constantly pulled down. I still can never get myself to believe that I can be the same guy again but then maybe I was meant to go through this to become the guy I have to become. Loss, pain and renewal bring with it lost dreams and hope. But unfortunately, the lost dreams will hurt the longest..

I stand and stare every night at the airplanes in the night sky and begin to wish. Wish that what I lost and what i'm losing stops and that hope finds me again.

Ranting over a Dindigul Biryani

So they say the sequel never lives up to the original. I say look at World War 2 or look at most second children. Always, way better. I, thus, rest my case. Now the need for this rant. Life has become way too predictable and the last rant was way too long ago. Monotony kills every 1 in 3 million ranters are the official stats from our government and that leads me perfectly on to my first rant.

So government of India. What up? Nice work on the petrol prices man. You just are so good at being bad. For god’s sake I read the Mint and I know you could have avoided that. But no you had to pick the night I ran out of petrol to jack up the prices. You had to create some kind of artificial shortage which ensured no petrol in Chennai for a couple of days. Was that your idea of a ‘go green’ initiative? Some idiotic dhoti clad moron decided that let’s show people what life will be without petrol. Ever wondered what life will be without our votes, or even better, our taxes? I dare you to jack up the prices again you 10th fail loser. I’m still deciding what I will do, but trust me it won’t be fun. I surely aint sharing my Dindigul biryani with you.

Shahid Kapur you continue to amaze me with your undying talent of being able to pick the worst movies. I sincerely urge you to run the next script you get through your driver. That’s all I’m asking for, just your driver. Not anyone else. That’s easy right. You ask why? Well, he has kept you alive after having every opportunity to hurt you beyond repair after the trash you have been putting out. I’m sure he loves you a lot. So, Shahid, driver. Please. You are a great actor and so sincere but after Mausam, Teri Meri  Kahaani and others my mind refuses to process, your sincerity makes me feel like you are Bhagat Singh fighting for Independence in 2012. Just pointless. So ya driver it is. Run along now.

What’s common between a target in a firing range and the guy who’s cell rings really loud with the worst music in office? That’s the right answer, they both are gonna get bloody shot!! It’s an office for god’s sake. An IT company, the most sterile environment after a cross species testing facility (and yes I saw the Amazing SpiderMan). Absolute silence and suddenly 'nakka mukka nakka mukka' . You demented cross between a shameless front seater in a cheap theatre and the worst thing that’s happened since Bappi Lahiri, why in the devil’s name do I need to hear that song every time someone remembers your pathetic existence. I’m honestly not the biggest on ethics and all that blah blah but I sure draw the line the day you change your ringtone to this. Really what are you thinking? This is a joke you crack in private with your friends who already think very little of you. Imagine this going off every 20 minutes. You just took the joy away from my Biryani, moron.

Now for a few quickies – the non sexual kind

Justin Bieber’s latest song is called ‘Boyfriend’. Finally!! The closet has been whammed open. I mean what a way to come out. I’m glad you decided to finally do us this favor coz a lot of people were taking special offense to jokes of you being called gay. Guess who the joke is on now? Ya it’s on you, you dimwit but well just coz you came out doesn’t mean you got any smarter. 

Now all you people on Facebook who put up those huge banners with quotable quotes and stuff. Really? You ever read them yourselves? Don’t they have this unbelievable stench of ‘cheesy’ all over it? Some of them I accept are clever or cute but the rest are just plain depressing. Guys if that’s gonna get you more likes and comments then trust me, things are looking bleak. Now put that on one of those banners of yours and click ‘Share’.

Finally who gave Sehwag the right to abuse Dhoni. A demi God for most of us. You really saying that he didn’t do much by becoming captain. The team was already mature I believe. How messed up are you man? You just recently learnt what captaining a team really involves and talking like you own this shit. Do not invoke the rage of the whole of India and Chennai. Mind it!

Well phew! Time to get back to my Dindigul biryani. The rest of you – rant away!!

Cut the Cake

Riding through Chennai traffic while your running late can be quite a spiritual experience. Powering through that traffic light just before it goes red, overtaking that slow Mercedes – I mean you could have bought a Nano if that was what you wanted to achieve on the road, loser! In between all of this cutting and extreme over taking I’m reminded of a game we used to play as kids. A game that involved a lot of running, chasing and most importantly, selflessness. It was called, Cut the Cake.

Most games we played back in the day were very Darwinist in their makeup. Hide n Seek involved you hiding until ‘you’ are caught; you really didn’t care what the rest were doing as long as you were neatly hidden away. Catch n Catch aka Chor Police would mean there are a bunch of chasers and a bunch of chasees, if I may be given the liberty to coin my own word, and the games would begin. There was Crocodile, there was Red Letter, Dark Room and the list goes on. Now unless you really wanted to impress that girl with the cute ponytail and delicious tiffin, you didn’t really care a damn about anyone else as long as you were safe. But then all of a sudden in between this selfish desire to never be caught, someone would suggest, ‘Cut the Cake’. Now this is how it was played – You would have a chaser who would cease to become a chaser the moment he catches any of the chasees (thus, this word has been patented by me). Now the only way the chaseesTM can pile on the misery for the chaser is to cut the cake. This means, that a chaseeTM needs to run in between the chaser and the person he is chasing, the moment a chaseeTM does that the chaser has to change track and start chasing the chaseeTM  who just cut the cake. Its phenomenal because you can quite easily just stay away from trouble and never cut the cake but every once in a while is born a hero who will go and cut the cake and help his fellow chaseeTM out. This selflessness instantly spreads like an infection and suddenly the band of chaseesTM realize that the ultimate joy is in making that one chaser regret ever mentioning the idea of playing the game.

Now I’m not going to connect the above paras because there is no connection. Just that cutting through the traffic reminded me of cutting between the chaser and chaseeTM back when i was young enough to play this game. But this very inherent contradiction that was ingrained in us right at that age has always fascinated me. It amazes me, the lessons we have learnt when we were so young that subconsciously always will define us. I’m looking for more ideas and thoughts on these. Looking at building more stories, thoughts on humanity and the makeup of life through games we played when we were young. So let me know and let me collect these thoughts and present this better.
Until then, anyone for ‘Cut the Cake’?

The Red Miracle

‘Will I see a miracle this Sunday? Another story I can tell the world over and over again. Or does it really even matter..

I have been meaning to write this for a long time but have always pushed it for another time, for another day, for another season. It was always meant to define my love for one of the greatest affairs of my life. A 14 year long affair. An affair with the Red Devils.

My tumultuous but mostly thrilling love affair with Manchester United began in 1998. Since then they have won the league 8 times, the FA Cup twice, the League Cup thrice and the holy grail – the Champions League, twice. With all this success and incredible domination, a little arrogance does set in. As a United fan you do kind of inherit it. The difference being, you don’t necessarily flaunt it. You are expected to be stubborn about your support for them but that stems from the kind of pride that very few fans of other football clubs have the fortune to feel. This isn’t a commentary on the overwhelming success of United, this is a pilgrimage into the true feeling of being a United fan.

From the day I started supporting United I have always told people that they are the only entity in my life which always knows when I’m down and manages to pick me up from the dumps. This special ability comes from a belief that they will deliver for you. Eleven men on the pitch will always rally, always fight and always win for you. From scoring a goal in the 94th minute to seal a derby, to two goals in the last 3 minutes to win a Champions League, to a wonderful save to win another – Manchester United have only conquered. They have always taken the most unworkable moment in football and turned it into something timeless, something more beautiful than anything around you.

I have spent many nights well past midnight cheering them, cried tears of disappointment and joy and the tears of joy were something I never thought I could shed. In a way every moment of my life has an accompanying United moment. I can trace back years of disappointment in life with joy with United reviving me in those desperate times. If it’s the debut of Ronaldo or the goals of Macheda or the hammering of Arsenal or the choking of Chelsea or the way we have brushed aside Liverpool in the past few years, they are a force unparalleled and united. Always fighting for the pride of the red under a manager who has defied time and the odds. In Sir Alex we believe. I have spent many days criticizing his tactics, his transfers and his general demeanor only to eat my words and burst out in applause for the greatest manager of all time. A man who many clubs, corporations and marriages should learn from because of his ability to make time feel like a constant, as he changes teams and tactics with such aplomb that he just never gets outdated.

It’s always tough to accept defeat when you are United, especially when defeat stares you in the face in the form of Manchester City – the butt of many United fans jokes and all of a sudden the new force in English football. This force has been built with 930 million pounds of Dubai money but at no point am I going to take away their effort from them. I detest them and have hated every win and every goal they have scored, yet I fade away in respect as I hurl abuses at their claims of dethroning United. I seethe in fury and go nauseous at the thought of them winning the league this year but I still remain amazed at what United have conquered this year. 

In a year when they have been accused of many things ranging from negative football to losing their grip on Europe, none of the detractors seem to realize that this was a year of transition like the past two years. When other clubs go into transition, they fade away for a couple of years and seem to lose their spunk, case in point: Chelsea. A team in transition and with a non- existent midfield is going to finish level on points with a team assembled at a cost of 930 million pounds and will finish above a Champions League finalist, a team with the league’s top scorer and player of the year, a team with possibly the best midfield and the best midfielders in Modric and Bale and a team that spent around 80 million pounds just on midfielders and with a manager who was destined for success. United have quietly gone about their business. They have stuttered immensely but have paced themselves well. This wasn’t a vintage season, this wasn’t United gold class, this was United ploughing and digging deep. This was honestly a hallmark United side, a bunch of guys slightly weighed down by history and in the shadows of the greats that have filled their boots in years gone by. This wasn’t a team of the brilliance of Becham or the magic of Ronaldo or the extravagance of Cantona. This was a team with the industry of Valencia, the belief of De Gea, the maturity of Rooney. This was a United that exemplified the values this club has always strived to achieve. This won’t be a team that will go down in history as gladiators like the ones in the past, this will mostly go unnoticed. But this team deserves more; it deserves its greatest compliment, the support of the million United fans across the world. 

As United take the field on Sunday for the last game of the season let’s not have our eyes glued to the City game only hoping for them to slip up so that we may win the league, take a little time off to watch our ‘boys’ fight it out at the Stadium of Light. Watch them play their game, which may not be pretty all the time but sure has given us enough highs this year. Remember that as a United fan all you have ever known is the joy of supporting the best club in the world and in that collective, resounding and loud belief lies your miracle..

The miracle in red.  

My shortcut, discovered!

You do know the true essence of a shortcut, right? Or more how that true essence can get eroded, suddenly and depressingly? It happens the moment it is discovered! Now you have previously seen my ability to rant and you also know about my new bike, my humble Activa. Well, now that I’m done with some shameless marketing for my previous two posts, I can move on. But then you will hear a lot of the two in the coming minutes so thought an introduction won’t hurt.

Well it all began on a dreary Monday morning. Got out of the house with Chennai’s humidity sapping the thrill of life and making me sick. As I locked the door and walked out I was greeted by bird shit on my scooter. As I wiped the shit off I knew, the day would only get worse. But the thought that I can get out of my house and reach office with 5 minutes left on the office clock, always left me with a wry smile. Not because the thought of getting into work on a Monday gave me a huge surge of the happies but just because I had a ‘shortcut’. Ah I so love that word. Its short, its cut, its all you need. All it takes is a turn off the main road, a 200 meter dash on smooth tar, a bumpy 60 meters on Chennai’s latest fad, blocked and dug up roads, and bang, I cut off 20 minutes on my travel time. I walked into my little breakfast shop to choose among the gourmet options available. Pooris or Idli, the choice was immense, the decision tough, pooris dipped in oil which will make me sick yet give me the will to live another day or idlis which will keep me healthy but make me forget that warm feeling of good food. I took the wise decision, I took the unheralded pongal, the snack so good the Tamilians decided to name a festival after it or it was the other way around. Ok moving on. I got back on my bike and sped off only to be halted by traffic trying its best to fit itself through a road as wide as a crisp dosa which I just remembered I could have ordered for. Damn. Anyhow I wriggled my way past the mess in my supremely well balanced Activa and guided myself into my little shortcut. Seeing the traffic disappear behind me is by far the most spiritual feeling ever. A quick dash on the smooth tar, a not so quick dash on bumps the kind they found on the moon and speed breakers meant for monster trucks and I took the final turn with that wry ‘I found this shortcut’ smile creeping up..and then it happened!

There was a traffic jam! On my shortcut! A traffic jam! How was this possible? But it did not matter. I had been discovered. Now I know how Columbus would have actually felt when he landed up on the wrong continent, how Ricky Martin felt when the world realized he was gay, how Hitler felt when they teased him in school for his moustache, how Ratan Tata feels whenever he sees a Nano on the road, when Bill Gates uses an iPhone, when Manmohan Singh eats an aloo parantha while Anna Hazare goes hungry.. Wait not sure what the connection was meant to be. Something about feeling stupid and deceived basically. On the whole, there were bikes, bullock carts, cars and a tractor for crying out loud.

I cursed, seethed and called upon the stench from Buckingham (popular sewage canal in Chennai) to engulf this street and drown these people in the rage welling up within me. They honked, they screamed, one of them spat and a cow knocked into me. This was not how it was supposed to be. It was meant to be quiet and calm and quick. I was fifteen minutes late and with no clue of what to do. I had given up to the traffic gods when a man on a cycle next to me had the gall to question the honking cars as to how they found his shortcut. I instantly cut across him with all the power and might of my bike and sped on the side roads treading upon sand, garbage and car tires to get past it all and reach the front. It was over, I had triumphed, battle of the soul over the mind. The kind of exhilaration Neil Armstrong felt, Gandhiji felt, for crying out loud the kind of joy Mr. Bean felt on replacing the painting in that movie. I soared to the front and there right at the front I had one last look at the perpetrators, all of them who had taken away from me my five minutes of morning joy and just before I took the turn to hit the main road, I could bet to all the gods up there and around, they looked back at me with the same disgust and hate.

Mine, was not the only shortcut that had been discovered that day!

Ranting over a Chicken Fried Rice

Yes. I am not pleased with the world around me now. So I choose to rant like every responsible citizen of this democracy. I will rant about things afflicting me personally, connect that to something happening with the nation and blame people who have no bearing upon my personal life. After all a god almighty rant demands nothing less. So here goes:

First of all, what’s all the fuss about the new iPad? A lot of us can’t afford it so stop rubbing it in. And anyhow all Apple did was polish of the creases and wipe off the dust from the previous one, so stop hanging that white shiny carrot in front of me, it disturbs me while I buy chicken fried rice off the roadside.
Now Mr Sunil Mittal of Airtel, I swear on the aforementioned chicken fried rice, I will go all Gordon Gekko on you (that is create havoc for you in a smart, suave, investment banker avatar) if you don’t get your company’s act together. When you offer Broadband, DTH and mobile service – ensure that your employees know that they all belong to the same company. If one of your DTH guys come and wrecks my Broadband wires once more, I will take that disgraceful logo of yours and feed it to the first Vodafone looking pug I see. And don’t you dare tell me they are different entities within the same company. Draupadi was married to Arjuna but she belonged to the Pandavas, okay I don’t know how that makes sense but considering you keep sending me messages for reduced call rates to Europe when I have never called Europe, I’m sure you will find a connect.

Let’s now focus our attention on YouTube. Love the concept, love how it makes auto tuned Dhanush sound like the best new thing out of Chetpet but for God’s sake what is wrong with the comments section of this website. Why are people spewing such venom out there? A simple song from a new movie which has casted an extremely talented Pakistani actor, started of a war of words between two people about Kashmir. You jobless losers! Wake up, smell the chicken fried rice and shut up. We have our politicians to take care of all these banal conversation. Grow up guys, but then that will only make you 12 so what’s the point. And for all those people who say YouTube is so much fun because of the ‘comment wars’, please do use Google’s other great invention, Google Maps, to find your nearest shooting range and just take a walk around the target area. Mighty fun that will be.

How can I forget the powers to be in Tamil Nadu. On recent trips to Pondicherry and Bangalore I had the pleasure of walking into a wine shop without being shoved around, spat at or offered Old Monster instead of Old Monk. I walked into air conditioned wine shops with people who were buying their first drink of the night, not their 10th for the hour. I could browse and walk across sections dedicated to beer. It felt surreal. TASMACs are no fun, they are a small introduction to what life would have been for cavemen when they went to the neighborhood barter store. I mean come on, everyone wins if you make the alcohol easy for all to get. It would be a great complement to my steaming chicken fried rice.

Some quickies. The non sexual kind.

Rahul Gandhi – growing up doesn’t involve growing a beard, it’s all about growing some politician horns and getting those ballots in the box. I will only believe your vision for this country when you manage to park yourself in Manmohan’s currently idle seat.

Manmohan Singh!! Get pissed, jump, clap, scream, do something man. You can’t possibly let a bunch of clowns ruin that Oxford head of yours. You are going out and there is no doubt in hell that you are, so I say go out with a bang. Tell the Congress and your allies how they got together and wet the country’s pants and how they should have the spherical to take the blame and maybe, maybe, you just might get my vote of sympathy.

Tendulkar score that century already. Stop the press!!! He just did. Thank God. Time to let the floodgates open now.

Mamatha Banerjee and Mayawathi. You guys met before? No? Oh my my, you must. You will kill each other with your obnoxiousness and what I would give to see you both rip each other apart. Ah yes, I would give my plate of chicken fried rice.

KFC!! Improve that monostrosity of a Zinger of yours back to how it used to be. Remember the days it used to be delicious and people used to come to KFCs just to eat that. Oh wait you don’t remember that, because it was when Rahul Gandhi started growing his beard, a long long time ago.

I dare you Sonam Kapoor, oh I just dare you to act in another movie. I have spent around 1250 bucks on tickets and popcorn on you. Don’t make me come to Mumbai and make you accountable for each rupee. We work hard for our money, I mean previously my Dad used to but now I do too. It doesn’t come easily so please when your choosing your next role, let it be for a silent movie. It can win you an Oscar.

Phew. Time to get back to my chicken fried rice. To forget all that is wrong and miserable. To remember what really is good. Nothing like an almighty rant to get you going. Until the next rant…    

The 12 km Burst

When I landed on the shores of Chennai much like the British and the Portuguese, I too felt an all -conquering need to make this place mine. After all this was going to be home for some time to come…These thoughts found their genesis to an extent with a 12 km dash I made on the ever so popular and road much travelled, the East Coast Road, lovingly and conveniently known as ECR.

The journey doesn’t begin on a stretch of road extending from Thriruvanmiyur but begins on a little lane in Perungudi. This is a story of small yet important patches of my life here and how it all nicely led up to this day.

My first morning in Chennai was characterised not by jitters for my first job, but greater fear of getting to work in a city where not knowing the language can lead to instant alienation. After hitching a 60 buck ride for a kilometre long stretch, I instantly knew life was going to be a bitch. An ability to bargain, crassness coupled with rudeness and stoic apathy are a deadly triumvirate and a much needed one to tackle the Chennai rickshaw driver. But I was to learn that gradually, until then, my knight in shining armour (the black and yellow kind) was here. The shared auto. A concept both unique and extremely gratifying, a big auto stuffed with people to the brim, who share the cost of the ride. Simple and effective and in one simple discovery I had managed to get rid of the scourge of the Chennai rickshaw driver.

Thiruvanmiyur is for all practical purposes on the periphery of Chennai, right at the edge of civilization. It’s at that precise distance where friends begin to make excuses about not coming over to your place. You start throwing beaches and proximity to Mahabalipuram to them as bait. but all in vain. This reduces you to a very obvious reality. YOU HAVE TO GO WHERE YOUR FRIENDS ARE AND THEY LIVE EQUALLY FAR!! So I began my first tryst with the city buses. With strange numbers like 21Hct, PP19X and the ilk, it felt like I had just walked into some secret military testing base. The buses honking, the crowds of people and a 29C nearly driving over me brought me back to reality. 29C is a bus route which spans Thiruvanmiyur to Perambur. It’s also the one bus that connects all the bus stops of the major all girl colleges(Stellas, MOP and WCC,.. beat that) which should be a great opportunity for most men to exercise their charm and chivalry but is mostly an exhibition of just how terribly stupid and cheap we can get. A story for another day and a more serious occasion. For me, this route proved to be a lifesaver, connecting me with all the places I needed to ever go to. The frequency is simply brilliant and with Volvos doing the route too, I couldn’t have asked for more. From Alwarpet to Egmore to Ispahani to walking distance from Sathyam to yummy eating joints in Nungambakkam. Ganesha, had found his mouse.

Long journeys, the summer and a lack of novelty set in. Public transport was still convenient, cheap and a boon to my wallet but was soon becoming an arduous routine which my mind could not take anymore. The roads of Chennai are wide and inviting, beckoning me to unleash myself on them. On my own terms. I needed a 2 wheeler to really enjoy this city, a city I have been itching to discover. I want to be able to wake up in the morning and ride to a quaint Armenian church in Parrys when my mind demands. I wanted to ride to Sathyam at 10 in hope of getting tickets for the night show, only to be turned down and enjoy the ride back. I wanted to get out of work and head to that lovely fish stall for a plate of 40 buck prawns on Bessie. Ride to Saint Thomas Mount and watch planes take off and disappear into the Chennai sky, fly like the wind on Radhakrishna Salai over the flyover and admire Music Academy on an evening when it’s lit in all its glory. Midnight coffees at the Hyatt, cheap beer from a Tasmac, stay at Kottivakam beach till the cops chase me away, ride to Amethyst (best coffee shop in town..Period) and read a book sipping a bitter Frappe. Endless thoughts, spiralling in my head for months now. Bus windows, front seats of share auto, non existent meters of rickshaws were all the motivation I needed.

Back on that lovely ECR stretch on a Tuesday evening after filling fuel in my new second hand Activa. I stood and saw the road open up in front of me. It’s like all of Chennai was offering itself to me, saying ‘Son, go, you deserve this. Let rip and she will hold you good. Let this remind you of all the good days and the not so good ones spent on my roads. Let this be the day you break free and finally unleash yourself on this imperfect but addictive city’.

The rest is a whirl of speed (not too much Mom, so cool it) and joy. A 12 km burst on ECR that shall be forever etched in my memory of one of the better, make it best, day of my life on Chennai roads.   

A Wedding List

Two of my very good friends decided to get married on the same day. That’s two weddings and not one. With it came a huge logistic dilemma of running across Chennai for the various ceremonies and now as a bona fide Chennaite, I along with a friend was expected to manage this coordination for all the friends coming from out of town. Not that that amounted to excruciating schedules and timelines being drawn up but sure allowed me the special benefit of showing off a city I have come to truly love. But above all I got to experience one of the Tamilian Brahmin (better known as Tam Bram) communities greatest show, the wedding. Yes, I must agree that I had my reservations of the fact that there will be no alcohol or meat. I mean aren’t everyone in the hall allowed the luxury of forgetting the fate that awaits them or has already befallen them. Ask me and that’s the reason alcohol should be allowed in a wedding. But then these are just things I say to fit into the mould of a twenty four year old guy who is tuned to believe that marriage is the end of the road. My views are very different, my views are for another day.
Both my friends are girls and were getting married to guys who besides being simply amazing were also the loves of their respective lives. Our entire friends circle had been preparing for these wedding for sometime now and all of us were united in our pure joy for this great occasion. A Tam Brahm wedding is truly a very emotional experience. As I had friends explain every nuance of every ceremony, I couldn’t help but begin to observe the various characters in a wedding and their reactions to the proceedings, it sure does make for some timeless entertainment. Here we go:

The Wedding Romantic
These people charge themselves on wedding adrenaline and go all energizer bunny on us all lackluster spectators. They enthrall us with stories of how their wedding will be, how the flower decorations will be different, how the hall will have so many more people, how their partner will wear exactly what they have in mind. All in all how they have the entire two days playing like a stuck tape recorder in their head. Even though my first reaction is to ridicule them, I sit back and think that your wedding day, truly is your most special day, so what’s the harm having it planned perfectly. So just as I begin empathizing, one of them begin with how they have had their wedding planned from the age of 8. Alarm Bells!!!

The Dark Wedding Humor Comedian
The usual quips of this wedding spectator will revolve around ‘gallows’, ‘undertakers’, ‘doomsday’, ‘Mayan calendar’ jokes and a few ‘end of days’ jokes thrown in too. They always make for the best humor at a wedding until you have one of those aunties who may as well have gift wrapped her ears and given it to you, turn and glare at you like you are vermin. Yes, well these are the guys and girls who just have to get these jokes out of their system. The Wedding Romantic will look at them with disdain and will instantly become the butt of all the jokes. So you keep laughing at these jokes and then look a little harder at the’ life of every party’/’depressed alcoholic’ in the making and wonder if they even know what they are talking about and tend to pity them a little. That stops the moment you go on stage and they go upto the groom or bride and point out how the garland around their neck can also become a noose and they do an undertaker impression. Rolling on the Mandapam Laughing (ROML)!!

The Back to the Mandapam Spectator
Well this one is a character. Affable, intelligent and with an acute case of ADD. At a wedding, they will have their backs to all that’s happening to the couple that’s going to pay for their lunch and will have a comment for all else in the wedding. They will check out all the hot singles in the room, pass adequate ratings and predictions on how their lives will turn out. They will also look at the oldies in the room and imagine the conversations they are having which will mostly range from match making to ‘so when are you due’ questions, utterly reducing the oldies  to a collective incapable of any other intelligent interactions. They will start finding faults and often times hilarious things with the stuff the camera guy is capturing. On the whole they are the ones least bothered about the occasion and most indulgent in creating their own. Hats off to them for being so completely aloof and so unbelievably entertaining.
 Disclaimer: Don’t be around them if you have family at the wedding. Trust me!!

The ‘Coming soon to a wedding hall near you’ Groom/Bride
These are the ones who know their chance is coming up. They are universally the butt of jokes for everything. They watch the proceedings silently, like they are memorizing the order of things. Tam Bram weddings have the unique ability of starting everything before the sun is up, therefore the early morning jokes laced with the subsequent lack of a late night after that get thrown around mercilessly. They quietly take the jokes with ominous warnings of ‘it will happen to you soon too’. They are intercepted by relatives and people they have never met with questions of a wide ranging quality. Following are the questions with answers I would love someone to give:

‘So when is the big day?’ – You talking about the day I lost my virginity? I was 16 and it was sometime in June, it was raining that day and..

 ‘You must be so excited, no? – I don’t know about myself, but you sure seem to be excited. Now that’s all matters.

Do you have butterflies in your stomach? – Oops how did you get to know of my carnivore oddities. So the other day I saw this blue winged one on my window and I got my fork out..

You know, just leave these guys alone. They really have their own issues to deal with. But don’t miss a couple of jokes on them. Priceless reactions in return.

Amused. Bemused. Stuffed
This category is where I usually find myself. Wedding food is always exceptional. Linked to the thought that the more stuffed you are at a wedding, the happier the marriage, families leave no stone or gulab jamun unturned in their quest to stuff your guts out. I always choose shamelessness over dignity at such occasions and pig out like its 2012 ( Oh wait, it is) You will have a very unsavory label attached to you, but savory reminds me of all the sweets available. Even though Tam Brahm weddings are veg buffets, they are veg buffets eaten by the Gods. Every dish has a touch from heaven and for a guy who is known to have eaten his first masala dosa at the age of 2, this was just an out of body experience – quite literally. After all the hogging at constant intervals I tend to remain generally bemused with the occasion and amused with all the characters described above. I’m the silent spectator at these weddings except for when I’m chomping all that food down. I am the one who mixes a bit of all the above because I myself am quite undecided on who of the above I am. I am the one who is the butt of the jokes and I am the one cracking them (music builds up superhero movie style). I am.. Wedding Man.. Well couldn’t resist that one but at a wedding where every one is a character straight out of all those wedding movies you have grown up on, you best belong to this one. It’s where all the fun is!!

I’m sure you can add many more to the above not-at-all exhaustive list. So do let me know and do enthrall us. Till then I just want to wish the best to my two good friends whose marriages I had the fortune of attending and also to a very special friend in Mangalore who got married the same day too. You were always in my thoughts and I’m sure that all the three couples are going to be immensely happy and blessed. But for the rest of us.. On your marks.. Get set.. Go/No!!