Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bongs and Slang

Indians, being repressed, are not very forthcoming about the wonderful repertoire of slang that exists in our different languages. A punjabi always reminds you that you slept with your mother and that your sister probably has a cock, a bong can tell you with some conviction that you (even if you are a virgin still) have had sex with a fool umpteen times, and Malayalis generally confuse people with mongrels. By now you probably have an idea that we are dealing with creativity at its best. However, the middle class (which forms the majority of the urban Indian populace) would have none of it. They learn everything at school, practice the choicest of slangs with their classmates, but pretend to know nothing when it comes to mixing with people of other age groups. For example, a group of 14 year old boys, despite holding masters degrees in slang, would use normal language when they meet 20 year old seniors or 40 year old dads, who all, in their respective groups, are comfortable using this different lingo altogether.

Slang has its benefits. It makes expression easier and less convoluted. A Bengali word like Baal (which is akin to "balls" and literally means pubic hair) can be used to express anything from chagrin to disgust to disagreement.
"The Democrats will win."
"Baal."

You can also choose to use it generously whenever you find yourself cornered in an argument. It is very effective against logical argument of any kind. It can make a universal truth sound like a blatant lie.

"The sun will rise in the east."
"Baal."

And you don't have a good comeback.

I heard of one Bengali who got himself in trouble when he tried using this in Punjab. He said "baal" to mean "balls I will go with you," but the Punjabi thought it was the English word ball (which is pronounced in Punjab as baal) and took offence thinking he meant "balls." Although the essence was the same and the effect would have been similar if the Punjabi guy knew what baal really meant, we are dealing with serious semantics here.

However, slang not being included in popular literature means that in a language like Bengali, to write about a fictional account of two people fornicating, you have to resort to very archaic words from a dictionary by the famous AT Dev. I don't know much about him, but he has been immortalized in the famous rhyme about the Bengali dick. There are no proper, popular, acceptable terms for the various body parts that are involved in a foreplay or the real act. AT Dev, I believe, borrowed everything from the famous poet Kalidasa of the sixth century*.

The current Bengali langauge available for literature, with its nitombo for the butt and ston (with a soft t like in Perestroika) for breasts, is way too Victorian for authors to try writing about sex. But has it deterred them? No way. If you read the recent novels that are being written, you would wonder whether any Bengali character has not had an affair outside her/his primary relation. The latest literature, sometimes set in the US (too many Bongs there, I hear), sometimes in the posh localities of Calcutta, are all about gigolos and married women hankering for sex outside their marriages (primarily the reason why I want to make an investigative trip to Calcutta next week...to gather empirical evidence for/against all that is being written). I wonder why the usual everyday slang, despite being used every day by everybody in his/her comfort zone, is not being accepted in the language used for literature.

As I write this, my six year old son turns in his sleep and swears "saala," making me cringe. I can't blame him. He doesn't use it as a swear word. He has picked it up from Pappu can't dance saala. Saala, for the uninitiated and the Americans who read this, means "I'll do your sister."
It is perhaps the only term that has been rendered harmless by overuse. It has been used in popular songs, and you can see Bollywood heroes keep saying "abbe saale" all through any Hindi movie. It has almost become synonymous with the word dude. When I was growing up, saala was a taboo term. Today my son can sing a song with saala in it and I pretend not to get alarmed.

But there are so many rich, creative, beautiful slang terms out there for us to accept and make our own. The day we will be able to make slangs part of our everyday, generic vocabulary, we will be able to revolutionize our languages. Literature in native Indian languages will become much easier to translate. But, if no one heeds my advice, we will be drowned in the onslaught of the "fuck yous" that have invaded the lingo of our generation now like a horde of Huns. Every Indian boy or girl can nonchalantly say "he is so full of shit" about their teacher or use "fuck you" instead of a nice and crisper "baal" to express disagreement.

Stop our languages from this invasion. Spread the swear word. Call your neighbor a bansod instead of the oh-so-boring "good morning, how is your Earl Grey tea this morning, dear sir?"
You will feel liberated. Try it alone in front of the mirror first and then go out boldly to face the other world. Imagine screaming "bokacHHoda" with your dad and raising your fists up in the air when Sachin scores a century. Doesn't the idea feel good? It kinda grows on you, like the warmth inside a blanket . . .


*I have no clue which period Kalidasa belonged to. Not something we have been encouraged to learn in our English schools.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

dear dad

sometimes you want to break down and cry and have someone tell you all this is going to pass.
why did we have to grow up? now it is our turn to tell our children that india is not gonna collapse by the time they grow up, without any conviction in our voices. is this what they are trying to achieve? break the backs of the common man and inject panic in our bloodstream?
and our foolish media has played into their hands, publicizing the acts, doing the job for the terrorists . . . man, they must be laughing at this fourth pillar of our democracy. in a bid to outrun the other channels, each TV reporter is eagerly waiting for more blood and gore to show us. they are sensationalizing the incidents and calling it the second largest terrorist attack after the WTC. the terrorists are laughing and raising a toast.

and then one of our leading newspapermen will take time out of his harem and write a column sympathizing with the cause of the terrorists. in chaste, almost ostentatious English. it is the government's failure that we are paying the price for now, he will harp. like all americans should be made to pay for Nixon's troops in Vietnam or all Germans should be hated because there was once a hitler there.

history shows that after every war the world has come back to its feet, but i am not so sure. something's welling inside and can't be held back any more. i want to cry, sob uncontrollably, and not pretend to be a strong man ready to protect his family and country.

dear dad, can i come back to you? will you protect me today?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

good sense, they say...

good sense, they say, doth prevail even if the racist followers of white and protestant Christian supremacy have ruled the US for the last eight years and gone all over the world like plundering Huns with no conceivable reason, making us lose our faith in the average American voter. but look up now! can you see that the republicans are gone, and the world will be safe? no more will you have to take out processions in Berkeley against the war, because there won't be any unnecessary wars. no WTC will be bombed by the CIA again. no frankensteins like the talibans will be created, no saddams will be hanged... india will probably have to worry about the nuclear deal not coming thru, but then, humans have come back, so rejoice. the democrats are humans and they (despite being Americans) respect women, black, Catholic, Jewish, hispanic, or gay rights unlike the illiterate republicans, who represent the generic illiterate, school dropout, religious, blind American. we have always known and looked up to good human beings like Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton. they are the Americans we adored. strangely, the same Americans elected people like Nixon, Reagan, or the Bushes to power. we are Indians, so we don't know much, but that's one behavior by the world's richest and most advanced people that we could never fathom.

we aren't as interested in the politics of our own country because it had gone to the dogs right during the days of Gandhi and Nehru. the humans left us in the hands of a handful of indians, can you believe it? Indians ruling India? so they created a constitution that was heavy and complicated and wrapped in red tape. in an euphoria similar to that of students when teachers leave the school, the indians sixty years back sat in the chairs meant for and suiting the British. and we have never looked forward since then. it has been socially, morally, and culturally a backward journey that will eventually end in a bottomless abyss. religions of all kinds gained prominence, the caste divisions were exploited as vote banks, the divide between the rich and poor increased even further, intolerance reached absurd levels...and we got cellphones and a rocket to the moon. a handful of indians wanted the humans beings to come back, but then, they were economically brow beaten after the second world war and could not sustain their empire. America and Russia emerged as the superpowers instead.
Our prime ministers have always exchanged roses with the Russian premiers and the ruling Congress of senile old fools had a socialist leaning. But some Indians read Allen Ginsberg and some others listened to Lennon and Morrisson. America it was. It will liberate us. To get ready for our liberation, we promptly increased the size of the flared bottoms of our trousers. Nothing happened, really. We were left disillusioned.

Even now many Indians follow the American polls like it is gonna decide their life tomorrow. Like Obama will liberate us from us Indians. Some are disenchanted. Some know that the evil will gain victory over the good by proving that Obama loves to have sex. Maybe even with his intern.
And soon enough all our liberated, emancipated Americans will vote for a republican candidate... oh blasphemy... how can a prez let someone else give him a blow job?

he he, if we started bothering about our scandals, we would have to let the military rule us instead of the khadi clad pigs out there. Chandrasekhar, our ex PM, had to have sex with one minor boy every night. A new one every night, mind you. And this is a rumor, I hear. I love rumors because they have some element of truth in them. Maybe he kept one boy for a week? Some bastards tweak reality for some selfish, sadistic pleasures, I tell you!

So, dear Americans, listen for a second. Even if your Obama dear goes around fucking twenty different men and women, please show your good sense and elect another democrat (or Obama himself) next time round by keeping in mind his good deeds the next four years. he will take the troops off Afghanistan and Pakistan, resulting in the terrorists being left with no agenda of killing Americans (they mean Americans, but plant the bombs under our asses because we signed a nuclear deal with the US while Pakistan was kicked out by China) and turning into farmers or truck drivers. He will give the Americans back their jobs, so they will agree to unrecognize the word Bangalored from their vocabulary. Americans will learn to sing and write again and may also start talking of world peace (that will be a miracle, lemme sound Mr Benedict off on this). Lennon may come back from his grave. LSD might again be allowed freely in our country. We may get another chance to burn lingerie. With Indian women mostly wearing satin these days, it will be a welcome activity. For all you know, I may be able to take my motorbike from India to Redditch through Afghanistan and Iran without being hit by 2,064 bullets. Oh for the sweet little dreams that Obama has brought into our minds. The bankers are rejoicing, and my mutual funds are looking up again with a rising sensex. Never has some other kinda arousal brought so much pleasure before. "May Obama have the sexiest intern ever, but may he never get caught," is our collective sigh.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

pashbalish

It has long been proven that Jesus was a Bengali. He was with his mom for 35 years; he thought his mom was a virgin; his mom thought he was god. Now, these three are common with all Bengali sons, and it also proves beyond doubt that he too was none other than our Jishu. Historians are looking for just one proof before declaring this to the world. Did Jishu use a bolster while sleeping?

If he was a Bengali, he must have used a bolster to sleep at night. Bengali sons, who sleep between their parents till the age of about 15, are given a bolster thereafter as they move to their own room. By 15 they have obviously learned to jerk off, so the arrangement of another room. Most Bengalis could not afford a separate room for their children until even the last decade, and that also perhaps explains why they had to keep their children in the same bedroom, but something tells me they don't want their children to grow up.

In the other room, the Bengali son goes off to sleep after hugging a soft bolster. In his wet dreams, of Madhurima, Tilottama, Tamali, Tisyapali, or even of goddess Saraswati at times, the Bengali son chokes the bolster to death.

And then he grows up and is sent to the hostel. Bags are packed, a horde of relatives accompany him to the railway station to see him off. Everybody is teary eyed, as he fades with the train into the distance, his fat lunch box still dangling from his other hand. With one, he is busy wiping his tears. "Dugga dugga."

The Bengali son writes his first letter: Ma, I reached. Got my room and put up your pic there. My roommate is a Bihari, a very studious guy. My bolster is a huge hit with the others. Arup borrowed it the other day to get a good night's sleep after his class tests. You know ma? Everybody is a nocturnal here. They stay up till 3 or 4 in the morning. I too join them at times. I take my bolster there and our senior dada, Gora, who has failed a couple of times, leans on it and tells us stories. Bishnu says he will get a nice, embroidered cover for my bolster from Gujarat this summer.

The Bengali son grows up even more. Almost can be called a man by now. He has learned to shave and also say hello to the girls. But even today he terribly misses his bolster when he visits the girls' hostel. That could have given his restless limbs something to hold on to like a koala hugs a branch. In the absence of a bolster, the Bengali son is absolutely clueless about what to do with his limbs, and mostly one can see them hang about his body without any definite purpose. "They gave me a nick, ma, but I like it. They call me a chimp." So, the Bengali son has learned to pocket his hands and has also coined the idiom "deep pocket," which has found some different connotations these days.

The Bengali son gets married. All these years of jerking off are going to pay off now. He will step into manhood. For a brief moment, the bolster is relegated to the backyard of the Bengali son's mind. All he can think of is how to pounce on his live bolster the night of his wedding. In anticipation, the Bengali son keeps checking himself in the loo and goes around asking his friends about the female anatomy. Just where is it, can you tell me? The experienced Bengali sons tell him. He enters the room. The bed is covered in rose petals. His bride is perched on the edge of the bed with her face covered. She too has forgotten her bolster for a brief moment and is counting her rapid heartbeats. He reaches the bed. She looks up at him. But his gaze is fixed somewhere else.
There are two red bolsters on the bed, covered in nice red velvet.

"Eta tumi nao, borota aami nilam" you can hear the Bengali son mutter with a big smile as he takes the bigger of the two. And then they go off to sleep.

Monday, September 22, 2008

the monk on the 19th floor

Deepesh mailed me the other day asking if I was interested in this rather nice 3 bhk apartment being sold at the L&T. What's the price? Oh, I didn't ask, but you can calculate . . . the apartment is about 2060 sft and the going rate here is around Rs 4000 per sft.

I calculated and could just manage a wry smile that is best known as kashtho hashi in Bengali (literally translated it means a wooden smile). It costs a whopping 82 lakhs. Even if the guy negotiates, he will probably bring it down to 76? When did the property prices skyrocket like this, and who allowed it? When our parents, mostly government officers, retired, they made a paltry amount that they deposited in banks for a good return of about 15%. With the inflation rising and the banks making lesser profits, those interest rates came down to around 10, and even lesser. My dad suddenly realized he has to cut a lot of unnecessary expenses to make do. And meanwhile, the salaries kept rising beyond the limits of decency, and when the companies realized that it was probably sensible to hire an Irish or a Romanian instead, our economy had already been sitting on a huge ball of uninflammable gas. If the ball deflates, people would fall and die, so no need for me to make them burn for the sake of prose. They will die, that's it.

No Deepesh, how can I? I can't make so much money by selling my apartment, and it is indecent to ask for so much, I commented. Deepesh, however, left Mr Subramanium's number with me.

Came home and told Sayantani that we shouldn't keep dreaming of absurd things like a flat at South City in 2008. Maybe, if we bought one in the year 2000, it would still have been affordable. Now women, let me tell you, seldom like to see reason. She made me call the person.

"Hello? Mr Subramaniam? I'm Arijit. Got to know about your apartment and was curious about the price." I managed to squeak over the phone.

"Oh, hello. We can talk about the price later, Mr Arijit. You just come and check out the place."

So, we fixed an appointment with him and went over to check out his place. It was on the 19th floor, huge, and with an awesome view. "Where's your furniture?" I was curious because there was nothing in the house, making it look even huger. The marble on the floor shone like a mirror and the midday sun was reflected on it like a huge ball.

"Oh, I just use the kitchen to boil my vegetables and I sleep in that room," he pointed to the third bedroom that we hadn't checked out. I went in and found a mattress on the floor, with a pillow on it. Everything was very clean, but I was a little surprised because a person who can buy an apartment in a condo like this definitely is rich. Maybe he doesn't stay here, I was thinking, when he almost read my thoughts and said

"I do stay here, you know :). I have a phone, some utensils, my clothes in one of the wardrobes, and that bed. I know you are surprised, but that's all we ever need, don't we?"

"Oh, not at all. I wasn't thinking about that. Very true indeed... what else do we ever need?" I need my internet, my car, my mobike, my freezer full of meat, and also need to change my cell phone every two years, so I was another middle-class man with middle-class dreams. It reminded me of my mom. All she had as a teacher were a huge gladstone, a table fan, and a small kerosene stove. And she could survive on anything. She didn't splurge, neither was she stingy when it came to my needs, but for herself, she needed just a fan. It was hot in Durgapur and she was always overweight. Just a fan, now, but as a student we didn't have ceiling fans either, she used to tell me. I wondered how that was possible. To live without a ceiling fan. It always reminded me of how Gabriel Garcia Marquez keeps dwelling on how sultry and hot it is in his country. His descriptions of heat can make you squirm in discomfort at times. Where is he from? Spain or Mexico? Like Senator John McCain, I too forget my geography at times. And like my mom, Gabriel Garcia Marquez never allowed his protagonists the luxury of a ceiling fan.

"So..." I tried coming to the point, although I knew I could never afford even half of that amount even after selling everything I had and paying off my mortgages "...how much are you selling it for?"

"How much are you ready to pay?" he smiled at us.

Now it's coming, I thought, and was about to say something when I realized it's best not to give him false hopes. "Well, frankly, sir... we cannot afford this place at all, but then, we just extended our dream and made it spill over into our reality." I tried being abstruse. "If I sell my apartment and pay off the mortgage, I will be left with about half of what this apartment is for. And no bank will lend me the remaining amount because we cannot pay so much in EMIs."

He smiled and walked to the french window.

"I'm sorry, sir, we must go now. Thanks for being kind enough to show us around."

Sayantani looked at me and smiled too. I guess she too finally stepped out of her absurd dream and joined me in my reality. There, on the floor, were our Bata shoes, not Guccis.

"But I never told you my price, did I?"

"You don't have to, sir. I know the going rate, and it is rather high for us." I kind of leaned toward the door, pretending to leave...

"Hmm, see... I bought it in the year 2000 for 20 lakhs. Now I am leaving. So you pay me those 20 lakhs and the apartment is yours."

"LOL" I snorted and then broke out into a laughter. (Damn this chat lingo, man, I can't even laugh normally these days)

"Good joke, sir. And my son Aaron can pay you the remaining 60." I tried to continue the humor.

But it turned out that he was serious. Mr Subramaniam even worked out my finances for me. "If you sell your apartment and pay off your mortgage, you have x amount left. Pay me 20 from that, and the remaining can be your retirement package. Just retire and stay here."

I couldn't believe what he said. My wife was about to walk away, thinking he was deliberately insulting us, but he was serious.

Then he told us his story of how he turned into a monk. But now it is almost midnight for me.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Anne comes back

The last post about Anne Frank brought back memories of the other Annes in my life. Well, they were never part of my life and neither will they ever be, but they did take up a lot of time in my growing-up years, occupying a large enough RAM in my brain to deserve a mention in my blog today.

The first was Anne Frank, whose 13-year old photo was of the most beautiful girl I could ever imagine. As a 10 year old boy, I couldn't fall for anybody else at that time. Anne Frank, the girl who, if cryogenically preserved and brought back to life today, will be my girlfriend forever. I will make sure she never gets to shed a tear. I will make sure she never runs out of food. And many of you out there must have fallen for Anne like I did. It wasn't unnatural. Many of my friends were in love with her too. We were of course in love with little Priyanka Gandhi at the same time, because she was the most beautiful Indian girl we had seen, but then, Anne was dead and gone, and indelible from our memories, whereas Priyanka was probably still wetting her bed on troubled nights.

And another collective crush was on Nazia Hassan, who brought disco to India. Everybody I knew was in love with her. All the girls were in love with her brother, and their LP Disco Diwane was a must have in all homes, save the ones of the proletariat, who shunned these American influences on their carefully preserved culture. They welcomed Allen Ginsberg with open arms and Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong were revered, but The Beatles? Trash, I tell you. That's gonna ruin your culture.

I agree with the Bengali proletariat. Poor guys. But anyway, Nazia's LP was coveted as much for her picture on the cover as for the songs.

Meanwhile, most of Enid Blyton's characters had made a rather boisterous entry into the collective psyche of the school students. Sometimes to such an extent that the girls chose either to become the tomboyish Georgina (George) or to become Anne, the perfect British blond schoolgirl. We heard of sausages and bacon and made our parents run to Janata Variety Store in Benachitty to find out what these things meant. That man had canned food: the food of the whites! Every time we passed by, we looked at the Russian, German, and British engineers and their wives buying their monthly provisions. We were certain that they read Enid Blyton too and got the idea of having sausages from her stories.

I was in love with Anne of Famous Five. With the character, believe me! She was small, sweet, a little foolish at times, scared of darkness, and needed protection. Can't really explain to you here how she appealed to me. And to add to my wonder, they started telecasting the Famous Five series produced by BBC at more or less the same time. No, maybe I am wrong... maybe I had moved to Alistair Macleans by then, but I was in my early teenage years when they showed Anne on TV. We had a portable, b/w TV and the transmission wasn't clear, so it was difficult for me to get her name from the credits. Sometimes the credits move too fast, don't you think? I think I got her real name and also the address of the BBC, but don't know if I could finally muster the courage to write to them about her address. Maybe I did. I do remember that I never got an answer.

Many such crushes followed: Suchitra Sen in the movie Shaar-e Chuattor (Seventy Four and a Half), Meg Ryan, and later Helen Hunt. I would watch their movies and stay mesmerized for days, but all of this faded after a few days. There was also Carrie-Anne Moss in that list but I hadn't noticed the Anne in her name until recently. I was growing up, feeling responsible enough for my age, happy with the Anne I married (she too is afraid of the dark and needs a lot of protection) until another Ana arrived in the scene.

And this is Ana de la Reguera. She looks too beautiful for someone who can fall for Jack Black, but the beautiful sister in Nacho Libre looks like someone you can keep on the altar and worship all your life. A google search of her images will yield better results, am sure (if you want to see her posing in the nude), but I like her in her nun's habit, thank you. I guess she has never looked prettier in anything else, or rather, anything less. However, I saw her last night and already her memory is fading.

But I doubt if anyone can ever take my Anne Frank away from me.

Terrifying Lullabies


Why is the door open? Why can't I lock it? What if the robbers come in?

The door in question always remained just out of my reach. I would desperately try to close it, bolt it from within, but wouldn't be able to. When I later discussed my dreams with friends or read about dreams unexplained, it was seen as a plain and easy case of insecurity. You had an insecure childhood, people concluded.

So I believed them and blamed the insecurity on the communication gap between me and my parents. They were both 34 when I was born, and weren't very communicative, if you know what I mean. Of course my dad wanted to baptize me with Dialectical Materialism and Marx when I was in my kindergarten years, but then, there wasn't any kind of heart-to-heart possible with them. If I was insecure for some reason, I had to handle it on my own. And because there were no gods to turn to either, it was a helluva lonely experience. If I socialize a bit too much today, it is because friends meant everything to me.

Insecure childhood it must be. I was sold to this idea pretty much until the other day when a friend mentioned that her daughter wanted a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank. That's when it all came back to me.



My dad studied the WWII to the core and still has almost a hundred books starting from the proverbial Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to The Diary of Anne Frank. He didn't of course have those Commando series comics that I later read and thoroughly enjoyed. Were those published in the UK? The jerries always got beaten in those. Yeah, so my dad, when he put me to sleep, used to tell me about each day of Anne Frank. Or about how the French surrendered. Or about how some brave little boy in Czechkoslovakia fled with a German train! Stories of war. And then the stories of the Vietnam war as well. Pictures of how the Americans tortured the Vietnamese: of a smiling soldier twisting and breaking the arm of a lady or of three soldiers cutting out the liver of a live Vietnamese guy! Gore? Osama is a kid compared to the Americans in Vietnam or the German concentration camps. The Muslim terrorists of today are nothing. When you cut open a guy's liver, he stays alive for almost an hour after that, writhing and dying a slow death. Daniel Pearl died in about three seconds. Have you seen that video, btw?

So, these wartime stories, of bravado and victory of the good over evil, were playing on my mind. The enemy was on the other side of the door. I was a little kid, hiding inside, from the german troops, our dwindling resources getting over by the day. And the door, slightly ajar, was always just out of my reach.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

[{(delimiters)}]

This morning we were looking at some style issues and suddenly i came across something that made me sit up. "What is this? You have it wrong here," I asserted vehemently, because what I had in front of me was definitely wrong, and far away from the truth about mathematical equations that I learned in school. the style guide had the braces as the outermost brackets in a mathematical equation, in this sequence: {[(blah blah) x blah] + blah blah}. the person with whom i was looking at the stuff, somehow felt this is correct, but given her mathematical acumen (or what I believed was utter lack of it) I didn't pay much heed to what she had to offer. I know what it is like:

[{()}]

And I couldn't be wrong.

So I wrote both [{()}] and {[()]} on a piece of paper and went around our bay, to almost twenty people, quizzing them about what they thought was right. Some had always used the former, while some others, hold your breath now, had actually used the latter. So, soon we had two groups discussing and debating which one is right. Veena, from the publishing team, came to me with a photocopy from some style manual, which supported {[()]}. A vice president with a consulting company told me it is [{()}] and also that her son learns the same thing in his ICSE school.
Soon the entire office was abuzz with this issue and gradually we were losing out, the supporters of [{()}], that is. Only Lata Sundar was kinda nonchalant about it. Although she felt [{()}] is correct, she was the only one who didn't feel too strongly about it. How does it matter, she felt, as long as it is consistently used?

Meanwhile, some people looked up the Web and someone looked up the Chicago Manual of Style and it was {[()]} all over. I hadn't really ruled out writing to the Chicago Manual board of editors and wasn't ready to accept something other than what I had learned in school. It was like my faith being shaken. It turned out that the ICSE board still uses [{()}] while the CBSE changed to {[()]} according to some international rules, but it still wasn't clear.

I was constantly asking people around over chat and over phone about what they thought was right, still trying to digest the thought that some conspiracy this big could be hatched behind my back without me having an inkling about it, when I remembered to call up doc.

"What do you use doc? Do you keep braces or brackets at the extreme ends?"

"Oh, Arijit, braces and brackets are basically the same thing. Braces are made of metal or plastic, braces include brackets attached to the teeth and wires that connect them...
... but wait a second! I thought you needed a root canal treatment, and not braces! Where did this question come from?"

And I realized, the sequence didn't matter after all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

jealous pig


well, only in this case, the pig is not jealous, it is me who is jealous of the proverbial pig who has its orgasm for thirty minutes. strunk recently sent me this joke and although i knew abt it, i laughed again when I thought about it. laughed, with a tinge of jealousy. thirty minutes!

i have seen some blogs with a huge readership. always looked at those blogs askance, you know. like okay, what is this person writing about that it attracts so much readership? i have of course survived without almost any, so can't say not having comments is in any way detrimental to writing; i survived with the hope of getting published one day, and "wait and see who has more readership" was always my comeback, albeit uttered to myself. but recently i saw a blog with thirty comments on one single post. somehow, that reminded me of the pig. the joy of reading thirty comments on your blog is probably comparable to the epitome of all orgasms: that of the pig. it is a pleasure incomparable with anything else. you can buy a merc and tomorrow get bored of it; you can own an industry, but that will probably give you grey hair...but to be read and appreciated by so many netizens is like something i have always dreamed of.

some are lucky enough to be pigs. i am still striving to reach that suilline level. in both.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

dharma

according to AnandaDasa, the dharma of any object is the basic characteristics of that object. the dharma of water is to be liquid. it is the state you are in.

when did a religious connotation rear its ugly head into something that pure and essential? my dharma is clear thinking and not to be waylaid by any religious overtures. religion of any kind is like a multi-headed serpent waiting on the sides of the road that leads to salvation. if you can overcome the challenge and move on, you will soon be all alone, but free. your mind will see things in perspective. you won't be surprised when humans defy death or when aliens come visiting. you will wish you were with Daniken. you will look up Zacharia Sitchin's articles on the Web. you will work as a volunteer with Teach India. You will work for the Church that takes care of HIV-infected children. All this, with an open mind.

Come out. Let clear thinking be your true dharma.

the new mullahs

i have removed this post in the wake of the new violence that erupted in Orissa, initiated by the Hindu extremists against the Catholic missions in that state.

Monday, August 18, 2008

time to sleep

after five posts in quick succession, all with enough proof about my growing insanity, i give in to the temptation to sleep. try visualizing a light tap on a cymbal and it fading away in slo mo. try hearing it. and associate it with the fading out of conscious memories of the day. can u hear it any more? the nnnnnn fades and you slip into the darkness of a whale stomach. the projector is on.

which movie should i play for you, sir?

the rain

is sinusoidal today.
going up,
coming down
filling you with hopes of sinning
and new beginnings,
but going up again

origin of poetry

like an extended private moment during long hours of solo biking, another nice time to let your mind wander is in the morning when you are at the kitchen. a slice of sun through your window, which keeps out the early morning chill. you are waiting for the newspaper, the tea is brewing.

yes, the tea takes time to brew. about five minutes or so. the trick is to not let it get bitter or too dark. so, the best way to get that optimum level is to stand next to your teapot and wait for the right aroma. you must keep your cups ready, washed in boiling water to keep them warm till the time you take the first sip. sugar in the strainer. that's what my mom always did to ensure just that right amount of sweetness. she hated saccharine. ready, you can sense the tea ready, nicely orange, the leaves floating on the surface. pour it out and serve it with digestive biscuits.

when the water is boiling, and this is before you have put the tea leaves into the water, you can add a cut slice of ginger and a little piece of cardamom. after about fifteen seconds of boiling, turn off the flame and then add the leaves.

thankfully am not a technical writer. they would have found the sequence wrong, perhaps. why didn't you write about boiling the water first? you will end up confusing our makers of early morning tea. and then they won't buy the manual. but this is not a manual. this is the free state of a wandering mind. it is a democracy and no matter how you want me to prepare for the visit of the inspector of schools, i will remain free. and tell you about that private moment when you can stand in front of your teapot and think.

try it. am now going to embark on a therapeutic lecture. try it. it increases your love for the person in the next room, packing your child's schoolbag.

bad poetry

if you read my earlier post, you will have a good example of what bad poetry is all about. i have always held that poetry should be spontaneous (although I pretend to like the modernists) and should not be attempted when you don't feel it from within. some translations are weak, but the essence of the spontaneity comes through even through that. that is when a poem is successful. i have read some really pathetic poems in my lifetime, and some really abstruse ones, but the ones that are most dangerous are like the one I have published below. my own blog, so i can publish anything, but this was done with a purpose. is poetry always conceived and executed with an end in mind? is it just a means to an end? always? do love poems satisfy the lover and make her yield into an abyss, a victim of charm?

whereas this was an example of something that came out of casual flirtation, there are also serious attempts that are born out of deeper emotions. emotions are flirtatious too: they are always transient and seem foolish the day after. so, if your objective of using that emotion for creating something is met, you are successful.

I am not a fan of Derek Walcott. Or Ted Hughes even. Give me a footnote to howl or something, baby, to light my fire.

the same poem, written for the same person a year later when things are deeper, may read:

eventually
walking back to the kettle
another morning,
i drank straight from it.
my rational faculties,
awake by then,
didn't ask me a why or a how.

by then, after the night
i knew
it was tea to be savored
hot, cold, dark, or orange.

and from my lips
it went straight to His ears.

and hers.

darjeeling tea

i can feel something brewing,
and the heat seeping out in the form of smoke
from under the lid

i can feel something brewing
but i can't see the water getting its color
from above the lid

i can feel something brewing
but with a finite limit in time
and something tells me now
i must lift the lid and see
if it is my darjeeling tea

i walk out of the kitchen and stand in the dark room.
let it be a dark decoction
darker than the witch's broom...

she says she wants to fly
to srilanka and kashmir
she is not scared of bombs
"a witch is covered by virtue of being a witch" do you see?

i know something is brewing
let it be for you
my darjeeling tea.

Friday, August 15, 2008

India's next Olympic medal

Although Leander and Mahesh and the three boxers are still in the fray, I am gearing up for 2012. I will be 41 by then, and four years should be enough for me to get India's next Olympic gold. Only problem is, I haven't been able to decide my sport yet. Individual scull? Taekwondo? Or plain marathon? Maybe long distance cycling?
With my knees giving in, running is ruled out. I have to decide soon. Time is not on my side, but India gets a gold in 2012.

In something.

I will be famous then. I will get lots of awards. And if I write my book after the gold medal, it will sell too. But what if the book is not on sports but of sports of a different kind? What if I write about the emotional sparring and tactical gaming that you need to master when you date someone? Will that sell, you think? I think it might. But I can write a treatise on mindgames right now, right from fucking someone's mind to allowing another person to slide into a dangerous comfort zone with me? I can pass on the trade secrets to all the budding gamers and mindfuckers? So why wait for the gold to write? Let me write my book now and also work on the sport. Individual scull, I think, will be good. I can row faster than many. I could, some 13 years back. I could row upstream in the Ganges for almost thirty minutes or more. With practice I can win a medal. Not much time left. Let me continue with my pushups for the time being, till I decide which sport.

It wasn't Aravind, it was Akhil Kumar who said he will get the gold. So all the best, Akhil. I will join you next time.

This day, 61 years back, was the saddest day for millions of Indians from Punjab and Bengal. Rendered homeless and sent out of their country to another because of their faith. Millions died in the riot, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims. Come let's celebrate the day our country was divided into three parts to make room for Muslims and Hindus. They could not cohabit any more, so the ever so thoughtful Brits made a hurried line on a paper map. Let's celebrate our Independence from the Britishers and also the going over to the hands of Indian politicians. And let's vow to get a medal each for India in the next Olympics. Despite the politics, despite our limited dreams, despite the fact that we are mere Indians after all.

We can kill though. If killing were a sport, how many Michael Phelps would we have created, I wonder. We kill after raping a minor, we kill when someone hits our car from behind, we kill when someone refuses to serve a drink after the stipulated hour, we kill policemen when a celebrity dies, we kill at our own free will. We kill Hindus with bombs, we kill Muslims in riots, we kill innocent Sikhs when Indira Gandhi is killed. Believe me, we are good at this. And there are plenty available too, to kill. More than a billion, in fact.

Think of a sport for me, people. I can't kill either. I can sleep, talk, and fart. I can blog all my life. I can talk of a gold medal and promise you the moon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Another disappointing year

Although this is the most blogged about story these days, I couldn't help join the bandwagon in lamenting the poor show by the Indian contingent at Beijing. Every Olympics we hope against hope, give out our hearts to all the Indian participants, but they come back empty handed. Saina made me cry today. It was another matter that her dad cried on national television. She is the next Leander Paes in Indian sports, with a determination that we haven't seen in a long time. She won the first game after a long rally, lost the second one, and was leading the third one 11-3 when her nerves started to fail. She lost the third game to an Indonesian girl whose game is just about at par with Saina's, but whose nerves proved to be a lot stronger. The nation cried with her and there was this collective sigh, so near yet so far...

Take Anup Sridhar. He lost to Sochi Sato in the prequarters. Sochi Sato of Japan can pass off as a cold blooded drug peddler and has the meanest and most insular look amongst all the Japs you meet. The first thing you want to do when you see him is to tie him to a pole and arrest him on various charges. Anup, on the other hand, is the perfect gentleman vegetarian who has gone out there to play badminton. With Pullela Gopichand as his coach. Pullela Gopichand? He might have won the All England cup and might have been a world champion, but is he a hunter? Does he eat meat? Can he go out into a jungle and kill a wild boar and eat it? Does he have the instincts of a killer? If not, what is he doing as the national badminton coach? Why does his protege Anup, who is technically perfect, taller, and has a much better reach all over the court lose out to Sochi Sato, whom he has beaten in three out of five previous outings? Despite leading in each game?

Is it because he is an Indian? It is because he is from the Indian middle class. The middle class in India have limited dreams and they pass on their limited dreams to their children too. They are happy if their children manage to become computer engineers or manage a government job at the most. They are happy to excel at the national level (which is a pathetic level to say the least) and manage to get a nice job. Where is the winning spirit? Where is the scare of not being able to face a billion Indians if you go back empty handed? Sab chalta hai... after all who expects an Indian to win anything at the Olympics, boss, let me just have my share of fun and go home and start a coaching academy. Or join politics. Jyotirnmoyee Sikdar, after two golds at the last Asiad, is a member of the parliament now. Happy. What else does she want?

Who is fighting? Leander and Mahesh are. They are professionals, but they have to face Roger Federer's team in the quarters. They beat Federer and his other Swiss partner last time at the Olympics easily, so am hoping (and you all are hoping too) that it will be a breeze for them. But it is the Olympics, and we are Indians, so who knows after all? The nation knows we have this psychological disadvantage and there's nobody waiting with a stick back home. So why worry.

Take the archer Dola Banerjee and the shooter Manavjit Singh Sandhu. World champions by their own right. The nation's hopes pinned on them. What do they do? They bow out in the first round. Dola was even seen smiling in an interview later. Go commit suicide, you loser, or go cry in the locker room. Don't come out smiling and give a silly press interview saying you enjoyed and gave in your best. Is this your best? You are a world champion, for god's sake. Is this ALL you can do?

Who sends them? Who chooses these guys? Who is this Kalmadi guy? Why is he there? Why don't you put him in jail for the next four years?

The pugilists are fighting. Sons of farmers and grade 3 government employees in Haryana, they are fighting. They are punching their way through each round. One guy, probably Arvind Kumar, even said he won't be satisfied with a silver or a bronze... only a gold. At least one guy has dreamed of it. May the force of a billion physically, culturally, emotionally, psychologically challenged Indians be with him. Or do you think he needs our support? He doesn't. He has reached where he has by himself. His dad is probably thinking of how to buy a tractor or how to repay his loans. He cannot afford a private coach for his son from Cuba. But Arvind Kumar has a dream. A lone ranger's dream. If he loses, he will go down fighting and for the handful of Indians who have seen him on TV, he will remain a fighter to reckon with.

Will someone else be able to give Abhinav Bindra some company up there? Anyone? Someone with even a little bit of pride for the country? With grit? With the instinct of a game hunter? Please say yes, please... we are waiting for you dear hero...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

A lifelong experiment

teaching a child is a lifelong experiment and I have completely immersed myself into it these days. a child has certain learning huddles to cross, and crossing each one almost catapults the grasping power to the next level of difficulty.

here are a few hurdles that aaron was faced with. he wouldn't be able to figure what came after 19 or 29. This made it really difficult for us to teach him beyond 1 to 9. we realized that explaining the concept of zero always coming after 9 was what can help him overcome this hurdle. he managed to grasp it. so, soon he was able to figure what came after 39 or 49. After 4 comes 5 and after 9, it is always zero. So 50 after 49. It seems funny and rather simple, but at the age of four, with the schools moving on at an absurd pace, it can sometimes be hell for the kids.

later, he grew fond of math puzzles. we taught him little tricks to help in quick mental math, and instead of making it like a mandatory session everyday when he has to study, we made it a game. each time he missed one, I scored a point. because he takes me as a competitor in everything, this really spurred him on. he always had to score more than daddy.

we both are rather weak in math, so our obvious focus was on him to be good with the numbers first, but in this process, his English got neglected. it is still rather weak and it is always a work in progress for us. what he got stuck with were the vowel sounds. it is difficult to explain to a kid how a sounds like a: and ae or how e sounds like a. am still struggling with his phonics and trying to encourage him to read, but this, as i mentioned, is a work in progress. i used some visual aids to help him remember spellings, like the word acTiviTies became a battleship with two masts and ten letters, while consonanTs was a ship with a single mast but ten letters nonetheless. imagine the amount of doodling all this needs. am planning to read up about phonics in the next couple of days to be able to devise new methods of teaching.

the school, unfortunately, is an average school that focuses mainly on the higher classes and their mathematics. phonics and phonetics are absolutely ignored because the teachers are not capable enough to speak proper English themselves. in our obsession to make our children computer engineers, we have ignored all the other subjects. but in a country where basic civilities like not littering the streets or not jumping a traffic signal or not honking are never taught or practiced by the teachers or the parents, it is difficult to expect a child to learn to be a good human being...forget learning how to speak properly in English. I pronounced shove shov (show) or chores coarse for a long time and have still not been able to get my intonation right. These days you have these accent training institutes, so that's an idea brewing in my mind. but my English can wait. aaron's cannot.

like i said, it is a lifelong experiment and will continue for a lifetime. someday, i will also have to teach his children. i better equip myself to be a good dad first . . . :).

Planet X

If I mention some kinda expense my wife usually thinks for a few seconds and almost always tries to reason with me, but that night as she walked out the auditorium door and I hollered after her that I want to buy a CD by the performers we just watched, she just raised a hand in consent, much to my surprise. We had gone to attend a jazz concert at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Bangalore, arranged by Sandip Chowta, a famous music composer and jazz artiste. He got Virgil Donati to Bangalore, along with Brett Garsed, who plays almost as good as one of the 3G guitarists.

Virgil is this esoteric drummer whose sense of rhythm had the audience in raptures. He paused after a few tracks and probably thought it is better to explain to a Bangalore audience why his drums sounded abstract and offbeat. He played five different samples in increasing order of complexity, explaining how each one of the sample tracks he played were in 16 beats but broken into triplets and quintuplets. Brett accompanied him with a riff on the guitar, which made it easy for us to hold on to the actual rhythm and also realize how Virgil's drums always stayed within the strict 16 beats that he started off with. He started from half beats and often at various points from within two beats and by the time he finished, we were all on our feet asking for more.

I love Dave Mathews band (songs like Where are you going, Grace is Gone, Bartender, etc.) and the drumming there is quite interesting too, but it follows a particular rhythm that a even a novice can understand. Even if it starts at half beats, it is steadily like that for you to be able to headbang with. This, however, was nothing I had ever heard.

Bought one of the many CDs on display, Planet X. They had played some of the tracks live too. This music makes you want to drive fast and also increases your aggressiveness. Thankfully the roads that night were absolutely deserted after the concert and I hadn't the chance to indulge in some foolish road rage.

I took it out of my car stereo and put back John Maclaughlin's Live in Tokyo. The old jeep cannot take any abuse. Planet X is for my next round of psychedelia, to be enjoyed in the confines of my house, with other biker friends.

Watch Virgil here: http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=NjWJuxlXzoc

Read about their kind of music here: http://images.google.co.in/imgres?imgurl=http://www.ozprog.com/images/interviews/interview_9.gif&imgrefurl=http://www.ozprog.com/interviews/view/9&h=150&w=150&sz=10&hl=en&start=6&um=1&tbnid=BQiLQvcM8oOKxM:&tbnh=96&tbnw=96&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dvirgil%2Bdonati%2Band%2Bbrett%2Bgarsed%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DG

Ghosh Rider


Two very important blogs about experiments in pedagogy and one on Virgil Donati and Brett Garsed's music are pending, but due to lack of time, here's a pic of Ghosh Rider, who came visiting me the other day...

say hello to him...

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Mindless Churning Out

Now that people are expecting me to write (even if it is one person), I feel this pressure, almost like many Bengali authors feel when they have to churn out good novellas and stories before the Pujas. People wait impatiently for these annual issues of all the popular magazines and whereas some buy all the magazines (Anandabazaar Patrika, Anandamela, Sondesh, Desh, Bartaman, Aanondolok, etc.), some others coordinate among themselves about which magazines to buy. If Rekha buys Anandabazaar, Madhumita will buy Desh and they will exchange later. I belong to the later class. I believe in exchanging books. It always gave me the opportunity to mingle a little more with the girls. To keep them happy, I even borrowed M&Bs from my cousins and lent them. The girls knew Arijit had a library. If they smiled in return, I would think about that smile for a lifetime. There were many such smiles, and I didn't remember any of those smiles for long either, but that was a later realization. That was much later, when I realized it is foolish to be crazy about a girl's attention. I hope to pass on my wisdom to Aaron so that he can concentrate on better things in life.

But then, I myself am scouting girls for him. While Ananya found him herself, I found him Arshita and Sanjana. Ritu Malhotra says her daughter Navya is a little older, but she will wait for Aaron to grow up. Aaron won't be very tall. He is my son, so maybe he will cross me and be 5'9" at the most. Does basketball help? Ritu and Daman are both rather tall, so Navya will be taller than Aaron. Ruled out.

Do you try to visualize how your child will look when he/she grows up? I do that all the time. Try to close my eyes and think what he will become like. Will his eyelashes continue to be as long and dreamy, or will they fall off? What if his eyes become small like mine? And the career choices for him are again as vast: rally driver, model, painter, diamond merchant? He has this absolute fascination for gems. Sometimes you can skid on the imitation gems and jewelry strewn all around our floor. I told him he has to speak Gujarati and has to have some contacts in South Africa to become a diamond merchant, but he doesn't seem deterred by all that. "treasure, treasure" you can see him jumping all around, without even having read Stevenson's Treasure Island.

Treasure Island was our most fave novel. I know it was probably your fave too. I must have read it umpteen times. And then King Solomon's Mines. Will our children read those books? Will they read at all? Or will they not be bothered. My friend Hamsa hasn't read one fiction in her entire life. Has it made her a little unromantic, a little less dreamy? Too practical? I don't have an answer, but I feel you are missing out on a veritable treasure out there if you don't read fiction.

These days I watch movies more than reading books. Reading books had taken a backseat long back. Right after I joined publishing, I guess. Looking at manuscripts all day and learning to edit has taken the joy out of reading without being hawk-eyed about the typos and other errors. Editors are mostly cynical people and can't accept anybody else's writing without trying to butt in with their ideas. It is a generalization (and I will still hold that sweeping generalizations make the world a funnier place), but there are so many live examples that I have seen. I wonder how the editors would react if their writing was to be put under the lens. I write without worrying about construction or spelling errors. You cannot write and go back to it. You have to let it live and breathe like a living organism. Once born and severed from you, it is on its own.

Is it then wise to think too much about how your child is gonna grow up to be? Or is a little bit of editing necessary?

What are you hiding? Eugene?

what is to be hidden is not yet clear, but something has to be.
something more than just friendship on friendship day between you and me. sneaking out in the rain wearing a parka, i wait for a nod from you. a nod enough to start my newly acquired KTM and start riding. while you drive toward me.
what i must hide is not clear, but something has to be.

the tobacconist, leaving at midnight, leaves me in more darkness than even a few seconds back. only the tall tree is darker than the night.
it houses the owls. the last few cellphones can be seen fireflying in the distance, walking away toward their respective homes. i call you up and you are driving. what is there to be hidden, you ask. it isn't clear, but something has to be.

am online now, waiting for footsteps in the corridor. hushed, with your pajamas brushing against the wooden floor. maybe you will open the door and answer me.
maybe you don't know the answer.

maybe i am rushing it. maybe imagining there is something while there is nothing. yet. nothing yet, maybe. am i killing the possibility of something? overreacting? trying to turn this into an inspiration? my muse?

will it help me write about mashi tomorrow? that's one blog post been waiting for long to happen. it is in the form of a draft. mashi. our mashi is probably not gonna live much longer. she is running around the house looking for her antidepressants like a maniac. i ignore her for now. she will be written about separately. she deserves a little more than some weird confusion in my mind. right now, it is this. do i find you beautiful? i can't tell, but definitely attractive. do i know you? definitely not. do i know myself? that's always had no for an answer. truman, right now, could say "and...in case i don't see you...good afternoon, good evening, and good night"... and walk out the door in the sky. i could not because i haven't reached that door.

how far is that door in the sky? who is on the other side?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Private Moments of Pain

(clicked by Pallavi during one of those not-so-private moments)


Although all these days I was a staunch supporter of the school that believes your most private and productive moment is at the loo every morning, I realized yesterday that I was a little overzealous and perhaps too biased towards the potty break. You may attribute this affinity to my affection for this activity early morning, but when these morning visits become rarer and skinny down to about three times a week, you tend to go less and less creative. You find no time to be with yourself. You seem perpetually lost. In front of the keyboard, you stare at a blank screen.

Although the uninitiated call this “constipated” and the intellectual call it a “writer’s block,” it is not to be taken lightly if you remember the cases of Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, or Sylvia Plath. No matter how much their suicides have been associated with depression and the like, a well-informed research into their medical histories tells us that they were all staring blankly at the screen before their deaths. Okay, paper. Therefore, we can safely deduce that a clean WC = clean paper = depression = listlessness = suicide.

If you notice, I mention that this realization dawned on me only yesterday. I was inside a helmet looking at empty stretches of a highway with some bikers in red in front of me. Every bike had a red rider on it: Pallavi wearing her newly acquired red Cramster, Nita and Tana wearing their red Cramster Dynas, Love wearing his red Cramster K2K, and I too had a red Cramster Meteor on, but couldn’t see myself through the helmet. I was the sweep, so I was at the end of the group, riding at a steady speed, feeling numb, missing music, almost dozing off when it struck me: man, isn't this my most private moment?

(the red bikers: clicked by pallavi)

Yes, more prolonged and more private than the early morning break. This made me sit up and stretch, and my mind started wandering. My first instinct was to cuss at nobody in particular. So I muttered a light “behenchod” inside my helmet. It felt good. Then I shouted it out only for the word to reverberate and come back to my ears amplified. So the third time I lifted the visor and screamed “BEHENCHOD” at the road. Felt damn good. In your private moment, you are allowed to do anything. While on a mobike you can’t experiment too much except with your mouth, so there I was… cussing out loud and feeling very very good about it. I personally don’t like to cuss too much and soon got irritated with my choice of word and cussed at myself. Looked straight at Red Eye, with Love and Tana on it. Yes, I know you think it is a typo, but that’s the name of our new friend and fellow biker: Love Joshi. And although the name might want you to cast aspersions on how loud or tacky the real character is, he comes across as a pleasant surprise. Love.

I mean, what a name, man! Not even Luv of Luv and Kush. It is Love, and means love.

Yes, so I saw Love and Tana before me, riding at a steady pace. These uneventful highways make you go at a steady pace although the idea of a cruise control mechanism on bikes is rather preposterous and never occurred to me, I swear. Okay, maybe once when I was very sleepy. Love's bike is called Red Eye, and he has lovingly fixed a free-flow exhaust called Goldie. A very punjoo name, but your pickup does go up considerably assisted by a Goldie. So Love has a Goldie and he is riding in front of me. A free-flow exhaust, if you don't know a bullet, takes the beautiful thump of a bullet and makes it sound like a rocket in the need of . . . well . . . you got it. The sound hit my visor, made its way into the helmet, and kept wreaking havoc with my eardrums: FUT FUT FUT FUT FUT instead of the dub dub dub of a normal bullet. Our highways these days have some six lanes, so I quietly moved to the slow lane to avoid the exhaust hitting me.

Love followed suit.

In the midst of the unavoidable FUT FUT, I saw Love patting Tana's left knee at regular intervals. I never doubted his right as a husband to pat her knee, but the fatherly nature of the pat made me suspicious. What is he trying to tell her? "Don't worry, next time we won't ride with these guys," "Don't worry, I will stop at the next bookshop and buy you the copy of Hitchhiker's Guide that Pallavi never returned," "Don't worry, we will stop at the next filling station and you can use the loo there," my mind went on an overdrive. I told you it was a private feeling?

We stopped at a dhaba for chai and food. There I learned that Tana was falling asleep every five minutes and Love was trying to keep her awake.
"Okay then, fertile brain, go take a walk, or worse, have some yellow egg fried rice."
"Did he sing 'love will keep us alive?'"
SPAAAANNNKKK

After the food I realized I need more than the FUT FUT to keep me awake and my mind working. As Confucius say, "Your reflex go better if you increase speed." He also say "no fart in empty elevator" and "no jerk off in tub full of water, it stick to your hair everywhere" but the increasing speed thing caught my fancy. I quit being the sweep and opened the throttle. Now Rocky and Pallavi are some riders. They increase their speed to such an extent that they almost fuse together and ride as one. Yesterday it was difficult because Pallavi's red jacket and Rocky's blue Fieldsheer were at loggerheads, but soon they fused and became like one black (red + blue = black, you color-challenged idiot!) Knight Rider. 100-120 kph on Indian roads is like flying and in my bid to follow them I felt someone had abducted my pilot and my bike had a mind of its own.

To my dismay, I found that QuikSilver, Rocky's bike, has an equally loud exhaust.

Earlier yesterday we left for a place called Lepakshi, which has some monolithic structures and an age old temple. Pallavi will blog about it soon. When we rode in the morning towards Lepakshi, I was still a member of the earlier school: your most private and creative moment is when you are alone with yourself "there." The entire onward journey was so eventful that never for a moment did this idea get challenged. Halfway through the journey a cyclist appeared from nowhere in front of Prateek's bike and they fell after hitting the cycle. As Prateek and Nita were trying to get up and gather themselves, I could see Pallavi promptly walking up to the guy on the cycle and practice some chaste Kannada swear words on him. It is a rare sight in any South Indian village to see a white woman in helmet cussing in the local language. I think the villagers had never seen people in spacesuits before.
(spacesuit: clicked by Pallavi)

After she had threatened the crowd to her heart's content, we promptly left the place lest those guys realized we were mere bikers and not space travelers and attacked us. We stopped a little while later to assess the damage. As Rocky and Prateek looked at the bike, we could see Pallavi scurrying after a couple of buffaloes with her huge camera. Tied to the buffaloes was a hapless old woman, who was being dragged around by the beasts, who too hadn't seen women in spacesuits charging at them before. Poor guys.
I was almost thinking of how the PETA activists would have reacted to Pallavi terrorizing the poor souls, when we spotted some HUGE trucks on trucks, and our attention got diverted.

Maybe that spontaneity makes her such a great photographer. Check out her pics of the trip here: http://flickr.com/photos/jilmil/sets/72157605893668838/

She points the camera at anything and anybody, anywhere, with such dexterity, that the Indian Army is planning to hire her to train their soldiers.

By the time the trucks passed, I noticed that Prateek and Nita were beaming, admiring their riding jackets and how they escaped unscathed. I didn't tell them I was thinking how it would feel to take a fall wearing my new jacket just a little before they actually fell. Will take their word for it.

Till then, let the private mind get wild in the confines of my helmet.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dreamless


When I captured these guys sleeping, I wondered what one needs for blissful sleep. They sleep with no worries, like today's the last day, so sleep. I noticed they had no slippers or shoes, and they are probably laborers who carry loads from one state to another. Laxman, as his name most possibly is, might have started off from Nagpur three days back in a truck. This consignment of heavy-duty cables had to be unloaded at the client's warehouse in Bagalkot. The driver read BGLKT as BGLR and drove straight down to Hyderabad and then on to Bangalore. Laxman took turns with Ramkhilan in driving, and they drove continuously for two nights and three days and reached Bangalore. Tried calling up the client's office, but couldn't reach. The truck had to go back, so they dumped Laxman with the cables in Bangalore and left.
There he is, fatigued to such an extent that he has forgotten his worries. He has spent his last few rupees having lunch and feeding the other two and they all slipped into dreamless sleep.
Tomorrow is another day. Sleep now.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Brothers in Arms


My friend Raja is right when he says we are not imaginative enough with eggs. I would add sausages to that list. For example, when you have Khubchand's pork masala sausages, you don't really wanna think too much about whom you hit on the road rushing home or how you cook them when you reach. I am not too bothered about basic civilities like sharing my food with others and stuff like that. That's reserved for boring meals.


This morning I suddenly discovered a forgotten packet of beef sausages in the freezer. It was an indescribable pleasure and can only be compared to how Tintin felt when he discovered Red Rackham's treasure at Marlinspike Hall. (Wodehouse would have definitely compared it with the exact state of mind Keats was in when he heard a nightingale. But I have no such lofty analogies at hand. Tintin is the farthest my mind can reach.)

And then I combined two of the most neglected ingredients that chefs don't experiment with: eggs and sausages. Again, very unimaginatively, because they taste so good posing as eggs and sausages, you don't need to disguise them as anything else.

It's a pity they didn't make refrigerators in the Romantic period. I wonder what Keats would have felt had he actually discovered a forgotten packet of sausages. The nightingales surely would have gone unheard.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sonodyne and DNM




The DNM stereo integrated amp is capable of churning out 100 watts per channel into 8 ohms of impedance. The speakers featured here are Sonodyne Sonus 2605 floorstanders, which can take up to 130 watts per channel. After having bought the speakers in April, it took me two months to zero in on an amp. Obviously it is difficult to get a decent amp with budget constraints like mine, and I had almost decided to go for a used NAD 352 BEE (80 w p/c x 8 ohms). Also considered was the Marantz PM7001, but the dealers in Bangalore don't give you free home demos, and I couldn't carry my speakers (11.5 kg each) to every dealer. And I shouldn't forget to mention the Sonodyne pre and power separates that sell for about Rs 28,000. That was not considered because of the price.

Then I met Sreekanth on hifivision... online. He is this absolutely passionate fellow who makes his own speakers and subs. When I heard his DIY speakers, made with 3.5 feet of horn in each and only with a single driver, I was floored. Had never heard such clarity even at the Sonodyne listening room. He believes that for pure sound you just need one driver and one high-frequency tweeter. Using horns, you can make that driver produce a sound that is closest to the original.
Sreekanth came home one day with his monster cables and the amp to give me a demo with my speakers. Obviously by then I was in love with his speakers, but still loved what I heard. He played Allan Taylor's Beat Hotel and some of his audiophile grade CDs bought over the net from the UK.
Decent sound, good midrange and the low frequencies are represented pretty well. Still don't have a dedicated audio CD player. Managing with the DVD player for now, but that doesn't satisfy my thirst.


Will arrange to set up my portable RCA audio CD player, but that needs a 1x2 interconnect, which I seem to have misplaced. Sreekanth gave this amp to me for a decent price and also threw in an interconnect free. It is Stone, but I don't know about the quality yet. Sounds okay.

Also attached the Worldspace radio to the amp, but the volume has to be upped considerably. Good enough for the Riff channel, but then could have been crisper and a tad louder.

Brought in Rajiv's turntable yesterday. It is a Sharp, and the LP i played last night sounded so clear, it touched a chord inside. I could even hear the thin rasp of the pin on the vinyl...man, how do you reproduce that in words!

I have my music now. Well, almost. It is just a journey well started...

Monday, June 09, 2008

In Tibet for the second time

Mcleodganj is perhaps the nearest I will ever go to Tibet. Although I have been to the huge Tibetan settlement, Bylakuppe, in Karnataka, I had never been to Dharamshala or Mcleodganj, where the Dalai Lama stays and where you get to see Richard Gere and Goldie Hawn and Steven Segal roaming on the streets. It was not so much for the Tibetans as for the love for their delicacy, the momo, that we planned this motorcycle ride to the Himalayas this time. Aaron had to see snow, so that was on the agenda too.

Because this is more about Mcleodganj, and I intend to keep it short, I won't go into the details of how we started from Delhi toward Manali on April 7, and eventually, a week later, reached Mcleodganj. For the first part of the ride, please read Prateek's writeup here: http://lifeandmotorcycle.blogspot.com/2008/05/glimpse-of-himalayas-7-11th-may-2008.html

He has loads of photographs, so when you are done reading this, go check out our physiognomies there.

The journey from Pandoh to Palampur the previous day had made all of us sad, because the view from Manali was awesome, to say the least, and Aaron could be taken to the snow line there. Here, the Dhauladhar range, wasn't as white, and Palampur, despite being in the foothills, was kinda warm for my tastes. It had rained that day, and riding with a kid strapped to you in the rains is not a very pleasant idea, as I discovered. Overall, the feeling was of being let down.

Prateek had left a couple of days back from Manali to Delhi, so it was just the two bikes that were left: Sayantani, Aaron, and I on our Machismo A350, and Shuvo and Suchi on their Thunderbird. With our minds full of "should we have stayed back in Manali?" kinda questions, we chugged in to Mcleodganj, 35 kms from Palampur.

Tibetans are dirty people. All mountain people are generally dirty, although rather pure in their hearts. People in the plains of India are dirty both in their lifestyle and their minds, so let's not even think of comparing. Tibetans are dirty, and their kitchens are so dark, you don't think of all that while having the momos. Surprisingly, most of the Tibetan restaurants this time weren't selling chicken momos and the Italian and Israeli ones didn't have momos on the menu, so our intial fantasy of living off beef and yak momos was dealt a severe blow. We did find a couple of good restaurants eventually, but by then we had lost a couple of meals to ordinary food. After Dragon Guest House at Manali, we wanted nothing but the best. (The idea of abducting the chef at Dragon Guest House did cross my mind more than once, but we were already three of us on one motorcycle (which is illegal in India!), so didn't want to take a chance. It would have been hard to explain to the police a wriggling body bag tied to my carrier. I will abduct him when I take my jeep next year.)

As all Bengalis are wont to, Sayantani and Suchi, daughters of the famous Sipra Nag of Kulti, were hellbent upon buying the entire contents of the flea market in Mcleodganj, with no consideration about our means of travel. Once in a shop, they tend to forget that we are supposed to behave as backpackers and act like Caucasian hippies. Their true Indian self peeps out and takes control, manifesting itself in the form of huge paper bags full of FREE TIBET tees, junk jewelry, prayer wheels, tees for the neighbor's kids, etc. About the "how to pack all this extra luggage on to our existing already extra luggage" question, they are absolutely irreverent. That is not a question they allow people to even harbor in their minds, forget asking.

During one of these terrifying shopping sprees, I ventured out to some other shops, with the intention of window shopping. I really wanted a pair of The North Face hiking boots (almost original), but then I am not Sipra Nag's daughter, so the fantasy was brushed away with utter disdain. However, the Bengali in me somehow took me to the nearest shoe shop, and even managed to drag me inside.

The guy at the counter, obviously Tibetan, looked at me and figured I was one of them. He was busy attending to a couple of white customers, who, believe me, start haggling from levels that an Indian shopper would refuse to stoop to. If the guy says something is Rs 300, the white guy will offer Rs 35 and then go up. An average Indian would generally try to bring that Rs 300 down to Rs 250.

The guy figured, as I said, that I was Tibetan too. My haircut, my boots, my tennis court cheeks, my wannabe monk look had him fooled. That was until I spoke. I asked in English whether he had The North Face hiking boots.

What followed was very strange and it's a pity I could not capture it using somebody's handycam. The look on the shopkeeper's face changed in a few seconds. The moment he realized I am Indian (as opposed to a refugee Tibetan allowed to stay, do business, eat, and live free in India), his face contorted in disgust. Although his face was a direct giveaway, he still managed a polite but stern "check out from outside."

I was kinda furious for a moment, but because Aaron had followed me inside soon after, did not kick up a row or throw one of his displayed boots at him as my sane mind was urging me to do. I walked out and kept walking, wondering why the Bengali sisters (our wives) were oblivious to this rude behavior. I was sure all the other Tibetans were like that. All of them were rude, so they must have been rude with Sayantani and Suchi too. They are nice only to the white tourists, who, for a couple of weeks, show solidarity with the cause of Tibet by going on candlelight vigils and praying at the monastery, but soon get disillusioned and go back to their Ferraris and Lamborghinis and mansions and chateaus. Maybe I am exaggerating. The Europeans cannot afford Ferraris. They just make those for the American customers. The European tourist probably goes back to her Volkswagen Golf. Sorry for the outburst, my dears. But fact remains that they do go back.

I walked back up the road, trying to control my outrage, and then spotted some colors. Colors, polychromatic stuff of any kind, kinda lift my spirits, so I stopped to check the wares. Somebody had left a box full of embroidered silk cellphone covers out on the street. I picked up two and kept looking for the shopkeeper...and in my quest landed inside the shop of an Indian guy.

"Ah, so you sell these! Why have you left your wares unattended?"

"Oh, nobody steals here. That happens in the plains," he was nonchalant.

That, from an Indian, was so funny to hear. India is the largest manufacturer of security alarms and iron gates, and also has the maximum number of security agencies in the world. Go validate it, am not bothered, but to hear an Indian say "Nobody steals here" was so hilarious! Although at that moment I was kinda taken aback and thought he was joking.

After paying him for the cellphone covers, I asked "Sir, you are so nice to me, but most of the Tibetans here don't want to do business with us. Why is that?"

And then he explained the story to me. The reason for the Tibetans being rude to Indian customers. "Sir, am not talking about you, but you know how the Indians are. They come into a shop in hordes, check out seventy odd items, and eventually want to buy just one. And even for that item, they want to haggle. The Tibetan guy can use that time to do a lot more business with the white customers."

He had a point. I saw his point. I witness this every day, everywhere.
When I walked up to the shop where my wife and sis-in-law were shopping, my pace had increased. As I was approaching the shop, I saw them coming out with huge bags and the beautiful Tibetan lady coming out to say "goodbye, come again" to them with a huge, simple, smile on her face that you can see only in the hills.

For once, I was happy they had shopped like they had and in my mind picked up the boot I had thrown at the other guy and kept it back in its place.

Will I go back? Yes, to try and change the image of an Indian in a Tibetan's mind.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

a story

is always very long. only sometimes the story teller makes it look like a short story.
a story can be ten years long, but it still has to be told within a finite space. you cannot afford a Suitable Boy because before you reach page ten, you will run out of words. that is for authors.

this is for me. a dainty little blog, almost like my paramour, extracting the truth from me every time. is she lucky? or does she not care? or does she want me to tell her story? if the blog too becomes a woman, i will soon get confused between her and the woman i was going to tell you about.

it is a once upon a time story and it is about a woman who studied something as obscure as metallurgy in a godforsaken university.

did i say i will finish the story?

inhibited

Some say they have been able to overcome their inhibitions and can do almost anything, while some others are not even ready to discuss their first sexual experience. When a person in Thailand drinks his own pee in order to keep wrinkles off his face, you can call him uninhibited to a great extent. I tried drinking my pee once because that is supposed to be the fountain of youth, but couldn't. I will age, will accept the crows feet, will go for botox if needed, but will not be able to drink my pee.

Just watched Fur. When Diane Arbus (Nicole Kidman) goes to photograph a colony of nudists, she is initially shocked. She needs some time to get things straight in her mind because she too has to shed her clothes before being given access to the colony. But she manages to do that, eventually. The movie is a little bizarre though, trying to show her journey from being a housewife (household help, almost) to a person who gradually discovers the creative, eccentric self within. Nudism at home is different, being nude publicly is quite a different ball game altogether. Makes me curious to try it out. But I want to be in shape before that. And as the host says . . . "No erections allowed." Should not be a problem.

When a movie like this comes to India (such artisitic movies never make it to India), I wonder how our inhibited censor board will react to it. Will they be shocked out of their wits? Do they even know that nudism dates back to many centuries? Do they even remember it was celebrated right here in India much before the hordes of Huns came plundering? The censor board today want some piece of cloth to cover your assets. But they do allow a lot of flesh peeping out from here and there trying to seduce the last drop of shit from our hungry, desperate, deprived filmgoers. They come out of the theater and rape minors and every single woman they find on the streets, but that is something we are not inhibited about. We don't like nudism.

Imagine the divide between the vegetarians and the meat eaters. The vegetarians by birth (not by choice) as most Indians are, are inhibited people. One colleague mentioned in the office pantry that people who eat pork stink like pigs. I was about to make her sniff my armpit right there, but I didn't. I had finished almost half a kilo of pork the previous night, complete with lard and all. It is the tastiest meat I have ever had.

"Have you had wild boar?" asked Tanvi.
"No, but I think pork is the tastiest meat."
"Then you don't know anything about meat," she quipped before giving me a classic "brb" excuse.

And there are women like that too. Am I inhibited to try wild boar? Never, but again, won't be able to eat a live monkey's brain or human fetuses preserved in formalin.

Dustin Hoffman said this week that although he has lived for about forty years with his current wife, he finds monogamy a tough concept. You cannot be in love with someone like you were in love with her yesterday. It is bound to fade. Some inhibition stops us from discussing polygamy, while the neighbor's spouse remains the mysterious object of fantasy behind the flimsy curtains.

"'Have you?" I asked him, and he logged out of chat. He could fill in the blanks, he said. And yes, I had asked whether he ever slept with anyone. It is prying into someone's private space, some would say, although I think 'I could have helped you get over your inhibition of talking about it by making you come to terms with your own sexuality like Yolande Miller helps Bernard with his gradual sexual awakening in Paradise News.' "

Time for a bath? Unlike Harry Potter in the Goblet of Fire trying to gather the bubble between his legs to cover his modesty, let's stand up and stretch for once.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Of Enfield Clutches

Now we all know how bad the clutches of a Royal Enfield bike can become in dense traffic, but although I have kept that as the title of this piece, it is not really about Enfield clutches after all. For more info on that, check out GuruNandan's web site on Enfields. Alanis is singing "i can't be an asshole??" or is she? What is it playing in the background? That's precisely why I ask you to listen to jazz instrumental. At least music leaves you with one apparent interpretation unless you delve deep and find out what it actually means. Not the same with words, man, they sound like other words, which in turn sound like other words. So, something Alanis is singing can be interpreted by me as asshole, while you might think it is asholey, to mean "in reality" in Bangla. Often when I try to switch off the dictionary on my cellphone and try to write in Bangla, I realize most of the words mean something or the other in some other language. So, sorry to digress... what i meant is, try listening to jazz instrumentals. Like John MacLaughlin's Live in Tokyo is so awesome, so awesome...you won't need to know Japanese or English or American to understand the music. It will just hit you and you in turn will hit someone on the road if you are driving. I did that yesterday, did I tell you? I hit one old lady crossing the street and she flew up into the air and made such a pretty picture with her skirt flying all over. She fell in slo mo, lemme tell you... and landed on her feet... and continued walking. I later figured she was listening to John Coltrane. That explained the closed eyes.

Last night when I was chatting with a colleague frnd, we discussed this obsession most men have with humongous boobs. And then we zeroed in on two women on whose boobs we can play around. Like jogging, running, climbing, and lying down on the tip at the end of the day, panting. Quite an uphill fantasy, that.

In dense traffic, your clutch oil starts heating up and sometimes you can smell the burning oil through your helmet. And then you cannot find the neutral. You are stuck in some gear, clutch engaged, waiting for the car in front to move... and when you are about to lose your cool, just let go. Let the engine die. Remove your helmet and park the bike on the side. Let your old mare breathe. She is not made for roads where you need bullock carts and donkey carriages. She is made for the open road where the air brushes aside all weird thoughts and clears your mind. You are made for the open road and not for climbing huge boobs with ladders. You are not meant to think of voids and gaps and crevasses. Or about some anniversaries people want to celebrate when you are away, riding. So don't plan. Let it be seamless, like jazz, where the need to interpret words isn't there. Where just plain music, the music of the air violently entering your helmet through the vents, of the state buses zooming past, of going further and further away from the plains up into the hills... fills your senses.