Monday, December 29, 2008

The year that wasn't

This has been a dull year for me. Not a great way to start a post but I do find myself questioning “Did I simply sidestep and let the driver of the bus (rather train) pass by without noticing me?”. I didn’t even yell back at the driver; just sat there chewing paan.

That this has been the most uneventful year of my life is an uneasy fact which can’t be denied. I look for answers. Mathematics provides some of them, rest I explain with the help of cricket.

In general (not always), we characterize situations in personal life to be significant when they happen for the first time or have an high intensity of experience. So first day at the college is a day we all remember but at the same time no parent would not cherish the birth of the second child.

Life is such that the probability of anything happening for the first time reduces with age. When exactly do you expect the first shower of monsoon to drench you: June or September? The first word is uttered in months, first step taken in a year, first crush happens before you’ve seen a decade and so on and, as the usage goes, so forth. I don’t expect to have my first pimple or the first job on the wrong side of twenties. Yes, there are things like the first white hair which will take its own sweet time, but that’s what the point is: number of such events reduces with the age. At the cost of sounding sissy, I must admit that the only first thing I see happening to me in near future isss …welllll..."samajh me nahi aata kaise kahun"…MARRIAGE (which, for information's sake, and for the delight of lovely ladies reading this blog, I must mention, is not yet fixed).

What happens, sir, to the intensity, you might ask. It reduces logarithmically. Your tenth year is 10% of your entire lifetime you have lived till then while your 30th is 3.33%. dY/dX=1/X implies Y=log(X). So a bonus or a promotion now doesn’t thrill me as much as it used to about three years ago. I am pretty calm now whenever my Vinnie nudges a fellow passenger. She’s got bruises all over her anyway. Of course there are certain things like wine and wisdom that get better with age, but that’s an ongoing process and not accountable. Saying that I grew wiser this year is like taking comfort in “You are unique”. Nothing different from others here and hence the intensity is lost.

The above two observations do provide a logical justification for the current state of affairs; some introspection is still in order. I wasn’t a lazy bum for the entire year and did lead a cheerfully optimistic and active life; didn’t stop trying either. To say that this was a year of consolidation and strengthening wouldn’t be miles away from the truth. Talking cricket here, I must say that the batsman didn’t score a duck or a century, but did manage a whole lot of runs and improved his technique. So if the “events” are scoring 0 or a 100, the statistics wouldn’t show any ticks in those columns but the averages and strike rates are a pleasing spectacle.

Let’s take some of my team’s batsmen one by one in this 2008 innings. Mr. Health was the man in form and scored a flourishing 88; he had never looked in such fine touch. Regular practice and disciplined approach, he claims, is the key to his success. There was a promising debut by Mr. Blog with his 45. Some of his shots showed solid technique and promise of a stable future; we’ll have to wait and watch how far he goes.

After scoring back to back centuries in last two innings, Mr. Finance returned with a measly 14. The bodyline bouncers from Lehman Brothers got him retired hurt and specialist say that it might take more than a year for him to recover.

Mr. Relationships worked pretty hard to get back in form and scored a gritty 40. There were some poor shot selections, but overall you got to admire the skill, courage and patience he was showing on the bouncy tracks which he is not very accustomed to bat on. Unfortunately he feels that he was a victim of a bad run-out decision by the umpire; in the hindsight he shouldn’t have attempted the risky single. Ususally , the batsman gets the benefit of doubt, but such has seldom been the case with Mr. Relationships.

However, Mr. TripToGoa was the unluckiest of them all; he didn’t even get the strike due to bad light. However he is destined to play up the order (read January) in the next innings (read 2009).Mr. Job did well with a handy 76. He makes batting look so easy and comfortable. Not the one to shy away from playing the risky reverse sweeps, he has been a soothing delight to watch. Mr. Rubbishknowledge steadily accumulated 69.

Similar contributions have ensured that the innings total is around 424 (even though there isn’t a single century) which is not bad by any standard when you look at the pitch. The batsmen have learnt their lessons and are improving further. I take solace in the fact that the team never looked getting out below 200 and steady progress was the theme of the day. Gaining the advantage of this innings, they can play an attacking game further; I anticipate firecrackers in 2009. Someone told me long ago, there’s calm before the storm.

PS: My friend Pravu has suggested an engaging topic after reading this post. Why don't you guys submit the runs scored by your batsmen in 2008: Mr. Health, Job, Relationships and you may add further. Check out the comments to get an idea :).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dilli Ka Thug : Part 2

Here goes the analysis of the first incidence in the Tricks-of-Trades series.

I turned. It was him.

When I look back, I think he had me even before I left my cab. Trying to talk to me in Marathi sealed the deal because you don’t hear that language a lot in Gurgaon while walking on its streets. In my office there was just one Maharashtrian, most of the outsiders were Bengali, Tamil & Telugu. What I failed to see was that he was targeting a “niche” market. He just needs one catch in maybe two-three nights since that catch can be milked handsomely. No point asking 5-10 rupees to fifty people.
It should be easy to picture Casanova paying all his attention to a single lady in the ballroom; the pretty damsel is flattered imagining herself to be the object of his attention. Casanova would much rather take her to bed with him that night than trying to get a peck on his cheeks from half the women in the room.
I suited the thug’s target profile very well. He wouldn’t waste his time on middle-aged men. Approaching women at night isn’t a very good idea. He would try his hand on younger folks like me. A lot of office cabs used to stop there. He would approach outsiders (I clearly didn’t look like a Jat or a Sardaar) and then try his luck with the language .The subject who is unaware of the well-thought sampling process is prone to fall for it if he speaks the same language. 20-25 me ek to fit ho hee jaayega.

We must consider both the dimensions: Space and Time here. He cannot operate at the same place regularly. He has to have breaks and shifts. That day when I saw him again, he had to leave the place immediately when I demanded my money and threatened to call the police. Of course he feigned ignorance and I didn’t have a case strong enough to be proved or to be proud of. There was an old Indian playing similar trick with me in Manhattan when a colleague interrupted in between and repeated the thug's story. That colleague was a victim of the “Old Dr. Patel from California” whose luggage was lost by the airlines and money stolen. Dr. Patel immediately retreated.
Also, not all locations suit his operations. The place should be public, inside or very near to a market in the neighborhoods where young migrants stay.

Risks and Returns:
There is no doubt that for most of the thugs, this activity is just one of the side businesses. Some of them could be in fact be day-workers. There is a lot of competition too. As the comments to part1 suggest, many of them try similar stories. The entry-barrier, as they say in economics, isn’t too high. What this means is that they had to negotiate and divide the areas amongst themselves and maybe share the proceeds too in some cases. Still without doubt, the supply market for them is huge and growing.
Another outflow of income might be going to the Police in his operating zone. A Thulla knows one when he sees one. So the thug has to hedge his risks by bribing. Anyway, it is hard to prove the charge even if you catch him. Another major factor which leads to reduction in his risk is shame/embarrassment of the victim. Even the colleague in Manhattan just threatened Dr. Patel with a call to police; all three of us knew he won’t be doing that.
This phenomenon is somewhat parallel to what happens when a girl is teased by a bunch of sadak-chaaps. She doesn’t raise an alarm and might even thinks that it is somehow her fault; maybe the lipstick is too dark or the jeans too tight. She is ashamed to draw further attention. {Come to think of it, I have been saved of many vices simply due to inabilities. I can’t whistle loudly enough to make a girl turn. Not really sure whether a wink would have the desired effect when it comes from the eyes behind the spects. I didn’t take to smoking because when friends tried to teach me, I would consistently wet the cigarette; this irritated them to no end which resulted in a lot of cussing. I, being a self-respecting man at that age, gave up. } Let’s not digress any further.

Preventive/Corrective actions:
Each man being has his moments when given the circumstances he can be taken advantage of. Not very different is the case for a woman too. So what do we do apart from being alert and asking more questions?
Such thugs take advantage of the kindness in people. So do we stop being compassionate and close the door to the ones who really might be in need. There is a well known term in economics for such situations: “Asymmetric Information”. The solution here is to help people through trustworthy and efficient channels. Also you must realize that you are not God and don’t have the capability of lifting the whole world out of its misery.
Let me say a few good things about myself since it’s my blog. I sponsor a child’s education here. I told them not to tell me about my student, since then I would be doing this only for say a girl named Seeta rather than a girl named XYZ. This is being slightly mean and selfish on my part, but as Prashant Dhanke once said: Everyone is self-centered; it’s the radius that matters :). I redeem all my credit-card points to CRY. Now I can say “NO” with a little less guilt.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dilli Ka Thug : Part 1

This is the first anecdote in the series “Tricks of trades” introduced in an earlier post. Part 1 describes the incident while Part 2 would be analyzing it.

On a cold winter night in Gurgaon around five years ago, my office cab stopped near the apartment I stayed in with friends. The driver passed me the register to put an entry for the trip. All this while, my eyes were fixated on a poor family sitting below the street lamp : two men, two women and five children out of which two were in their mothers’ laps; the children were crying and didn’t have any winter clothes to cover their body with. The family didn’t look like beggars though; they appeared to be villagers. I signed the register and got down the cab; the wind was quite chilly that December and I felt guilty wrapped in my oversized leather jacket which, friends now tell me, used to make me look like a goat in sheep’s wool.

As I walked towards the apartment, the elder amongst the two men (must have been around 35) asked me in broken Hindi whether I understand Marathi to which I replied in affirmative. He thanked Devi for that and then told me in Marathi that they were from a village in Nasik and that they were visiting a Devi’s temple when someone fooled them in train and took all their suitcases & money. A young one in his mother’s lap started yelling harder to which the man responded by shouting at his wife to keep the baby quite. I asked him whether they’ve had any food and learnt that the kind-hearted shopkeeper on the other side of the road gave them a packet of bread which, I suspected, must have been stale. Police just took their report, but didn’t help any further.

By this time I was feeling really sad for them and wondered with anger about the wicked ways of the world. These simpletons had come to visit a temple (the only form of tourism known to most of the Indian villagers) and someone was wily enough to put these men with women and little children in such a sorry state. On further enquiry, he told me that there’s a train tomorrow morning and he would forever be indebted to me if I could lend him 500 Rupees for the tickets. He had a lump in his throat as he said this, his eyes were watery and hands joined together. I put a hand on his shoulder to give him some comfort and nodded in agreement.

We both then walked towards the ATM. I was feeling quite proud of myself and magnanimous by now. I thought that I have lost count of how many thousands are there in my bank account, and what a great deal of difference just one of them would make to this bloke’s life. What good a man’s life is if it couldn’t help the ones in need: my conscience gladly told my mind to which a compassionate heart agreed heartily. I gave him 1000 Rupees to cover the tickets and buy some warm clothes and food for them. The man said that he doesn’t regret missing on the visit to temple as he met his God in me. I dismissed this foolish flattery with great disdain.

While on our way back from ATM to the place where his family was waiting, he noted down my address to which he would send the Money Order after reaching his village even before he drinks a drop of water. He was glad to meet a Marathi-manoos is such distress. I sort of scolded him for thinking that only a Marathi man would help him; I would have helped him even if he wasn’t Marathi (I really was getting too filmy by now). He asked the children to touch my feet when we reached there but I jumped back and then bid adieu to the family wishing them luck and instructing to not to trust anyone so easily now in the train.

"Abe badaa late ho gaya ! Kahaan fuss gaya tha saale. Aadhe ghante se wait kar rahen hain. Chal dinner karte hain fatafat. " one of my friends greeted me as I eneterd the flat.

"Kuch nahi yaar! Wo gaadi waala pahle Sector 7 le gayaa tha ; ladki thi saath me to uska last drop nahi ho sakta tha" I said in a resigned voice.

Some lewd comments followed about how that girl must have molested me throughout the trip; they blamed the winter for her high libido.

We sat down to have the dinner. Two of my friends started the routine bickering about the food which I interrupted with a lecture on how so many people die of hunger and that we should be grateful for having this food and a comfortable life.

"Mujhe lagta hain ek nahi 2-2 ladkiyan thi iske saath" was a very well received response.

Weeks past by and no Money order came. I was hurt. When I decided to give that guy the money, I didn’t have any intentions of getting it back. “He shouldn’t have promised to return the money while we were walking back from the ATM. I had never asked for it. Anyways, good that I helped the families reach home. Neki kar, dariya me daal” were my thoughts. I didn’t tell about the episode to anyone.

About six months later on a humid evening when I was taking a walk around my apartment, I heard a voice a few feet away: “Aapko Marathi samajhti hain kya saab?”

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Happening

Wednesday evening. Around 9 PM. I called up Chitto to discuss about the Goa-trip that we three (third one being Pravu) had planned for the first weekend of December. Tickets were booked, researches were in progress to have some serious kick-ass fun and my intent for the call was to finalize the place of stay. Having exchanged the pleasantries ( both of us greet each other with a “Hello Sir!” for reasons unknown), we decided to get Pravu too in the conference.. He stays in Gurgaon but was in Kharagpur at that time.

Just when we finalized on a Hotel on Calangute beach, Chitto asked us whether we heard the sounds of bullets in the background. Chitto stays in Colaba and informed us that there’s a gang war going on in Colaba at various place and he has switched off all the lights and bolted the doors & windows. I googled “Colaba” for any such news, but there wasn’t any update till then. I jokingly told him to show some enterprise, become a citizen journalist and take some snaps of the gangsters. He then heard the booming sound of a bomb or a grenade perhaps.

We decided to hang up some time later and I immediately called up my brother who stays in Wadala which is a few Kilometers away from Colaba. He is a party animal and visits places in Colaba quite often. He was at a friend’s place in Dadar at that time and was aware of the “situation” in Colaba. He assured me that he will leave only after the gang war is over. By this time rediff had a headline about shootouts in Colaba; details were missing.

A couple of hours later I checked the news again and by this time it was clear that Mumbai was under an terrorist attack at various places and around ten people have died. Once again I called up brother. He was still with his friend Munish in Dadar. Three of Munish’s friends were missing and not reachable. They were supposed to be in Colaba at that time. Brother told me that he will leave only in the morning now. He had called up our parents & informed them. This is something that we both always do; we both never get calls from home in times of crisis and it is we who inform them that there is a crisis and we are safe.. Last time there were blasts in Bangalore, I was the one to inform my father that there are blasts and that I am far away from the area where blasts took place which was a lie ; the affected areas were at walking distances.

Thursday morning I logged on to the net as soon as I was up. The death count was 100 and the attack was rightly termed as unprecedented in terms of impact and manner in which it was being carried out. All the news headlines were in bold and there was absolutely no coverage for any other news which included state elections. A picture of burning Taj was shown along with the count for dead, hostages and injured. Experiences of narrow escape and horror abounded.

I went to office and then called up Chitto once again. He told me that the Nariman Point house where a Jewish family is taken hostage is just two streets away from his place. There are trucks of army and firemen around his place. He didn’t have any option but to stay locked inside the house. Once again I called my brother. Two of Munish’s friends who were missing last night were shot dead in Leopold Cafe. The bullets went right through their heads. One of them was two years junior to me at IIT Kharagpur and was about to get married in December. The other was from Indore.

The idea of a rocking trip to Goa seemed too perverse at that time and I discussed the same with Chitto. We decided to call it off, but gave ourselves a couple of days before we put a death nail into it and inform Pravu. My brother was going to Dewas the next day and he too cancelled the tickets now. The carnage was still on and the end was nowhere in sight. Contradictory news and rumors abounded. Taj and Oberoi were reported to be free a couple of times only to be followed by with news about raging fire and even more bullets and grenades.

My brother works for Yes-bank and Friday afternoon I got a call from him that Yes-Bank chairman Ashok Kapur was found dead in Oberoi. Saturday morning I went out for a walk and saw some reporters at the Frank Anthony school which is quite close to my place; one can hear “We shall overcome someday” when they sing in the assembly. The reporters were here because the NSG Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who died bravely combating the terrorists, studied at this school.

By Saturday afternoon, the trauma had officially ended. This was the first time things were happening to people connected to me. Thinking about my feelings about all this seems guilt filled indulgence to me. How does it matter if everything would be forgotten in a few days? Many of us are expressing rage, offering solutions, analyzing the situation, writing articles, commenting on the news sites. Will it be the same short lived patriotism, rage and sadness? Would the voices once again die down without any actions? One-minute-silences would follow, dead would be forgotten and then life will go on, waiting for another day when once again these maniacal devils would come to play with their bullets and bombs and bathe with our blood.

For this one time I wish there is a One minute where entire Mumbai erupts with people shouting at top of their voices. Let there be screams and cries, let there be shrieks, let the city roar. Let the twenty million souls voice there anguish and anger together; the sound would be loud enough to tremble Delhi and Karachi. This time Mumbai shouldn’t be praised for its ‘resilience’, but for its strength and the will to not to forget what was done to it and to not let this happen again. How we all wish that. But would those wishes remain a dream and would we once again allow the reality to become a nightmare.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tricks of trades: Introduction

Friday night. Music was exploding inside Vinnie as she zipped through the traffic at dangerous speeds to bring me back to home from work. All bills are paid ahead of time, car has been serviced and insured last week , groceries are well stocked, hair are short enough; in short, the weekend ahead had nothing better to do other than watch me switching between the bed and the bean bag . As the song goes, I had no deeds to do, no promises to keep. I really was feeling groovy, a drink was in order.

I parked the car and walked towards the “Happy Wine Shop” nearby to get a quarter of whisky. I had a 500 note along with a few 10’s. Something within me told me that the shop-keeper might try to cheat: he’ll pretend that I gave him a 100 rupee note instead of 500. So I memorized the number on the 500 note as an alibi. The romantic in me imagined that it would be pretty neat when I’ll grandly challenge him to check the 500 notes in his stack for the number I memorized and once vindicated, fellow customers would clap for me with admiration.

The thing costs 130; I gave the 500 note, he asked me for a change of 30 which I gave him and naturally expected 4 hundred rupee notes in return. He began packing the small box and gave it to me in a bag. I took it and then walked back without taking the 4 hundreds. I forgot!! Forgot to ask for the change, forgot the whole 500 vs 100 analysis done just minutes ago. I still remember the number on the 500 note, but when it mattered I forgot the reason why I memorized it. The next morning when I looked into my wallet, I realized my mistake. Going back to the shop was futile; still went there. Someone who sells liquor can’ be expected to be so honest; God knows how many men he has to bribe and how many weird characters he has to deal with in a day’s work.

The shop-keeper tried his luck and he succeeded against a fully prepared customer. He must be doing this many a times; sometimes he would win, the other times he’ll sheepishly return the change feigning oversight. Not much risk involved there. That’s one of the many safe long term strategies that people use quite often. Then there are other tricks too, some brilliant some naive, successful to varying extents.

Most of the professions allow the cunning ones opportunities to cheat/trick/take unfair advantages. A few of them might not even be illegitimate; rules & law can get you only so far. I recall being taken for a ride by the folks at petrol-pump, house-maid, shop-keepers, bank, land-lord, restaurants, cab-drivers, sales-persons, two professional con-men and some more. My story would be an antithesis of the movie “Catch me if you can”. I see a lot of smart ones around me fallen to similar stuff at the hands of apparently less educated and intelligent ones. The reason I think it is possible for a worker at petrol-pump to cheat an IITian with a degree in Economics from LSE is that he has a method. I have caught him when the same trick was being played the third time and when I shared this with my friends, most of them admitted being duped similarly and now are thankful for pointing it out.

I’ll be starting a series “Tricks of Trades” devoted to these incidents. Would take up examples from the list mentioned above and try to analyze the strategies that the subjects involved use. All these posts shall be under the label “Tricks of Trades”. The analysis would be around the forces that help these subjects take the advantage. I’ll try to see what is the economics involved, what kind of statistics favor the modus operandi and what are the psychological factors that are used. Also would think on the lines of risks involved, repeatability, longevity and long term pay-offs of the strategies from the trickster’s point of view.

I’ll follow it up with the way I felt and reacted after realizing the truth of the situation and what could be done to prevent/detect/minimize losses in such cases. Even the best prepared would loose sometimes. As the example above shows, I had already sensed what was to come, taken the precaution and yet when the time came my mind chose to reflect on other things in life and the preparations went in vain. The excuse given in such cases is that we are only human after all.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What Happens In Dewas Stays In Dewas

After six long years, I celebrated Diwali with family in my home town Dewas (fondly called Las Dewas by expatriates).

“Aa gaya wapis ? Kya kiya Diwali par?” chirped Mukta, a very dear friend now, enthusiastically back in 2002 when I returned to Gurgaon after Diwali celebrations.
“Aisa kuch nahi kiya jo baaki log nahi karte” was the succinct response in a nonchalant and naturally cold tone.

I’ll answer her question this year with a little more description. Most of the mornings I had to keep a three year old entertained so that his mother could help my Mom prepare sweets. Another daily occupation was to wait in Verandah for a cow to come along and then inform Mom; she would feed her last night’s leftovers.

For Dad, I was the expert driver. Dad has been driving for decades, but still can’t reverse a car confidently. So I drove him through the town and waited outside while he entered his client’s places to distribute Gifts & sweets. Played a hard fought Test-series with Bro that spanned over five days. Met a couple of close school friends after very long time. We all have grown old now.

Dewas now has a cool multiplex to boast of. The ticket costs sixty rupees and they come to your seats to take the order for popcorn and soft drinks which, I am proud to say, are priced nearly as much as in Bangalore. Bro & I went with a couple of neighbourhood friends to watch “Golmaal Returns”. The seat next to Bro was damaged; whoever tried sitting on it fell on the floor. There were three such victims and watching them go down was way more hilarious than the movie. All attentions were diverted to that seat whenever a potential Bakra came to sit there; once my eyes were fixed on the screen when the stranger seating beside me nudged “Ek aur aa riyaa hain”. No one warned the poor fellow and once again everyone burst out laughing when he crashed.

Unwillingly burst a lot of crackers and ate thousands of sweets. Midway through all these excesses, I developed an irritating cough in my chest which made breathing difficult during the nights. I’ve managed to stay away from medication since last seven years with some luck, strong determination and persistent laziness. Expressed the desire to extend the run to ten years when brother suggested visiting a doctor. Bro reasoned “ Yaar wo record to Bangalore ka hain. What happens in Dewas, stays in Dewas.” Persuasive argument, but so many Sloths have survived a lifetime without a visit to the Vet. Good old treatment comprising of less food, lots of water and 12 hours of sound sleep for two days came to rescue once again. The glorious run continues.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the day is to read the local Hindi newspaper with morning tea. Fashion movie’s review read: “Is film me tamaam models nashe ki latiyad ho jaati hain aur apna jeevan bistar aur ramp par bitaa deti hain”. Even better was a Diwali-special booklet which had an article informing the reader with ten points about places where the Goddess Laxmi stays and the places she shuns. “Jo poora nanga ho kar nahaata hain uske ghar Laxmiji nahi rahti”. I know that Santa Clause doesn’t visit you if you are naughty throughout the year, but have my doubts over this “Thou shalt not bathe naked” maxim. Haven't done a survey on this one , but my guess is that most of the readers should be spending their life in penury. Also, please be informed that having sex at sunrise or sunset adversely affects your financial prospects.

Overall the trip to my little town was great and apparently aisa bahut kuch kiya jo baaki log nahi karte .

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Don’t cry over spilt milk

Four babies are being born every second. Scientists at ISRO are toiling hard for nation’s first mission to moon this month. Rules are being rewritten in the finance world which is in a turmoil never witnessed since ‘The Great Depression’. Minissha Lamba is dropping her ‘Kidnap’ itsy-bitsy for ‘Maxim’.

Meanwhile, far-far away from all this excitement, on a lovely Sunday morning, yours truly is busy preparing morning cereal in a kitchen where little has changed since last two years. I take the milk-filled-till-the-brim bowl in living room and try to settle myself in the bean bag. Please don’t try this at your home. Milk spills on my T-shirt the moment my body has comfortable settled. I would have perhaps given a squeak if there had been an audience. But now I silently suffer. I decide to finish whatever is left in the bowl first before getting up to change the wet apparel.

Seconds later, the milk makes it presence felt on the skin on my stomach. ‘Milk is good for skin’ is what I cheer myself up with. Cleopatra bhi gadhe ke doodh se nahaati thi. I read this trivia long back in a ‘Ripley’s Believe it or not’ book gifted to me on the ninth birthday. I was disappointed to see it when I tore open the gift-wrap; was expecting a board-game. But that book did a lot of good to the kid who lived in an age where Doordarshan was his only eye to see the world.

I cringe at the memories of watching ‘Sangeet ka akheel Bhartiya Karyakarm’ and ‘Krishi Darshan’. ‘He-man’ was the epitome of entertainment. Sometimes I here people reminisce those days with fondness; nostalgia is all fine and dandy but I have a sound objection to the claims that Doordarshan-days were much better. Seriously!!! Just how dumb-sighted someone has to be to ignore the choices and improvement in quality of present times in favor of mind-numbingly boring and unimaginative pieces of crap served back then. Kids these days are way too cool . TV has a very important role in this evolution. And to all those who yap about degradation in morals and values, all I’ll say is that we were ignorant, not innocent.

Anyway, back in present tense, while the skin on my stomach is getting the care that Cleopatra was used to, the door bell rings. I ignore it. It works quite a few times. But the possessor of the hand on the bell is adamant. I know this must be one of the aunties who employ the same maid. The "chann-chann" sound of bangles confirms the fact.

“Who’s there?” I shout from within the bean bag with clear hint of irritation.
“Mrs. X. Did the bai come today?” yells Mrs X.
“No. I’ll send her to your place if she comes.” I say in a leave-me-alone tone.
“Ok. Pakka send her. I’ve to take my mother to ……” describes Mrs. X in a single breath.
A resigned “Yes” is what I manage. Mrs X. leaves after cribbing about the maid the maid to her heart's content.

I am not an antisocial lunatic who stays buried away from the big bad world outside. But this ‘Aaj bai nahi aai’ talk pisses me off to no end. Simply stated, I don’t share the same fascination for the topic. Again, not claiming to be a man of sophisticated taste, I admit to watching reruns of Big-Boss on You-tube and discuss the game-plan with like-minded people. But bai-talk is just not my cup of tea. Have told the aunties so many times that I don’t care if the maid doesn’t come, please don’t bother me. Even scolded one of the persistent aunties to not to knock on my door every other day. Strategies also include opening the door wearing just a towel. But, as the great king Singh sings in Singh is King “ Taan Lo Dus Banduke, Koyale Fir Bhi Kooke”, to no avail . Once she called me in the office while I was giving a presentation and even though I just said ‘Yes/No/OK’ during the conversation, the audience gave me a sympathetic look assuming me to be under some serious personal distress.

Well, such is life. Need to change my T-shirt now and move on. You know what they say:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Shadows of the mind

Since last quarter of an hour I’ve been wondering about the value of right hand. When no amount of money succeeded in luring me into parting with it, I turned to other body parts. So if on a cold dark night, I am captured by a seasoned sadist and he offers the choice to either part with right hand or with both the legs (third option being to die) , I’ll let go of my right hand. But if the choice is between left leg and right eye on one hand while right hand on the other, I’ll let him toss a coin.

Thinking about other currencies apart from body parts, I think a three year jail term in my youth with the guarantee of no sodomy comes close too in exchange for the right hand. Here you can play with the balance by varying the duration in prison.

The way mind makes choices is still not understood, probably can’t be “understood” and explained at all in near future. Homo-sapiens are intelligent, but not naturally “logical”. Take for instance the trades I mentioned above. You people might choose different values of the same currencies (body parts/ years in prison) for the right hand, but I assume most of us, who are reasonably happy with life and have certain hopes about the future, wouldn’t want to part ways with their right hand for money. However, now a new exchange offer is introduced: Take 100 billion dollars (let's call it A) for three years in prison (say B). I am tempted. But then I also put the value of suffering of loosing the right hand (say C) to be the same as that of three years in jail. No matter how illogical it sounds, we human beings are perfectly capable of bartering A for B, B for C , but not A for C . They call it Intransitivity .

Similarly, whom would I rather kiss: the puppy next door or Abhishek Bachchan. Hygiene advises against touching that puppy but I know my choice here.

There are certain decisions which though look illogical at first glance, need not be so when observed with some of acknowledgement of psychology. We must be prepared to accept psychological principles as axioms though. Examples abound in the seemingly logical field of economics. You would agree that if a rich emperor offers you a bet of Rs.10 with a fair coin (Heads: you win/ Tails: you loose), you might choose to play the game depending on your mood. The expected value of the bet is 0 (-10*0.5 + 10*0.5). However if you know that the coin is biased in favor of Heads (60% probability of tails), your mood shall take the back seat (unless you’ve just kissed Abhishek) and you’ll be glad to oblige the emperor’s highness. Expected value of the bet is 2 (-10*0.4 + 10*0.6).

Let’s make this interesting now. The coin in consideration is the same biased one, but you have to bet all your life’s past, present & future earnings. Here’s a chance to double your income with a 60% chance. But there’s a huge 40% chance of ruining your life’s earnings. Besides, I won’t benefit with two cars as much as I‘ll suffer after loosing my dear car Vinnie, no matter how cross she is with me. We put more value on what we already have and then diminishing marginal return (you’ll always enjoy the first bite of chocolate more than the third bite of your fourth.) along with risk aversion combine together to lead most of us to decide against taking the bet , even though the expected value out of that bet is positive .

Digressing, only slightly, let me talk about these hoardings put by DNA newspaper on Bangalore roads. They put good looking chicks on each hoarding and then post a question to all Bangloreans with two choices. I saw this one first:
What’s in Bangalore’s DNA?
A. Live-in
B. Marriage.

I’ve got little to talk about the question but a lot to say about “Why the question” but let’s not digress further. The other day I was breezing along in my Vinnie, when she hit a traffic signal. A tempo ahead was partially blocking another DNA hoarding. Only the following parts of the two options were visible to me apart from the thin babe in tight clothes:
What’s in Bangalore’s DNA?
____ uck the Issue.
____ake a stand.

The scrabbling neurons in my brain, cheered by the perverted ones, quickly came up with the letter F; single alphabet got me points for two words. The tempo moved and the real text was revealed:
What’s in Bangalore’s DNA?
A. Duck the Issue.
B. Take a stand.

Both the options pale before the combination “Fuck the issue and fake a stand”. Tell me if that’s not in your DNA.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Infinity and beyond

Another rain-filled lazy afternoon on the bean-bag in good old Bangalore. A little while later I am gonna have some coffee at the nearby Darshini-shop. Not too far away are situated Café- coffee-day & Barista, side by side, brothers in arms, partners in crime.

One wonders, how often the ways of capitalism take whimsical turns. Please don’t get me wrong, I am dead against socialism and its cousins. But then, for instance, take the wicked grandmother of the previously mentioned siblings: Infinitea, the Tea-shop on Cunningham road. They serve you tea for hundred rupees and you need to specifically request them to bring some milk. Grandma is kind enough to give some cookies too, just for 50 bucks.

Tea has always been an extremely basic beverage in Indian context, it's right next to water if you ask me. How many times we all must have heard “Bhaiya, kuch chaai-paani loge.” or something like “Arre unke yahan jaaon to koi chaai ke liye bhi nahi pooochta hain.” It’s the birth- right of every visitor to expect Tea and moral responsibility of every host to offer it.

I recall an incident when we went to my paternal village. How I detest that depiction of villages in Bollywood movies where there is hariyaali chaaro taraf and everyone is so jolly content, always smiling and without worries in clean clothes. Equally irksome is the Hollywood depiction, where every other man is a snake charmer and all women roam around half naked.

Anyway, so while we stayed there, we visited a house in the neighborhood. We were sitting outside when I heard the lady of the house whispering to her 5 year old son to go and bring some milk from his uncle’s house. He was ushered out from the back door. Sometimes later, the boy came hurrying through the front door and screamed this not in English “Mom, there wasn’t any milk at uncle’s place so I got it from Sham’s house”.
The lady was red with embarrassment now. My mom wondered aloud how fast the kid has grown and enquired whether he goes to school. He would go from the next year. We got a very sweet tea, the fifth of the day since we were on a visiting spree.

When a friend of yours shows this shirt he bought at Rs. 800, you end up saying “Wow, this colour looks good on you” or “Mast, sasta maal mil gayaa yaar”, depending on your sex. Generally though, one always checks whether the input (say X) is justified by the output (say Y) or not. For Indian sensibilities, Tea is a very basic thing, a very small number in terms of price or value. At Infinitea, the input X >100 (a large enough number) while the output Y is Tea. For further reading, would you be so kind as to recall elementary calculus without too many qualms. If you are still with me, let me reassert that the ratio X/Y tends to infinity when numerator in getting disproportionately large while denominator diminishes to a small value. Hence, there couldn’t have been a more apt name than Infinitea for this place. These morons are yelling out at top of their voice ,unwittingly of-course, that we loot you more than anyone else can. Beat us and you’ve gone beyond infinity. The search for that elusive concept ends there.

It's getting darker now and for me to enjoy the coffee ,the sky should be at least grey if not blue. I'll post this once I've had my coffee. Spell-check wagerah karna baaki hain .

It's been two days since I typed the sentence above. To justify the delay, lemme add a video . I like the typcial Indian tea shop shown in it among other things.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pride and Prejudice

I just booked the air-tickets to my place for Diwali. A dozen kilo has been deducted from my credit card. I’ve traveled the same distance in less than thousand not very long ago. Those were the days. I remember my first flight.

Preparations: I was initiated into the flying club with a free flight from Delhi to Bangalore for an interview. Just a week before my flight, my flat-mate Mitra had flew down for his first time for the same company’s interview. Mitra started telling me the questions asked for the interview when I had to intervene: “ Wo sab to theek hain yaar, plane me ijjat bachane ki tips de”. Now, Mitra is a smart punter and we finish each other’s sentences quite often. Turned out that he too had taken “Ijjat-bachao” lessons and then added his personal experience and understanding of my personality to give a detailed step wise guide.

Check-In: I reached airport with time to spare. Unnecessarily put my hand baggage under scanner before taking the boarding pass. Check-in hadn’t started yet. Turned right, entered a room and took a seat which had a good view of TV showing schedules and check-in times. I was chewing gum to look cool. Fifty minutes on the same seat later, beginning of my flight’s check-in was announced. I cursed myself for having stared at that TV for so long.

Boarding: Mitra is a natural when it comes to getting late, so he missed out telling me that I shouldn’t be among the first ones to enter the bus which takes you to the plane. In those days, the boarding pass didn’t mention seat numbers and so everyone used to run in frenzy towards the plane as soon as the bus halted. Intelligent ones purposefully used to enter the bus late so that they could stand near the door; trading 10 minutes of discomfort in bus for a window seat in plane was a wise strategy.
Resigned to my fate of getting a middle seat, I nervously started climbing up the stairs. Air hostesses were greeting each passenger at the entrance. I braced myself. When my turn to be greeted came, the hostesses were still busy coochy-cooing to a chubby kid just before me. I got ignored. Nothing personal here, but it hurt. If you don’t get acknowledged while you are passing through that one square meter area, you are not going to get that smiling “Welcome Sir”. I quickly buried my face in the boarding pass to pretend as if I wouldn’t have noticed the “Welcome Sir” anyway.

Seating: Wading my way through the chaos, I saw a middle seat vacant between a woman and a rich looking young girl. Nowadays, whenever I occupy a seat I always hope, rather pray, that a good looking female come and seat beside me. Only once a female sat beside me, with a two year old kid who is a strong contender for putting his name in Guinness book for yelling at the highest decibels.
At that time I didn’t have the guts to seat near the babe, especially when it was the first flight and I was very much prone to do something stupid. I sat between a suited snob and a simpleton in late twenties who couldn’t speak English. Let’s call him Gopal. He had occupied the window-seat and was fiddling with the seat-belt when I settled myself between the two:

Gopal : Namaste Sir !Ye belt kaise lagaate hain ?
Me : Arre lagaon, lagaon ! Koshish karo.

I quickly picked up a magazine and wore a don’t-mess-with-me look. I should have asked this question to Mitra. Gopal didn’t have any airs about himself and clearly looked at the whole thing as a means to get to Bangalore somehow.

Gopal : Sir, aap nahi lagaoge ?
Me : Haan , Jaldi kya hain. Lagaa lenge.

Thankfully they announced to pay attention. I followed the instructions and somehow managed to tie the belt. Gopal succeeded too. Then they showed how to use oxygen-mask.

Gopal : Sir , kya saans lene me taklif hoti hain upar jaakar ?
I replied calmly that nothing of this sorts happen, it’s a useless routine. The Snob on my right looked at me and smiled at Gopal’s ignorance. I smirked back too.

Taking off: The plane started speeding up on the runway and the moment it took off I congratulated myself for being in air. Gopal turned to me with a delightful face “ Aa gaye hawaa me”. I hmmmed and realized that he was all set to take the charm away. When I was kid, I aspired to become a pilot; that was the only time I had a concrete professional ambition in my life. Here I was, flying for the first time hiding my ignorance from the world, and right beside me was this person putting my feelings and fears into words with raw expressions.

Food: The food trolley came; Deccan used to sell food on board. Mitra had told me “Noodles lenaa; paise ke hisaab se pet bharne ke liye ekdum optimum hain”. It was the same air-hostess who had ignored me. I was nervous once again when she approached our row. First she asked the people seating on other side of the passage; then the Snob who refused to have anything. I asked about the available options and after patiently listening, ordered for noodles. When she asked Gopal, he turned to me and gave me a hundred rupee note.

Gopal: Sir, aapne jo order kiya hain wo mere liye bhi kar do.
Me : Arre tum noodles khaate ho ?
Gopal : Haan sir, jo aap khaoge , mein bhi wahin kha lunga .
Me: Ye wo hain, Chinese type , kaante se khaane waale .
Gopal : Arre nahi Sahab. Kechuli (earthworm) nahi kha sakta.
Me: Tum Sandwich kha lo.
Gopal: Thik hain saab.

Tea: Sometime later, they came with Tea/coffee/cold-drinks on offer. Mitra had advised against taking any of them. But Gopal was in the mood to live life to the fullest. Again came a fifty rupees note to me.

Gopal : Sir, mere liye chai-namkeen order kar do.
Me : Bhai, utar ke pee lenaa. Ye log 30 rupaye ki chaai denge, airport par 5 ki mil jayegi is se achchi. ( I was slighlty irritated by now.)
Gopal : Thik hain .

Sanitary Needs: A little while later.
Gopal : Sir, ye toilet kahaan hain; peeshaab aa rahin hain.
I too was in the same state but was dreading reopening and closing the seat belt. If Gopal had to go then I would have had to do that anyway. I resisted.
Me : Abhi 15 minute me land kar jayegi flight. Badhiya araam se airport par kar lenaa.
Gopal was infuriated.
Gopal : Nahi saab, aapne yahin bol kar chaai bhi nahi peene dee. Ab to mein jaunga hee.
He looked resolute. I let him go and then followed his footsteps a couple of minutes later.

Landing was announced and Gopal requested me to guide him out of the plane to the exit of the airport. I generously agreed. When it landed I felt like I was sitting on a tractor; Gopal put that into words too. Halfway through the walk towards exit I saw that the same air-hostess was bidding farewell to each passenger; I immediately asked Gopal to walk right in front of me so that I don’t loose sight of him. Gopal was definitely not the candidate who could keep her engaged long enough to give me a miss.
My heart beat rose as we approached towards the plane’s exit. I was determined. Made eye contact with the hostess. Gopal had his head down when his turn came and looked grateful to be ignored. She looked at me and said “Good night :) . Thank you Sir.” I gave her a regular smiling nod. A much needed conquest and a huge relief, else it would have turned into a phobia every time I passed through that corridor.

I exited with head held high and showed Gopal the way to auto-stand. We shook hands. He said thanks and I asked him not to mention it. My friend Milton came to pick me up. We rode through the streets which were soon going to become all too familiar to me. Next day was going to be very important for reasons that are more than one.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My Sweet Family

Refrigerator: Hi, my name is Calvin. This chap bought me three years ago. I have seen few things in life: Apples, milk, coke, beer and whisky (why whisky??). My freezer has never been used. This guy doesn't know whether and how to defrost me. Though my top is over utilized. He keeps nail-cutter, car-keys, expired pizza-hut coupons, coins, chewing gums and a lot of trash there. Spiders love my back side.

Washing machine: Hi, I am Whirly. I am in comma since last 2 years 10 months. The lazy bum doesn't use me any more. My work has been outsourced to a maid; reason being sighted was management overhead. He further harasses me by daily putting the clothes to be washed on me.

Laptop: Mr. Louis Dell here. My memory has been corrupted with porn, pirated movies and music. I seldom visit good sites; mostly browse through tabloids and junk sites dedicated to filmy-gossips, relationships ("10 ways to tell your boyfriend is bisexual" type) and explicit videos. First look at this geeky-looking dude and I had high hopes of running high-end algorithms on me churning out zillions of bits. Haven't executed even a single excel macro on me. The most respectable job I've done is preparing a word-document (the idiot's resume). I've never been entertained with a 3-D game; never gone beyond "Hearts" & "Solitaire".

Bed: He hasn't given me any name but I fancy myself being called Trash-bag. Anything in his house that is not at its allotted place is on me. 90% of his stuff fall into this category ; they are all in search of the promised land. Of course, the mattress is not on me. Poor her, she lies on the floor.

Chair: No name for me too. I service his feet more than his butt. I've been used to change tube-light and shove all the utensils given by his mother in a rack above where no one sees them. Mostly I am used to block the door from shutting when he needs breeze to flow through the house.

Car: My name is Vinnie (cause my number is V9920). I've been injured a lot in past; no medical care has been offered. He doesn't care whether I am serviced, whether the air pressure is enough, blah blah blah. All he does on time is insuring me; I believe he is waiting for me to die and claim the money. I haven’t seen any place outside the cities he stays in.

Zakmhi Shayar ke Sher

1. Gaane the , taraane the,
Sunane ke liye kai afsaane the,
Magar wo zamana aur tha,
Un dino hum zaraa diwaane the

2. Haqeequt ne ye kis bazaar me laa khadaa kiya hain
Ki saare jhoot khood hee par khirch kar rahen hain

3. Labzon ki baadh to is dil me bhi hain Galib
Durr bus yahin hain ki saath me Jazbaat bhi na bah jaaye

4. Upar waale se hee lekar aayi hongi aap taalim
Ye zamana nahi banaa sakta kisi ko itna zaalim

Zindagi ne zakhm dena zaari rakha to aage aur bhi original maal pesh hota rahega.

For Chameli, whenever I may find her

Terror is what I was craving for last night. It had been quite a long time since I woke up in the night fear-struck with a nightmare. I live alone . The unconscious mind sometimes create too vicious scenes to be ever imagined by even an immensely fertile brain. I didn't have the guts to peer outside the blanket last time. I was sweating; feeling thirsty . Took a good fifteen minutes for senses to return.

There are nightmares which leave you feeling good once you wake up relieved that "it was just a dream"; then there are others which leave a hole deep inside, leaving you aghast at the "possibilities". It's not about ghosts or accidents or even death. Sometimes it could be just a face that follows you across the streets. No blood,no scars,no tears; but that horrific "something" on that face which I don't have any clue about.

Anyway , so hoping for that mad rush of blood and those goosebumps , I recollected some "real stuff' while I was trying to sleep. I had the most blissful dream of my life instead.

She was sleeping. All I wanted was to touch her. Took an eternity to move my hands close to that lovely face. First I just blew her hair. Comtemplated whether this is enough for now. Two centuries later my fingers carassed those silky cheeks. Overwhelmed , with watery eyes ,I watched that beautiful innocence lay there dreaming . Her eyelids moved, then slowly they opened ; two black moons in white nights had my reflection in them. Red lips smiled. A billion emotions surged ; even the unconscious mind buckled.

I was awake now, my heart pounding and eyes moist.Don't know whether I shall see that face again; its beauty is all mine till then.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How we learnt 'English" over the last few decades.

Year 1958 . Well, first the basics .

Movie : Dilli ka Thug

C.A.T. Cat, Cat Maane Billi, R.A.T. Rat, Rat Maane Choohaa

Matlab iska kaho tum kya huaa.

M.A.D. Mad, Mad Maane Paagal, B.O.Y. Boy, Boy Maane Ladkaa

N.O.S.E. Nose, Nose Maane Naak, C.R.O.W. Crow, Crow Maane Kauvaa

G.O.A.T. Goat, Goat Maane Bakri, L.I.O.N. Lion, Lion Maane Sher


Year 1971 . You must learn to tell your name sonny boy.

Movie : Amar Akbar Anthony

My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves, Main Duniya Mein Akela Hoon


Year 1981. By this time we were good enough for simple sentences.

Movie : Ek duje ke liye

I Don't Know What You Say ,I Don't Know Don't Know What You Say

But I Want To Dance And Play , I Want To Play The Game Of Love


Year 1994. Learnt to speak bigger words and copy others.

Movie : Criminal .

Song: Tu mile, dil khile.

Darling, every breath you take ,Every move you make, I will be there with you

What would I do without you?I want to love you forever and ever and ever


Year 2007. Confident enough to create our own brand of English.

Movie : Cash 2007.

Song : Naughty Naughty .

Sainya sainya Sehari , Lagen hai mohe sexy.

Love the way u touching me.


Year 2008. Going Strong.

Movie: Race

Zara Zara Touch Me Touch Me Touch Me Ah

Zara ZaraKiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me Ah

Zara ZaraHold Me Hold Me Hold Me Ah Zara ZaraOooo ooo ooo

I love the way you touchin me, feeling meBoy im gonna be rebelling,

Boy my little secrets gonna let you know That when you put your arms around me,

I love the way you surround me Oh boy I m gonna loose control

Vagina Monologue

Younger Bro bought an expensive mobile against my pragmatic advice. As is often the case, big brother was right. The mobile would sometime allow only one way communication; that too intermiitently during the same call.

So on the day when this problem surfaced, conversation followed this route :
Bro : Sunaai aa rahan hain terko?? Mujhe nahi aa rahaan but tu bolte rahan.
Me: Ok, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ..
Bro : Haan aa gaya. ( Then we continued our talk until next intermission happened ).

As the frequency of these interruptions rose, the "filler" sentences evolved from just being enumeration (1,2,3..). Following are some of them :

1. Ek gaav me 2 machuaare rahte the; wo dono Gay the. Fir diploma karne ke liye...
2. Tuwinkal Tuwinkal Littul eeStaar, Haau I vhonder vhaat u aar..
3. Aaj Khali ka dangal hoga vishwa-vijeta Undertaker se. Khali jo ki 7 feet...
4. John , Suprabhat. Machlee pakadne ke liye kitna achcha din hain...(Discovery in Hindi).
5. You got real big brains but I'm looking atchyaa...

This became a part of daily routine. One day Bro had a bad day and to further irritate him , I lied "Awaaz nahi aa rahin". Frustated, he produced the gem :
Bro : Abe Yaar !!! Ab fir shuru karna hogaa Vagina Monologue.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bee and the Beast

I saw brightness shimmering through the window glasses of his house on that rainy night. Then he opened one of the windows to smell the wet soil; the fragrance rushed inside & luminescence squeezed outside. I flew inside towards the tube-light, my wings feeling the strong waves of music being played in that room.

White rays soaked my whole body and the rhythm of "Loosen up my buttons" had me swooning .Dancing, I fluttered my wings to fly across the room & started singing along with "Pussy-Cat-Dolls". That's when I attracted his attention;he looked with irritation and accusation at me. I had spent my lifetime being looked upon like that by humans. I chose to ignore him . Enjoying the moment I increased the pitch of my voice & even teased him once by diving very close to his ears.He got up and left the room. That beautiful world was all mine .

He returned with a blue cylindrical container in his hand. I saw a hint of guilt and cruelty in his purposeful eyes. I turned my back on him to fly towards the glorious source of whiteness. I heard a swishing sound and the next moment a thousand needles were piercing my body. My head spun,wings faltered . The devil was smiling. He was moving his thin hands again to point that cylinder towards me; I gathered all my strength to fly away , the window was closed.

With a sleight of his hand , he showered me once again with the toxic liquid from that cylinder. This blow was even harder, I hid behind the curtains but my cries didn't stop; my wings weren't steady and brushed across the fabric to make a sound large enough for him to locate me. The snake in his hand hissed again and spit the venom; with each blow my movements were getting sluggish and it was getting easier for him to bathe me with that acid.

I couldn't hold on any more and fell on the cold floor. One of my wing got stuck in the curtains . He looked down on me. I begged him to crush me to death. Assured that I can't fly any more, he left me there writhing in pain destined for a slow painful death. He was now playing "Don't leave me now" by Pink Floyd and watched my last moments intently with stony lifeless eyes.

Two days have passed since I died and he still hasn't moved me from my death bed. My body has blackened further, my wings have turned brown . One of my wings is still stuck in the curtains. The poison on my body has ensured that even the ants are not touching me. But all that doesn't matter anymore; I am a free soul now. Just a few questions regarding my murderer remain : Why hasn't he moved my body yet? Why did he play "Don't leave me now " ? Is he mourning my death?