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Showing posts from 2011

Wrapping paper

After swearing to lay off the sappy stuff on the blog, it was but natural that the last post would be swimming in that tripe. However, it has been shrugged off just as we're about to wrap up another year.

2011 started off at a stagger, collapsed a couple of times, got knocked out once and after a pick-up & dust-off, and a calibration of directions, began a steady jog-trot towards the finish. On the professional front, I gracefully parted ways with my organisation sometime around November. It'd been a decent ride and I would have continued there for a while longer were it not for extenuating circumstances. I took the opportunity to closely examine the idea of plunging into freelance writing, tried my hand at a couple of projects and learned that one needs to be fully committed to the experience and whatever comes along with it. I wasn't ready, so I interviewed and successfully have got another job in Bombay, a city which isn't done with me yet. I'll be starting …

Reference Point

The next time you hear "there's no use revisiting the past", take note. It is good, solid advice. Let me tell you what could happen, when you choose to ignore it.

I've never been one of those blokes who'd give Charles Atlas or any of his brethren a complex. But the slightly slothful lifestyle brought on by working as a consultant for the last month, mostly spent working and writing at home, has taken its toll. A hint of chubbiness has started suggesting itself again, which is troublesome. The path to hell, or rotundity, is paved with vada pavs and other good intentions, so I haven't engaged in any urgently-required callisthenics. Having shamed myself enough, I decided to go for a jog today at the Pune University track.

The University is where I spent two years at the Anthropology department collecting a degree. They were good years, marked more by normalcy than anything else. At that point in my life, normalcy suited me just fine. I'd been jogging at the…

To live is to fly

(Sorry readers. Stuff came up. Lost the thread of the post and then interest. Anyway...)


Part 2:

KS was in mental turmoil. As usual. His team had made it to the quarter-finals of the footy tournament, which made him happy. But, and there's always one of those tripping him up, the quarters, semis and finals would be played on Sunday; the quarters in the morning, the semis around 5 pm and the finals at 9:30 pm. This was the official schedule, which, in India and especially in Pune, can be summarily dismissed. Assuming the Sunday Boys made it to the final, it could safely be said that the game would begin no earlier than 10:30 pm. Therein lay the roots of our hero's turmoil. 

Although he spends a shocking amount of time in Pune, KS is actually based in Hyderabad. Being the pain & discomfort loving bloke that he is, KS makes the torturous 12 - 14 hour bus trip too and fro pretty regularly. This was one such trip and he was to leave for biryani land on the 8 pm bus on Sunday. If t…

Any given Sunday

On following a football team over the weekend:

Part 1:


Writing about sport, about teams you follow or the ensuing action, can easily descend into nauseatingly superlative phrases and tired clichés. As a writer, is it possible to put yourself out there and let your head calculate objectivity whilst your heart hammers along with the drama? Reading Rohit Brijnath on the subject of sports-writing is an education, but I have to learn the practical lessons myself. So, I don't have an answer yet, just this post.

As with most opportunities, this one came in the garb of an innocuous question - Tu kya kar raha hai? (What's your plan? / What are you up to?). It was Saturday evening; of course I had nothing to do. KS told me about a 5-a-side football tournament he was participating in and asked whether I was interested in watching his team play. He is one of my oldest friends and an avid footballer, having played for Shivajians Football Club in Pune for over a decade. In all that time, I&…

Nobody but me

(Giving the mental cupboard a much-needed airing)

Due to certain happenings over the last month, I have been giving serious thought to doing that typical quarter life thing - writing freelance. Yes, I'm quite a way past the quarter century mark. No, I did not have an epiphany of titanic proportions as I sat, frustrated and disillusioned at my desk. Yes, I have mostly sat frustrated and disillusioned at my desk, but as a vendor, can readily assign blame on the psycho Indian client mentality factor.

I will not lie and say that the timing feels right to do this. If anything, whenever I think about quitting and going freelance for a while, I feel a peculiar crushing sensation in my chest and oodles of panic thrashing around the noggin. I obsess about whether it would be the right professional move. Whether it is a good move, personally. Of course I have no way to answer either correctly or in a way that would appease the frightened figurative chicken doing a vigorous rumba in my tummy…

Advice for the young at heart

As S pointed out in the comments section of the previous post, its been 2 months since I have written here. Mind you, it is not as if life has been mundane in that period. On the contrary, as I type this, I feel like one of those unfortunate animals that gets caught in washing machines and somehow survives - much lighter, ragged and half-dead.

Being struck by serious illness is never a laughing matter. When I did fall very badly ill in September, I was thankful to have a helpful room mate around. The situation had reached one of those hairy impasses where I was delirious with fever and consequently rather reluctant to get out of bed. Had it not been for A, my roomie, you'd have probably heard all about it in one of those stories that frequently make it to the papers - "Foul smell, neighbours complain, cops break door down, discover..." or something like that. It was touch and go, but a couple of weeks convalescing at home in Pune got the train back on the rails. Only to …

Cut and Dry

Earlier this year, I came across an article which spoke about the return of the quintessential barber shop to France. Considering that male facial hair grooming still follows the 'with moustache / beard / fungus-like goatee or clean shaven' type here in India, our barber shops don't really face much of an issue. Besides, I'm not sure the chaps cutting hair at our local saloons would look too kindly at an instruction of "I would like a shave, but could you leave an almost 3-day stubble?"

Also, after watching The Godfather and Eastern Promises, I've developed a marked reluctance for the idea of getting a shave at the barber's. Call me crazy, but the idea of sitting there, helpless, with your throat exposed while the bloke with the straight-razor hovers over you... no thanks.

But what about the idea of having a favourite barber to cut your hair? As kids, us guys would be taken or told to make our way to the saloon and get the hideous, school-appropriate …

Bottle it up

Hello?

Its me.

Are you okay?

Yes... I want to tell you something.

Can I say something first?

...

I love you. I do. Its as simple as that. I was stupid... I... god knows what I was thinking. I never wanted us to break up. I was scared... you knew me too well and it scared me. You're still the only person who knows me. I couldn't say anything before... remember when you told me you were getting married? I wanted to tell you then, but I didn't know what you would say. I did not want to hurt you again. I even thought about coming to your house and telling you everything... asking you to call it off but... what if you said no? Even when we met later, it took all I had to not ask you whether you were happy. I wanted to sock the guy. You knew I was a little drunk, right? I was too scared to see you after so long... but, you told me I can still make you laugh. So many times after that, I've stared at your number on the phone... I wondered what's the worst that could happen…

Many the miles

Some time ago, I decided to cut down on the whining that seems to be a major theme on this blog. After having written a couple of short story posts and one interesting challenge, I found that more commentary on life, its machinations and assorted tomfoolery just did not interest me. For the moment, at least. That also thankfully means that I can't talk about the Indian cricket team's test saga.

Anyway, in recent weeks, a new trend has taken root in that fragment of the 'gang' that lives in Pune. Instead of meeting up and hitting the tipple every now and then, we meet and they discuss trekking to various forts in and around Pune. Notice how I'm not in these councils-of-war. Although I've played sports in school and college, I've never been a fan of physical toil. All these talks conjure up are images of waking up at some ungodly hour before sunrise, scooting to some random hill / fort and huffing, puffing, slipping & scrabbling around in near darkness w…

Overnight sleeper

"Where the hell are the fancy envelopes? I just bought a packet last month."

R was upset. This was like saying the sun rose in the east, since R's job as the office admin guy was to become frazzled at the smallest issue and start swearing. It was closing time and people had already slipped on their travel face - a mix of stoicism and weariness as they contemplated the voluntary manhandling exercise otherwise known as local train travel in Mumbai. Barely anyone paid attention as R continued his diatribe about thievery and his pay getting docked for the missing envelopes.

B quietly packed up his laptop bag and joined the general throng streaming out. Compared to some of the others, he hardly travelled at all, since he only had to go about 6 stations in the wrong direction. Years ago, when B was new to Mumbai, the wrong direction idea had confused him since trains looked crowded no matter what direction he would go in. One 9 am trip to Churchgate for an interview that lasted …

Positive thinking

As messages went, it was short and simple. But he'd been staring at the screen since Goregaon station and the train was now pulling into Ville Parle. As a move, maybe it was a little more complicated.

It was Friday evening. Most people, work week weary, would be streaming into homes, pubs and restaurants across the city meeting friends and loved ones . He was heading to a shared 1-bhk in Santacruz, already planning a meal for one and hoping something good was on the telly. This was his typical Friday evening in the city.

The idea of sending the SMS came inexplicably. And immediately felt like a bad idea. Pointless. Then he thought about having to spend the weekend sitting on the floor of his room watching tv, hearing the clock tick and thinking about nothing in particular. Maybe it wasn't that bad an idea after all. He started typing, read the message twice and cancelled it. The question had to be perfectly phrased - subtle, fresh, interesting, non-domineering, not verbose, appr…

Mr. Chow

This post is based on a wager with Atul, which you can read about here.

When you wake up in the morning, what is the first thing you do? Stretch lazily, hop out of bed & head for the can, slouch on the bed & feel your toes gently brush the floor?
I force myself to smile... a big, toothy grin with which I try to convey eagerness, earnestness and friendliness. The right smile is important to me because customers who feel cared for order more food and booze... and leave more tips. The right smile ensures that my drunk, frustrated customers don’t try to prove their manhood by starting a fight with the one guy they think they can lord it over – Me.

The right smile is important to me because my life is exhausting and empty; a token existence in maximum city. Without that smile, I don't think I could get out of bed and face the world.

I'm a waiter in a restaurant in Mumbai. My smile is what could separate me from the other waiters and from the sea of humanity that washes throug…

Never give up on a good thing

I have an indifferent relationship with cellphones. Since 2004, I've only ever owned two and family, friends and colleagues have cajoled, requested and almost threatened me to get a new one. I've thought about it but always come back to one simple point - I don't really use the phone that much, so it doesn't bother me that my phone looks like I took it out of a garbage pile. If appearances were that important in life, I'd be nowhere. Oh wait... Anyway, my supposed callousness came to a head the other day when I tried to make a rare phone call.

A polite but firm automated voice informed me that the yearly validity on the Airtel SIM card had expired and asked that I renew it if I wished to avail their services further. For the next 3 hours, that automated message was the only intelligent thing I could get out of the Airtel people and retailers. If their "Dil jo chhahe, paas laye" tag had any grain of truth, an axe or a bazooka would have manifested itself in…

Golden years

As a kid, watching my grandpa slice a mango was the definite highlight of many a summer evening. Talk about simple times!

Back in the early 80's we lived with my grandparents in Bombay. My memories of that time are compartmentalised into special events; the colour of the candle on my 2nd birthday, watching my beaming mum wheel a red cycle through the building gate & slowly realising it was for me (I'm pretty slow that way), helping my grandma make vadaam for the year, the smell & colour of salt and chillies mixed with aavakaay in barani (porcelain) jars, the buzz around the house during Diwali and Avaniaatam...

It was a different life; one with games of chor-police, yellow plastic bat cricket, The World this Week on the telly and of course, mangoes in summer. My grandpa being the patriarch of our mob, would take on the very serious task of buying, cutting & distributing mangoes. A strict disciplinarian with generations of tam-brahmness behind him, he would approach t…

You rascal you

In two diabolically hellish weeks at work recently, I was often left staring at the laptop screen, dumbfounded. It'd reached a point where anything I did was wrong and even doing nothing was chastised in language that was vitriolic, to say the least. Remember the scenes where a group of people surround a guy and proceed to beat and kick him down till he's forced to curl into a ball, hoping to avoid further punishment ?

By last Friday evening, I had reached that figurative foetal position. The same few thoughts kept circling around - Why was every molehill being turned into a mountain ? Why was I putting up with this aggravation ? What was so enamouring about the job that I was shouldering so much invective & stress ? Heck, why didn't I just quit ? I had no answers. I do remember being surprised at how much fear was coursing through me and wondering what I was scared about. It was just a job, right ? So, why didn't I believe that ?

To get my mind off the shitstorm, I …

Who can it be now ?

After 2 years and countless bus trips, you'd think I'd have learnt my lesson by now. Sadly, like a plethora of guys out there, I'm a sufferer of what is called the 'Empty Seat Agony' syndrome (ESAS). I didn't stand a chance, really.

Sufferers of ESAS are generally guys who are implicitly aware of the vagaries of Fate & the sinister machinations of the universe. Raised on a special diet of awkward social situations and an instinctive understanding of self-pathos, we're stuck in the limbo of the great evolutionary game. Usually well-read, of above average intelligence, cynical and/or pessimistic, we possess a sense of humour that is devastating & self-depreciating.

We're not loquacious, know the meaning of the word 'loquacious' & of course, cannot (possibly will not) dance to save our lives. Dance, in the ESAS world, is a random flailing of limbs and we cannot be convinced otherwise. In terms of looks, the word most likely to attach it…

King of anything

(Much has, is being & will be written about the 2nd of April 2011. This is my sentimental contribution.)

I am 28 years old, the amount of time a nation waited. It is a nation of sufferers & cynics, a country where it is easier to be corrupt than to be a good person. A place which makes it hard to simply and truly wear a worn out heart on a scuffed sleeve and wait for joy. Think about what experiences an inherently religious nation has to go through before the idea of 'belief' mutates into something that must be constantly tested.

This is the same country that voluntarily chooses to fall in love with a team sport in which 11 men have ample opportunities to fail individually. A sport hosted in arenas that have plumbed the depths of human decency. One who's administrators are, collectively, about as criminally incompetent, indifferent & selfish as a group of people can be. This is a place where a nation's passion for a sport constantly fights a bloodied battle…

Elegantly Wasted

It was the perfect day. He wasn't completely sure what that meant because it'd been a while since, well... Many phrases whistled through his head but the one that fit, the words that felt right were - he'd felt alive.

It was like unwrapping a gift and finding something incomparably better than what one was expecting. The rare times when an explosion of giddy joy left one speechless & breathless simultaneously. That perfect, first kiss. The day combined the vibrancy of all those moments and all it had taken was one phone call.

Thing was, it was a phone call from HER.

She was in Bombay. To meet him.

She'd been to the city many years ago on a short trip, but like most out-of-towners, Bombay had scared the bejeesus out of any possible return trips. Until now. So it began - the perfect day.

She didn't remember anything good about the city and he, in his social hermit role, had not seen much of it in the two whole years he'd lived there. That wasn't relevant …

High & Dry

The two usual suspects sat slumped at a corner table. The repose that hung around as they occasionally sipped beer and spoke suggested this was a routine event. The truth, however, was far more painful. Professional ambitions, personal realisations and other matters had conspired to put about 4 months and 1000 kilometres between their pub sessions. The casualness had been replaced by a sense of occasion, which was irksome, but somewhat ignorable.

The music was not. They'd come to this particular pub because the beer was good and the music, mostly rock, was what they needed. But they were no longer regulars, so neither could understand when the place had decided to turn into a country-western stall. One of the guys even predicted the entry of some bloke in a 10 gallon hat, which would probably not have raised a murmur. Nobody of the type showed, thankfully. There was only so much a cold brew could stave off.

What was also odd was the theme of the conversation. It had been a year to…

Tell me a story

For the Suppandi, Shikari Shambu, Kaalia, Tantri and Chimpu in all of us:

For a kid, moving abroad is a peculiar experience. You are aware of the gravitas of leaving behind coddling grandparents, friends and every other familiar sight, sound and smell.

Yet, at that age, you're unable to express any of the sadness and dread in a coherent way. Even as you struggling to come up with anything that won't get you punished for 'being a nuisance' or 'in the way', the move is already over. One minute, you're waking up to the smell of filter coffee & 501 soap and the sounds of grandma grating coconut while the cooker whistles merrily; the next minute, you wake up because of the oppressive silence, don't see a fan, don't recognise the smell of carpet freshener and are introduced to the terms body clock, jet lag and dawn.

And Ovaltine... *shudder*.

So, what is a kid to do when he realises that classmates don't stay in the same neighbourhood, never mind…

Fighter

I was both nostalgic & sad about Solskjaer's retirement because it seemed a great career had been cut short. When Beckham left, I felt a gloomy disappointment about another quality player being sacrificed on the altar of the infamous Ferguson personality. When Keane quit amid the chaos, it was jarring; both for the abruptness of his departure & because I couldn't imagine him playing elsewhere. When Messrs Phil Neville and Nicky Butt were asked to go, there was a palpable sense of helpless inevitability about their departures (Update: A feeling has been somewhat vindicated by this). When Ronaldo finally f****d off, I was thankful the drama & nonsense was finally coming to an end.

On reading of Gary Neville's retirement, I thought, "Shit, there goes the last warrior". After Keane, Gary was the one Man United player who, in his prime, battled intelligently through the match, dominated it on the strength of his personality & not flash, a footballer wh…

When did you leave heaven

As the faithful reader (ahem, ahem) would know, I was to take a long-delayed family holiday a couple of weeks ago. Well, that holiday happened and our destination was Rajasthan, specifically Jaipur & Jodhpur. Now it'd be easy (and probably consistent with the whine-fest tone of the blog) for me to go on an extended bitching session about travelling with family, why I've never been an ardent fan of such holidays & how the most recent experience reinforced my beliefs. But, I've decided to try and turn over a new leaf and tone the "यह मेरे साथ ज़ुल्म क्यूँ, पर्वत्दिगर ?" down a notch. Instead, I want to try a short description on you, the very suspecting public.

The Jaswant Thada in Jodhpur is a mausoleum built completely of white marble. Further details can be found here. I can't exactly say how beautiful it was because, well... I can't. I'm no authority and I don't believe words can ever do complete justice to a personal experience (aka, I&#…

Spiral Staircase

The more I introspect & talk to others, the more I realise how much of a hold routine has on people's lives. The vast majority of humanity finds a rhythm to daily life and marches to it. What puzzles me is how we convince ourselves about the advantages of a cyclical life, even if we are unhappy with it.

In the last half of 2007, I was planning a trip to India after 1.5 years. The tickets had been booked as early as August and, as my blog posts reflect, I was eagerly looking forward to coming home. Strangely enough though, a sense of ennui gripped me a few days before I left, not letting go till the flight from Birmingham had taken off. I remember asking myself whether the trip was worth the effort. A voice whispered that I could just as easily carry on working at my 8 am - 5 pm on-campus job; I'd miss the convenience of the squash court at the Rec centre and the easy beer-laced post-dinner banter with my flatmates. For a mad second, I considered cancelling the tickets and …

Breaking the rules

As is evident from excellent articles written here, here, here and here, the 4th of January 2011 was a glorious day for cricket. Truly, the words 'test match' were dissected cleanly and explained with a fierce clarity that should leave no one in doubt - this is the sport of cricket distilled to its finest base elements. However, that day has passed and I will not attempt to add descriptions or superlatives to it. Instead, I wonder about today and tomorrow, the 4th and 5th days of what could be a test for all time.

If India are to have any chance of winning, they have to bowl out the South Africans for less than 200 runs. At the most, 220 - 230. With the SA bowling attack... actually who am I kidding; with Steyn bowling as he is, we cannot chase any more than that. If, by some chance, in the 2nd innings, he repeats or betters (yes, you heard it here first) those two spells from yesterday, we are finished. I believe this completely and utterly. Yes, we have a great batting line-…

Don't stop the music

Its been almost 4 years since I started writing this blog. A couple of days ago, I was tagged by Atul to list the 12 posts of 2010 that held a special meaning for me. He may be rather surprised to know that this was my first ever tag. Infused with the excitement of trying something new, I went through my posts, relieved to see at least one post a month. Of course, choosing posts that mean a little extra ended up being a lot harder than I thought. But then again, most experiences usually are, no ? Here we go then:

January: Year of tha boomerang - Written the day I resigned from my first job in Bombay. Now and then, I go through a mental closet cleaning exercise, evaluating experiences and the state of my life at that point. Here, I dwelt on what the change would mean to me.

February: After forever - I wrote this the on day of the German Bakery blasts in Pune. Not my best stuff, but it was written in the moment; one where I lost the last vestige of an innocently peaceful image of my ho…