Monday, October 27, 2008

Post 436 : The crab and the fish..

On 25th, I ate fish, and on 26th, I ate crab. I ate sea-food post a gap of almost 6 years (Jan 2003 to be precise).
I know, I know, they conflict with the non-violence principles I (might) subscribe to, but I ate it. Neither did I feel guilty, nor did I absolve myself completely.
This is a punishable crime though, because I have had the fish in full awareness (of a belief system) that tells me that I should not have it. I know I will eventually have to take the karma on my chin, and thats where I let it be. I will have to pay the price, and I told myself, I will give my pound of flesh, when I have to.

Post 435 : You can take the shoe out of the sand, but you can never take the sand out of the shoe....

Like a complete duffer that I am, I got along running shoes, but no socks on this Goa trip.
Socks or no socks...I decided to give the beach a run....Had a long walk-along the beach coastline. In doing this I had to wear my shoes without socks.
I came back after a 9km walk, and the first thing I realised was that my shoes were full of sand....they were dry, so I dusted my feet and shoes and hoped to see the last of the sand. This I did repeatedly for about 2-3 times (separated by 5-10 mins), and yet every single time, spoons full of sand was coming off my shoes.
I finally took it to the bathroom and power-sprayed it clean, effectively laundry-ing the shoe.
For now, it appeared to have removed the sand, at the cost of dirtying the bathroom. The shoe was left out to dry. This was all yesterday. Today, I gave the (dry) shoe a shake, and lo, still bits of sand fell out.
I think this will go on for some time.....
In the past, I have noticed, it is similar with the sand in the carpet of the car.

Makes me believe, you can try and remove the shoe (car) out of the sand, but you cannot remove the sand out of the shoe (car).

Post 434 : Theatre - The way you spell it

Goa is a place full of culture (to me at least). Like in Kerala, booze, women and movies are defining aspects of everyday life (mind you, not the cocunuts, they are accourments for outsiders like us)....similarly in Goa, it has to be booze and food....
The strange part is they have learnt to spell life as they talk, which is okay, except that even when similar English/Hindi/Konkani words exists.
For example, theatre as spelt as TIATR all over the place, and when I mean "all", I mean "all", ads, interviews, stars....all of these in perfectly respected local English dailies.
Second common one for me was Loffde - (equivalent to Lafda in Hindi). There must have been some Loffde out there.
More to come on this...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Post 433 : Insight 6 -The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Terrorists (From Wired)

schneier

The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Terrorists

Bruce Schneier  10.02.08

Most counterterrorism policies fail, not because of tactical problems, but because of a fundamental misunderstanding of what motivates terrorists in the first place. If we're ever going to defeat terrorism, we need to understand what drives people to become terrorists in the first place.

Conventional wisdom holds that terrorism is inherently political, and that people become terrorists for political reasons. This is the "strategic" model of terrorism, and it's basically an economic model. It posits that people resort to terrorism when they believe -- rightly or wrongly -- that terrorism is worth it; that is, when they believe the political gains of terrorism minus the political costs are greater than if they engaged in some other, more peaceful form of protest. It's assumed, for example, that people join Hamas to achieve a Palestinian state; that people join the PKK to attain a Kurdish national homeland; and that people join al-Qaida to, among other things, get the United States out of the Persian Gulf.

If you believe this model, the way to fight terrorism is to change that equation, and that's what most experts advocate. Governments tend to minimize the political gains of terrorism through a no-concessions policy; the international community tends to recommend reducing the political grievances of terrorists via appeasement, in hopes of getting them to renounce violence. Both advocate policies to provide effective nonviolent alternatives, like free elections.

Historically, none of these solutions has worked with any regularity. Max Abrahms, a predoctoral fellow at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, has studied dozens of terrorist groups from all over the world. He argues that the model is wrong. In a paper (.pdf) published this year in International Security that -- sadly -- doesn't have the title "Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Terrorists," he discusses, well, seven habits of highly ineffective terrorists. These seven tendencies are seen in terrorist organizations all over the world, and they directly contradict the theory that terrorists are political maximizers:

Terrorists, he writes, (1) attack civilians, a policy that has a lousy track record of convincing those civilians to give the terrorists what they want; (2) treat terrorism as a first resort, not a last resort, failing to embrace nonviolent alternatives like elections; (3) don't compromise with their target country, even when those compromises are in their best interest politically; (4) have protean political platforms, which regularly, and sometimes radically, change; (5) often engage in anonymous attacks, which precludes the target countries making political concessions to them; (6) regularly attack other terrorist groups with the same political platform; and (7) resist disbanding, even when they consistently fail to achieve their political objectives or when their stated political objectives have been achieved.

Abrahms has an alternative model to explain all this: People turn to terrorism for social solidarity. He theorizes that people join terrorist organizations worldwide in order to be part of a community, much like the reason inner-city youths join gangs in the United States.

The evidence supports this. Individual terrorists often have no prior involvement with a group's political agenda, and often join multiple terrorist groups with incompatible platforms. Individuals who join terrorist groups are frequently not oppressed in any way, and often can't describe the political goals of their organizations. People who join terrorist groups most often have friends or relatives who are members of the group, and the great majority of terrorist are socially isolated: unmarried young men or widowed women who weren't working prior to joining. These things are true for members of terrorist groups as diverse as the IRA and al-Qaida.

For example, several of the 9/11 hijackers planned to fight in Chechnya, but they didn't have the right paperwork so they attacked America instead. The mujahedeen had no idea whom they would attack after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, so they sat around until they came up with a new enemy: America. Pakistani terrorists regularly defect to another terrorist group with a totally different political platform. Many new al-Qaida members say, unconvincingly, that they decided to become a jihadist after reading an extreme, anti-American blog, or after converting to Islam, sometimes just a few weeks before. These people know little about politics or Islam, and they frankly don't even seem to care much about learning more. The blogs they turn to don't have a lot of substance in these areas, even though more informative blogs do exist.

All of this explains the seven habits. It's not that they're ineffective; it's that they have a different goal. They might not be effective politically, but they are effective socially: They all help preserve the group's existence and cohesion.

This kind of analysis isn't just theoretical; it has practical implications for counterterrorism. Not only can we now better understand who is likely to become a terrorist, we can engage in strategies specifically designed to weaken the social bonds within terrorist organizations. Driving a wedge between group members -- commuting prison sentences in exchange for actionable intelligence, planting more double agents within terrorist groups -- will go a long way to weakening the social bonds within those groups.

We also need to pay more attention to the socially marginalized than to the politically downtrodden, like unassimilated communities in Western countries. We need to support vibrant, benign communities and organizations as alternative ways for potential terrorists to get the social cohesion they need. And finally, we need to minimize collateral damage in our counterterrorism operations, as well as clamping down on bigotry and hate crimes, which just creates more dislocation and social isolation, and the inevitable calls for revenge.

---

Bruce Schneier is Chief Security Technology Officer of BT, and author of Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World.

Link to the article

http://www.wired.com/print/politics/security/commentary/securitymatters/2008/10/securitymatters_1002

Post 432 : Couple Capers...

I live at Raheja Vihar....I have seen 2 unique couples here (from a desi perspective, I must add)

In the first case, the girl and boy are both astounding tall. The girl is an inch taller than me, and the boy is an inch taller than her. Which makes them 6.2ft and 6.3ft respectively.

The second case is where the husband is about 5.5ft, but the wife is less than 3 feet tall.

There is no height that love wont go to!!

PS

Both live close to Lakeside and Rainbow

Post 431 : Red Letter Day.....Its my blood that moves the black......Bloody Mary

beauty_2000_02

You took the silver, you took the gold
You left me standing out in the cold
People asked about you, I didn't tell them everything I knew
Well I try to get closer but I'm still a million miles from you
- Million Miles, Bob Dylan

"You make me want to take up smoking/ to take long slow drags,/ watching you with half-closed eyes/ but I'll leave the cigarettes in 7-11s where they belong.../ I wouldn't want to taint your beautiful hair/ with my tobacco stained fingers/ I feel like i need a shot of tequila/ that warmth in my belly/ to boil away all of my inhibitions/ but I'm keeping myself away from the hard stuff/ not wanting your beautiful visage to be smudged/ by any alcohol-induced blurriness/ you inspire me to write a thousand poems/ that fill my brain with intoxicating visions/ and sweetly soften my heart/ but I stop myself from signing them/ not wanting to pollute your beautiful brain/ with my lack of rhyme, meter, talent/ you reawaken my heart to hope/ the most potentially dangerous emotion of all/ that allows me to believe you could be on the brink as well/ and i can't stop myself from sharing this/ can't protect your beautiful soul/ from my hungry ramblings/ if I pollute you/ will you still be beautiful?"
-Jennifer Dawn Crispin, "indulgences"

Post 430 : Learning my swansong - 4 (Rag Darbari Kanhara)

I can now play 2 ragas on the harmonium.

- Bageshri
- Darbari Kanhara

Now comes the unusual bit. I can't recite the notes by rote, but I can play them at one go. It is almost as if, my muscle memory is driving the music. That does not seem very right. So I definitely want to make sure I can verbally roll out the notes if needed.

Also, almost 2.5 months into this, I am still not sure where all of this is leading to. What keeps me going is faith. I tell myself, when we learnt our first syllables, had we questioned the "end", then we might have never gotten to reading, writing and posting on this blog. So some years of random learning (as I call it, figuring out the butt of the elephant) will be needed before I can hope to chart my own course.

The other thing which sometimes pulls me back, is when I realise, how far away I am from someone who can listen, sing and compose music. I feel a tinge of envy and "smallness", the when-will-I-ever-get-there-if-I-ever-do feeling.

I hope to give this endeavour about 3 years before I pull the plug. Till then, going to enjoy the  raag-paati.

Post 429 : Singing : The source of all art

One time a powerful and wealthy king wanted to learn sculpting, so he went to a sculptor of repute. "I am a great admirer of your work," he said, and several of his retinue murmured and nodded in agreement. "I wish to learn this great art."

"Yes, I can teach you, " said the artist. "Let me see some of your painting." .

"No, no, not painting," said the king. "Sculpture. I want to learn the art of sculpting."

"Of course, of course. But painting is the preliminary training for the visual arts. Let me see some of your work."

"Well, I have not painted at all."

"Hm, I see. Well, I can teach you that, I suppose. Let me see you dance."

"Dance? What has dance got to do with it?"

"Surely one who wished to portray the human form would have studied its graceful movement."

"I do not dance."

The sculptor was taken aback. "Very well, I will teach you some dance, also. Bring your instrument."

The king began to falter. "Instrument? What instrument? "

"Listen. I have indicated the importance of the study of painting and dance to sculpting. Surely you understand that the dance is done to music of instruments? How could you expect to dance without knowing something about instrumental music?"

The king admitted that he didn't know the first thing about playing an instrument.

"Well, no matter. I will teach you. Sing something."

"I can't sing."

"You can't sing? You come here expecting to learn the fine art of sculpting and you cannot sing? Doesn't the study of all art begin with singing? We have much work to do. Let's see, we shall start with the note "do" and "re"..."


Traditional story, as told by Ali Akbar Khan in
"The Classical Music of North India"
MMB Music, St Louis
ISBN 0-930997-02-6
copyright 1991 Ali Akbar Khan

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Post 428 : Wrod to the Desi....

Ravi-Bajaj2-r-1_1468Ravi-Bajaj1-1_1959

Something unique about us desis is our ability to be outlandishly insulting to ourselves. Compare the quintessential desi to a "male ego" which has an ocd with "sizes" and feels anything longer than his, is where he needs to be.

And today, in Mid-Day I read about Ravi Bajaj giving a bold (I mean literally it was bold and highlighted)  statement about his upcoming wine bar.

"Twenty percent of the wine produced in the world is bad, but I feel 80 percent of the wine in India is undrinkable. Since I want to offer my clientele the best options, I will serve only imported wines at my place."

Duh?

Who is Ravi Bajaj anyway?

He is a designer(fashion of course, muuuaah!!!) who made his money conning India's fashion clientele. So the Indian clientele deserve his fashion, but not the local wines. Oh, how charming.....

For once, I am contemplating, reporting this to my buddy Raj (I mean Thackrey, he is everyone's buddy, right?). Raj buddy why dont you vandalise Ravi's bar instead of the poor UP guys at Thane station. The pleasure( and I genuinely mean it) in this case will be all mine.

Post 427 : I will be 66 when I die....

My portfolio is down 66% from its highs.

I have sat pretty. Not liquidated or shuffled at all.

My stocks to watch continue to include
-Gitanjali Gems
-Entertainment Network Limited (Bennett Coleman promoted Radio Mirchi)
-Adlabs
-Suzlon (yes, I continue to bet on this battered one & remains one of my largest holdings)
-Moser Baer (I still like this stock)
-Chateau/Champagne Indage
-Bayer Crop Science
-Mount Everest Water
-Pyramid Saimara
- Indian Hotels (newly added to my watchlist)

Very contrarian picks, I have been told. Everyone is advising me for years to move to real estate/gold or what they call as "real assets". I believe in these stocks, I believe I know their businesses well, and if I was a fund manager with a corpus of 100Cr, I would still invest in these very stocks. For the first time in my life, I am also planning to pick up a mutual fund, "The World Gold Fund" by DSP Merrill Lynch, supposedly a fund which invests in Gold Mining companies.

When will the markets recover?

I think in about 18-24 months. I am happy sitting tight till then.

Post 426 : On the road to hell..

I was driving on the Ghatkopar - Mankhurd link road yesterday. The road is a complete mess (just like any other road in Bombay).

I saw a "special" child - must have been around 10-12 years old, sitting all alone on the pavement. All around him, dust and grime and the smoke bellowing out of the traffic jam.

What did I do? Nothing at all, just drove by (I am a drawing room preacher...or as Phil Collins (Genesis) sings, in Jesus He Loves Me....note the last sentence!!)

Wont find me practising what Im preaching
Wont find me making no sacrifice
But I can get you a pocketful of miracles
If you promise to be good, try to be nice
God will take good care of you
Just do as I say, dont do as I do

Post 425 : Mehfil ki tanhayeee

I was at a party recently (more actually a small get together) to celebrate. I sat down and ate light, but had 5-6 glasses of various wines and champagne.

But that is besides the point....

As I sat on the carpet and quaffed down a few sips of wine, I felt completely out of place in the crowd. So?

Its just that, this is how I seem to be. I hate social dos and more than a few- people in a room makes me cringe. All my life (since childhood) I have nudged, avoided, flowed around the need to attend weddings, celebrations....I am not comfortable with them at all.

Why?

I dont have an easy answer. Its a combination of things - but most importantly for some reason, I feel that at times like these my personal space is most vulnerable.

Am I queer?

Of course, to hell, I know I am. Am I going to change? Not sure. I have lived with this dysfunctional aspect for long enough to be used to it.

Post 424 : Financial turmoil and some sensible advice

What should you do amidst financial turmoil?

"Put wax in your ears. People are more afraid of flying than driving because the press does not report car accidents. I never watch the news. Only listen to news you get in a social setting, the things people talk about. Our brains cannot deal with the overload of information. Having a lot of data is not good for anyone trying to make a decision."

- Nassim Taleb, author of "Fooled by Randomness" and "Black Swan" 

fooled-by-randomness-798639blackswan-746670

 image002  101626_fooled-by-randomness_300

Post 423 : The male "Shoba De" is here....

hello1 14349750_ChetanBhagat1

I was at the gym and surfing channels and ended up watching NDTV Showbiz, covering the 3rd day success party of "Hello", the cinematic version of "One night at the call center", Chetan Bhagat's "best-seller".

For those not in the know, the film got the worst critic reviews one could hope for, and all around people flayed and frayed it. Audiences thought it was a colossol disaster, very badly directed and a complete lack of script (though it is adapted from a book, how strange!!!)

So the question what was the 3rd day celeb ration about?

Supposedly "Hello" had collected some 7Cr in 3 days or some technicality of that sort.

I finally heard Chetan Bhagat speak. Here are a few adjectives to describe what I heard - commercial, inane, self-obsessed, sindhi (dont know whether he is one!!), Delhi type sho-sha, scam....

All of these apply to Shoba De, with the exception of "sindhi". Thats what made me believe the male version of the "Day" had arrived.

PS

I am glad I have not read any of his books so far. I still maintain that the speech he wrote (or someone ghost wrote for him, see, now I have my doubts!!) for Symbiosis, Pune, is quite a stunner.

Post 422 : Perpetual Guaranteed Bonus !!!

Thanks to the Thackrey Melange looks like we have a ponzi scheme on hand, which will guarantee us life-long bonus. Here is Uddhav Thackrey's quote from DNA

“Goyal has announced a salary cut, but we will not allow the cutting of even Re1 from the salaries of permanent employees. They must get Diwali bonuses and ex-gratia payments. Henceforth, not only Jet, but no other management should pretend like this. They must remember that they will have to face the Shiv Sena.”

My dear employer, please watch out....I now have Shiv Sena on my side :-)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Post 421 : Yet another PJ

Heard this on TV... (as in Deepesh ( Bhandari ) narrated it to me...)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
A lady is drinking from a bottle of coke. She detects a fly in the bottle, she gets him out and is about to squash him, when the fly tells her something, which makes her want to let him go?
What did the fly tell her?
Maa, mein tumhare coke se nikla hoon, please mujhe mat maaro....

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Post 420 : Dananajay (The son of a flower seller)

My mum had a Puja at her place today. Wifey and I gone there under the pretext of helping.

The flower seller who provided flowers for the Puja is from Chennai. It was natural that my mom has got friendly with her over the past few weeks. She has been in Bombay for potentially less than 3 months.

She has a son, Dananajay (more soon about the unusual spelling).

His father was a drunkard. The mother left him 3 months ago and came to Bombay to make a living. She took up a slum house (road facing) which functions as both as a home and a shop-front to sell her flower collection.

She paid Rs.45k to the local slumlord. She added the slum lord is benevolent, he has thrown in a free electricity "connection" (a monthly hafta for this service exists - more like a subscription charge..... since bills don't exist, its all pilfered power).

She had come home today after the Puja to help my mom clean up. (As I said before, we had gone only on the pretext of helping :-))

She had gotten her son along. Her son is all but 4. He goes to a English Medium School. He can understand Hindi, Tamil and English and speak all 3.

He can spell most of the common words, he can read them by alphabets (for example, he read M U S I C, but could not pronounce it).

My wife and mom spent quite some time with him, while his mom helped with cleaning. My mom had gotten him 2 new pairs of dresses, and in addition, she gifted him a new music keyboard, one I had originally got as a gift for someone's kid, but never came close to handing over.

His joy was out of limits. The clothes cost my mom, less than Rs.200 and the keyboard, less than Rs. 300. In total no more than Rs.400.

I spent Rs. 800 between wifey and me for the movie experience yesterday. I did not even realize its value. Neither was the experience it delivered anywhere close to what I call as "joy".

When we asked him to spell his name, he did it perfectly, D A N A N A J A Y, its just that the spelling itself was unusual, but we confirmed and it was correct.

This child seems to be a regular, intelligent child, who has a drunkard (absent) father, and a lady who slogs 12 hours a day so that he can go to school. He has no special books, toys, doctors, creche, crib, training.....I wonder would he have been different, if he had access to any special items (that cost money)....say had he been my child?

I felt sad, melancholic and a lump in my throat. I could not help contrast "my child" versus Dananajay. If ever there was proof that life does not offer everyone equal and fair chances, here it was being played live in front of me.

I don't have a child of my own, but know enough colleagues/friends who shriek(flee in terror) when they realize that their child wont manage to go to the 75k/annum school "today" in a Honda City, since their car is out of service. They beg and take a "car loan" from someone who can spare, so that the driver can drop the child in the next best car. I know colleagues who spent 17k for buying their son a violin, so that he can become trained in music.

I do not get the joke yet, and I often wonder about this obsession with "my" child. People tell me, "we will wait to see your reaction when you have one". Maybe I will be a obsessed bastard as well. Till then.... On the other hand, maybe I am dysfunctional. I am not attached to too many things at all. Almost all my connections are functional and stop at that point. Maybe, the emotional/"attachmate" thingy in my did not ever develop as a kid at all. I find the word "my" always very difficult to use. You will hardly ever hear me say "my" wife, ",my" house (I mean from a belonging or an ownership or an ego sense, I still say my car, but not "my", it will really matter very little to me, if it gets stolen tomorrow)- and if you do hear me saying that from an "ego" sense, remember, I felt quite queasy saying that. My problem is, I look at all these things are too temporary. I somehow instrinsically believe the car(an example) will not be around tomorrow. Either it will be sold, or stolen, or maybe I cannot afford it anymore.

I don't know, don't have an answer to this dysfunctional side of me....It irritates the hell out of my mom, wife and hazaar friends. But, what I do know is, as of today, the flower seller and the son, both are the real heroes in my eyes. Theirs will definitely be one of the images that will flash by me in the instant of my death. Today, I have had the honor of seeing in person God's very own little soldier. Be on the lookout, he spells himself as Dananajay.

Post 419 : Learning my swansong - 3 (First Raag down...)

Sep has gone by and I can now play the 11 Thaats and Raag Bageshri fairly decently. 

Does that feel good? Hell yes. How long did I practice ? 30 minutes on the days I could.

Story so far since 7th Aug 2008.....22 days in August out of 24, and 23 days in Sep out of possible 30, makes a total of 45 out of 54.

The road ahead looks arduous and long. But who wants to undertake a short journey?

Post 418 : Weight Watcher 16 (A new trail...)

Raheja Vihar, Chandivali has one hell of a circular road that runs through the complex. It has 30 degree banked roads that incline on one part and recline on another.

The whole trail is about 1.25kms. I have started running 6 of these whenever I can. My aim is to hit 10 at steady state.

For Sep, 13 out of a possible 30 days at the gym. Total since 5th Feb 2007, 292 out of 603 days.

Post 417 : Terminal - Ruchir Joshi

 

1355624950_d02389501b  ruchirjoshi

Ruchir Joshi remains on my fav authors. What has he written? Only 1 book (to the best of my limited knowledge) "Last Jet Engine Laugh" and thats a classic. It rates in the top 5 books I ever read.

This one appeared in Hindustan Times today. I published it here, because :

1. I liked it

2. It gives you a glimpse into the genuis writer that Mr. Joshi is.

It might surprise you that Mr. Joshi is gujrati and is probably educated in his native tongue. English is a acquired skill, but look at the flourish (or taans - as they say in Classical Music).

Enjoy

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?sectionName=ViewsEditorialSectionPage&id=ba396e82-c160-41ae-83cb-ca9bc7737b83&&Headline=Terminal

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4c15a812-9354-4bae-9039-f33f0fcc1a37Thumbnail

Terminal

Bannerjee is not squeamish. Bannerjee is not a prude. Bannerjee can get as down and dirty as the next bugger. Bannerjee is actually quite tough. Not only physically but also mentally. He chews up the best, pro head-gamers for pre-breakfast appetiser. He sees four steps ahead even before he opens his eyes, and once he opens them then toh just forget it, he’s galaxies ahead of you, he’s gone and come back before you’ve like started. Bannerjee is a quiet ace. Bannerjee is living proof that if you take a halfway-good Bong out of Bengal and give him a quarter of a chance he’ll out-yoopee any Agarwal, out-path any Bihari psycho, out-Punj any Jjabi, he’ll out-Gujj and out-Ghat, he’ll out-slime any Mallu, he’ll Tam-bam-thankyou-ma’am and pick his teeth to clean the karipatta from the rasam.

You are clear, it’s not that Bannerjee always has a national anthem of sneers running in a constant loop? It’s not that he’s communal, or anti-regional, or even anti-anyone. You understand that these are only facts? Or only, again, that one fact — help a halfway decent Bangali escape out of this mess and you’ll just see what happens. It’s not that Bannerjee is any more competitive than anybody else. In fact much less, much less than others — it’s the others, yes, probaashi Bongs also included, who feel the need to do all this ‘Can-do sir, but can-do better than anybody else, sir!’ business. The other buggers all seem to have a need to compete. And if you say or even convey ‘Better than anybody else’ in Bannerjee’s presence then that’s it! Then you’re asking for, like, trouble, man, you’re asking for... you’re asking to be put in the toaster by the best toast-maker around.

No, but you have to understand properly: it’s not about other communities etcetera. It’s also about this kind of damn dumb city-pride people have, like, ‘I’m from Bombay dude!’ Or ‘Mai Dill-walla hun’, or ‘Hello I’m superior because I’m made in Bangalore and we have the best sanitation.’ Bannerjee can’t stand that. He’s never ever said, ‘I’m from Calcutta.’ And no, not only because they all, all, murder the so-called new name: ‘Oh, ho! Kolgotha, hain?’. Not because of that or anything. It’s just… like… be Indian man! Just say, ‘I’m from India.’ That should be enough. Bad enough but also good enough, no? India, full stop. 

Bannerjee has just come out of Olympia Bar and Restaurant and is looking at India. Bannerjee would not normally have gone back to Oly, but all his friends have insisted. “For old times, man! Come on! For remembering when we were all down-market, when we were just  starting out.’ Bannerjee’s had eight large rums and, because he is who he is, he is not drunk at all. He is standing on Park Street at a quarter to eleven at night, looking at India.

One of the secrets of Bannerjee’s success in Delhi — actually Gurgaon — is an ability to make very fast lists: accurate, comprehensive, super-quick lists that his people, bosses, team, same-level-colleagues, clients, all can understand. Looking at India, Bannerjee sees the following: a quartet of sallow tourists, foreign rags hanging from emaciated white shoulders, slouching as they walk, exhausted by the street yet not smart enough to get off it into some bar or cafĂ©. It’s like they are making a joke on all the beggars who harry them.

He sees two girls, Behala types, eighteen, seventeen, not prostitutes at all, but for god’s sake dressed like incompetent hookers, jeans tight in all the wrong places, off-shoulder tops all loose, like penguins in global warming, not looking as they walk straight into the traffic, double mobiles glued to their ears. He sees an old regular Park Street druggie uncle, walking by as he has done for twenty years, his sadness also now looking faded. He feels a tap on his shoulder and turns, and there is this guy, ‘Sahab, any service?’ the pimp bugger reaches under his long shirt and scratches himself, checked lungi moving up and down as he fiddles. Next is two beggar kids running by, one girl holding a baby, having just clocked the slow-moving tourists. Other people, gluttony-victims, families on pre-Puja outing, out-of-town businessmen, all sorts of Park Street variety, all blur as Bannerjee reaches for his mobile.

Bannerjee is not squeamish, he is quite tough. But today one thing got to him. And that thing has sent him knocking into other things that have also got to him because of the first business. What happened was, he went to a friend’s factory for a Bishwakarma lunch. Normal, nothing, office, small shop floor, employee-people in best dress. The friend’s invitees including Bannerjee are shown up to the canteen where the tables are laid, plates are laid out, pink paper napkins in glasses. Everyone sits. All normal.

Then someone notices the steel plates still have some water on them from the washing. The owner-friend calls for someone to wipe the plates and a guy, like, comes with a cloth. Problem is, plates have a small slice of nimbu each already distributed. Bannerjee reaches to rescue his slice of lime but he’s too late: the guy picks up Bannerjee’s plate first, holding it finger and thumb, keeping the the lime firmly in place with thumb, and wipes the plate with a cloth. Before Bannerjee can react, there is rice, and there is daal trickling on to the slice of nimbu, and there is gobi-alu on top of that, more or less to one side but also on top. And then there is the fish fry and then the fish with jhol, and then the mutton kosha still to come.

Bannerjee has reached his thirty-second year having eaten in all sorts of places, eaten all sorts of food, power-lunches, ni-hai, sushi from the raw sea, all that. So at first he, like, keeps his head. He tries to eat, taking rice-daal from the other side of the plate and avoiding the lime which has been squeezed by that filthy thumbnail. Avoiding the lime-area, he even manages to crunch down the fish fry. But he can’t eat the fish and jhol. When the same guy comes with a second helping of fish-jhol, the cream gravy spilling over the edge of the shallow tray, his thumb deep inside the gravy, Bannerjee’s whole program crashes.

The filthy wiping cloth is, like, under all the food on everybody’s plates, as if it’s been spread out on each and every one and left there to soak up the various liquids. Bannerjee can like taste the filth with his next mouthful. It’s like the catering guy’s thumb is in his mouth and he just has to move.

In the taxi home to his aunt’s house the need to puke passes. No way you can throw up in a factory, especially when there’s a puja on. Past laboratory, past meter room, past machine floor, past boss’s AC-ed first floor office, out into the road, into taxi, all the way out of the industrial area he’s convulsed and held on. And then he, like, just can’t do it. After the Ruby Hospital roundabout, he gets the taxi to stop. He leans out, totally trying in his mind, but nothing coming. Over.

But not.

Aunt’s place, Lake Gardens, Bannerjee gets out and tries to pay the taxi-walla. No change, sorry. Meter says 52.00, so double plus Rs2 = Rs.106. Bannerjee gives him a 500 note and the guy gives him 400 back and Bannerjee turns away.

Pryaaanp! Loud horn from taxi. What? ‘Six Rupees’. Bannerjee has no change, none. He can’t believe six rupees, 5.66 per cent of the transaction, is holding them up. Bannerjee is not a scrooge, he’s from Delhi. From Gurgaon actually. He comes from a place where taxi payments minimum happen in hundreds, sometimes in thousands. Wake his aunt up and ask her for six bucks? Walk to the shop half a kilometre down and wake that guy up for change? What? 

The driver sees the look on Bannerjee’s face and reluctantly reaches into his shirt pocket. Family jewels, as if. Fiddles and comes out with eighty of the filthiest, used toilet-paper rupees Bannerjee has seen. It makes Bannerjee retch and the retching makes him angry. First, loud horn for bloody six rupees. Then after that wanting debt-cancellation of fourteen bucks. Like —

Bannerjee is a man of control. Sitting in Oly bar, when his girlfriend calls from Dubai for her daily report, he gauges at once that there’s no chance of talking to her in all the noise. Instead of taking her call, he excuses himself and comes out. He’s got a cellphone borrowed from his aunt, his own fancy one giving trouble, and so he has minor hassle accessing the message his girlfriend sends as he’s going down the stairs. Bbee, hu u gtting pally wit tht u nt piking my call?

He comes out, looks around, and texts her back the main thing he’s been wanting to say whole day. So the message swings out all the way to the Gulf: DUCK this town!

Wrong. He tries again, but this phone will only allow one letter of the

‘d-e-f’ button in this context, even with the Predictive function off. But Bannerjee is a confident guy, so, again: I mean Duck this ducking town.

“Sahab, koi seva?” By the time the pimp asks him the question again, girlfriend has replied: Bbee, pl get bak 2 a fone tht cn spell!

Bannerjee looks at the bhadua scratching himself, fake gold watch chinking with each flick, and he can’t take it anymore. He waves out to a taxi and jumps in. He calls and tells his friends he has to go.

The taxi is lurching down Park Street at speed, the driver honking in orgasmic pleasure as he discovers open road after a day trapped at 20 kmph. Bannerjee starts counting how often the driver hits the horn. Like, twice definitely at each crossing: Camac, Wellesley. Loud when turning at Loudon and past the Chief Justice’s bungalow. Once at the gali and loud at Theatre Road. Then before that, there’s the in-betweens, at a slow taxi in front, at a fast Honda City that’s out of reach. Once at the Seventh-Day Adventists building. Once at a dog crossing the road. Once at a dog that’s quietly at the side. After a long riff at Minto Park on Lansdowne, the driver goes into overdrive, keeping up a rhythmic honking all the way on the almost deserted road to Paddapukur, where he takes his hands off the wheel to light a biri, speedometer 65 kmph. Then on again, pryaamp, pryaamp, pryaaaamp, all the way to Hazra crossing. Where, of course, he has to slam on the breaks and hit it again to warn blind traffic. Then again, heading down towards Rashbehari, extra loud past Ramakrishna Mission Hospit... STOP! ,

Bannerjee shouts so loud the guy almost swerves into the road divider. “Ki holo, dada?” Bannerjee is a man of control. Bannerjee is now losing it. Bannerjee is now shouting. Stop using that ducking horn! It’s an empty ducking road! It’s nearly midnight!

Driver shakes his head, “No can do. How can I drive without a horn? Dangerous.”

Now all the honking of the last two days he’s been here washes over Bannerjee, all the late night horns, all the empty afternoon horns, all the full traffic horns, all the stationary, traffic-light horns and the tearaway bus horns, all the rich, air-conditioned car peep-peeps, all the taxi screechings, all the high-pitched mewlings and peckings of two-wheelers. Suddenly every situation has its horn sound, the thumb on the slice of lime, the thumb in the fish jhol, the drivers fiddling for change, the counter girl at the mall who brings out a packet of poshto from a cupboard because middle-class boudis are major kleptos of poppy seeds, the guy in a lane, walking on a narrow rope of a footpath as cars scream past him at high speed, the guy at the coffee stall who won’t give you an extra spoon of coffee powder, the rich lady haggling about two rupees with a porter at Jagubazar, all of them, everything is delineated by horns.

Bannerjee has seen the world, Bannerjee has insights and perceptions. Bannerjee has observations about Bombay — besotted by money, Delhi — enslaved to cars and low-level violence, the Punj needs to throw a punch from time to time (as if, he, Bannerjee doesn’t!), Bhubaneswar — mired in petty sex, Poona — town of constipated, habitual wife-beaters, Lucknow —  caught in food and minor crimes, Ahmedabad — mainliners of god, milk, wife-swapping and easy murder.

Bannerjee is critical of the world but he’s not totally blind to himself and his own shortfalls. Bannerjee knows he has a problem, in fact, a few connected problems. In his mind he knows is a block, the glitching of a guy who’s been enveloped in deodorant for so long that he can’t stand normal, healthy human body smells, the cramping of someone who’s so used to driving that he has a problem walking a couple of kilometres, the narrowing of a guy who’s drunk coffee for so long he can no longer taste tea, that kind of thing, and he’s been assuming that his scanning of this city is, like, through that filter. But now he knows he is off-route in his analysis. Bannerjee hasn’t got to where he has without a few genuine smarts, the world is not full of Bong-lovers. Bannerjee hasn’t achieved what he has without occasionally being totally, like, brutally honest with himself. Now he knows he can’t get away from logic. Facts and rational logic will always win the end-game.

As the taxi pulls up to his aunt’s door, Bannerjee has like a clear flash about this hometown, Calcutta. Bannerjee now understands that he comes from a city that is and always will be, where every citizen, whether billionaire, babu or bhikhari, is forever, where every painter, poet and politician is completely, where every bird, lizard and stray dog not-excludable, is addicted, completely, utterly, irretrievable.

Ruchir Joshi is the author of The Last Jet Engine Laugh

Post 416 : Vikram Seth is a gay

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I saw Vikram Seth come in on "We the people"(Barkha Dutt's progressively-getting-crappier show on NDTV 24X7)  and admit that he is bi-sexual. I think public admission of any alternative lifestyle is quite a statement in our new narrowband world order.

Vikram Seth, take a bow. I have not read much of what you have written, but if your writing is half as brave and politically incorrect as you were today, I must pick some of your books.

Post 415 : Movie 15 : Welcome to Sajjanpur



A bittersweet movie, a tad bit brave. A few genunine laughs hidden within its bossom.
Good:
1. Shreyas Talpade - does a great job.
2. Moments of mirth, all due to the effort of a fantastic writer.
3. Crisp MP dialect.
4. All genunine props. Note all bikes and vehicles have a MP registration. Attention to detail.
5. Social topics - widow re-marriage, job migration to cities, land acquisition, superstition, lack of education, polictics in modern India.....
6. Great songs in "Bheeni Bheeni Mekhi Mekhi" & "Sita Ram Sita Ram"
Bad
1. 30 mintues too long.
2. Some of the songs dont blend in at all.
3. Pedantic at times (in constrast to other times when it makes a light vehicle for social messages).
4. Amrita Rao - hardly rustic looking, Divya Dutta - looks rustic, could have been used more, Raageshwari - wasted completely.
5. Too many sub-plots to distract from the main "letter writer" theme.

I would still recommend it as "watchable", maybe a 7/10. Will I own the DVD? Maybe yes, if for the dialect and the few moments of mirth.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Post 414 : An identity crisis

I was reading an old friend's blog (http://what-does-it-take-to-get-thegreencard.blogspot.com/), and it had 3 posts and all of them about the "snails pace" roadmap to get to a green card.

While I am a drawing-room-preacher(which means I preach jackshit from the comfort of a lazyboy), and I completely understand his pain : I still struggle to make sense of this complete lack of self-identity.

I believe, (and this is just me), that I was born in Bombay for a reason, and I accept it. Just like I did not choose my parents, so also, I did not choose my friends/family/local vadapav wala or my place of birth and upbringing.

Does that mean I love Bombay? Hell no. Not in a sentimental way at all. In fact I hate its congested roads, its crappy infrastructure....and another gazillion rants....and yet, I am at peace with it.

Bombay is. Either we accept it, or we run away. And I choose not to run. (Similarly your life is).

Does that mean I will not choose to move should I get a career at Frisco? You got to be kidding. Hell (and heaven) I definitely will. (But) For me location is incidental. You live @ Bombay, because you were born here, and you will live @ Frisco, because Google comes calling.....

So the point of decision is shifted from Frisco/Bombay to Google/"My Indian Bankrupt MNC" :-)

It seems ridiculous to me, of the 30 years of life I have (I think of the 60 gainful years we have, 30 is spent in finding your feet, the remaining 30 you "live"), I should spend 12 waiting for a Green Card, and another 6 for a citizenship.

My question remains, why? If you are good, the world will take care of you. Dont spend 40% of your prime life working your ass for a false sense of identity.

I know someone very close, who spend 14 years in this cog-wheel, only to come on the other side with a maroon (US) passport, but very little of anything else. Why be stripped of a sense of "life", all to chase a "marooned" dream.

If I ever went to US or Brazil or Timbaktu, I live till they want me to. Once they are done with me , I move on. (Contrary to popular notion) The world is not an oyster, its an ocean, it accepts a drop (whether i came from the rain, or a river, or from a horrible rant :-)).

Forgive me, dear Abhijit, (I usually preach jackshit), I probably shall be just as fucked, if I were to ever to get into your shoes. But for now, its easy for me, as I chew on my vadapav and garlic chutney, in the comfort of Raheja Vihar, Chandivali, Bombay !! and make sense (and non-sense) of other people's problems & dreams :-)

Post 413 : Poor Joke

My sis walked upto me and asked me
"Whats common between Mahatma Gandhi, Jawharlal Nehru and Gautam Buddha?"
I shrugged, since these 3 are like chalk and cheese. The answer
"All of them were born on a public holiday."