'Naughty and Nice' List of the Bygone Year - Part 1

Its about time I get on with compiling this year's list of the 'Naughty and Nice', shouldn't I? Sit back, relax and get a box of tissue, just in case. Put in the music player, that mix-tape you made for that girl you knew a long time ago. Oh but then you didn't keep it for long, thinking you'd move on.. so let me suggest a song instead.

Its Christmas. So I'll only be adding to that yuletide mood. 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful' in the baritone voice of Johnny Cash sounds like a good one to start with? Yes.

I had spent my New Year's Eve on train (celebrating the last day of the year without much celebration has thus become a habit) from Kolkata to Mumbai. The next six month would pass among people I had only just met, and them being amazing, was a welcome surprise. I indulged in the first bit of serious research work (something I'm going to ignore for your sake) there at IIT Bombay, and loved the flexibility in the timings I work to accomplish my objectives. That was possible only because it was Mumbai, the maximum city - where I found myself calling on an old school friend at 9 o'clock at night, meeting him in Andheri, then catching a late night movie in Goregaon, followed by us sneaking into a beach-front that lay doggo near Versova at 2 hours past midnight.

I drank your Milkshake, Officer!

It was a long time ago when Kolkata was called Calcutta and Ballygunge was, well.. the posh neighbourhood as it still is. Being a posh neighbourhood, it used to be ridden with lazy police sergeants in the deserted afternoons, strolling occaisonally in the neighbourhood for the sake of security. This is a story of one such ambitious and veteran police sergeant and his crossing ways with my distantly related grandpa.

There Will Be Blood.

...

On his way to the office, like everyday, he takes his son to the Ballygunge High School. All his son's classes being in the day shift, it is almost noon by the time his classes start and he has his daily cigarette at the makeshift paan shop at the corner of the street. As an old habit, he would then laze around on the promenade till he finishes his smoke.

Few walks down the street, there is an alley where seemingly the entire dirt of the city is dumped and people pee on the very sign that says "Do Not Urinate On The Wall". Grandpa has to cross this alley everytime, as he meanders down the street to the main road and wait for the bus to go home. But as it is with bad luck, his wanton bladdar gives out a promiscuous cry every single time he crosses that alley.

Guilty as Charged, and Perhaps Some More


If you turn on the television now, you'll find that nearly all the major Indian news channels are doing exactly the same thing. They're using all the powers of Microsoft Powerpoint that Bill Gates could muster, to broadcast a multitude of animated texts reading 'BREAKING NEWS' on every available space they could compromise on our television screens.

I wonder what Amanpour and Lucy Hockings would think if they look at the contemporary standards of Indian news broadcasts. 'Let the classiness waft over me for a few minutes.' But anyhow, it gets the job done and we needn't always be followers of how the West sees of the world, do we? It is a different thing that I feel they do a more classier job than us but then again, who am I to voice such opinions?

"Legends Never Retire"

With his retirement, it almost feels as if our favorite childhood memories are being yanked away from us. The fact doesn't sink in yet, even though we witnessed the God of cricket getting emotional yesterday. As he has always been in his career that lasted almost a quarter of a century, Sachin Tendulkar was honest and moving even in his farewell address.

Just two months past my birth, Sachin Tendulkar made his debut in international cricket. So in a way, I'm one of those blessed millions who grew up watching his cricket. I wasn't too conscious to notice the number of matches that took him to score his first century, but I do remember the times thereafter when they had become a habit. It is hard to comprehend without tears in my eyes that he won't be playing for India - for it's people, for us - no more. For me, it is like one of the few remaining connections to our childhood is being forcefully withdrawn. Withdrawn into the annals of the history books. Immortalized forever.

'Director's Cut' - A Book Review

Director's Cut
MK Raghavendra
HarperCollins
320 Pages | Rs. 399

To be honest, however great a cinephile that I claim to be, I have read very few books or essays on cinema in India before now. Admittedly, I would consider the online reviews of popular film critics, such as Anupama Chopra and Rajeev Masand, before planning a movie outing with friends and family. But lately, not always would their views cohere with mine.

It is at this juncture that I come across M.K. Raghavendra's Director's Cut - 50 Major Filmmakers of the Modern Era, published by the HarperCollins. The author is well known among Indian film critics, and is known primarily for his scholarship and expertise. In this book, he handpicks fifty of the most revered film directors of the post-1960s world cinema and attempts to study their craft from different point of views. Political implications, social realism and even the director's mental attitude towards his work, among many.

The author states the didactic purpose of redefining what we casually refer to as 'classics' first and how we could allow newer voices of international films into that list. He delineates his purpose of choosing the 'modern' epoch - one, following the French New Wave - and presents his argument for missing out on certain film directors like Francis Ford Coppola and Roman Polanski while choosing others who not only commenced work in that period but also produced major work for many years ever since.

Madras Cafe - A Review

The first door-bell of the day had rung almost two hours earlier than usual that morning. It was still night-time, with the sun yet to rise at the horizon. My mother, still in her sleep, had opened the door to our cautious looking milkman. Upon being inquired as to why he had been so early today, he gave a single, crisp and wholesome response.

'Unhone Rajiv Gandhi ko maar dala..'
They have killed Rajiv Gandhi.


The Scent of Memories

I've always believed in a particularly enigmatic method of time-travel. And before you abjure this piece of information raising doubts on it's credibility, I'd put forward another claim. That you'll believe me when I explain.

It happens to all of us. A whiff of apple pie from the canteen window, the smell of chlorine at the swimming pool or the smell of an exotic cologne off a random person walking by. Whatever be the situation, our noses have a way of sniffing out nostalgia.

"Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived." - Helen Keller

I've always had an intensified sense of smell. When I was little, I would go about taking everything in with my nose in a dilettantish manner. Little did I know that a long time after that, those scents would come back stalking, haunting and frequenting their way into every unwary moment of reminiscence. I could smell interesting odours, uplifting aromas and soothing fragrances from miles away, but I could never smell trouble that was but only two inches away from my face!

A Love Story is Born!

I have traversed the seven continents and have crossed seven seas to find the truth behind why most of the perfect women in Kolkata date almost all the wrong kind of men in this city. Why the smart and beautiful Bengali girls are going out with the slimy haired, cigarette smoking, sling-bag flaunting 'Ekta chumu dao na, shonamuni?'-waale Bengali boys. And as you would have it, I have emerged enlightened in this quest. All I needed was to travel by a mini-bus from the archaic Howrah station to the upscale Park Street on a rainy Wednesday afternoon.

After seeing off my uncle, aunt and my cutest, youngest cousin at the Howrah station, I got on the relatively empty bus and found myself a place in the second last seating by the window. Before the bus could find a way out through the routinely heavy traffic that follows once you get on the Howrah bridge, I found the entire bus filled. Including of course, the seat behind me, where sat a relatively young man in his early twenties. Quite possibly of my age.

Suddenly he spoke up on the phone.

Oh but wait, before I start, I will need to call him something. And to make some sense of the one-sided conversation that I overheard from the seat in front of him, I will instinctively complement his verbal locutions on the other side.

Mr. Desperate speaks, 'Hello yes, I had called you the other night and also had sent a message the following morning. Did you receive it okay? Well, I just wanted to tell you again how sorry I am to have called you at such late hours into the night. I'm sure you'd be pretty annoyed that day. The thing is, I intended to call a friend of mine, but accidentally ended up dialing your number. Yes, it indeed was a wrong number.' How is that for a conversation starter?!

Mr. Desperate: 'Achha, may I know from where you are speaking?'
Ms. Despairing: 'Some lane in Bagha Jatin..' (Too much information for a wrong number conversation, innit?)
Mr. Desperate: 'Wow! That's some coincidence. I live exactly two lanes after yours!'
Ms. Despairing: 'Oh how wonderful! But how did you get my number?'
Mr. Desperate: 'Arrey I went on to call a friend but dialed your number instead. Purely accident! I swear, had no idea! I was also a bit sleepy.'

Something told me he wasn't being quite truthful. And I've got a fairly good idea on how he may have come across her number. Read this post here, for further information on that matter.



Mr. Desperate: 'Achha tumi, sorry aapni ki koren?' May I know, what you do?
Ms. Despairing: 'Something in Netaji Nagar College for Women.'
Mr. Desperate: 'Oh tahole toh tumi amar theke onek khani junior! Aamar post-graduation hoye geche, ekhon aami arekta Masters course korchi..' Oh then you're much junior to me, as I've completed my post-graduation but have been pursuing Masters in some other course nowadays.

And I call myself an academic! The horror, the horror..

Mr. Desperate: 'Achha aami ki tomake tui bole shombodhito korte paari? (my sister would stumble repeatedly at that 'shombodhito' word) If you don't mind of course..' He asked if he could consider the whole addressing one another with mutual respect, and bring it down by a few notches. Ms. Despairing seemingly relented.

Mr. Desperate: 'Tomar naam ta jaante pari ki?' May I please know your name?
Ms. Despairing: 'Pooja Something.'
Mr. Desperate: 'Tumi ki Bagha Jatin'ei thako, Pooja? Na aami ekhane thakina, aamar bari West Bengal'e..' His saying that his home is in West Bengal was weird, as where else does he think Kolkata is anyway?! I must have missed something there.
Ms. Despairing asked something related to his work to which Mr. Desperate gave a controversial answer, 'Actually I'm an actor, I was on my way to the studio right now. Night shoot ache toh, tai!' But.. but.. didn't he claim to be an academic, only moments ago?

Mr. Desperate: 'Achha tomake ki aami friends korte paari?' Even though it is seemingly getting harder to translate with each sentence, our desperate friend wanted to 'friends' her - whatever that meant! 'Na jodi mind na koro tahole..' As long as you're okay with that.
Ms. Despairing: 'Yo, I do remember an account on Orkut, homie!' That's me, using my imagination.
Mr. Desparate: 'Tomake aami facebook'e ekta account khule dichhi! Email id ta bolo toh dekhi?' This guy, whom Ms. Despairing is talking for the first time, owing to a supposed accidental call from him, is going to create a brand new Facebook account for her. Him for her. Boy, we have a lady-killer! I wonder where it went wrong for me, when I was growing up?!

I detached myself from encroaching further into other people's privacy after a while. Enough of tomfoolery on everyone's part anyway. But just before I got down from the bus, I overheard the crème de la crème of the entire conversation.

Mr. Desperate says 'Tomar facebook'e password iloveyoupooja dilam kintu, dekhe niyo!' Would you believe it if I say, he just asked her out covertly?! It was hard on my ears too.
Demonstrating some very foxy skills, mister Smarty-pants asked out yet another Bengali girl-next-door and of course, the girl said yes! They always do in these parts of the country. Indeed, they're meeting tomorrow after the girl is done with her college. Maybe a Jhaal-muri here, and some Gol-gappas there. Senseless love blooms once again, in the dingy lanes of Kolkata.

Strangle me someone, strangle me! Please! I hereby welcome catharsis with open arms, as an equal..

The Cyborg of the Future...

In the past few years, I have adopted academia as the way of living. And subsequently have I been clarified on a large number of presumptions regarding science and the people who practice it as a religion.

For example, I had always thought that the people of science were a binary lot! The Yes-and-No kind of people. A chemist would pose wearing an apron, holding beakers and Erlenmeyer flasks in his hands, while a physicist would beat his head at the chalkboard that is repleted with complex equations of quantum mechanics. A biologist would be dissecting a lab-rat for nothing while a computer person would spend sleepless nights sitting in front of the glowing screen, punching codes and high on caffeine. That is the general image we have in our heads, right?

But in the past few years, I have been let in on a secret, 'Things are not exactly that simple dummy!' And as we progress into the future with towering banners of discovery, invention and innovation, all the fields are tending on a convergence. For quite sometime now, it is apparent that everyone ought to be a mathematician in some ways to the least. A biologist also, cannot do without chemistry, physics and computers. Physics cannot remain viable without the apparent contribution of computers and the deeper understanding of the fundamental units of matter - a topic, dug up repeatedly as the basis of subjects like chemistry.

In today's world as it seems, not everything is a yes and no. Or a positive and negative. Or a matter and antimatter. Or a black and white. There is a tinge of orange or green or turquoise every now and then, isn't it?

Last year at a TEDxGateway event in Mumbai, many a great speakers came and narrated their fascinating stories of innovation (Available for free viewing on Youtube). And out of all these, the talk of Neil Harbisson got a whole lot of neurons tingling in my brain, almost exclusively!



Neil Harbisson of the Cyborg Foundation was born with achromatopsia, or in other words, he could only see in black and white. But realizing that the world loses half of its meaning and charm if one takes colours out of the equation, he decided to do the unthinkable. Neil started on a project that enabled perceptibility of colours as sounds. Or in a more scientific of jargon, we'd call it sonochromatism. Once he memorized the frequencies corresponding to each colour, he allowed the cybernetic instrument to be lodged permanently to his head. He was now a cyborg, able to perceive colours as sounds.

"There are no white skins, and there are no black skins. Humans skins are of different shades of orange"

I suddenly realize that Neil Harbisson, with his eyeborg, could comprehend the world in entirely new dimensions. Sensing the colours in the format of sound and vice versa would otherwise be an experience akin to the mystic out-of-body experiences and synesthesia. Here was physics in correspondence with biology, involving the wonders of computer. Science of the 21st century.

Neil Harbisson went on to create music and contemporary-art with his extended senses as a cyborg. Apart from creating sound-portraits for the likes of Woody Allen, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Al Gore and Prince Charles, he has produced the Human Colour Wheel, describing the skin tone of people as dark and light shades of orange. The City Colours project aims at discovering the dominant colours of various cities across Europe while using his device, one can now produce a painting out of a song or ringtone or a bird-call. Interdisciplinary science at it's innovative best!

"When you're a little weird, you aspire to be normal; when you're very weird, you aspire to be recognized for it."

If word hadn't got out of inspirational discoveries and inventions each time, the world would have remained poor, untouched by the brilliant ideas and the brilliant minds that conceived them. Ideas are, and have always been the best investments for a better tomorrow. 'Groundbreaking' is the motto we all should look forward to.

Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

'Man of Steel treks Into Darkness' - A Review

Now that I'm into a writing halt for quite a while, I am actually reading and not skimming through every other blog, selected at random. This is me, figuring out how even the most elite class of bloggers get out of a writer's block. And I think I'm finally getting the answer. Either I should devote myself into writing about cellphones and apps and tablets and throw big words like 'SEO' and 'Microminiblogospherosomes' here and there, or I could write mystic, romantic poems that don't rhyme. Instead of ending each paragraph with 'the touch of his lips' type phrases, I'm ending up at 'the smell of her underarms' lines. And then I got to meet the third kind.

Movie reviews!

...

Although frequently referred to as a dependable movie connoisseur, (within some secret underground niche) I have been deprived of a movie-watching experience of any kind after that of Kai Po Che. All Work and No Play is making me a douche-bag  Thanks to a couple of unfinished novels that kept me sane and a decent print of Spielberg's epic cinema Lincoln, which was an instant sleep-inducer. I used it again and again to fall asleep at night, and also kept count.

Twenty-three. 23.

So, among all the chaos that my dedication towards lab-work brought on me, me and my friend Noelle mutually promised to watch a movie together one weekend. We wanted to catch a show of 'Star Trek Into Darkness' in IMAX. Both of us are huge fans of the original series, of the SpocKirk Xeno-bromance, of U.S.S. Enterprise and of Benedict Cumberbatch. But none of that budged our respective professor's resolve of making us work only harder. So both of us kept mum on that plan.

While we thought the movie would 'live long and prosper' it was soon replaced by one of our Bollywood's 100-Crore-Club entry within a couple of weeks!

And by the end of that month, the internet chatter was already abuzz over a new movie. The third trailer of 'Man of Steel' was out and BOY! IT INDEED WAS ONE OF THE MOST AWESOME TRAILERS EVER MADE! Of course, the buzz in town was the involvement of Christopher Nolan - "Snyder kaun? Bhencho, Nolan ka hi movie hai!!"

Indeed, I was eager to watch it ever since I was made aware of Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer and Hans Zimmer's involvement in the Zack Snyder team, with the first two being essentially involved with the story development and script. Plus, there were Academy Award winners and repeatedly nominated actors all over the trailer! Even in small roles. Amy Adams - so many movies, so few time to mention each. Russel Crowe, Gladiator! Kevin Costner, JFK! I was drooling. But still the biggest impact was Nolan's shadow over the project and Zimmer's background score.

So, me and Noelle decided to make one more promise!

...

But before I finally got to see Man of Steel, I did manage to sneak into one of the shows of the sequel of the popular sci-fi series rebooted in the 2009 movie with JJ Abrams at its helm, keeping my side of a broken promise. I've seen only two JJ Abrams movies earlier and loved both of them - Super 8, which although had kids as its main characters, was certainly not a movie solely for children and Star Trek, which was more of a good start to a rebooted franchise. Star Trek Into Darkness however, was awaited because of other reasons altogether. One of them being Benedict Cumberbatch.

And the other, his British accent.
'I well woke ovaa your cowld corpsis tu recova my peapl' I LOVE YOU!

Star Trek Into Darkness had a strong script apart from the SFX, something that the likes of Ironman 3 (or any other Marvel comics-turned-movie) always missed! In short (as its now an old movie, it'll be no fun reviewing something that everyone's already seen!), it not only lived up to the expectation of the fans, it also revived memories of a deadly sinister villain long forgotten for 300 years. No really, how many from the current generation would remember the tyrant, Khan Noonien Singh? Although I was always confused with how Khan looked like an over-tanned British sailor, despite his Indian nomenclature (or perhaps Canadian?), I set that thought apart to fit Cumberbatch in. And he did not disappoint!

I especially liked the coolness and precision about that of Cumberbatch's character while carrying out his sinister plans. Something I'll definitely except a superhuman would do easily. Some positives from the movie were the scene where the half-human side of Spock lets go of his Vulcan mannerisms to let out a cry of rage, 'KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-AN!!', the plot about the torpedoes, the otherwise-doomed decision to warp away from U.S.S. Vengeance, the character Scotty and his accent and how, for a major part of the film, the focus shifted away from Khan while him still being at the helm of events.

Oh, and also how they killed off Captain Pike in the very beginning. Killing off important characters always work wonders! Movie history tells similar tales: remember Santino Corleone, Godfather? Sardar Khan (or Sardar Single), Gangs of Wasseypur? Apollo Creed in one of the Rocky movies? Billy Costigan, The Departed?

I can almost swear by this formula!

...

But shame shame, Man Of Steel is one movie where that formula didn't work.

Why? Because there's really never been a tragedy with this Superhero (of course his entire planet went KA-BOOM, but that's a different story altogether). Superman is the sugar-daddy of the DC universe, notwithstanding the true meaning of the word. He is a soft spoken father figure with awesome powers who saves the world every time. An American alien with an almost correct sense of humour. He is easily more 'super' than all his friends. His only weakness is a rock. But so what?! He can become a total stranger by merely adding a spectacle to the finely chiseled face, and can even carry off a bright coloured brief over his costume without being eve-teased in New Delhi. Beat that, eh!

Oh Dark Knight, what have you done? 

But much like the curse of Tutankhamen, all the upcoming superhero movies of the DC universe nowadays, suddenly need to be dark, deep and insightful like that of The Dark Knight. This is precisely the point where Man of Steel derailed. In a story needing no tragedy, quite a few were wrongly introduced in many places. For starters, Superman doesn't brood! That's Bruce Wayne/Batman's job!!

The story was faulty, wrong and abrupt. After introducing the story to quite a few issues like the Al Gore-ish 'Fight Global Warming to save Krypton!' and Taare Zameen Par-ish 'Let Kal El choose his own destiny!' and also the case of an alienated extraterrestrial kid's 'E.T. go home!' crisis, they suddenly hurried everything into Clark's conversion into Superman. And why the cliched snap at the foster-father just before the latter dies? Did we not watch the Spiderman movies already?

Even the other actors disappointed big time! Except perhaps Kevin Costner. Also Russel Crowe can do nothing wrong when he's wearing Sandor Clegane's get-up from the Game of Thrones! Biggest disappointment was Amy Adams. She managed to render dumbness to the character of a smart-ass Pulitzer winning journalist! A better Lois would perhaps be one from the magic of animation, like they did with Snowy in the Tintin movie.

Visual effects were pretty good, but also it was nothing that we haven't already seen!

...

The only takeaway from this no-chaddi Superman is his super good-looks! That, and with all the British accent, I think I know why the girls are loving this movie, way more than us guys!

A New Pup In Town

Second day in the new neighborhood, and my mum and dad still don't think it's safe for me to be let out on my own. Pity. Maybe I would just have to keep chewing my little teddy the whole day long. He's in tatters anyway.

Day before yesterday, before I went into a chemically-induced semi-hibernation, I was offered the sweetest biscuit I've ever tasted. I should've known something shifty was going on then as I immediately dozed off past that. I remember being carried by unknown people inside a cagey box. There was a moment when I panicked but then I saw dad's face. He had been there the whole time, giving careful instructions to the men who were carrying me and I knew whatever was being done was, maybe, necessary.

But I didn't know we were shifting to a new house! In an entirely new place! From what I've seen since yesterday, I now have a large garden to roam around. I can now be a little more carefree about hitting things with a single wag of my tail, as there seems to be more space for me to maneuver. I can no longer sense the stale, sickening smell of a lavender room freshener that used to be everywhere inside the last house.

Instead, here I can smell of some distant mangoes! The air is salty, and there is always a light breeze in the air. I like it inside the house, but I think it’s time I go exploring on the outside. I think I saw a cat giving me nasty looks last night; must check her out too.

Okay, hey I got to go now. I can hear dad coming - ‘Woof!’

...

Guess what, I got lucky. At last mum has asked dad to take me out!

As we got out of the gate, the road appeared inclined, and surprisingly empty. There were no speeding cars and hardly any people running about. From the hill side of the road, I heard some light soothing music, but the source did not come in sight. We started trotting down the hill, from where strong breeze blew on our faces. As we came to an end, full blast of blue, green, yellow and sunlight welcomed us. I inadvertently got happy, wagging my tail in excitement!

I didn't know we had a beachfront nearby. That explains the salty smell. As dad took me for a stroll, we met three other people with pets. First one to pass was a fat old lady, dad made small-talk with while I drooled at the smoking hot poodle beside her. She didn't pay much attention to me however. After the lady welcomed both of us into the neighborhood, we marched forward. Dad gave me a wink and let out a low whistle. Perhaps he read my mind, eh?

Next, while we met a few people who greeted my master, I came across an elderly Alsatian named Tyler. He appeared wise, and spoke less. Then I met a cheerful Lab of almost my age, who appeared larger than me. And my being a Golden Retriever, that’s saying something indeed. She welcomed me with a warm ‘Woof!’ as we immediately hit it off.

‘Firstly, you need to lose the stiffness in your walk, dear! You’re not in the city anymore. Here you've got plenty of places to roam around, plenty of room to run around and…’ she said with a wink, ‘plenty of poodles to hang around with. If you know what I mean?!’

My face must have visibly declared my happiness, so she continued with a wag in her tail, ‘You’ll get to meet the others soon. There’s Lennon, Jagger, Tyler, Harrison, Posh and me, Pink.’

‘What’s up with the names?’ I inquired.

‘We were all found and rescued as pups, by the local community church. You’ll find it up on the hill. The old Father of that church secretly seemed to like rock music back then, and so we were named accordingly. The nights used to be such fun, when we were little’ said Pink. ‘You’ll meet Goldie too, a poodle. She’s new to the locality. And between you and me, I think Tyler has got the hots for her!’

‘I think I already met her few minutes back, yes’ said I, without divulging any further piece of my mind. ‘Is there a cat around here too? I think I saw one giving me nasty looks last night.’

‘Ah yes, that’s Riddle. An old, disgruntled witch, she is! She guards the mango tree at the old bungalow on the other end of the hilly road, towards the beach. We’ll get there. That tree bears the sweetest mangoes we've ever had! We’ll take you there soon once you meet everybody…’

With a tug at our individual collars, we knew it was time to go. As we said our goodbyes, she promised to introduce me to the rest of the gang later. And then she sprinted away with her master.

Back in the city, I had Bruno - the pug - as my solitary company. And we were never allowed to venture outside the compound we stayed in. Suddenly having all the free space around me, and all the new friends, all the anticipated adventure that lay ahead - I think I’m going to like this place!

...

Back in the city, I used to sit in front of what the people call the air-conditioning system and watch my ears flap around in the cool wind that came out of it. Here, however, the air in general is windy. Sometimes I just close my eyes and stand in the sun. Then I go chasing insects and butterflies in the garden. I never get tired of them, there’s always some activity out there, waiting for me.

It is evening now, and it is raining. I gazed out of the kitchen window.

The raindrops sound different. In the city, the raindrops only ‘sputtered’ on the concrete window shades. While here the drops fell upon so many varieties of surface - the wooden porch, mud, grass, leaves and even tin roofs. It was all such a hullabaloo. My senses were tingling everywhere! Never before have they been put to test in such enriched environment.

As the rain fell hard on the wooden porch, I mistook the sound for yet another visitor. We’ve had lots of them today, with baskets of housewarming gifts and food, and I’m really tired of barking all day long. The wind blew hard and rattled the windows. They brought the smell of mangoes with them. And as the trees rustled in the wind and rain, my eyes started drooping.

I almost had given up on my final attempt at trying to keep my eyelids open when I saw some movement on the garden fence. I sat up in total attention. My ears went up and my mind was sharp as I listened. But all I heard was rain. It was only after a while of adjusting my focus, that I suddenly noticed something move gracefully on the fence, then jump down to the ground, walk to the porch, lick its paw and look up.

Riddle the cat, was staring right at me from the porch.

‘Stay away from the mangoes, newbie…’ warned Riddle and left suddenly.

I don’t know whether it was my inherent, general loathing for cats or it was the sight of that particular cat, which had managed to push me off the edge, I started howling loudly. Mum and dad came running and tried to calm me down. They fed me some water, patted and caressed me till I stopped after about ten minutes.

They thought it was the rain and thunder that ticked me off. But someone please tell them in the language they understand, we've got a psycho cat in the neighborhood!

After an hour of leisurely lying on the drawing room floor, I again went to the kitchen window.

The rain had stopped, but there was a chilly wind in the air. The trees continued to rustle in the breeze. The cat was nowhere to be seen. Now, I am supposed to be let out from tomorrow. I even have my own kennel being built in the garden! It was all very exciting for a city-raised dog like me who, till now, has lived his life in an apartment on the 5th floor.

The ambiance was such a bliss that I slept off soon enough.

...

I heard dad come to get some water. He stood next to me and amusingly remarked ‘they say be alert like a dog?! As far as our dog goes, he sleeps like a log darling!’ Mum also seemed amused. I didn't bother getting up. Instead I maintained my state of semi-consciousness as I heard him go back to bed.

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This post has been written in the Travel Experience genre for 'Indian Bloggers League' - a fun challenge, organized by the WriteUpCafe.com. You will also find it here. It is the official entry in this genre, by the team Coup d'east. Find the team members and other posts by this team here. Like us, Comment, Share and Follow. Every blogger loves readers, and I especially love you. But you know that already, don't you?

Ciao!

The Royal Challenge of Bangalore!


In a city where everyone is capitalizing on the moolah that the IT sector seems to provide, is it but wrong on the part of an auto-wallah of Bangalore to pounce upon the opportunities laid before him? It is the city that doesn't allow the newly-paids to make a profit. Every friend who got placed, be it in IT companies or in chemical companies, is declaring himself broke by the end of every month. 'Khoon choos le, tu mera Khoon choos le' - perks of living in the newest metropolitan, I suppose?

In the middle finger that comprises wholesome expenditures in Bangalore, the auto-wallahs of the city pose as the diamond-studded wedding ring. Non-existent are those who have traveled in an auto in Bangalore, hassle-free. '20 rupees extra!' - no, this universal expression doesn't come with a question mark or with a pleading, requested tone. Its an offer you just cannot refuse.

And now the auto-wallahs of Bangalore seem to have taken lessons from their Chennai counterparts on how to shift to their mother-tongue Kannada while engaged in an argument with a customer. Few days back when I was in the city, after waiting for half an hour and being turned down by a number of auto-guys, one of their kin decided to have some mercy on us. He quoted only triple the original price to deliver us from a residential place called BTM Layout to the NIMHANS crossing.



'Saar, 120 hi lagta hai wahan tak. Chahe toh kisi aur autowaale ko puch lo..'
'Dude, ek bag kya dekh liya haath mein, socha ki foreigner hai?! Boss, yahin ke rehne waale hain (not totally true, but what the hell).. humko malum hai kitna lagta hai wahan tak, ud ke toh aaye nahi hain!'
'120 bas, warna jaao!' He finally gave us an ultimatum, and we were on a schedule.
'Bhaiya, 80 pe chalo?' (which was also almost double the original price!)
After much fuss, the autowallah nodded. Still victorious, understandably.

Choices were few and the need to hurry was overwhelming. There was a rendezvous plan with some of my very best of friends from college and a lovely senior after about five months of no-show. Had received tens and thousands of calls already to reach the predetermined venue on time. And this guy was taking one detour after another.

The mood in the tent was already askew as Rupsa kept mumbling angrily about always being overcharged on autos. The air suddenly got chilly and that was when I first felt the ominous feeling. Winter was indeed coming.

The auto guy suddenly stopped at a shady corner below a flyover, 'Bhaiya, petrol khatm, utar jaao..' Okay, dammit. We got down. Dragged my heavy bag down too. But before all else, the autowallah demanded that we pay him the 120 bucks in full.

'200 metres bhaiya, bas 200 metres door hai NIMHANS main gate' claimed he.

Now that was a blatant lie! But then one could never depend on an auto guy's mensuration skills. So I said, '80 toh in any way aapko nahi denge boss, NIMHANS abhi aur door hai, aur apne paas heavy luggage hai jo aapne pahuchaya nahi on the first place. Doosra, 200 metres ka calculation mat sunao - kyunki jhooth bolna paap hai, nadi kinaare saanp hai.. Kaali maa aayegi, gala kaat ke le jaayegi!'

No, didn't articulate that last part.

Anyway, everything I said suddenly became subtext as my companion in the war - Rupsa, for whom NIMHANS was but home-turf - was on to some heavy-duty verbal duel with the auto guy. I stepped aside to keep my bag down and pay the arse to get it over with because Rupsa was about to jump on him and suck his blood dry.

Sensing a need for damage control, I stepped in and payed the guy 70 bucks. I wanted to pay 60, but a twenty rupee note got pulled out instead of a ten. Detecting a shortage of just ten bucks, the autowallah went crazy! I think he hurled almost all the abuses in Hindi that he had gathered in a lifetime. And then to his advantage, he started in Kannada. And then in some weird dialect of English, the entirety of his offensive dialogue went on to describe an act of copulation.

I gave up any hope of a consolation or negotiation and decided to walk away. Rupsa was jumping up and down in fury and screaming back at him. I had to pick her up caveman-style and walk away. Only minutes later, the auto passed us on the road and the autowallah had a grin on his face.

For me, it was a lesson on know when you're being fucked. I'm never staying in Bangalore EVER!

A Mumbai For Women

It was a Saturday. It was a lazy afternoon. And to top it all, it required for me to travel an hour on the Mumbai local train to reach the venue. But still I went for the 'Mumbai For Women' blogger's meet, organized by The Times of India and IndiBlogger. This wasn't to be the first time I'd be part of something that would rather require the involvement of women.

Like the entire nation, I too, was awakened by the sheer effrontery of the Nirbhaya gang-rape case in the capital. The unprovoked and dastardly attack brought me to a face-off with how uncivilized our society has ultimately turned out to be. That how every essence of safety that we've carefully put up for ourselves, has been rendered senseless. Why is the progressive Indian society passively accepting this situation, for the last decade?

Like a fellow blogger pointed out, unfortunately we're all only here at this point of confrontation because of the use of a rusted, L-shaped, metallic wheel jack handle - the infamous rod. Before this case, it was the 'chalta hai' and 'mango baatein' attitude that easily held us separated from the horrific truth. What a shame!

The meet brought out the various outlooks of the people of Mumbai, men and women alike, on the issue of how safe Mumbai is for women and what can be the responsibilities of it's citizens to make it even better. Now I'm not a Mumbaikar. I have just arrived a few months ago from Vellore (say Chennai, for a better societal perspective), where I studied and Kolkata, which is my home. And as I see, things are lot better in the financial capital of India. Being not from Bombay, I tried to associate on a much larger palette, with an otherwise city-centric issue.



Statistics show that Mumbai is safe for women, over many other major cities in the country. And yet as the experiences speak, it has a crazy molester at Powai, stalking girls late in the night. Women being eve-teased by unknown men at Antop Hill. For a woman, travelling on the common compartment of a local train still means daring a stare, or a lewd remark, a suggestive smirk or even a physical brush of mildly offensive intent.

So natural conclusion from all this comes to the point where the women begin to accept that men, except their fathers maybe, are generally bad. But is it really?

A woman is being beaten by her alcoholic husband every night. The beatings are enough to develop visible wounds and scars. Those, she can apply ointments on. But why continue hiding her emotional scars by claiming that 'her husband otherwise loves her, and it's only when he drinks..'? Why does a young, independent modern woman keeps the number of her hair dresser in her cellphone while avoiding to store an emergency helpline number? Why did the group of young women I met at the silent candlelight vigil at Kolkata (to show our solidarity with the Delhi gang-rape victim) insisted rather on taking innumerable photos of themselves, and tweet about it simultaneously?

The problem is of a higher level, not answered in the way a society divides itself on the ground of gender and sex. It is ultimately a culmination of social, political and mental failures in this country. We desperately need education, awareness, information and an understanding of mutual respect among people to bring back that forgotten sense of security.

And if I'm allowed to take potshots and point a finger at, in this connection, I'd like to point at the ways modern women are portrayed in the TV serials and Bollywood movies. They're not always some expensive saree-clad gossipy figure who has no sense of what goes on in the world beyond the zone about her palace-of-a-house and the neighbouring aunty's sex-life! And show me one woman at a wedding, who would be dancing to songs like Fevicol se and Munni badnaam hui in such suggestive choreography! In my personal opinion, people like Malaika Arora Khan and Ekta Kapoor need to undergo rehabilitation, with the former one needing it ASAP.

For all I know, the modern Indian woman is an entrepreneur, a CEO, a journalist, a social worker, an author, a fashion designer, an artist. Then again, she also is a fashion blogger, a happy homemaker, a gamer, a technology buff, a food blogger, a travel blogger, a poet, a daunting yet dashing host and what not! What more can you expect from our friends, daughters, mothers, wives, and sisters? Can they not expect a little respect? A little care? That little feeling of being loved?

Change begins at home.

...

Thank you Indiblogger for the wonderful blogger's meet, which was also my first Indimeet. Hope I get to attend more of these in the future. Thanks much for the opportunity to be meeting some of the most amazing contemporary Indian bloggers, to be talking to few very tenacious journalists of the ToI, and for the much-needed sandwich in the end!

Some Memories In Scarlet


It is that time of year, when the national dress code for guys is a skin-tight shorts, borrowed from the rickshaw-puller's son who lives nearby. On top, you display your manly shaven/unshaven chest out to the world. If unshaven, the chest-hair should be of contrasting bright colours - such as magenta, yellow or sea green - if shaven, then this chain of thought is rendered pointless. The vest that used to be, better known as baniyan (no Noelle, not banyan. That's a tree!), is so deformed that you use it as a belt instead. Your flip-flops are torn but you're unwilling to let them go..

But then all that don't matter, because you're coloured entirely in black, filthy green and silver and it won't be making any difference to an unassuming onlooker, even if you go naked right now.

The festival of colours, ladies and gentlemen, is an official license for people to launch a colourful assault on each other. And it always brings back sweet, and some bitter-sweet memories with it.

Take my earliest memories of Holi for example. I remember parts of it in flashes and gasps of unhealthy memories: Grime, grease, mud, faeces, filth, revolting shades of green, black, brown, silver, grey. Yes you got it right, it was Holi in the state of UP! There isn't a single account of the festival, where I wasn't crying. The day before Holi, however, was pleasant and worth remembering time and again - Helping mum prepare 'Gujiyas', cleaning the entire household, cooking delicacies for the next day, watching Holika dahan and of course, buying the same colours I'm destined to be assaulted with, the very next day.

I missed Holika dahan the most, as we shifted to Kolkata. One of the prime reasons Holi lost it's charm to me eventually. Holika dahan was every kid's dream - a reason to stay up late on a non-festival date! It was campfire, where the uncles from the neighbourhood would gather and bawl local songs having coarse lyrics (that absolutely made no sense to us, but bestowed pure entertainment all the same)!



Holi made a comeback as I came to my teens, and this time it was in a better avatar. I got involved among the baccha party in the residential complex I lived in, in what was a daunting task of strategizing and planning for an exclusive celebration of the festival. Divided would be the teams, plotting against each other.

Oh, there would always be the teams! And their aerial units, to hurl water-balloons from the terrace on the 12th floor at unassuming kids, lurking in the courtyard among elders. Like that'll save them! The sources of tap-water would either become a no-man's-land (if a patronizing adult was present) or bunkers (if left entirely at our discretion)! There would also be the challenge of who would be the first to put colours on The Girl. And it would be an added advantage if The Girl would voluntarily want to be painted by you first. Been there, done that! HA! Nailed it, didn't I?

Then there was a Holi-related episode in school involving Potassium permanganate, that I'd rather not recall!

This year's Holi is over, and I must say I had fun! I took the convincing plunge of celebrating it with strangers, after a long time from celebrating it at all. Without friends or family, whom I no longer associate with this festival, playing Holi with strangers turned out to be fun! There was no prejudice, no last time ka hisaab chukta, no reservations involved. Only the pure feeling of belonging to a common community. I may not believe in the divinity and religion, but I fit right in on a social front.

So, have a very happy festivity my dear readers! I'm aware that we have some new readers, who joined my blog recently. I love you all so very much. Keep reading my posts, commenting on em and spreading the love. Until next time, Ciao!

My Tryst with a Crazy Cabby

Oh Bombay!

As I otherwise immerse myself completely for the cause of foul-smelling genetically modified organisms in the lab, there are only the sudden, last minute get-away plans that have been my saving grace for quite sometime now. And my saviour is one of my junior-school friends, who is now working for Fractal Analytics. Posted in Mumbai, he resides just a few kilometers further on the JVLR, making it easy for me to make quick escapes from the lab.

This Saturday, with the plausible excuse being meeting a third friend, I skip my preconceived afternoon catnap to gear up for another night out with the guys. After lazily browsing for the bus routes for half an hour on Google Navigation, I called a cab-service, only to take an auto-rickshaw finally. The auto-man, for some very odd reason, immediately asked me if I had a girlfriend. (I can't possibly be that handsome now, can I?!) Sensing weirdness, I cut my route short and forcefully asked him to drop me at the IIT  main gate itself. After he vanished by the horizon in the traffic, I whistled down another yellow/black taxi and got in.

'Kidhar jaane ka he?' Where to monsieur? (Not in that way exactly..)
'Majas..'
'Majas mein kidhar ko?' Where in Majas?
'Majas Depot..'
'Toh bahar kaiko khada hai bhau, abhi andar baithne ka na!'
After being stung by an immediate charm from within the taxi, I barged in. He sped up almost immediately, with half of me yet to step into his cab.

'Majas pahuchne mein time lagega. Toh timepass karna toh banta hai.. kyun bhau?' It'll take about 20-30 minutes to reach my destination. So the driver's rights of availing some means to kill time stood vindicated. Yes, even if we were speeding our way in heavy traffic on the JVLR.

'Totally, bhau!' I was game.

Without warning, he bellowed out with a song! A semi-popular song from the Bollywood of 80s, I guess. I didn't know the song, but it was kind of a social-song - you know, like one from a Raj Kapoor movie. Good one, too! One song after another, and the driver suddenly blows into a self-approved commentary. His commentary told me something about him. He wasn't meant to be a driver forever. A radio jockey of some talk show perhaps, having it's own unique niche. Also, he had a God complex about himself - in a funny way. His ride was an entertainment package in a whole and I wasn't regretting.

'Humara funda in life is simple, bhau' said he, 'Life jeene ke dui tareekke hote hain - kar bhala, ya mar saala!' (Applause please!) Please note that all I could say, was an intermittent 'Sahi hai, bhau!' (which is like Bang on, bro!) after each sentence statement.

'Haathi ke dikhane ke daant alag, chabane ke alag..'
'Sahi hai, bhau!'
'..par apun sabka bhala karta hai, consciously kabhi kisi ka bura nahi karna chaha. Logo ne, apno ne, duniya ne - sabne dhokha diya mere ko. Par apun nahi darra, chalta raha. With a shmyle (smile) in my phashe (face)!'
'Sahi hai, bhau!' with a pat on his back. Some genuine support.
'Ye-ich apun ka philosophy hai.. Right, na bhau?'
'Sahi hai, bhau!'

Wishing I could stay on the taxi forever, I assured him that I'm in no hurry and that he could go slower. Partly also because I was terrified he'll bump into something while delivering his sermons, with closed eyes. At 90kmph in heavy traffic, that is not something I'm looking forward to.

'Aap kidhar se ho, bhau?'
'Hum hindustan ke hain!'
Okay, must rephrase. 'Par aapka ghar kahan hai?'
'Yahi samjhiye ki aap jahan andar rehte hain, hum wahin bahar rehte hain..'
The unromantic, art-hater in me, asked him 'Achha, toh Powai mein?'
He passed a quick sorry-ish glimpse on the rear-view mirror, 'Aap logo ke dilon mein rehte hain. Aur hum usi ke theek bahar..'
Okay, that was touching. Still, my reply was 'Sahi hai, bhau!'
Dammit!

After his fifth song, which you will find a sample of - here - he asked my permission to deliver a shayari. I encouraged him, 'Irshaad!'


'Mandir mein jaata hu, toh puja kar leta hoon,
Masjid mein jaata hoon, toh thoda namaz padh leta hoon..

kaheen log mujhe bhagwan na samajh le,
Apun thoda sa paap bhi kar leta hoon!'
I was impressed, yes, but all I could utter was 'Sahi hai, bhau!' again.

Now wherever we got stuck in traffic, we were stared upon from other co-travelers. Families, autowallas, drivers, police - everyone. Reason being the super loud volume by which my Man Friday here, was bawling. At one such moment, he asked me 'Bhau, Majas aane ko hai.. Ab aapka ek gaana gaana banta hai! Peleej!'

Determined not to be a killjoy, I sing the first song that comes to my mind - Maa from Taare Zameen Par. My chance to keep the tomfoolery two-sided, and his time to end it up with 'Sahi hai, bhau!' Instead, he says nothing. Disappointed, I keep quiet too.

...

Few minutes later, he stops the cab few stops before we reach my destination. And to my horror, he sniffs!
'Dude! Are you crying? Bhau..?'
'Touch kiya aapka voice mere ko. Bahut dard hai aapke voice mein, bhau..'
Eyebrows raised, I asked 'Are you sure?' and he gave me a 'you'll never know' look. Okay, that's crazy! People around me totally thought I assaulted my cab driver.

'Bhau, chalo! Aur ek achha gaana sunata hoon..' Damage control!
Shit! Shit! Shit! As we started again, I sing a relatively happy song, 'Meethi Boliyan' from Kai Po Che. What the hell happened all of a sudden! I'm being driven by a child!!

He keeps mum. I feel guilty.

When we reached, I took out my wallet to pay him the fare. Maybe a tip.
'Aye zindagi, humein sohbaton ka nasha hai.. Sohbat ka meaning malum, bhau?' asked the sober cab driver, quoting the chorus line from the song I last sang.
'Nah, bhau..'
'Sohbat maane company. Carporation wala company nahi, friendship wala company.'
Umm, okay.. I reflected on him, very much impressed. Is he on twitter?
'Humein aapka sohbat achha laga.. thank you!' and he sped away as I stared after him.

Beautiful, interesting people, everywhere! One of the many reasons, I'm in love with Bombay, already! Until next time, Ciao.

The New Indian Cinema and Cricket

In a first, the worst book I've ever read, got converted into an excellent on screen adaptation! Kai Po Che. 3 Mistakes of My Life.

Reading the book was my first big mistake, but thankfully watching the movie wasn't. In fact, to a certain extent, Chetan Bhagat redeemed himself. But then we always knew that the novelist would do better as a Bollywood screenplay writer, didn't we? I mean, my friend Abhirup has already thought of the placement of songs (1 comic, 2 romantic, 1 bromantic, 1 sad, 1 item number and 1 song on national integration) for his novel Two States, written on the great Indian matrimony scenario. His best till now.

The story was a little paced, but that happens when its an adaptation. Look what happened to the Dan Brown adaptations - compared to the books, the movies, with their alternate explanations, turned out of a lesser quality. '3 Mistakes..' was originally meant to be a tragedy. As it should, containing all of the cataclysmic events that western India witnessed just over the turn of the new millennium. I do not know how the author originally didn't kill off even a single character, thus managing to murder the set-up tragedy. Music was crisp, fresh and come on, it's Amit Trivedi, what less do you expect? It feels good that they've finally learned to keep the music less, but not missing on the point.

And ultimately, what a wonderful movie! The plus points of this movie were acting, cinematography, direction and the necessary changes to the original plot. But personally, the greatest positive from the movie was the test match. Although it was in the book itself, I am glad that the nostalgic Kolkata test match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in the year 2001 was not overshadowed by a One-day or Twenty20 match. (Its a different thing that there were no T20 back then, but movies do not necessarily follow a strict timeline always, do they?)


Don't you love these Amul ads? They never get old!



















I don't give a rat's ass if you guys were here entirely for a movie review. I'm going to shift focus from the movie to test cricket, from this point hereafter. And well, many ladies did claim that's exactly how the movie went - cricket 'overtook' things.

But its hard not to fall in love with test cricket. I read somewhere that test cricket is lovely, for it gives us time to pause. Well said! Test cricket proves that life in sports isn't exactly as terrifyingly random as it looks. 5 days of strategy, perseverance and the restriction-less window to test oneself comprises all that is good in this form of the game. It takes out the edge of randomness from the game and renders the comforting belief that luck has nothing to do with the best of sport.

Twenty20, compared to Test cricket - and I'm not so apologetic for this analogy - is akin to Chetan Bhagat compared to Salman Rushdie. Its like trying to write a blog on twitter. And I'm sorry, but there is absolutely no sense in the term 'microblogging' (it should be renamed as 'microranting' and I love doing it!) One just cannot apply compression to something that cannot be bound with a few hours. And they picked up the best test match I have ever witnessed in this life. I was 11 years old then, as my family had recently shifted base to Kolkata. Everything was a big hullabaloo in the big city. But still the memory of this match is clear. And fortunately, since there were no shorter format of the game than ODIs, test cricket updates were still a buzz everywhere.

Harbhajan bulldozed the world's best middle-order at the time on day one. Taking Ponting, Gilchrist and Warne in the first ever hat-trick by an Indian in test-format, he became a national hero. Second and third days, were witness to the great Australian might in cricket. Enforced for a follow on, on the fourth day, two Indians changed history. Laxman became the most dependable batsman, when it came to batting against Australia. His record-breaking contribution of 281 would never be forgotten, even after a bygone Sehwag blitzkrieg in the Indian cricket scenario. The match also saw one of the rarest and uncharacteristic celebratory gestures of Rahul Dravid. The gentleman of a batsman kept aside his cool for a welcome change, and pumped a fistful towards the press box who have been harsh on his recent run of poor form.

On the final day, Ganguly demanded the maximum from his team - get em out, before they win the match. Bowl out all ten of them. Ten of the world's finest batsmen. Of the finest team. To bowl out and stop the incessent conquest; the 17th consecutive victory of Steve Waugh. And what is that expression? Lo behold! And here lies a bittersweet reminder of how the kids of this era miss all the fun in cricket, when they dance to the funny tunes of the IPL team anthems and lose patience for test matches. This is what happens, when a group of baniyas take over a romantic undertaking, such as cricket. Dammit BCCI, generating money is not everything!

That's where the future of Kai Po Che lies. Govind, after a successful Sabarmati Cricket Coaching venture, takes over BCCI. There is no district-level player Ishan to stop him. Omi hangs himself out of guilt, while Vidya provides him with some rope for the noose. And Ishan Jr. watches Twenty20 matches, dances at KKR celebratory parties and enrolls himself into an engineering college to become just another five point someone. Welcome to India.

And that's my movie review of Kai Po Che for you, ladies and gentlemen. A violating review of an Indo-sexist movie, where a romantic/bromantic small-town drama, catapulted by tandem tragedies, is ultimately taken over by cricket! Man, I loved it, as did perhaps every Indian guy. Abhishek Kapoor, you're a bro, man.