Sunday, August 31, 2008

For Want of Better Dress Sense!

Something happened a few days ago that reinforced my belief that women don’t have a dress sense, at least, Indian women. Before being branded the male version of the bra-burning feminist, i.e., the underwear and crotch adjusting, nose digging Indian male, let me also affirm that Indian men, too, don’t have much of dress sense. You find all types of dresses on men/women in office. Power dressing is a concept that is lost on Indian women/men executives and those who do not wear the graceful sari/dhoti and salwar kameez to office, wear just anything – jeans, miniskirts, denim skirts, tank tops, cute tops with bold prints, large checked shirts, capris, just about anything.

So imagine my surprise at a meeting with an event management agency, the account manager came wearing a Capri that showed most of her legs, and a top with short sleeve that afforded a peek, I mean a very deep, shameless peek, into her plunging cleavage. Oh, God, not in a business meeting. I was ill at ease in the narrow room, and didn’t know where to look and finally decided to keep my eyes riveted at the ceiling and at the walls, lest my eyes wander in the direction of all the exposure of flesh.

Another senior executive came into the reception area – would you believe this? – with her sari held hitched up to her calves. Ho, oh, it was raining alright, but up to the calves? A very senior executive always wears checked shirts to office, that too, checks as big as the ones Dharmendra used to (still does) sport on his shirts. Have some semblance of formality, ni, pachi, soo karvano? What to do? No, nathi, even my friend wealth-enjoying-brother Dhansukhbhai wouldn’t approve. So what if he has a private jet and a helipad on top of his own building? He, too, has no dress sense. He is always dressed in ill-fitting suits (I guess he keeps things in his shirt pocket and that’s why his suit always sags and bulges in the wrong places.) and crumpled safari suits; and his wife is always seen in gaudy saris. They are one badly dressed couple who destroy my confidence in Indian dress sense.

Oh, by the way, I have taken to wearing ties in the new office. Office rules and etiquette, you see, and I comply. But, I feel I get more respect with a tie around my neck, you know, it’s a big hit with the girls in the office. Oh, if only I had known this earlier!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Pissed and Happy at Airtel

I am pissed and happy and again pissed at the same time as I tap this (with agitated fingers) on my laptop at around 10.42 p.m. tonight.

First things, as they say, first: Pissed about the following:

The country’s leading mobile carrier AIRTEL has been charging me Rs 14.50 TWICE daily for a GPRS connection on my cellphone, irrespective of whether I download or upload anything or not. This is in spite of the fact that they should only charge me once, i.e., Rs 14.50 a day. That’s okay, being the patient man that I am (“P” being my middle name), because these days I am uploading several pictures for blogging through my mobile, you know, just shoot and upload, and then paste on my blog.

But today – would you believe it? – they charged me Rs 14.50 four times! Twice while I was travelling on the train and just now before I began a tirade against the abovementioned carrier. My intention is to show how callous and negligent they are to give service once they have received your money, I mean, your hard earned, sweat off the brow money.

I dialled 121 which is the AIRTEL customer service at 9 p.m. and straight away got in somewhere in their customer service spiel in Marathi, while I always choose English, which is my adopted lingua franca. After their ads and promos battered my poor suffering eardrums I got the chance to dial “9” and speak to their customer service executive (CSE, in short).

One tired, timid sounding CSE voice answered. I asked her name, which was Ms. T. Chakravarty. I let loose a tirade that, obviously, scared her and she reacted by disconnecting me. Yes! She disconnected me!

Instead of issuing fumes from my ears, I patiently sat with my notebook, writing down everything I did with the intention of writing this blog, and dialled a second time. The bell rang around 12 times and then disconnected.

I have nerves of steel in these regards, I confess, don’t go by looks alone, okay? Just today I had negotiated with a newspaper to carry an ad despite their telling me that the deadline was long over. So I am not push over material, you see. “Apro pasey “vat” che, kem,” as my friend Dhansukhbhai would day, “I have influence, what?” Bless him. [Dhansukhbhai (meaning wealth enjoying brother) is the latest character to invade this blog, who happens to be a stock investor and avid Bollywood movie watcher.]

I digress.

Then I dial again, and as wealth-enjoying-brother Dhansukhbhai would say, “Phone mali gayo.” Remember this is after the assault that my poor eardrums suffer of their offers of the day and such like. Again after ringing 10 times the line gets cut. I think it is deliberate and somebody in the call centre is playing with my patience.

Again I dial, for the fourth time, and wait through their promos shouted out by a feminine voice in a high-pitched hustling sort of voice. I don’t care blah for that kind of stuff! A certain feminine CSE by the name of A. Kasthuria answers and in broken English answers my queries, said very graphically and patiently, as she can’t understand anything spoken a bit fast. I am in an excited state and she can’t understand what I am blabbering.

I am happy because:

Then I ask for her supervisor. She tells me all the supervisors are busy, which is a lie, because supervisors are the least busy people on the call centre floor. Then she apologises and says they will look into the matter and refund me the excess charges that have been made, and I accept, because it sounds reasonable. I know it is a minor concession they are making, but what's a small concession (bribe) to an irate customers when the public do not even know they are being taken for royal ride on the mammoth elephant of indifferent customer service. My complaint number is: 0829567108, if any one is interested. My wealth-enjoying-brother Dhansukhbhai approves of all this and says, “saru che.”

I am pissed again because:

How many of you would sit through four calls, with a notebook on your knee, listening to endless promos about “offer of the day” and such like, and patiently talk some sense into such rude CSEs who disconnect your calls? Huh?

Did I hear you say “who has the time?” Yes, who has? Even I don’t have. Which means the mobile phone carriers are cheating customers of crores of rupees and we, the suffering customers, do not even realise how we are being hoodwinked. It also means that in today’s marketing parlance “customer service” or “customer support” is virtually non-existent and you have to fight it out (remember four successive calls, tens of promotional whine-ings?) to get service for the money you pay them. This world seems a hostile place for customers, they aren’t interested in this tribe anymore, the very tribe that pays the money for the obscene profits they make. Are you listening AIRTEL?

If it wasn’t for the vain hope that somebody somewhere was really reading these words, I wouldn’t have had a mobile phone even. I do a lot of accessing the net to write blogs and to upload pictures, that’s why I need GPRS. I know it’s expensive, but I can’t help.

And I feel cheated and am looking for a better carrier than AIRTEL, anyone interested in a loyal and regularly paying customer?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Daily Grind… Paying to Get a Seat on a Train... Et Al….

This happens every day, day without end. The train arrives and the seats are gone in three seconds flat. That’s one second to jump in, two seconds to reach the seat and then one second left to dive for a seat. Yes, people push, shove, hit, flail, and dive towards the seats in such a mad rush that if you aren’t an expert in this game you will be trampled.

The luckiest get seats near the window, the second not-so-lucky get a seat, the third not-so-lucky get to stand in between those sitting on seats facing each other, and the unluckiest of all stand holding the horse-shoe-shaped hand holds twisting and turning into unimaginably weird shapes as more and more people pack into the narrow space, depriving them of fresh air and so cramping them in the narrow space that they start sweating right away. Sometimes it’s hot and the fans do not work. Sometimes the railway bogyman (my word) switches off the light so that one can’t even read the novel, or the papers. Damn! One just stares into space, as if the end of the world was near.

That’s the lot of us poor folks who commute by trains. And, it’s not that any of these push-as-hell gentlemen do not own a car. Most of them are car owners, but they only use cars to reach the railway station and then take a train to their destinations. Driving to work is expensive, what with fuel prices, traffic, parking problems, etc. They would be lucky if they reach the office in three hours.

So when a colleague who commutes from Borivli said this I was surprised and shocked: he hires a man to jump into the train and reserve a seat for him every morning for Rs 500 a month. Why? I am prepared to pay a 1000 hard-earned rupees for someone who would do the same for me in CBD Belapur!

The Daily Grind… Paying to Get a Seat on a Train... Et Al….

This happens every day, day without end. The train arrives and the seats are gone in three seconds flat. That’s one second to jump in, two seconds to reach the seat and then one second left to dive for a seat. Yes, people push, shove, hit, flail, and dive towards the seats in such a mad rush that if you aren’t an expert in this game you will be trampled.

The luckiest get seats near the window, the second not-so-lucky get a seat, the third not-so-lucky get to stand in between those sitting on seats facing each other, and the unluckiest of all stand holding the horse-shoe-shaped hand holds twisting and turning into unimaginably weird shapes as more and more people pack into the narrow space, depriving them of fresh air and so cramping them in the narrow space that they start sweating right away. Sometimes it’s hot and the fans do not work. Sometimes the railway bogyman (my word) switches off the light so that one can’t even read the novel, or the papers. Damn! One just stares into space, as if the end of the world was near.

That’s the lot of us poor folks who commute by trains. And, it’s not that any of these push-as-hell gentlemen do not own a car. Most of them are car owners, but they only use cars to reach the railway station and then take a train to their destinations. Driving to work is expensive, what with fuel prices, traffic, parking problems, etc. They would be lucky if they reach the office in three hours.

So when a colleague who commutes from Borivli said this I was surprised and shocked: he hires a man to jump into the train and reserve a seat for him every morning for Rs 500 a month. Why? I am prepared to pay a 1000 hard-earned rupees for someone who would do the same for me in CBD Belapur!

Monday, August 25, 2008

People Are Strange! So Long, Olympics!

Living in Bombay, known for its crowds, the streams of people flowing like water, you pause before acknowledging a former colleague, a former classmate, wondering if it’s the same person, or someone different. You see how they have changed, how their faces have a drawn look, how their laugh lines have turned in worry lines, how they seemed to have lost control over their lives.

But naturally, since people of all persuasions, facial structures, racial features, vocations (a big influencer in how people look, e.g., accountants never smile and salesmen always smile, because their jobs demand that they do), and caste creed and colour prejudices. It’s a huge melting pot, the ladle of which, too, is so huge it requires many hands to stir it. You also see amazingly beautiful faces, faces that make you want to follow them, just to see where they go, what they do, what charmed lives they lead.

No, never been a stalker in my life, nor have any intention to be. But I know of many girls who have become the unwanted centre of people’s attention, and been stalked. Some stalkers even have won their prey with their persistence. Remember “Chotti Si Baat” the Amol Palekar, Vidya Sinha starrer? Amol is a stalker, until he musters courage to speak to Vidya and then – lo and behold – he wins the pretty damsel.

*********

So the Olympics have come to an end in Beijing. So sad. I didn’t see all the events I wanted to. Blame it on bad programming, and the fact that none of the major news channels had teams covering the events. They all featured bought footage, which is bad for our sporting channels. Shows how they are run on re-runs of old cricket matches where India won and insignificant others.

I watched an amazing beach volleyball match between Belgium and Norway. The scores went 11-12, 12-12, 13-12, 13-13, with each serve turning into a tussle of nerves between the players, and the playing teams. It was such a joy to watch because both teams were equally good and competed in the spirit of competition. I guess that’s what the Olympics have become a paragon of over the years.

Alas that’s gone and is now past. That guy Michael Phelps stole the show I guess. By the next Olympics I will be four years older. That sure brought a tear to my eye.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Covering Gokul Ashtami in the Locality


Today is Gokul Ashtami, the day celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna. There’s a rope strung outside my door, couple of floors above my ground floor residence, and tied to it are banana, pears, balloons, a pot of curd, colourful flowers, couple of packets of potato chips (why on earth). The youth of the locality are busy tying the prize money and the pot of curd.

I will post a picture later. Now my camera uploads pictures straight to my email account. No, not to blogger, which will take some time, I guess. I will figure that out.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

In Your Face Poverty!

In this article that precedes this blogpost, I lamented, rather mawkish-ly, about the family I saw living on the street. It seems there are several such families in South Bombay, it’s as if they had got down from the train and decided to pitch their plastic tents on the street outside the terminus. Serendipitously, I happened to read this article in Time’s website.

“The defining challenge of the 21st century will be to face the reality that humanity shares a common fate on a crowded planet. We have reached the beginning of the century with 6.6 billion people living in an interconnected global economy producing an astounding $60 trillion of output each year. Human beings fill every ecological niche on the planet, from the icy tundra to the tropical rain forests to the deserts. In some locations, societies have outstripped the carrying capacity of the land, resulting in chronic hunger, environmental degradation and a large-scale exodus of desperate populations. We are, in short, in one another's faces as never before, crowded into an interconnected society of global trade, migration, ideas and, yes, risk of pandemic diseases, terrorism, refugee movements and conflict.”

Yes, we are on each other’s faces a lot these days. Have you seen how they stare at you? And we are also prone to diseases: chickenguniya, dengue, viral fever, of which we weren’t even aware. Get used to it, for it’s going to be like this for all time.

$ 60 trillion is not a small amount of money. It’s huge. We are earning more, we are growing richer, and we are wasting more. Imagine this. Try and think of the manufacturing and service industries as a giant suction pump, sucking in wealth and retaining them in smart investments and in banks of rich people. I read somewhere that since the nineties the number of millionaires in the US had doubled. Ditto in India, someone mentioned that the number of crorepatis (Indian millionaires, currently around 20,000 in the country) has also doubled.

Now don’t accuse me of being dumb dimwit when I ask: where did this money come from?

It came by depriving the people living on the streets, in the slums and in decaying housing colonies of their right to a good life. It came by forcing a section of the people into submission and slavery in air-conditioned traps called outsourcing centres. Go to any urban slum and you will find gangs of youth playing cards throughout the day and doing petty thefts and crime at night to survive, because they don’t have jobs. They have lost their will to work hard, and are satisfied with getting enough to get by.

In short the poor are becoming poorer fast and the rich are becoming rich faster. And the world’s resources are limited, it can run dry tomorrow if the rapacity continues. India could become another Sahara because the rich have a choice of emigrating but the poor will stay and die a painful death on the streets of big cities.

The solution? If they offer you – a greenhorn of “zero” years of experience – a salary of 1 crore, don’t take it. And, oh, yes, ask them if they have any shame.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Living on a Street of Bombay - Must They?

It’s pathetic. I see them on the way to work, and again, on the way back from work. This is the essence of India and the so called malaise of urban poverty. They have very little to call their own, they live on the street, beside the sugarcane juice vending machine they own, sleep in the open, under a bus shelter – three generation of them – spending all their waking hours in the busy street, under the glaring eyes of people who pass by. I see them cooking their evening meal and have stale rice in the morning, there are only two foldable chairs they can call furniture. Oh, yes, there's a plastic sheet tied to the wall they would use as a shelter in the rain. That's all. Yet they seem to survive with nothing I can see in their faces of regret, deprivation, or hopelessness. They are content to be what they are. They too survive this ruthless world.

The man sells sugarcane juice throughout the day, and packs up around 7 p.m. when the thirsty hordes have gone home. Then he curls up with wife and kids and his father on the road. There isn’t even a stringed charpai to sleep on. Despite the dust and dirt, they seem cleanly dressed. They seem content with their lives, accepting things as they are, never complaining, and if you ask them they will say in their native tongue, Gujarati, “Saru che, badda, saru che.” It’s so pathetic. And then they would even boast of the benefits of living on the street and of the advantages of owning nothing – nothing to worry about being stolen. How cruel can life be, how ruthlessly it deprives people of hope and the possibility of a decent life. That’s life for them, no need to think of loan repayment, credit card balances, huge school/college fees, not to mention bribes and speed money.

I know life in a big city is tenuous, it has to be. There are too many people per square inch, packed like fish half alive, cornered by some giant pressing machine: bags, suitcases, potbellies, lunch boxes, umbrellas. They carry bags so big the others look at them and sneer, “What does he think he is, big, big egjective?” I watched in wonderment at them at Vashi station one day as layer by layer they peeled from inside a train in an unending stream (reminded me of the times when I would peel plantain tree leaves one by one), and there would be more of them, however much I tried vainly to bring to an end their continuous unreeling. Do they read anything: newspapers, books, novels, short stories, poems? For them all these are idle pursuits, unprofitable and unworthy of their attention. But, no, they are so content to let things go by, to avoid/indulge the rough struggle, they are inured, calloused and beaten into submission, and to smile and accept all, regardless.

A nation coping with trauma, through all the trials it is going through, ending each day more confused than ever of what is right and what isn’t. That’s what’s worrying me, this frugality, this contentment with mediocrity, this mother of all poverty.

I walk away, lengthen my steps till I am almost hurrying, I want to be rid of their sight, I want to escape the utter hopelessness of their existence on the road of a big city, people whom you would rather not see, in a city that would betray them very badly one day.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

White Men Bearing Gifts!

Reading Amitav Ghosh’s “Sea of Poppies” after reading Dalrymple’s “The Last Mughal” and Rushdie’s “The Enchantress of Florence” has had my mind stuck in the Mughal-colonial mode for far too long. Or, so I think. Oh, how many of the events seem so congruent and parallel in my imaginings. I reflect these days too much on what India could have been (Drawing a tentative parallel with what I could have been), and suchlike nauseating stuff, so on and so forth.

In Ghosh’s book here’s what Burnham the rogue merchant of opium has to say:

“Look at what the Celestials did to Lord Amherst. There he was, on the very threshold of Pekin (Peking), with a shipload of presents – and the Emperor wouldn’t so much as receive him.”

I guess the Chinese Emperor did the right thing. The Chinese have a far greater reservation against aliens who come bearing gifts. The Indian Emperor on the contrary received the gift-bearing white men willingly, gave them trading rights and paid a heavy price for their bleeding heart. Look how Burnham justifies opium trade indulged by the East India Company to the American Zachary:

“British rule in India could not be sustained without opium – that is all there is to it, and let us not pretend otherwise. You are no doubt aware that in some years, the Company’s annual gains from opium are almost equal to the entire revenue of your own country, the United States…? And if we reflect on the benefits that British rule has conferred upon India, does it not follow that opium is the land’s greatest blessing? Does it not follow that it is our God-given duty to confer these benefits upon others?”

Baloney! Specious lies told without scruples of any kind, with a stiff upper lip and the lying flair of a hypocrite. What if the Mughals hadn’t given the Brits trading rights, and what if we had succeeded in keeping the Brits off our shores? Would India have been an authoritarian state as China now is, could India have hosted an Olympics, and could India have mustered not one but several Olympic golds?

There I go again, so very typical of me. So very droll.

Some pictures of the Caferati anniversary in Karjat.

Olympic Gold Medallist Blogs, Yes, He Does!

Guess what? Don’t ask: guess what, what? Abhinav Bindra, India’s first individual Gold Medal winner in the Olympics is a blogger, and, what kicks me even more, he blogs on blogspot.

Here’s his shoot-from-the-lips post about how the gormint babus gave him “Z” plus security (See, how they rush to ingratiate you after you have proved your merit?), when he returned to India.

Now, friend Anthonybhai from Marol village has a long lament shooting his flabby and, often, uncontrollable lips. He is a shooter himself, but his gun is his fingers and his bullets are his marbles. He is a good marksman, and has quite a good collection of marbles which he hoards in his house. Some of what he says goes like this: “That begger Abhinav, men, what, kya re, he done us proud, no? So much we all wanting gold, gold, gold, no, and not getting only, no? What he shoots, men, solid only. Yeah, I know him from his look only, one day he is going to win gold.”

Says this article in New Strait Times:

“His industrialist father has afforded him a shooting range in the backyard of his sprawling house, complete with a computerised target transportation system. He has seven rifles, top-of-the-line ammunition and other shooting gear on which he spends Rs10 million annually. How many Indians can afford this?”

Abhinav (I don't know if the above should prejudice me, I mean well for him), can expect a windfall of sponsors – soaps, credit cards, suitings, aerated drinks, even ghutkas and pan masalas – to queue up with bundles of cash outside his home. The same article also gives this grim reminder:

“Also add a tragic reminder that K.D. Jadhav, the first Indian to win a[n] [Olympic] bronze in 1952, died in penury. It speaks of a low priority [that India gives] to sports and sportsmen.”

Obviously, there weren't any sponsorships back then. You have done us proud, Abhinav, now let yourself be the poster boy for thousands of youths across India who would like to follow in your footsteps.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Movie Trishul in Redux

Day before yesterday, as that impostor serendipity would have it, I saw Trishul, the movie of the seventies, when Amitabh Bachchan had just broken into the film firmament as a star, and giants such as Sanjeev Kumar were still around. The film brought tears of nostalgia for a time when movies, stories, and plots had that simple though predictable characteristic about it, where the acting used to complement the story.

Of course, the cast was tremendously talented. Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar, Sashi Kapoor (A vastly under-rated actor, I always maintain he is one of our finest actors, whose talent remained undiscovered.), Rakhee and Prem Chopra. Such natural unmannered acting as never could ever be found in Hindi films.

Watch Shashi Kapoor as he discovers that Amitabh has stolen the keys of his car, and his playfulness as he sportingly accepts it and goes ahead, the deep disappointment on Amitabh’s face as he loses Hema Malini to his worthy opponent. I was mesmerised, after all these years. The technicalities were a bit wonky, there were a few patches of drudgery, but what a clean story, what joy in the young ones cavorting to “Gapuchi gapuchi gum, gum.” The song was a rage in college (Yes, that was where I was when it was released in Natraj Cinema in Chembur.). And Poonam Dillion became a heartthrob, which Amitabh and Shashi already were. Ungainly, with a body structure considered odd, with a brooding heavy lidded-look Amitabh burst into filmdom as a breath of fresh air, and captured people’s imagination more than hearts.

Of all the actors, Amitabh still plods on, among the others Sashi have faded away and Sanjeev has been totally obliterated from memory. An age passes, only a few remnants remain.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Singh is Kinng! Indeed!

Singh is King – or is it Singh is Kinng, bad spelling and all? – seems to be a rage. Son is singhing its praises. So is the world. The song won’t leave his lips same as the song “Dum maro dum” when the film “Hare Krishna Hare Ram” was released, and “Mere Sapnon Ki Rani” when Aradhana was released. A colleague’s niece went to see the movie and can’t get over it. Ever since the tiny tot has been in a mesmerised state singing the song, albeit with a slight variation:

Thing is thing!
Thing is thing!
Thing is thing!

Instead of:

Singh is Kinng!
Singh is Kinng!
Singh is Kinng!

How’s that for bad spelling and even worse malapropism! No, I haven’t yet seen the movie, so I won’t put anything here about it’s merits, except a word about the bad spelling.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rushdie Criticises Random House for Pulling Out "Jewel of Medina"

Look who has jumped into the fray! The Sherry Jones novel "The Jewel of Medina" which I wrote about in this post, and which was withdrawn by Random House has invited the ire of none other than Indian expatriate Salman Rushdie, who lived under a fatwa till recently. And what's even more surprising is that Random House happens to be Salman's own publisher.

Rushdie criticizes publisher for pulling novel: Read the story on this link. Excerpt:

'I am very disappointed to hear that my publishers, Random House, have canceled another author's novel, apparently because of their concerns about possible Islamic reprisals,' Rushdie said Thursday in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

'This is censorship by fear, and it sets a very bad precedent indeed.'

As a writer and as an individual this writer has guts to stick it out for what he really believes in. Guess what operates these days is 'censorship by fear.' This fact exists in Bombay and in India, too. The attack on editor Kumar Ketkar, editor-in-chief of Loksatta shows that attempts to impose 'censorship by fear' exists on our own doorsteps.

Tinkering with My Blog!

Been goofing around on my blog this morning, yesterday, same-to-same. Some technicalities just escape me, maybe I am technically challenged. I am trying to figure out how to send pictures and videos directly to this blog. Johnnie is something of a plodder and keeps at it till success is mine, so watch out this space. Wasted hours yesterday trying to do that; but no success. Today after trying all I could, sending multiple dummy emails, this is what I get in my inbox:

Your carrier is not supported by Blogger Mobile. Please try using Mail-to-Blogger or visit http://www.blogger.com/mobile-request for more information.

Hmm, well, Google, I have been through this months back and I thought by now you must have spoken to Airtel and sorted out the connectivity issues. So, you haven’t? Is it my fault that I chose a carrier (Airtel) which is not compatible with your thingamajig?

God! Man, can’t you see I am so frustrated having to upload to my gmail and doing all the cutting and pasting?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Novels that Aren’t and Weren’t

This is heart rending, dear readers, so be prepared with the Kleenex, hanky, friend’s broad shoulder, whatever. Some novels never happen, just as it didn’t happen to my novel “The Love Song of Luke Varkey,” while I still maintain stubbornly about it being a singular, sizable, seminal peep into the seamier side of the flesh business, a look at the “underpants of Bombay” as friend CP Surendran critiqued it, the novel hasn’t moved an inch and I am bound to dump it and start something else. As Arundhati Roy once said, “Everyone doesn’t become novelists,” how true. It hurts, and it hurts badly after one has devoted years and years to its development, and it sits there like a pile of shit on one’s desk and shakes its head ruefully at you, “Johnnie, it’s not happening, and it’s not gonna happen.”

Many have been the novels that are gathering dust in David Godwin’s and assorted literary agents’ “Novel Junkyards.” Mine included. Many are the stories that are lost to the world for ever, for want of a sympathetic person to read and understand the genius behind the writing. Why, a character of mine even walked into CP’s office clutching a heavy tome (a character similar to her appears in the above mentioned “The Love Song of Luke Varkey”), wanting him to edit it for her. I had edited her writing and as they say, “She couldn’t write to save her derriere.” CP took one look and declined. The novel just wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.

Every novelist thinks he/she has something great to say, even the rejected ones like yours truly and the abovementioned woman. Tushes and derrieres apart, our stories aren’t stuff of literary merit unless they are written with English grammar and composition in mind. But what befell Sherry Jones was even more odious, it was a case of pre-emptive censoring. Read this excerpt from an article in Washington Post:

“In 2002, Spokane, Washington, journalist Sherry Jones toiled weekends on a racy historical novel about Aisha, the young wife of the prophet Muhammad. Ms. Jones learned Arabic, studied scholarly works about Aisha's life, and came to admire her protagonist as a woman of courage. When Random House bought her novel last year in a $100,000, two-book deal, she was ecstatic. This past spring, she began plans for an eight-city book tour after the Aug. 12 publication date of "The Jewel of Medina" -- a tale of lust, love and intrigue in the prophet's harem.”

But Random House which was to publish the novel referred it to an Islamic scholar who decided it wasn’t publishable, as the consequences would be too great for the publisher and the writer and editor. The project went Kaput for entirely different reasons than my novel.

Poor Sherry Jones and poor John P. Matthew. The dreams of eight-nation book promotion junket just vaporised into thin air. There’s a song that goes:

Song sung blue
Everybody knows one

Song sung blue
Every tree grows one

Me and you are a subject too
Of song sung blue.

Substitute Song with Novel and here’s the doggerel with minor modification, all my handiwork:

Novel written blue
Everybody has one

Novel written blue
Every tree grows one

Me and you are a subject too
Of novel written blue.

Of the many novels that disappeared into oblivion I will say nothing. Not even my own.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Who Says They Don't Spend in Malls?


See the rush in this mall? And I thought people didn't have money!

Apropos of my post that appears here, where I lamented, wrongly, that there’s nobody to buy from malls, now, I, have to eat my words. It’s one of life’s wrong judgements that poor Johnnie can’t swallow for being too bitter to swallow and too sweet to spit, as a Malayalam saying goes (Kaichittirakkanum vaiya, madhurichittu thuppanum vaiya). Yes, there indeed is money in malls.

My clothes were getting worn out and I needed new feathers, of the corporate kind, pronto. The corporate gypsy is on the move again, and the new job is up the managerial ladder, so, a wee bit of formal dressing would be required. So I repair to the mall to look around. And the best way to spot the place where a discount is going on is to look at the milling crowds inside. I mean there’s some telepathy or psychology, or some other hi-falutin’ “logy” is at play, but what the heck, I jumped in to hunt for my favourite rags.

So like a shark homing in on a bloody piece of meat, I charge into this Kouton store where people were rummaging into clothes carelessly strewn in heaps on the floor, hunting, grabbing, searching, like there was some kind of treasure hunt going on, that too, a treasure hunt of comely young ones.

So, unwittingly, I too rummage through the pile of clothes to find the perfect corduroy trouser I have always wanted, in the shade I wanted it in, which is plain black. The prices were amazing, almost 66 per cent discount, and, unknowingly a gleeful war cry leaves my lips before this bunch of bargain hunters salivating like Pavlovian dogs.

Good old Pavlovo-vich, don’t you turn in your grave, but we all are living proofs that your theory, remember the one which made dogs salivate when only you only sounded a bell? Yes, we are easily attracted to the conspicuous consumption of malls. So I have some chaat, and as if this wasn’t enough, some corn with pepper and assorted masala.

Very soon I was conspicuously consuming a lot of very foolish things. I played cricket in a pitch with a net around it, bought a couple of shirts, ties (my new job requires them), and almost bought a pair of expensive shoes.

With me around who says multiplexes don’t have business.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Olympic Drought is Over! Shooter Shoots a Winner!

So India after all won an Olympic Gold. We did it. That too after so many years, after the attempts made by PT Usha, Milkha Singh, and countless others went for naught. I was like, what? You mean an Indian made it to gold? I still can’t believe it, no I can’t (shaking head).

What’s needed to win an Olympic gold medal is guts and attitude and it seems this soft-spoken guy Abhinav Bindra had it in plenty. He practised hard and long hours to attain personal glory and glory of his country. And, he made it. He is a role model, one who should become the role model for thousands of athletes who get a raw deal when compared to the pre-eminence of cricket.

Gah! Cricket is a lonely game, a game of mere chance, but shooting is definitely a skills game, you have to be good to win. And practice counts. Cricket has its big-ticket sponsors and godfathers. Who do the thousand other athletes and sportspersons have? Nobody.

How ironic that it took us so long to win a gold medal. We had individual silvers and bronzes but not gold and this is as welcome news as a cool breeze on a hot summer afternoon.

Abhinav, you have done us proud.

Monday, August 11, 2008

It Happened Yesterday... Who Is Responsible?

He took the opportunity of the absence of his family to hang himself. Finding himself alone in the house, the harassed man tied a rope around his neck and took his own life. He was a police inspector, no less. It happened yesterday and he lived in the building opposite to mine. Neighbours say he was harassed at the workplace, by his boss. So, yesterday, a Sunday, when everyone woke up in a dazed somnolence to a lazy day of lolling in bed because it was raining like there was no stopping, he took his life. Suicide, atmahatya, they say callously, even jokingly, injuring of the soul. His colleagues (none of whom might have said a comforting word when he was alive) brought a hearse to take him for post mortem and then took him to the crematorium. He was decked fully in flowers and a white sheet and they chanted, “Ram nam, satya hai,” as they took him for cremation.

I must have seen him; even bumped into him many times we must have crossed each other in the street or at the nearby shop. The rented place I now live is on a street that has policemen living in police quarters called “police lines” on the opposite side. It gives me a sense of comfort and security to have so many policemen around me. There are no thefts, and I can leave the door unlocked and go to the nearby shops and find that nothing has been stolen. The thieves are afraid of the “police lines.” At night I can sleep undisturbed by shadowy forms I had seen slinking away into the shadows at my own place a few sectors away. There is a highly placed woman officer – may be a commissioner – who drives a big car every morning to work, and I like the efficiency and grace with which she carries herself and her uniform. That the police force can have harassment was a shocking realisation.

The keepers of the law need a better life, I am not afraid of saying. They are doing a tough job and the perquisites aren’t good enough. They put in long hours, are made to stand for hours, and end up without sleep and proper food. A friendly inspector who lives in the “police lines”, with whom I spoke on my morning walk (Is it him?) confessed that where he was posted there wasn’t even a small dhaba and he had to drive for an hour to find a place that sells vada and pav. They were doing 24-hour duty during elections when their job wasn’t over until the ballot boxes were sealed and safely delivered.

Imagine doing such a tough job and not being disillusioned! After such a tough day, when one isn’t compensated enough to pay the bills, afford a good education for their children, leave alone spend an evening in the mall or multiplex, one would feel an intense alienation, a sense of being unwanted and uncared for by the world and by one’s superior officers.

In such a circumstance, a casual comment that slips unknown past the tongue, a deliberate jibe, a joke intended to hurt a person can have lethal effect on any man. Just as it did on the police inspector on that rainy, gloomy Sunday morning. Who is responsible? Society? Government? Is there a solution? May be counseling could help. Or, may be, just guessing, they could be paid better.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dark Night: Newly Opened and Desperate for a Sale

A mannequin with a light inside it: A ludicrous way of ensuring footfalls.

It’s been pouring for the last four or five days. The sun is rarely to be seen and the sky is a uniform grey, as if it has been varnished by a brush dipped in grey paint by God himself. It’s on such a grey and gloomy evening that I go to the newly opened Adlabs multiplex in Kharghar, near where I live, to watch the Dark Knight.

And what a Dark Night it was! Now, Kharghar has developed faster than CBD Belapur, though Belapur was supposed to be the Central Business District of New Bombay. The real estate agents have unnaturally hiked the property prices in this area touting it for its nearness to the New Bombay airport and for being the location where the movie Dhoom was shot (both part 1 and 2). There are two faces to this area: one is the undeveloped villages where life is a struggle and the other is the ritzy housing estates, malls and multiplexes. They exist in an uneasy compromise of raw potholed roads and smoothly paved smooth expressways, on which the films Dhoom were shot. The road leading to the multiplex is unlit and potholed and this compounds my misery further.

The huge mall had just opened and what I could see was lots of knocking, hammering, and paint-spattered workers busy with their work, scraping, painting, moving, cleaning, and everything they do so messily, which – lo and behold! – turns out to be such dazzling spaces when they are done. Yeah, the same was going on.

There were all kinds of shops: Woodlands (I am wearing one), Levis, More, etc. with huge spaces which will soon fill up with products. I am wondering, but where will the money come from? There isn’t a housing complex near the mall, and it is far from the station. How will people reach here? Must warn them fellas, don’tcha think?

I see the movie, which has a good storyline, but halfway through I get so turned off by the relentlessness of the violence and gore, that I remove my shoes in the darkness, raise my feet on the seat – seems theatre is empty and nobody’s watching – and quietly doze off. Shortly, I wake up. The hall is half empty and the movie is still playing. I wonder who will fill up the nice seats that swivel forward, the aisles lit with strips of red light and the stereos booming in my ears.

When I exit the theatre rather dazed by the movie and the price of popcorn (Rs 60 a medium-sized pack), I am followed incessantly by a salesman when I enter a prestigious electronic equipment vendor’s showroom. I am still dazed! I tried to shake him off saying I am just looking, but he won’t take the hint. The reason: they opened today and are desperate for a sale.

Oh God! There’s such desperation on the saleman’s face that I feel sorry for him. The guy is nearly in tears! But I don’t want anything such as: computers, water heaters, toast poppers, surround sound systems, cellphones, more computers, televisions, etc. that he has on offer. I have them all.

All I can hope and wish for him is that the theatre and the showroom fills with consumers soon, and that they break even and recover their investment in expensive space, glass, airconditioning, salaries, etc., etc.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Journalist seeking paycheck? Try India!

Says this article in Salon.com (Journalist seeking paycheck? Try India) India is the new Mecca for unemployed US journalists. So where does it leave Indian journalists? With more and more celebrities writing columns and less and less reporting opportunities being given to sections such as: rural development, performing arts, fine arts, literary matters, etc. a new breed of foreign journalists are on their way to India with their concept of what journalism in India should be. Excerpt:

"The U.S. news industry is bleeding jobs. According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, 2,400 journalists left newspaper newsrooms last year, either through layoffs or buyouts, leaving the industry with its smallest workforce since 1984. Circulation and revenue are falling across the country, as are share prices: Gannett, the country's largest newspaper publisher, is seeing its stock trade at around one-third its value a year ago; the New York Times Co. is down 45 percent. Classified advertising revenues have dropped 30 percent over the last two years and the last quarter was one of the industry's worst ever."

With newspapers increasingly carrying SMS-ese (yesterday India's leading newspaper spelled "month" as "mnth," I searched, but couldn't find the exact headline, who cares?), what does this augur for Indian newspapers, magazines and media? Will a firang tell us what to write, print, and publish?

May be its quid pro quo for the jobs we have taken away from them!

The Paradise of Copyright Infringers and Software Pirates?

This comes as a great disappointment. Two songs I loved so dearly, thinking the Hindi film music is making giant strides are “Thu Hi Mera Shab Hai” and “Ya Ali” from Gangster.

It now seems from a friend’s email that “Thu Hi Mera Shab Hai” is a copy of “Sacral Nirvana” by Oliver Shanti, watch the following video:



And, to make matters even worse, “Ya Ali” is a copy of “Ya Ghali” by Guitara
watch the following video:



I would like to ask: are we a nation of copycats, software pirates, duplicators, copyright infringers, etc. etc. I mean, look at it like this, our streets are full of pirated editions of books, music, films, and such like. Mea culpa. I don't hesitate the least bit when it comes to buying a pirated edition because it comes so cheap.

What’s the solution? Can’t we make books and CDs cheaper so that the duplicators wouldn’t dare to duplicate them as the duplicate would cost as much as the original? Any suggestions?

Friday, August 08, 2008

A Tribute to Solzhenitsyn

Read this article by Nilanjana Roy in Business Standard about Solzhenitsyn’s passing away from this corporeal world. The bearded, grizzly looking Solzenitysn has been a favourite author of mine ever since I read “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” back in the eighties, while still in college.

For a decorated man to spend eight years in prison because he called a dictator “Old Man Whiskers” (Stalin had a bushy whisker, if you remember history lessons!) in a private letter to a friend seems very, very odd to me indeed. But that shows what Russia was under “Old Man Whiskers,” a totalitarian state with no tolerance for dissent.

I then wrote a short story, “The Tropic Sun” based on a day in the life of a Bombay gutter cleaner called Muthu and sent it to my friend Nikhil Lakshman who was working in the Illustrated Weekly of India. Nothing was heard of this story after that. The Illustrated Weekly was then edited by Pritish Nandy and used to feature a short story in each issue. Now Illustrated Weekly is defunct, and so is Eves Weekly, Debonair, Mirror, Imprint, all of which used to feature short stories.

Digressing, I wonder why short stories have become the pariahs of the publishing world. Short stories are the stepping stones for a writer to bigger things like a novel. I have written quite a few short stories as the right hand side links will sufficiently illustrate. But a publisher recently turned down my short story collections saying there isn’t a sizable market for short stories these days. I would like to challenge this mistaken assumption.

Coming back to Solzhenitsyn and his fiercely independent views about the west, I support him fully for his fearless and independent view of the west’s decadence. There must have been embarrassment over the poster boy’s betrayal of the west’s designs on him. However, a writer must, must maintain his independence and speak out, as quoted by Nilanjana in her column:

“Once pledged to the WORD, there is no getting away from it: a writer is no sideline judge of his fellow countrymen and contemporaries; he is equally guilty of all the evil done in his country or by his people. If his country’s tanks spill blood on the streets of some alien capital, the brown stains are splashed forever on the writer’s face.”

How many writers in India can boldly say they are “pledged to the word” and that they have a responsibility to speak against the religious and ethnic bigotry that is being practised in this country? This question would decide if a Gulag will be the result.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Caferati Fourth Anniversary - Part Two

From left: Peter, Cyrus, Shishir, Rasika, Kavita and Asif.

(I have managed to re-write what I had lost and here it is, for your reading pleasure.)

When we reach Karjat we get the feeling as if we are lost. Nobody knows where to turn. We crossed a railway track, cruised down a picturesque road where we stopped and Cyrus made his smart quip about peacocks. Yes, there were peacocks in the forested hills, we looked hard but didn’t find any brilliant flashes of feather in the abounding greenery. There are the rolling hills to one side and the railway line we crossed on the other, and we don’t know where Shah Farm is. So we wait for the others.

We get out, walk a bit, try to scale the hill, and try to look cool to the locals, who ignore us, anyway. “They even give wrong directions,” so be careful Cyrus says. Not likely, since none of them remotely know of any Shah Farm, there are plenty of Navjivan Farms and Dr. Modi’s farms, though.

Cyrus jokes about a friend who was given candies as change, at toll centres and on his way back has enough candies to pay an entire toll in candies. Smart, isn’t he? Shows how these toll rackets work. But the guys manning the toll wouldn’t accept the candies. Uh, oh! He also tells us about an aunt, a talented raconteur, who could make up stories on the go and used to keep him and his cousins entertained in childhood. It is a pity that the genre of short story is dying and no magazine, newspaper, or publisher prints them anymore.

During my childhood the Sunday Review section of the Times of India (edited for some time by the immensely talented Darryl D’Monte) used to feature a short story, and once, even a novel serialisation. Those were the days. Days of sprawling on a sofa and reading the Sunday Review and the comic section from front to back. My sister used to cut up and keep some of the serial stories for reading later. Nowadays newspapers have become high-tech and glossy, but I hardly feel like opening them as they are full of the dull faces of made-up stars and models, as if the common man doesn’t matter at all.

Then as we wait for the rest, Peter rolls in, in his Maruti 800, looking spiffy in trademark bandana after the recent affliction, and out comes a snazzy-looking camera which he trains on us. Then Manisha and Brahm drive up, followed by an entire posse of Suniti, Batul and Gerard and acolytes, Ravi and wife Mena and pretty daughter Deepika, and who else? Don’t remember. Yes, there was Ayesha and her filmmaker dad, George.

So we make a convoy, with Suniti who knows the way to Shah Farms in front, and we somewhere in the rear. Soon we straggle away from the convoy and are once again lost. Then I remember this wise Chinese (or, is it Japanese) saying:

“The journey is as important as the destination.”

Then somebody remembers, we are supposed to turn left before the temple. And someone says, no it’s the “borewell”, but there aren’t any borewells, we can only see a handpump. “But a handpump is a borewell,” some wise guy quips and we all nod in acceptance. How brilliant! Wonder why I didn’t think of that.

Then we turn left at the borewell and are in a sleepy somnolent village of some sort. We walk along what’s called a “ottayadipatha” in Malayalam, translated as “one foot path” on which only one person can walk. “I am afraid of stepping on sn…” Manisha says, her voice is lost in the murmur of the rain. I say, “Don’t worry, snakes don’t come out in the rain, they stick to their warrens.”

“I said snails, silly.” Oh, ho, again wrong detour.

The Shah Farmhouse is a turn of the century structure, an epitome of the sloping roof architecture, which I so love. It is cool in summer because of the high roof and safe in monsoon because of the sloping roof that fully covers the beautiful and broad verandah. I can sit in such a verandah for hours looking at the rain, if only I had some peace and solitude, which seem unlikely because the Farmhouse is bustling already with the voices of a hundred writers, who are also vociferous talkers.
I meet a lot of writers, film makers (who all have nice cars), and have tea with friends. Rochelle is there, Rohington, Raamesh is playing host which he does graciously, and so are Manohar, Raylynn, and others I will mention as I go along.

Peter makes the opening remark and asks us to introduce ourselves. We do. I open the session with a workshop on “Web Content Writing.” I have half an hour, and am interrupted several times and lose time as I try to clear doubts and simple definitions like, “What is content writing?” I can’t complete my presentation. But I think I made my point that a website or blog has to be search engine optimised.

Next is Raamesh with a workshop on “Nonsense Writing” and he seems to be a professional in this genre as he quotes from several writers with whom I haven’t had any acquaintance with. Must admit I am confessing my ignorance of nonsense literature here.

This was followed by a workshop on “Performance Poetry” by Suniti and she performed a poem she had written called “Odd Job Woman.” Bhaskar also pitched in with a poem he had performed. Must try out this genre sometime, I haven’t yet performed any poem of mine.

Then followed lunch, which was rice, chapatti, chana masala, baji, salads, and was topped by vermicelli. I ate sparingly as outside food still made my stomach growl. More conversation with Rochelle, Shirish, Kavitha, Mena and her cute daughter Deepika.

Nupur comes all the way from Delhi, via V.T. station, and via Bhivpuri Road station. Nupur manages a content management business in NOIDA and is in Mumbai for her sister’s childbirth. I learn that Nupur and Shubhra, another friend, are cousins. Well the surprises of life never cease.

After lunch I am drowsy, a bit lazy, so instead of attending the sessions I laze on the sofa in the verandah with Gerard. He is from Paris, a city I have heard so much about, and would like to visit. “Why not?” is his response.

Gerard is blue-eyed, pony tailed, un-intimidating and very polite. He answers all my inquisitive questions such as “How many times have you visited India” from me. Eighteen to be exact he says. He loves India and spends a few weeks here before going back to Paris where he works as a librarian. He is high on Indian literature and says there’s a big demand for Indian literature in France and almost every book is translated into French.

The same sentiment was expressed at Kitab 2008 by Christine Jordis. The French find Indian novels interesting as they have great narration, lots of details, and exotic locales. Gerard speaks good English with only a slight accent and I remark how we can understand each other perfectly.

It must be interesting being Gerard. Holding a steady job and travelling all over the world as he does.

Then after tea, and batata vadas, we set off back to Bombay. I am cooped in the back seat of the Toyota Innova, and sitting in this most un-noticeable of positions, beside everyone’s bags and water bottles, I make notes for this blogpost.

I chat with Rasika and find that she is – can you believe this? – the current Miss Navi Mumbai. Rasika is pretty and has a nice smile and doesn’t mind sporting it often. I also find that she is daughter of the owner of my pathological laboratory – Gune Pathological Laboratories.

As we near New Mumbai we are racing a storm, and when we reach CBD Belapur we are right inside the storm. It is raining, the kind of rain that will last the entire night, that could even go on after that. The waterdrops drum on the hood of the vehicle and the back and I look at the scenery and look back on all the intelligent and stimulating talk I have had.

Reaching home I am so drowsy and tired, I take a bath and fall asleep, to dream of poems, workshops and two beautiful women (one of them a Miss Navi Mumbai!) who enlivened my journey, and of Cyrus who kept a barrage of jokes and witticisms to ease tedium of the ride to Karjat and back.

And a huge thank you to Shishir for having me on this trip, I will only be too glad to share the damages – petrol, toll, whatever. I will forever be grateful.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Dry Antagoinistic Place....

Just finished reading Salman Rushdie's "The Enchantress of Florence" and towards the end this is this passage which I find very relevant to India today.

Emperor Akbar is evacuating Fatehpur Sikhri as the lake has dried up and these words are his musings:

The future would not be what he (Akbar) hoped for, but a dry hostile antagonistic place where people would survive as best as they could and hate their neighbours and smash their places of worship and kill one another once again in the renewed heat of the great quarrel he had sought to end for ever, the quarrel over God. In the future it was harshness, not civilization, that would rule.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Caferati Fourth Anniversary - Part Two, Alas, Not to Be!

I wrote a lengthy, and oh! so witty Part Two of the "Caferati Fourth Anniversary" and out goes the power, and I can't recover any of what I had written. Such are the vagaries of electronic communication.

I thought I had got the flow correctly, the words were coming unhindered, I almost thought this is how writing must be done, and, and, phut! It went phut, just like that! Can you believe it.

Now I am too sleepy to re-write it. So it will have to wait. So long, farewell, blog.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Bhopal Gas Tragedy, the Saga Continues....

In this article friend, journalist and writer Annie Zaidi writes about the injustices that have been done to the people of Bhopal by Dow Corporation. The company continues to function in India unmindful of the loss of life and poisons they have left behind in Bhopal. Can't they be persuaded to clean up their act?

Writer Indra Sinha is campaigning for justice to the victim of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. Annie is supporting his endeavours and finds that justice hasn't been done.

We, the right thinking, right feeling people who are so full of our pfaff about economic boom and rising India, and of an India being a world superpower should read this article, this article about compensation and this article about the tragedy.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Caferati's Fourth Anniversary Meet



Caferati, which started with me reading to an audience of around ten people facing the sea at Bandra Bandstand, is now four years old. To celebrate moderators Peter Griffin, Manisha Lakhe and co-ordinator Suniti decided to meet for an entire day, in an ancient farm house in karjat. So Shishir picked me up from Belapur when it was drizzling, the kind of drizzle that doesn’t stop soon.

Anxious moments pass as I spend more than half an hour under the bridge where we were supposed to meet, the rain forming complexes rhythms over my umbrella. Then, after giving enough time for all contingencies, I give Shishir a call.

“They have taken a detour, and I am just getting in,” Shishir informed. Me. So I imagine myself in a massive cloud wafting towards the vehicle that would pick me up and transport me to that magic farm house.

So when the Toyota Innova siddles towards me, my heart gives a leap. Inside are two of the most beautiful women I have seen in the past week (during which time I have only seen world-weary IT girls with pasty complexions, and hair like coir). Rasika and Kavitha this is meant to be compliments. So don’t get angry with me. And beside them is a man with a crazy, absolutely zany, sense of humour, who goes by the name of Cyrus, my friend Shishir, and Asif, actor and model.

That would make for a perfect bunch of interesting people. And every observation is tinged with the varnish of genuine genius. Wonder why such colourful people don’t come into my life during the working week. Wonder where they go during the day to be resurrected only in Caferati meets.

Well, the journey is full of witticisms from Cyrus, who warn the girls well in advance to be forewarned. As if they need to be warned! And when we get lost and wait for the others to bail us out, the girls go off into the woods to commune with nature, a peacock’s call sounds, and out comes this observation from Cyrus:

“The girls went for a pee, and the peacocks screamed.”

Man I can’t, I just can’t beat that in originality. Say what, this guy is a friggin Einstein.

A man with muscles like monsoon cloud formations walk into the Macdonalds in Panvel and Cyrus says, “That guy has been bitten by a snake, look how his hands are swollen and blue.”

This guy is sure talented, and I sort of feel inferior already, and I am supposed to conduct a workshop for geniuses like him. What if he makes a fool of me before all those girls whom I want to impress?

(To be continued…)

Friday, August 01, 2008

Of Ring Tones and Reversing Tones!

The cellphone of a Surdie sitting opposite me starts playing. I give a start. Then I smile, almost laugh.

“You can tell by the way I use my walk
I am a woman’s man, no time to talk,
Music loud and woman warm
I have been kicked around since I was born…”

The Surdie doesn’t look like he is a woman’s man with no time to talk. He is corpulent, has a belly the size of two jackfruits, and as he gets up drops his newspaper and a polyethylene bag that contains something half eaten. Hehe.

Hardly the type some woman would want to talk to, you know, that sort of talk that would give a man (of he Bee Gees variety) no time to talk. Hmmmm.

But then a neighbour’s car plays “Happy Birthday” when he starts it every morning and I wonder whose birthday it is. The car’s or the man’s. An elevator in a building I used to work in played “Jingle Bells” all days of the year, making me count the days to Christmas from Jan 1. Maybe that’s some people’s idea of fun.

But what about a decisively Hindu looking man’s car playing, “When the Lord was there in this world of ours / Parents brought their children to see Jesus,” that’s odd isn’t it. Definitely.

Anthonybhai, for once, agrees with my point of view. “Kya men, music is organting from the soul, and all, you know, like that only, no? I say these people have no standard only. Like this, like that, anyting will do. Playing ‘Jingle Bells’ in the heat of April, Anthony says have some sense, men.”

*************

At Belapur, where I live, I meet a friendly railway ticket checker, who once acted in the serial “Campus,” my wife’s favourite one in those days. He says he is old and taking it easy these days. I realize with a shock that that was twenty odd years ago. How time slinks past, unknowingly. He doesn’t have the energy to pursue youngsters for fines these days. What he does is take their mobile phones and tell them:

“You can keep a mobile phone worth 5000 rupees but can’t pay a ticket fare? Shame on you.”

And they would meekly give the cellphone and come the next day with the money to Belapur station. Predictably, as we alighted, there was posse to greet us, consisting of the cellphone-less youngsters he had mentioned. They had all brought the money. So off he goes, writing the receipts with some self-righteous glee.