Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009


As the curtain rings down on 2009, it has been a ghastly grisly year all around.


With nothing to remember or cherish.


As I write this, I'm an unemployed doctor studying for the next entrance exam in the hopes to further my education. And although the next exam's on January 10th- a curious mixture of ennui and regret are the only things I feel.


Regret is a strange entity. One that I'll never comprehend. In that what does it mean- to regret? Can there be regret when you have no choice- when sometimes, circumstances and people contrive- unknowingly- to make your life a complete mindfuck? And then you do things that end up haunting you forever.


But I'm rambling. 2009 has just been that sorta year- spent in limbo- both professional and personal. As for the world, well- a world in which everything seems to be in economic hell, a world in which Kasab is still alive- gnaws at one like an unwanted, persistent rodent. A simmering insidous anger is what it is. Like the remnant of an old scar- irritating with its constant presence. It's not that one thinks of it all the time. Infact most of the time one doesn't think about it. It isn't the rabid, self proclaimed patriotism of the political parties- or the self rigteous lectures moralists give. It's about that moment when you're enjoying a drink with friends, that moment when you're having such a good time that it hurts- it's that moment when you suddenly recall 26/11 and shudder in wrath and guilt.


And that's something most of us won't ever come to terms with. Yes I'm not a Mumbaikar. Even though I've studied in Maharashtra and my parents are settled there. I'm not even particularly connected to the place. But the rage is there.


2009 was the year we proved that the whole 'unity in diversity' rhetoric is just that- rhetoric. With the passing of blame the only sport people play, with the hateful hateful regional politics played by the MNS, with something as idiotic as reading the messages in the comments section of various websites- it becomes increasingly clear that deep down we're still obsessed with colour, race and religion. Anger is the only thing that unites us.


And that has dealt a shattering blow to the pride I had in India's much vaunted unity. The textbook talk of India's unity was crap. Or written in 1947. And all the talk of the 'Mumbai spirit'- well what choice did they have? It wasn't courage- just plain everyday sense- to get on with their lives. If you or I are killed in the next attack, we can't help it. We might as well literally die trying (to live).

2009 was a year where this bloke I know pathetically pined after someone without ever telling her- all because he'd messed up even a good friendship. And now is numb.


2009 was the year when yet another tragic case cropped up for the annual media trial we seem to be having over the past few years. Another case of justice denied for 19 years. Another nail in the coffin of the Judiciary- the country's latest applicant for Jester-in-Chief.

2009 was the year many people faced the recession brunt- lost jobs, livelihoods and happiness.


It was also the year I learned that 'love' makes no sense. And not in a good way. None at all. Especially when it begins with K.


So to all the wide eyed '2009 has flown by so fast' and 'What a great year!' nerds I have news.


For a lot of us, 2009 sucked.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rant

What happens when S joins the gym?- He puts on weight.

Keep in mind folks that 8 minutes of treadmill and stuffing oneself silly after that does not constitute 'working out'.

I suspect his T Shirts have had enough of the disgusting paunch stretching them incessantly and have begun to show signs of the strain. Boy is he big.

Couple that with the chain smoking he subjects Spectacles to, his life is now lived as a minute-by-disgusting-minute quest for the next cig.


Oh- and apparantly cigarette smoking is 'injurious to health'- who comes up with these misleading statements anyway?
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Monday, October 19, 2009

That Coming of Age Thing



There's a moment in Victor Hugo's mammoth Les Miserables when Jean Valjean is offered the silver candlesticks he stole just a few moments ago as a gift by the very priest he stole it from.



It's curious that the turning point of an epic should happen in the first few pages itself. It is only from there, indeed because of that event that the whole sequence of events unfolds.



Granted, Hugo's magnum opus is far from perfect. It is meandering, but grippingly so. Hugo, that champion of the masses- whose persistently wretched life he described in his book- ended up writing a big ol' coming of age tale- of Fantine, of Cosette, of Marius, of Javert and of Jean Valjean.



It was there, at the doorstep of a priest, stolen silver candlesticks in hand, that Jean Valjean, one of the great heroes of literature came of age.



It is a much overused term- 'coming of age'- particularly in these times of the pseudo psychology that every ingenue counsellor doles out like frogspawn.



Still others dismiss it as inconsequential- a quotidian indulgence of the highly placed, a fruit that the plebeians have no time or luxury to pluck and savour.



And yet, ask any urchin wasting his sorry arse on the street and he'll come up with a ripe long tale as to when he became a man.



Never mind that his manhood stopped with that tale and he regressed into a life devoted to debauchery.




Some people though have a life so spectacularly wretched and unfortunate that there remain no adjectives (or invectives) to curse fate.




This is the appallingly true story of C- whose life reads better than it is lived.




The third child of a litter of 5- with an erotomanic brute of a father and a paan chewing shrew of a mother, she grew in bitter poverty and neglect- raised to be house 'help'.



I still remember looking forward to meeting her whenever we visited that house, those people. Because the adults back then were insufferable. Because there was that uncomplicated friendship only children can make- bereft of class cognizance or social awkwardness.



Hugo himself couldn't have written a more affecting story.



As luck would have it, C's entire family- sister, parents, niece and nephew- ultimately came to work for us.



I use the word 'work' with faint hesitation- perhaps as part of the pretentious bourgeoisie philosophy that shies away from talking about 'house help'.



But C didn't want to remain entrenched in the stench that was her life- and she made the efforts to get out of it. Mum taught her English, she took up a job as a shop assistant.



Then came the delusions of grandeur. It's what we called them, but to C they were rungs of the social ladder that successive generations of the miserables must inevitably climb. C now wanted to become a businesswoman- and on the way to that Everest, she incurred debts amounting to vast sums. And there's no denying it- because through her own naivete and gullibility she had to quit her job.




Rescue- Mum, that democratic drawbridge, going down for eveybody. The debts disappeared.


Flitting between obesity, unrealised dreams and lets face it- a basic stubborn incompetence- C blundered on towards 30. No hint of boyfriends- she was still in the 'brother' phase.



That was when that ogre of a father, that lowly disciple of the Marquis de Sade, got her married to an auto driver somewhere in the bowels of Tamil Nadu's villages. And packed her off- dowry et al.



C never saw her groom before the marriage. And when she did, it was apocalyptic.




A wizened limpy 48 year old monstrosity, he flaunted his mistresses and whores in front of his wife, and fell mysteriously sick to what is known as 'that disease'. C nursed him for a whole year- thanklessly living under leaking roofs while her husband whored the nights out.



And after a year, when she had finally had enough- C hopped onto a train with the scant money she had and returned home, to an unwelcoming household.



By which time the mother had died. Of cancer it turned out.



Now began an endless wait for the husband - either to die or to 'divorce'. An irate father, hateful sisters, a niece who accused her of being a prostitute and a mat in a corner of the house kitchen to sleep on- with 'roaches and rats for company didn't help.



The old man now turned up and demanded his wife.



C put her foot down and refused. And then began a battle for her dowry and a divorce (for a marriage in the temple) in the notoriously male centric panchayats and courts of Tamil Nadu which hasn't been resolved even today.



The one brother she loved was murdered. And the other murders himself senseless everyday with the bottle.



Now C- neither married nor divorced is involved with a married man. In spite of the warnings of well wishers and the threats of doom by naysayers. C talks in hushed tones about how wonderful sex must be. She gets breathless climbing 5 stairs. She refuses to visit a gynecologist due to the 'shame' it would cause to know that a 33 year old might be rapidly reaching menopause.

A few days ago, her 75 year old father threw her out of the house to accommodate his 40 year old new wife.




Today, if you ask her when she 'came of age'- her answer, despite the journey she's had is- A few days ago, when my father disowned me.



Time heals all wounds? Like hell it does.



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Saturday, September 19, 2009

It must be Love..

They say sport is the ultimate form of competition.


An arena where gladiators fight tooth and nail for the ultimate prize.

A profession where sentimentality should be consigned to the rubbish heap. No point being nice here.






THAT was where the 2009 US Open was different.




It didn't have epic matches.



It didn't have stunning breathtaking tennis.

It didn't even have a Roger-Rafa final.




What it did have- as even the advocates of the determinedly 'non senti' approach to sport had to admit- were human stories.




Of course it is a well worn cliche' to pass most things off as 'human stories'- a somewhat compulsive need of journalists to fashion fiction from fact. But this time, even hardcore tennis lovers- the ones who obsess over Federer's footwork, know that Yaroslava Schvedova plays for Kazakhstan, wonder at the non progression of Nicholas Almagro and rue the absence of Fabrice Santoro and Justine Henin- even those idiots were won over by the kitschy soppy stories written by life- which seemed more suited to be on an after school special than on the tennis court.




It seemed foretold that the great F would reach the final at the very least. It seemed foretold that he would face either a dour Scot or a fire breathing Spaniard there. And the odds were that he would top either of them for a record 6th consequetive title.




It wasn't even too much of a surprise that the Tower of Tandil- a massive 6'6" JMDP reached the final by absolutely destroying the formidable Bull from Mallorca- after all he had lost only one match since Wimbledon.




What came as a surprise was the final. A 20 year old's refusal to wilt. Even a sub par F is a formidable challenge- so used is he to willing himself to victory. Unleashing the most powerful forehand in the game today, the Giant triumphed in five- curiously reversing the situation months ago in Paris where F had similarly come back to win in five sets after being down two sets to one.




At one stage two points from defeat, Delpo unleashed a monstrous forehand which barely clipped the line to break F- who launched into a tirade using that very letter quite a bit.




Opponents wouldn't have failed to notice his fifth set collapse- a sight becoming a little familiar- FYC- Wimbledon 2008 (THAT match), Australian Open 2009 and now the US Open 2009.
And then, the Giant from Argentina wept. The whole town of Tandil wept. The garrulous rowdy yet undeniably fascinating South American crowd wept, drank and lived it up. Tandil- until a few days back a little known town in Argentina- welcomed its hero like nobody's buisness. And JMDP- the 6'6 prodigy who had beaten the greatest of all time on his own turf- the Giant who had flattened another legend in the making before that- he wept throughout the procession. The coming of age of a new generation- fearless and undaunted- was a joy to behold.





Yet he was hard pressed to steal the thunder from the women.





What remains the defining picture of the year is a luminous Kim Clijsters beaming on court with the trophy in one hand and her sparkling daughter in another. Never has a champion radiated such warmth as Kim.










She did it the hard way, lighting up the awful, embarrasing state of women's tennis in a way no one else could- on the way defeating the lissome Venus Williams and outplaying the great, the legendary fighting skills of Serena Williams.




And she got people who had washed their hands off the women as a lost cause talking again. Do they deserve equal prize money? Of course not. Leaving alone the best of five arguement for a while, the women in the current crop are so woefully bad- barring the Williamses- that it is tough to support their claim to the money.




Not Kim though.




She proved stunning. Her semifinal against Serena, although immortalized by the latter's outburst was the best match of the year- quality wise.





No theatrical screaming, no sexy clothes- just pure sport. Unleashing a powerful crosscourt backhand, an accurate serve and a good forehand, the new Mum was all over the court- giving as good as she got and then some against her generation's greatest player.




In the end- after all the dust was swept off Arthur Ashe Stadium, the newly crowned Champion brought her daughter and husband onto court. Those were the most gratifying moments of the Open.




Because it showed that whether it is the close sisterhood of the Williamses, the unabashed love of Clijsters or the importance of the twins in RF's life- family is still the most important thing to the greats of their era.

And that's an encouraging thought.



*All Photographs from www.usopen.org
No copyright infringement is intended.










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Friday, September 11, 2009

Phone - a friend?


There's something really uplifting in taking a high moral stand.


You congratulate yourself and revel in looking with condescension at the plebeians carrying on their work in their own quotidian ways.


And then you pat yourself on the back for having come up with that wannabe megalomaniac show off sentence.



But sometimes, in an attempt to remain on your high horse, you often fall flat on your face.


Like the incident of the mobile phone.


I've never been one for mobile phones. Woe betide their ubiquitous presence in every nook and cranny! So much so, that you're really lucky nowadays if the person you're talking to deigns to actually look at you during the conversation.


Oh, and the judging, the constant gut wrenching judging- you end up losing the little self worth you had to begin with. I've been thrown so many disdainful looks and comments once my phone makes its presence felt. Its not even old, someone said to me, Its ANCIENT- this Nokia *$# or some such.


And so, I switched off my prehistoric phone for good one day. And took pride in not having a 10 digit identity that began with 9. And felt liberated from the feral tyranny of it.


And then I was shown my place. Almost at once.


It all began as a simple quest to go to someone's house located deep in the labyrinth of Pune's alleys. There was the minor issue of my never having been there before. Clutching a soiled paper with the address and a solitary phone number, I set off in an Auto. Oh he had a field day, he did. He led me deep into the alleys, smirking at my undisguised bewilderment. In the midst of nowhere, a pallid gloom descending and the meter going berserk, I made him stop at an intersection, paid him the scandalous fare and decided to chart my own course.


There were no less than seven small alleys leading in different directions from the intersection. Cursing- the one talent I do have- I set off on one of them. It was utterly useless. I confess to having looked wistfully at a billboard with Sachin smirking, a phone in hand- but I hastily chastised myself for my moment of weakness. Heading to the first in a long line of public phones, I inserted the requisite coin and started dialing, only to realize that it was out of order. The next one- same result and my only coin didn't come out.


There are moments in your life you want to earmark as a watershed- moments from when your life changed- from when you suddenly saw the light and started living differently.


This was not one of those times.


I desperately needed to call up and there was no way. And then I saw him- the same Auto guy was back, with a sadistic grin pasted to his face. Kho gaye ho?, he asked his face dripping with glee- a spider salivating at its prey. The prey nodded and asked him where the address was, only to find that the spider couldn't read (Stage 1- spin the web). And then he offered me....what else....a mobile. It certainly looked ultra fancy (Stage 2- attract the prey). In spite of myself, and I hate to admit it, I admired it for an instant. And made the damn call (Stage 3- TRAPPED).


When at last I did reach my destination I found myself paying both his suspiciously high mobile phone bill and the fare (Stage 4- Suck the prey's blood). As I turned to enter the house, I heard a guffaw of laughter (Stage 5- BURRP!).

Well, needless to say I got swindled on my way back as well. Deciding to walk a bit instead of going directly home, I then made the ill timed decision to get off. As if on cue, as if Geography had suddenly abandoned scientific principle and adopted Murphy's law instead, the skies opened. Scurrying under a tree, I had to wait in growing impatience while everyone else around me called someone or the other. When at last after swallowing my pride, I timidly asked someone if I could make a call, he snorted, 'No balance.'


I didn't muster the gumption to ask anyone else.


Drenched, soiled, and seething with fury I reached home- ready to pounce on anyone I found, and I discovered some friends sullenly waiting. There had apparently been a party. One I hadn't gone to. I had been sent an SMS about the change in plan.

Drawing myself up with dignity (what I could muster seeing that I was wet, covered in mud and had the beginnings of a drippy nose) I announced that I had given up my phone.


Silence.


Utter and absolute.


And then- someone said it.
What happened?



It was one of those moments when you want the earth to open up and swallow you whole- wet clothes, dishevelled hair, muddy face- all of you, inch by sorry inch.



My well thought of, brilliant, epoch shattering response?


Did you check out the new pre paid scheme?


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Friday, August 28, 2009

For God's Sake

I stood there- in the sanctum sanctorum of gilded gold, surrounded by a throng of people feverish with piety and fervour. A gentle breeze wafts through the temple and the curtain flutters. A collective gasp- was it going to reveal its secret?



13 hours ago, I had reluctantly willed myself into a car to go to what is commonly considered one of the greatest pilgrimage sites in India. A place where they said dreams came true. A temple whose presiding deity is generous to a fault to his devotees.


Uh- slight problem- the religious thing really ain't my cup of tea.


It wasn't always like this. As a kid, one invariably follows one's family in matters of faith- in fact I seem to remember (rather wistfully, I must admit) days when I had a set of some 12 Sanskrit prayers I'd religiously recite every day. Days when I even put flowers on the idols.


Even a highly embarrasing moment at my munji- the sacred thread ceremony- where my panche fell off in front of a whole lot of people didn't really deter me from assuming that somewhere in the skies lurked a god with four hands with a conch, a lotus, a discus and one hand raised in blessing.


Come to think of it- there isn't really a moment when I stopped believing. It was the idea of the thread that put me off. This ornament that supposedly set me apart from others felt too foreign- too unfair to my dreams of normalcy.


Yes, I wanted to be like everyone else- I didn't want to be unique..


Ah-the innocent stupidity of childhood!



The breeze dies down. 250 people exhale. Then it begins. A low clang- growing steadily louder. At its zenith, the drums produce a deafening sound. Sanskrit chants accompany the drum beat- the whole sound blends into a symphony of sounds that cannot be separated from one another.



Make no mistake, the idea of 'God' was hard to accept to begin with. All juvenile arguements laid aside, it just didn't seem possible. Miracles, I put down to coincidence. Good marks I put down to hard work. Those who survived in hospital I put down to great doctors.


Never to Him.


But in times of need- somehow one has an automatic tendency to ask God for help. And that's wrong said everyone- don't pray to God for help. Pray because you believe. And then ask him for what you want.


Fair enough.


But if He's omniscient, surely He already knows what I want? And because I've never offered propitiating sacrifices, never whole heartedly lit the lamps, never really prayed- I don't mean recite shlokas- but actually prayed because I believed, admired the architecture in his temples more than him- He's not going to give a crap about me anyway!


And strangely- that gives one a quiet satisfaction. If people believe that praying to Him everyday will keep him happy- so that when you really want something, He'll grant it- well then they're really praying out of fear, not piety.


And so I never felt right asking him for favours. Not in the most dire of situations. I had no buisness doing so.



The drums go on. The people around start chanting. A security guard grins sheepishly and scratches his unmentionables- this is all probably too blase for him. The whole atmosphere- loud drums, the perfectly pitched Sanskrit chants, the bells, the breeze, the devotees swaying in unison- different people united for perhaps the only time in their lives- unknowingly stirs memories- why, (if I may say so) only God knows..

Someone whispers- The time is close....

And then in a flash, the green curtains are drawn.

And out of nowhere- from some primeval recess of the mind, knowing it is wrong to do so, one asks Him for something...

If only I could have her back.
..
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Thursday, August 6, 2009

What Women Want

Musicals are for women.



I believed that until I saw Sweeney Todd (the movie).



Absolutely bloody fucking brilliant.



From the writing to the music to Tim Burton's realization of the play- incredible.



And the fact that Helena was in it didn't hurt.



That got me thinking. Would the Indian ideal of a woman do the same? Would she lie and connive to keep the man she loved? Would she sleep with him all the time knowing he didn't love her? Would she aid him in murder? Would she love his child from another wife?



You know what- maybe she would.

For as the demon barber of Fleet Street sings-

Pretty Women..
At their mirrors-
In their gardens,
Letter writing,
Flower picking,
Weather watching-
How they make a man sing!
Proof of heaven, as you're living...



Someone tell me, WHERE ARE THESE WOMEN? We need them.


And the terrible part is, that we might have had them if we were born long long ago.



Take Draupadi- an enigma in the Mahabharata. Now of course, any mention of polyandry and you'll have the purists touching their ears and warding you away, lest your sussurations pollute their homes. Now she was, to my mind the first feminist. A woman of blazing beauty, (by all accounts) what continues to fascinate is the way she used her loins- for both good and ill. Oh yes, who are we kidding? Why did she go to the fateful game of dice in a 'single garment stained with blood'? She should have taken some Meftal Spaz and stayed at home. I propose that she had an inkling that her state would come in handy if the need arose. It did. And ultimately, the whole bloody (pun intended) war was fought because of one woman. And she knew it- perhaps even planned it. Ruthlessly planned it for power- under the garb of restoring her honour. It took 13 years, hundreds of deaths and the loss of her own sons, but she got there in the end.


And lets not even start about her relationship with Krishna- which, deny all you like, has always been more than a little ambiguous. That she worshipped him from afar seems obvious, but there is a fine line between worship and love (maybe even lust).


Yet, inspite of having five husbands and still trusting someone else more than any of them, Draupadi has always been considered a virtuous woman. Never as a politically savvy schemer. I'd even call her reformist.


And what makes it even more interesting is, that even if you look at the Mahabharata (as I do) as a great fictional epic and not gospel truth, the fact that a writer in those times- a man in all probability- could concieve of such a character and not turn her into a whore is really far sighted. That free thinking was so prevalent in ancient India makes one boil with wrath at the current state of affairs.




From those lofty times, are today's women worse off? It's hard to tell. Yes, inspite of those crazy fire spitting feminists (Good day Ms Roy) who quite frankly I think need a good romp in the sack with anybody, inspite of some men with inflated egos who, when their fiancee breaks it off say, 'You should marry me because I'm good at studies and you're an average student..'




Yet for all these people, there is a Sonia Gandhi- who, whether you agree with her politics or not, is an interesting case study. An Italian woman, meets the heir to the throne (rolls eyes in disgust), marries him and soon after his death becomes the most powerful politician in the world's biggest democracy. That's a real story. Or a certain Ms. Mayawati who uses all her evil genius and rules with impunity. Or even Sushmita Sen, who gets around and doesn't care what anybody thinks.

The position Indian women are in today- is strangely dichotomous. One the one hand you have some who can head a Biocon, and on the other you have those who equate a date with marriage instantly. The only reason we ask them out has got to be marriage. If you say you just want to get to know them better they reply, why not as friends?

It's this disparity between professional and social freedom that baffles.

And this is probably because the idea of marriage has been drilled into everyone's heads as the sole reason a girl exists. Even among educated society. Wanna date me? Marry me first.


The evolution of the Indian woman has been a little strange- from an emancipated personal life in ancient times, to wonderful professional opportunities nowadays. Long ago she could still sleep with the Sun God no less, have a child, remain a virgin, ditch the child, have no regrets or guilt, and then years later, blithely ask the same child not to kill her 'real' sons with absolutely no qualms whatsoever. She didn't get to rule, but she was the power behind the throne. Paradoxically, in modern times, our women are given a lot of freedom to pursue careers (more or less). But personal morality is of paramount importance. She has to be 'pure'. She shouldn't wear short skirts even to play tennis. She shouldn't hang out in pubs. She should be 'perfect' and should be married by 25, otherwise she's deemed 'too old'. It's different for us menfolk, we can fuck who we want and get away with it but somehow an Indian woman's virginity is of paramount importance. As to why, that's beyond me. Is it objectification of women? Maybe. I mean YES! It's just crass and low.

That being said, I think I'm gonna dump my girl tonight- her forehead's too wide, one nostril is wider than the other and I didn't like the location of her tattoo.




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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Show Must Go On!

Eating one's own words isn't fun.

The first three lines over here bear witness to a fact I took for granted- that I couldn't be swayed.


Not by the soporofic music (that is what they call those cries to the Devil that issue from their mouths) excreted by Indian Idols, not by the desperately talentless little kids trying to sing and dance and being told that they would be stars, not even by a drool worthy Diana Hayden entering some house where-hold your breath- someone either stays, or someone else doesn't (gasp)!


Not by Mr.- oops-now Dr. 12th-fail-watzisname-Kumar bringing along his entire harem to perform stunts- quite frankly the girls looked far from sexy- too much of doing it as Spectacles would no doubt have said.


Now bring Helena Bonham Carter on screen- with or without her kit- as Marla Singer or Mrs. Lovett or better still as the chillingly sexy Bellatrix (funny how that rhymes with dominatrix..) and you would have yourself a show. But you wouldn't have guessed that I have a kind of kinky thing going on with her, so I might be slightly biased there.


But then- all my self importance was dealt an immense kick in the arse by an innocously named show called Rakhi ka Swayamvar.


In the olden days, this programme informs, women had the right to choose their husbands- it was the ultimate symbol of ancient India's female empowerment. Somewhere down the line this right, this adhikaar got diluted and then got transferred to that most vile of species- men.


Fair enough.


But this is Rakhi. Rakhi Sawant.


Yes- that same bronzed buxom starlet, who made fame a full time job. Who slapped her then boyfriend on national television. Whose language changes almost as frequently as her bra size, who is- when all is said and done- a hoot.


For if she does indeed go through with this marriage- for that is what it is (ये show नहीं है- ये एक शादी है! she confidently proclaimed) - it definitely tickles one's interest as to who, apart from that gold digger of an ex boyfriend- is going to marry her?


A lot of people as it turns out.


This is a reality show that takes itself so seriously that you have soppy songs like hum bewafa playing in the background when a suitor is given his walking papers by the lady herself.


A show where a 22 year old looks solemnly into the sometimes 29-sometimes 27 1978 born Ms. Sawant's eyes and says with oscar worthy skill I love you.


A show where another guy gives Rakhi a gift, she thanks him, and he- with all the conviction of Romeo talking dirty to Juliet- says Mansion Naat..


It's brilliant I tell you- the best comedy (albeit unintentional) on TV in a long time.


And the star- no exagerration here- is undoubtedly Rakhi Sawant. She is without a doubt the best working hindi comedienne today. No mean feat that. And that is because she sucks so badly at acting and yet thinks she is a dramatic actress. Because she doesn't think she's being funny. Watch her bat her eyes, stare into space, watch her say Mai udna chahti hoon with that serious look on her face, watch her tear up- watch her run the emotional gamut with all the seriousness of a Meryl Streep and you'll know that NDTV Imagine has hit a jackpot.


Frankly, in terms of pure entertainment, (note) I'd rather watch Rakhi Sawant be herself than watch any of our leading ladies embarrass themselves on screen. You can watch her and guffaw all day long. Still far from Helena's league but then again, is anyone close? But way to go Ms. Sawant!


Oh and she seems to have met her match in some of her would be husbands. There's this one supercillious squirt who seems to be openly using her as a means to get famous, spewing pretentious poetry left, right and centre, smirking at others' ousters, even admitting to a girlfriend, and having an ogre of a mother who wants her bahu to wear a pallu, to not work, to always stay at home and generally be a relic of the stone age. In short, anything to gain notoriety. The other- the Mansion guy- had the temerity to kiss her on the cheek and forehead- with utmost rishpect he says.


All this is done with such sincerity, with such -damn it all- gravitas, that it's a wonder how anyone on this show- least of all the host who seems to be a level headed chap- manages to suppress their laughter. I swear, this gives many comedies a run for their money, this does.

And what does our prima donna do?


She becomes an avenging angel for the female race, trying to best the great Glenn Close. See the gulf in class here (0:58 onwards), here and here.


Watch it at the end of a long boring day- not more than once though, because too much of a bad thing can be -well-bad.

As I said- seriously funny stuff!














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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fury


A cynical attitude is probably the last thing India needs right now.



What she needs is that little spark of idealism in her cadre.



But this cynicism creeps on you so insidiously that its difficult to think where it all began.



Take for instance the Sabharwal murder case.


Almost three years ago, we watched on live television, helpless with rage, the ABVP assault Prof Sabharwal in broad daylight. We saw him lose consciousness on television and later he was pronounced dead due to his injuries.

This was actual murder- recorded live on television.



Surely we thought, surely this time they would be punished.



But we hadn't accounted for the archaic rotting institution called the judiciary.



The very same judiciary which due to the many many loopholes in its system caused the culprits to walk free a few days ago.



The same judiciary which inspite of having recorded evidence still depended on eye witnesses.



Speaking of whom- it almost seems futile to have eye witnesses nowadays- right from the infamous Best Bakery case to Jessica Lall and now the Sabharwal murder case, every one of them has turned hostile, bought off by the money or threats of the rich and famous. And in the recent Sabharwal case, the Government-the Chief Minister no less- seem to be blatantly supporting the culprits. Forget it, its in the past .. is the MP government's refrain.

What is so frustrating is that no one is ever punished. Not in 62 years. No high profile punishments have occured. That woefully incompetent organization called the CBI hasn't solved one high profile case so far. They've accused Aarushi's father of killing his own daughter only to release the poor man after 10 days of torture. Who actually did it remains unknown. And will remain so- lost in piles of dusty papers- another name added to the list of crimes unsolved.

No one cares.

And we call this a democracy..

Democracy- one of the few things we can be really proud of- is in danger of becoming a banana republic. Obviously ordinary honest citizens have no chance to demand justice.


A democracy where for every Tom, Dick and Harry there has to be a consort of 10 cars at least. This disgusting laal batti culture will be our ruin. In the west- yes the same west we love to hate- MP's ride the metros. Judges cycle to work. But here- it would be blasphemous.


Speaking of blasphemy- nowhere have I seen more cynical, vindictive, degrading and malignant politics as in UP. Spending 6000 odd CRORES on an exercise of extreme megalomania (aka the statues in Lucknow) is yet to be surpassed I think. The way Mayawati has divided society in UP on the basis of caste has to be seen to be believed. A woman who didn't think twice before sanctioning such money to build statues of Dalit icons- she is (in my opinion) possibly the most poisonous snake Indian politics has spawned. Of course one can argue that for a woman who thought nothing of selling the Taj Mahal (you know, Bunty and Babli weren't too far from the truth) this is peanuts.

And that is why that state seems doomed to remain in darkness (literally- villagaes have no electricity).

And ironically, with a dalit CM, the dalits remain the most socially and economically backward class in UP. According to polls, dalits found nothing wrong with the eyesore she has erected in Lucknow. This is what has happened- we don't think as a country anymore- just as that bane of Indian society- caste. I'm not sure the use of the word dalit should be even allowed anymore. But to perpetuate that age old bias against dalits by a dalit herself smells of political shrewdness and cynicism.



To think that one day she might become Prime Minister- it is too ghastly to be imagined. And NOT because she is a 'dalit'- because she is who she is.



Of course if her adversary, the equally reprehensible Mulayam had his way, speaking English will be a thing of the past because one has to talk in Hindi only. This, from a man whose son has studied abroad.

Highest level of political discourse in UP: A clearly senile Rita Bahuguna flippantly challenging the honourable CM to get raped- yes that's right- raped. The response? Her house burnt down, her cars smashed and Bahuguna dumped in jail.

And the Karnataka Government's dreadful decision to derecognize schools which do not have compulsory Kannada mediums- who are they fooling? Their children- both legit and the other kind- go to the best convents here and abroad.

To think that there is no one to take action against people like the dubiously named Mr. Stalin- openly threatening a 'blood bath' if Prabhakaran is killed is just shocking. We knew these people got away (literally) with murder, but open declaration of terrorism? And not a pip from the powers that be.


Oh and don't go to pubs in Mangalore. Especially if you're a woman. Its 'immoral'. Thus speaketh the guardians of our morality- yes, the very hooligans who destroyed Babri Masjid.

And watch your hands if you're in Pilibhit. Their MP himself wants to change professions and become a butcher.



Give me the dynasty any day- atleast we can marry Venezuelans and still be Indian.

So what does one do to control this surge of helpless, impotent rage? What can one do to stop this utter destruction of our ethos? Is this the country my generation will inherit?

In the past when such anger took root, revolutions occured. Whether they were stained with the blood from the guillotine or wrapped in the white of peace didn't matter- they purged mercilessly the tyranny that stood in front of them. It took a long time, but it happened.

And now?
Is there any hope at all?
















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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

As it happens...

It's called 'commitment'.

By some.

A typical day nowadays begins with an almighty thrust- uh- no, that doesn't sound quite appropriate- with a reluctant push (not much better, but whatever..) out of the bed at 9:30am. Then, in the middle of eating breakfast one realises that one hasn't brushed one's teeth yet. AND one isn't shocked by this disgusting habit. One merely shrugs one's shoulders and continues with the food.

Then at around 11:30pm, one gets down to one's job- superfluously named 'entrance exam preparation'. Lunch at 12:30!!

In the middle of eating lunch, one remembers that one still hasn't brushed. This time- no shrug even- just eating.

Did I mention the internet? or 30 Rock? or YouTube? Well one is so interested in General knowledge that one watches Elaine Stritch on YouTube describing why she thinks the word 'fuck' is the best word ever- provided it isn't used in a sexual way. One nods sagely and ponders the deep inner meaning of her phrase- "I don't like fucking when it has anything fucking to do with fucking" at the same time marvelling at her intelligence and dare we say - genius.

Right- lunch has lasted a couple of hours and its back to studies- with a grandiose time table laid out in front according to which you're supposed to be studying post partum haemorrhage, but the baby hasn't even been conceived yet.

3:30- TEA TIME!!

More of YouTube and 30 Rock, and suddenly one realises that its been a while since one has bathed. So one goes to have a bath, under the shower and one realises that one's clothes are still on.

No more of that.

Now- the period of introspection. At 5:30. What have you done the whole day? Aren't you ashamed? (am I? ok, if you insist..) Everyone else is studying their ass off and aren't you falling behind? (hmmm) You'll be the only one in class not to get a seat- doesn't that scare you? (I wonder what's for dinner- hope its something good) You're disgusting! (I wish I could see season 4 of 30 Rock like right away..)

And then comes regret. And that frikkin' enemy of man's pursuit of happiness- guilt. And the promise that one will do better next time.

Why next time? Right now.

So one embarks on a furious search for things that'll make the guilt go away. Like a whirlwind swirling across the house leaving books, pages, pens et al in its wake. That wretched thing they call conscience keeps droning 'Study....that'll make you feel better' and one triumphantly answers- following the commandments of Ms Stritch, in a purely non sexual, innocent way- FUCK YOU!

And then one finds it.

Right there- glowing in the dim light.

One's only chance at salvation, one's only hope for redemption.

And a surefire way to show conscience the finger.

A Pizza Hut home delivery brochure.

Conscience: (in a low voice) Brush your teeth first....







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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Die! (a fallout of 25-6-2009 perhaps?)


Death is a curious thing.

It glorifies, it exonerates, it gives one a halo.

A halo you wouldn't have had when you were alive.

As a popular movie of the 90's famously declared in a profound voice- Death (pregnant pause) is only the beginning!

Can one achieve in death what one couldn't in life?

Maybe.

Strangely enough many icons have faced death- either literal or professional whilst they were young. And that has added- how do you say- mystique- to their lives. Right from Bjorn Borg (retired at 26 after winning an astounding 6 French Opens and 5 Wimbledons) to Marilyn Monroe, from Benazir Bhutto to Rajiv Gandhi, from Madhubala to Elvis and now Michael Jackson- and of course the greatest death of all- that of Christ- in many ways, their demise has been their final redemption.

That they weren't forgotten, that their deeds lived beyond them is the real proof of resurrection.


So perhaps Rachel Weisz and Arnold Vosloo were right...

Can you show me now that I would not be killed in vain?
Jesus Christ Superstar

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Obama says....

There's this new billboard around town.


And in these times, it takes a lot to shock me, but this one did.

It was only when I sat down to think about it, that I realised that shock was not the word for it.

Of course we're secular. Tolerant. Liberal even. How could you even suggest otherwise? Not in the minority-appeasement-to-prove-it kind of way, but we're just SECULAR. IN CAPITAL LETTERS.


And Obama- well what can one say? He's thunder and lightning, a patch of blue in an overcast sky.

And we hate Bush. We hate him for what he's done in Iraq and Afghanistan.


We love the Clintons. So what if he deigned to visit our humble land at the fag end of his presidency? He's a superstar. That's why we gave him a superstar's welcome. Why he even got to see 5 tigers in our jungles!


But we hate- no - detest Bush. So what if he's the one who looked at India as a separate entity? So what if he gave us the nuclear deal? So what if he for once looked at us as separate from the Indo-Pak rhetoric?


The world hates him. We hate him.


And we love Obama.


Barack Obama, that genius of words, the striking, charismatic leader of.....uh...let me think......USA.



But we have our priorities straight. We fawn over him because he gave a 'tough' message to our neighbourly neighbours. So what if in the very next sentence he pledged them 1.5 billion dollars? He quoted from the Holy Quran for crying out loud!


So here's what we'll do: use that as an advertisement for the religious text. Bah- its not opportunistic, its not taking people for granted. We're offering FREE copies for fuck's sake!


We're not at all insulted as INDIANS that a religion of our country has to be endorsed by an American president's words. As if that justifies its existence. Its not that abhorrent.


Never mind that the always-at-your-'service' saffron brigade- who sometimes want to be butchers and chop people's hands or sometimes want to destroy places of worship, or stop highly immoral acts like girls going to pubs, have been waiting for this sort of thing to get their juices flowing (pun unintended).



Don't we all remember what a furore a Danish cartoon caused all over the world a few years ago?

Of course in the disgusting debating society we're fast becoming, right wingers claim that if there's a poster popularising Hinduism, it is deemed saffronisation, but we condone this.
Because we're liberal! And not to forget the magic word- secular. How can you deride this action of ours?


Never mind that truly liberal people are upset at this.


Its ok...


Chalta hai! Not a big deal...

But enough of the religious fervour. Just put your butt to the grindstone and do your job.

And let us do ours.





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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Best job in the world?

This is a scene from my favourite movie..

video


Yeah- I know. Its epic, a masterpiece.

But spare a thought for the people who actually light the fires..

Hmmm- maybe working in oxygen depleted, perpetually snowing areas with ice for water, food only in the spring, having to constantly watch the hill in the distance and having to rush to the peak in minutes- no- seconds, not to mention altitude sickness and polycythemia isn't too bad of a life after all!

Kind of makes you rethink the phrase 'no benefits' doesn't it?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

God Save the Queen....

Reality television is a reality I wish would end.

End now, and be consigned to the flames of posterity so we could never find its ashes again.

But once in a while, it does throw up a surprise. Take a look..

video


The look on that chick's face is priceless!

Susan Boyle- 'Simple' Susan, now internet star and celebrity.

Yet, after coasting through to the finals of another ode to the shit that television is today, she suffered a surprising meltdown.

What with the media digging up her nickname 'Simple' Susan, the fact that she'd never been kissed (she was a fool to have revealed that to a world that abhorrs virginity) and the tremendous 'pressure' to win- she suffered a meltdown of sorts- even threatening to leave the show, unable to cope.


To be fair- she does have a huge voice. And in the finals- BIG SURPRISE! she was beaten by dance group Diversity.

You can watch their winning performance here- www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtwVfJqBfms

Whether Susan's looks played any part in the result will perhaps never be known- but as my mum- a fanatic of reality television- will testify, apparantly the 'best' ALWAYS loses.

All this for a chance to perform in front of the queen.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the 83 year old monarch would have much preferred to hear Boyle, rather than try to understand the point of Diversity's performance. Though of course, Charles would probably like Diversity- it might be his only chance to be king if the dance beats somehow induce an arrythmia in dear old Lizzie's 83 year old heart....

But the way Susan was handled in the media, with reports of her losing her cool, of being oxygen deprived at birth et al raises questions about both the media's scruples and the meaning of reality television. A simple village woman rising to dizzying heights of fame in her middle age and then ending up in therapy is hardly an advertisement for this sort of thing.

Then again, by now she's probably got a million dollar contract and a US tour- so I'll shut the hell up!

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Spectacles and the Whore

Every house has them.


Spectacles I mean. I suspect every house has a whore too, but that's not the issue here.


We have TWO!


And they're consumate professionals.


Now Spectacles, is somewhat of an anachronism in today's times. Public decadence but personal morality is her motto. And she makes no bones of that fact. I suppose it is easy to be liberal with outsiders.


It was another one of the tedious parties the younger generation is frequently subjected to- a crowd full of people I didn't know kept expressing shock that I'd grown up since the last time they saw me. You know, one would think that in 20 years, the 'baby' is bound to grow a little....


Anyway there's nothing these specimens like than to talk about than W.... No. 1. Fishy (as she was called) had been spotted in a prominent Bangalore hotel with a strange man who was not her husband.


Eyes positively popping with an ill concealed mixture of glee and dismay, mouth foaming, Spectacles' sister described every minute disgusting detail of the rendezvous- from the actual meeting to the intertwining of things. Spectacles' eyebrows were rising and soon they had disappeared into her hair. The 'child' sniggered in the corner and got shocked looks from all present. "What?," I asked, " Its nice listening to a bit of good old fashioned family erotica.."


Needless to say, I didn't see the end of the party.


Skip to 2:00 am.


Then we awoke to the incessant tunes to Mary had a little lamb- an exasperating excuse for a doorbell.

Lo and behold- it was Fishy herself.

And she wasn't alone.

They wanted shelter for the night. Spectacles couldn't refuse her own niece could she, however slutty she was?

And so it was- that in the home of ultra moralist Spectacles, Fishy spent a night with- well you know...

Personal morality.

Yeah, right..






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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Vive la France!


Tears and vodka.

Strange combination one would think.

What is it about supporting someome else? Someone who you've never spoken to, someone with whom you have no relationship with....
And yet, we do so- despite all the cribbing about others' money making. We do so because we want to see someone succeed.

And when they achieve something historic, the tears come.

7th June 2009 will be the day tennis changed. The day when one man against all odds pushed himself to the limit to etch his name in tennis history on the treacherous clay of Roland Garros.
It was also the day when sitting thousands of miles away from Paris, a 23 year old for perhaps the first time came of age.

Came of age in realizing that thats what life was about- picking oneself up from dust and ashes and climbing once again to glory.
There are few moments in life when time stands still- few moments when one understands what life really is.

And so when, on the 7th of June 2009, I watched Robin Soderling's ball land in the net and Roger Federer fall to the ground in joy, life took on a new meaning.
And no, its not an exaggeration.
Here was a man, hailed by his peers and the world as perhaps the best ever- a man who had endured 3 defeats on the same stage to the same rival, still hungry for more. It was this- an undying thirst for excellence and an ability to withstand great pressure that differentiated a man from the boys.

For none of us can quite imagine what it is to feel the pressure of the world- the pressure of history, the pressure of destiny- to be the greatest ever. It is something most of us will never know. But to pick oneself up from the ashes and rise again shows remarkable resilience and fortitude.

So yes, this match changed me- for the better. The dawning of a realization that it was not the past that mattered- the future is where we should look to....

Its rare to have true role models but thats what makes sport so astonishing- one on one combat. And a true role model is one who never ever gives up, who goes on trying until he succeeds...

Tears and vodka.

For that was what I will one day tell my kids I had when history was made.....

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ode to the Family Adams





Disclaimer: The characters in this blog are almost purely fictional.



Staring...


I can feel it- the hair on the back of my neck quiver, something kicks me in the a** as I feel her eyes upon me.


In this case the 'she' being mum, more's the pity..


Family's annoying. Clingy. And unbearable.


Contradiction becomes the name of the game in this irritable, irritating house of self styled intellectuals- this ode to the tower of Babel. If ever there were a way to catch useless random thoughts floating about in a house, crumple it and hurl it at the first person one sees, I'd patent it right away.


Oh the staring....


In lumbers SR, his pot belly preceding him, trying its best to rip his T Shirt and nearly succeeding. He's been to the gym apparantly.. His nephew (ahem ahem) snorts and then hurridly coughs to avoid being caught...


And oh the staring....


This time its me. I'm staring.


At Pot belly. Only lower. Because adorning....nah...clinging to his not-so-light frame is a black trackpant with 'licence to kill' embroidered on a pocket. Did I mention its mine? Right now, one can see both OO and 7 clearly. Gross!


'Can I have a....' he asks.


A pair of spectacles looks up- slowly, unhurridley.....