Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New year and all that.

It is the height of all that is cliched in the world to blog about the year gone by. Meandering and frankly useless ruminations about the constantly churning vile political turbine, about yet another Bachchan who merits the 'actor of the year' award, of another smug looking Aamir Khan basking in the triumph of another movie glorifying poverty and of millions of reality TV shows coming up with increasingly desperate attempts to win the TRP crown at midnight on 31st (I'm convinced that the day isn't far off when 'Sex on the beach' ceases to be a mere cocktail)- bombard us every year. All this in the vain hope that there is some family out there with a tired housewife, a broke father and two irritated kids spending their new year's eve in front of the idiot box, all with unfulfilled visions of a better, sexier new year's celebration.

It's all the pressure isn't it? The pressure of HAVING to enjoy oneself. Of making sure you've had a wilder, crazier New Year than anyone else. I feel it right now in fact writing this post- because I want it to be hilarious, poignant, touching, introspective, meaningful and deep all at once. Which obviously isn't going to happen. It'll be another new year blog post lost in the oblivion of thousands of bloggers- teenage girls with bursting hormones and cheating boyfriends, the Mark Zuckerberg wannabes of the world, some dark drunk failed author convincing himself that his time hasn't really passed, the lecherous pedophiles prowling cyberspace for another victim-

My blog post is going to be one among these fine specimens of humanity. Ah well.

But if you stop and look into the stillness and darkness of a whole year gone by, of another dendrochronological ring added to the trunk of our lives, you will find certain experiences that stand out leaving indelible impressions.

I am currently posted on official duty in Sabarimala- a place apparently as holy as-well- comparisons elude me for once. And I have probably not a grain of religion in my body, except from the interested curiosity one has when one looks at a vaguely interesting social pattern of behavior from a safe vantage point. Yet I deigned [;)] to ascend the hill amidst the filth and muck- make no mistake there's a lot of it- suppressing the skepticism to a minimal trickle instead of the usual downpour. It helped I was accompanied-nay, led by someone unquestioning, full of faith and probably infinitely better than me. The ascent itself wasn't hard, we did it quickly.

Right on the top where the shrine stands in its modest beauty, it is absolutely- words fail to describe the ABSOLUTE FILTH there. I remember walking barefoot using only my heel and the tip of my greater toes throughout, my face contorting in the agony of inquisition. And Praise the Lord and all that but with all due respect he sits in a golden altar with golden steps and beautiful clothes. With fair maiden waiting patiently for him a little distance away. Why the devotees need to wade through the foul to prove their piety is something I'll never get.

And yet, there was a moment when I stood, clad in Jeans and a T Shirt outside a run down house looking at it with all the curiosity of a tourist, that I looked around me. In one panoramic view, it was as if I saw the world- the run down buildings, jauntily lit shops, people struggling to see the deity, angry superior looking priests thwarting yet another determined devotee, a huge gathering of black clad devotees chanting loudly and out of tune, dozens of people hobbling past stewing in their own putrid sweat, fires lit outside the temple and a pool with a fountain. And it was here, amidst all this that there was a moment approaching epiphany. I'll dial it down. A moment of acceptance. That this is where I belong. That this country is with all its faults and muck and nonsense, mine. That although I'm dressed in branded clothes right down to my personals, I have no hesitation or embarrassment in claiming these people as my brethren. And if blind unquestioning and unwavering faith be their fault, if the supremely filthy be their calling card then so be it. I will never be one of them but they still figure in the larger set of us the (thankfully) affluent urbanites.

To not believe does not mean to not admire. For to really decide which is easier- unwavering faith or rational questioning- one needs the many gifts of Cicero or Socrates or Vyasa. Is it easier to quell all questioning, to suppress independent thought and put all one's hopes and belief into one person- (divinity being a matter of opinion)- or is it easier, say even lazier to constantly doubt and question- for otherwise there would have been no religion, no festivals, no quaint traditions, no moral fibre. There would have been science yes, the unbridled joy of reason, but no Hampi and no Benares.

Midnight on 31st will be a swirl of diverse complicated imagery. From brilliant blue bathroom tiles, sharks and turtles, a moment at Cochin airport, the first traumatic duty, an argument on the roadside, the date, the girl, two movies back to back, the ugly rash ridden mangy sickness-to Natalie Portman's supreme moment of realization, the birthdays, wine, wine and sugarless iced tea on Christmas Eve, hats and motorcycles, the stalling of a car at Edapally junction and the random yet unforgettable late nights with friends- all will coalesce in one gigantic eruption of midnight memory.

The huge dilemma on New Year's Eve- Who is hotter- Kate Winslet or Natalie Portman? Winslet's 'The dead are still dead' or Portman's 'You want their names??'. Earth shattering decisions these. I mean why worry about medicine or corruption or family or world peace- when I have to decide which of these women gains the honour of being my new favourite? And don't even get me started on who will dominate the 2011 tennis season.

2011- Federer or Nadal? Common sense says the latter but sport is like constantly changing bedfellows- each new year is the first time. So I'm going to start ratchetting up the non existent tension and hope for a Federer Nadal final in all 4 grand slams, with Federer winning all of them! Granted Roland Garros won't be easy- BUT ITS JUST A MATTER OF THE PERFECT SERVE, FOREHAND, BACKHAND, INCH PERFECT VOLLEYS, APPROACH AND PASSING SHOTS AND NO UNFORCED ERRORS. Who said tennis was difficult?

People make life what it is and this past year I've met people I never thought I would. Or could. Three in particular- C, S and A have affected me like few others. C for his absolute friendship come rain or shine. The discovery of a kindred spirit is a rare occurrence but as I've mentioned before, C isn't even 'like family' or 'like a brother' or any of those oft used, oft sullied terms. He just is. Family/brother. And yes blood is thicker than water and all that but sometimes you find blood outside your home. And then there's no difference.

As for S, he's the Fool to my Lear- endearing, entertaining, entirely lovable- and occasionally, although I hate to admit it and will probably never live it down, capable of thought that approaches wisdom.

And the joy of A is in the being. 'Nuff said.

The first time I saw a woman naked was when I was 12. (Reference- Titanic. Kate. Necklace. Voila!) And my Grandma was with me. And she said- Kartik, that is what a woman looks like. Family is one thing. You have to love them and care and go through those motions but the difference with a grandmother, and a cool grandmother is that you really cant do without all those things. And cut the sentimental crap she would say, her scotch swirling in her glass. Have a drink and be happy!

Family is as always brilliant. The Mother. The Father. The Sister. The Grandmother. The Grandfather. The Dog. All without whom I'd be lost. The merry flags on the arctic wilderness of my calendar.

About politics, who's less corrupt than whom, who has murdered less people, who slept with whom, who won what award and who the so called 'Indian of the Year' is- I couldn't- actually, won't give a damn. They aren't worth it.

The others are.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bolt from the Blue

A quaint Japanese woman lives in Lankanfinolhu for 10 months of the year.

She can read, write and swim and may or may not have children (I never asked)

She is married to a dutchman, doesn't earn all that much, visits family in Japan or Amsterdam once a year depending on which place she wants to go.

And yes she has a name, but I don't know what it is.

And I? I'm a doctor, studying under some of the most learned people I know, earning decently , with a family reasonably well off, amazing friends..........

But at this moment, I'd give anything to be that quaint lady from Japan, married to a dutchman (figuratively).

Because the lasting image I'll have of her is her body suspended in the ocean 40 feet below the surface, hands held against her chest as if in prayer, with the flippers on her feet gracefully cleaving the water.

And me- only slightly above- thinking Damn this is going to end soon!

And it is in that moment- that revelation strikes me with a blinding flash with all the ferocity of a bullet hitting its target- This was what I was born to do.

The diving session ends all too soon. Surrounded by huge moray eels, giant turtles and a riotous festival of colour, time almost becomes irrelevant at the coral reef. Only on ascending to the choppy ocean surface does regret set in.

The quaint Japanese woman looks exhilarated. At my 'success' she called it. At being able to dive with no problems. We set out to the dive school and she says something that makes my insides lurch.

'I'm so lucky to be doing what I love.'

How it must be to feel like that I can only imagine. For there- underwater, with no means of talking, where your survival depends on an oxygen cylinder in your back and the mercy of sharks and manta rays around you- it is there that I finally know- that this is where I want to be and this is what I want to do.

That medicine for me is wonderful in its complexity, but intellectual stimulation is not what I seek anymore. That medical school has killed whatever enthusiasm I had for the subject- was it ever really passion? Can one really enjoy having to make decisions everyday about another human's life (too grandiose- perhaps) or health? Knowing that your quest for knowledge is not for the sake of knowledge itself, but because you want to know enough so you do not screw up?

The Japanese woman is beside herself with excitement because she saw a turtle. A turtle. And I can understand why. Because there in the watery depths surrounded by life, by the graceful giant turtles swimming around you, there amidst life so infinitely varied- constant only in its continuous change- it is there that -dare I say- spirituality exists.

And tomorrow I go back to the hospital- to a life full of panic and deadlines never met- a life of endless academic pursuit.

All the while knowing I'd be happier- much happier- earning less but diving more.

While the nameless Japanese woman takes the next visitor to Lankanfinolhu down into the waters where she can glide once more amongst those she loves the most.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sickness vows

It's been so long since my previous post that I suspect I've forgotten how to write- at least that's what I call this messed up jumble of words that make up this blog. Since I last wrote about buses and Sheldon Cooper, momentous things have happened- not least the fact the Sheldon now has a girlfriend. At least at the end of Season 3. And Sheldon isn't the only one (How my subtleties amuse me, convincing me more and more of my brilliance. Oh and they frequently make me puke in their obvious connotations. You see self deprecating humour is my strong suit too)!

The term 'in sickness and health' struck me as a curious phrase when I was lying in hospital last week undergoing my latest chemotherapy cycle. [LONG PAUSE] Fine, it wasn't chemo- 'twas viral fever to be more- well, accurate. 'An ugly rash ridden mangy creature' is what one of my best friends called me and that was what I had/have become.

Emotionally moved by the above mentioned love and caring shown by my friends, when I got admitted I must admit I felt- and I have to bow down to quotidian common parlance here, much as I hate doing so- Awesome!

Visitors have this advantage of superiority. They have already in my opinion atoned for some sin by visiting a sick person (which, lets face it is a really nice thing to do) and to add to the nicety overdose, they usually bring fruits when all you want is chinese or the next Kate Winslet movie. I had this one- pardon my language- absolutely asinine visitor everyday who came to see how I was and couldn't stop giggling and touching herself. I'm all for flirting but NOT with the cleaning lady. Unless of course it is J Lo from Maid in Manhattan- a film I regrettably endured on hospital TV.

The other type of visitor is the all knowing type- who comes and advises you about a disease which you already know about. But you respect seniority and nod along and pretend not to know when he tells you after a great deal of thought and looking at charts- 'It is viral fever'. 'Is it?' one asks all wide eyed and filled with insincere admiration at the phenomenal diagnostic skills of the hospital hawk.

Then there are those whose job it is to visit, bestow a dazzling smile and leave. Let's not begrudge them their daily bread.

There are those with whom you are good friends but don't get to see them too often because they are caught up doing all the work you were supposed to and really have no time to visit. But it is cool when they do.

Needles. En masse. In a river of blood flowing into my mouth and out through my nostrils. Now that my dreams were beginning to resemble some sort of gross Salvador Dali orgasmic thought process, it was time to get out of prison.

Whether one really loves their better half in 'sickness and health' I have no clue- is it possible to have affection for an ugly mass of tissue? It probably is.

Because it has to be said- that the three friends who visited brought only cheer. Best friends have this way about them and damn do they do a great job of caring.

So yeah- and much as I hate myself for saying the word- whatever!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Winds of Change

Self styling oneself as an 'observer' has one obvious BIG advantage- it allows you to sit back and inwardly snicker at the things people say and do. And then you can pretend to yourself that it is vital information that'll someday pay off when you write the next Catcher in the Rye- that one day you'll look back at this voyeuristic habit and thank the stars that you have it.

That day hasn't come yet for me. Neither have I yet stumbled on the next genius idea after Harry Potter.

In this post, I'm going to write about 'my' generation- children born in the late 80's and who grew up in the 90's. In India. The 90's were for us the time when we transitioned into mordernity. When not only were western markets famously made accessible to us by Manmohan Singh Part 1/2, but what was triumphantly denounced 'western culture' by our culture-vultures invaded. When our parents gasped in horror the moment Monica and Chandler saw each other naked under the sheets and said that their friendship was effectively ruined.

And so it has come to pass that a lot (if not most) of us follow Prison Break, 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, the ubiquitous F.R.I.E.N.D.S, etc etc more than our parents followed the insufferable Swabhimaan, Tamas and Buniyaad. And a lot (if not most) of us have surprisingly- almost European- liberal views about sex and 'hook ups'. And I am part of the generation that proudly bandies words like global village and intellectualism to justify our choices.

All of which is true- let's face it. The hawks who go on crying themselves hoarse about western culture 'destroying' India through Valentine's Day, The Da Vinci Code and late night clubbing are dinosaurs- and they know it.

But although it kills me to say it, this endorsement of the western way needs to have its limits. And not in terms of clothes. Or TV. Or Movies. Or porn. Or booze. Or XXXX. Those things come under the 'personal details not to be given out' heading. Fair enough.

But the kind of blind euphoria Indians in India go into when they see Barack Obama on TV is inexplicable. Especially we- the children of the 90's go into raptures. He's going to bring about 'change' we say- in a foolishly misguided belief that he is going to save the world. Even today- when his international stature hangs on the thin thread of his oratory ability, if you look past the obvious- and undeniably great- black metaphor, the fact remains that foreign policy has returned to the hawkish pro Pakistan roots that the Democrats have always been mired in. The man is apt to make statements that on the surface seem full of warmth and non partisan haloes- like 'I love Pakistan because I once had a Pakistani roommate', but lurking under the gloss is a clearer roadmap visible to any discerning non fanboy mind that American policy has shifted westward.

This isn't meant to be a political blog. It is just because I know of people who gush over the man's charisma, his command over language and his being black. True, true and oh boy- true. Look under the wrapping, and Pakistan is revelling in millions and millions of dollars given by the agent of change.

I am probably in the minority who actually longs for the Bush days. That man- whatever his faults- gave a truly historic, a truly great gift to us in the form of the civil nuclear agreement.

I suspect- at the risk of trivialising issues- that it is the same attitude that made us like the aforesaid mentioned TV programmes- a promise of greater intellectual reward if you will- that makes many of us- Resident Indians coo over the US President. Somehow we've convinced ourselves that it is hep and the in thing to say how (to use an alreadly obscenely overused word) amazing- he is. It is pop culture now you see. The same attitude that leads people to orgasm when he greets the Muslim world in Arabic, but ignores the actual working- and illuminating- statements of Hillary Clinton.

It happens in India too- with suave, Twitter using verbal diarrhoeaics like Shashi Tharoor. Just because he uses Twitter and speaks good- maybe even great- English doesn't make him cool. Cool would be him casting off his garrulous frivolity and not making ghastly mistakes in Sharm-al-Sheikh mentioning Baluchistan in a document that is going to come back and bite us in the arse whenever we deal with our oh-so-friendly western neighbours. But no- the 'support' galvanised for poor Tharoor focussing his energies on cribbing about flying economy- cattle class I mean- and possibly having clandestine links to the IPL franchise seems to say- excuse him because he's sophisticated.

Codswallop. Or considering that Monseiur Tharoor has given new bovine meaning to the phrase 'If pigs could fly (economy)'- Cattlecrap.

Oh and by the way- I can't get enough of The Big Bang Theory. How effing amazing is Sheldon Cooper?

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ab Bus!

How do you spell a sound?

That was the first question I asked myself this evening as I boarded an air conditioned bus- Vayu Vajra -loosely (and badly) translated as 'Throne of the Wind'- at the Bangalore Airport. Clutching Cool Blue- a drink I'd long coveted but never got down to having, I settled myself in a window seat and wondered. Words like tch, humph, duh, tut- tut, eh- all sounds we make to express ourselves- are perfectly captured in the spellings of those words. I remember marvelling at tch in particular- whoever came up with that spelling did a wonderful job in adding the t. There must be a method to coming up with these spellings one would think.

No one has yet managed to spell the sound one makes while sucking the last drops of liquid from a glass of crushed ice. A sound that never fails to annoy and frequently infuriate, for people of my ilk who love that sound, we do not have a properly spelt word for it. And that was the task I set myself aboard BIAS 11.

One never really gets used to buses I think. Being cooped up in an enclosed space with utter strangers and sharing a common destiny until you or they disembark, or the bus blows up, or has an accident where either all live or all die or some live and some don't, never quite weighs easily on anyone- no matter how nonchalant they are. And especially if it is air conditioned and comfortable, one's thoughts invariably turn to different things.

Shhh! could be a possible sound for it I propose to myself. Eh. It does not accurately depict the gurgling noise water makes when it is pulled by vacuum through a straw into one's mouth. Besides it is an exhaled word which could not possibly capture inhalation.

I watch as an interesting mix of people tumble into the bus. First up is a girl with someone who is presumably her boyfriend. They have the hesitancy of a new romance- not without charm in its naivete. As there are no other seats, the guy sits down next to me and the girl in front of him.

Now to most guys- barring the ones who have attained sexual sainthood at 24- the sight of a couple stirs up a curious mixture of thought. There is a moment of wistfulness- memories of past glories, flashes of what could have been, what should have been - all pass by in a blur of images- a moment of weakness we hastily chastise ourselves for. This then gives way to scorn and superiority- pretending we have more important things going on in our life and that women are naught but a waste of time right now. All this while we know that deep down we want what they have with a girl we'll never get. That last sentence is a betrayal of my race- by acknowledging that guys too are privy to flashes of envy when it has nothing to do with our careers. Because NEVER do we acknowledge this feeling- not even to ourselves.

Swiiissshhh? Tch! That does not seem to work either. At all. Too disconnected from the spirit of the thing. Besides it is a word that already exists, so it will not be recognised (by whom is a question that we won't ask right now).

There is a cacophony of sounds in the bus. A middle aged gentleman has just discovered the joy there is in rhythmically slapping one's hand against one's thigh while listening to music. Either that or he is practising some masochistic ritual listening to adult erotica. I really hope it is the former. From behind comes a loud snore- like an elephant with its trunk blocked with mucus. There is the beep-beep of someone getting a message. It goes in an astonishing rhythm- Snore-clap-msg-snore-clap-msg-snore-clap-msg. On and on till the regularity is broken by the sudden cutting of of a snore- like when you realise in your sleep that you're snoring and try to stop suddenly.

An air hostess sits with perfect posture in one of the seats- her eyes full of nothingness.

The bus conductor comes to collect ticket fare. The guy next to me knows only Hindi and in a hesitant low tone asks for a ticket to Sadashivnagar. The conductor's eyebrows disappear into his hair and with a faint curl of the lip he answers. What I wonder must go through his mind when he has to use Hindi or English. Does he inwardly laugh at the pitiful tourists lost in the maze of another tongue twisting South Indian language? Does he shake his (figurative) head at how Kannadigas are being depleted from this great state of his? And does he plot that one day he will reclaim his state from the invaders?

By which time he has moved on to a nice old man in a beige shirt talking on the phone. I'm cringing listenting because he is valiantly ploughing thorough 'the Hindi', in the process conforming to the worst South Indian stereotype there is- the Southie who speaks bad Hindi. Through endless maine bukaar ta and maine jaldi aaya, he finally ends with a triumphant humma gar ko jara hoo and puts me out of my misery and my clandestine South Indian hating self breathes a sigh of relief.

Sheeesshh? Tut-Tut. Pitiful. There has to be a 'c' somewhere I think. The spelling does not work without a 'c'.

Particle physics is being discussed at length by two guys right in the front. They seem to be good friends.

In the reflection in the window to my left I see my neighbour leaning forward and whispering something in his girlfriend's ears. She throws her head back and laughs. A twinge of envy notwithstanding, I force myself to read my book- Orhan Pamuk's The White Castle.

Finally my stop arrives. The particle physics blokes and I get off the bus. As I get off and the bus passes me, I see the girl's face in profile- in my vacated seat. She's laughing again with her head thrown back- with the guy's hand around her shoulder. And next to me, the particle physics blokes have reached some sort of agreement to the problem they were discussing. Raising a mock toast, 'To Hari and Ehsaan, best friends forever!' they shout in corny fashion.

And I realise- to my self loathing embarassment- that even in an unremarkable, soon-to-be-forgotten bus trip, some things strangely never change. That even in today's cynical, modernist times, the same old love and friendship are merry flags on the arctic wilderness of our calendars.

Schwirrsch. I think that's it.

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Monday, March 22, 2010


Let me state for the record- I absolutely loathe American Idol. Except for Kelly Clarkson. And I absolutely detest Britain's Got Talent except for the one moment where Susan Boyle was discovered.
The very word 'Idol' is a little insulting. To christen someone 'Indian Idol' or 'American Idol' smacks a little of a smug belief that we have no other choice but to accept these people as our 'idols'. Because if the TV honchos had their way, we wouldn't want idols who weren't from the mess of Reality TV.
Yes- that does sound like commie propoganda. And I was just being nasty- I don't even mean it. So I'll stop that.

Clarkson's Addicted from her in my opinion soon-to-be-iconic Breakaway album reconfirmed what I'd long believed- that real music is good old ROCK. Dark, addictive and thrilling. And although the-well 'chick' song Breakaway is obscenely popular, it is Addicted where you here the full vocal range of Ms. Clarkson. And it is stunning.

To any fan of Retro rock - and we seem to be a dying breed- shows like American Idol are like being force fed Norbit or Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag. Nauseatingly sweet with cherubic people converting all genres into bland imitations of Whitney Houston or Celine Dion- this monstrously popular show goes above our heads. 'Where's character?' we snobbishly ask, revelling in the halo of the (insufferable) know-it-alls that we think we are. 'Why isnt there more emphasis on vocals rather than making it into a fashion show where everyone has to look good?'

Reality TV is- in the words of Simon Cowell- complete and utter rubbish. Any self respecting person methinks would find something else to see, or smoke.

Note- the word 'methinks'. If only 90% of the TV viewing public thought so too. Ah the joy....

Anyway- all these problems I have with what is REALLY wrong with the world notwithstanding, I caught the repeat telecast of the top 12 of American Idol Season 9 today. And if you're wondering how I know such details despite claiming to hate Idol and never follow it- well I did read up a little for this post so I'm going to pretend I'm the only authority on music I know and say what I think. Not about everyone, but some which I'll remember.

Why you may ask. Why did I see it? The answer is quite simple really- The Rolling Stones.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards may be overhyped to the point of hysteria, but there is no denying that they were probably one of the greatest (although such sweeping statements make little sense) if not the greatest rock bands ever. And I read somewhere online about it being 'ROLLING STONES NIGHT' instead of just 'Rolling Stones Night' and I thought- How bad could it really get?

Turned out- it could and it did. They murdered The Rolling Stones. Except for two of them.

Michael Lynch- the 'Big Mike' of reality (cf The Blind Side) Sang Miss You. But not before we had a mandatory faux emotional clip- easily one of the most detestable things about Idol. I mean come on. There is no need to concoct a 'story' about every participant- in a pompous cynical attempt to sell the American dream. I mean isn't it remotely possible that every singer does not have some tale of woe and unbearable struggle behind him? And from what I hear from people who are devoted Idol followers, he was auditioning when his wife was in labour. Now how that is admirable escapes me, it really does. I just don't get it.

Anyway- He actually began Miss You pretty decently with the almost falsetto tone- and then it ended up being some amateurish copy of Jagger. He made it into an R&B song. WHY? And not in a nice way. And the dancing- oh the dancing. It was so bad that you actually wanted to put him out of his misery. Or in a Medical College Hostel to rag.

It went on and on- an endless parade of mediocrity with the cold murders of classics like Play With Fire, It's All Over Now, Ruby Tuesday, and Gimme Shelter. I know it is a reality show- but these guys are so shudderingly mediocre I don't think I would buy an album of theirs even if they paid me to do it. And one among these is supposed to be the next big thing in music? Well- figures. If Taylor Swift can sweep the Grammys, anything's possible.

But then came this girl Siobhan Magnus with Paint it Black. One of those songs I can fall down and worship you know. And that girl did something with it that was truly stunning. An incredible performance- with the drama, the acting and an incredible voice with the kind of vocal acrobatics only great singers can do. I think I can actually see her doing any type of song with the range she has. Including the scream. While not perfect, it was still pretty darned impressive. Hers is an album I might actually buy.

Wild Horses was blah, Under my Thumb- grotesque as a reggae number (again- WHY?).

Angie was interestingly good. Almost achingly so. Aaron Kelly was spot on with this song.

You Can't Always Get What You Want was actually pretty solid. That's all. No more, no less.

Oh and the judges. Randy Jackson seems to have precisely three words in his oh-so-proud-of-it-it's-ghetto!! vocabulary- Dawg, Hot, Pitchy. And he seems to use them with grating regularity.

I mean this in the nicest possible way- Kara Dioguardi should be given to Sauron or Lord Voldemort as a chew toy. The woman's crazy. No two ways about it. Talking about 'feeling' the song and 'You are too young to know what the Vietnam war's about'. It's a song for crying out loud. She cannot judge it on its merits- she's always looking for subtext. Which even if the singer has, she is too dense to detect. All you get is a condescending nod. Somebody fix her antennas and put her out to pasture.

To be fair, Ellen Degeneres was hilarious. Her 'People like me- Blondes- don't like good looking guys' bit was really funny if only in an obvious kind of way.

Simon and Siobhan Magnus were the only good things about the show. You get a sneaky feeling that Simon is really a 70's rock person too. And he didn't like this death march of that genre.

I do not mention Ryan Seacrest because we talk only of people who count. Not those lucky people who earn millions being silly and forgettable.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fear and Lust

A look of disgust invariably crosses my face when I stand in front of the entrance. What with a glass door, subtly lit veneer walls, the depressingly dull blue stripes on the seat covers and frosted glass in the distance-all signs that scream SUCCESS- the first thought that crosses my mind is Dude this guy must be rich! And not you-and-me rich. More of the fancy car driving, spoiling-the-child kind of rich achiever that makes me sick with the way people have commercialised their talents. No- that isn't right, there's a simpler, altogether more descriptive word for it- sick with ENVY.

Well, I snobbishly think to myself- Atleast I'm an intellectual. I have Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk's celebrated novel My Name is Red in my hand- holding it casually with my finger inside making sure everyone can see the title printed in big red letters. To hell with the air conditioning, the pretty-(actually radiant)- secretary biting her pencil trying to figure out the supremely difficult task of who goes in next, all the time blissfully unaware of the fact that her blouse is too tight and things are playing peek-a-boo. It's then- in the midst of this hide and seek that I wonder why she's playing these devious sexual games with me here of all the places. And it's then that I hear a disapproving cough coming from the toady mouth of an overdressed, overweight high society type who gives me the head to toe look. Cool, I think- maybe she's a cougar checking me out- and then her upper lip curls in disdain when she sees that I'm wearing fading, ancient jeans, a dirty grey T shirt and Woodland footwear so discoloured that it's original colour is unrecognizable.

I sit down between my would be cougar lover and the secretary who's obviously so into me that she knows her top button's open and the- well- twins seem to be much bigger than when I last saw them. She's had a boob job done just for me! If that isn't true love, if that isn't the sweet, innocent love that lit doyen Keats- or was it Playboy- wrote about, then I don't know what is.

Well I think- maybe this visit isn't going to be so bad. I've found someone who's ready to enhance herself for me- that can never be a bad thing.

Absolute power is terrible. There are places where you are so completely under someone's control- and this I don't mean in a wink-wink way- that you just can't do a fucking thing. All you can do is to lie down and take it. Even the Queen of England has to submit body and soul to this man once a year. He enjoys men, women, children, virgins- there's no end to his escapades. And what's worse, even in these days of laws and civilization, this ancient profession exists. And thrives.

And then the moment of truth arrives. It's time for me to get mine. The frosted door opens and there he stands- a balding, short paunchy man- the same man who just had a session with my sister the previous day- and he points to me and beckons. The secretary gets up. My eyes travel down to discover to my horror that she's pregnant. And that I'd been ogling a pregnant much married woman.

Fear. That's what it is. Fear of the unthinkable. Fear- that makes you think all kinds of stuff.

And I go in. And the door closes.

And it is then that the dentist hands me a glass of water and says Rinse.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Humping Her Highness

I am Thomas Cromwell, Ist Earl of Essex- advisor to that oversexed lump of a man called Henry VIII. It is 1535 and sitting in front of me is that androgynous daughter of his- Cate Blanchett- oops- Elizabeth.

'Tis a furious arguement that hath ramifications so vast that they shattereth the most profound Shakespearean monolgue.

Liz/Cate- Tom, I cannot say I care for your technique. You don't lift your leg at the right time and it comes banging me in the midlands.
Thomas Cromwell/Me- Midlands?

Liz- You know, the foliage.

Tom- Your Highness, I fail to comprehend.

Liz- You fool- down there. The south pole, the netherworld, the antarctic- you pleibians have so many unsavoury words for it, I never know which one to use.

Tom- Ah, your Highness I understand. But all that is too complicated. It is a new age now. An age of sophistication and discovery. Now we call it- dramatic pause- 'the pussy'.

Liz- A cat? Why?? -long pause- Well my cat doesn't like the way you ram your lollipop into it. You need to learn how to lift your leg when you feed the cat. Let me show you how to hump the hostess.

And she lifted up a stubby leg to demonstrate- and it was unusually short, disgustingly hairy, with blue veins all over it- which was strange because Cate Blanchett- who is also Elizabeth- shaves her legs and armpits.

Ah- there is that John Webster dude behind the Queen- He points at her and whispers- Mine eyes dazzle she died young...- which is peculiar because he was born in 1612 and wrote The Duchess of Malfi in 1623....

Now I see KD standing there shaking his head in disgust. And this girl's smile over and over again, which is decidedly odd because the Queen of Hearts had thundered Off with her head! long ago. Ah yes. I remember now- the Parisian guillotine still had Marie Antoinette's hair sticking to it- what with the slow drip drip of blood falling to the wooden planks below, it aimed wrong and cut off this other girl's head above the smile.

But that smile- haunting, beautiful and forever real- doesn't leave my head. It keeps bothering me again and again.

And now I'm on the floor of the bathroom- violently vomiting into the toilet- there's undigested food, bile and blood. And all the while that smile in front of me...

Then there's a vibrating noise. Which is odd 'coz my sex toy cabinet doesn't have a vibrator. Duh- only women and Bobby Darling use them.

It's a phone.

And then there was light. It came flooding back to me. An explanation even Freud couldn't have given. I know what this is.

A dream I had on 24-02-2010 at 11:00am.
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Of Medical School and Role Models

The whole role model question has always been a little strange and frankly embarrassing to me. Strange because I've never aspired to be like anyone. Ever. And embarrassing because my answer to the dreaded question- Don't you look up to your dad or grand-dad? (both of whom by the way are super achievers)- has always been a nervous, fidgety silence- with me hoping to flee or die before I admit 'no'.

Joining medicine didn't help matters- medicine is a minefield waiting to explode and kill you almost every step of the way. To add to it the whole perception of doctors as serious boring individuals is- and I hate to admit it- largely true. I mean sure there are nice people and gifted students as there are in any profession, but to come across people with definite character and balls (pun unintended) is a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack. And this is particularly in medicine because on the whole- we're geeks, let's face it. Geeks conditioned to plough through book after book and soon you go on cruise control. There are those inevitable times when people marvel at the size of your textbook and you show off with it- but when the studying part begins it's no big deal. And that's not boasting- it's just how it is. You flip pages and whatever sticks, sticks. Obviously whatever doesn't stick is the only thing that's asked but then you are beyond caring- you become fatalistic.

And this attitude soon rubs off on character as well. Which is why it takes something special- some special kick in your arse (which you have to administer to yourself ) to be different- to maintain individuality.

I guess its easier to say this now that I'm done with the first stage of my education- a sort of retrospective look back. And curiously the two role models I at last have are two of my classmates. Not the great doctors I've known nor the Nobel laureates I'm fortunate to have met, just two 24 year olds who've taught me more about life that all the super talented docs couldn't.

Is it unethical to take names and divulge details on a public forum? It is. But what the hell- I can write what I want here right? So here goes..

The first time I saw E- now Dr. EP, it was outside the loo on the first day of med school when we were having the somewhat grandiosely named orientation session. Tall, lissome and undeniably beautiful, the real surprise came when she spoke- with classy English and great confidence.

It went without saying that most guys at some point or the other nursed a crush for her- it wasn't possible not to! And she did have her share of flings- who doesn't in college? Well most people don't actually, but that's besides the point.

We were friends- at one point good enough friends to go out for Shakespeare and stuff together. And because of some insufferably stupid and juvenile tiff, that went to hell.

She soon became one of the most hated people in class. Which is a little weird- because with great looks and sharp outspoken intelligence, you'd think that would have made her popular. But her personal life generated so much buzz- which was none of anybody's bloody business, but you know how college kids are- that somehow she was almost universally disliked.

How you may ask did such a diva become an example? She who after an idiotic tiff about some exam didn't give me a second look nor me her?

It was precisely because of that.

Not once did I see her wilt. In that quagmire of snide remarks, rude glances and almost total isolation from the class she stood tall and unashamed. Never once did she give any of the haters the satisfaction that they'd got to her- and she didn't change her lifestyle at all. She remained true to herself and unapologetic about her choices which is more than I could say for many other judgemental cribbing people that were.

She and I were the class valedictorians at our graduation and on the day, she was grace personified- talking with pride about a class that had rejected her for so very long- praising the very people that she surely must have felt nothing but contempt for. But not once did the mask slip, not even at the end.

It may sound a trivial reason to admire someone for. After all she hadn't discovered the cure for HIV or the common cold. It wasn't even related to medicine- just the fact that one needs to stand up for oneself and be who one is without thinking of what others may say. As for the so called moral police- oh yes, that's what most people are even if they aren't Pramod Muthalik- one only understands how idiotic and meaningless they are when one starts seeing someone. Then one realises that having a girlfriend is cool but doesn't define you and it definitely isn't the end of the world if you don't have one. And that it doesn't remotely have anything to do with who you inherently are as a person. Which sounds utterly simplistic and obvious, but I think somewhere, until you have that first date and stuff you never really understand it, despite the fact you're always pretending to do so and looking with disdain at the people who are together, airily claiming that 'I have no time for this crap and those who do are dumb and slutty'. Which is Bullshit. And although they would never admit it- Envy. With a capital E. And this sounds like the bad embarrassing confessions of a teenage drama queen- but most doctors, both men and women, atleast initially are just that.

The other guy is KD. Now his is a story so dramatic it would be fit to be featured in a lifetime special. He lost his father at a young age, lost his faith, descended into an incubus of smoking, terrible relatives, terrible company and profanity. But lightening struck and suddenly- just like that, he gave up smoking, concentrated on- what else- studies and has honestly blossomed into someone I honestly believe will be a great doctor. And I'm not using the word 'great' the way we use to praise food or a Sean Penn performance- in this case I actually mean it. And I've been fortunate to have been really good friends with him until weird circumstances increased the distance somewhat, but even now he's the picture of joie de vivre. It isn't the story of rags to riches- it's better- the story of picking oneself up and getting the best out of oneself that's so admirable. Even more so because I actually saw him do it.

Well- medical school is long over. The last webs of memory...Bah- that's stupid pretentious language and I won't complete that sentence! But there's a yearbook where all my classmates now live and each one has a particular story, a memory attached. But it is these two that even today I miss. That even today I wish things had ended differently with. It is these two who I think I'll always in a way look up to. Because life's hard as it is. And they've shown me that you can't be- shouldn't be- weak.

And its those two- those two above all else that I wish would someday read this blog.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's cool to be free

Anonymity is a convienient mask- one which I've desperately sought since I can remember. There's a reassuarance in it that's hard to shake aside- this belief that you can just be there in the background observing. And contrary to popular belief, it doesn't make you a follower.

Opinions matter. Even if they are mine. Even if they are in an anonymous blog which will be read by some, commented upon by none and then forgotten.

There are some actions that infuriate you into action. One was a police officer smiling mockingly when he walked out of court having escaped punishment for abetting in a young girl's suicide.
The other was tonight when I watched Uddhav Thackeray eloquently shrug his shoulders on NDTV's 9'O Clock news- in response to a question as to whether the release of My Name is Khan would pass unhindered.

It was an action that repeated tales that I want to believe that my generation has moved on from- the chasm of regionalism.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't find the Shiv Sena's rhetoric preposterous. I do- not only is it utterly reprehensible but also it strikes me as extremely lazy politics. Which is exactly why the Sena is in the state they are in today. Gone are the days when people were taken in by proclamations of nationalism and pride- it has been almost 63 years of independence- and let's face it- to me and my generation, freedom means a good deal more than empty words. Which is exactly why it is lazy. A true opposition would have taken advantage of the woeful apology of a government that is Maharashtra's and swept into power. On real issues which would've made more sense than stopping the screening of a film or calling Chidambaram the Home Minister of Pakistan- a statement so laughably juvenile that you wouldn't hear it even in a school level debate.

Even that is fine- everyone can say what they want. But when you use muscle power to stop the screening of a movie because it's actor has said something to annoy you, you need to take a good look at yourself. And coming from me and my ilk that really is something- we- who are so used to being steeped in cynicism that ideals are far from our thoughts. But even in a generation of cynics, this marks a new low. Open threats on national TV aren't my idea of democracy. Actually they shouldn't be anyone's idea of democracy.

Of course 'Bollywood' (I hate the term, hence the quote marks) has notoriously pandered to the whims of the Shiv Sena and Bal Thackeray since- well forever. For some reason they've had a curious hold over the film business. Which in itself is disturbing, not to mention downright wrong. What riles me even more is not that they're against Valentine's Day or lesbianism (read Fire)- but the fact that they take it upon themselves to force that down everyone's throat. And tonight I sat watching amused, but mostly infuriated when the legal chief of the Shiv Sena says that the campaign against the movie is a 'movement' started by the 'people' and he could not guarantee what the 'people' would do when the movie released.

That's such a load of crap.

And they know it. They must be knowing it. Surely they aren't that self deluded to think that 'all people of the country' feel this way. And they're milking the issue for all it is worth. Which would be completely fine as long as they kept their hands in their pockets instead of on lathis and guns, and not calling up theatre owners threatening them with 'dire consequences' if the movie was screened.

I've been accused of looking too much into history before- maybe it's a disease- but all this rhetoric about 'people's movement' and 'people's anger' was exactly how Herr Adolf began. Or Mugabe. Or any other dictator.

I'm no admirer of Shah Rukh Khan. But I must say that what he's said is admirable. Even if it is a ploy to sell his film. Even if all he wants to do is to be on the news garnering publicity and even if it is the 'in thing' to hate him- despite all those things, what he's said is admirable. I'm glad he's not going to apologize. I do not want an apology from the Thackerays either. They can say what they like- anyone can- but coercion is just not done. And the self styled Tiger of the Sena Bal Thackeray needs to realise he's really being a mouse. This is the behaviour of cowards not leaders. Cowards who want to cling on to something rather than face political obscurity. Real Tigers would have constructively pointed out the missteps of the government, of which there is no dearth. It comes as no surprise that they aren't in power if this is the kind of crass, degrading politics they want to play.

The whole question of identity is curious. I am from Karnataka, born in Andhra Pradesh, schooled in Maharahtra, now in Karnataka. And I'm a Hindu and it has been so incidental. I've had-er- have wonderful friends who are Christians, a rather special half Muslim friend and it's never made one bit of difference. And yes I've loathed certain people who happen to be Muslim but not because of it- they were just gutter rats who happened to be Muslim. And at the risk of sounding too in-your-face, I'm proud to be Indian- which is what I am first and last. That's the only identity that really matters.

Which is why I don't get the Sena appeasement by the likes of even Amitabh Bachchan what with him organising private screenings for the self proclaimed 'Tiger'. Shouldn't he have taken a stand against this war mongering? And when asked as much by Barkha Dutt, a visibly squirming Jaya Bachchan said 'the film industry stands together in a national crisis.' Which implies of course that this isn't one. (More on that here

And yes, I've been called too liberal although I'm not sure I understand that. It is like saying 'too free'- one is either free or not. Can you be free one day and enslaved the next? One is either liberal or one is not- you cannot grade freedom or liberalism. But the difference is that liberalism is a choice I've made.
Freedom isn't- we ARE a free country whether you like it or not.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010


I don't have to apologize.
No one HAS to apologize.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Almost Orgasm

I was 12 when I first saw a woman naked.

In 1997.

And what a woman she was. My jaw dropped and stayed open.

Today, my jaw dropped again. The difference? I'm 24 and it takes a whole deal more than a naked woman to stun me. No- that isn't quite true- I take that back. Some things never change.

This isn't going to be a post about how a mysterious heavily accented woman seduced a 12 year old innocent and taught him the 'ways of the world'. I was 12 and to most guys of my generation, Kate Winslet in all her glory in Titanic remains an enduring figure.

So yeah- Kate was the first woman I saw naked in James Cameron's Titanic.

I still don't know how that scene wasn't cut in a U/A movie. And I watched it with family without any qualms.

And today I saw James Cameron's Avatar.

I cannot remember when I last sat open mouthed through a movie. The massive hype notwithstanding- Avatar was an experience I not bloody likely to forget in a long time.

It isn't really about the stunning 3D effects alone. Or the predictable romance. It's about how to take all the cliched elements of the movies and present them as if they're totally new. And when Sully's Avatar sits on a dragonoid and soars up in the air making eyes at his to be girlfriend, it really is the stuff of dreams. Face it- a wild, unconventionally sexy nymph of the woods tamed mid air- haven't all guys dreamt of that atleast once?

And oh what a battle it is. The mother of all battles. I couldn't decide which was more stunning- the crazily evolved machines or the brilliant Na-Vi creatures. And here's a secret- I never cry at the movies. But today, when one of the Na-Vi warriors was shot and fell to the ground, with a plaintive cry in the background, that scene is of such aching beauty and power that I did tear up a little.

Many blogs and comments I've read have dismissed it as another special effects movie. As if there was no skill involved in that. And Oscar for this? Heaven forbid they say. But if creating something huge, if imagining and executing a whole new world- even a making up a new language and just having the sheer vision to think this big isn't up Oscar's alley, then Peter Jackson better return the statue he got for creating what is only the greatest movie of all time. And as much as I admire Cameron, Jackson's winning work was really one of the greatest movies. Ever.

One of the things one learns while dating a film critic (besides getting beaten up after a post like this) is that they're notoriously obsessed with the 'small movie' genre- you know- the Sophie's Choice or the Piano Teacher (ahem) kind of movies. Which are brilliant no doubt. But when all is said and done- on a big screen, an Avatar dazzles- inspite of a done-to-death story and occasionally clunky dialogue. Because it isn't trying to be profound. It isn't trying to showcase a Meryl Streep. It is making its point in a different way- by being in-your-face and brazen about it. Respect indigenous populations. Respect the environment. The US is the enemy (Gasp). And yeah- commercial cinema can be great cinema too.

That lack of subtlety is oddly refreshing. Not getting bogged down in the withertos and the whyfors. No cynicism. Not reminding us of the innumerable complexities that exist. Allowing us to believe that atleast in the movies, things can be resolved by some good old fashioned valour.

Its only when you come out that you realize that your life is actually in a shitty place.

Because for those two and a half hours, you're transported to a different place. Where as Ciara put it, there's only Love, Sex and Magic. Plus cool machines and beautiful dragons. And the triumph of good over evil. Infact, the very existence of a world where things can be- dare I say- as black and white as Good and Evil.

And that for me, sums up the perfect movie.

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