Saturday, 24 November 2007

Experience-junkie heaven

this may be longer than ur attention span :)

And I finally got to travel around in america. On thanksgiving, when the rest of this place was sitting in their homes with hot turkey and drinks to wash it down, i trudged around in the snow. but then it was worth it, i think. at least from an experience-junkie's point of view. the journey was weird, scary, funny and gratifying at the same time. and it was also one of the best, the craziest experiences i have had in my short life so far. so i thought i might as well share it, without omitting anything.
the first leg of the trip was by car, from kansas city to chicago. we started out at noon, when it was freezing cold and there was a drizzle which worsened progressively as we headed to chicago.the drive was rather uneventful, except we stopped for a coffee and a smoke in between and nearly froze to death cos we underestimated the cold. anyways, i sure wouldn't make that mistake again.we reached chicago at 9 30, which was in good time given the rain, snow and traffic. if you think roads in india are bad, well you wont miss them here. while they do have an excellent road infrastucture, there are places where you feel you're on bannerghatta road in bangalore.
i spent the night at an apartment close to downtown chicago, where some friends of my travelling companion were staying. they were students, so i guess i felt right at home. it started snowing at night, and i was extremely thankful that i didnt have the extra hassle of looking for a cheap motel. and the rice and sambar they cooked for us was, in warmth of spirit if not in taste, the best meal i have had in my stay here so far.
next morning it was snowing. there wasn't enough for a slushball yet, and i could hardly wait. i made the mistake of taking off my gloves to feel the snow in my hand, and later nearly got my hand frozen stuck to the gate. we set off from home about ten o clock, and the plan was for me to split with the group and explore chicago while they headed off to detroit by road. we had breakfast at dunkin donuts, and let me tell you, everything you've heard about american cops and donuts are true. we sat amongst tables full of cops and quietly ate donuts and had coffee to wash it down. I got dropped off at union station, which was were i had to catch a bus to minneapolis about twelve hours later. while my hosts had taken great pains to explain the area to me, i had forgotten most of the busroutes in my excitement, and couldn't make head or tail of the instructions i had written down. if there was a moment in my life when i regretted my handwriting, this was it. so i decided to see the place on foot, lugging my huge backpack around.
first on the list was sears tower. not so much that i particularly wanted to see it as the fact that it was right across the road. i was told that the john hancock tower would give a better view, but i couldnt be bothered with instructions right then, so i paid $13 for the trip to the skydeck on the 103rd floor of the tower. only to see white windows fogged out by the snow. but it was worth it, cos a little later it cleared a bit, and the view was breathtaking. after that i walked to the millenium park, and reached there more by luck than anything else, though i did have a vague sense of direction and could locate it using its relative position to the sears tower. that tower sure is good, you can see it from pretty much everywhere, and can use it as a directional beacon.
there was a skating rink there, and people were ice skating. i badly wanted to join, but there was no place i could leave my backpack, so i was left as a spectator. which sucked, so i decided to walk further. there are a lot of interesting buildings and museums in that area, and i visited most of them only to find that everything was shut for thanksgiving and that the people were all probably back at home with the aforementioned turkey and drinks. so there was no option but to keep walking, making the occasional stop at cafes with wi-fi to come online and see if there was anyone around, only it was night in india and you guys were probably snoring in warm rooms. some friends y'all are :D.
by now, boredom as well as the adventure bug had well and truly kicked in, so i decided to check out this underground station cum parking lot. which was my first weird experience of the day. i must have made a wrong turn somewhere, cos i reached a place where there were a lot of homeless people, drug addicts apparently. from the brief glimpse i had of the place before i beat a hasty retreat, i saw an entire different life there. they were eating, drinking, having sex, lying around in stupor, all in that cavernous underground space. i found my way back up, and made a mental note to keep further explorations on or above the ground. and kept walking, looking at parks buildings until it was late afternoon and then decided to hit some bars. by now it was getting too cold to walk, so i decided to take a taxi (the cabbie was an indian and waived a dollar off the fare saying he missed home and was glad to hear hindi) to go to the Hard Rock Cafe.

which was the second weird experience. on one level it conformed to its name, in that the ambience was hard rock, and the scantily clad tattooed and pierced goth waitresses were definitely hard rock. On the other hand, people were coming there with kids, and that seemed kinda weird. I had to wait 20 mins for a table, and in that time i waited outside i was talked into sitting for a 3 dollar portrait which looked far worse than my own self portrait in nid foundation, and i was bad at drawing then. i guess i could make a living as a street artist here. anyway, i was finally seated at a table close to the bar counter, with a family with two kids to the right, and a coupla guys to the left, and three girls on a ladies night out right in front of me on the bar. they were in their mid to late thirties from what i judged. and they were putting back shots at an impressive rate, which was probably why no one was standing them a round of drinks. one of the guys from the left table approaced them, and made a quick retreat. and as they got drunker, they were getting louder and well, the clothes were disappearing. much to the consternation of the family to my right, they were swearing loudly, and one of the women kept flashing her breasts whenever anyone produced a camera. this was getting really uncomfortable for all of us in the tables around. they wanted a pic taken with all of them in it, so one of them asked me if i would take the pic. i said ok, and just as i was about to click, they struck a rather, um, provocative pose and i must not have done a good job maintaining a straight face cos they cracked up giggling, and the tit flasher flashed again.
anyway, i was alone at a table for four, and they piled on without invitation. and it was embarassing to no end, being seated at a table with three loud, rather obnoxious older women, looking kinda helpless. and of course, one of them started getting a bit too comfortable, and it was time to excuse myself. so i pleaded that i have a bus to catch and that while i would gladly go home with all of them (eurgh.. !) i have to get to minneapolis, its life and death etc, and hightailed it. anyway, the whole episode had left my plans in a mess, as i was to have sat at hard rock till it was time for my bus, and i still had over three hours to go, and it was cold out. so i got out and started walking aimlessly looking for the next place to shelter in.

and i almost ran into the same group of women again, as they were apparently bar hopping. so i quickly stepped into the first neon sign door that said 'open', and it was blues bar with a live band. the music was beautiful, beautiful. i could've sat there forever, but in another move that i still cant figure why i made, i got out and took a cab to union station where the bus was due in two hours or so. as i reached the place, some guy opened the door for me and stood there, and i figured he was homeless. anyway, i decided to give him a dollar. there was a group of black guys standing a bit further away who saw me do this, and while i dragged my luggage to the station door, they came over and said ' u made no mistake brother, that money was given for a good cause' or something like that. i did feel a bit scared when they approached me, but they were quite friendly and talked a while to me, and then came the third weird experience. a cop car turned the corner, and they all ran while i was left standing alone. and seeing this i was a bit confused whether they were good or bad in intentions.
i went inside the station hall, and sat down on the benches there listening to music while waiting out the remaining two hours. and for the first time, felt really alone. i dunno when i fell asleep, and i woke up when someone tapped me on the shoulder. it was a cop, who wanted to know what i was doing. he thought i was a homeless guy, cos the rest of the crowd there, both white as well as black folk, all seemed to bee poor people. i had to show him my passport and bus ticket before he moved on to chasing away some of the others. i decided to stay awake at all costs, since getting arrested was the last thing i needed. they switced off the main lights in the hall, and then it got really scary. you had to sit there seeing only silhouettes, not really knowing who was who, not really having the means to understand if someone was approaching you with good intentions or not. and thats when this brightly painted woman in a pink dress came and sidled up on the bench. she was a hooker, and told me there were places behind the halls huge pillars where she could do a quickie. i told her a rather plain no, but she wouldnt go away, and i got nervous because again, 'soliciting' prostitutes could get me into trouble with the cops. i told her i had no money, and she brought her fee down to $20 till she figured i was not gonna budge, and so she left to pester someone else in the darkness. by now it was a bit too much for me to handle, and i decided it was better to spend the remaining 45 mins out in the cold rather than in this cavernous scare-house.
anyway, the bus finally came, and the motley group of passengers, all minorities like blacks, indians and latinos, plus a coupla white kids that looked like emos. the bus was a double decker, and i was thrilled. i went up top, which was a bad move. even though the bus was half empty, i had to spend the first half of the trip battling with this black girl who was stretched out on the two seats across the aisle, and who had her legs on the seat next to mine, preventing me from stretching out in a similar manner. i was determined to oust her from my territory and get the well deserved sleep i needed after my day, and the quiet battle ended up with my legs on her seat as well, with our legs intertwined in the most unsexiest manner possible.
and in the final leg of the story, the bus which was to have reached at 6 30 am in downtown minneapolis, dropped us there two hours early. so, there was no one to pick me up, and it seemed that no one knew much about the place i had to get to. the rest of the passengers were all happy in sitting out the two hours in a dirty transit building nearby, so i decided to venture out and see if i could get a taxi. and that was my worst mistake so far. first, i realized that the bus had dropped us in the seediest part of town, and the neon signs read sexworld, sinners, the gentleman's club, etc. i also realized i stood a good chance of getting mugged, but then i wasnt preapared to sit two hours in that transit building. so i walked around, in freezing cold so low that there was dry snow lying around. in ten minutes, there was frost on my cheeks, and no taxi in sight. one taxi played around with me, disappearing around nearby corners twice. and i nearly mistook a cop car for a taxi, though that drove off as well before i could ask for help. by now i was far away from the transit building, and the only place open was the sexworld porno theatre and strip club. i decided to risk and, yes ladies and gentlemen, the first place i visited in minneapolis was sexworld. only to ask for a phone though. i guess the girl that met me was one of the, um, employees there, and was fully dressed and sweet about letting me use the phone. and she hunted out a cab phone number as well. and ten minutes of uncomfortable pointless conversation with a stripper later, i was headed for my friend's place.

and this adventure continues

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

On gaming names.

I renewed my credentials as a gamer yesterday. Got myself a brand spanking new PSP. That's Playstation Portable, for the uninitiated. While that automatically elevates me to levels of coolness you can only dream about, i decided to shed some light on gaming names, or handles, so that you can at least get a historical perspective into how all this coolness came to be.
Each gamer has a different policy. Some have the same handle for all the games the play. Some have a different handle for different games. And some run through names like toilet paper. Unless you were Sheryl Crow, in which case you would take much longer with a roll. I fall into the second category, I have a handle per game. And i'll tell you briefly about those.

The least dramatic of the lot is the one i'll start with. scarface. yeah, pretty normal, with allusions to violence and gore if you think hard enough. but the story behind that name starts in diu. where sonam kazi and i were trying our darnedest best to play real life NFS on two 50cc lunas. Of course, real life games, as i mentioned in the previous post, have no 'damage off' function, so i crashed and ended up with a cut on my temple (close enough to the eye to be sinister-ly cool). Of course, the game continued, even with one of my eyes swollen shut with blood in it. I started playing Medal of Honor Allied Assault right after that, and decided to honor my partially successful attempt at transcending the borders of gaming by adopting the handle 'scarface', as the scar from the wound was all i had to show for the effort.

Everyone remembers their first time. At multiplayer gaming that is. We had just started on the NFS Porsche version, and no one really knew who was playing with what handle. I decided to take advantage of that, and joined in with the name of mahajan, which was the name of a rather unpopular (then, at least) character on campus. And, well, not to boast, but in ten minutes time i was winning all the races. To add insult to injury, i never revealed my name as long as possible, and the rest kept thinking that it was the unsavoury mahajan that was rubbing their noses in the dust. Of course, soon as everyone came to know it was me, i quietly changed names. To what, i dont remember.

The one that stuck, as usual, is the one thats not really interesting. Unless ur into the same things as i am. 'Marshal Ustinov', the Age of Empires name, stuck. I was mentally protesting the lack of a russian civilisation on the conquerors expansion pack, and since i chose red for my color, i decided to choose a soviet name as well. i had been looking at pictures of russian ships for a model i was planning (eternally, unendingly) to build, and had looked at the marshal ustinov, which is a soviet slava class cruiser. This name somehow popped to my mind. I naturally assumed that the guy whom they named it after must be some great soviet hero named Ustinov, and therefore would be great for an aspiring AoE conqueror like me. Turns out that he never saw a battle, and was a political appointee to the grand post of 'Marshal of the Soviet Union'. My dismal progress with AoE (except as a member of the second floor team that ruled B-hostel) anyway meant that the name was apt. I fared about as well as Dmitry Ustinov would've done in battle. Some later victories in naval battles prompted me to think of changing to Admiral of the Soviet Fleet Kuznetsov, but turns out he was a politician as well, and would've done me no good.

And last, but not the least, was 'Chihuahua'. Those were the days when internet entertainment meant the Paris Hilton sex tape, and she carried a chihuahua... to my credit it got mistaken later for 'che guevara'. But really, thats not why i chose it. While i do admit that it was paris hilton who got me reading up on chihuahuas, i found out that these tiny dogs have no concept of their size. They dont know how small they are, and that doesnt stop them from taking on bigger dogs, and that is cool i thought. But i guess most of you never got past the sex tape comment and are probably googling it right now. Anyway, for the first few days at least, it was easy pickings for me as i could kill people when they were trying to spell my name on multiplayer chat :D

What am i trying to achieve with this post? tolerance. Like i said, i've gotten a PSP and have now transformed into an ultra snob at levels of coolness you can only dream about. While it may take anywhere from days to months for me to return to ground state, i would like you all to read this post and remember that i used to be a mildly amusing chap, and forget the current PSP fuelled asshole-ness.

Monday, 12 November 2007

On gaming - an old one..

2 am. abandoned trainyard. gunfire barking all around welcomes the casual stranger as the allied and axis powers face off in on of the many battles that are to decide the dreadlock over europe. only, europe kinda resembles b-hostel in the case in point. cliched start, i know. nothing quite like the d-day sequence of saving private ryan. but this is all that my groggy head could come up with after multiple attempts. groggy because of a night's worth of intense and insane battles ranging in scope from the beaches of normandy in the second world war to the turks and britons of ancient time. Also known as hands-on research for this article, the excuse i've been giving myself for over a week now. also known to som! e (most, actually, but us larger-than-life gamers think we are a majority) with a lack of imagination and an amd machine with an nvidia graphics card as a colossal waste of time. Maybe, but try selling that to a very belligerent panzerpappu patgaonkar who's just had his innards blown out thrice by his own teammate.

The name usually defines the gamer. there are those who keep one name forever and then there are those who change depending on every passing whim. as a result, we sometimes have such absolute gems of death reports generated by the computer as, 'Bal Thackeray was blasted to bits by sir jj thompsons dynamite'. For my part, yours truly is the improbably codenamed Chihuahua. (improbable, i suppose, because wonders like paris hilton werent known to modern science at the time of the war). Im a sniper extraordinaire (even if i say so myself, heh heh. oh yeah? whose article is this anyway huh?) and like all snipers extraordinaire i have an arch-nemesi! s, the impossibly codenamed Bellente.(impossible because its been impo ssible for all of us, including bellente himself, to comprehend the meaning of the name). The two of us wage our personal feud oblivious to the grand scheme of world war two unfolding around us, much like the vassily zaitsev and major konig we idolize from 'Enemy at the Gates'. And then we go for chai and the post game de-briefing session. dont be taken in by the fancy words, the de-briefing session is where the winners can continue rubbing it right into the losers. since you win some and lose some on a regular basis, you're virtually assured of your fifteen minutes of fame here. even though we are all firm believers in the adage 'Its just a game, guys' the frayed tempers that are often seen are part of the deal. when you win, grin. when you lose, grin and bear it.

there is an old gaming lore that says : the game never dies, it just moves onto another level. ok, i made that up, but it applies very much to the night fighters of the b-hostel. For them, the crazies, life is just an extension of the game. so much so that gamers are often seen contemplating about possible sniper sites on the hostel building, taking secure ingress and egress routes to and from the institute with the primary objective of staying undercover from co-ordinators and faculties, dreaming of setting up giant working trebuchets on the main lawns and actually building model sniper rifles just for a better feel of that virtual kill at night. people discuss in full earnest the possibility of having live-fire wolfenstein-style combat games with amazing disregard for the complexities involved in such a misadventure. those are but trivial before the eyes of the believer and i have personally met people dreaming of a pellet gun version of the game. sometimes you even have groggy heads from lack of sleep and a brain that tells you that you're being forced to write all this under gunpoint and that namrata rai and suneel chenamaneni are actually federal agents after the enigma code.

the key to the fun, for the information of the skeptics, is in believing. its a world of instant gratification, and any of the night fighters, regardless of whether they play wolfenstein, or age of empires, or need for speed or grand theft auto would swear by it. life as a drag race is a lot more fun than life as a rat race, even though the Divine Server sometimes ditches you by turning ON 'pedestrian traffic' and 'accident damage' as i found out the hard way in Diu while burning rubber on the streets there with a 40cc rented luna. Diu was nurburgring, the luna a hayabusa, me valentino rossi, and the real world eats my dust. s'long, suckaz, grin and bear it

Sunday, 4 November 2007

have fun. wtf?

y'know what pisses me off? when people say, "have fun". now this is a multi-faceted piss-off weapon, mind you. On one level, it's dumb. I dont know any human being who doesn't want to have fun. Sure, the definitions may vary, but everyone has fun in his or her own way. i mean, even psychopaths do, cos cutting people into kheema might be their idea of fun, even if its not necessarily yours. Manic-depressives are also having fun cos their twisted idea of fun may be to not be happy. So its like saying "breathe", cos you're going to anyway.
Another thing is abuse of this phrase. While it is inherently pointless, people take it one further level by using it whenever and wherever possible. whether you're going to work, to watch a movie, or to get an amputation done on a gangrenous limb that has three bullets embedded in it, people say the same ol' stuff. "have fun".
Now this is a code-red 'wtf?' situation as far as im concerned. it always leaves me with a question for the user of the phrase, that starts with wtf. like 'wtf has this guy got for brains?' or, 'wtf is mother nature smoking?'and wtf situations have only one cure. turn the tables on them. so the next time someone says "have fun", just say :

"No, thanks. I have other plans."

That was a public service announcement aimed at improving office environments in midwestern america. Thank you.

Monday, 15 October 2007

peel it off, dammit.

i have a confession to make. i take pleasure from some pretty weird things in life. now, before you dream up visions of me tied up and in fluffy handcuffs, allow me to clarify. i like peeling the plastic protective wrapping off, well, just about anything. it probably ranks on round about the same level as busting bubble-wrap, but this ones better i say. there is a strange satisfaction when u feel the plastic peeling off the mobile phone screen or laptop body it was protecting, something that cant be described in words. just the way you hate it when chalk squeaks on a glass board in class, which is a pretty inoccuous thing if you take a detached look at it. thats about as close to an analogue as i can possibly come, though its in an entirely different league and direction altogether. of course, admitting it wasn't pretty easy, because the world and i are at odds regarding our views on this particular breed of plastic. most people dont realize the fact that this was meant to be peeled off. i mean, if hewlett-packard wanted the stuff to stay, they probably would have made it more difficult to peel off. but what to folks do? they dont touch that plastic. like some sort of a strange ritual that would be sacrilegious to break, they let that plastic be. not being designed to stick forever, the plastic starts coming off the edges. at this point, it looks to addicts like me that its begging to be peeled off, and when i, in turn, beg the owner of the particular piece of plastic the honor of peeling it off, i invariably get rejected. what beats me is the fact that people keep that protective plastic till its hanging off the laptop or curled up on a mobile screen, looking ugly, getting in the way of everything, yet somehow in the minds of the owner, 'protecting' whatever it was pasted on.

the saddest part is that after this goes on for months even, after much attempts at sticking it back and much requests on my part to be allowed to peel it off, the stupid thing falls off, and they dont even realize its happened. motherfucking sadists, im usually telling myself at this point. the only things that plastic did in its life was gather dust on its sticky part and curl up ruining the looks on an otherwise beautiful laptop or phone. i mean, its a catch22 right there. most people, whether they admit it or not, buy things giving huge weightage on how the thing looks. and then, in the name of protection, re-sale value and some other loads of bullcrap, keep it covered in hideous contraptions of cheap plastic or latex, never enjoying or flaunting the beauty of whatever it is that they bought. i mean, whats the point in buying a phone worth a good part of my paycheque and then keeping it in a ten rupee latex cover that looks like its a condom tied up? flaunt it, and let me peel the plastic, i say.

but then the world order isnt going to change easy when it comes to protective plastic sheets. i mean, what does a guy like me do in a world of sadists? oh i know what i'll do. guerilla warfare. the plastic revolution is coming. what exactly am i talking about? oh yeah.. nowadays i dont ask the owners their permission. i just walk up and say, 'dude, that's a cool laptop'. and peel it right off, before they even dream it coming. of course, the gratification is a bit accelerated, but turning the sadist tables right back on them sorta makes up for it. the key part of this guerilla maneuver is the getaway. for a successful getaway, hand the plastic back to the stunned owner. the instinctive reaction is to try and stick it back. the impossibility of that takes some time to sink in, ample time for a getaway. oh yeah, there are pre-emptive strikes in this war, too. sometimes when i go to the electronics sections in malls, i conduct large scale attacks on plastic. for all i know, i may be ridding the world of a lot more sadists.

i have no idea why i wrote this, its somehow been botherin me for a while now. and if you just bought a laptop or a phone, you know where to find me.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Trippy Trip

This is not the simple story of a straightforward journey from point A to b and B to C. this story is about how fate and a lot of other factors can conspire to make as many obstacles as possible between you and your relatively humble aim of getting back home for xmas. of course, im not totally above blame either. master of planning that i am, i had this all chalked out weeks ago. the grand finale of my plan had me reaching home right on xmas eve, and then a weeks rest at home, followed by new years celebrations in b'lore. but since im not exactly known for executing my master plans, this one was doomed from the start too i guess. of course, telling y'all how my own fuckups prevented me from reachin home is no fun, really. its more fun putting blame on the rest of the factors... like my ticket for instance. at first look, a harmless piece of paper. but with such great potential for hiding amongst my worldly possessions that it would put a leftist guerilla to shame. or that security guard manning the x-ray machine. now there's a story for ya. i have a hunting kinfe, a rather cool one at that, on which i spent a good portion of my first ever paycheque. i carry it with me wherever i can, more as a good luck charm than with intent to attack. anwyay, i know for sure i am allowed to carry knives in my check in baggage, so i kept it there. and i got stopped by security. he asked me 'are you carrying a knife?' and im like, 'duh, you're the one with the x-ray machine'. no wait, i didnt really say that, but i guess the expression on my face did. lookin at the image on his screen, he says, 'that looks like a rambo knife...' i give him a patient smile, the sort your dad gives you when you point out the new dent he made on his car or something.. and then he drops the bombshell 'take it out, i wanna take a look'. i give him my best 'are you off your rocker?' look, to no avail.

now there is a universal rule regarding travelling students. if the direction of travel is towards college, the bag is full of clean clothes, and if the journey is homeward bound, the bag is full of laundry. unfortunately, i was homeward bound. and my laundry is notorious. well, too bad, cant be helped. i was hoping that he'd be hit by the realisation that opening my bags is not in the best interests of the airport but then he seemed not to notice.. well the one who did notice was the cute girl(funny, how they turn up at the worst possible times) in line behind me, and she turned away in disgust when, in the futile search for the knife, my entire fleet of underwear came out on parade. and this was all unnecessary, since the knife finally turned up in the outer pocket of the bag. and the security chap looks at it, shows it to his colleague and exclaims 'this is just like rambo's knife!'. in a different context, i woulda taken that as a compliment, but with 50 people glaring behind me in line, and my laundry stinking up the whole place, and faced with the prospect of packing all over again, i nearly snapped. but i didnt, cos he was the guy with the gun, and even my super awesome knife stood no chance before an Automatic Kalashnikov No47.

was it to be the end of my woes? no sirree, no. i was cheered up for a bit when, just about to board the bus that took us to the aircraft, i noticed that it was one of those new livery Indian aircraft. i was kicked. wow, in flight entertainment and all, man! the first sign that something was wrong came when i noticed the double bogey landing gear. now every aircraft buff(ok im narrowing my target audience a bit here, sue me) knows that those are seen only on the older A320s of Indian. the next sign that something was wrong came when i reached the aircraft.. the white paint looked blotchy, like your teeth when u dont brush for five days. by then it was clear, it was old wine in new livery. and as luck would have it, i was seated right next to the emergency exit. good in case of an emergency, but bad otherwise, as in the older indian aircraft, this is the noisiest seat u could ask for.. so all hopes of sleeping till bombay were shot.

and bombay was a different sort of hell altogether. as soon as i reached the departure terminal (1A) i was greeted with a board that said that due to fog in delhi (funny these delhi-ites, always out to influence the rest) all flights originating there have been delayed. mine was one of them. of course i was kicked initially. being stranded at bombay airport is a planehead's dream come true. sit on one of those nice reclined seats and watch airplane after airplane take off.. wait did i say seats? i must have, but i sure dont remember seeing any. the place was full of people waiting for delayed flights, and every last seat was taken. and i couldnt see many aircraft since i could go nowhere in front of the windows, which were already crowded with people. and im not exactly 6 feet tall. of couse, something had to be done. i pestered the airline people who gave me free snacks, lunch, drinks... everything except entry to their lounge, which was apparently packed as well. so i put my bags on a trolley, and sat down on it. and grew into it. it was so comfortable that i actually fell asleep on it. of course, the nice five star lunch in my tummy added to my sleepiness, but i slept like a baby for two hours on my baggage trolley. and woke up when i sensed i was moving. some damn kid, all of four years or so, decided it would be amusing to push me on my trolley. i didnt fint it one bit amusing to be woken up from my slumber, but apparently his mom agreed with him cos she wasnt doing anything to stop him. anyway, i woke to a nice surprise since i saw a fleet of baggage trolleys with people sleeping in them.

i took my trolley and steered it as far away from all kids in range, and went to sleep again only to discover i had run out of sleep. i woke up four times in fifteen minutes, and decided it wasnt worth the effort any more. so i decided to pester the airline people once again to see if i could get another free meal. so i walked across to the duty manager's office only to find out that my flight was arriving in half an hour, and he seemed rather relieved and a tad happy to refuse me the meal. i turned around and marched towards my bags, and was promptly stopped by a security chap who said 'aap nahi jaa sakte'. in minutes it was known that the secutiry had located your friendly neighbourhood 'suspicious looking bag' and the bomb squad had been called in. i had reason to panic, i tell you. my bags were lying around, and considering my day's luck, there was a good chance some bomb squad guys were holding up my laundry in a press conference for all to see, alleging biochemical attacks by foreign powers. thankfully i could make out my bags lying untouched on the other side of the melee. the scene soon got interesting with one guy in one of those space suit type outfits for protection started defusing the 'bomb'. right from the start i was unimpressed with the guy. i mean, the suit and all were cool, but how can you trust your life in the hands of a guy who kept makin one helluva racket by bumping into his own equipment trolley, which ironically contained equipment that included wireless microphones that helps him defuse the bomb by avoiding any noise that might set it off? perhaps he had a fair idea that he was, yet again, gonna end up pickin out some hapless chap's laundry from the same ol' bag found under the same ol' suspicious circumstances. if on the other hand the picked this very day for a practise drill, then i must congratulate the indian secutiry forces. not for their timing or efficiency or vigilance, but for the sheer nerve to have chosen this very day when all flights were delayed, when every nerve in the terminal was frayed, and when there was a serious posibility of irateness of the average passenger turning into violence. it might make for ideal training condiions, but i'd rather NOT have the extra delay of someone learning his trade after i'd been sleeping on baggage trolleys all day.

either way, i had a suspected bomb between me and my flight, and i was losing patience. finally when they did figure out that unwashed clothes dont explode (mine excluded) we were all allowed to move towards the gates to board. on my way there, i passed the bomb squad chaps and there was a small crowd shaking the hand of the space suit guy. i decided i might as well do that since i've never met a bomb disposal technician ever, and since his dangerous job could use a bit of cheer. i approached the chap, shook his hand, spoke to him, looked at his name tag...... and he was A GODDAMN MALLU! i've heard the joke that when neil armstrong landed on the moon, there was a mallu there with a tea shop already, but this was the absolute. even the guy defusing bombs in bombay is a mallu. i didnt realy know how to feel about that, but in retrospect i dont think i was all that surprised. I suppose i wont resent those mallu jokes again. i'll happily werk in the gelf for meney.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Mechanic Ramayana

Even more on biking, read at your own peril.

My mechanic is an ex-racer.

While this statement may conjure up visions of grandeur on his part, and grandeur by association on mine, things are far from such a pretty picture. And while i do admit that there is an inordinate difference in the the depth of my theoretical and practical knowledge on automobiles, and that theoretical knowledge is not of much use when your second gear refuses to engage, i also think that mechanics are highly overrated. Maybe it's because i get overwhelmed by their depth of practical knowledge and my brain switches into simpleton mode. Either way, the point is that our combined knowledge has done but scratch to improve the well being of my bike, which incidentally is my pride and joy.

Initially my contribution to this pride and joy was to keep it shining through rigorous application of spit and polish, and spend sweat and tears in keeping it serviced. and sweet fuck-all apart from that. i've said this before and i'll say it again, the first few months with a bike are a period where your feelings for it turn from love to one of invincibility. you and your bike are the a-team on the road, the one to challenge your supremacy is yet to be born. of course, you hastily correct this rather shortsighted view after your first encounter with one of the mechanic breed. The first time i needed to go to a mechanic was, yes you guessed right, after an accident. The accident itself did nothing to my feeling of invincibility except enhance it since i escaped without a scratch, but the bike wasnt so lucky and needed a mechanic. Now theoretically i could replace the headlamp assembly, but i wasn't so sure about the practical part. I was still madly in love with the bike, we were sorta like newlyweds, so me taking it apart was analogous to me performing open heart surgery on my wife, despite the fact that headlamp replacement was more suited to a nose-job analogy. Another characteristic of this situation is that you're so in love that you run around for second opinions etc., and no expense is spared to get your love back to good health. I, unfortunately, did the same.
I ran around to four mechanics asking their opinions, and predictably (in retrospect), got four different opinions. one told me i needed to replace my fork. Since that was a rather expensive proposition, he was easy to strike off my list. Another said it's ok, just change the bulb, the whole assembly is expensive, change it when u put in for more serious repairs. Of course, the urge to keep my bike shipshape meant that he was easy to cross out of the list as well. Of the remaining two, i dont recall much about their opinions, but i based my choice on the fact that one of them was a racer and the other wasn't. So i chose him to nurse my bike, and theres started my saga.

From my perspective, mechanics were put on earth to rob innocent bikers of their money. This is not specific to any mechanic, i hold this as a universal truth. The old breed of mechanics who loved your bike more than you did, dont exist anymore. The kindly old man with a boxful of tools in a dilapidated shed has been run over by the much resented march of civilization. Even service centres in villages these days have hydraulic workbenches that lift the bike to an ergonomic height, and multi purpose electric tools that change heads mechanically so the mechanic need not waste time switching from a spanner to an allen key. But this change, unfortunately, cannot be equated with a rise in quality. Your average mechanic has become more educated yet dumber, better paid yet greedier. Half the repairs on a job sheet are routinely overlooked at these places, basic thing like oil are never checked, and some of the more unscrupulous ones swipe new parts from bikes and replace them with damaged ones. And being rather naive, i was not prepared for this labyrinthine world. Multiple service stations authorised by the maker of my bike proved disappointing, and each damage hurt me and my pocket and yet never got fixed. The only consolation was that this was true for service centres of all the major bike makers.
So, with my trust in these shaken, i returned to the fold of the roadside mechanic. Sought out the racer chap again after months, and started giving the bike to him. He seems like a good man, speaks good english which is a relief since i cant make sense of Kannada, and behaves more like a racing team manager than a mechanic. Which was nice initially, since he figured with a single look at me that i ride fast and race pretty much everyone from every red light, and he started giving riding tips. And my riding definitely improved, especially cornering skills. I was elated, i began what i called 'riding on the edge of capability', noting down speedo readings at difficult corners and trying to best them the next time around. Of course, this was meant to invite more accidents, and sure enough, they happened. That's when i figured that the racing outfit he imagined to be running with me as lead driver was a GP team, to him, from an expenses point of view. And here I was, thinking of something like a SriPerumbudur track team :P Anyways, after the first crash, he gave me a list of stuff to replace. Some didnt even look relevant. When i asked him i got a lecture about racing safety, and i meekly agreed to replace them. More crashes followed though, and i became acutely aware of the fact that i might not be able to afford his services. But then, sentimental fool that i am, i had taken a liking to my 'coach' by now, and not wanting to jeopardize my racing 'career' i decided to look for alternatives. I went to a big service station again. and returned back to my mechanic just as fast, since those service station types still hadn't cleaned up their act.
But then i started having all sorts of doubts. The invincibility phase was long since over, and i knew the limits of my bike, so i decided to see the limits of the mechanic. i wanted to know if he was the kindly honest chap he came across to be. So using my theoretical knowledge i'd badger him with questions designed to trap him, yet all i accomplished was further doubt in my mind and no concrete answers either way. I started hitting below the belt and asked him to show me the parts he claimed to have replaced, which he did, yet i suspected they could have been from some other bike and that i might as well have thrown my money away. Finally, i snapped. That happened one day when i was riding to office, and the bike ground to a halt. The wheels were stuck, and wouldnt budge. Something to do with the gears i imagined. Since i wasnt too far from his shop, i took it to the mechanic. He gave me a detailed list of repairs needed, including changing shifters for my gears. he quoted about 3 grand for it, and i flipped. I gave him a piece of my mind and told him what i thought of his proposed 3 grand bill, and told him to just get it barely roadworthy at the cheapest possible price. He warned me that might lead to worse gear problems, and i told him i'll cross that bridge when i come to it. He got it done for a grand, and i rode off quite pleased with myself for having put my foot down and having saved a pile. If only i had done this earlier, i would have saved a lot more. He does good work, as i've come to know, i should just have checked him from swindling me. This thought strengthened further in my mind for the next three months, and the bike ran perfectly, as if to vindicate me.
Until i lost my second gear one day. I took it back to him, and stood there while he dismantled the engine. He showed me where the shifter had been eaten into by the gear, where gear teeth had broken off and ruined other gears. I stood there dreading an i-told-you-so speech, wishing the earth would swallow me up. Cos he did tell me all this the last time. And it cost me 6k this time. Humbled, i paid up and without a word he gave me a half-grand discount. I took the bike and made a mental note never to mess with mechanics again. Thats when he dropped the bombshell, something you'd never expect a racing manager to say. "take it easy for the next 1000km, son", he said "dont push beyond 60." My jaw was scooping dirt from the road as i drove, nay, inched back home.

Last count, i've done 81 of the 1000 prescribed kilometers. I'm never gonna make it.. aaargh.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Evolution of a Biker

More on biking, read at your own peril.

What does it mean to be on two wheels? What is that thrill, that essence of biking that is supposedly so great that biking is often equated with nirvana? Why did Che Guevara set off on his old leaky Norton 500 instead of say, hitchhiking or catching a bus? More importantly, did the bike play a role in the making of the revolutionary?
These and a lot of other questions often pop in my head ever since I started riding. And they pop up exactly after the needle goes past eighty (dad, in the unlikely event that you're reading this, read that last word as forty). I guess that there's a certain stage after which driving goes on to autopilot and these philosophical questions come to mind; for me philosophy started coming easy after 4 spills, 5000 kilometres and eighty kilometres an hour. I admit its not the best of situations for deep thought and that one should rather focus on the riding then, but these are the questions that eventually led me to think of my own growth as a biker, and later figure that i fit the average learning curve as well.
It usually starts with love. When I was about fourteen or fifteen and the CBZ came out,i fell in love. First with the CBZ, then moved on to loving other bikes. I didn't have one then, and spent my time drooling at the bikes of my elder cousins and their friends. But back then, i knew I'd be on one as soon as life, finances and such permitted.
Like love tends to do, you move on from drool-your-glands-out puppy love to finding your true love. Mine happened at an automobile expo in Delhi. The bike had been around for a while, but i saw a guy who had painted it in castrol colours and i was hooked. I knew i had found my true love. And I bought a Karizma. and that's where things get funny.
From love, most bikers move on to invincibility. Blinded by love, the bike to you is faultless, it can do no wrong. And since most bikers at whatever stage in their biking life consider the machine as an extension of themselves, by definition the rider can do no wrong as well. Yes, i am admitting on the record that like a lot of other bikers, i had my highly-likely-zip-splat stage as well. So you climb on in the morning, roar off into the road riding on the edge of capability, both yours as well as the machine's. This is where a lot of bikers end up making life threatening mistakes. Some learn and see the light, others remain stuck in this phase forever never realizing that you have to acknowledge limits before pushing them.
Those who get past here start realizing more about their machines. By now its usually clear that the bike is a machine too, and no matter what you think of your ride, its not infallible and can let you down disastrously if it so fancies. You begin to understand each part, what they are capable of, and how they can fail. And suddenly, freak accidents where tyres come off or forks break for no apparent reason dont seem so freaky anymore. And as it sinks into you that the machine is not perfect, you tend to realize your shortcomings as a driver. That you are not rossi or abe, and that you need to stay within your limits of skill to be able to push them. That trying to ride beyond your capability might mean you are throwing your life away. This is usually the longest stage. You could pass it in weeks, or you may be stuck here for years. I'm still stuck i guess.
I don't really know what lies after this. Maybe the next stage is where all those nirvana references come from. Maybe thats where you finally get all the ego and stupidity out of your system and become truly one with your ride. Like i said, i dont know and i'm flying blind here. But i do know that I still have moments of biking stupidity which tell me that i've still not graduated to the next level.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

An Honest Ode..

This one's about my bike, so u might want to skip it.

Its been over a year now since i got my bike, and while its rather premature to bill it an old soldier and write a sentimental ode, its probably the right time to look honestly at it and find out why i like or not-so-like it. As you can see, i still can't hate it. And that's not just because i've bought it, no. Right after i'd gotten it i had written about the same topic, only i was rather smitten by it then and had lost my objectivity and was crowing about it. Today i hope to take an objective look at it. As i set off writing this, I'm still prone to lose my way and objectivity again. In which case I'll try again a year later. For now I'll look at those not-so-good aspects first.
Like all bikes its got hundreds of little problems that are unique to it. Unique not to the make of bike, but to the individual bike itself. Mine has met with fifteen accidents (1 major, 3 worthy of note and 11 minor) in the space of the last one year. The major one has left its mark on the bike, with stability problems cropping up at high speeds sometimes. Then there are irritating problems like the right-hand driving mirror that keeps coming loose, the silencer bolts coming loose at the cylinder end, the rubber padding on the insides of the fairing that just refuses to stay in place etc. These are all minor irritants. Its probably what happens in a marriage as well. just like you look at other people's lives to figure out how they're coping, i look at other zmas in parking lots to see if they've got the same problems. Nyet. These problems seem to be mine alone. But i dont grudge the bike for these, for these are far smaller than problems i've seen with others.
Then there are the problems common to the make of bike. I know only of three. One is the silencer, the next is the cam tensioner chain, and the third is mileage. I've been spared by the silencer problem, in a way. The increase in noise due to the K&N filter I had installed overwhelms any rattling the silencer can muster. Not that it rattles much anyway. But i agree that the rattling is a blemish on the stock zmas which are rather silent, since sound is one thing HH didn't bother to design. I have a loose cam tensioner chain that creates a throaty rattle as we drive along. Its a problem that the company wont even give a guarantee on after replacement, i.e. even if I replace the tensioner there is no guarantee that it wont repeat. Noise aside, this is not a big problem since normal driving is unhindered.
Mileage is the third problem. If i look at the trade off, which is a high voltage commute to office everyday and the occasional high speed long drive, i don't mind shelling out for the petrol. The numbers could have been better though. No matter how much you convince yourself, you have doubts whether other similar bikes are giving their promised paper figures which are miles ahead of the purported figures for my bike. I mean, i honestly accept that i get only 24 kilometres to a litre on my bike in the city. Other zmas claim even 40 on online forums, but the owners i've met in real life admit to 30. This bike is probably breeding a lot of liars and idiots in this country i suppose. True, i told my dad it's gonna give me 50 to a litre, but then that was to get the bike. I've been more or less honest about my figures after that.

Whats the greatest posiitive about this bike? One word. Reliability. No matter what the problems, no matter what the road throws at it, this bike was meant to run. I have so far not had a single occasion where the bike was rendered immobile due to any problem, except for accidents and punctures. Whatever be the issue, it has not let me down before reaching a service centre. I drove a 500 kilometer road trip while it was leaking oil. I badly wanted to go on that trip, and i knew that i should have fixed it before leaving. But i also know that no other bike would have given me the confidence to just leave and take things as they come. With regular topping up of leaked oil she did fine on the trip.
I had an accident that left the bike drowned in four and a half feet of storm sewage, along with a couple of other bikes. I fished it out of the water and pushed it a quarter of a kilometer to dry land where the other bikers parked their vehicles and went home for the night, while i could revive her ans ride back home on it with minor hiccups.
It can take punishment on a regular basis, with nary a whimper in protest. Take my commute to the office for instance. Its usually an adrenaline packed high revving drive with a couple of fast straight stretches and a few noteworthy corners. If i beat the morning traffic its a full speed dash to office, and if i dont its a low gear high rev traffic dodging exercise. Either way, i couldnt have asked for a more reliable ride, for she has yet to let me down. Even when I was having serious trouble with a chain that was stretched loose from all the stunting, the bike plodded along to the mechanic's where i could get it repaired. The bike is not designed for offroading, but took 3 kilometres of high speed offroading daily for two months and the only problem was that of the silencer coming loose, which was something i could fix myself.

And then there is looks. I know looks are subjective, but then i still like the zma over the new pulsar flagships, simply because it looks as heavy as it is. It does not look dainty, it looks firmly planted, and each time i ride this makes me place my full trust in its inherent stability. The pulsar might be just as stable, but i sure dont trust it. And i sure wont trust it to stand by me when i eventually do bangalore-mumbai nonstop. The zma has been my steed of choice, and a year later, i think i made a good choice.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007


So i got waylaid by one of those Amway fuckers. I'm usually very wary of such traps, having seen a lot of not-so-bright cousins fall in the trap and end up losing money. I'm usually on guard against these types, but this particular guy slipped through the net, so to speak. He said he wanted me help with some business idea of his, told me that he's an entrepreneur starting out etc etc. He was apparently a friend of one of my acquaintances, and cited his reference. And I was given to believe that he required my services as a designer. Now most freelancers and aspiring freelancers know what its like to have work come to you. You have a better bargaining position since you were approached by them. Not to mention the huge ego boost that someone, especially a start up with a lot to lose, has placed his trust in you to get the job done good. I agreed to listen to this chap. A little extra money on the side never hurt anybody right?
Which is what he must have been thinking when he got into this business of conning people as well. I should have guessed it was one of these chain marketing fuckers from the eagerness he displayed to meet me. I put that down as the enthusiasm of a start up following his dream. I did figure it before it boiled down to him telling me he was from Amway, but i had already met him by then and not being in a mood to be impolite to random strangers, i decided to hear him out. Also because the meeting was at my place, and if anyone had to do any running away it would have had to be him.
I dunno if he was trained to do it, but he was trying very hard to make me identify with him. To sort of strike a common ground. He started off commenting on my Jim Morrison t-shirt. He asked me if i was a fan of The Doors. I said i was a big time fan of theirs. He said he liked them too, though somehow he didnt look like he did. There are subtle signs people give out about their intentions, and you can use these to read right through them if only you can spot them in time. For instance, the t-shirt I was wearing had the famous lizard king portrait of morrison up front while on the back it said "I'm the lizard king, I can do anything - The Doors". The front is definitely more striking than the back, and i dont ever remember the back of the t-shirt having attracted comment. But he asked me about my music only after i turned around the first time, thus revealing the name of the band - not morrison, mind - to him. Observant chap, yes, but then he said that he liked their music as well. I was half inclined to put him a favourite song / lyrics question which usually weeds out the fakers from the believers, but decided to let him be. After all at that point he was still a potential client to me.
He comes into my mess of a room, and even though i can sense the unease on his face, he proceeds to make himself comfortably seated on the mattress on the floor given that i own no chairs. The room is trademark dirty, and he pretends its the same sort of room as he had in college. His creaseless clothes even at the end of the day tells me his room and mine are poles apart. You could tell the state of my room by looking at me even on days i wear neatly pressed shirts to office; where you live and what sort of person you are is something that you cant erase off you.
Then he launched himself into an explanation on the franchising business with McDonalds as the example. Most of the times when i set an alarm for a certain time in the morning, i wake up one or two minutes before it on my own, and then lie in wait for the alarm. I had the same sort experience here. Just before he took out his pad of paper and his cheap plastic pen to explain the franchising concept to me, i figured this was heading towards Amway. I just sat back and waited for the alarm. Which came when he started explaining McDonalds. 'Cos thats the bloody same example all my cousins used when they started explaining too. And that was even before any of us had ever been to a McD's. These guys must have some sort of organised propaganda machine working for them, i guess. Thank god they're selling only carwash, mouthwash and hogwash, and not the thousand year reich which by the way was probably hogwash too.
I was really depressed by the way he made little drawings and wrote down memorized figures to explain all the bullshit he'd been taught. People are almost willingly manipulated, it seemed to me. I didn't betray my thoughts on my face, I let him continue instead. The figures never seemed to end, he even knew how much his mentors were making per month. A little into his lecture he probably figured that while i was patient with him, i wasn't at all buying into what he was trying to sell me. So he began renewed efforts in tyring to find common ground, and asked me about the last movie I had seen. Wrong question, since I'm a serious cinema buff almost to the point of being a snob, so i told him that the last film i saw was hable con ella by almodovar, instead of the Chak De India he was probably expecting. He made a half ditch attempt to still find that elusive bond, and told me its a beautiful movie. The way he told me told me the truth, and the expression on my face told him he should probably shut up, which he promptly did. Anyways, things went downhill for him from there. I was waiting for him to mention Amway to tell him in the politest possible manner to fuck off and dont bother me again, and he was doing his darnedest best to avoid mentioning them. Finally after about twenty minutes into the conversation, he mentioned them, I told him what i thought about them and the aforementioned fuck-off, and it was all over. Or so i thought. Tenacity is a quality i would credit him with. Now that he had failed to recruit me into his evil cult, he started trying to peddle me samples of their evil stuff and wanted me to inflict the same torture as i just underwent on my friends by giving him their numbers.
I had wondered how these people maintain a social life. I mean, your primary customers were your friends who were expected to recruit other friends and so on. Assuming half your friends are jackasses who would be easily conned into something like this and the other half aren't, you stand to reduce your social circle by half by doing something like this cos the intelligent ones amongst your friends would figure by this point that you are an idiot not worth counting for a friend. I wouldn't want to be friends with anyone using their spare time to peddle me car polish when i don't even own a car. Come to think of it, i cant imagine any of my friends wanting me telling them what toothpaste to use either. And since my circle of close friends was pretty much closed, something like Amway would mean all of us ending up not talking to each other. Amway might have imagined it different, but this is how it works for me. Yet there they are, a 6.4 billion dollar company, Infosys Wipro and TCS rolled into one according to the idiot i talked to. There must be too many lonely people in the world, methinks. An interesting spin off business from Amway could then be the social networking business. All those lonely people probably need dates.
Anyways, i managed not to lose my temper with him, for such interesting thoughts were going on in my mind. I did tell him however that i will not consider sacrificing my social circle for his advancement in the Amway chain. He begged me to reconsider and said he'd get back in touch in a month. I told him not to bother, but I have a feeling he probably will.
i realized later that i had nothing against the guy. my prejudice against his cause was the reason behind my hostility. Maybe he had financial problems severe enough to warrant getting into something like this as there werent too many other lucrative things he could do without leaving his job. But what i did hate about him was his inability to separate himself from the bullshit he was selling. One look at him when he was explaining his figures was all it took for me to figure that he actually believed in those numbers and doodles he was making for all those people he met. I hated that. Its when i see that people can believe any bull they're told that i remember that the nazi ideology was so easy to sell, and that people are selling similar stuff today and other people are buying. I hate that as well. Period.

end note : after i wrote this i kinda thought that equating them with nazi propaganda machines was a bit bit far-fetched, but when i read more about these guys i think i wasn't that far off the mark. they have faced multiple lawsuits in various countries for cult-like behaviour, apparently. read for more on this.

Saturday, 11 August 2007


how do i explain my music to you? even better, why would i? what is in it for me to explain my kind of music to you, thus providing you with a window into what stirs my soul? i dunno, a desperate need to know that i'm not alone, maybe. to feel that there are people i may yet relate to on this planet, maybe. all this at the risk of sounding emo i agree, but some things need to be said with some passion. so i'll shed my usual high ground of dispassionate humour. and tell you all about devotchka while i'm at it. what do i feel when i listen to devotchka? i could wiggle outta that one by sayin its beyond words, but i wont be a total cunt. but i definitely will sound like one if i tell you i see heaven. risking that nonetheless, i will reaffirm it. what is music if not a rescue vehicle, something that takes you away from all thats bothering you and filling you with hatred? devotchka is the name of my escape ride. everyone has their own, and compared to real ones, mine might compare well with a Volga coupe. obvious russian connections aside, i'll try n explain that a little further. for one, like the car, the band is good. but that is a subjective notion, for the car like the band looks out of place from what you see when you take a glance at the rest of those respective worlds, automotive and music. Both are around today, little clearings in a forest of common-ness, so desperately needed by those seeking shelter from the mundane. and both exotic, both so different that you wonder what they are made of. both stick out like sore thumbs and you wonder why such things are even made today. yet to those who have discovered them, they touch the strings at the very bottom of their hearts, strings you never even suspected the existence of. its like finding someone or something you have been looking for your whole life, and you are beside yourself with relief more than joy, for the joy is only yet to begin. for each new track that i heard, for each new fact i found of the volga, i developed a love for each so great i doubted if anything could top it. could they possibly have made a better track? this one sounds like the best on earth. could there be more i didnt know about the volga? yet more joy when i find that they have indeed made a better track, and that the volga has more to it than i could imagine.
which is a good feeing, since that leaves me without worrying how long the vehicle is going to last. for it fosters in me the hope that there might be other clearings in the musical forest that will shelter me better, when this one finally gets taken over by the undergrowth.
theres more than just escape though. the feeling that u get when you hear music telling out loud the very things you've suspected you've always wanted to say is another level to my musical preferences. most have some poetry lying under the ice, just beneath your hardened mental casing that protects you against the world. just lying in wait to be stroked. it can only be stroked, brute force is not the way to reach there. devotchka for me is the lightest of feathers that can stroke that bit of poetry. it wont make me create more such feathers of poetry but it will make me happy for a few precious moments, allow me to reflect on what i truly am, what i stand for, before returning to reality and its associated maladies.

i feel like an emo crapfuck for havin written all that, but what the hell :)

Thursday, 2 August 2007

On Birthdays..

Birthdays are a diabolic invention, i tell you. Birthdays are wrong on so many levels I can't even count them all. Well, I can count a few though, and thats what i think I'm trying to do here. For a start, I just celebrated my birthday yesterday, and whatever I couldn't help but realize during the course of that crazy day is not going to make me refrain from celebrating in the future. Its the same sort of catch22 that happens in so many other walks of life. It usually goes like this : there is something or someone screwing you over, but because a certain part of that whole process of getting ripped is immensely and addictively pleasurable you do it over and over again. At some point if you are lucky you are enlightened to the fact that you are getting ripped off, but instead of sparking a revolution this more likely breeds submission. You continue to get yourself screwed, realize how good it is making you feel in the short term, and continue doing it in at attempt to make it last forever, make it longterm. The intellectually endowed might allow themselves a conversational wank over the whole thing once in a while because that makes them feel good too. Which is more pathetic since they have seen whatever it is screwing them over, seen that it is happening to the world in general, yet all those bastards ever do is sit around a bar table with drinks in hand and engage in intellectually masturbative activities involving the subject at hand. I must admit to my shame that i am an aspiring member of that group as well, and that i am not going to practice what i preach. But i will attempt to wank at a slightly higher level than them. So where do birthdays fit in?
well, my reflections and realizations stem from an analysis of my own birthday celebration. And thats precisely what I'm about wank over. I realized that birthday celebrations are very very wrong. and what did i do? what I've always been doing... hiding behind a curtain of celebrations, enjoying every minute while it lasted, knowing that the ordeal as well the curtain would last only as long as each other. Ordeal, you ask? Let me explain. what do greeting card companies do? they take a random day, dedicate it to something, and make money out of it. Birthdays similarly are a tool for the society in general to let the individual feel special, let everyone have his day in the sun and make him feel wanted, feel good.. the works. The sad part is that for the most part of the rest of the year, the very same society might not give a shit if the poor sod exists or not. His boss might be exploiting him, his wife might be cheating on him with the plumber of all people, his daughter might be a cheap whore but on his birthday they make him feel all different, that everything was perfect, that it was his entry to the world this day years ago that made it perfect et al.. They tell him what a great guy he is when the last week they humiliated him in public, tell him what a great family he has when its crumbling to pieces, let him take the day off when he was refused leave when his own mother had died, and the sad part is.. most of these guys who i am characterizing under 'poor sod' would believe everything is ok, that everyone likes him, and so forth.
The flat monotony of everyday life is a much better torture than lifting an individual out of that monotony, taking him high up where he doesn't belong, and then watching him fall back while you stand and watch from the relative comfort of that very same monotony. Thats exactly what a birthday does. I realized it at the peak of the day. There is a feeling of warmth in the morning, yet as the evening draws closer you are cold. You realize that it will be another year before this happens again, and you don't want to let this all go because you haven't had such a feel-good time in years. Its the return to normal that keeps this cycle together. No one wants to return to normal, and i suspect I'm not the only one who felt cold toward the end of the birthday. And got colder and colder till the distant glow of the next birthday starts becoming something to look forward to, sorta like the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel except there is no tunnel if only we would look more closely. This contrived tunnel seemed to be the root of all problems, yet i took a step further. For this was only one tunnel in a maze. I started realizing that there may be something to the Hindu concept of rebirths after all. I am not religious, but i suspect i do have a spiritual side somewhere below all the cynicism, or i would perhaps have not made this parallel. Though i have a slight alternative to offer. Instead of being stuck in a cycle of lives, i think we might be stuck in a million cycles all in one life. Cycles of joy, sorrow, fortune, hardship, birthdays, name it. Yet what pissed me off i think is the fact that there seem to be a few who have mastered the cycles, who are on top of things, who have the key and even though they themselves are stuck in cycles of their own yet have control over vast swathes of human life. And i also hated the ones who profess innocence.. who believe that things are essentially good even when faced with enormous evidence (albeit debatable) to the contrary. Those who believed that they don't manipulate people, that they are not being manipulated, when their very existence is a game and counter-game of manipulation. I mean, what are birthdays if not a huge manipulation of someones reality, a stretch of his personal time-space fabric? there is no real significance attached to the day for everyday millions like him were born, and millions like him are dying. is it a way for society to keep tabs on the progress of someone's life? a subliminal schedule that you are expected to keep? like starting to think about what you want to do in life when you turn sixteen or when to get married once you reach 26, for example? the expectations might not be collective or generic, because i don't believe that this manipulation is being carried forth by a massive central machinery. for he is being manipulated by what might be called as his social circle, which in turn is manipulated by the immediate community above it, and so forth all the way up to those few who are riding these cycles. which is why that the sort of a future vision shown in movies with a big brother watching over will be a failure in my opinion because there are people in this world who may have realized that this probably is a much better way to run the world. For in the eyes of the individual, it is the expectations of his loved ones and friends that he has to live up to. He does this as he is nothing without them, little realizing that these collective expectations can be manipulated and manufactured as well. and the common birthday is just one tool in a plethora. the game is dynamic due to the lack of a central force, it is chaos pulling in different directions yet somehow pulling the collective a little way in the direction that the masters of these cycles want.
These are all theories, realizations, opinions and thoughts. I am not raising questions, i am not starting a revolution or attempting to start one, i am not going to move a little finger against any of these things that i see, for i have submitted to it as well. i may have resigned myself to the fact that such is life. I could fight my way out of my cycles yet end up in further more. i may become the master of a few, maybe many if I'm lucky. but there will still be more cycles to conquer and i wont ever conquer them all even if i wanted to. any break out will lead me or anyone who attempts it into a never ending battle, which i believe may not be worth it. I may change later, but for now i am content in the illusions of temporary satisfaction that drive a cycle of permanent dissatisfaction. I am content constantly picking up nuggets of satisfaction in an attempt to build a castle that never will be done in my lifetime. yet what will happen if i try and break out? the same. the moment one breaks out of these thing, they are either done for, or they become the master of the particular cycle they broke out from. Yet due to the basic nature of humans to remain dissatisfied, he (or I) will go looking for more cycles to conquer and meet the same unsatisfied end on a different plane. like a matrix within the matrix.
so i will celebrate birthdays, give and get gifts, believe that the world loves me, love the world in return with all the effort i can muster, give the boss a high five near the water cooler, believe that the girl i love loves me as well, repeat the cycle till my body reaches the limits of its serviceability and die in a much simpler frame of life, content yet discontent.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

slam wham and bamboo man

dear reader (I'm all into north Korea now, y'know, dear leader, get it ? get it? .. oh u blasted morons),

allow me to begin by stating, for the record, that i know sweet jack-shit about bamboo. or crafts. or weaving. except weaving through heavy traffic. no, that's not entirely true. what i meant to say is that i have no useful knowledge of bamboo. or the rest of the thingamajigs i mentioned. as for useless knowledge, i have lots of it. especially about bamboo. when i was five or six, my weapon of choice for all my imaginary adventures was a 4 foot bamboo pole. my other weapon was a Kalashnikov automatic, but it had a habit of staying only in my imaginary world. then one day i was forced to give up the pole for the good of the society as it was urgently required to kill a harmless water snake some old neighbour lady found in her garden. it was returned smeared in snake blood, so i threw it away believing that snake blood brought curses with it. also i guess i was rather disappointed by the fact that my weapon of choice actually worked, unlike me. well, the curse of bamboo was to hit me much later in life.
after a few months in nid, which by the way was after many years out of touch with bamboo, my knowledge of the material increased. i got to know for instance that it was invented by MP Ranjan in the wood workshop and that right as i was lazing around in class, scientists around the world were figuring out how to use it to build roads, microchips and spacecraft. also when i went to buy the Hindi dub of the Matrix from Bhadra Fort with a friend whose purpose in life seemed to be bringing Hollywood to Bihar, i also discovered that there's an interestingly titled Hindi movie called 'tamboo me bamboo'. Suffice to say i was impressed, but having chosen aerospace to make my career, i couldn't see myself travelling in a bamboo aircraft (maybe we could have that movie in-flight but no more). and neither did i think I'd ever have anything to do with this wonder material, i was happy doing mundane stuff. well boy was i wrong! nid has an ingenious method of bringing people like me to places where they shouldn't be. its called a craft documentation. and lo, i find myself in thick jungle swatting mosquitoes and looking for bamboo. well, not really. i was in a resort in Coorg that had a handicraft unit, and i was figuring out how to classify ash trays made from bamboo as a traditional Indian craft. and i couldn't. so i invented a craft. and well, got away with it, sorta. but i still have this niggling fear that even as we speak, there may be armies of NGOs equipped with my document headed to Coorg to study this new craft.
along the way i found a partner in crime, Sachin. just as ignorant and unscrupulous as i am. about bamboo that is. so after the craft documentation/invention/field study adventure, we were reminiscing on the old days when like retired superheroes, we were called to action again. the bad guy was a freelance project that we needed to take down immediately. well, dangerous job, very vague understanding, and good money. what were we waiting for? we landed in a remote village in Kerala. hell, i didn't even know Kerala had remote villages. the village could be accessed via auto rickshaw or a river crossing on a boat, and we chose the latter so that when our superhero adventures are brought out by DC comics, they can romanticize our hardship.
i found out that the work had something to do with weaving and helping the women there to make products from woven bamboo strips. so i told them that sachin's a great expert in weaving, everything short of telling them he's post-graduated in weaving. i was safe. but well, being as unscrupulous as i am, he got his own back. i came to know that I'm the dyeing expert. the only dye i ever saw was the sort you apply on your hair, and the sum total of my expertise was applying stripes of the stuff on a stray dog and christening him 'tiger'. but then verbal gymnastics came as a default feature when i was born, like air bags on Mercs. so i figured i could weather the storm. after all, i am a survivor of seven juries under very taxing circumstances that would make a holocaust survivor proud. but then bamboo is jinxed for me. i figured wrong. The conversation went something like this :

One of the weavers : "Sir will this dye do?"
Now, she's holding a packet of some obscure looking substance that looks black in colour and I'm mentally debating my options.
I shoot, borrowing heavily from my association (read : having chai at bmw) with textile students : "I've worked only with chemical dyes.."
Weaver : "Sir this is chemical.. "
Me, shooting randomly now that my ploy has backfired : "I meant cloth dyes.."
Weaver : "Sir, this is cloth dye, we have no other dye in the local town market.."
Me, under heavy strain from the double backfire: "ahm.. well, i suppose we don't have a choice then.. "
If DC Comics ever bring out my superhero story, I'm now willing to bet they'd call it Adventures of Captain Obvious and Sneaky Sidekick.

Jim Morrison once said "I see myself as an intelligent and sensitive guy with the soul of a clown, which forces me to blow it at the most critical moments". This is especially true in my case, for i am rarely far from foul-ups. The sense of impending disaster regarding this project had set off more alarm bells in my head than riding pillion with Saurabh Deb on a motorcycle carrying two Powerbooks.

But I suppose it can be stated here that I managed the dyeing admirably enough to be made chairman of Bombay dyeing, save the fact that after all my sweating over the fire and in the sun the stupid dye did a weird sort of boil-dance and went 'pffffff' leaving my white pants in green polka dots. Oh yeah, it was only after i added the dye to water did i figure what colour it finally was. All along I was under the impression that it was yellow. And thank God that those weavers didn't know enough about dyes to ask questions that would have stumped me. I dunno what i would have told the poor devils who wished me a sing-song "good morning sir" every morning. And thanks to the devil too, for we had to dye bamboo on the exact same days i chose to wear white trousers. And I dont fancy green trousers.

But then fate is not all that bad. Even while engaged in the biggest foul up in the middle of nowhere, i could have the last laugh. It so happened that there are people in this world foolish enough to believe that I am employable and that proved to be my score against Sachin for making me the dyeing expert with green polka dotted trousers. I had to leave in the middle of things as i was urgently required as arch-nemesis for the multinational conglomerate that was foolish enough to offer me employment, and he is busy trying to figure out the bamboo spaceship i promised them he'd be building for them. Last heard, he was trying to teach them about tetrahedrons in an effort to distract them, but i have sold them the dream of becoming TASA (Thiruvananthapuram Aeronautics and Space Administration) so i guess he isnt meeting with much success. Mwahahahahahah, or what . And for the record, it felt good becoming and instant-mix furniture-textile-product designer in the face of overwhelming odds. I didnt know my design morals were that flexible; four years spent being ultra-condescending towards textile and furniture designers went down the drain when faced with money. Now that that's out of the way it wont be too hard kissing some boss ass to climb the metaphorical ladder.

I suppose i can now peacefully figure out how to go about correcting the mistake of the poor sods who thought i was employable. If I'm successful, the world would be rid of one more Fortune 500 company.

PS - I believe women should be chained to the kitchen, preferably naked. If that whole article didn't emphasize my political incorrectness, I hope this last sentence restored my credentials.

PS2 - This is a semi-fictional work of satire. The fictional parts are a closely guarded secret.

PS3 - Out in stores now. I want one for my birthday.