Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Sacrilegious Xmas..

This is the Christmas email I sent out to friends, thought I might as well post it here in its entirety, so that I can make 2010 my bloggingest year yet :)

tl;dr just a long winded way of wishing you a merry xmas.

So I was wondering, what if Jesus were born in India? What would we get if we replaced Bethlehem with the idiosyncrasies of modern day India? Well, legend goes that Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem to pay a special tax. We're right on target then! I admit my version of the nativity story is bits and pieces I remember from school, polished off with a six-year-old friendly version that I read on the interwebs after the idea for this post struck me, but bear with me here. So, Joseph and Mary travel to India where Mary is to deliver the Son of God. Of course, health insurance was a problem, and India being the prime destination for cheap but world class healthcare, they decided to take the medical tourism route. Thanks to an unfortunate booking on Air-India, their travel dates were anyone's guess. A little known story goes that the angel who came to Mary to tell her she would bear the Son of God had to make a coupla trips back to confirm their booking with the local Air India offices. As a result, Joseph and Mary arrived in India the night before her due date. The journey left Mary wishing for a trip on donkeyback, like in the good old days, since the aircraft was even less comfortable than that.

Upon arrival, they were greeted with burning tyres and buses. I guess it was apt that the day before the Lord's birth was a bandh in India. This was of course, strategically timed by the political parties who called for the bandh, so that two productive days would be lost. The birth of the Lord would be a holiday in any case. As a result of the bandh, they were left stranded. Most of the hotels weren't open, and Apollo Hospital was kinda far from the airport. Determined that the Son of God would not arrive into this world at the airports rather apt but unclean arrival terminal, they ventured out. The few open hotels immediately jacked up their rates tenfold seeing that Joseph and Mary were a) foreigners, b) desperate for a room. In the end they bribed the custodian of a Yatri Nivas run by the state tourism corporation and he gave them a semi-passable room for the night. Needless to say, there were bedbugs and mice galore. At this point, Mary is rather ironically telling Joseph that she has seen stables cleaner than this back in Bethlehem. A while later, the Lord is born, and Joseph, having had an overdose of the recently concluded FIFA world cup, names Him Jesus, ostensibly in tribute to Jesus Navas, the Spanish winger.

Now, some wise men arrived by the red-eye flight from the Promised Land. Being wise men, they knew fully well not to carry expensive gifts since they would have to bribe the customs officials to get them into the country, and it wasn't quite worth it. Instead, in their wisdom, they shopped duty-free. I'm not sure of the exact nature of the gifts they bought, considering duty-free didn't stock gold, frankincense or myrrh. The guy at the check-out counter didn't even know what the last two were. I'm guessing they bought at least one bag of Herschey's Kisses chocolate, judging by the purchases of all foreign-returns in my office. They were to follow a star that they knew would rise, but being wise men, they had factored the smog in our cities into their plans, and had brought along a GPS. They ran out of wisdom soon, though, when they discovered that their expensive Tom-Tom unit didn't have much coverage in India. They had more pressing worries though, they had to register themselves at the police commissioners office as foreigners before they could proceed to see Jesus.

In the end they did get there, only to figure out that they were a bit too late. Senior officials in the immigration department had already leaked to the media information regarding the presence and whereabouts of Joseph and Mary in India, and the wise men were beaten to the post by Barkha Dutt who was shouting at the Child, trying to get the first ever interview with the Son of God. Vijay Mallya was there too, since he was tipped off about the water-to-wine capabilities of the Kid, and the folks from Dr Batra's Homeopathics were there since they needed His miracle cures since Homeopathy was shite anyway. Lalit Modi was offering him an IPL team, and the producers of Big Boss wanted to do an Ed TV style reality series on his life that somehow also involved walking on water while carrying Rakhi Sawant. The Kid could do it without a CG budget.
yeah i think i should probably stop.

PS2, if i weren't agnostic, i would say that this has probably assured me of my ticket to hell.
PS3, Merry Xmas y'all. :)
PS4, yeah i know, i missed out on lotsa details, couldn't be bothered, etc.

love, take care, etc.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Clean bike, wide grin..

She sits in the workshop in all her glory. Having been a bit of a hangar queen lately, she seems intent on testing my patience. I think she has a smirk on her face. I remind myself to be a bit less silly, this was a bike after all. Whatever was causing her to throw her little hissy fits, we had to get to the bottom of it and fix it, lest she throws a tantrum en route to Goa. A night ride is on the cards, and a possibility of the bike throwing tantrums on NH4 might not sit well with my mental well being on the ride. I think back and remember that she's not really let me down on a long ride as yet, but as she (and I) are getting long in the tooth, I tend to anticipate issues more often these days. Thus, we're back at the workshop, where she takes centre-stage.

Syed the Reliable, coaxes and cajoles her into revealing what the vexing issue was. She's not easy on us, we have to check and eliminate electrical and fuel line issues before she finally reveals what was wrong. A tiny unreachable sleeve connecting carburettor to engine has given up the ghost. For all of 150 rupees, Syed the Reliable will have to dispatch a minion halfway across town to get a spare. The broken sleeve meant she was taking in an impure fuel-air mixture, which caused power and mileage to drop, temperatures (both hers and mine) to increase, and more importantly, stoppages. I would be doing 100+ on the ring road and for no reason, she would go on strike. And then when I'm on the verge of giving up and calling Syed for help, she would start up again, as if nothing was ever wrong. Sounds a bit like a marriage, I suppose. I wouldn't know. I leave her in the care of Syed and his minions, and walk the short remaining distance to work.

At five fifteen in the evening, I walk back in and see she's getting a wash. Syed has been uncharacteristically tardy, but that's okay, I have all the time in the world. They roll her out of the washing bay, oil up the chain, put on new handlebar grips to replace the old ones I'd lost in the last accident, and she's good to go. She's set me back two hundred and eighty eight rupees, but that's nothing compared to the relief of finally having fixed everything. A thousand couldn't fix her the last time I was here. I thank Syed and Co. one last time, and walk out of the shop, where they have her ready and purring, dripping wet from the wash. From the sound of the engine I figure everything's okay, it's an oddly reassuring sound. I get on, check everything, switch the purr to a muffled roar, and we're off. I watch the water droplets slide and fly off her sides as we pick up speed. I made it a point to ask them not to dry her after the wash. There is only one proper way to dry a freshly washed bike. And that is to RIDE it.


Sunday, 19 December 2010

Hush L(a)unch

So there was this little book launch today. Hush (refer previous post) was unofficially launched at a nice little lunch event at this place called 64 in Koramangala. Just a few friends, well wishers and people who worked so hard the bring the book out. i fall into the former two categories, so i was there for the free lunch as well. which was just as well, since i am kinda broke :). I have watched this book come to life while standing on the sidelines, and was proud of the efforts of pratheek, dileep and the rest in having finally brought it out. the future is equally uncertain for everyone, but few dare step up and chase a dream. i had a small toast to make, and had written it down a few days back. in the end i gave the reader's digest version of it i guess, since it wasnt a formal event and all that. in any case, i thought i might as well post the entire text of it here.


I cannot tell you how happy i am being here, seeing this book take flight finally. I have a small story to share on this occasion. Back in July, pratheek and i had done a roadtrip to kerala to attend sooraj's and asha's wedding. after a rather long arduous and rain-soaked drive on my bike, we reached kanhangad, where we were to halt at sachin's place for lunch and some much needed rest before the remainder of the trip to kannur where the wedding was. It's always been awkward meeting parents of NID folk, at least for me. Parents of school friends were different, since i was accustomed to them, but somehow it's been different with parents of college friends. but sachin's father is the genial sort, and was keeping us entertained with small talk. eventually, he got around to asking us both what we did for a living, which is when the fun started.

prefacing that, he had been on a roll telling us how sachin is working with paper, and i couldn't help but get the impression that his dad wasn't entirely sure of the rationale behind it. what was a trained graphic designer doing cutting up bits of paper? soon he found that i was a trained product designer who was working with airplanes, and that pratheek was a trained engineer and then a trained product designer who was working on a comic book. with an incredulous expression on his face, he asked "why didn't you guys figure this out earlier?". his point was that sachin had been cutting up paper since school, i have always loved airplanes, and pratheek had been a comic fanatic since he was a kid. why didn't we just figure out earlier what we wanted to do and not waste time with NID and engineering and whatnot?

since he was talking as a parent who had to pay for the circuitous academic paths one of us took, i sympathized with him. its not easy for them to understand what three lunatics like us have been doing with our lives. but today, seeing this book come out, things are different. there are times when all of us have struggled with our dreams, and it's moments like these that provide that extra reserve of energy when morale is fading. seeing a good friend making progress is inspiring, and gives me hope in my own pursuits. So, here's to friends and their dreams, here's to long winded but sure footed paths to those dreams, and here's to the relentless chase and never giving up. :)


yeah, maybe that was a bit stuffy and formal for a comic book launch :P

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Hush / Manta Ray

Hush, is here.
This is the fruit of the endeavours of my close friend Pratheek Thomas. Him and Dileep Cherian have started an indie comic/graphic novel publishing house called Manta Ray. Do check them out, and support them. the book is good, i've read it :)

Web (Under Construction)

Thursday, 28 October 2010

crazy, silly, or downright certifiable..

UPDATE : I've been gifted a model of the very same plane that's pictured at the bottom of this post. It's a sort of a dream come true, because I'd seen it 4 years earlier when i had no money, and wanted to buy it. When i could finally afford it, the shop that had it shut down, and i could find it nowhere. Until a dear friend of mine, Rustom Mazda, found one in Italy and gave it to me as a birthday gift. Friends, like dreams, are awesome :)

those that work with me in the same office know that the website is an important part of my day. a hangout for aviation enthusiasts worldwide, its my source for a lot of aerospace knowledge on wide ranging topics, be it technology, business or the latest rumours in the industry. plus the simple pleasure or looking through over a million pictures of airliners. and an occasional source of inspiration, it turns out.

i've jokingly told a lot of people that what i want to do when i retire is to buy a small airplane and live near an airport, so i can take the grandkids out for a spin when they come visit me. for the most part this was a silly pipe dream, and not something i meant in entire seriousness. in fact, there were a few more similar dreams that would fall into the same category. but something happened today, that sorta made me look at them afresh.

on one of the forum threads on today, someone posted asking how much it would cost to restore a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar aircraft (a plane i love) to airworthy status to be used as a personal jet to transport all his friends to cool places. now, contrary to appearances, this wasn't posted by a juvenile who hasn't lost all his milk teeth yet, but by a forty eight year old graphic designer from new york. he wanted to paint it in a cool livery of his own design, and wanted to take his friends around, partying in the skies. that was his dream. and he just wanted know his chances of realizing it.
what surprised me were the responses. most of them took the dream reasonably seriously, having had similar dreams themselves. some people were chipping in with aircraft acquisition costs, D-check costs, crew and operational costs etc, while others were giving him more realistic options like smaller planes and charter costs for larger planes. there were also outright naysayers, and some skeptics, which i suppose was to be expected.

but one
post stood out from the rest, and sorta touched me i guess. i thought i'd share it here. it was by a real estate agent in the USA, who is also an aviation nut, and he said :

"You know, it's fun to dream. When I read the posting I just had to smile. Who amongst us in this forum or on this website has not, at one time or another, had the same dream? Or similar? I used to think it would be so cool to acquire the old Regent Air B727 and fly my friends around to parties and all the happening hotspots. (I'm seriously dating myself referring to Regent Air!) There is also that incredible B757 in Dallas that the Mavericks charter to fly their team, and I think it seats only 63 pax. I'd load it up with all my co-workers and fly us to our annual convention in style. Call me crazy, silly or downright certifiable. I'm in my mid-40's now -- my reality is a house that has two mortgages, a 1995 Corolla with 200+K miles and two somewhat ungrateful cats. And yet, yet, everyone once in awhile my mind drifts to my "happy place" where I'm in my private plane at 30,000 feet (or higher), being served Maker's Mark and soda by my model-gorgeous cabin crew and headed off somewhere -- ANYWHERE -- away from my current reality. Don't get me wrong -- my life is not at all bad, in fact it's pretty effing good. Dreams are free. You keep dreaming, buddy. I think your dream is awesome.


call me a sucker for having fallen for a few words, but this made my day, and made me look at my dreams afresh. thank heavens for small joys, eh?

Lockheed L-1011 Tristar V2-LEJ , leased by Air India from Caribjet in the late 90's.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Emptying my phone..

Just emptied my phone's memory today, thought i'd share the pics in there. To any amateur photographers visiting this page, this is not an attempt to show off photography skills (which would be pathetic in this case) but more of a presentation of evidence for various things i'd done in the recent past.

Also, might not be posting here for an indefinite period while i work on a personal project of mine, which should soon be up and will be announced here. So i thought i'd post a few pictures to distract the usual faithful readers (1.85, annual) and buy some time away.. :)

The River we played hide and seek with on the Sooraj Asha Wedding Roadtrip..

Evidence that Pgt did come along on the roadtrip to Sooraj's wedding. :)

The Car! Ain't she gorgeous :)

Bangalore in the rains, through my office window, on a boring afternoon.

Bangalore after the rain, on the day of Sooraj and Asha's reception.. it was actually a double rainbow!

Avial at St Johns Hospital grounds.. amazing concert as usual, plus they 'covered' silsila :D

And finally, the highlight of last weekend.. my best friend George's dog, Bubbles. She's a boxer, and while boxers can look intimidating, she's too damn cute and does the best sad-puppy eyes. Extremely friendly and a useless watchdog, to boot. I taught her to dance (!), but george couldnt be bothered enough to take a pic.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Two wheeled ramblings..

So, the other day, someone sort of told me i'm a good driver. It was a friend of a friend whom i was not previously acquainted with, and apparently my friend had contrasted our driving styles and told him that i am a good driver. i was understandably miffed that my friend didn't convey this piece of valuable opinion directly to me, but i suppose there were reasons behind that. obviously, my head would grow heavy from the praise, to the effect that it would hideously upset my center of gravity when cornering, and that is decidedly not a good thing. of course, i didn't start writing this as an exercise in self-effacing humour, i had other reasons. reasons like the fact that i have probably received maybe five or six compliments on my driving ever since i've been legally allowed to drive.

to put things in perspective, my mom was once so terrified sitting behind me on her 50cc two stroke moped(that had a speedometer that maxed at 60kmph) that she actually jumped off it when she thought i was going to crash it. she preferred scrapes and bruises from the road to broken limbs from the lamp-post i was heading too close to. to this day she does not believe my explanation that i was avoiding a speed bump adjacent to the lamp-post, and that i was in control of the vehicle the entire time. she has never ridden pillion on a two wheeler that had me on the front seat ever since then, and this is a true story. those of you fortunate enough to have met amma would know for a fact that i can't possibly make up stuff like this. when i got my bike four years ago, people who used to ride with me used to employ words like lunatic, batshit insane etc, to describe my style of driving. several people had sworn never to get on my bike again, and there was one case where a friend's boyfriend had specifically forbidden her from ever getting on a bike being ridden by me. each time i try telling someone that i think my driving is pretty okay, they invariably point out my accident record, which stands at 28 accidents if you count the minor bumps and spills as well, and my claim of being at least a halfway decent driver would end there. so, to be introduced to a total stranger as a man with good driving manners, was a surprise to say the least.

So, all this brings me to lunacy. I recently turned [classified number], and well, since birthdays usually remind you of how old you're getting, i did a bit of introspection. i always used to believe that the lunacy you have when you're a kid sort of evaporates away with age, and is replaced with sensibleness and boredom. this is true for most of the population, but there are exceptions of course. and i used to rue it on each birthday, since i knew i would be doing less crazy things in the year ahead, on account of being older. my theory was that this lunacy and sense of invincibility are absolutely essential if i wanted to live life on my terms, and these qualities draining away with age isn't a prospect one can look forward to. but then, ever since i got my bike, my opinion on this subject has been varying slowly as well. i now kinda realize that this lunacy, if untempered, isn't the adamantium that i thought it to be, but instead it was more like kryptonite, if you would pardon the superhero references.

sure a few close calls and accidents helped me along with this realization, but thats not the point. the point has more to do with the sense of invincibility that i mentioned earlier. the point, even more specifically, is that it is false, this sense of invincibility. there are those who would, after a close call or accident they escaped unscathed from, think that it was a matter of their invincibility. that nothing would happen to them. i admit to thinking that way a few times as well. but as you go along, and as you evolve as a biker (a familiar refrain for those amongst my annual readership of 1.78 people who were probably patient enough to read these musings of mine on biking), you realize that there is a significant difference between what you can actually do and what you think you can do. there is a difference between how fast you can go as opposed to how fast you think you can go, how much you can bank as opposed to how much you think you can, and how quickly you can stop as opposed to how quickly you think you can stop. and that realization isn't necessarily the death of lunacy, it's more of a tempering.

the lunacy and invincibility would make you want to try out MotoGP levels of bank angles on the curvy road leading to your office. and let's be honest, it would be fun to try that. in fact, to push yourself to the limit doing anything like that does require a healthy amount of insanity. the tempering business that i'm talking about would try and keep you from going over your limits and making a spectacle of yourself for the other employees walking on that same road after their lunch breaks. the fact that you didn't crash isn't a victory for sensibleness. but the fact that you pushed a limit while acknowledging it, the fact that you tried, is a victory for a tempered lunacy. while all of this might sound like a justification for doing less dangerous stuff on account of getting older, i sincerely believe in it.

in the end, i do realize that i'm still far from a perfect driver. like i've mentioned in one of these posts long back, i still make mistakes that warrant a kick on the backside sometimes. but as the kilometers have been racking up on my odometer, the realization that all of these evaluations and self-appraisals and improvement efforts mean nothing in the face of things beyond your control has planted itself firmly in my mind. and that all you can do in the face of things like chance is to continuously try and get better, have fun doing it, and to hell with the rest. and i suspect i could apply that to other walks of my life as well.

PS - i think the really dangerous thing i did here was posting twice in a day. also, it's funny how these ramblings materialize when i'm sleep-deprived. it's bloody five thirty in the morning, good night.

Friday, 13 August 2010

On Beethoven and an Airplane..

This is probably a gratuitous post, so bear with me.

The first of the two is 'An Ode to Joy', by Beethoven. Like Fur Elise, this song also sounds immediately familiar even if you've never heard or paid attention to it before. The first time I really paid attention to it was at Aero India 2007. I'm sure you're not really surprised that there is an aviation connection here as well. I was at Yelahanka Air Force Station watching the afternoon round of flying displays. To be frank, i wasn't paying all that much attention to it since i'd already seen most of the flying routines in the morning, as well as on the day before. The American contingent was flying their F-16s and F-18s, which were doing pretty much routine stuff over airfield, and the commentary over the public address system was droning on with nonsense along the likes of "These airplanes have been the defenders of freedom since 1970s", etc. There was one plane i had missed, the Russian MiG-29 OVT, a thrust vectored version of the standard MiG-29, and i was really looking forward to what it had got to show.

The MiG doing its thing.. :)

The MiG's turn came, and the public address system sputtered back into life again, and started playing this tune. This amazing, vaguely familiar classical tune, timed to the aircraft's flying display. That display, to date, was one of the most beautiful things i'd ever seen, thanks in no small part to the music. The song was improbably slow for an airshow, but it was in fact a brilliant choice for a plane that had amazing slow-speed maneuvers to show off, including at one point stopping in mid-air at the start of a tail-slide. The crowd roared in applause for the lone Russian pilot who flew away from there as the star of the day, and the whole episode left the song in my mind. Yet i had no clue what the song was, for the next three and a half years.

I hunted for it high and low, and while people seemed to have heard the tune, no one could tell me its name. I even tried a website where you could hum and based on the tune the search engine would try and find your song. to no avail, though. until about a few months back, i was at a small party with my friends, and was humming this tune to myself when my erstwhile housemate nikhil, again, recognized the tune but couldnt remember its name. But his curiosity got piqued, and eventually he managed to track the song down for me a coupla days after that. I have posted above the version that is used as the national anthem of the European Union. The original i heard had no lyrics. The day after i finally found the song, i was telling my colleague benjamin the story of how long it took me to find it. Turns out i should've told him a long long time ago, since he blurted out the name the moment i hummed the tune. that song was right under my nose, in the next cubicle to mine to be precise, and i spent ages looking everywhere else.

I love the song, and i like the story, so i thought i'd share.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

A borderline atheist's conundrum..

based on true incidents. written about a year or so back for a short story competition.

in two days, i was to leave for America. it is the dream of a good number of people i know, and i was poised to achieve it. i just didn't have the clothes for the mission. a couple of friends came down and decided to help rectify that, and they were more than welcome since i was rubbish at shopping. i roamed the streets of the city's shopping district, full of apprehension. not just about what clothes to buy, but more about what awaited me in three days time. i considered myself quite the traveller and wanderer, but this was far beyond what i'd traversed so far. our efforts stretched from afternoon to evening, and we were now at that twilight phase where the sky seemed undecided about where to go, stay with the day or give in to the night. my thoughts were on similar grounds, since i was headed someplace i was not too keen on, yet was thrilled for the experience of travelling into the unknown. i was confused.

we had come to a popular bookstore, near which there exists a clothes shop specializing in export rejects. by this point i had pretty much all i needed, and my friends were tired of picking stuff out for me so they headed into the bookstore to do some browsing and shopping of their own and left me alone to fend with the choices of t-shirts before me. t-shirts were all i had left to buy. in keeping with my 'hate-shopping' policy, i was done in five minutes, and all my t-shirt needs were addressed. unfortunately, it wasn't the same for my friends who decided to take their own sweet time browsing through books they were unlikely to read anytime soon. i wasn't left with much option but to sit outside on the stairs leading to the street from the building that contained both these shops.

as i sat there pondering over things i should probably not have been pondering about, a girl appeared. she was the sort of girl you couldn't help but notice in an instant. pretty in every sense of the word, commanding the attention of everyone who passed around her on the sidewalk yet seemingly unaware of it. yet she seemed unsure of what she was doing there, and merely stood in the middle of the sidewalk while people milled around her. i kept stealing glances at her while i waited for my friends, and she was facing away from me. i wondered what she was doing here, in the middle of this crowd. perhaps she was waiting for someone? for lack of better things to do, i kept looking and wondering. until she turned around. at which point, the decent thing to do was to look away and pretend i wasn't looking in the first place. which is what i did.

but then i was put into an unfamiliar situation. the girl looked straight at me, into my eyes. i tried looking away, but i was transfixed, to put it mildly. she started walking over towards where i was sitting, and i automatically started going through the usual checklists. i looked around to see if there was anyone behind me, and there wasnt. i looked back to see if she was still looking at me, and i was pretty sure that she was. maybe she suddenly decided to buy a book, or perhaps cheap export rejected designer clothing.. yeah, that had to be it. all these evaporated the moment she stood right in front of me, and said 'hi'. a simple, sweet 'hi'. were i my usual self, i would probably have said 'bond. james bond'. but what came out was a 'bwuuhh?' from my mouth.

she extended her hand, and i timidly shook it. soft hands, yet a firm handshake. it almost seemed like i met her at work and was concluding a business deal. i looked up at her face, and she was smiling. i continued with the checklist. do i know her? have we met at some party where i got drunk and did something so stupid that she remembers me? the latter seemed plausible, but somehow i was inclined to rule it out. i had the good sense to let go of her hand when the handshake concluded, but my senses were thrown off gear again when she said 'd'you mind if i sit down here?' another 'bwuuhh..' gave her the go ahead and she sat next to me. a few moments passed in silence, while i figured out what to say. predictably, i couldnt form a single sentence. anything i attempted to say would surely come out as the now familiar 'bwuuhh.. '.

she put me out of my misery by saying 'how are you'. which still had me wondering whether i have met her before. i wracked my brain in a vain attempt to remember, and despite priding myself on my memory, i couldnt imagine where i possibly could've met her. but on the positive side, i seemed to be regaining my ability to speak, and said 'fine. how have you been?'. this, in the remote possibility that we do know each other. she made small talk with me initially, while the processing abilities of my brain were almost equally divided between responding to her conversation and figuring out plausible reasons for how a girl at least three leagues above me was talking to me out of the blue.

small talk soon developed into a full-blown conversation, which may have lasted all of five minutes maybe, but applying relativity, it seemed like an eternity in my head. i was just as confused as i was at the start regarding why this was happening at all, but was more than happy to just play along. it was a random, free flowing conversation, neither of us knowing the other presumably, until the moment she said 'you looked worried earlier. what's the matter?' since i had been thinking of my upcoming journey until i saw her, i told her i'd been thinking about it and was apprehensive about heading there alone. she asked me if i had any friends here, and i said i had quite a few, mentioning that i was waiting for a couple of them with dubious reliability while shopping for things i needed on the trip. she asked me what i'd bought, and i showed her the shirts, sweater and t-shirts i had accumulated as part of the afternoon expedition. she said she was new in the city and had no friends.

i was disinclined to believe that somehow, perhaps it was her demeanour, but she insisted that was the case. at this point, any red blooded guy would offer to be her friend, but i was more inclined towards saying 'bwuuhh..' again so i kept shut. i wanted to tell her i could be her friend, and show her around town, but i was battling the now all-pervasive bwuuhh. which is when she said, 'would you like to pray with me?' i mustve made an expression of incredulity, because she immediately launched into an explanation. 'well you are worried about your trip, and i am part of the church of so and so (i forget the name).. so i thought prayer would help you'. she took my hand in hers and asked me to close my eyes before i could form a coherent response. once she held my hand, a coherent response was pretty unlikely, in any case.

so we sat there, on the stairs leading to the bookstore and the shop with cheap export rejected designer clothing, while the rest of the shopping public moved along on the sidewalk in front of us, while my friends looked at books they were gonna buy but weren't going to read, holding our hands, closing our eyes, one of us reciting a prayer while the other pretended to pray while wondering how a borderline atheist like him got into a situation like this in the first place. after another eternity, the prayer was over, we opened our eyes and she smiled at me. i smiled back, she let go of my hand, and,still looking at me, pulled out a brochure from her backpack. a fucking brochure, for her church. which was followed by a notebook where she wanted me to write how i found the prayer experience with her, and sign my name. i was too stunned for an indignant expression. i could shoot down pyramid marketing guys before they even took off, yet i'd been had this time. i accepted defeat and signed the notebook, and walked home with one less reason to believe in god.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Cheburashka ♥

In Soviet Russia, nostalgia feels you! that didnt quite come out right, but yeah the question isn't too far off. is it possible to feel nostalgia for something you've never known, from somewhere you've never been?

I have been a huge Russophile from probably the age of five. I grew up in a family chock-full of believers in the communist ideology, not least of whom being my mother and my grandfather. We had a subscription for Misha magazine from where i learnt the Russian alphabet. My mother herself took Russian in college, that language being one amongst the many she went on to learn. I had penpals from the soviet union, and the prized stamp in the collection that we inherited was one from the communist East Germany. Thinking back, i owe a lot to my love for all things russian, since it was a boyhood fanaticism for their aircraft that got me started on the aviation road. or airway, rather.

One of the things i do is spot airplanes. And when it comes to that, the rarer the better. If it flies and is weird, i probably know a thing or two about it. I have cherished memories of a long list of strange aircraft sightings, from an Antonov 124 at delhi to an Ilyushin 18 in trivandrum, and all the way back to delhi for a cargo 707 which is a rare thing these days. I would travel miles if i could get to see the An-225, and i would travel back in time if i could to see the Air India Il-62 and L-1011. To be frank, the regular Airbuses and Boeings are kinda boring, to the point that even the paramount Embraers are a relief for me.

Antonov An-74

Cheburashka - Can you see how the nickname came to be?

And what i haven't had the chance to see, I read up about. I have a sizeable database on the weird planes of the world, and keep adding to it on almost a daily basis. Which brought me, a couple of years ago, to a most interesting aircraft, the Antonov-74. I had been looking for an aircraft the russians nicknamed the 747ski (which is actually the Antonov 30), dont ask me why i needed to know that, and i stumbled on this airplane instead. And this, in turn, was nicknamed 'Cheburashka', apparently after the Soviet animated character it resembled.

So, wiki-fan that i am, i immediately went on the Cheburashka page, to look it up. Airplanes were soon forgotten (i remembered the 747ski again only months later), and i couldn't get enough of this little chap. Pictures were downloaded, links were opened, youtube videos were watched, and torrents were downloaded. it didnt even disappoint me that i had gotten japanese dubbed versions on torrent, there were very few good torrents in any case. I've watched the video at the top of this post dozens of times now.

And strangely, it felt nostalgic. It felt like i had seen it before, a long long time ago. I know for a fact that i haven't, yet it seemed to fit so seamlessly with my memories from childhood that i was amazed.. i'd say yeah, it IS possible to feel nostalgia for something you've never known. It took me two whole years, but i finally got around to writing this and sharing it here.. Take a look at the video, and if you couldn't love Cheburashka, your friendship contract is probably up for renewal :P

PS - if you do like it, especially the song, i can send it over. or come over myself and sing it. and then hit you on the head non-lethally but severely enough that you wont remember my bad singing. whichever.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

A wedding + roadtrip, and some disappointment..

The wedding + roadtrip:

Two very good friends of mine, Sooraj and Asha just got married. I'd been pretty kicked about it since the time Sooraj called with the news that they're getting married, and had decided immediately that i was going no matter what. i'd been wanting to do a roadtrip on the bike as well, since it had been seven months since i did a serious long ride. this was the opportunity, and i guessed sooraj wouldnt mind since he's already set the bar with his delhi-kerala trip. Pgt agreed to ride pillion, since he'd been saying for a while that he wanted to come along on one of my trips. whether he'll come again for another one is a different matter, but go we did.

The plan was to head via coorg and hit the northern end of kerala at kasaragod, and then ride south on NH17 to kanhangad where sachin lives. From there on i would be without a pillion since the two of them would head to kannur by bus for the wedding, while i'd make it on the bike. Sooraj had arranged a resort for all of us to stay the night, and about 15 people from NID were already there to begin the festivities. The ride there was pretty uneventful except for a bit of rain once we crossed the kerala border. Coorg, as expected, was stunningly beautiful in the rains. it was glorious riding all the way to madikeri, with green rolling hills on either side and small sleepy towns punctuating the ride. the misty mountains on approach to madikeri made my day, as we shot through them covered in a light spray from the morning drizzle.

Once the roads took a sudden turn for the worse, we figured we had crossed the kerala border. the flurry of checkposts soon after confirmed it. we played hide and seek with a snaking river all the way to kasaragod, and then landed at sachins house for a sumptuous lunch cooked by his mom. the animal kingdom had taken quite a hit on their population to feed us that afternoon. i headed off immediately after lunch for kannur, and made a halt at payyannur where sooraj lived. Now, i have a constitution's worth of rules for myself when it comes to bike trips. These vary from the intensely pragmatic to the ridiculously arcane. and on each trip, i end up breaking at least three or four of my own rules. the rules i have regarding prior trip planning are usually always broken, but this time in addition to those, i broke a big rule that i had. 'Never ride to Kerala'. One reason was that most places i wanted to ride to in kerala would take me via my home town of cochin, where the risk of running into someone i know was a bit high. i couldnt ride home since my bike would be immediately impounded and my name would be deleted from the ration card. the second reason was that the traffic in kerala is insane. i take public transport as much as possible when i'm there, i dont quite think im enough of a maniac to survive driving there. plus, it'll add a few years to my age overnight.

so this time, that rule was broken, since i wouldnt be driving much in kerala, and kannur would mean that i dont have to go anyplace where there's a chance i'd run into someone i'd know. my pre-trip planning was sloppier than usual, and i neither had a toolkit nor any spares. i got sloppy on that count because the bike had never given up on me on any trip so far. well, this time she did. at payyannur, the bike wouldnt start anymore. so the groom-to-be, his brother and their friend came to my rescue and eventually we managed to start her up. at this point, i decided to visit sooraj's house anyway, and catch the argentina-germany match there. the story of that is dealt with in the second part of this post.

overall, it was a fun wedding. it's always nice to see the couple happy, instead of looking grim (which ive seen quite a few times elsewhere, by the way). sooraj was grinning like an idiot, and asha had her sweet smile as always, and we the friends were rapidly switching between making bad jokes and eyeing the girls in the auditorium. it was nice to have caught up with some old friends, and it was nicer to have made some new friends. with the wedding out of the way, it was time to head home. the next day was an all india-bandh, and since that would mean no petrol pumps, i couldnt risk a ride. so, right after a nice wedding sadya, i started off for bangalore. and i wished i hadnt.

each trip is difficult in one way or another, but this one was something else. as i made my way up the winding mountain roads on the ghats, the sky grew ominously grey. i rode as fast as i dared, aiming to cover as much distance as possible before the rains hit. that may have been a disastrous decision, in retrospect, since i was smack in the middle of nowhere when it finally started raining. i was surrounded by thick forest, there was heavy fog in patches, the last sign of civilization was about fifteen kilometres ago, and the road still kept climbing higher. since there was no shelter of any sort, i decided to keep riding in the rain, climbing higher and higher on the twisting road, with all my lights switched on so the oncoming trucks would see me. it was about four in the afternoon, but seemed like six thirty. there were no signboards indicating the route to mysore, and i had no map with me. i couldnt have opened a map in that rain, in any case. after riding about half an hour, i got this gut feeling that i was lost. there was no traffic now, only me riding around on a narrow twisting road flanked by forest on one side and coffee plants on the other. there was no place i could take refuge in or ask for directions, until i finally saw a shed in the coffee plantation, halfway up the mountain slope. I had to park on the road and walk halfway up the hill in pouring rain to find out from the guy there that i missed the mysore road a few kilometres back in the fog.

after turning back and finding the road, i took it all the way up the hills to reach the deccan plateau, and stopped for a chai. in what is becoming a tradition now, the five minutes i spent in the chai shop were the only minutes without rain. as soon as i hopped back on the bike, it was cats and dogs again, and i was cold, soaked and on the verge of giving up. i asked the shopkeeper about the roads ahead, whether they get better or worse. he told me that there's a bit of forest for twenty kilometers, apart from that it was ok. I was contemplating taking a room at the next town and riding the next day risking the bandh. At the very least, i wanted to sit it out till the rain subsided. I asked him how big the forest was, and he assured me that it's not a problem. somehow, i decided to press ahead, and that turned out to be a good decision. the small forest he mentioned was the fucking Rajiv Gandhi National Park, as i found out later. if i'd sat out the rain, i would most likely have run into the elephants there at night, given my luck.

after crossing the forest, i was back on familiar roads again. but there wasnt much sun or warmth, and the net result was that i was soaked all the way back to bangalore, and couldnt ride as fast as i wanted to since the wind was making me shiver. my shoes are still wet even as i write this, the day after the trip. i reached home at around nine in the night, with ample time to sleep since the next day was a bandh. and sleep i did, like a baby. if you dont count the snores, that is.

the disappointment :

the song goes, dont cry for me argentina. i damn near did. and im sure a lot of people in kerala did as well. i do not intend to turn this post into a discussion and dissection of their loss, since the reasons vary from the rational (lack of a decent defence) to the irrational (i wasn't wearing my lucky jersey that day). what i intend to do is focus on the madness that i witnessed.

at the outset, let me say that i am a huge football fan. i used to love playing the game since school, played pretty much in every game that happened in college, and still continue to play when i get the chance. i dont watch the game much on tv, but i still prefer watching football to any other sport. i own jerseys of argentina and my favourite clubs, spent a large chunk of my first ever stipend on a pair of (then)expensive football boots, and keep a football in office that i kick around when i'm bored. yet what i saw in kerala was quite something else.

in kerala, argentina and brazil have large numbers of fans. in a state not known for things like cut-outs of film stars and politicians, world cup footballers from literally the other side of the globe get huge cut-outs placed at road intersections by their supporters. and that was years ago, and that was something i'd come to expect. even in homes, there was a healthy amount of craze for the game. i remember my father waking me up to watch the match where roberto bagio missed the penalty. when i went for sooraj's wedding, the family there were all looking forward to watch the match, and i could see the expressions on at least some of their faces wanting the wedding eve visitors to leave quickly. sooraj included. he had made a bet that he would cut his ponytail if the germans won. i'm sad to report that in the end, he did.

so, given all this, i was unprepared for what i saw this time. when i went home the weekend before the wedding, i'd counted 400 argentina hoardings along the roadside from palakkad to thrissur, before i stopped counting. these were put up by local sports clubs, businessmen, groups of friends, even individuals. brazil had a sizable number as well, followed by lonely looking hoardings supporting germany, spain and the netherlands. i saw one each for england and portugal as well. shops had painted their shutters in the colours of their favourite national teams, i found out on a sunday. there were flags and other decorations hanging along every road and junction. during election times, back in the time when the rules regarding painting on walls was a bit more liberal, we used to see signs on walls saying 'Booked : CPI(M)' in anticipation of a coming election. I actually saw a big wall with 'Booked : Argentina Fans Association' on it, ostensibly in anticipation of an argentine victory. I know we're a football crazy population, but all of this seemed to me a little over the top. and in my list of irrational reasons for our loss, i added 'bad karma generated by an over-enthusiastic populace'.

let me explain that a bit. one of the boards said 'If the earth were a football, and the sky was the pitch, and the stars(of the astronomical variety) were the players, they would still be beaten by the brazilians in the final'. i doubt if coach Dunga would share the same assessment. heck i'm a die hard argentina fan yet even i had a feeling we would lose thanks to our rubbish defence. the text on quite a number of these hoardings were along similar lines. the day brazil lost, fans of every other team took out a rally together to gloat. brazil fans seem to be hated by a lot of people. of course, ten minutes after the argentine defeat, when i was on the road from payyannur to the resort sooraj had arranged for us, i saw brazil fans tearing down and burning argentina hoardings, and bursting crackers. a few friends who were behind me in a car,most of them brazil fans, were stopping and urging people to burn the argentina flags, and one guy they urged turned out to be a hapless argentina fan taking down his hoarding so no one would burn it. i was shouted at by one group that had congregated at a junction to tear down argentina hoardings for having committed the crime of riding past them with bright headlamps. it was mayhem, and i'm told i didnt see the worst of it that happened further inland from the highways.

i put the hoardings down to the fact that vinyl printing is much more accessible and cheaper now. anyone with a bit of extra cash kicking around can get one printed, and thanks to photoshop, they could be standing next to Messi wishing him the best. and a lot of people these days seem to be having just the right amount of extra cash kicking around. and any excuse to celebrate will do, i guess. i kinda had mixed thoughts about the whole thing. i was glad to see the love for the game, yet i was wondering if the whole rivalry and hoarding drama had gone a bit over the top, leaving the game in second place. i dont know, and dont see myself fit to judge, but i'll look forward to what happens in four years time.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Red blues..

So i was sitting in this lecture today that was varying between interesting and boring. I was near asleep thanks to the lack of sleep due to last night's party, and the lecture began at 9 o clock, a time i'm not really accustomed to. what was i doing in a lecture? well, i have to undergo something called avionics domain training as part of work, and it is actually more interesting than it sounds, except when the teachers get carried away and move into hard core physics and engineering. when that happens, all i can do is note down terms and learn at my own pace on the internet.

so, anyway, i was in this lecture when i realized i've run out of space on the sheaf of papers i had been using to jot down notes. i walked over to a table at the side of the room where stationery supplies were kept, and picked up a notebook. since i was using a pencil until then, i decided to pick up a pen as well. i took a look around, and then started walking back without taking a pen because all the pens there were red. i took two steps and the thought struck me, 'what's wrong with using a red pen?' nothing, apparently, as i found out after taking one and using it for the rest of the lecture.
i don't know about you, but in my school, the red pen was authority. we had to wait until about fifth standard before we were allowed to start writing with pens, and then we had a choice only between black and blue. under no circumstances were we to use red ink. the effect it has had on us kids is profound, i guess. i'll attempt an explanation. in my line of work, when designing cockpit displays, there are some pretty darn strict rules on when to use red. even so, red is an option i often explore liberally despite knowing the rules that govern it. yet, in all my life, i never seem to have used a red pen. i guess somewhere subconsciously i never got rid of the idea that red ink is only for teachers to correct homework and exam papers.

well, all that changed today.. :)

Monday, 24 May 2010

Plane crashes and the ensuing danse macabre..

this has been a bit of a bad year for aviation. the AF447 crash in the atlantic, the yemenia crash off the coast of moroni, the turkish airlines crash at amsterdam schiphol, the afriqiyah airlines crash at tripoli and now the air india express crash in mangalore. each of these crashes led to extensive reporting by the media, as they well should be covered. but somehow when it comes to aviation, the media never seem to get even the basic facts right. this, in turn, means the general public never get to know the facts about these accidents. all they get are some twisted half truths which further propel the aviation related myths that are already existent in their minds. whenever i see these reports, i am usually reminded of something i read in the outlook magazine long back, in the diaries section that they used to publish on the last page. it was a story about a reporter who was rushing to cover a mig-21 crash that happened near palam airport, and even before he reached the site he was relaying back 'facts' to his publication, making outrageous claims that there were 30 people on the aircraft. i would think that pretty much everyone knows that a fighter plane cannot carry more than 2 people, 3 in some cases. and turns out the journo's cabbie corrected him and told him that very same fact.

even though these journalistic lapses are generally annoying, the fact that so many crashes happened this year meant that the annoyance has been slowly creeping within me and taking the form of full blown anger. and the reporting by indian media in the aftermath of the air india express crash was the last straw that broke the camel's back. do they even think before they send out these reports? there are some basic journalistic ethics that need to be followed but i guess in these days of sensationalism, those go right out the window, and titles like 'BURNING PLANE' in font size bazillion are what sells. even so, i feel compelled to write this, knowing that this may not make any difference.

the accident : we are all too keen to pass verdict before we know what happened. this has been the case with pretty much every accident, not just air crashes. in india, if two vehicles collide, almost 90% of the time the blame is placed on the bigger vehicle. unless the smaller vehicle did something ridiculously and obvsiously stupid, the smaller vehicle gets away scot free. similar rules are extended to the sky too. the first half-fact is usually treated as the final cause of the accident. in this instance, there are reports which state that the pilot missed his touchdown point on the runway byh 2000 feet. this was immediately labelled as pilot error, and some of todays papers insist that this was the cause of the accident. none of them talk about other possibilities and facts. no one mentions that the actual zone on the runway where he can safely touchdown extends at least a thousand feet, and that even if he missed that by another thousand, he might still have had enough runway left to stop his plane. no one talks of the millions of possibilities that couldve caused the pilot to miss by thousand feet, if at all he did that. i would say that there are a good number of plausible scenarios where the pilot need not have been at fault. yeah alright, truth is boring.

the point here is this, avoid speculation. its stupid, it propagates unnecessary lies, and i personally think that its disrespectful to the people involved. these crashes are a reminder to us of the dangers inherent in aviation, no matter how much we've tried to mitigate them. and people sitting on armchairs on the ground and commenting on the jobs of those who actually face these dangers angers me. to the media, please state the known facts, and please verify them before stating them. if you wish to speculate, do so intelligently, through someone who actually knows a thing or two about not just flying, but air accidents on a whole. the so called aviation experts presented on the tv channels so far are prize chumps and jackasses in my opinion, who are spouting half baked opinions. get credible people, if you wish to discuss this incident, and not someone who would disrespect the dead crew for a few soundbytes.

the airline : air india suffers from what i like to call 'the aeroflot syndrome'. the airline has done a lot of cutting edge stuff over its lifetime, but being a state owned carrier it will always have public perception going against it, especially in terms of safety and service. sure, some of the service points are debatable, and i'll gladly debate that another day in another post, but i see the safety perception as a bit unfair. i wouldnt go out of my way to vouch for their safety, but i will say they are as safe or unsafe as pretty much any other airline in india. their maintenance practices are probably better than average, would be my personal assessment. but note, its only a personal assessment. in any case, some sections of the media making dubious hints at air india maintenance etc would be well advised to stay clear. i mean, what is it with these people? cant they wait at least for the interim report of the accident investigation? and if you look at the air crashes the past year, it includes a first rate carrier like Air France, as well as carriers like Yemenia who aren't exactly well known. it includes brand new airliners as well as old ones. what does it all say? nothing. wait for the individual damn investigations to conclude.

the airplane : the 737-800 has had 8 hull loss incidents so far. if you count from the first generation 737, thousands have been built. this one had a line number 2481, and was two years old. what does that mean, again? probably nothing. we dont know YET. there is always a section that comes up with dubious assesments of the aircraft type, sub-type and even manufacturer. the 737 is not unsafe. nor is the a330, which had two crashes in 12 months. hell, even the tu154 that crashed with the polish president on board, which is a soviet era aircraft known to have a bad safety reputation, is acutally quite a safe aircraft since many of its accidents were caused by factors beyond the aircraft or crew. a few were shot down by missiles, one ran into snow ploughs on the runway that atc had failed to clear, and one was in a mid air collision due to atc error. yet even aviation buffs give me a weird look when i tell them i want to fly on a 154. i do not have a deathwish, i insist it is a safe plane. sure, there have been planes with design flaws, but the planes involved in this year's crashes dont have any known serious flaws, and to insinuate otherwise without proof would be irresponsible. even in the case of the fedex cargo md-11 that crashed in narita, this holds true. the md-11 has certain quirks of handling, but i doubt it has been established as a design 'flaw' yet.

the airport : mangalore airport has a bit of a peculiar runway, which is elevated, and has steep runoffs at either end. it is debatable whether there was adequate space in case of a runway overrun. people will second guess the decisions behind making the runway the way it is now, and it is very probable that the runway may have played a part in the accident. probable, not conclusive. but guess what, a sizeable number of airports have such problems. we build airports where we can, not necessarily where we ideally should be. we cannot always build perfect airports, sometimes they have to be built within some constraints. in madeira, portugal, the runway extends out in to sea on huge pillars. this plane would probably have been a goner there too. what does that say? nothing. airports arent perfect, we have to work with what with have. huge runways on plain spaces are probably possible only in deserts. where there is population and terrain around, we adjust and work a little harder. deal with it.

the crew : one of the initial statements i heard on the news was that pilot error was ruled out because the captain had 10000 hours flying experience. sure, but that does not rule out error. it probably does minimize it, but does not rule it out. but ill concede that one since it's at least not disrespectful to the poor chap. then came the news that the pilot is a british national of serbian origin. there have been some two-bit publications making an issue out of foreign pilots working in india. the nationality of the pilot probably had nothing to do with the crash, such generalizations are borderline racist i would say. for example, all russian pilots arent drunk, all chinese pilots arent bad with english, and all spanish traffic controllers aren't atrocious with their accents. some are, but only just as many as you would find in india, england or the united states. in any case, the key is respect. indications of pilot error or not, speculation on their actions is useless at this point when no facts are known. also, i have a bone to pick with the pilot unions who have brought in pilot workload as a factor. the wreck hasnt stopped burning yet, and these hacks are already pushing union agenda. there isn't anything yet to prove pilot workload as a factor, and pilots should be the last ones making such claims before the investigation is complete. at least out of respect for two dead colleagues.

in conclusion : there is never one single cause for aviation accidents. it is always a series of systemic faults and flaws that culminates in an accident. sure, it may have been triggered by something immediate and plausible like pilot error, but there are always systemic underlying causes. in every damn accident. and the reason we have improved aviation safety over the years is because we have studied these over and over again, and imbibed the lessons industry-wide. in country like ours where there have been incidents where aspersions were cast over the findings of investigative proceedings in the past, the media has an important role and opportunity here to bring us some honest investigative journalism. it's always easy to make scapegoats out of pilots, and if the media stupidly plays up half truths, the real truth may get lost in the cacophony. sure, you could call it pilot error, and train all pilots flying to mangalore a few extra hours on the simulator to understand the airport better, but the systemic causes will strike elsewhere in a different form and incident, and claim more innocent lives with it. the focus should be on an honest investigation, and to learn the lessons from its as soon and as effectively as possible.

Monday, 17 May 2010

An ode..

i think that there comes a phase in the life of pretty much everyone who's gone to art school, when they fancy themselves a philosopher. like all phases, this one too affects people differently and for different durations. for some, its so quick a flash that you'd miss the philosophiness if you blinked, and for some others its a lifelong affliction. i dunno what it was in my case, but i sure did have the phase as well. i guess i relapse into it occasionally, whatever.

the funny thing about this phase is how we usually try to grapple with what we think are deep philosophical problems. it needn't be the traditional philosophical schools of thought, it can be anything really. in a design school, design philosophy was often the preferred brand. it was often derided as gyaan, etc, but grapple with it we did. and quite often, when we thought we had a certain amount of grip on it, we dispensed it to others as well. it was probably a necessary phase too, to some extent. yet in other cases, i just wanted to invent new ways of shutting people up. in any case, this post is from back then. maybe its one of my relapses.
i struggled with lame metaphors, that was my poison. while my well meaning but (in retrospect) perhaps clueless pals debated such gems as 'what is the perpendicular to your existence?' i was applying metaphors left right and centre, trying them on for size and seeing what fit and what didn't. i called them gems cos even today i cannot fully decide whether they were genuine questions or mere efforts of a few daft brains overreaching themselves. but yeah, metaphors were my thing. i didnt talk about them much i suppose, though i had my moments of being carried away too, and may have dished it out to hapless souls at parties.

i thought life was like a rocket, ready to blast off into space. when you start off, like a proton rocket ready on the launchpad at baikonur, you need all the lift you can get. you cant even take a crap without help, all you can do is lie there and cry. and all that lift, or support in the form of family, friends, education and the rest propel you upwards. the whole sky is yours, you can fly any which way you want. and people do. some dont get enough lift and follow flat trajectories, others get everything possible and streak through the sky blazing bright paths that can be seen and followed by those beneath or behind them. some dont even lift off at all, and just burn up on the pad.

as you go along, you start losing lift. and gravity being a cruel mistress begins to drag you down slowly. parts start falling off as components that have served you well in your upward climb become expended and move away. you may have loved that booster rocket but once it's purpose (ordained, perhaps?) is done, it slowy drifts away from you while you watch. but life goes on, and the next stage ignites and propels you even further towards your apogee, and so on. i saw these stages as the people and forces in my life. you lose some as you fly away into space, some remain till the end of your mission, some come in and kick start you when you need a new phase en-route. some you try and desperately hold on to yet are slowly prised away. and depending on how much you were being propelled, you succumb to gravity, or attain escape velocity.

for the record, i had discarded this back then, since i didnt like the ending, where in any case you burned up either on the rather immediate gravity induced re-entry or the eventual one after years in orbit. maybe it didnt quite fit my whole hypothesis back then, i dont quite remember why exactly i discarded it without effort to make it fit. anyway, i was reminded of this old metaphor of mine recently. I lost perhaps the most important person in my life. and corny/weird as it may be, i feel like that rocket, having lost the huge first stage thats propelled it so far. feeling weightless, still floating upwards, wondering with a fair bit of terror whether the next stage would kick in before gravity does her work...

i'll miss you grandad. see you on the other side someday.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

notes from THE concert..

Bhagwaan ka memna (i used to call it bhagwaan ka bakra before someone told me memna is a better word) played the summer storm festival at palace grounds bangalore this saturday, and I WAS THERE :P
Just thought I'd put together a blog post outta my thoughts as well as badly blurred cellphone pics, and badly recorded youtube clips by others. Random as usual, kindly adjust..

Palace Grounds : I'm sure that place is designed to confuse. I mean, if any enemies were to attack the maharajas in ancient times, it would surely have been futile. There's just way too many entrances leading nowhere useful, that the enemy strike corps would just have packed up and taken a rickshaw home. We nearly did, as well. After a frustrating two hour drive through peak evening bangalore traffic, we took another 45 minutes to find the correct damn entrance. And all the maharaja's folks at the entrances, who probably mistook us for an enemy strike force, feigned cluelessness regarding the location of the concert. But get there in the end, we did. And miss the first song, we did. And scream like an idiot for the band to play the song that i missed but hadnt realized id missed it, i did.

Kyazoonga : these inept morons were in charge of the ticket counter. there was one counter to buy tickets on the spot, and one to pick up tickets which were booked over the internet. Strangely, the folks who bought their ticket on the spot made it to the concert on time. the ones like us who did the allegedly smart thing and booked online, we missed the first song thanks to the bumbling idiot at the queue for the pick up counter. i strongly urge my annual readership of 3.5 people to reconsider their decisions if kyazoonga are ever in charge of online bookings for an event you want to go to.

Preparation : how do you prepare for a metal concert, especially something as intense as Lamb of God? well, let me put it this way. the last time we went to palace grounds, it was for the Oktoberfest, and the preparations required then were pretty obvious. This time though, Chetan (my batchmate from college) asked me a seemingly innocuous "How do you prepare for this concert?" and i was stumped. In the end, i gave him instructions to wear a black t shirt, and then follow steps similar to Oktoberfest preparations.

Chetan, Sagar : Chetan did not follow instructions, and turned up in a rather bright purple tshirt. Which turned out to be a good thing. when the group got split up in the crowd, he (and to an extent, sagar too) was a six foot purple beacon we could all locate and meet up with.

The Crowd : I was surprised that this many people turned up for a hardcore metal concert. But i figured that one out later. Most people turn up for the concert experience, and aren't really really into the band. Sure, they knew a few of the more popular Lamb of God songs, especially the ones that play in the pubs, but not much more. The hardcore fans were only a handful, and you could spot them easily since theirs were the only voices singing (or is that shouting) along when the comparatively obscure songs were being played.

Moshing (and other dangerous activities) : I thought most bands these days had an anti-moshing stance due to people getting injured. But these guys actually asked for mosh pits from the crowd. I'd always wanted to give it a shot, and now was my chance. I eagerly entered the pit, and got bumped about quite a bit, and was thrown out the other end of the pit. There was yet another pit a little ahead, and this one turned out even more insane. There were a coupla jats in it, who had no clue what they were doing or who they were listening to, and they simply kept saying bh*nchod m*chod and roughing up everyone else in the pit. word of advice, never mosh with jats. in fact, try avoiding even the least violent of activities with them.

Vid Shot on the way to Row two.

Since there werent any lateral crowd segregators, it was possible to go all the way up front, if you had the stomach for it. I decided to give it a try anyway. as long as you kept a constant push in the direction you wanted to go, the movement of the crowd would eventually get you there i figured. and it did get me to one row short of absolute front. there was just one row of people in front of me. now, it needs to be mentioned here that i attended this concert stone cold sober. yes, i was at various stages termed a loser. the problem with sobriety when you're in second row is that you're painfully aware of the fact that most of the crowd there are sweaty stinking guys who are stuck to you, and you cant quite take that. so, just as i was about to give up and head for the relative safety and comfort found only on the edges of the crowd in a metal concert, they played my favourite song.

So i endured a little while longer, enjoyed the song while in second row, caught the closest glimpse yet of Chris Adler my drumming hero, confirmed that he does look as relaxed in reality as he does in the videos when he's doing batshit insane beats per minute, and then got the hell outta there.

F-Bombs : they fuckin dropped the eff bomb everytime they opened their fuckin mouths man. started off saying that they're from richmond motherfucking virginia, called the crowd fuckers every now and then, and urged us to make some fuckin noise and break some fuckin shit. they were fuckin awesome, id say but i normally dont fuckin use that many eff bombs :D .

Also, was i the only one amused when they dedicated a song to that absolute punk rock dude mahatma gandhi?

Verdict ? It was an awesome, if a bit short, concert. Their songs have helped me vent in times of utter frustration, and it was sort of a dream come true to see this. I'm betting they will return, since they seemed as surprised as i was to see the crowd that turned out. and if they return, i'll go again as i have a feeling the next concert will be even better.