Saturday, February 18, 2006

Shaadi

When I signed up with shaadi.com, I was not at all serious. I still find it very difficult to digest the idea of marrying someone through matrimonial columns -- be it online or otherwise. But ever since I started getting responses, I have been scanning the website rather seriously. And believe me, there is a galaxy of women out there who, in real life, would make you fall on your knees and plead, "Will you marry me?" If one of them comes along, I will readily tie the knot. If not, I can always say I was against the idea of marrying through matrimonial columns.

This afternoon I was looking at the profile of a girl -- good-looking and all. Educated too. But there was a rider: "We want a non-smoker and a teetotaller. SC/STs please excuse." Since I am a smoker and I also love my drink, I found myself disqualified to click on the 'contact her' icon. But I wouldn't have clicked in any case because the "SC/STs please excuse" pissed me off. It is just not politically correct. Ok, none of us are politically correct when it comes to being practical, but there are subtle ways of putting things. I only hope that Mayawati or any of the leaders of the Dalit parties don't read the profile, or else tomorrow you can expect the matter being blown up into a political issue.

The profile, needless to say, was posted by the 'parent/guardian' -- for that's the generation which did not let education alter its biases. It is so much fun to read profiles posted by 'self', as in the girls themselves. Some of them are really irresistible.

Bookshop

Sunday afternoon: nothing to do
I went to the bookshop

At the 'Travel' section, she squatted
poring over a book
through the hair falling on her face

I pulled out a book, glanced at the pages
but sideglances on her: sharp nose, sad eyes

Her mobile fell, I picked it up. Our eyes met.
"Thank you." "No problem."
"I am so and so." "I am so and so."

"You are an interesting guy"
"It is nice meeting you too"

An hour passed by
One beauty, so many books, so little time
"Hey, have you read this?" "Hey have you read that?"

Another hour passed by. Time to leave
We shook hands. A gentle squeeze

"Hey, do yo have to go?" She replied, "Yes, sadly so"
"Why?" She replied, "Because we are different,
you like Bill Bryson, I like Pico Iyer"

She walked away but turned back for a moment
as if to say: "I didn't want to leave, but I have to"

Friday, February 17, 2006

Why Should Politicians Be Khadi-Clad?

It isn’t easy if you want to look like a policeman even for a day. You have to get a khaki uniform stitched — and God alone knows where you can get those stars and the badges and, above all, the cap from. Ditto if you want to look like an Army or a Navy officer. Even a lawyer, for that matter. Unless you are friends with a film ‘extra’ who can guide you to the shop that rents out stuff for shootings.

But to look like a politician, all you need to do is walk into the nearest Khadi Gramodyog store and buy yourself a white kurta and a pajama and, perhaps, a waistcoat. Go home, change, and there you are! — a politician. Full story.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

75 And Still Not Done

75 th post. Is that a milestone? I am still 25 short of a hundred, and eight months short of one full year of blogging. That's when bloggers -- as I've noticed -- write the summing-up sort of post: looking back and all that, thanking people and all that, do what not and all that.

But I don't have the patience to write 25 more posts (at least with the thought that I have to write 25 more to say whatever I am going to say now) or wait till next October (when my blog would complete one year). Moreover, as a journalist, I know how to invent a 'peg' (which means the purpose of telling a story, and not a peg of whisky). And if the 75th birthday of a person or an institution can be a big deal, why not the 75th post of a blog?

That reminds me of a rather depressing question: how many of the present-day bloggers would live to celebrate 75 years of blogging? Questions like these make me want to seek refuge in the arms of a fellow blogger, preferably a female. But none of the female bloggers I know will oblige because they would go by the interests I've mentioned in my profile: "Yoga, sex, scotch, travel, fountain pens, etc. etc." Which woman would like a man whose interests are sex and scotch?

But then, who doesn't like -- or love -- sex? And perhaps mind an occasional drink, unless you are a diehard teetotaller? But when you spell out such habits as your 'interests' in your blog profile, the image that goes out to the world is that of a man who has a woman on the right and on the left when he goes to bed every night and who, in between satisfying the urges of the women on either side, sips his scotch. Wow, I wish that happened for real. The reality is I've been sitting in front of my computer night after night for five months now, sucking the screen. "Screen sucking", according to Time magazine, means "wasting time online long after you have finished what you signed on to do."

True, I may have my wasted time. But I have also learned a lot. For one, it helps me practise writing. Two, it expands my horizons, especially when I read fellow bloggers.

When I started blogging in October last year, I had no idea my blog would be read. It is sheer good luck that it has been read by some of the best minds -- people who have been kind enough to leave comments as well. And the happiest bit is that their comments are usually spontaneous rather than just an act of obligation. So I would like to thank them, and while thanking them, I would also like to point what I like about them:

Akruti: For sharing the same passion for music, especially Pancham's music. She is supposed to have left Blogosphere but believe me, she will come back. Home is where the heart is.

Arundhati: The simplicity of her verses can put any professional and snooty poet to shame. If you want your day to be made, get to know Arundhati. She won't let you down: she has a truly large heart. Don't you, Rulda?

Atul: I am scared to read his posts. He writes stuff which compel me to comment, and I hate commenting. So I try to read his stuff on the sly and go away without being noticed. Amazing guy.

Baddy: That's the 'bad name', as opposed to the 'good name', of Baradwaj Rangan, who is a competent writer first and a friend later.

Deepa: She makes me feel jealous. She not only lives in a territory I've hardly explored -- Karnataka -- but also describes her travels to nearby places in a manner that makes me hang my head in shame. Deepa, can we trade places? Read her guys, and you will know what I mean.

Kornershop Girl: Go to her profile and read all her three blogs. Not very often will you come across people like her.

Leya: An engineering student who understands, more than the physics, the chemistry of life. Her latest piece, on Kovalam, is outstanding.

M T Saju: No comments, for he is a colleague and a friend, and I don't want to sound biased.

Maya: I hate you, Maya. When is your blog going to be updated? You know why I am looking foward to it -- because you write sofuckingwell!

Nina: Nina, please don't go away. Stay on and keep exposing the plagiarists of the world.

Sangeeta: Sangeeta, apart from playing the 'Miss' for your students, think of people who miss your posts. Do write.

Sanjeev: Quite a few women bloggers have asked me, in private, "Who is Sanjeev?" Check out for yourself.

Sharmishta: You have heard of the word 'honest.' But Sharmishta stands for 'honestest'. Read her blog and you will know what I mean.

Usha: She is kindness personified. One of the few people who you can take for granted and not say nice things just because you have to. She is nice anyway.

Visithra: Well, well, well... Well, if you want to sink into a well of emotions -- good, sad and happy -- read her blog. And read it carefully without being taken up by those hypnotic pair of eyes, and you will know what I mean.

And how can I forget Anil Shankar from Kerala and Ravi Juneja from Delhi? They have, on various occasions, made me feel very special; and I shall remain indebted to them.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Memories Of Another Day

Delhi, 1996.

It was the kind of day you usually find described in the opening chapter of a novel: a pleasant spring morning when there was a mild chill in the air even though the sun shone brightly. The birds sang outside and inside, on the radio, on 102.6 FM, Leo Sayer was singing Love you more than I can say. The time was 9.55. Or maybe 9.56. I left the bed and walked into the bathroom and began lathering my chin. I had a date.

As I prepared to shave I could hear the RJ for the English programme signing off. Then a couple of commercials. I was waiting for the Hindi RJ to take over. I was wondering what he had to say, for it was Valentine's Day. I was also wondering if the first song would be Kishore Kumar or RD or both (the RJs, like me, are usually partial to them). But the jockey did not speak. What I heard was strains of piano. And then the silky voice of Bhupinder wafted out of the two-in-one gifted to me by my parents. Asha Bhosle joined soon after. I stopped shaving and listened.

Bhupinder: Aawaaz di aaj ik nazar ne, ya hai ye dil ko ghuman
dohraa rahi hai jaise fazaayen, bhooli hui daastan

Asha: Laut aayi hai phir roothi baharen, kitna haseen hai samaa
duniya se kehdo na humko pukaare, hum kho gaye hain yahaan

Loosely translated, it means (please correct me if I am wrong):

Bhupinder: Is her gaze seeking out my attention, or am I just imagining?
But the ambience today seems to be retelling an old story...

Asha: The spring that was sulking has returned, and how beautiful is the weather
Tell the world not to disturb us, because we are lost here...

I was transfixed. I put the razor down and came close to the radio. A die-hard fan of Kishore Kumar by now had added the image of Bhupinder to his altar. And the song was not composed by RD, as I discovered later. It was composed by the much-maligned Bappi Lahiri -- India's 'Disco King' who thrived in the early 1980's by stealing tunes from the West. But even detractors of Bappi Lahiri should acknowledge that he gave really good music before and after the Disco boom. Before the boom, you had gems like Chalte Chalte; and after, you had a sparkling piece of diamond like Aawaaz di hai.

I wished I could gift this piece of diamond to my girlfriend. But there was no time to hunt for a cassette (those days CDs were rare and prohibitively expensive) that might have had that song. Moreover, she was heavily into the Power of Love kind of music -- the compilation of mushy songs of that era. (In hindsight, that was the era which made 'love music' cliched. Rewind a little backward and you have lovely songs like George Baker's Love me like I love you and I love you even more.) In any case, she did not want songs. She had told me weeks before: "You know, on Valentine's Day, a guy is supossed to give his girlfriend a bouquet, some chocolates and a card." (Mind you, those where the days when Valentine's Day was just another day for the masses. It was only after Hrithik Roshan's Kaho Na Pyaar Hai that February 14 became a national festival).

So I asked my local florist to rustle up a bouqeut, and while he was at it, I ran to a nearby shop and bought an Amul chocolate (you no longer find them, but at one time, they were supposed to be the utlimate gift for "someone you love") and a greeting card. Armed with the three things, I reached the bus-stop where I was supposed to meet her. The bus-stop was next to her place. I sat there for almost an hour -- the huge plastic-covered bouquet inviting giggles from girls waiting for their buses.

And then my girlfriend showed up (there were no mobile phones then to confirm if one would show up: one just banked on faith). She was bleary-eyed: we had fought the previous night. She came and took the bouquet and stuff and left. I hopped into the next bus that came by.

That was ten years ago.

The girlfriend is long gone and the memories of that bright morning are slowly fading. But Aawaz di hai remains embedded in my heart. The song is getting fresher every passing year.

Enjoy:
 
 

Friday, February 10, 2006

Anyone Good, Stable And Eligible?

One of the bloggers I admire, Sharmishta, recently wrote a post where she mentions her second meeting with her fiancee. One of the subjects that came up for discussion during their meeting was "why it is so hard for women to find good, stable, eligible men these days." The sentence instantly made me raise an imaginary hand and proclaim, "Why, I am there! Main hoon na!"

But the sweeping statement was substantiated by solid reasons (stemming from the thoughts of various people) as in how it is difficult indeed for women to find good, stable, eligible men these days. So I tamely withdrew the imaginary hand and placed it under my chin and read on. And now, having read them over and over again, I cannot resist offering the thoughts each of those reasons aroused in my mind. (The points raised in her post are in italics. What follows is my opinion. And when I say 'you', I don't mean Sharmishta but the proponents of the view that how difficult it is these days for women to find men who are good, stable and eligible.)

1. All potent men are dickheads - The Lingam drives their thinking.

That's not only hitting below the belt, but also unfair. If a man does not get a hard on, you call him impotent and dump him. But if he is potent, you call him a dickhead! What is the world coming to? Now, no decent man is going to return the compliment by coining the female equivalent for the term 'dickhead', whatever that maybe (any suggestions, though?); nor is he going to declare in a public space such as the blog as to how the female equivalent of the Lingam drives their thinking. But we all know it, don't we?

2. When speaking of intelligent men, you are actually talking of men who are able to use their brains in addition to their phallus. This has eliminated a significant part of the male population.

In other words, you want a dickhead, as in a guy who knows how to use his dick as well as his head. Now, isn't that asking for too much? Ok, ok, I know what you mean: you want a guy whose head rules his dick and not vice-versa. People whose heads are ruled by their dicks act in porn movies. If you want the best of his brains and the phallus, give him sufficient stimulus and he is all yours.

3. In addition to being dickheads, men never outgrow their breast fixation. Its instinctive -- when they are born, they learn that breasts provide them with food and the fixation just continues beyond infancy.

Rubbish! Personally, I am a great worshipper of the gluteus maximus which, according to me, eventually defines the female form. Breasts are more about size, while the butt is about shape. And shape matters.

4. Most people who can stop obsessing about breasts for short periods of time do so because they are in the rat race and have to go to work, where their fetishes are interrupted by bouts of worrying about how to pay the next month's EMI or how to save for a rainy day and all that.

In the age of multi-tasking, it is possible to work and also think about breasts. And who is he saving or paying the EMIs for anyway? Isn’t it for the woman he is going to marry?

5. Men who work because they want to, where they want to and when they want to (in short, smart men) have a lot of time on their hands to read stuff and this becomes a problem. They read up on a lot of stuff including Freud, Carl Jung, et al and also that really interesting story about how the cuckoo lays its eggs in the crow's nest and the crows take care of hatching the eggs while the cuckoo is busy hatching eggs elsewhere. Reading all these stories gives them ideas about how to live their own lives - if they are smart, they generally are able to execute these ideas very well, which makes them avoid commitments and long-term relationships till they grow old or bored or lonely or impotent or catch HIV or some other disease or die in testesterone-driven accidents (driving fast, or skiing on the Alps or some such thing), at which point, if they are still alive, they decide that its time for them to marry.

You have a point. Beware of such men. They are obsessed about themselves. They break hearts and women mourn them all their lives. Of late I have seen a number of women writing sad posts about how they lost ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ (the man is usually referred by the first letter of his name).

6. Women who, eventually, do get married to such men realize that they are not fun at all and end up having affairs with other "Single, Smart, Good Looking, Emotionally-stable, Financially-secure and Intelligent Men (not) looking for a long-term commitment - in short, men described in point 5 above.

Didn’t I just warn you? By now you should have realised that men who work and pay EMIs and obsess about boobs in their free time are worth marrying. But remember: the grass is always greener on the other side. Those who marry heads look out for a dick; and those who marry dicks look out for a head.

Now why it is so hard for men to find "good, stable, eligible women these days"? I haven't found one yet.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Loev and Se-x

Look at the extent to which online hawkers can go to avoid detection by spamguards and firewalls. I got a mail today from one John Brown which said:

"Do You have enough pwoer to provide your patrner high quality SE-X on St. Valentine day? Get a MON-STER pwoer, nothing can bring your ererction down!Show your partner the PWOER of your LOEV and she will always remember You. Loev will ALWAYS be associated with YOU! Your order will be PRIVATE, nobody will know what You use. "

I noticed this mail because these days I check my bulk/junk folder. That's because the responses to my profile on shaadi.com are landing, for some reason, on this folder. And if you want to know why I registered with shaadi.com, read this. Mr John Brown, fuck off for now.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Blog And The Blogger

My blog is worth $ 9,597.18. Want to know the value of yours? Scroll down, and at the bottom of the sidebar you will find a button. Click on it and enter your URL. You will get a figure, which could even be zero. The value of 'Journalism', the blog where I bung in stuff that I write for my paper, is $ 0.00. Clearly, it is the translation of the traffic on your website into money.

So the buggers have turned even your thought process into a commodity. A thought crosses your mind, you write it down, people read it and comment, and now suddenly, the process is being measured in virtual money. Virtual friends, virtual girlfriend, virtual sex, and now virtual money. So I have nearly 9,597.18 dollars in the virtual bank. That is about Rs 4.5 lakh! What will that get me?

Ah, a lot. A virtual holiday in Paris. A virtual collection of Mont Blanc fountain pens. A virtual car. In other words I will be in Paris but still won't be in Paris. I will be writing with a Mont Blanc but nothing to show on the paper. I will be driving a car but holding only an imaginary steering and sitting on an imaginary seat -- in which case I would fall on my butt and get real. Yes, fuck virtual. Get real.

And the reality is the ugliness of consumerism, which stands on the principle that everything can be sold as long as you market it well. Personally, I have no objection to this principle as long as it is confined to things material -- such as food and clothes and household stuff. You can sell Pepsi or Coke: if people like the drink, they will drink it. You can sell underwear: if people find them to be durable and not find holes in them within weeks, they will buy it. If they find holes, they will discard your product, no matter how sexy the model who peddles it.

In other words, if you want to sell something, you need to have not only quality but also a face that can sell it. But this principle does not apply to writing, particularly blogs, even more particularly, personal blogs. Personal thoughts, and the way they are expressed in writing, are subjective -- someone might find the writing breathtaking, others might find it to be crap. So who decides what is good, what is bad? The traffic on your blog?

I don't think so. The traffic is hardly an indicator of the quality, though it might be an indicator of how active you are as a blogger, which means 1. You write a post, 2. You get comments, 3. You dutifully reply to those comments, thanking them and all, 4. Having read those comments, you go to the commentators' blogs and leave comments on their latest post -- if not out of appreciation, but at least out of obligation, in return for their favour, 5. Go to the blogs of people who have already commented on the recent posts of your commentators and leave a comment their latest posts -- if not in genuine appreciation, at least in the hope of attracting them to your blog.

If you follow this five-step acitvity on a daily basis for a few weeks, chances are you may end up having 30 to 40 comments for everything you write. Even if crap. It is a different matter that if you continue writing crap, the number of comments would eventually dwindle to say, 15 or 16. The figure is unlikely to dip further because there are a lot of people who comment on crap. Ample evidence of that is available in the blogworld: silly post, but 20 commentators -- all finding the post to be "heartfelt".

But the truly heartfelt posts usually have -- sadly, but very often -- "0 comments". The blogger -- be it man or a woman -- pours his or her heart out, but he or she is totally unaware of those five steps to achieving the celebrity status in blogdom. Maybe he or she is aware, but does not want to go through it. For people like them, the blog is an utterly personal space not meant to be sold: if readers come, fine; but they are not going to go out of their way to attract commentators. I can, off-hand, name at least half-a-dozen bloggers who write mind-blowing stuff but who have never bothered about who reads them or who comments.

I was like one of them when I started blogging in October 2005. I wrote a lot of verse which, in the assessment of a professional poet, might not be perfect poetry. But I was pleased with what I wrote. But the number of comments? Zero! Only one woman, an ex-flame, read and commented, which boosted my morale. That was the time when, soon after creating my blog, I had gone on a vacation to Kanpur, my hometown. There, I would often wake with a dream that that I have gone to the nearest cyber cafe and I find my post attracting "35 comments". But in reality, I saw only "0 comments" or "1 comment": all I did in the cyber cafe was to transform my latest poem from long-hand into the typed-word.

But soon I learned the rules of the game. I followed the five-point something. Moreover, the journalist inside me told me: "You always write for the reader. So write well, and write in a manner they understand." It began to work. And then I decided to go the whole hog. I registered with Indian Bloggers and Blogstreet and a few others (whose buttons I lost because of the template change). I take Indian Bloggers rather seriously: till recently, it ranked me among the top 15. Today, if you scroll down, you will notice my position is no. 31. (It could be 32, or no. 30, depending on the unique hits on my blog). Nothing wrong in the ranking as long as you take it playfully, but when it becomes inversely proportional to your blood pressure levels, it is a cause for alarm.

A cause for alarm for who? For me, of course -- the stupid fellow who takes such illusory things seriously. I won't get drowned in the gutter if Indian Bloggers does not show my rank as no. 10 or no. 11, but then, the journalist inside me argues: "You write for your readers, and you belong to them. If you have no readers, your blog is a waste of time." So I would rather fight my way up from position 31 to position 13 -- I have dirtied my hands after all. And since I have dirtied my hand, I have no shame in flaunting that my blog is worth $ 9,597.18.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Thoughts From Kerala

Like the immigration officials who presume you are a terrorist before they fork out answers that may prove you to be otherwise, I presume every new Hindi film is bad till our in-house reviewer ‘Baddy’ Rangan puts his stamp of approval. Still I end up watching movies of my choice only on DVD, that too months later. The theatre is not my scene: I still tend to look over my shoulder every time there is clapping or the screeching of a car, realising only seconds later that they are part of the sound effect.

But for some reason I wanted to catch Rang De Basanti in the theatre — first day, first show. Maybe I was too taken up by the promos. But watching an Aamir Khan movie on the first day, first show is like asking for the moon. “Sold out,” a friend told me when I asked about the possibility of getting tickets. Then luck intervened in a strange way... Full story

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Shift The Fulcrum

"No man! I don't want strawberry, I am not a white man... I want a plain drink!" the voice, which could have belonged to a white man, boomed from behind in the direction of the bartender. We, a friend and I, who were sitting on the bar stools, turned back: the man was in fact dark and bald and jolly. If he had made the statement for effect, he had succeeded for we turned back to look at him. He smiled at us, shook our hands, and soon we clinked our glasses. He was so jolly that he could have been Santa Claus -- a hairless, beardless one though.
Islanders (with the exception of the British) are usually jolly people: soaking in fun and sand, soaking in sun and sand. And our Santa Claus belonged to one of the islands with the Indian connection: he hailed from Fiji. To me, he was the Fijian counterpart of Trinidad's Naipaul: both had grandfathers who were taken by the British to work as labourers in sugarcane plantations. Their fathers, as in the sons of the indentured labourers, didn't quite know what to do: they were caught between a generation of 'slaves' and a generation of young men who wanted to break free from the slave mentality and make it big on their own. One of those young men, V S Naipaul, won a scholarship to Oxford. Another of those young men won a scholarship to study at the medical college in Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh -- and that was the bald, dark man we were drinking with. His name: Dr Ram Naidu.
"I was the last candidate to get the scholarship. That was 1976. After that the Andhra Pradesh government stopped the scholarships (for the people of Andhra origin living abroad)," he announced, while ordering a round of tequila for us. "Today I practice in Brisbane. Come there sometime. We shall have a good time."
The conversation I am quoting here is rather sanitised. The orginal was peppered with fuck-this and fuck-that. In between the 'fucks', we asked him what kind of a doctor he was. He replied by making a pistol out of his palm -- with two fingers as the barrel and a rotating thumb: "Guess what does this imply... If you guess it right, I will buy you are drink." When we could not guess, he made some more thrusting motions with this two 'barrel' fingers. Then we got it and were about to say it when the Naidu fellow pre-empted us by announcing: "Gynaecologist! I am a gynaecologist. But in Brisbane I am a GP (general practioner)." At this, a young man sitting in the bar with his girlfriend asked him: "Doc, I have high BP, what do I do about it?" The doc, the ever horny Mr Naidu, went over to the young man and said: "Don't smoke. Don't drink. But fuck as much as you can."
The young man flared up. "Doc, this is not Fiji! This is India, this is Tamil Nadu, and moreover, this is Chennai. You can't use such language, that too in front of a lady." Doctor Naidu apologised to the lady and returned tamely to our side of the bar table. "So doc, what do I do for my BP?" the young man yelled from across the table. "Come to my clinic in Brisbane, I shall tell you," the chastened doc replied.
We pretended as if nothing had happened between the doc and the young man. I told him, "Doc, you say you are 50 but you look 40!" Dr Naidu was pleased. "You know how to stay young? Just shift the fulcrum. Shift the fulcrum! Shift the fulcrum!" and he broke into a jig. What he meant was: dance. In other words: Exercise. Move your butt.
It was quite interesting to see Dr Naidu gyrate to the pub music in order to emphasise the importance of moving your butt. Then he suddenly stopped and leaned towards us: "You know something? As long as a man wakes up with a hard-on in the mornings, he is fine. There is nothing to worry about." He then broke into a 'fuck'-peppered laughter.
I had finished my beer by then and I left. I knew, courtesy Dr Naidu, that I was fine.