Saturday, March 24, 2007

Saturday Morning Thoughts

1. If I were to write a review for Namaste London, I would wind it up in one sentence: You must speak fluent English to win a woman -- that's the clinching factor, no matter how good you are at dancing or singing or playing rugby.

2. Why on earth do they play Harbhajan Singh in crucial matches? I have never seen him take wickets, only give away plenty of runs.

3. Why did they continue showing commercials lionising Tendulkar and Dhoni even after each of them got out for a duck?

4. Shouldn't Greg Chappel and Rahul Dravid resign? The team had more energy when there was no coach and when Azharuddin was the captain.

5. Shouldn't Tendulkar now call it a day?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Relationship Grid

I stood at the 'Foreign Magazines' gondola at Landmark, as I often do, turning the pages of GQ. Browsing next to me a beauty who could have belonged to its glamorous pages, and with her a boy, possibly her brother.

My eyes were feasting on Naomi Campbell, alternating between her sensual gaze and her bare nipple that stood out like a rudraksha bead. But my eye on my ear was watching the beauty and her brother. "Who's this?" he asked, pointing to a picture in between fiddling with his phone.

"Jemima Khan," she replied with an accent. "She was married to Imran Khan, the Pakistan cricketeer. He is a famous cricketeer. She is now going out with Hugh Grant, whose wife, ex-wife, has recently got married to Arun Nayar."

The brother, still fiddling with his phone, said: "One marries a Pakistani, another marries an Indian. Funny!"

She admonished him: "Stop sending messages. You will finish my balance."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Kapil Dev = Indira Gandhi; Dravid = Narasimha Rao

You might not like to admit it, but the excitement over the cricket World Cup is rather tame this time — compared even to the excitement generated by the soccer World Cup last year. It is easy to see why. The team resembles the Congress party under Narasimha Rao: what with the lack of cohesiveness and charismatic leadership, low morale and the dependence on individual, star players to deliver. You can even detect temperamental similarities between Rao and Dravid — both calm and reticent.

Rao, individually a brilliant politician, could never lead his party to victory. Even Sonia Gandhi could not. Victory finally came to the Congress in the form of BJP’s overconfidence. So unless Ponting and his boys have already booked a disco in Jamaica to throw a victory bash as part of an ‘Australia Shining’ campaign, chances are slim that the boys in blue will return with the cup. Sorry to say that, but you know it, don’t you?

But then, cricket is a game of chance, and who knows... I could be eating my words a month from now! That, however, does not take away from Indian cricket’s uncanny resemblance to Indian politics, or elections. The selection of the team, for example, is no different from the selection of candidates. The process, in both cases, is always suspect and mostly flawed, and at the end of it, there are faces that are beaming as well as long. (There is a minor difference though: in cricket, the long faces don’t — or can’t — defect to Bangladesh or form an international team of their own).

Then comes the election, which is the tournament. They all join hands, and even though personal ambitions take over at times, they put up a united front — to get votes, which, in cricket parlance, translates to victory. No questions asked if they win, but in the case of defeat, heads roll and blame-games begin. The media blames the coach, the coach blames the players, the players blame the coach, the nation blames the players, and so on. Just like the media blames the chief minister, the CM blames the party president, the party president blames the rising prices, while the nation blames the party.

It is also easy to see equivalents of cricketers in politics. I began to understand cricket at the age of eight or nine, when Gavaskar had just become the captain. So for me, Gavaskar was the equivalent of Nehru. Both had a style of functioning, and they never deviated from it: even if that meant, for Gavaskar, scoring 36 off some 60 overs. Both captained the country for long, and both went on to become statesmen.

Kapil Dev is Indira Gandhi: the kind who says, “What the hell,” and goes on to achieve the impossible. The masses loved both and still do. Azharuddin, on the other hand, is V P Singh. Respected captain, brilliant batsman, but he met his Mandal Commission in match-fixing allegations, and he sank without a trace.

Sourav Ganguly reminds one of Vajpayee: a highly successful and charismatic captain who wove the team together like a coalition, but had to pay for his personal non-performance and was forced to retire even though he had a few more years of captaincy left. People like Sehwag, on the other hand, resemble the regional parties: keep them happy and chances are they will perform. Poke them, and they could topple the cart.

And back in the 1980s, you didn’t have so much of television and sound bytes, so it is difficult to decide who should have been Lalu Yadav — Krish Srikkanth or Najvot Sidhu. But it is not difficult to find the equivalent of Sachin Tendulkar: a man who is part of the political system but still dirtied by it, a man with an impeccable track record who people love, who people look up to. APJ Abdul Kalam. Strange coincidence that both are at a stage today when people are looking at them and wondering: Will they be able to play a second innings?

Monday, March 12, 2007


A reader of my column in the paper, who was routed to my blog, wrote to me recently. After complimenting me for my writing, she gently reminded me that my picture on the blog shows me smoking and that I should remove it. She is obviously a well-wisher, and I am grateful to her for her pointing out my vice. How I wish I could oblige her, but I can't, for reasons technical and emotional.

The technical bit: I am not very good with templates, and it was with great difficulty, and with the help of fellow bloggers, that I could get the size of the picture right. Any attempt to remove or replace it could result in my spending hours on the template, and I am in no mood to do that. Moreover, I am a smoker, so what's wrong in posing with a cigarette?

I had, however, not intended to pose with a cigarette. I had just bought the laptop, and along with it came a free webcam. I was experimenting with the cam, posing in front of it, and the picture I liked the most happened to be self-clicked at a time when I had just lit a cigarette. So it stayed, and still stays, and will continue to stay till my looks get drastically altered. The picture was taken when I was nearing 35, and it would unfair to keep it there when I am 40.

After all, I don't wish to be the man who once came to my office to hand over a book to be reviewed. "It is a collection of my musings," the man said politely as he extended the book. On the cover was the picture of a man in his early 40's -- long hair, wearing a safari suit, and striking a pose with his hands on the waist. But the man who stood in front of me was old: bald and shrivelled. "Is that you?" I asked him. He looked embarrassed but nodded. What a way to cling on to youth!

I don't wish to do that. I promise to replace the picture well before I am 40, and that's four years away. Till then, I shall be seen smoking, and like to be seen smoking, and that's because I like smoking! I know it might be killing me, but what the hell. Abstaining from it promises a healthy life only in the long run, but has anyone ever seen the future from the point called 'present'?

For now, a bit of the past. I began smoking when I was 19 -- barely weeks after I drew a cartoon for an anti-smoking contest. I got a letter from the National Health Association of India, saying my cartoon has made it to the top ten, and that I should be in Delhi on such and such date when the top three would be judged. I had my exams, so my parents went; and it was in their absence that I smoked my first cigarette. Perhaps, as divine punishment, I could not make it to the top three; but my parents returned with a booklet that contained my cartoon as well. I was an amateur smoker by then, smoking Wills Navy Cut -- but only sucking the smoke into mouth and letting it out. That way, I could taste the tobacco, and it tasted to good -- I felt like a man!

I became a proper smoker at 20, when I could inhale the smoke right into the lungs. The moment I took a drag, my head would begin to float, and that was the kick. I would smoke only one or two cigarettes a day, and my brand was Charms. The denim packet looked sexy and the cigarette was cheap: 40 paisa a piece I think. Wills Navy Cut cost 75 paisa and Gold Flake kingsize 90. And my first vendor was an old woman -- we called her "Amma" -- who ran a shop in the form of a small wooden box, not very far from my place. Every evening, a friend and I would walk down there and smoke a cigarette each. After which we could beg her for a clove each, and chewing on them slowly, would walk back. Something that made us look foward to evenings. Rest of the day we were supposed to be preparing for engineering entrances.

I became a journalist soon after, and now I had the money to smoke. I graduated to Wills Navy Cut. I smoked about 10 a day. Till the early 20's, you tend to ape your seniors and idols, and they all smoked. My favourite hero then was Jackie Shroff, and his career began only after he had modelled for Charminar. (I never missed a movie of his those days -- truly a macho man). Vinod Khanna smoked. Kabir Bedi smoked. All dashing men. One of my deepest desires was to model for a cigarette brand (perhaps the desire has -- albeit unintentionally -- manifested itself in the profile picture). And then when I desired to be a writer, I found out almost all my heroes smoked -- Dom Moraes, my biggest hero at the time, was a chain smoker. I really don't mind dying of throat cancer if I could produce a book like My Son's Father.

A few years later, as my salary increased, I switched to Gold Flake kings. That remains my brand even today. When I started smoking it, a packet cost Rs 15 or so, and I smoked about 10. Today, it costs Rs 38 and I smoke about.. well, it's a scary figure.

Anyway, those days it wasn't so scary because there were so many smokers around, and that was comforting. Moreover, no one looked down upon you -- today they look at smokers as if they are soaked in sewage water. How quickly it became politically incorrect to be a smoker. And only a few decades ago, the highly-respected and respectable-looking Hemant Kumar would be lighting cigarettes right in the middle of a recording. He believed the smoking gave his voice a grainy effect.

Today, only Shah Rukh Khan has the stature to defy the politically-correct world. But he is not the kind who would inspire me to smoke. Jackie Shroff would. Vinod Khanna would. Kabir Bedi would. Dom Moraes would. Hemant Kumar would. But these people are either past their prime or dead. I guess I should quit now. Or maybe restrict myself to just two cigarettes a day: post-lunch and post-dinner. Actually make that three: how can I forget post-coital, my most favourite smoke!

Different Strokes

Occasionally people make love in places other than the bed either for lack of space and privacy or for pure thrill or, in extreme cases, out of sheer lack of control. So they do it behind the bushes, in the balcony, in the car, in the train, in the kitchen, or the dining table, or a cliff and so on. And quite often, they fantasise to do it in one of these places. This morning I was having a chat with a woman who is about 28, gorgeous and intelligent. The intelligence made the conversation hop from recipes for cocktails to recipes for happiness before it gravitated to perhaps the greatest source of happiness -- sex. "My fantasy is to do it in a helicopter. No, not in a plane, but helicopter. Weird na?" Not at all, baby, different strokes for different folks.


Somehow I am beginning to fall in love with the word 'want'. Unlike 'need', it doesn't stink of deprivation or desperation. Unlike 'lust', it doesn't smell of cheap perfume or liquor. And 'want' doesn't have to be born out of need -- that's the beauty of the word. I love the sound of it. I want this. I want that. I want you.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Saturday morning:
Maya and I
sitting in Marina
watching the sun rise

Against the orange glow
Maya got up
hitched up her skirt:
"I am going to dip my feet"

"Don't," I told her, "it is dangerous"
She raised her eyebrows:
"Is that an order?" I said "yes."
"Then try stopping me."

The sun came up
Maya went down
Swallowed by the sea,
or ego?

I kept sitting there
sand of time flowed
beach became desert
two years passed

One morning,
a tap on my shoulder
it was Maya!
Was I dreaming?

"No you are not,
it's me Maya,
my sweetheart.
I'm yours

"But remember
you can only feel me
not have me, for
I am Maya -- the illusion"