Saturday, December 06, 2008

Last week, I went to office with a small kid. I didn’t see him until the auto-rickshaw stopped by my side. He was this cute looking kid about 3 years old, standing and playing in that small space behind the passenger seat of the auto. The father must have put him there as there was no one home.

What the hell? I got in the auto and told the driver my destination. Midway, the kid suddenly said “Paani!” There was this bottle of water near the driver’s side. I took the bottle, put it to the kid’s lips and made him drink the water. When he was done, he smiled at me and we became instant friends.

Reminds me of the days back home when I was in my teens and I was the neighborhood kids’ favorite teacher. My elder brother was the type who would shout and throw the kids’ books if the kids couldn’t get it the first time. After a few days, they all came to me. I was the patient one who would explain things slowly and repeatedly, if required. I also had this habit of telling them stories from history, mythology, science…and asking questions. I still do with S, after all these years.

Kids always have shared this special bonding with me. One thing that always surprises me is that they never approach me as someone older. It’s more like the way people in the same age group warm up to each other, the way friends do.

About a year back, S and I went to Munnar with a good friend, her hubby and 4 year old daughter. Sometime after the journey started, the kid became my long lost pal – talking to me all the time, laughing at my jokes, pointing out the mountains and the “fountains” (her style of fooling me!) from the car window, and slapping me on the back of my head. My friend called me up a few weeks after the journey and told me that her daughter was still using my words/expression.

I’m the only one in the family with whom my kid brother talks about girls and other “young people” stuff. My teenage nephew whom the whole family considers disobedient and stubborn opens up to me all the time. If he’s hurt or angry, he will call me up and talk to me.

In spite of my strong and repeated refusals to having a kid of our own, S has never ever taken me seriously. She loves the way I interact or bond with kids. So when I talk about my 101 reasons for not having a kid – pollution, population explosion, parking space, dirty politics, the evil nature of people in our generation, our dying world, supporting/sponsoring other needy relatives’ kids….she has this look in her eyes that says – You don’t fool me honey, we will have a kid whenever I want!

A company in the UK paid me 60 GBP for putting up their link on my professional blog. I got another $250 member of the month award for my contributions to a networking site for professionals (in my domain). A few people have started mentioning my blog as their favorite. In the last interview I attended, the two interviewers laughed when I told them my long term career goal is to become someone well known and respected in the field of Analytics/Data Mining. Stupid fucks, people who will spend their whole lives running after bigger salaries and bigger companies.

And no, I’m not going to write about Mumbai.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

There must be some way out of here
Said the joker to the thief
There's too much confusion
I can't get no relief
Business men they drink my wine
Plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line
know what any of it is worth
- All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan

There’s just no way out, all channels of investment have been hit. In spite of what the experts say about the Asian or Indian economy, I have my doubts. Forget the Mutual Funds, the stocks & shares, the PPF, the NSC, the government bonds….I’m seriously thinking of taking out my money from my savings account and keeping it under my pillow.

Had been postponing the cleaning and re-arranging of my tapes for a long long time. 17 GB of MP3s on my PC has made me neglect the tapes. But last weekend, I decided enough was enough. I pulled out the drawers, poured out (literally) all the tapes on the carpet, and rubbed & scrubbed each and every tape cover with a piece of cloth soaked in Colin. Took me more than 3 hours but in the end I got this….

The one-album wonders. Me and my friends used to call all these bands that released amazing out-of-this-world albums but couldn’t follow it up with anything worthwhile afterwards. Every single song in all these albums is GOOD; collector’s item I would definitely say.

Soul Asylum - Grave Dancers Union
Soundgarden – Superunknown
Spin Doctors - Pocket Full of Kryptonite
Third Eye Blind - Third Eye Blind
Blind Melon – Blind Melon
Audioslave – Audioslave
Little Angels – Young Gods
Collective Soul – Collective Soul
Maroon5 – Songs about Jane
Ugly Kid Joe – America’s Least Wanted

The cleaning work also turned up a few gems – Lizzy Borden’s “Deal with the Devil” and Lenny Wolf’s (Kingdom Come) “Too”.

"Most of us go to our graves with our music still inside of us”

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Went to Yercaud on the Aug 15 weekend with S and two of my ex-colleagues. Tamil Nadu just refuses to change - most of the signboards are in Tamil, and the people behind the counters cannot speak either Hindi or English. It's the same old story when I was doing my engineering in Coimbatore eons back. It's no surprise that this state still lags behind in so many areas when compared to the other southern states. In the north, you have Bihar and West Bengal - states with huge natural resources and lots of potential that have repeatedly failed to change or progress much.

Yercaud is a small place, nothing much to see. To be very honest,
the hotel where we stayed was the best place/part of the visit.

In the next 1-2 months, I'm going to have 8000-10,000 extra rupees every month. Kid bro will start getting his monthly stipends at the IMA, and kid sister has finally got a good job in Delhi. And this means I won't be sending them money anymore for the first time in 3-4 years. I'm feeling light, and I'm feeling proud. The cousin whose education I’m sponsoring has also reached the 12th standard; I hope he comes out well in the 2009 board exams.

Am planning to book or buy a flat by spring/summer next year. Need to bring my parents here as soon as possible 'coz the money my elder brother (in Chennai) and I send home every month is never ever enough. My parents can live comfortably on my father's pension but then the losers in the family don't leave them alone.

Lately, the idea of working and living abroad (somewhere in Europe or Canada) is slowly becoming very attractive to me. I was always the lone guy in the gang who said no to working and settling down in another country. But the dirt, corruption, disrespect of everyone and everything; the ethnic, religious, language and economic divide and enmity in every lane of every state in this country leaves me utterly hopeless. You may say that these things are there in a lot of other countries too. But the truth is, it’s an exception out there while it’s a very regular and common affair in our country. Ours is a culture, a way of thinking & living that has been followed, protected, and taught for thousands of years. Another thousand years may not be enough to change or unlearn.

Been 2 years in Bangalore and I'm missing my friends in Delhi. The friends I used to hang out with, the friends who played guitar with me, and the friends with whom I get philosophical every weekend over endless glasses of rum. And yeah, they miss me too. They miss my place (all the rented flats I used to stay alone) which was always the default party venue. They miss my tapes, and my books. They miss my fried chicken and pork which was the staple starter and the "ender" at our parties.

It's raining so much these days. And for a change, it's raining mostly at nights in Bangalore. S and I love the rains; the moment we hear the rains, we will open the window in our bedroom, pull aside the curtains, get back in bed and snuggle happily under the covers.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Listening to AC/DC at full volume, the heavy bass beats and drums, Angus Young’s wizardry on the fretboard, and Bon Scott’s arrogant ‘fuck you’ vocals….pure unadulterated ROCK at its best.

Rock is god, Rock is religion, Rock is ecstasy, Rock rocks, period.

It’s raining, it’s getting dark and I’m in the mood, in the mood for good ol’ rum, straight on the rocks.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The birthday came and went. Except for the tsunami of wishes on Orkut, there was almost none in the real internet-less world. Guess, the middle aged guy has finally arrived in my life and along with it, my Levis went for an upgrade from 28 to 30.

The first time your eyes met. The first date, the first kiss. The first time you see her naked, the first time you fought...

Age has been the best education I’ve ever received. The books and movies say first times' always a disaster, or clumsy at its best. But if you have loved and slept with more than one woman, you’ll know that’s one big lie.

Makes you weak, makes you strong. Makes you stand tall, makes you go down on your knees. Makes you laugh, makes you bleed and cry...

They say love’s about giving. Love’s about understanding each other. Love’s about sacrifice. Love’s about great conversation, and great sex. I say balls to everyone who believes in these. Let me tell you love’s about finding that someone who can take your shit - all your insecurities, all your wacky habits and biased stubborn opinions and attitudes. Love has its moments too. Special, earth-shattering, mind-blowing, worth-everything-in-the-world moments but then don’t hold on to it like your last candy and don’t hope for it every day for the rest of your life.

They say your performance matters, your honesty matters. When you start working, when you have a job, just believe in one simple thing - work smart. There will never be a politics-less company in this whole wide universe. There are no great companies, there are only good managers and good job profiles.

Love and sharing doesn’t make good families if there are lazy egoistical dependent assholes around. Financially independent members make great families. The love and sharing comes naturally after.

Our Hindu way of life has taught me just two things. If you are a happy man, it’s all god’s grace. If you are a dog, it’s karma. And sadly, this stupid, blind belief, this mother-of-all-excuses for everything wrong in this world has spread to all our countrymen.

Don't come closer or I'll have to go
Holding me like gravity are places that pull
If ever there was someone to keep me at home
It would be you...

Everyone I come across in cages they bought
they think of me and my wandering
but I'm never what they thought
got my indignation but I'm pure in all my thoughts
I'm alive...

Guaranteed by Eddie Vedder from the OST of Into the Wild

Saw "Into the Wild" last week. If you have ever dreamed of giving up everything to live the life you have always wanted, you’ll love this movie. As for the soundtrack - nine original and two cover songs performed entirely by Eddie Vedder, the less said the better. I’ve been listening to these songs everyday ever since I downloaded all the 11 songs and 2 bonus tracks.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Sometimes I wonder how a "my" prefixed to anyone or anything changes the entire equation. The alcoholic and wife abuser, and MY father, that school dropout and MY brother, that hot woman in the hot dress and MY woman, the traffic rule breaker and MY friend, the old lecher and MY uncle....When the MY is added, the person’s bad character, sick attitude, and crime suddenly becomes smaller, insignificant, and something you can ignore, forget or forgive without a second thought. Guess, some things never ever change.

Memories are memories, nothing more nothing less but some of them linger on long after everyone and everything has moved on.

The girl with the tattoo. I was waiting for an auto that morning when I saw her coming down the same road where I was standing. An auto came, she stopped it, talked with the driver and got in. The auto sped past me but stopped a few meters ahead. She leaned out and asked me where I was going. When I told her my destination, she asked me to hop in as she was going the same way. I hesitated first, feeling a bit shy but got in after she repeated the offer. We talked a bit inside the auto, and suddenly I remember her as someone I used to see occasionally in college when I was doing my PG. I asked about her college and she confirmed it. And when I told her that I still remember the tattoo of the huge green cross on her left arm, she looked at me, rubbed her arms and told me that’s a very strange way of remembering someone. We laughed together.

I never met her again; I never asked her name, and she never asked mine. All I remember is that she was working at Radio Mirchi then, all I remember is her kohl-laden eyes, the long jet black hair, and of course, the tattoo.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

It was barely twilight but there I was, sitting at the bus stop just near the Lajpat Nagar flyover. I was working in a BPO company then and I had to wake up everyday around 4 am to be in time for the company cab. Owls, vampires, and BPO employees - creatures of the night.

I used to smoke then. Sitting there, smoking a cigarette I saw something on the road. It was a dog, very much dead and lying in the middle of the street. Something huge must have struck it when it was crossing the road because there were small body pieces lying all around. The blood must have dried up too, a long time ago.

And as I waited for the cab, I saw all these vehicles zooming down the road, and hitting and/or running over the carcass one after the other. The sound of each impact was sickening and as the dead dog crumbled into smaller and smaller pieces right in front of my eyes, I watched it all - sad, revolting and fascinating but I couldn’t stop myself from staring.

"Kutta hai na?" I turned around and saw this kid who worked at one of the small Punjabi/Chinese hotels near my rented flat. I nodded my head and we both kept on watching. And for a few minutes, we saw the same thing and felt exactly the same feelings. So this is how we all end, man and dog and everything else – ash to ash, dust to dust.

The cab finally came and I got in. The kid was still standing by the road, lost in his own thoughts.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

On the kitchen table, along with the cups and saucers is a long steel glass, the type that is usually used in hostels for serving and drinking milk. S’s father had bought it when he was with us for a few weeks. He doesn’t like to drink water from Mineral Water bottles like us, or from any other type of cups or glasses.

He is not much different from my father or any old person I know. Call it idiosyncrasies or eccentricities, we tend to acquire it more as we grow older. I sometimes see it as plain old stubbornness judging from the way old people want to have everything their way. Their inability to see, hear or feel others’ point of view, and their refusal to accept anything or anyone that don’t agree with them.

Perfectly understandable when they are senile, very old people; but what about those able bodied senior people who are still working or who have just retired? Age and experience teaches us patience and empathy. So where does it all go when the sunset approaches? S’s visits to old age homes always bring me tales of old people sulking, crying, screaming, and stomping their feet until the other people around give in to their demands. They also do the same thing when they don’t get the attention they want.

Not much different from babies if you consider the fact that a lot of old people come to that stage where they can’t clothe, eat, piss or shit by themselves. There’s nothing cool or romantic about dying young but the shame and indignity one goes through in old age makes me wish for an early death.

There are some songs that send a thrill down your body whenever you hear it, no matter how many times you have heard them.

Audioslaves's "Like A Stone", Alter Bridge's "Open Your Eyes", Steel Dragon's "We All Die Young", Skid Row's "I Remember You"..... - not the songs in their entireties but there's a part in all these songs where the guitar wails or the vocal shoots up to new unscaled heights. And that's exactly where I stop everything to listen and savor that exact moment.

And folk songs, I just love them. I remember that time just after I saw King Arthur. Spent hours on the net to find and download that song "We Will Go Home", and when I finally heard it in full, it was pure bliss. Hotel Rwanda has a lot of African folk songs/music which are just unforgettable.

There's this very popular Irish folk song called "The Fields Of Athenry", and it has been sung by countless number of bands/artistes. But as far as I’m concerned, the best rendition has to be the one sung by a street singer called Brian O’Donnell for the OST of "Veronica Guerin." He was 11 years old when he sang that song. Listen. And don't miss the movie either.

Eastern Promises is one hell of a movie. The fight scene in the bath house is one of the best, bloodiest, most realistic and brutal fights I’ve ever seen in a movie. No stuntmen were used, and according to IMDB, it took 2 days to film that scene alone. Guess Hollywood actors and our own Bollywood actors will always remain poles apart. Hollywood actors took rigorous training, visit and stay in foreign countries to develop accents, spent time in prison and other institutions, learn new hobbies and skills to prepare themselves for their roles. And here we have someone as big and rich as SRK or Sushmita Sen killing me every time they play rock stars in some of their movies without even bothering to spend 5 minutes to learn how to hold the guitar properly, forget about playing. Monkeys with coconuts, that’s what they remind me of.

Rendition, American Gangster, Charlie Wilson’s War, Atonement, and Juno were other great movies I saw recently.

No Country For Old Men was not that great but Javier Bardem was awesome, brilliant, evil and very very scarry!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I reached Imphal on the 16th of February. I didn’t realize it on that day of my arrival but my brother who came later, told me that he felt like he had arrived in a ghost town. The roads were bad, and the whole stretch from the airport to our new house looked very deserted.

All the roads in the main shopping market had been dug up in the name of a renovation, expansion and beautification drive. Vehicles were blocked in many of the roads and people had to walk for all their shopping. Mom told me the CM wanted everything to be done in one go instead of doing it step by step because he wanted to take his cut before his term gets over. Everybody calls him the 10% CM.

I sometimes wonder whether we are the most optimistic people or the most stupid and cowardly ones. You rarely see the army in any of the Indian cities but in Imphal, the army is everywhere. The Assam Rifles, CRPF, BSF, the commandos…everyone is there. There are no civilian areas, and the army patrols don’t stop. On the main roads, they patrol in their armored cars that look like tanks. All you can see is this huge vehicle, and on top of it, right in the center is a dark face under a helmet and a big machine gun that means business. The commandos are the most fearsome ones because they are mostly poor, angry frustrated matriculates with no respect for anyone. They are rude, and trigger-happy. And the fact that they are armed with mean looking machine guns doesn’t help either.

Someone or the other calls a bandh almost everyday for something or the other. But most of the times, it’s to protest the monetary demands made by the countless terrorist groups in the name of some fucking dream called “Independent Manipur”. Even a 4 year old kid knows they are just thieves with guns. As for their so-called revolution, they can all shove it up their asses. So one day, it’s the petrol pumps shutting down in protest because of bomb threats over monetary demands not met, one day it’s the bus operators, one day it’s the schools, one day it’s the shopkeepers…but then everyone needs to eat, the protest ends and life goes back to that normal despair and frustration.

The army, police and commandoes have also started killing a lot of civilians for money. They kill civilians, and steal their money, even the jewelry on their bodies. Once the deed is done, a gun or bomb is planted on the bodies and the innocents became terrorists shot and killed on the run. During my vacation in Imphal for about 3 weeks, I read about these killings EVERYDAY WITHOUT FAIL. On an average, 5-10 persons were found shot everyday and these are just the official published reports in Imphal area only. And then on the other side, there are the civilians killed by the terrorists EVERYDAY WITHOUT FAIL. Guess NGOs and Human Rights organizations found Manipur too insignificant for their PR.

Everyone’s scared, angry and very frustrated. Whatever everyone thinks or says, I know nothing less than a civil war will turn the tide and bring a change in Manipur. The central & state governments don’t give a damn, the armies are reluctant to give up their power under the AFSPA, and the terrorists will never start a dialogue because they are mostly illiterates who only know how to threaten, steal and kill. The terrorists, the police, the army and the politicians all get a cut from the monthly and annual collections made from almost everyone living in Manipur.

Forget the men, most of the women in my family including relatives’ and friends’ told me that they won’t hesitate to kill the terrorists or the army if they were given a gun. Power supply’s almost not there; except for the VIP areas there’s load shedding every alternate day and when the power’s there it usually comes for 5-6 hours a day. A civil war looms on the horizon of Manipur while the national media and the nation as a whole continue to ignore everything here. Bollywood and cricket are far more important for their TRP ratings and revenues.

It was cold back home, especially in the mornings and dusks. Every morning and evening, I used to sit near a bonfire or sometimes a brazier, and talked with my parents about everything. Mom had grown her flowers in front of the new house but this time the roses were sadly missing among the marigolds. The trip brought new revelations too; I learnt that in his younger days, dad had been a lot crueler to mom than I initially thought, and mom had suddenly become very orthodox and superstitious. I also had the chance to enjoy all the vegetables and herbs that are not available anywhere outside my state.

My family and friends asked me when I will visit them again but to be honest, I don’t know. The beauty of the mountains surrounding Imphal valley, the climate, the food and sometimes an old familiar folk song reminds me of the once innocent and happy days I and everyone had in this beautiful land. But like a dream, it fades slowly day by day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I wrote the final/certification test for the Analytics course yesterday.

Free at last. Cutting down on my usual dosage of movies, music, guitar, books and blogging for three whole months was the hardest thing.

After all those years in schools and colleges, after the experiences of working in different teams/companies, I believe that there are only two subjects that really really matter - Mathematics and English. Not an "or" but an "AND". You know these two well, you will be okay. Unless you are very sure that you are creative with a capital C, study maths till your 10+2. You can learn anything after that.

Will be going home for about 3 weeks. If I take out the 20-22 hours I was at home in 2006, I'm going home after 9 years. And this is gonna be my first winter vacation after the winter of 1993

This time I can truly say that I don't know where home is. Mom & dad had sold our house and moved to something smaller, somewhere farther from the main city area. Maybe, if I have time and the guts, I will go and have a look at the old house.

There was this small garden in front of the house. We used to call it mom's garden or mom's flowers. Her favorite was roses and there were a variety of them - red, pink, white and yellow. And she was the only one who took care of these flowers. After all these years, I wonder if she has ever received a flower from dad, or any man for that matter. Has any man ever looked at her the way she looked at all those roses?

Just after the garden, was this big door with wooden frames. The top part is a big arch made from one huge block of wood. My eldest brother wanted to join 2-3 separate parts but dad wanted the arch to be carved from a single block of wood. An expensive decision but dad was rich then, we were rich then.

One wayward son, and all the money went down in the gutters. I guess there is Karma after all, except for the financial support dad had never shown much love and care for us, it was especially bad for my two eldest brothers and one elder sister. He was just too busy with his work, drinks, and the other woman. I still say dad's one lucky guy, just one black sheep among seven children.

And on the first floor, the north side of the house was my room. I shared it with my elder bro for years. We studied, fought, played and slept in that room till both of us had to leave home for our studies. On the wall near my bed were two big posters of Deep Purple and Axl Rose. On the opposite wall, near my brother's bed were pictures of a scantily clad Kalpana something, the first woman lawyer who appeared topless in Debonair. Those were the last pictures/posters I remember before my brother left for Sanawar (Himachal Pradesh) in 1989, and I left for New Delhi in 1993.

And that small wooden cupboard next to our room where we kept all our DC, Indrajal, and Tinkle comics along with the Hardy Boys, a few Enid Blytons and various other books.

Maybe I will not go at all. Mom told me that the house has been converted into a printing press by the new owner.

Hope winter waits for me back home. I wanna wake up to cold misty mornings, sip a cup of hot lemon tea and gaze and gaze at the grass, trees and all the greenery. I wanna sit with my parents and have a conversation with them in total silence. I wanna sit near a bonfire and watch the stars in the clear night sky. You really miss the stars when you live in the big cities.

I want to feel something for the place I left 15 years back. I want a place I can call home and feel it too.