Destination Exasperation

Friday, December 26, 2008

OK, thanks to this nifty typing feature on the iPhone, I'm blogging on the move. There's a nice background soundtrack of 'Pyaar Se Pyaar Hum'(playing in my ears). In addition, some laptop-toting Papa is making his jumpy toddler listen to songs from SRK's movies. Which is infinitely better than trying to make the kid shut his mouth.

This one is arguably the boring-est of all the train journeys of my lifetime. It was doomed right from the beginning. One, I could have chosen to leave home a good two-and-a-half days later. God knows which notice from the IIT said we have to show them our ungainly faces on the 28th. I learn that I'm most probably the first non-Chennai-ite to have arrived in the city. Things back home were just beginning to warm-up : my pals had begun to come back from their respective colleges on and after the 19th which was the day their first semester exams ceased to exist. So, all we got was short of a week-which we tried to make the most of. However, as 'Yeh Dil Maange More', I'm still pretty cross.

To make it worse, as I was about to make myself comfortable in my compartment, I tried to size up the other people who were sharing it with me. They were all old farts. I pray for forgiveness, uparwaale, but this is how I felt. Buggers is even more apt. Unfortunately, one of them turned out to be an acquaintance of my father's. Babai was spot-on when he said, "Eibar ei lok ta toke puro chaatbe". He tried to strike up a totally pointless conversation with me. Pointless became annoying when his first question was, "So, you study English and Economics at IIT Madras. Is it better than engineering?" With the best deadpan expression I could manage, I retorted, "It will take me at least four-and-a-half years to answer your question". That made him shut up until bedtime, when he said he wanted the lower berth(MY BERTH) for his wife. You obviously think I readily gave up my berth, being the epitome of decency and politeness.

You are wrong. I was polite in my refusal, because I had stowed away my brand-new fifty grand laptop under that particular seat. But I gave them the middle berth, I did.

Uh...I don't feel like writing any more. This journey is much too painful and arses like these don't deserve any more importance...

My apologies...

An old DVD and a ton of delight!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It’s an overload, these memories. They just come. They seem to have a mind, a whimsical nature of their own. Having befuddled my mind with the unfathomable sociological theories thus far, I sat down to write some stuff. Stuff, eh? That settles it. I seem to have lost it.

Anyway, we shall continue with our endeavour. There’s no harm in trying.

Was a normal evening, until I brought out my data DVD that I had made back in March. That was when my system was ravaged by ‘New Folder.exe’(that bastardly worm) and all hell had broken loose. The internet connectivity was shot, so were all the system utilities. Couldn’t just say the magic (??!!) words “Format the HDD” before contemplating how much of my valuable data would be lost. So I sat about the task of cramming all the important bits of info to a single 4.7 GB DVD. Wanted to see how adept I was at separating the necessary from the unnecessary, the grain from the chaff.

Turned out it wasn’t such a big deal at all. The music files were not important, as I had most of my music on other media. Just some select songs (worth about a GB) were transferred to the DVD.

EBooks. Oh well…they were even more important. There were around 400 novels in the form of word and pdf files. They went in too.

Then came the images. Most of the images were wallpapers of various automotive works of art. Important. Very important. In they went. I then came to the digicam images. And I had crammed them in, without another thought.

Cut to this particular afternoon, the 22nd of November, 2008. I slotted the DVD into the PC for the music, but ended up spending the better part of the evening trying to relive the golden ’07 days. The cricket match at Cuttack, Holi, the Party in June, then the shots of our last three days at SPS…No, it wasn’t a walk down memory lane…It was a BLAST down the memory freeway!!!

One movie file had me in splits. The usual stars of the show were Niladri, Shubhrapratim, and to a certain extent, Souvik. Some quotes of these iconic characters have been preserved on digital media for posterity:

Mainak: Hey, ami padini!
Niladri (echoing Mainak’s sentiments): Ami shotti padini…ami padle tui ekhane thaktish na!!!

Shubhrapratim: Aajkal Souvik er asholey ‘ling parivartan’ er symptoms dekhachche…
Souvik: Babai ke dekhachchi.
Niladri (jumps like a feral beast on Shubhra): Mujhe cheer, mujhe cheer!!!
Souvik (joins in): Aare Babai…
Niladri: Dara…toke dekhachchi…aaj tor ling change kore toke bari pathabo…
Mainak: Tumi pechhone takate paro…drama korte hobe…
Souvik (interrupts): Please…Let me help.
Mainak: E ki re??!!
Shubhrapratim cries in anguish owing to the torture…and we collectively laugh our heads off.

I ended up laughing loudly in the solitary confines of my room. People outside must have thought I had gone nuts. They weren’t very far off.

After replaying the clip for god-knows-how-many-times, I sat back with my eyes closed. And not much was left, except for the sepulchral hush that descended on my thoughts. If anything, I was happily looking forward to the December of 2008. Not the Chennai shorts-and-t-shirts winter with the warm, even hot sunshine, but a proper quilt-muffler-jacket-mittens-thermocot winter with dense fogs and starry nights.

Bring it on!!!

Life. Will never be the same again.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

It's a cliche, isn't it? 'Life will never be the same again'. How very true. But if you think about it, nothing, ever has remained the same. And a cliche comes to be known as a cliche because it's something that keeps happening, regardless of the day and age!! All that we are surrounded by, all that we are, all that we have been and all that we want to be is never what it was, is, or will eventually be. Even our past looks different from a distance. The thing is, time has a fantastic knack of throwing away all the bad bits, those which we wouldn't like to remember or give much importance either way, and retain all the good things about our life 'back then'. Maybe that's why we tend to view our past a little leniently. More often than not, you'll hear people tell you, "Those were the days!!".

And I am talking about all this because I experienced it recently. I had this urge to (finally) go watch 'Jaane Tu...Ya Jane Na'(a strictly OK-OK movie. That's my review.). And not because I really wanted to, but because it had already been three weeks since the movie released, but I hadn't watched it till then. I was chastising myself, thinking that I was the only sub-20 guy in town who hadn't seen the film, when all my friends were gushing about this 'masterpiece'. And I picked up the phone, and dialled Shubhra's number. 2 rings later, I suddenly recalled something and hung up.

Shubhra's classes had already begun the week before. He was already in college! And I was cooling my heels at home... I would have ended up looking like the greatest idiot alive when I would have asked his folks, 'Is Shubhra home?'

There are a lot of things we take for granted. And that's only natural.

'Koi cheez jab khud se chhin jaaye, tabhi uski aehmiyat ka ehsaas hota hai'.

There was a time when we, a bunch of 5-10 St. Patrick's guys, would go for a dinner, a lunch, even a tuition together. It was the 'normal' thing back then. All we had to do is make a few phone calls, and we louts were on our way, accompanied by our horrible sense of humour, our outrageous shouting and our intolerable wisecracks. On any normal day, that was a given. And now, it's hit me like a train. The fact that it's no longer going to be a 'given'. In fact, we'd be extremely fortunate if life has even one small occasion like that in store. The thing is, my definition of 'normal' has to change. Staying here in Chennai has to be normal. Not meeting up with old friends has to be normal. Making new ones has to be normal. Will I succeed?

Yes. Because I must.

Vanakkam Chennai. Chollam, Asansol!! Pore dekha hobe!!

A helmet in time...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I’ve had many bad days. And this one ranks as one of those. My train to Asansol was cancelled. So this post too is from Bhubaneswar.

You are sniggering at my opening lines. You’re thinking I haven’t got anything to write today, eh? I do. Sort of.

It was the trip to the railway station that brought up the issue. The issue of rider safety on Indian roads. To be more precise, it’s the issue of wearing an adequate cranium-protecting-cum-face-shielding device while riding a motorized two-wheeler. To be even more precise, I’m talking about wearing a helmet while riding a bike.

OK, let’s get this straight. An ISI approved helmet costs some extra bucks when compared to one that has probably been put together by a bunch of 8-year old kids in sub-human conditions. I agree. And you buy those helmets to indirectly give the families of those poor kids a meal to live on for one more day. I agree. You’ve thus done some social service which you can be really proud of. It’s all good up to this point.

You wear that helmet when you ride your bike the next day. I SHALL DESPISE YOU FOR THAT!!! And I shall also take the liberty of calling you a brainless twat who can’t find his own buttocks with his two hands. You, by wearing that helmet and believing that it is going to save your skull and face in the event of a 100 mph crash, will have obtained the exclusive distinction of crossing the Rubicon of lunacy. You would be much better off wearing a Gandhi cap! You should be bright enough to understand that cheap helmets are neither ergonomically designed, nor are they made of materials that are sufficiently rigid to protect the head in case of high-speed crashes. What’s more, they splinter in the event of an impact, and are responsible for more fatalities than the accidents themselves. In short, you deserve to be dead if you put such an abysmal price on your life.

In recent times, the honourable state government in India has made wearing a helmet compulsory while riding a two-wheeler in major cities across the country. And this is what I really detest. This, in my opinion, is unnecessary meddling of the Government in people's affairs. No, I’m not retracting my stand on the issue of wearing helmets. I am only saying that I disapprove of the Government telling its adult citizens what to do and what not to do.

The government should realize that not forcing people to wear helmets can work for the benefit of everyone in the long run. It is understandable that those who dislike wearing helmets have an IQ that hovers around the 20 mark. So they are mostly useless when it comes to being part of a society, having the right to adult franchise, etc. Such people are more useful in death than in life. Why should we bother ensuring the safety of such idiots? So, let them vacate their place on earth for good. Once they kill themselves off, they leave the roads for safer and more sensible riders (you don't have to tell them, force them, or beg them to wear helmets, see?) who know how to enjoy the thrills of motoring without killing themselves or others. To add insult to injury, the families of the deceased shall not be able to recognize their faces! Serves them right! Besides, the traffic situation in the country will also improve tremendously.

It sure looks like a win-win situation to me!!

Religion? Who needs religion?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I had once said that I'll become a believer if I, you know, get through an exam in which the odds against me seemingly insurmountable.

I have become a believer. But not exactly in what you all call 'God'. Now I have an inscrutable belief in the power of destiny. For me, destiny is the true God.

You are screaming obscenities at me. Already. How do I decry all that billions hold sacred? How dare I go against the sentiments of the world's populace? Please don't do that. Not yet. I am never, for once saying that I don't recognize and respect religions and their deities. I do, actually. Who am I to question the beliefs of millions of humans worldwide? I'm just one of the very few who well and truly believe we have outgrown the concept of an exclusive 'God' in the times we live in.

For most of the 'in' generation these days, God exists. Oh yes he(or she..depending on your outlook) does. He(or she) is invoked when there's an important exam coming up. He(or she) is invoked when you have gone out for a smoke and Mom might get a whiff of tobacco. He(or she) is invoked when you are about to meet your girlfriend's father. Is your God so trivial? Is he(or she) to be troubled with your limitless idiosyncrasies?

Then your god is no God. Mark my word when I use the lower case. He's someone who you believe is at the other end of an emotional hotline which you turn to every time you have a problem of any magnitude.

And religious extremism is the root cause of almost all of the world's evils. Take the Uzi-Toting Extremists who think they are doing Islam a great service. The Palestinian conflicts. The Kashmir issue. What the heck, there are countless regional parties in Asia which propagate violence and discord, all in the name of 'religion'. We all are having to deal with problems like these all the time. In the name of all your Gods at once, I ask you, does Islam teach its followers to commit murder? Is Jesus responsible for crime and all its manifestations? Does Hinduism teach it's followers to loot and plunder those believing in other faiths? The answer is an EMPHATIC no. All these misbehaving organizations shamelessly distort the words of their religious texts. The Koran is cut down to the few passages which advocate the defence of the pride and honour of the community and the right to fight for one's rights. And with some other modifications, these are taught to young and impressionable Muslim boys in madrasas. They are not taught the Koran in its entirety, and they grow up to be blood-thirsty psychopaths who never think twice before killing, firm in their belief that whatever they are doing is, as they say, is 'Allah's will'. That they are the ones who, after their fiery death, are going to spend their afterlife in 'Jannat' or paradise. Someone needs to teach them that Allah will be weeping up there looking at the way his worshippers are being misled. Among these extremist cults, the cult of Wahabism is among the most extreme. Look at the great political party in West India which takes its name from that of the Hindu God of destruction. And destruction is what these lunatics excel at. They spew vitriol at followers of other religions, vandalize property, inflict torment on those from other other communities, jeopardize movie screenings, etc. Do the 100 million billion trillion zillion Hindu deities advocate this kind of behaviour? You know the answer as well as I do.

All of this brings me to the question. Do we need religion which is indirectly responsible for evil? Do we deserve faiths which are distorted at will by crazed activists to commit heinous crimes at will? I'm pretty sure I don't. And I don't think you do, either. We are human beings (in case you have forgotten) and we have something that differentiates us from animals. And that's the grey matter between our ears. That's what makes us civilized. That's what keeps us sane. We, therefore have an ingrained sense of morality, a 'moral compass', if you look at it that way. I genuinely feel that we don't have to visit a Temple every day, a Church every Sunday, or even a Masjid every Friday in order to reset it and remind ourselves of what's right and what's not. We need to develop a sense of humanity, compassion, fellow feeling and above all, righteousness.

The bottomline is, we have to act together if we want to save our planet and its people. No God is going to do that for us. The sooner we get this into our thick heads, the better off will we all be.

The Return of the King

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sometimes, good is just not good enough.

Awww….you cringe. Now what? Is this post going to be another incessant, boring ramble about my never-ending misfortunes?

Far from it. This is a celebration. Of the successful ‘me’. Finally.

The previous post did give many the impression that the death knell had sounded for me, but I’ve bounced back reincarnated, reinvented and reloaded!

Victory is always sweet. But when it comes after aeons, and comes in this manner, it deserves to be savoured. This is the kind of feeling you get when the sun beams down after a July thundershower, something you want to last for a lifetime. Since that can’t happen, one has to enjoy the moment as long as it endures.

And I will be extremely selfish in saying that this is MY victory, my triumph, my euphoria and my ecstasy(don't think otherwise). And no one else, other than me and my close pals deserve to savour this success. This victory belongs to Raunaq, his friends like Shubhra, Guru, Neelay, Manish, Ronodweep, Nilankur and some more who I’m not mentioning here (I apologize for that). Some cousins of mine make the grade as well. And how can I forget Mrs. Paul ? Her wishes clinched it for me!! The omission here pertains to my parents(Mom, to be specific).

This one was a long time coming. I had never been without success for such a long period as this one: from April 06 to May 08. I’ve had to face too many hard situations, which had all but broken me. I’m no rock-of-Gibraltar that can weather severe storms. No. I’m not that strong. So, I badly needed this shot-in-the-arm to jump-start my stuttering career. And what a jump-start this has been!

But I can still see how my mother screws up her nose when she tells others that I’m, going to study English and Economics for the next 5 years. It’s almost as if she is ashamed.He’s not at all interested in going for that despite getting a half-decent AIEEE result. I can see that she still wants that to happen. Heck, my school’s Principal was infinitely more happy on hearing the news of my future plans. My mom’s smile seems faked.

But, much as I love her, ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’.

SHOCKING? Maybe so. I really don’t care. What matters is the fact that I’ve never been happier. Other people and their feelings can go for a toss.

“Kabhi kabhi kuch jeetne ke liye kuch haarna padta hai. Aur haar kar jeetne waalon ko Baazigar kehte hain.”

At the risk of sounding repetitive and unimaginative, I thank whoever-it-is for reaffirming my faith that these cheesy fily lines do hold a lot of water.


Friday, May 23, 2008

So much has been learnt in such little time!

If you think I have gone crazy and am on the verge of going off on a tangential path, you are wrong. You must be knowing that the Class 12 board results have been declared. And I have fared miserably. 89.7 fucking percent is hopeless. Above all else, I have let my own self down. That is the most disgusting part of it!

The quote-smiths always say that there is a silver lining to every cloud... They are not very far off. I've seen that there may not be any silver lining, but there is at least a tin lining on this mud-cloud!! (extremely unfunny, I know)

I've always hated studying. I've always felt that it's the most despicable and detestable thing on this planet. That's not unlike many others, but the problem is that I've taken 13 years to realize this!! I absolutely hate having to sit down with my books at any time of any day, any month, or any year. But then, I do love doing certain things related in a way to academics.

I enjoy reading. Oh yes I do. Any reading material under the sun has either an admirer or a critic in me. I love writing stuff as you can see clearly. I love taking part in debates, spelling-bee contests, quizzes, and the like. I feel completely at home on stage - it makes me feel so alive !! I thoroughly enjoy every second I spend on stage - be it as a performer or a compere, the sheer thrill of it is totally fulfilling...

But I am a fu***ng Science student. And my parents earlier used to say that you have to study Science only till you are in Class 12. That was 3 years earlier. Now I realize they never meant to say any of that! It was just a way of assuring me that I am free to take some decisions of my own - in reality, they are the same Corinthians that the parents of my other friends are! I don't despise them or hate them for that (I have no right to) - I can only pity them. They are part of the crowd...I'd proudly tell my friends earlier that, "Yaar, mera koi bhi choice ho sakta parents are cool with whatever I do in future." And they were like, " Wow, Raunaq, you are lucky to have such parents. I wish mere parents aise hote. Tu toh lucky hai yaar." Bullshit. Kuch bhi nahin hai. Mujhe like every other Tom, Dick and Harry, engineering hi padhna padega. That's what I have realized now...Now I know what a big dunce I had been to think that I would be able to pursue my dreams. I never knew this was coming. If I even had a whiff of this, I'd have studied my hated subjects - Physics, Chemistry and Maths more seriously, with not only a pinch, but a truckload of salt, if the situation demanded that of me. The fault is mine, mine and only mine.

And yesterday someone told me on the phone,"Ronu, keep your chin up. You have done well. Go for English or international studies. What will you do by studying engineering? Are you going to write paeans and poems on the buildings and bridges you make? We'll see that you get to study the subject of your interest. Cheer up."

Oh really? I don't mean any indecency or disrespect to her (I can't even dream of such a thing - I have my scruples in place), but I know exactly what she was thinking when she said that. She was thinking, " Isska toh kuch hone waala hai nahin. Aadha barbaad toh ho chuka hai. Issko thoda dilaasa de deti hoon. Usse achha lagega. He's just not good enough for engineering. So let's pump up is deflated balloon a little. Poor boy!" I'm sure of this. Everyone is feeling nothing but pity towards me.

Now I myself don't have any self-pity or self-respect left. I think I'm once again going to be a loser. But this time, it may be a loss from which it will be impossible to bounce back.

It's all in a downward spiral for me, from here on. Providence grins and tells me, "Heads I win, tails you lose !! "
I know. I'm can see that.

This brings me to a decision that I had taken 2 years earlier (If you don't know anything about that, you evidently don't know me well enough). I still feel that it was the correct decision. I had the option of choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea. Somehow, I felt that choosing to die at the hands of the Devil is more dignified. At least you don't die a coward.

So many things have happened to me. Persons who seemed to be beacons of light and hope have proved to be double-dealing fiends. I mean it.

But, all said and done, I remain the eternally irrational optimist. I pray to ----even I don't know what or who that is----to help me crack the HSEE. Or I pray that I get a good rank in the AIEEE. Or I pray that my parents and all the other faux guardians have some mercy on my predicament. I want everyone to know that my idea of success and happiness is not a B Tech, an MBA and then warming my butt in a software company room's leather chair, like most of my peers will eventually end up doing. Not on my life. I don't deserve that kind of life. Or I should rather say that that kind of life doesn't deserve me. I want to do something that excites me. But, as it usually happens with castigated individuals like me, no one's going to listen to what I say. You must have heard what the Lycra ad says, "You either have it, or you don't." It now seems to me that I really don't.

Its too much to ask for, you tell me. Yes it is. I am fully aware of that. But, heck, who gives a damn? If I am disappointed once more, it won't be the first time that will happen. And it certainly won't be the last.

Till anything happens, for the better, or for the worse, I'll draw inspiration from my favourite lines, authored by the legend himself, the incomparable J.R.R. Tolkien:

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

A light from the shadow shall spring.

Renewed shall be blade that was broken;

The crownless again shall be king.

The 'crownless' again shall be king'? Maybe. I haven't lost hope yet.

Oh ! Calcutta ...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Disclaimer : The use of the name of a reputed restaurant in the aforementioned city as the title of the post was purely situational, albeit intentional. Any offence to the restaurant owners is most regretted.

I'm back home. After what was probably the most taxing day of my life. Calcutta has sucked me dry in just 16 hours.

It started in the evening of Saturday, when I, accompanied by Papa rushed into the Asansol Railway terminus, hoping to get reservations in one of the AC coaches. As it usually happens with no-hopers like me, we failed to get a single seat in that coach.

So, we had to settle for the ordinary chair car.

That the Black Diamond Express ( Don't think it deserves to be called that ) did a record-rewriting reached Howrah at 2300 hrs! I swear.

As if reaching Howrah at 11 PM was not enough, Papa and I had to wait for 50 minutes in front of that effing pre-paid taxi booth! I was on the verge of killing the moronic clerk at the counter who was taking ages to issue the tickets, but, considering the fact that I had a very important examination coming up, I relented. Better sense prevailed.

So we were finally in the taxi after what seemed like an eternity. The night was reasonably cool, and I stuck my head out of the car's windows not unlike the poodles you see in rich people's cars. We drove past the Eden Gardens, which looks a hundred times more imposing against the night sky - boy, Calcutta is sure blessed to have an arena like that! The race-course was next, the magnificent SBI building and several other landmarks before we entered the locality of New Alipore, where we'd put up for the night...

If you thought we'd had enough drama for the day, you haven't been more wrong in your life! We couldn't find the house! The taxi driver didn't know that part of the city well, and we had to face another harrowing 30 minutes before we stumbled into House No. 744, totally deflated...After a quick shower and a late-night dinner, we crashed.

The next day would be another pot-boiler (literally), what with the mercury soaring all the time. And so it was. My exam was at 1000 hours, so we left the house at 0840, hailed a taxi and set off for the Ballygunge Army Camp, 'cause that was where my exam centre was allotted.

A huge gate with armed sentries greeted all the examinees once we were there...Parents were not allowed inside - only the examinees could proceed into the precincts of the camp. I bade my father good-bye and started what was going to be a long walk to the Army Public School.

As I had expected, it was an enormous campus. There are several 10-storeyed apartments for the servicemen which I walked past. There also seemed to be a hall where films were screened - there was an 'Aaja Nachle' poster outside it! There were a lot of trees all around, which were a welcome relief to these sore eyes of mine, which thus far had grotesque images of yellow Ambassadors and epileptic ( that's the word to describe them ) public buses seared into their retinas. I passed the Kendriya Vidyalaya on my way to the Army School, which I finally reached after a ten-minute walk. It was 0910 hrs at that time...there were another 30 minutes before we would be allowed inside the school. Till then I sat down on the pavement watching a game of slam-bang cricket being played by the locals on a field that was totally wet and slushy.

I will not bore you with the cumbersome details regarding the exam and how it was for me...I'll fast forward to 1300 hours when we left the camp in another yellow taxi (you get nothing else here) which soon swerved into a Tata Indica in its attempt to weave out of a tight spot. There was a plastic protector on the fender of the Indica (luckily for the owner) as a result of which there was not a single scratch on the Indica's side. The plastic protector was martyred in the process.

Next, there was a heated argument which saw the blame being passed on from one driver to the other after which it settled on the driver of our taxi - the Indica guy had scored a moral victory there - we hurtled along to New Alipore, and yes, this time we found the house right away.

We finally left Calcutta in a Volvo B7R bus which left from Esplanade at 1700 hrs. The bus, for some hitherto unknown reason, stopped for a long time at a stop (pun not intended) near the Eden Gardens. Looking around, one could see the pavements bustling with people going back home from work and, of course, the hawkers - How can I forget them? Every hawker had several Kolkata Knight Riders' faux tees and roughly the same number of customers. The light in the skies was dimming as the Eden's floodlights were beginning to warm up. The bus finally set off for Asansol after idling for 20 minutes. I'm still trying to figure out why the engine was kept running.

I settled down on 'the most ergonomically designed seat that has found its way into a bus plying in India' (Some CNBC show said this), reclined it a little, and started switching between the FM stations of Calcutta. Tripping on Bengali songs was fun. The efficient aircon made life even more comfortable.

The sky started to rumble after a while, and before anyone could blink, it was a full-on thunderstorm. The raindrops fell on the reinforced glass of the windows creating a staccato of muted thuds. The sky had gone all but black now and the flashes of lightning would light up the horizon from time to time. "There goes the IPL match at the Eden", I thought.

The rest of the journey was pretty much uneventful - there was a typical 80s blood and gore - heavy Hindi movie 'Gardish' that was being screened in the bus. It stars Jackie Shroff and XYZ maybe - I couldn't care less. I turned up the volume on my Motorola, and listened to several of my favourites.

So, we were back home at 2100 hrs, Sunday, the 18th of May.

A hurried meal. A cold shower. Falling face first on bed. Setting the AC to 16 degrees C.
Home isn't bad, really.

It rained here today. No, really!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Something that seemed unthinkable only 6 hours ago happened here tonight.

It rained.

All of mother nature's creation existing here in Asansol must have heaved a collective sigh of relief...Whew...The past two weeks had been unbearable. The heat, as oppressive as it was, had a formidable ally hand-in-glove with it - humidity. The least I can say here is that the two are a killer combination. 10 minutes out in the sun are enough to sap the bejesus out of you...You can only sweat, sweat and still sweat some more. Our AC has been working overtime for the last fortnight. It's been operating at 16 degrees C for around 18 of the 24 hours daily. We're wary of the power bills that we are surely gonna have to foot, but what's the use of having a horse which you never race? Inspite of the Electrolux's best efforts ( and that's pretty good ), we all wanted some divine intervention.

And divine intervention it surely was. Till 2 this afternoon, it was business as usual for the early May clime...things started changing post-6 PM, and a nice thunderstorm lashed Asansol from around 7 : 30 PM. I went up to the terrace of our flat and soaked it in for a good 2 hours. I was totally oblivious of the discordant clatter caused by the rain pelting on the tin roof over a small enclosure on the terrace. Of the fear that I might wake up severly ill next morning. Of the chances of lightning striking me. I guess these are moments that make your day! Pity I can't make you feel the way I did through this virtual world...

I've often read about the way poets and authors feel after rain - they feel elevated, uplifted, invigorated on and so forth.

Not surprisingly, during my stint of getting wet in the welcome shower, I felt only two things.

Total wetness. And extreme happiness!

I know of no other emotion even remotely as good as those two.

What are we doing with our time?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

You are already laughing loudly, eh?

The title of this post is to blame. How on earth can I ask this question when I'm a past master at letting time slip away from my grasp?

The truth is that I couldn't help but notice this ill that plagues civilizations the world over.

Once, when I was 7, I’d visited an IISCO bigwig’s house with my Dad. And I had spotted something that has been etched in my memory ever since!

It was a telephone table. A piece of furniture devoted exclusively to the seemingly ancient telephone and all its accompaniments. These tables had an integrated arrangement for seating purposes, the top-most surface was flat, solid wood and lastly, there was a drawer for the Yellow Pages( well, what else did you expect? ).

Initially, I used to think that these people were ultra-posh. I thought that if they can have a dedicated item of furnishing for something as routine and banal as telephoning, then how well-equipped must they be for the other aspects of their lives?

Rubbish. Now, I’ve realized that the telephone table has evolved simply because dialing was so effing tiring! You had to insert your finger corresponding to the hole corresponding to the number you want to dial, and haul it around to the stop. That was not half as bad the excruciating wait during which the dial would return to its actual position with a sickening whirr. One could almost feel one’s hair growing during the wait!

So, there you have it - I’m going to turn 18 this June, and already I’ve seen so much change during the course of my short stay here on this planet.

Data accessing is another thing that has speeded up exponentially. Earlier, our Dads would have to shower, dress up, and cycle to the library if they had to get some information. Then they would have to sign a card corresponding to the book they needed, sit down, write what they required in a notebook and then cycle back home, which would leave them totally deflated.

Now, of course, all I need to do is bang in the necessary words in a search bar on the net, and voila! Pages of material present themselves to me in a jiffy. Come to think of it, I become incandescent with impatience when the desired webpage takes more than a microsecond to appear!

When I take note of all the time saved in a typical life through the things that now make our daily jobs much quicker – cell phones, computers, microwave ovens, dishwashers, ATM machines, drive-through restaurants etc - I always end up wondering why we haven't all achieved the precision of Swiss watches in managing our time in the eternity we seemingly have. But we haven't, because we've filled it with other things, and all of them are still, to tell you the truth, too slow.

The truth is, time can never be sufficient for our needs! The guy who said ‘Time is Money’ was spot-on! Despite there being so many things that supposedly save us time, we still don’t have time for simple things like doing our homework, performing a chore for mom, buying something for Dad, cleaning up our cluttered workstation, washing our vehicles, and so on!

All of this sometimes makes me wonder if going backwards is the way forward!

Grazie St.Patrick's...Thanks for the Trip.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

“Sach hai ki dil toh dukha hai...

Humne magar socha hai...

Dil ko hai gham kyun, aankh hai nam kyun?

Hona hi tha jo hua hai..

Uss baat ko...jaane bhi do...

Jiska nishaan...

Kal ho naa ho.”

My favourite lines from one of my favourite songs...

A short ode to my alma mater, St. Patrick's:

I don't remember the start particularly well... all I remember was that I cried more than all my classmates put together...'Maa ki yaad bahut aati thi', probably.

Come to think of it, I hated going to school, and despised everything it stood for.

13 years down the line, things have changed. And how!!!
My school is my 'everything' now... and the journey I've had, is something which is indelibly etched in my heart and soul. The journey is not about an epic that had been set in motion 13 unforgettable years ago, but it is about the unforgettable moments we've had along the way. Those were the ones that made life so beautiful...So, it has become all the more painful to let go. It has become hard to wake up on weekdays when the sordid reality hits me like a train - no more pseudo-traffic duty, no more getting "Heyy"-ed by Mr.Victor, no more bunking LNG's classes, no more hooliganism in the canteen... I could go on. And on. And on. Like that car in the Amaron Batteries’ ad.

And I can’t start talking about the comradeship amongst all of us Patricians, and all those bittersweet memories we share. Sounds clichéd, I know, but this is an indisputable fact. If I even begin on that topic, several tomes will be filled up, and I’d still want to write some more! And yes, its all over. ‘Picture abhi baaki nahin hai mere dost! Ab toh zindagi ke theatre mein sirf andhera hai…Jisme main khud ko, aur apne doston ko dhoondhta hoon…

In hindsight, I really consider myself extremely lucky because I had something with me that made saying 'goodbye' so, so painful.

The memory of our last two days at school shall forever remain our memory, like the dazzle of the Sun after a hazy fog...You just couldn't have written a script for this.

We always want perfect endings. 'Happys Endings'(a la OSO). But now we've learnt the hard way that some poems don't rhyme and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end.

We don't know what life has in store for us - for life is about not knowing, about having to change constantly, taking the moment and making the best of it, without being aware of what lies in store...

Weak, weak, weak. That's what you are thinking now. The guy whose blog you are so painstakingly looking up is a complete wimp. He can't bear losing his school! What stuff is he made of?

Actually, saying all this and feeling all this doesn't show me as a weakling. In fact it goes on to show how strong I actually am. Because giving up does not mean I'm weak. It means that I am strong enough to let go.

Grazie, St. Patrick's.

Thanks for the trip.

Shakespeare : Why should we study his plays?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I am not a jealous individual. I do not cry all day coveting my neighbour's girlfriend, or your recently-developed brains.

I have reconciled to the fact that some people are fortunate and others are not. And anyone who fights this fundamental truth is on a path that leads to madness and communism.

So, this emotion (of jealousy) can in no way be used to justify my forthcoming tirade against the man who is regarded as the greatest playwright to have ever lived on this planet( I've achieved nothing in my life, so you can't call me jealous). I'd rather say it is due to the frustration and the hopelessness at having had to study, decipher and deconstruct for the better part of the last four years two of his celebrated plays ( OK, all his plays are masterpieces, the almost (well, entirely)work of an exalted set of grey cells) - Julius Caesar and, more recently, Macbeth.

First up, I solemnly proclaim that the experience of studying Shakespeare's plays is about as inviting as a broken whisky bottle being swung at your face.

The master playwright once wrote:

"Not marble nor guilded monuments
Of Princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme."

How true have these words proved! His plays have been hailed as the finest ever, and are taught as well as performed all over the world.

I've read 'Romeo and Juliet', 'Othello' and 'The Tempest' in order to find out (despite the obvious limitations of my bird-sized brain) just why this has been the case...

I came back more disgruntled than elevated. So, here's my verdict:

I well and truly detest Shakespeare's plays, and couldn't bring myself to read any more of his works.

Go on, call me a nitwit without any class, lacking in the ability to appreciate wine of the finest vintage, but I've got certain small arguments to augment the already improbable-seeming stand that I’ve taken.

I will not, however, hide my immense admiration for the kind of man Shakespeare was. To be able to write utterly fantastic, improbable and incongruous nonsense, to make the whole world appreciate it and make it recognize him as the undisputed emperor of the theatre is no mean feat.

I may not like your literary output, Mr. Shakespeare, but I defend to death your right to write it.

The people who sing Shakespeare's praises (that includes everyone except yours truly) say:

"No poet, ancient or modern - not Aeschylus, not Kalidas, not Ibsen, not even the clamorous Bernard Shaw - can challenge Shakespeare as a dramatist, in his marvellous intuitions into the human mind in the variety of its reactions"

They also speak about his gift of poetic imagination. Coleridge called imagination the 'esemplastic' power - the power which unites and moulds the discordant elements into forms and shapes.

Oh really? I think that Shakespeare's plays are an enormous, contused mass of balderdash in which some truly magnificent scenes shine through in various places.

I think the construction of Shakespeare's plays is faulty. So is his method of characterization. The characters are given new dimensions to suit the next scene which he'd already visualized. The point I am trying to make is that the character of the characters(pun not intended), as well as the characters themselves, do not influence the way the play proceeds, rather, it is the next course the play shall take that brings about the change in the mental make-up of the character's character(again, pun not intended).

I shall not even start speaking about the way in which he's distorted history to suit the needs of his plays. Well, that liberty can be taken, for many seemingly improbable things keep happening in his plays. But he mixes up events and scenes in many places, fails to correlate parallel lines of action, and leaves unbridged gaps between different parts of his plays. All these 'faults' do not perturb his admirers - for they just gloss over them, telling us that all this is the unfathomable secret of genius.

That secret, boys and girls, is simply and solely his lack of artistry.

Our books (ICSE and ISC) say that reading Shakespeare’s plays enables us to cope with our sufferings in a better way. How, in the name of all the Gods at once, are the events of our lives comparable to that faced by Shakespeare’s characters? The probability of similar things happening to us is just about the same as that of me winning a Formula 1 championship, or you becoming the next Bollywood superstar.

His admirers say that few others knew better than he how to construct a play. As a matter-of-fact, few dramatists knew less.

I don’t, for a nanosecond, mean to say that the most well-constructed plays are the best. Who would prefer GB Shaw to Shakespeare? What I’m trying to say is that his plays lack coherence, the pace is hurried at some times, and then lax in others, there are more deviations in them than the old Nurburgring racetrack, and some scenes are unduly long-drawn, with several breaks in action.

Shakespeare always tried to write opening scenes that grab the reader’s attention by the scruff of its neck. The only problem with these scenes is that they are totally unrelated to the rest of the play. We can take a look at the opening scene of ‘The Tempest’, where there is deafening thunder and a horrifying shipwreck, but ultimately all this explains nothing.

The gay (this means LIVELY) Mercutio in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ only cracks unnecessary, complicated jokes, which seem like anything but impromptus. All the character does is irritate us, without contributing in any way towards the action of the play. We are almost grateful when this lunatic is murdered at the beginning of the third act.

Shakespeare has given us really living portraits. So he is someone who is a better painter than a person who really understands the human psyche. He creates creatures of impulse who yield instantly to passion, without a second thought, forsaking all rationality. The same Macbeth who was such a brave warrior and a noble general ultimately becomes a total monomaniac who, despite imagining the consequences of his heinous crimes, goes on to commit them! Another case in point is Othello. He is a simpleton who yields to fury. Of course, you will tell me that Iago was the one who provokes him. I will tell you that even a child would see through the ruses suggested to Othello by this ‘diabolical genius’. Othello was a total idiot. Romeo, well, Romeo is one who is capable of only loving. He surrenders to his passions without ever trying to be conscious of his actions. He symbolizes amorous ardor and intoxication, with little, rather no sensibility. You may not agree with me, but surely you can se that this is a reasonable argument.

However, I shall not ignore the utter genius of this Bard from Avon (I have neither the right, nor the credibility to do so). He was a great poet, capable of creating scenes which no one else could even visualize. The enormous success of his plays bears testimony to this fact. The only problem is that he, more often than not, he’s been incapable of harnessing his imagination. He lets it run wild, and it is because of this that his incoherence, exaggerations, bombast, nonsense and the OTT(Over-The-Top) nature of his work comes to the fore. Still, we are absolutely dazzled and spellbound when we see that despite disdaining reason and truth, he keeps his fiery spirit intact, and gives expression to his extraordinary imagination.

Shakespeare’s plays, in my opinion, should never be taught, but only performed on stage, for this gives true expression to the abortive genius of the Bard. We students should see the plays unfold before our eyes, rather than spend unnecessary time mugging them up and blindly following guide-books. Or our teachers.

Of course you disagree with me. Of course you are thinking I deserve to rot in the Arkham Asylum for the rest of my days.

The thing is, you are absolutely right.

Schumi : Hero or villain?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Back in the Nineties there was a hit film called Awakenings. It starred Robert De Niro and it told the true story of a man who wakes up after being in a coma from a sleeping sickness for over 20 years. We see him rejoice as he experiences the full rush of life, but then the sickness returns. The scene where he is put back to bed, still awake, but knowing he will be returning to a sleeping prison forever is one of the most anguished you'll ever see.

And it's what sprang to mind when Schumacher gave his retirement speech at Monza. I watched this man, responsible for so many unbelievable racing moments, say his farewells, and then that kid Kubica, who'd come third, trotted out one of those inane lift- music-style speeches about his tyres being okay. I think this was the Awakenings moment for me.

Schumacher is one of that breed of super drivers that sprang up in the '80s and '90s - the Sennas, Prosts, Mansells and Piquets - who thought their own thoughts, spoke their minds and were completely in control of their own actions. When they raced they gave us the full spectrum - passion, fury, villainy, genius, mischief, balls-ups - the lot. They were showmen worth watching and now the last of that breed is about to walk away, and as a result Formula One will become more somnambulant.

It's easy to cast Schumacher as villain. Drivers such as Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart point to all his low-down unsporting moments - Adelaide '94, Jerez '97, and Monaco this year - as evidence that he can never be ranked with the great champions of the past who had much higher moral standards.

And it's true that generations ago, the racing was more gentlemanly. Moss himself threw away his one chance of being world champion because he wouldn't protest the points tally of his rival, Mike Hawthorn.

Then you had Peter Collins surrendering his car - and his own chance of a world championship - to Fangio mid-race, so that his senior teammate could win the title. They were sportsmen in the purest sense of the word, but you can't compare Schumacher's behaviour to theirs, any more than you can compare the cars of now and then.

Those drivers raced in an era that, like the telly of the time, was black and white. Appearance was everything, emotions were clamped down, and society, rather than the individual, was the dominant force in deciding peoples' conduct.

Today, though, a two-dimensional comic- book hero has no relevance in a society that is much more complex. If a hero is to be relevant, then he or she must be like us - vulnerable, bad and weak one day, virtuous and strong the next.

That is Schumacher times 10, the classic Shakespearean tragic hero, capable of super-human feats and then transgressing to the dark side when his fatal flaw gets the better of him. You can't appreciate good without knowing evil, and likewise you can't appreciate human greatness unless that human has demons to fight.

Schumacher has plummeted to the worst depths in his sport - blatant cheating - and then gathered himself up to make amends with acts of genius. I can relate to him in the same way I can relate to all the best hero-cum-villains in modern cinema. (I would have liked to change this part...It's too much)

I met once, in 2000, while filming a BBC series about the science of speed. It took half a year to negotiate an hour of his time, but the man himself was charming and even stayed for a drink after filming wrapped.

In the interview, he confessed that he believed Häkkinen to be easily as fast as him, and then we discussed the Dick Dastardly moment when he tried to punt off Jacques Villeneuve in '97. He admitted how he knew it wasn't right, but how he'd been schooled in the era when Senna rewrote the rules on racing conduct. It was a fair reply, and afterwards we asked Bernie Ecclestone for the footage of the moment when Schumacher turned in on Villeneuve.

Bernie refused, to protect Michael, but then gave us the devil's own solution: he would let us use the footage - as long as Michael gave permission in writing. Schumacher then had the final say over whether his dirtiest laundry should be aired again, and, more to the point, if he said no, nobody would ever know he'd blocked it. A day later, though, we received his written permission. I've never forgotten that.

Looking back over his career there are many amazing races that qualify him for hero status. Spain '96, when, in pouring rain, he trounced the field in a dog of a car, is one. Then there was Hungary '98, when he had to drive 20 straight qualifying-speed laps mid-race to compensate for an extra pit stop, and again won.

But the racing moment above all that makes him a hero for me is this year's(2006) Hungarian Grand Prix. In the final laps, Schumacher was third, with Alonso out of the race completely. Michael's tyres were shot to bits and it was obvious he would lose places to de la Rosa and Heidfeld. Even so, he'd still come home fifth and bag himself four valuable points, so all he had to do was let the other drivers through.

Schumacher didn't though. He fought de la Rosa and Heidfeld like a wounded wild animal and in the process shagged his car completely and came home with no points.

Schumacher still races every corner, every moment, like his life depends on it. The same passion for winning that exposes him to moments of weakness is also the very passion that makes him gamble everything, going down with all guns blazing, like he did in Hungary. That is the man I will so dearly miss."

Andy Wilman

*I haven't changed the article at all.

Speed thrills. Or, does it?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Each and every human being on this planet must accept that there is a limit to our reflexes.
A machine that can accelerate from 0 to 200 in 7 seconds without doubt means a race victory, but on normal roads, it is a serious hazard..both for the moron behind the wheel, and the other road users.

I'm a hardcore motorhead myself, but, since I have a triple-figured IQ, I have figured out that speed exhilarates, but only upto a limit. Smashing your Ferrari ( OK, Lamborghini ) into an electric pole while blinking can never be a good idea.

They may all say that 'a third of all those injured and killed on the roads are young men, aged in a startlingly narrow band from 17 and 19. Dripping with testosterone, and filled with a youthful sense of immortality, being 17 is dangerous. It always has been. The fact is, you simply can’t make a 17-year-old see sense .'
But I've just done exactly that!

But administrators and officials are getting it all wrong when they go about setting speed limits on public roads...
Imagine...the speed limit on one of the busiest roads is 20 kmph. So you think this is a fabulous idea...No more big accidents, no more car pile-ups, no more deaths...great! But I, being the eternal sadist, shall stick my smelly foot into your rosy dreams. Suppose there is a 90 degree bend, and two cars are coming at 20 kmph, but in OPPOSITE directions. And then they collide. You tell me, 'Raunaq, you jackass, how can anyone get killed at 20 kmph? As usual, you're talking bullshit. Eff off.' Hold on a second. If you've ever made the mistake of studying Grade 6 Mathematics (or Physics), you will know that this means a resultant impact of 40 kmph. So, to get a feel of the experience, try running at full speed wearing only your underwear head-on into a closed door. And then ring me up to tell me how you 'enjoyed' it.

The point is, you cannot be killed just by travelling fast. You will be killed only if you suddenly come to a standstill.
Accidents and deaths can only be avoided if drivers try to drive sensibly, no matter how dumb they might be. Rash driving is the root cause of all road evils.

Another reason is that people use their vehicles to show off, as well as carry out other clandestine activities.
Due to rising property prices and lack of privacy, cars have truly become the place for things more than just driving. Couples hankering for a few 'close' moments, youngsters who --unprintable-- and those who drive after being loaded with liquor like an oil tanker...all these are only a few examples.

Have we already forgotten the pavement dwellers mowed down in the recent past by speedsters, both as celebrities and common men??
Think about it.