Sunday, 25 February 2007

Virtues of having less hair

For whatever little is left on my head, I go to an Indian barber (from Kerala), to do the monthly honors. What he cuts and dresses always eludes me, but what never escapes my attention is that he forces all of us to watch Chinese channels. A Malayalam barber who watches Chinese channels, replete with uniformed comrades exhorting the teachings of Chairman Mao.

How I get to know such people is a matter of detail. What is important is that there are people who excel in the weird and the strange, and I feel quite connected.

The din around his shop is just about enough not to let you hear yourself thinking. May be that is a good idea – you don’t want to be thinking too much when he gets to work. One, he does not speak much and does not seem to like people who do so. Second, whatever you tell him, he will take his own decisions. A man in control. Third, I don’t want to argue with a man holding a razor blade next to my ear. I just sit there like a good boy, and let him mow the defunct plains of my head.

I usually have to wait for a good hour to get my turn. In the process, I have become a bit of communist myself, exposed to the channels he watches. The other day, when India was ripping the shreds off the Sri Lankan team, I was watching a highly informative program on how to grow potatoes. It was followed by an infomercial on road safety, which began with a somber looking uniform clad Chinese woman showing us the remnants of a car that looked like it was hit by an asteroid. The infomercial ended with teachings of Chairman Mao – chapter and verse. Apparently he had devoted a lot of his time on road safety, while also managing a revolution in his past time.

What I watch in that saloon is tactical brilliance of watching TV, bereft of any strategic aim – much like the Indian soap operas. For the first 130 or so episodes, they veer of in all conceivable directions, and then in the last two the scriptwriter wakes up, breaks a pen or two in hastily writing a highly unconnected end, which is more often than not suited more for another serial on another channel. Tactically, these soaps help in supporting the Glycerine industry (and Foundation/Maskara business) but strategically they make as much sense as lighting a fire for warmth in the middle of desert at noon time. My TV has gone for repairs three times already because of the moisture produced in these serials.

This time when I came home after the hair cut, one side of my head felt heavy. As I discovered, our man had completely forgotten to do the honors of cutting hair on the left side. I don’t blame him, if my memory serves me right, there was a highly illuminating program on painting light bulbs (red, of course) and turning them into nice little show pieces, that our man could not afford to miss. The TV is placed such that our man has to stand on the right side of any customer to be able to take in all the wisdom emanating from the TV. Hence the heaviness in my head. Next time I plan to go to him after referring to the TV schedule. He does not seem to like chorus songs dedicated to industrial revolution - I better time my hair cut when those are getting aired.

For a curios soul, wondering why I subject myself to such gamble, I have just few humble submissions to make. One, it gives me a hearty laugh to walk out with one side of my head fluffy and the other flat. Second, for the Love of God, I don’t know why he watches that channel. I would like to sit with him one day and understand his reasons. Third, I find it too interesting and curious to see what will he be watching when I go to him next.
And finally, I don’t have much to loose. See my picture, and you will understand why. Not a high price to pay for an interesting hour or two!

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Dark Side of the Moon

Feb, 21. 2007.

Roger Waters.

I was there.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Alice in Wonderland

Well, sometimes it is difficult to know where to begin, but let me try. I have a lot of things going on in my mind, but as usual, it is difficult to decide what to write on. Here goes something. I hope by the end of it, it looks good enough to publish on the blog.

I am in Doha, Qatar right now. Staying at The Ramada. A particularly confused client needs my assistance. I hope that by the end of this project, I don’t end up requiring someone’s assistance!

It is funny that this hotel never changes. It is a five star, deluxe category hotel – from which angle I don’t know. But as you read below, you will see that there are many angles to it really.

Let me begin with the mirrors (Hold still, my heart..)
They are all triangular. One of them, just in front of my bed, is pointing downwards, with a serious intent to pierce the table into two. Another one, an isosceles triangle, is challenging me to find which two sides are equal. I think I will get up at 2 am with the answer.
And then there is a scalene triangle next to the door. I almost bolted out of the window - I got up after a small nap, turned around to see a strange figure clad in white clothes, with a balding head staring right into my eyes from within that scalene triangle. Only after the initial shock had subsided, and possibly the people next room decided to move to another, safer neighborhood, did I realize that I can look scary even in my night suit.
So at the last count at I have 3 mirrors in my room. More discoveries can happen as I wonder about. I don’t know what purpose they serve, but I can tell you this one thing for sure - whoever designed this room must have had psychotic parents and (not 'or') a very demented childhood. Or like me, must have had psychotic math teachers (One name tops the list, but let bygones be bygones). I must mention that one of the mirrors must have been donated by Family Planning Mission of India. It is a huge triangle, much like the red family planning sign I grew up asking questions about to my Mom. Publicly, let me add.

Let us come to the bathroom (Now is the time when you hold your breath, and brace for impact)
First thinsg first, they need to keep a ‘Manual’ in each bathroom. This should be made mandatory by law. For the love of God, someone tell me how to do what in here and not get soaked while doing / not doing it?? This one time I want communism to rule. I want a manual in here!
The manual should explain what knob does what,. It should be cross-indexed with a glossary of terms to explain everything. It should have a contents page with a small summary of events that might happen to unsuspecting souls like me if a specific button is pressed or not pressed. At the end of it, it should have a helpline number and a website address where you have FAQ section. If this is too much, at least the hotel guys should have a video (much like airlines' which is so badly made and so boring that it makes you strangle the passenger next to you). If nothing else, they should start giving a crash course titled ‘Managing Bathroom Fittings with Ease’ as soon as you check in. Better still, write a book titled ‘Using Bathroom fittings for Dummies’, (or how about this one?) ‘Bathroom Fittings and Me: A life in retrospect’. It will be an instant best seller, I tell you.

I entered the bathroom and was instantly transported to the front deck of Starship Enterprise. Forget doing anything, I stood there like Alice in wonderland, dumfounded by the sheer nickel around me. It shone and shone, and bedazzled the lights out of me. The only difference between Starship Enterprise and this metal museum was that in the Starship, captain Kirk smiles and nods his head, and feels good about alien life forms and about saving the earth. Here I was marshalling all my energy to hold nature’s call with every fiber of my body, going through the maze of equipment to understand what does what.
(I rotated a few knobs here and there, pressed some buttons quite frantically and ended up getting soaked from a shower burst that came from no where and hit me in the back. Coward.)

From next time onwards, I am going to carry my own bucket and mug into such hotels.

Did I tell you about the lighting? (take a deep breath...)
Well, the room has about 3 gazillion lamps (give or take a few). The way they are placed remind me of Chinese torture chamber. This one, right above my desk is shining so brightly on the key board that I wish the keys had brail characters – I can’t see anything. I am sure this hotel is facing a constant surge of extreme voltage. I think I need to invite some astronomers and scientists in here – they'll know how centre of Sun feels like.
The upside of this all is that by tomorrow, I will be glowing so much that the client will need to switch of their lights when I enter their offices. I will dedicate this project to the all glorious Ramada.

On that happy note, let me sign off here. There is still a part of me that wants to talk about the art-deco wall with a pot embedded in it (like it came from outer space and got stuck here), but that will take me another three hours to write under present weather and light conditions (Please note that it is not that I have not discovered the switches to turn of these lights; I tried doing that and ended up turning the room into a discotheque). Then there is the case of the lost butler, who entered my room while I was sleeping, woke me up, saw my face and went out in silent anger, quite upset that I was not his master. I also don't want to write about how I searched for a plug in here and could not find one, and how I have a long wire extension that helps my laptop with its power. The technician told me 21 times that they don't give extensions to people, lest they start using water heaters, ovens, and microwaves in the room
(what is going on in here????)

Weird connections- It is a weird world.

Tailpiece: While I was searching for some topic to write on, I was reminded of two beautiful Shers by Ghalib, wherein he mentions his lust for writing (in his case, letters to his beloved)

Khat likhenge garche matalab kuchh na ho,
ham to aashiq hain tumhaare naam ke.
(I will keep on writing letters to you, whether they make any sense or not.
I am hopelessly in love with (writing) your name)
The second one is actually one of my favorites. It tells how hopelessly one is in love and is quite hilarious.
Magar likhvaaye koi usko Khat to hamase likhvaaye,
hui subah aur ghar se kaan par rakh kar qalam nikale.

(Anyone interested in writing a letter to her, please come to me.
I step out every morning with a pen tucked next to my ear just for that purpose)

Ghalib has also written about his dwelling place, and since we were on my room’s case, here is something he wrote while he must have been on his room’s case…

Ug rahaa hai dar-o-deewaar pe sabzaa "Ghalib",
ham biyaabaan mein hain aur ghar mein bahaar aaii hai.

(Moss is growing on the walls all around me.
I am alone and Spring season is coming right into my home)

Finally, a Sher by Iqbal extolling the virtues of silence (I should note this one for self-improvement)

Keh rahaa hai dariyaa se samandar kaa sukuut
jis kaa jitanaa zarf hai utanaa vo Khaamosh hai
[sakuut = silence; zarf = capability/capacity]

(Ocean’s silence is telling something to the river; one is as silent as one’s capability)

Friday, 2 February 2007

Tissue box and the cricket match

Today I witnessed one of the most historic moments in Indian history – India winning in style over West Indies in what will be remembered as an iconic match of our times. I could not believe that India actually won.

Not all that long ago Indian cricket team was not so much a disgrace as an embarrassment. You watched them play, or rather watched them go through their antics, and it was a problem deciding where to hide your head. You squirmed and under your breath cursed ‘louts’ and ‘yahoos’ — my selection of words when describing our cricketing heroes. Some times they batted well and bowled miserably or vice versa. Sometimes they did both well, and fielded miserably. Never did they do everything well. I am sure these players are great devotees of Indra Devta, because He has saved them more than any one or anything else, with all those timely rains that saved us from the otherwise guaranteed shame. Men in blue have taken that color so literally that they get beaten blue periodically, and are great harbingers of that mood as well. The only player who seems to be consistent in our team is the real Mr. dependable, the
great run-getter Mr. Extra.
We were used to India snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, till the last match with West Indies happened.

I sat down to watch that match (Which was as soon as I entered the office, reached my desk, left my strolley there and headed diligently for the TV room; one needs to get their priorities right in life). I kept a tissue box next to me. What a game. I kept dabbing my eyes with tissue paper, this being the kind of emotional high this game produced. The way all of them played, it just took my breath away and I must have sobbed the room wet. What a Game.

It seemed to me that dark-ages of Indian cricket were over. At least in the case of Indian cricket, I like to quickly rush to reckless conclusions; because all joy is short-lived (I say this from experience). I am busy hero-worshipping Ganguly these days, before the next series begins. God knows what will happen - rains are still some time away. (May be they will have all the matches in Chepauk, Chennai, where rains seem our constant companion. I will write to BCCI in this regard. I am from the age of innocence in case you did not know))

Then there was Sachin. I have been his constant fan. One needs to have some constants in one’s life and one of mine is Mr. Tendulkar. (If and when you read this Sachin, please know that you will have at least one shoulder to rest your head on, even if the world turns against you. I am ready to fly to Mumbai, when you need one)
Dhoni, true to his buffalo-milk antecedents, was another thing altogether. I have discovered one thing about him – his arms are no longer under his control. The way they go about swinging the bat, his body shakes and rattles to stop our man from going into a spin. When I see him, I am pleasantly reminded of our hostel dog (named ‘clinton’ for some divine reason), whose tail was never in its control. You show the mongrel a little love, and the tail went mad, oscillating from east to all the way to west, in the process vibrating clinton’s body so forcefully that I could see only a shiny nose standing in one place – everything else was a blur. Same is the case of our man Dhoni. The only difference that instead of him, the bowlers usually complain of blur and nausea. May God help them. (I am seriously contemplating switching to Buffalo milk these days).

I am not a fan of Dravid, so let me not waste my time writing about him. The only thing noteworthy of his batting was that he reminded me of another cricksting nemesis, Dinesh Mongia, whose claim to fame could be in road-rolling, given his perennially leaden feet and overly light head (almost floozy actually), which never seemed to understand that the game being played is called cricket, and one of the elements of the game is taking runs. He stands on end, and….just stands there. If you are a bowler with bad economy rate, stand on one leg and pray to God that Dinesh Mogia face you in all the matches. If your wish is granted, you will enter the hall of fame and rub shoulders with the likes of Hadlee and Imran insofar as economy is concerned.

Dravid was no better. The transmission seemed to have frozen in one place, until Sachin forced him to run and took the strike. Were those tears of happiness in my eyes when Dravid got out? I am yet to witness so much joy in one place, as was the case when all of us went into rapture when ‘the wall’ came down. (What an apt name – walls don’t move!).

If you thought I am being partial towards Dravid in comparison to Mongia, perish the thought. I am usually comatose during Mongia’s batting (God save us from that torture)

I think the best thing to have happened to us in the recent cricketing past is Ganguly’s resurrection. In the land of Saas-Bahu, make-up and glycerine, where all good things come to an end (unless you are a politician), we Indians have witnessed the light at the end of the tunnel, and seen how someone down, out, and written-off, can actually come back, and show why he was called the ‘god of off-side’. In a hero-worshipping yet hero-starved country of ours, that is some example of determination.
All said and done, I came back home with that bounce in my feet that even Nike Air cannot replicate. One of my most fulfilling office days, filled with a great sense of satisfaction and achievement. Ah, the smell in the air!
May God bless our saviour - the hunter wielding, undertaker with thick black moustache. Colonel Vengsarkar. Thank you sir!

Tailpiece: Sidhharth Pande has been quite a source of my literary discoveries. This poem, whacked from his profile, is dedicated to Ganguly:

Out of the night that covers me,black as the pit from pole to pole.
I thank whatever gods may be,for my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance,I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance,my head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears,looms but the horror of the shade,
and yet the menace of the years finds, and shall find me,unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;I am the captain of my soul.
- "Invictus" [William Ernest Henley]