Monday, 26 May 2008

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

I was reading Bachi Karkaria’s article on ‘Les Folies de Marrakech’- the Islam-compatible cabaret minus the usual g-strings, low-waists et al. Think about it, a cabaret without flesh is like chocolate without sin. If you feel virtuous about it, you are taking away its essential allure. This applies even to inseperable pairs without an element of forbidden salaciousness. Imagine Sholay without Gabbar or Mourinho without the loose-talk. They just feel strangely incomplete.


I have enjoyed pulling people’s legs ever since the day I was born.  Perhaps a harbinger of the onset of maturity, I have mellowed down considerably over the last two years. Nevertheless, over my long career, my casualties have all been of two knds: those who hide their displeasure at being teased and those who don’t. Three years ago, though, I met a person who fell into neither of the aforementioned categories. The guy had an ego the size of my toe-nail. I could have teased him for the rest of his life and he still wouldn’t have cared. Worse, the entire leg-pulling ritual seemed to provide him as much pleasure as it provided me. Ridiculing him was like, in many ways, the Islam-compatible cabaret – it just wasn’t fun anymore.


The eighteen years of my existence prior to my arrival in R-Land took me to 3 different cities and 5 different schools. More out of nostalgia than anything else, I make it a point to visit them whenever I get the time. Friends had Central Perk. HIMYM has McLaren’s. Seinfeld had Monk’s Café. R-Land has Alpahar and Nesci. And PSBB had AB. I don’t even remember what the A stood for any more, but one thing I do remember is that I loved the Bhel Puri there. It neither tasted nor looked like the eponymous Chaat dish we have all grown to love but in its own way, it was delicious.  As the final year of my schooling dawned, I returned to PSBB (and to AB) one last time. The price of the Bhel Puri had increased by a buck since my last visit. The quantity seemed to have shrunk too. AB had also adopted a flashier new board in my year-long absence. One thing that hadn’t changed, thankfully, was the taste of the Bhel Puri, which was just as heavenly as it was a year ago. Mmmm…


While I made love to my Bhel Puri an over-sized fellow customer had his eyes fixed upon me. Worse, he was smiling at me. There was nothing to be done but return the smile. And yet, I didn’t. Two minutes later, a historic conversation began.


Unknown Fat Guy: "Hi. Do you study in PSBB?"

Me: "No, but I used to until a year ago."

UFG: "Oh, when did you pass out? (which, by the way, is a phrase that annoys me. ‘To pass out’, as far as I’m concerned, is to faint.)

Me: "Yesterday, when van Nistelrooy missed the penalty against Arsenal."

UFG: "What?"

Me: "Never mind. Which class are you in?"

UFG: "I’ll be going to the 12th this year."

Me: "Oh nice. I was your batch-mate until a year ago."

UFG: "Wow, then do you know *some random name*?"

Me: "No."

UFG: "You must be knowing *some other random name*?"

Me: "No, I don’t."

50 random names later, he still wouldn’t give up. Eventually, I decided the only way I could end this conversation was by humouring the bonehead. I went on to claim to know a dozen people I hadn’t even heard of. On that happy note, I thought the conversation would be wrapped up. I couldn’t  have been more mistaken.

UFG: "You know so many people I know. I know so many people you know. Yet I don’t know you and you don’t know me. Isn’t that amazing?"

Me: "You know what else is amazing? That you’re still alive."

UFG: "Haha. You’re funny."

Me: "Haha. You’re not."

UFG: "Hahaha. Anyway, I’m waiting for a friend of mine. Wonder why he isn’t here yet."

Me: "I’m not surprised."

UFG: "Why?"

Me: "It’s just that you’re really Boring. With a capital B."

UFG: "Hahaha."

Me: "How is that funny?"

UFG: "My friends call me the Big B. You said I was Boring with a Big B. Pun, see?"

Me: (stunned silence)

I had given up by now. The only way this conversation could be concluded was by landing a tight slap right across his face, I decided. While I prepared for the inevitable, he went on, blissfully unaware of what lay in store for him…

UFG: "So where do you study now?"

Me: "DAV Boys’, Lloyds Road."

UFG: "Why did you join a boys’ school?"

Me: "I realized I was gay a couple of years ago."

UFG: "Err… umm… it’s getting late. I think I should leave. Bye."

Me: (to myself) "Wow, it's the third time that has worked."


…. and Dela lived happily ever after.  

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Fate, luck and all that jazz

You are what you read, someone once told me. Should this be true of the newspapers in India, our fellow countrymen fall into two main categories: the Leftists and the voyeurs (the third major daily has been omitted owing to the fact that it is read by no one apart from PeeTeeVee and Lefty.) This being the case, the ones like yours truly who are a bit of both (or neither) are left with no choice but to buy both newspapers (or neither).  Throughout my first year, the paper-wala, at my behest, dutifully dropped both The Hindu and The Times of India at my doorstep well before I woke up. Once I did, I’d ‘see’ the Times and then go on to read the Hindu. The shortcomings were many. WHile one had a bikini-clad Eva Langoria sitting right in the middle of an article on the Chennai Super Kings' recent drubbing, the other is as interesting as Morrison and Boyd. Then again, it is, as PeeTeeVee puts it, a question of alternatives.


My roomie, on the other hand swore by the Times. Not that he ever read it though, apart from the early morning five minute ‘flip-through’ ritual every Sunday. After the routine comments on Sachin’s form, Icevarya’s weight and Klodia Seefar’s looks, he would proceed to the sports column. Not that he followed any sport. What drew his attention was the astrology column on the left corner of the page by a certain Bejan Daruwala, which he recommended to every third person he met.  Worse, he’d lock himself indoors if Mr. Daruwala warned him of a physical injury. ‘He even predicted my grades accurately’, he claimed, while conveniently ignoring  Daruwala's prophecies on his love life, knowing that they’d never come true. Not in R-land anyway.


Han Solo is byfar my all-time favourite fictional character, followed by Aragorn and Tyler Durden. Perhaps as a consequence of this, I find the entire concept of 'destiny' phoney. Soothsaying even more so.  The very existence of a predetermined course of events, never mind its correlation with stars, palms and whatnot, seems outlandish. Should ‘destiny’ exist, why would I feel a need to do anything at all? Would I rather not sit back with a bag of pop-corn and watch history take its course?


As much as I love dismissing fate as zilch, there are times when even I cannot help but feel an external hand manipulating our actions and their outcomes. On the 21st of May, Ronaldo missed a penalty for Manchester United in the Champions League final at Moscow. John Terry and Chelsea were one kick away from lifting their maiden European trophy. Just when all seemed lost, Terry slipped as he took his shot, and sent the ball dismally wide. Two shots later, Edwin van der Sar saved Nicolas Anelka’s shot and sealed United’s third European Cup and the first since the turn of the millennium.


Sir Alex Ferguson called it ‘fate’. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t. But one fact that even I can’t belie is that a force well beyond my comprehension was at work that night at Moscow. At any rate, the trophy is ours. Glory, glory….


Monday, 12 May 2008

The Other Side

“You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Tried to run
Tried to hide
Break on through to the other side.”

In the words of a great soul, “The oddest thing about life is that when you finally get something you hoped and prayed for, you realize that it wasn’t worth the effort in the first place.” These 27 words practically sum up everything that I’ve been through over the last fortnight. Oh, and just for the record, the aforementioned ‘great soul’ is none other than *wait for it* yours truly.

Unending syllabi, lousy vivas and lousier examinations notwithstanding, there is no fortnight more eventful than the one preceding the end-sems. It always begins with detailed study-schedules to make up for the mistakes and ‘C+’s of the past and spend days on end with those lovely red-bound manuscripts that lay forgotten under the bed ever since the start of the sem. Plans make way for hopes and dreams of an unusually simple paper or of getting a physics-defying view of the answer script of the 9 pointer two seats beside you. As D-day approaches, the too fade away, to be replaced by prayers and eventually by just an urge to get the whole thing over and done with.

My fifteen days of ‘preparation’ have all gone the same way. I woke up cursing my annoyingly loud alarm and reached the mess in a record-breaking three minutes and forty seconds, well in time for the first meal of the day- lunch. This was followed by a five minute long walk to the library, a twenty minute long search for some book that sounded at least remotely familiar, and a forty minute search for a seat with a perfect view of the hot fourth year girl two floors below. Once seated, I laboriously placed the two-pound book in front of me and studied. And studied. And studied. And studied. And studied. And studied. Or so it would have seemed to a naïve onlooker. I’ve scaled the Everest, scored goals at the Old Trafford, dated Cobie Smulders and won a Nobel Prize- all while staring blankly at those two thousand yellow-tinted sheets of paper.

Eventually, the shortcomings of my preparation came to light, shattering all my hopes of improving on the slew of C+s and Bs that stood beside my name last semester. All that remained was an eagerness to end up on the other side of the end sems- three months in a world without alarm clocks and lecture notes. Three months of unlimited sleep, food, movies and TV. Three months with Robin Scherbatsky, Frederic Barbarossa and Shannon Rutherford.

Nothing, though, is as beautiful as it is in your dreams. Now that I am on the other side, life seems just as boring. Only more so. HIMYM has nothing going for it apart from the fact that Cobie Smulders is the most beautiful woman alive. Lost is as interesting as a game of chess and the only movies on our LAN that I haven’t seen half a dozen times are the uber-lame romantic comedies that I wouldn’t watch unless my life depended on it.

And talking of being on the ‘other side’, now that I have completed my second year here (or so I hope), I am now on the wrong side of ‘the wall between the young and the young-at-heart, as Lefty fondly refers to it. Five hundred more morons will call me ‘sir’ and idolize me when I return to R-Land after the summer break. Oh crap, I’m dreaming again.