The List

And, done.

Back in April, Ugly, But Bearable came out with a list of books he wished he had read earlier. I fully intended to be a responsible tagee – the type that responds promptly and with startling insight, building on the solid foundations laid down by the knowledgeable tagger; adding value, raising eyebrows, inciting discussions.

And then MH came out with his list. Suddenly, ‘Billy Bunter and the Big Top’ at #1 didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. The mind, bloody kaamchor that it is, pounced on this slight hesitation and decided to occupy itself with other mundane things – jobs, football and correct flossing technique.

No more, I say. My job is what it is. The vuvuzelae have vanished noisily into the night. And I’ll brush instead, thank you. On to the list.

  1. Danny, The Champion of the World by Dahl, Roald:

    I read it when I was 13, about eight years too late. Who knew books could be funny, gripping, sad and inspiring all at once. No book has thrilled me as much, before or since.

  2. Science Fiction by Authors, Various:

    Yup, the whole genre. I’ve always wanted to exude sci-fi coolth, but could never get around to reading the stuff (H2G2 doesn’t count). I should have forced myself to read that 700-page Peter F. Hamilton book that was lying around at home. At the very least, I’d have really strong forearms.

  3. Cricket: Basic Techniques for Beginners by Shukla, P.D.:

    In the summer of 1997, I was selected to play my school’s first ever Inter-School match. I was the opening bowler for the team, selected partly because I was the tallest person in my class, but largely on the off-chance that my thin wisp of a pre-pubescent moustache would blossom into an intimidating Merv Hughesian marvel in time for the big match. I was keen to put in a good showing, so a day before the match I found myself poring over Shuklaji‘s masterpiece in the library. Chapters 1 and 2 dealt largely with the history of the game, dating all the way back to the humble origins of cricket in India (circa 1983). In chapter 3, you got to the really fun stuff – seam and wrist positions to get the ball to swing. And no mention of bottle-caps or Vaseline; this guy was the real deal.

    At the Azad Maidan the next morning, I came running in to bowl with the seam pointing towards the slips, the shiny side to the right (or was it the left?), and a hole in my brand new sneakers. Two hours later, I walked off the field with figures of 3-0-41-0.

    I should’ve read that bloody book earlier. Maybe Chapter 7 had specific instructions on how to bowl to a 19-year old tattooed ‘school-boy’ who could hit you for six over extra-cover.

  4. Fundamentals of Physics by Resnick, Halliday and Walker:

    My father would’ve liked that.

  5. The Fountainhead by Rand, Ayn:

    I finally read this when I was 25, and only because I lost a bet. The only parts of the book I actually liked were the architectural descriptions. The rest of it – the short, pithy sentences, the one-dimensional characters, the very concept being bandied about – all of it made me a little sick. If I had read the book before I became old and jaded, I’d probably be employed on Wall Street, be the proud owner of a 9mm semi-automatic and would be spending my weekends drawing tiny moustaches on pictures of Obama.

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It Really Is Hard On The Knees

Eight years ago, we travelled to the city of the smelly marble mausoleum. We were strangers in a strange house, guests of a nanchuk-wielding boor of an acquaintance. We stayed up nights, drank our sickly sweet chais and made right royal asses of ourselves. It was a strange and wonderful holiday – we laughed and gossiped and were laughed at and gossiped against.

We were teenagers in a big, bad city back then; a city we fought and loved and detested together. Our friends were our family, and therefore instinctively knew everything we tried to hide from them. We frustrated our parents and barely knew our teachers, but we were the happiest we have ever been.

That was a long time ago. We spent the next five years away from each other. We were always just a phone call away, but no closer. We made all the smart decisions, but we cursed ourselves for being prize chumps. Our lives were a convoluted mess of last-minute train tickets, sleepy airport lounges and fictitious trips to Sikkim with “the guys”.

Yesterday, we had enough. Yesterday, we decided we wanted more. Yesterday, I asked her to marry me, and she said she would. And today the world makes perfect sense again.

—–

Plain White T’s – Hey There Delilah [mp3]

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The Baajuhut Guide to Mumbai

Good evening, or as Snow White said to the Seven Dwarves – Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello.

You are doing well, I hope? Good good. The colour’s definitely returned to your cheeks – no doubt a result of the magnificent psychedelic toilet paper you are so fond of. And I see you’ve done your hair up much like I do mine. We really are toupees in a pod now, aren’t we?

Anyway, we really should get started. The Arrow of time is moving ever-forward, and the Van Heusens of Shoppers Stop are finding it really hard to keep up. Today, I will show you around the famous city of Mumbai, a place I called Home for ten years because I couldn’t keep up with all the name changes. It’s a lovely city with a rich, cultural history and a remarkable array of varied vegetation. It really does grow on you – though the Municipal Corporation assures us that their new sprays are working perfectly.

Mumbai is, like New York, a largely north-south city. This has immensely inconvenienced parties as diverse as the local taxi-wallahs, the utilities companies and the sun. It was originally a group of seven large islands, but a series of reclamations have joined them together. One of the smaller islands, Elephanta, is well-known for its beautiful caves and is said to be the abode of both Lord Shiva and Dumbo. The sad, dilapidated condition of this historical site has moved many visitors to tears, with most unable to say much more than a wistful “Tusk! Tusk!”

The city is also known the center of commerce, or more specifically, ‘Me’. The financial capital of the country, it houses the oldest stock exchange in Asia. A large number of businesses, small and large, work together in perfect harmony to provide employment to millions. One of the earliest flourishing trades was that of paraffin wax, with the stuff being exported to places as far as Persia and Egypt. With the discovery of kerosene as a cost-efficient source of light and fuel, however, the demand saw a dramatic decline and manufacturers soon had wax coming out of their ears. These days, candles are used only during the frequent electricity black-outs. This gets quite messy, so the man of the house generally volunteers to clean the stains and wax off in the dark.

Home to ‘Bollywood’, the massive Hindi film industry, Bombay is also the cultural hub of the nation. Thousands of musicians, actors and media bigwigs move to the city every year with hopes of striking the right note, pose and unsuspecting passer-by respectively. While the film industry deservedly gets the lions-share of the attention, few know that the music business is extremely profitable and vibrant as well. In fact, over the last few months an Indian music director, A. R. Rahman, has managed two Oscar awards, four national awards and a surprise number one in Sweden1. Another very popular musical artiste is the singer Alisha ‘Baby Doll’ Chinai, whose compositions have a distinct Middle Eastern influence (mostly Shiite). The outspoken Ms. Chinai is a creature of controversy, unaffected by media criticism. In fact, she was once had to suffer through a whole week of debasement, from which she emerged quite unscathed, stating that she finds “de room under de ground floor to be a most comfortable place”.

Mumbai is, like most metropolises, a city of flamboyance and warmth, and has done much to improve the living conditions of its citizens. It is, in fact, often compared to the safe, modern and connected city of London, differing from the British capital in only three respects.

You might require a map of the city to help you get around. There are many different versions floating around, but this is the only one you’ll really need.

 

I do hope you have found this useful. I, too, have enjoyed your company. Tata.

 

——————————————-

1 Cold weather often does that to him

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When Hurt Came To Town

There’s not much left to be said about the attack that hasn’t been said already. Screw the clichés; embrace them for their truth. Be afraid; be strong. What could they have done; what should we do now. Maybe Han1 is spot-on when he says that it is the location of the atrocities that makes this so different for us; maybe he’s being ridiculous.

For the last three days I have been unable to tear myself away from the news, yet with every successive ‘Breaking News’ the pain and anguish builds. I have waited patiently for the denouement that may never come. It has been painful, personal and mind-numbingly harrowing (all clichés, all true).

– –

On the evening of the 26th, I took a taxi home from work while my driver waited patiently outside my office. His phone was unreachable, and I soon got tired of waiting. He finally called at 10:30pm (just as I was about to head back to look for him), and we yelled at him in relief.

Three hours later he reached home, nearly in tears. He was stuck on the dreaded Airport flyover-in-progress, when suddenly, ten cars in front of him, a taxi was hurled into the air. He was one of the first to react, spinning the car around and driving away from the explosion. He took a circuitous route back through the by-lanes of Vile Parle, thankful that he was once a taxi driver, thankful that he no longer is.

– –

She was a classmate of mine, one of only six girls in my class. She had made a spot in the second row her own – a spot from which she took copious notes, caught the occasional forty winks and never answered a question unless it was directed specifically at her. We were part of the same project group for a Finance course, and she carried me through it without a trace of irritation.

Two weeks ago, she made her first appearance on the college Y! group. She was getting married, she said, to her boyfriend of seven years. We were all invited.

Said boyfriend was at Café Leopold on the evening of the 26th.

– –

My father was to head back to Mumbai on the 25th. He was attending his company’s Annual Operating Meet, and was looking forward to getting back home. His bags were packed, the taxi was waiting; the jet plane, however, wouldn’t leave.

My dad never did like Bangkok.

– –

I spoke to J in the taxi on the way home. I cursed him playfully, he cursed back. Hee hee. I cursed him some more, perhaps I went too far.

Back home, I heard the word “gunshots” on the News. Bloody gangsters, I thought, dismissively2. And then I got J’s email. He spoke of gunshots and blasts and terrorists in South Bombay. He spoke of flames and panic. And he was trapped at work. Express Towers is the building just behind the Oberoi. Shit.

He and his colleagues spent the night at work. In the morning, he made sure everyone got back home safe, and only then did he leave. It was scarier than I can imagine; it was scarier than he will admit.

– –

The Taj Mahal Palace & Towers has always been more than just another IHCL property. Friends working there call it ‘a jewel in our Taj’ and laugh every time. Growing up, if ever I found myself in South Bombay, I’d insist on walking over and peeing in their super-fancy loo. Their managers came to recognize me for the pest I was, but apart from a slight frown, they never did stop me. I have seen every bit of the hotel – the Presidential suite, the ballrooms, the kitchen and laundry area, Wasabi, the CCTV room. It was part of our induction process to the Group, and it left me thrilled. When they talk of hostages being held in the Crystal Room, I can only visualize the space as I saw it then – pristine and opulent. Now, there’s smoke, a stench and snipers. And infinite sadness.

1 That’s in the commentspace. But read the excellent post first.

2 Dismissively!

Posted in Mumbai, Writing | Tagged | 5 Comments

An Ode to Conjunctivitis

You wake up groggy; the world’s a blur,

You stumble, you trip, you curse the liqueur.

You were supposed to awaken crisp like toast

Yet here you are, as blind as a post

(You’re mixing your metaphors1 now, never a good sign.

The next time you drink, you stick to your rum.)

Damn.

 

You look in the mirror, you recoil with fear,

You trip on the pot and moisten your rear.

(Of the slapstick, dear poet, there is no real need,

Let’s stick to the symptoms, I humbly plead.)

 

Fine, hmph, so your eyes are all gummy,

And bloodshot and itchy and watery,

Accompanied by an infection of the upper respiratory tract, a common cold and/or a sore throat.

(Now see what you’ve done, you imbecilic son of Zorg,

You’ve made him quote from Wikipedia.org.

You’ve insulted his art; you’ve taken his mickey,

You’ve made him resort to quoting from… Oh, wait, I already said that.)

 

Anyway, where was I?

 

It’s highly infectious, people look quickly away,

You begin to feel ostracized, like Robert Mugabe.

Of Zimbabwe.

Hehe.

(Now cut it out, Mister. This is an ‘ode’, you realise?

It should be stately and profound and lyrical and wise.

No more horsing around now, this is going all awry,

Let’s get back to talking ’bout your old Chenn-eye).

 

Your local physician, he tells you to rest,

And to sit around the house in that dirty, holey vest.

Use eye drops and cough drops and keep your hands clean,

And most important of all, don’t stare at that computer screen.

 

Oh.

 

_______

1
Similes, actually. How much did you drink, anyway?

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The Rhyme Without The Reason

I was four when I spoke my first word. My parents insist I could understand everything and that I was just plain lazy, but I’m pretty sure they were worried. Needless to say, when the first excruciating word was finally extracted out of me, there was much celebration. I was expected, thence, to quickly race through the alphabet, dodge effortlessly past those pesky numbers and conquer the mighty Noddy books in a bid to make up for lost time. I’d be reading Shakespeare by July and fixing the hole in the ozone layer by next winter. Baajuhut, the young ‘un (,) was on a roll.

And then, suddenly, he wasn’t; waylaid by that dastardly fiend, that wrecker of self-esteem, the ultra-vile Nursery Rhyme!

I could never get the hang of those blasted poems. Granted, they were magnificently violent tales that dealt cheerfully with subjects as diverse as death, deception, adultery and communicable diseases – no complaints there – but why were/are they considered essential to a kid’s early education? You could just as easily strap a kid into his high chair, plonk him in front of the telly and play Scarface over and over again. He might even get a cool accent that way.

And what’s with the magnificently archaic language? What were these mysterious ‘poses’, for instance, that manifested themselves in my pockets, causing me to make asthmatic noises and get dragged painfully to the ground? And that treacle-eating weasel that went Pop! from time to time. Pop?

My brother, incidentally, knew every single one (he still does). Very likely, you too still remember a dozen or so of these jolly ditties. No doubt they take you back to a happier time and fill you with memories of Horlicks and Rice Paysam (or warm apple pie, as the case may be). Those were the days, eh? Yeah, me too! Hmph.

See Also: Zonuts

Posted in Gibberish, Music, Uncategorized | Tagged | 11 Comments

All Gone To Look For America

I’ve been working for thirteen months now without a break. I’ve managed to run through four different companies, three countries and two bottles of after-shave. I’ve been yelled at, reasoned with, shabaash-ed, cajoled and made to buy lollipops (I kid you not). There’ve been good bosses, nasty bosses and right-royal studs. I have called in sick only thrice and I have shaved every single working day.

I have worked in a steel wire manufacturing plant in China, a startup mobile phone company, a tea shop and a budget hotel. Lunch at work has spanned the culinary spectrum from Tihar-style dal-chawal to white rice with raw shrimp and boiled veggies. One colleague of mine set his car on fire; another had half his face paralysed; yet another slept with that hot lady from accounts (and bragged about it the next day).

I have sung ‘Hey Jude’ at a shady karaoke bar (nobody was drunk). I have lovingly informed a CEO that his company was “a disaster” (everyone was drunk).

And I have made Powerpoint presentations. Lots of them.

So, for the next two weeks, I’m on holiday! My phone will be off, my computer will be in its bag and my liver will be abused. Super.

When I get back to work, I will be working for yet another company – this time for a couple of years. Work will start in Mumbai, but embassy officials permitting, I will be based in some place called Matawan in New Jersey.

Han, Undead, JC , anyone else I know out there – don’t get yourselves deported until after I’ve arrived!

Posted in America, Work | Tagged , | 9 Comments