Sunday, November 30, 2008

Masters of the Whoniverse*

This could be construed as bad timing, considering that we are still going through the one-week post-tragedy ritual of writing seething blog-posts, signing online petitions, passing on chain mails and cursing the government, but it's up, and it needs to be publicized.

I hope you like the site. I hope you would like our questions better, when you choose to call us to conduct quizzes.

* This, as most other, at times idiotic, word-plays, is the creation of the other partner of the company. He provides the creativity, I provide the glamor.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Yesterday, around 11:30 am, I had to go to the mall beside my office for some work. As I was entering through the main door, I saw a group of young men entering right in front of me.

They had beards. They were wearing kurta-pajamas. They had skull-caps on their heads.

The first thought that crossed my mind was - Shit! Terrorists!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting Real


"Hello, is this the Sinha residence?"

"Yes, that's right. May I know who I am speaking to?"

"Good evening, ma'am. I am calling from Manipal Hospital in Bangalore. Am I talking to Mrs Sinha?"

"(Already panicking) Yes, that's me. Is everything alright? What is this about?"

"'am, can I speak to Mr Sinha, please? It's urgent."

"(Now frantic) Mr Sinha is traveling right now. Can you just tell me now what this is about?!"

"Well, ma'am...I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. The thing see ma'am...a body was brought to our hospital's emergency ward last night. We are not sure about it ma'am...but we have reasons to believe I said we are not sure...there aren't enough identification papers on the body...that it might be your son. We would need someone from your family to visit us and identify the body."

Mrs Sinha's pretty much speechless by now. And if it required any more effort to hear the person on the other side than just standing there and holding the phone to her ear, she would pretty much be incapable of doing that too.

There's about a minute or so of not knowing how to react. Then, she says something garbled into the phone and drops it. The next 5 minutes or so are spent trying to get through to Mr Sinha, who has probably just switched off his phone on the flight to Mumbai. The reaction comes after that. But it's too unique to be described as mere shock/grief.

And then, after 5 more minutes have passed in the confusion, a stranger walks in, followed by a man holding a camera. The stranger does not wait for Mrs Sinha to say anything before shouting out simultaneously to her and to the camera, in extreme glee:"Mrs Sinha! This is Ultimate Reality TV! You are on camera LIVE right now!! Your reaction has been captured for our viewers across the world, who I am sure are glued to their TV screens watching how you reacted to the phone call! It was fantastic! Don't worry, your son is fine in Bangalore! Congratulations! You have won an all-expenses paid trip to Thailand with your family! You must be delighted!"

How's that for a reality show idea? We could call up people with other less-interesting news like "Your house has been demolished by the municipality" or "Your cat was set on fire by the neighborhood kid" or "This is IIM Calcutta. I am sorry your application form for this year's CAT was rejected. You are also debarred from taking the exam for the next 5 years".

I think I have a winner on my hands.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Love My Neighbor

I am on a Pakistan-induced high right now.

I finished reading A Case of Exploding Mangoes in the afternoon today. I was a fan of Mohsin Hamid. And this far surpasses Hamid's two books. It is one of the funniest books I have read in my life. Of course, you would need some familiarity with our neighbor's politics to get some of the jokes. I would rate it above Shame by Rushdie.

And I just got done watching Zibahkhana. A Texas Chainsaw Massacre-inspired zombie movie based in Pakistan has to be the best thing this side of Mrs Brad Pitt.

I fell in love with Pakistan during my visit there about 2.5 years back, mainly because it is so much like India, and yet so different. And there is genuine curiosity about India among the common people, as there is within India about Pakistan. We so often get carried away in pointless jingoism that we don't realize how much we can achieve if we just try to understand each other a little more. And, of course, share each others' recipes.

The only thing that bugged me during my visit was that Pakistan is, understandably, a little more uptight than we are. But we are getting there thanks to the Thackerays. Also, the youth there are a few years behind the rest of the world in their definition of cool-ness. Which also gets reflected in Zibahkhana. I should not be taking anything too seriously in a movie as campy as this, but since some observations from the movie conform to what I felt when I met people in Lahore, I can't completely ignore them.

The apparently 'cool' bunch of college kids in the movie keep dropping phrases like "chill maar" and smoke up a few joints with such coyness as if they are going full-frontal in a multi-sexual, multi-racial orgy that it makes one wish hard that we could reach out and pull them into 2008.

But it's hardly an issue in a movie this fantastic. I have yet to see a movie as gory as this in India, and it speaks quite a bit about how actually 'cool' Pakistan is.

Even the book sets new standards of irreverence for the sub-continent. Making fun of a political leader, who is still fairly respected in the country, along with a couple of other holy cows in Pakistan - army and Islam - is something that we will not see for some more time in India. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, and felt perfectly scandalised after every few pages, marvelling at the limits Hanif was pushing.

Neither the movie, nor the book are for everyone's taste. But I recommend both strongly.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Life or Something Like It

I made this post last year in March. Hell, it's already been a year-and-a-half! I read it yesterday for the first time since then when someone from New Jersey arrived here from Google after having searched for "I hate engineering". Feels good to know that I have kindred souls across the world.

I wrote in the post that I would be leading a pointless life once I start working, and I, oddly enough, look forward to it. This is one of the reasons why blogging is such a blessed thing. I can pretty much go back in time and look at myself.

The work that I do now isn't all that pointless. As I have written earlier, it has its rewards, for me as well as for the people I come in contact with. It does create an illusion of a world that speaks only in millions of dollars and where a one-day trip abroad for a stupid meeting is something no one really thinks twice about. But there are far more good aspects to it too.

More importantly, something that I realized during my internship too, soon after I wrote that post, I am leading a much happier life. I had written once, on my previous blog, during one of the lowest phases of my life, about the sign I had seen on a department workshop wall - vyast raho, mast raho - and I am living that adage now. Working long hours, doing something that I don't altogether dislike, getting really tired and then crashing on the bed by 11-12 at night - this is more fun than I ever thought it would be. Plus, I am still managing about 3-4 movies on an average per week and 1-2 books every month, which is more important for me to survive than most people would understand.

Of course, I also have a lot more money than I have ever had before this in my life, which helps redeem a lot of things.

Life's better than I thought it would be after leaving IIM Calcutta. Which is a substantial relief, because it hurt real bad on my way home from Joka that April afternoon, a day after our convocation. And, well, I miss it so much, it (still) hurts. A fair bit.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lost My Religion

In a work-related meeting, a few days back, I met an 82-year old guy who has been a member of one of the Freemason lodges in Bangalore for a long time. I really enjoyed meeting him, and if things go as they are planned right now, I might be making a trip abroad with him. Which is really interesting because, despite being a chap who started working even before my parents were born and who retired almost by the time I started to read, he can still speak and move around really well. He manages a kids' basketball team in his colony in Jayanagar, works regularly as a consultant on mining and still has enough stamina to make trips to Africa. Amazing man.

But this post is not about him, but about the society he is a member of. I have long wanted to become a member, partly because I have read that they do a fair amount of charity work and partly because one gets to come in contact with some really successful people. But another reason has been the aura that surrounds Freemasonry. For some reason, even though I have read enough about them to know that it's not a clandestine organization with secret initiation ceremonies and weird rituals, I still find it extremely intriguing. The word 'Freemason' somehow always creates images of the secret society in Eyes Wide Shut in my mind.

So, I was gathering info on the society yesterday. I qualify in every other way and I even have at least one person who would nominate me, which helps one's candidature. But I fail qualification on one count. The fulfillment of this criterion is the most important factor to be a Freemason, and I don't satisfy it.

To be a Freemason, irrespective of whatever religion you belong to, you need to believe in the Supreme Being. No atheist can become a Freemason.

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