Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Tintin Film

I had been looking forward to the Tintin film ever since I saw the first teaser. Probably from before that too, but after watching the teaser (or was it a proper trailer – can’t recall that now), I just had this weird exciting feeling in my stomach that this was going to be a really worthwhile experience.

Since that brief introduction to Spielberg’s (and Jackson’s) latest masterpiece, I have read several rants about how unlike Herge's version this Tintin looks, how it's just blasphemous and a sign of crass commercialism to remake the simple, refined 2-D drawings into a 3-D film. And not been able to completely understand what the fuss was about.

After having seen the movie today, I am even more perplexed.

I think Herge made the right choice when he asked Spielberg to make the Tintin movie. Now, this choice might have come across as smoothly as Spielberg generally implies in his interviews, or not so much as some of the critics of this transfer to the big screen might allege, but that it happened to come about is a great thing.

From the moment the film begins, with that wonderful tip of hat to Tintin's creator, this is a well-designed extension of Herge's vision. The credits pay tribute to several of Tintin's books, and the film mixes elements from various editions to come up with a truly enjoyable story.

Ah, the thrill of meeting again the characters you have known for so long. The bumbling Thompson & Thomson. The ever-abusive Captain Haddock. The wonderfully voiced Bianca Castafiore. And good ol' Snowy (with the amount of stunts he does, it's a good thing they didn't use a real dog).

And, of course, the boy wonder. Yes, he looks a bit different from what I would have imagined as a three-dimensional Tintin to look. And the British accent made him sound like Harry Potter a few times. But, those are minor issues really.

The winner, as it should be in general, is the script. It incorporates great elements from multiple books, ties them up together and comes up with an intelligent, respectful, adventurous and utterly funny ride.

And also worth mentioning is the motion-capture technique. It might have worked great in films like the Lord of the Rings trilogy or King Kong, or even Avatar, but in a full length film based on this technique like The Polar Express it had fallen a bit flat. It just works wonders here. The bastardized child of animation and live action truly comes on its own in this film.

Just watch and wonder at the way Sakharine's hair or the camel's fur waves in the wind. Beautiful.

I bloody hope they are making a sequel.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Remembering Iraq

I am really angry right now.

I am a fan of Wikipedia, have contributed both in terms of content and in terms of moolah to it. But, I went back to the page on Al-Qa'im today, and was astonished to see that most of the past information had been removed. And the fuckers are complaining that the article is a stub, and that we can help by expanding it! No donation from me you moron, Jimmy Wales.

I spent 2.5 precious years of my childhood there. I still remember the person who used to give me chocolates every time he would run into me. I still remember running away from the people celebrating Holi with masalas. I still remember discussing Sridevi, and Mumbai rains, with the local grocery-shop owner. I still remember being (almost) sexually abused by an idiot who was my father's subordinate (I had the good sense of forcing myself out of his house after he emerged in his underwear and started touching me inappropriately).

No, my wiki contribution was not about these personal experiences. It was about the cement plant run by ACC that got us there and provided many local people employment. It was about how the place became a curious melting pot of Iraqis, Romanians (who were handing over the plant to ACC) and us Indians. It was about how that weird chemical plant a few kilometers away used to give us bad asthmatic attacks once in a while. It was about how I saw my first tanks and first sand-dunes.

These are bound to be hazy memories - these events occurred a lifetime ago. But, I remember seeing VP Singh's visit to Baghdad being covered on the national channel and thinking - Man, why aren't our leaders remotely as charismatic as Saddam Hussein.

There, I have said it. I wasn't very happy when Saddam was executed.

During those years in Iraq, way too young as I might have been, I had heard of the cruelty of his regime. I knew he wasn't exactly adored, even though his portraits and posters covered every street in every town I visited. But, things moved smoothly.

Cities were clean, hospitals were efficient, there was freedom (at least before the First Gulf War; that's when we came back and that's when I hear the place got more fundamentalist) and petrol was almost as cheap as mineral water.

I hated coming back to India. Not only because it robbed me of this perceived exotic identity that I had put on over the course of my stay there (and which used to come very handy when interacting with cousins here), but also because India was a shock to me. When we moved to Iraq I was a little over 6 years old, just beginning to grasp the import of stuff happening around me. When we moved back, I was a fairly worldly wise 9 year old, who had seen stuff (including, but not limited to, extremely violent movies, novels not meant for children, that man who used to touch me, and, quite amazingly, female friends who used to play Ghar-Ghar with sticks, making them lie together and do all sorts of scandalous things).

But, recovering from that major diversion, I absolutely hated coming back to India. It was humid. There were mosquitoes. Every place was filled with people. And everyone else was an Indian too. No fun.

Am watching this film called The Devil's Double. Just brought memories back. During our stay there, we once heard this story - apparently, one of Saddam's sons had killed someone. As per Islamic rules, Saddam's son (don't remember if it was Uday or someone else) could be forgiven only if forgiven by the victim's family. Saddam (apparently) agreed with the death sentence. But, (apparently) the victim's family forgave the son, out of 'natural compassion'.

Yep, so Iraq was twisted. Frankly, I don't think how they can not be unless they are all bombed out. With that much oil and those many tribes, it seems your idiotic God is having a lot of fun there.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On Reading. Virtually.

Don't know if anyone noticed, but had made the blog private because had grown sick of feeling like shooting myself in the morning all too often after another stupid post written late the previous night. Yep, am not happy right now, but it has been a recurring element of my life, and will probably continue to be.

On the other hand, a road trip to Surat last weekend to conduct a quiz made me extremely happy. If only there was more money in conducting quizzes.

Didn't get back to blogging because of another reason. I have found something else to do, which keeps me tied up after work and on weekends.

On an impulse, a few weeks back, I bought the iPad. The iPad 2 to be precise. Like my fairly expensive, and quite apprehensive, purchase of an iPod video during my internship in 2007, I haven't regretted it for one moment.

I am an information junkie. I want to read as much as I can, I want to know as much there is to know about stuff around me as I can. It's a different story that I can hardly retain about a tenth of it. But I love reading. And iPad is a boon for anyone who does.

Two of my most favorite apps on iPad (with the exception of the Angry Birds game of course) are Instapaper and Zinio.

Instapaper helps you save online articles for reading later. It works seamlessly across your laptop browser and the tablet, and is ideal for those 'longform' articles that you keep coming across but never get the time to read. Have already discovered one of my favorite writers through this app - Atul Gawande, a US doctor of Indian origin, who writes for The New Yorker (which I discovered truly for the first time through the iPad also - it's a brilliant brilliant journal), and very incisively on complex issues like the American health care system or solitary confinement in prisons.

Instapaper also helped me find this site called that picks out some amazing articles daily for you to read. The range includes a piece written by the inimitable Pauline Kael on Citizen Kane to an article on the unavoidable Amanda Knox to the phenomenon called Sasha Grey to a very objective story of the downfall of Mel Gibson by Peter Biskind, whose books on Hollywood I am a big fan of.

Zinio claims to be the largest magazine store in the world. And certainly looks like it. I have bought magazines from the US, the UK and India on it and browsed through some more from France, Brazil and other assorted places. I love magazines. And so, browsing through Zinio is to me, to use a cliche, what a 5 year old must feel like in a candy store.

And, of course, there's the Kindle app. Which is a fairly ordinary app. It does its job well. No frills. But the massive collection of books that Amazon has just kills you, figuratively.

And the one-click purchase kills you in more literal (and financial) terms. I used to curse Flipkart for their easy check-out of the shopping cart. But it's no wonder that the Bansal duo learned their craft at Amazon. Because the Amazon store doesn't give you a chance. One click and the book is on my iPad. And a few more dollars have disappeared from my bank account.

A malfunctioning mouse can turn your purse lighter by a few bucks in a few seconds. And in the age of a falling rupee, it is not a happy condition.

But I am still some time away from staring at bankruptcy. And more books (and articles) than I can read in my lifetime.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


A collection of CDs covering the entire series of Tamas has just come out. Am going through it right now.

The production values are quite ordinary, but the acting, the screenplay is just fantastic.

Watching people like Harish Patel, Virendra Saxena, KK Raina, and many other familiar faces whose names I can't even recall, who went on to become regular character actors in some of the most iconic Indian films and serials, is amazing.

But, what captures you the most are the images. Tamas is part of the oldest images of my life. The scene where Deepa Sahi jumps into a well, and I haven't seen ahead to confirm if that memory is real, has been one of the most deeply etched marks in my memory. I would have been 5-6 years old when I last saw it.

And the Tamas family getting together in the classic Mile Sur Mera Tumhara video of course. Or I might be confusing one thing from the past with another again.

The film/mini-series is as much a landmark in Indian cinema as the partition was a nightmare on the country's psyche. I have written multiple times earlier how pointless it seems now that so many people died during the birth of two nations that are unbelievably similar. Pakistan and India together would have kicked so much ass.

The fact that India has celebrated Eid this week with as much fervor (though Ganesh Utsav seems to have stolen the thunder here in Mumbai) as possibly in any other part of the world proves that.

To an extent.

I still feel that we are (more than a bit) biased towards Hinduism. Despite the fact that most of us respect religious freedom, we do not realize how Hindu-ized our regular institutions are. We need to balance that gap.

But, I think we are getting there. For me Eid is as much a celebratory occasion as Diwali is. And it's the same for many of my friends. And not just because it gives you an office holiday. Or a Khan film release.

But also because you appreciate what the day stands for.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

First Day First Show

Have been reading this rather delightful book called First Day First Show. It is essentially a collection of articles written by Anupama Chopra during her career as a print journalist on the movie beat. For a long time with India Today.

Am not a big fan of hers, mainly because she comes across as too gooey on NDTV. But she certainly is one of the more intelligent people writing (or talking) about films in India. Hell. if she had the foresight to marry Vidhu Vinod Chopra, one of the most successful producers in Hindi cinema, she has got to have some brains.

Anyway, the book, which starts with a rather narcissistic foreword by Shah Rukh Khan (and what else would one expect), covers a fairly comprehensive tract of moviedom starting from the mid-90s.

If nothing else, it just helps you revisit those crazy times when to be able to own a mobile phone was a status symbol, when Devgan (Devgn) and Kajol did films like Hulchul, AB was being crucified for doing Mrityudaata, and Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hai was classy. The 90s look as crazy now as the 80s looked in the 90s.

The book is chronologically set and I am just about in the time when the new Bollywood brigade led by Anurag Kashyap is beginning to show its attitude in the 1990s (Satya is making people pee their pants) and Devgn and Kajol have got married. This has covered more than half of the book. So Chopra probably got less prolific with time.

But, exciting times ahead. I have cheated and looked ahead in the chapter headings. And it goes at least as far as Love, Sex aur Dhokha.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I am in a really bad mood tonight. Mostly because I know I won't be able to sleep late tomorrow on a rare holiday morning because the morons in my housing society will try to push their pop-patriotism on everyone else by playing 'Ae mere pyaare watan' right from 8 am.

But, also because I am watching a rather emotional episode of Just Dance. I have generally come to see through the plastic emotionality that most TV programs thrust on us, but, and maybe it was because I am drunk, or maybe because I feel very strongly about it, I could not keep from crying when Irfan, one of the contestants on the show, had to state that he is as Hindustani as anyone else.

The fact that a Muslim citizen still has to say that is extremely painful. It makes me ashamed of myself. And my country.

Really liked Rajit's performance. Don't know in terms of the technicalities, but the dance was good to make one realize how we are leaving the green in our flag behind. The saffron and the white will not go far if we continue doing that.

Ae mere pyaare watan, the pyaar we have for you is standing on very weak grounds.

Friday, July 8, 2011


I am listening to the songs from Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey as I begin my 10-day bed-rest period. I can't imagine how I would pass the next 9 days. I am always restless and the thought of lying down at one place for most of the time for the next 10 days is painful. But the alternative is even more dreadful.

I have always liked the songs of KHJJS a lot more than the film. Probably because I don't have to watch Abhishek Bachchan while listening to the songs. I had quite liked the film when I saw it a few months back on Tata Sky. The film and the music remind me a lot of Kolkata and Bengal.

My earliest memory of Kolkata is of visiting my mother's parents - can't recall if it was Ballygunge or Tollygunge - but have very fond memories of those trips. I remember this cloudy day when someone who used to work at the house - I have a feeling his name was Narsingh, but not sure - took me for a trip on the metro, and also to the Nehru's Children's Museum. I could not have been more than 5-6 years old and I remember so much of that trip so clearly. I visited the Museum several years later and it was very underwhelming. I do not remember much from this later visit.

The next visit I remember was in December 1995. This was the first time that our four-member family took two rooms to stay while on a trip. We were staying at the company guest-house and the luxury of having my own room felt amazing. The trip was very memorable on the whole too. Kolkata is a lot more bearable in the winter.

The next visit, on the other hand, was not memorable at all. I was back in Kolkata in 1999, a couple of months before my first shot at JEE. I used to get stuff from Brilliant Tutorials by post, and they were having a crash course before the exam in some of the larger cities before the JEE, and my parents decided that it made sense for me to attend. It was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I was staying at this very sad Maharashtrian guest-house with my father, where the food was bad, I had to walk for over 4 km to get to the class, and once at the class, I hardly understood anything being taught there. My preparation for my first attempt was really bad and I was made aware of that very starkly in the 2-3 weeks I managed to stay there. On one of my frequent phone calls with my mother, I just broke down and said that I could not do it, that JEE was not meant for me. I was called back. Never felt more like a failed person in my life. Or since then. Of course, I went to Kota, gave up living for almost a year and cracked JEE the next year. But that period in Kolkata still gives me nightmares.

The next visit and two subsequent visits after that to the city have been to Joka. A place I love in a way it is not possible to describe. Kolkata is as much a part of me as Delhi is. And I miss it badly as I listen to these songs from KHJJS. And the film's not even based in present day West Bengal.

I miss Joka like hell. And the feeling that this feeling will be there for ever kills me. It's like a person close to you going away and you knowing that he won't come back ever.


Update: Just saw the trailer of Chittagong, starring Manoj Bajpayi, Raj Kumar Yadav, Nawazuddin Siddiqui (the man with the best performance in Peepli Live) and Barry John. The trailer seems to suggest that it's a much better made film than KHJJS. I hope it gets a proper release and does well too.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunday Night Fever

Had a near perfect day today. And such days are so rare that one needs to record this for the future me.

First, found a store that has clothes that fit me. I understand that I have ballooned up a lot in the last few years, but I am sure there are tons of Indians who are my size and maybe larger than me. Where do they get their clothes from! Surely not everyone gets them custom-made. Thankfully found a place today (and got to know of some others, which I'll try out in the coming days) where sanity prevails and there is some thought given to poor blokes like me, who can't fly to the US to do their shopping. I am actually surprised I am writing about clothes, but one does need a few shirts and couple of pair of jeans to cover one's modesty (and not keep wearing the same thing everyday).

Two, was THE MOVIE. But, will come to that in a while.

Three, was a meal at the Dakshin at ITC Maratha (or is it Grand Maratha - how can anything Maratha not be Grand?). We had gone there planning a meal at Peshawri, and in anticipation of the beautiful non-veg platter there I hadn't eaten the whole day. But, since they don't take confirmed reservations after 8, we were stuck with a half-an-hour wait and decided to try out Dakshin instead.

Instead of trying out the a-la-carte menu, we just decided to take it easy and settle for the Thali. Which is an extensive 3-course deal. We were three of us, and ordered one each of the three Thalis on offer - veg, non-veg, sea-food. Since all cost the same, they were fine with us sharing stuff across plates, which is generally frowned upon at most restaurants.

I can't go through the Thali item-by-item for you, so would just say that this was far better than I had expected. Right from the poppadums, chutneys and pickles they began with, through the chicken and fish starters, the unbelievably delicate appams, the lovely avial, the unforgettable fish and chicken curries (I was having the non-veg version), and finally the delicious sambhar - it was a beautiful experience. And the service was impeccable. Good food and good service. Makes your day.

But, the best was for the last. I am not exactly a sweets person. Except for some very select dishes like kaju barfi, I am not a big fan of sweet stuff, and generally avoid dessert after a good main course just to retain the tastes. Thankfully I decided to have a try today. My cousin, who was having the veg version got this light, just about sweet, coconut dish, which was quite interesting. He also got the payasam and another dish that I can't recall much of now.

My sister-in-law (who was having the sea-food version) and I got the same stuff - payasam and another dish that looked like a burnt barfi.

But, what do morons like me know! I stuck my spoon into it and the spoon just went right through it. So, it was no barfi. I scooped up a small part of the slightly gooey thing and put in my mouth.

"Oh my god" was probably my first reaction. I won't remember because I was in a daze for a few seconds after that. This was my first encounter with a Vattal Appam. This dish made from pine jaggery is the most brilliant dish I have had in a very very long time. It's just the right amount of sweet, feels very light on the tongue, is absolutely mind-bogglingly delicious.

I asked for a second helping. I have been thinking about it since I got back home. I think I am going to dream about it tonight. I think I am in love with it.

Will talk about THE MOVIE later.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Local Train

He woke up at around 1 am.

He brushed his teeth, shaved and got into his usual jeans and T-Shirt. Wrote a letter.

He walked out of his housing society, hailed an auto to Goregaon East station.

He sat down on the platform and waited.

As the train entered the station, he lied down on the tracks.

The fucking train stopped just before it reached him.

He took an auto to get back to work, hoping no one saw him. Threw the letter out on the way.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Am listening to Retro Pop Shit from the Shaitan OST.

If you haven't seen this film by now, please don't visit my blog again. I am in love with the film, and its music at the moment. UNFORTUNATELY, the album that I have with me does not have Khoya Khoya Chaand.

I always like characters, and probably people in real life too, who are on the edge. Who can do stuff you would not expect them to in a normal world. But, we do not live in a normal world. Shaitan's lead players are like that.

I absolutely love it when a film-maker shows respect for music and uses it well. I also love it when a film-maker makes a film set in a milieu he understands. Bijoy (or is it Bejoy) Nambiar is that film-maker.

Anurag Kashyap, you can walk on water.

Aside: Juhi Babbar is/was married to Nambiar. Juhi is Raj and Nadira Babbar's daughter. She had filed for a divorce from Bijoy sometime back, but am not sure if they are legally separated yet.

Yep, you know now where to come for your Bollywood trivia.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

From Last Post

Just came to me that they always pay HR far more than the work is worth. Whether in an organization or on a TV show. HR could be done away with and no one would notice.

This and That

I am a stickler for these things, so am more than a bit distressed when I am not able to figure out if the freaking thing is called Dahi Vada, Dahi Wada or Dahi Bada. My vote would be for the first option, even if I have been calling it the last one all through my life. The reason I bring it up of course is because I learned to make it last week.

I am sorry if my gushing posts on learning to cook new dishes resemble a newly wed housewife's, but it sure is a satisfying feeling to make yet another much-admired dish from your childhood. And make it well.

It did not start very well though. My vadas kept burning up with the paste inside remaining wet and raw. A distress call home (I really do sound like a housewife!) made me realize that the oil was probably too hot. After cooling the oil down a bit, the vadas came out great. I am beginning to feel cooking is not as difficult a job as people make it out to be.

Of course, cooking the same boring shit everyday must be mind-numbing.


Samit Basu has redeemed himself a bit now. Since I had read close to 160-170 pages of the 340-odd paged Turbulence, I thought I might as well read it through. Nope, despite working in finance, I am not very familiar with the concept of sunk costs. On page 209, which is right in the middle of an international crisis caused by some Indian superheroes, there's a line 'The Indian prime minister has already appeared on TV, bleating gently about the need to remain calm...'. Given my overflowing fountain of love for Manmohan Singh these days, that line seemed very very apt. He does bleat quite often, doesn't he.

Damn, I was planning to have mutton biryani tomorrow for lunch, but bleating being associated with the most inadequate PM we have ever had is likely to keep me off any mutton for some time.


Saw the first episode of Just Dance. I don't see what the fuss is about. For one, calling Hrithik Roshan the 'God of Dance' through the show is really jarring. Having him refer to himself as a Superstar is even more so. I think the celebrity-featuring shows that have really hit a chord with the audience are those where the celebrity becomes a part of the audience. Crosses that perpetual line that divides the common man and the star. Here that divide is being made even more prominent.

In its concept, the show is not different from Dance India Dance, which really seemed to have a better quality of dancers. Can't believe they are paying HR so much for this.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Overrated Samit Basu

Someone who leaves IIMA to pursue a career in writing ought to be a fantastic writer. Or so I thought.

I have been trying to find that spark that Samit Basu is supposed to possess. The spark that makes publishers keep publishing his books.

I bought the three books in the GameWorld trilogy, but got bored midway through the second book. The plot was interesting, but the execution was plain boring.

I also tried to read Terror on the Titanic. Which put me off reading fiction for a month.

And I am reading Turbulence right now. I am through about 40% of the novel. The plot is very interesting. How could a Heroes-X-Men-Misfits clone not be interesting? But I am not sure I can read it the whole way through.

Basu's characters talk so much. So much! Each one of them is too clever by half. Every one takes pot shots at each other. And the narrator keeps trying to beat them at this cleverness. In every book. It's like the same character with a different get-up turning up in every book of his.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Irrational Surds

I have been making fun of Baba Ramdev's 'protest' on Facebook and otherwise too in one-on-one conversations. I don't think too many people take him seriously. It's great that he is teaching Indians to live a healthy life, but we are well past the time when a half-naked man (I wanted to say fakir, but then fakirs don't own islands and fly around in chartered planes) can dictate political terms. Especially someone as utterly unimportant as Ramdev.

But, I was shocked when I got to know that the Central Government actually used violence to evict him from the place he and his followers had gathered to carry on their hunger strike. The Government could have easily ignored this idiot's fast, but they have ended up according it so much importance. The Government is trying, as visible to the naked eye, to get the Lokpal Bill passed, even if not having the PM within its purview seems like a really pointless issue to stall things for, and Ramdev's fast was a very obvious effort to create ground for a future career in politics.

It's like Manmohan Singh's government can't do anything right now. I don't understand what's gone so wrong in just two years. The country voted him back with a higher vote share than in the previous elections in 2009. It might have been partly because it has looked for a long time now that BJP is filled with senile leaders feeling up an elephant and smiling at their reflections in a mirror, and not so much because of UPA I's own merits.

But, I feel right now that I am being ruled by a eunuch. Who is guarding the harem so that Rahul Gandhi's virginity is not lost too soon.

I don't want this moron at the helm of things for the next 3 years.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

School Tiffin

I saw Do Dooni Chaar on the 9th of January, Dhobi Ghaat on the 24th, Band Baaja Baraat on the 17th of March, Shor In The City on the 1st of May, Ragini MMS on the 14th - In just about 5 months, that is a pretty great platter from Hindi cinema. But, I watched a film today that has made me the happiest I have been in a very long time. And sad too.

Happy, obviously, because it is a masterpiece that needs to be seen by anyone who watches Hindi films. I feel a deep deep satisfaction when I see new stories being told, new characters being introduced in an industry that sees so little of originality.

I am sad because I know this film is not going to recover its costs in all likelihood, because we always have preconceived thoughts about certain films. And so we don't watch 'children's films'. Also because there are so many Stanleys out there, who manage to smile through really difficult lives. I have known some of them. I am trying to do something for some of them.

I once went on a trek with some of my schoolmates into the jungles of Jharkhand when I was in Class VI and was undergoing a training period to be inducted into the Boy Scouts. The trek was the finale of a fairly rigorous week of training. We were expected to be gone all day and had been instructed to bring suitably fortifying lunches. My mom was slightly tied up with work and our maid-servant was on leave, so I carried puris left over from the previous night, with some tomato ketchup for lunch. When we stopped for lunch after a very tedious morning, and I saw the other kids opening their tiffin boxes to sumptuous lunches of aloo paratha and sabzi or some such thing, I felt embarrassed. I sat alone and had my lunch, too ashamed to share my meager food with others.

But, I was still carrying lunch.

To be ridiculed by your teacher in front of your classmates for any little thing feels like a calamity when you are in school. For being considered unworthy to share their lunch because you don't bring your own tiffin must be mortifying.

Amol Gupte claimed to have played a more significant role in Taare Zameen Par than he was credited for. I saw his role in Kaminey. And now I have seen Stanley Ka Dabba. I think if there was a war between Aamir Khan and Gupte, I would probably fight on Gupte's side.

And Partho Gupte, thanks for this. If you never work in front of, or behind, the camera, after this film, people will still remember you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Is it only me or are you also seeing Flipkart ads everywhere? Almost every Google ad, on any site I visit is invariably a Flipkart ad. Every alternate ad during IPL (yeah, I am one of the five-odd people in India still watching it everyday) is one of those mouse ads. Which I have gotten bored of completely now. And they were not all that clever to begin with.

It is only because the site itself is so awesome that I don't mind it all that much.

They have a phenomenal collection of books, offer great discounts and have the fastest check out of the shopping cart I have seen on any e-commerce site.

But, the best thing has to be the service standards. Which, unfortunately, most Indian firms that directly interact with the customer don't seem to realize.

I had been resisting joining the Flipkart bandwagon for a long time. Despite glowing recommendations (and Facebook 'Like's) from IITD alumni (one of the founders, Sachin Bansal, is a batchmate from engineering - we used to play Age of Empires together. Would have bonded with him some more had I known he was going to start such a successful firm). Because of my usual disdain for too many people asking me to like something.

I also prefer touching and feeling a book before buying it and browsing through the various aisles at the local Landmark store. Which is about the only decent bookstore (bookstores, actually - there are two) in Mumbai in my experience.

But, I was looking for a book recently and the only place I could find it on was Flipkart. I gave in. Placed an order. Was done placing an order in just about a couple of minutes because of the really smooth interface. Kept getting updates on the movement of my book. And then it got delivered to my office in 3 days! The delivery man was very polite - unbelievably so. And they have Cash On Delivery.

One reason why their delivery system is so good is because they have their own courier network. They do not rely on the usual courier firms. At least for the larger cities.

The second reason is that there seems to be some thought given to the kind of people they recruit. I have ordered a fair amount of stuff from them in the last 2-3 months, and every time the person delivering the package has been very polite. Which is so so rare in India.

And I was sold on them completely today when I called their Bangalore center after a rare fuck-up. I had placed an order way back on the 5th of May, but even though the order showed up as approved in my account, there had been no movement in terms of dispatch. Had got an inconclusive response when I had checked with them last week. And since I really wanted the books, I called them up again. The call center guy was a little lost as to why the delay had been caused, but then he connected me to someone obviously more senior. He was very polite, apologetic to the right degree for the fuck-up and replaced my order right away, promising that the books will be delivered from Delhi in 2 days. He checked before that if the books were available in Mumbai, in which case they could have been delivered today. They were not, and I still have to see if the 2-day delivery promise holds true. But, when you are pissed off, and the person at the other end just listens to you and understands your concern, it makes up for so much.

Flipkart is great.

And it also feels great that a person I played AoE with (and defeated on very rare occasions - Sachin was quite good at it) is responsible for it to some extent.

Monday, May 23, 2011

In The Line of Beauty

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."

Now isn't that about one of the most intelligent statements to come across. It's by Jiddu Krishnamurti, who or whose teachings I confess I have very little personal knowledge of. I have always stayed away from such people with large following because I have a simple logic - if a lot of people are following someone with so much devotion and faith, the person can't be worth following.

So, this line of beauty came to me through a friend, who told me this after a discussion through email on my usual frustration with people and life in general.

Maybe I should read more of Krishnamurti.

And, have I said this before? My friends are amazing. How did a person as asocial as me end up with a bunch of friends this mature, and this good.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jab Koi Baat Bigad Jaaye

It's usual to be dismissive of the 80s (and early 90s), especially when it comes to Hindi films. And I revel in it too often. It's the best way to bring up laughs in a group.

But there are some scenes, some songs from those god-forsaken times that almost make you miss the times. Well, maybe not miss them, but to think fondly of a time that was simpler, films had one set revenge-drama storyline, heroines had fluffy hairstyles, heroes wore shiny tight pants and dances were similar to your weekly PT exercise in the school.

I accidentally ran into one such familiar song a short while back. It does not have any of the 80s bling, just some bad lip-sync and some garish lip-stick. It is a beautiful song from the 1990 film Jurm. I have listened to it so often, but it seems fresh every time.

It evokes the same feelings as Tumse Milke from Parinda.

Am not in love. And so much am.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Comfort Food

I now appreciate why it makes sense to marry within one's own community. I don't have anything against inter-state, inter-caste or inter-religion marriages - in fact most of my closest friends and relatives have married outside their immediate community - and I have always tried to support them whenever there was opposition from family.

But, there are some things one holds dear that someone from outside the community can't appreciate. Or grow into.

I realized that today when I had this unbelievable urge to have Aloo Ka Bhujia. Dal-Bhaat-Aloo Ka Bhujia is the food I come to when I am not feeling all that great. It's my greatest comfort food. Reminds me of the happiest times at home, makes me believe that everything is fine with the world.

I have found a lot of recipes on the net that could make up for the amazing food from home. Rajma. Omelettes. Nenua-chana (nenua is a terribly under-rated vegetable; I can't recall right now what it's called in other parts of the country). Karela Bharwa. Chicken Masala (actually no, I still miss the heavily spiced chicken my dad used to cook at home on Sundays).

But, despite its very simple recipe I have not found anyone who can cook Aloo Ka Bhujia as good as my mother. Maybe there is an ingredient called love.

So, I was not well today and I felt like puking everytime I thought of food and called my mother for that recipe for the world's best Aloo Ka Bhujia, as I couldn't think of anything else that would make me feel like eating. Surprisingly it is very simple. I tried my hand at it tonight. It is nowhere close to the bhujia I remember from home, but a lot better than the oily mess my maid creates.

Can't imagine a non-Bihari managing this. If I were to marry, I would marry a Bihari. For no one from any other community can infuse life into potatoes like this.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Singapore Trip

This is my third visit to Singapore, and I am absolutely shocked by the changes from my last visit in 2008.

But, some things don't change thankfully. Had a sumptuous early dinner at Jaggi's in Little India (which according to me is the best Punjabi food joint, even if you include eateries in India) and then rushed to the Night Safari.

They seem to have changed the route a bit and added some more animals since my last visit in 2007, but it still is a fascinating experience.

Looking forward to spending time on Shenton Way tomorrow, where my ex-office is and also having lunch at Lau Pa Sat. When I went to the hotel in Little India where I had stayed during my internship the Filipino manager(ess) recognized me soon enough. I wonder if the Bong family owned stall I used to get my dinner from at Lau Pa Sat will recognize me too. Unlikely, but it feels nice to be at the only place outside India that feels like home.

Peter, my ex-boss, is back in Sydney, but would have been nice to run into him here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rahul Gandhi

I am happy that Rahul Gandhi has been arrested. I would be happier if Mayawati has the guts to make him spend one night in a roach-infested cell where he goes to the loo in full view of his fellow convicts. Where hopefully he is even sodomized or beaten.

From what I have seen of him till now, he is a moron, an absolute idiot and someone who thinks, unfairly, that just being born a Gandhi gives him the right to rule us. His comments to the media make me cringe. The day India elects him as our PM (which, unfortunately, seems very likely) would be as bad and as shameful as Asif Ali Zardari being chosen as Pakistan's President.

I despise Mayawati. My recent trips to Lucknow have made me pretty much weep when I consider how much greater the city could have been if it hadn't been for the Mulayam Singhs, Kalyan Singhs and Mayawatis, but it certainly will be worse if Congress takes it over.

Rahul Gandhi, I am willing to fund an all expenses paid trip for you to Essel World. Even riding pillion on a bike, if you enjoy those thrills. Just leave India alone.

Your current PM is doing a very good job of riding pillion as far as ruling is concerned. Unfortunately, there is no driver on the bike PM Singh is riding pillion cross-legged on.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Am watching a film that seems to be the most cruel I have seen in recent times.

And this when I saw a film called Slow Torture Puke Chamber recently, which is apparently a classic in this genre called Vomit Porn. So for the length of the film there is one woman who keeps puking, eating it and rolling in it. And another woman who for some reason thinks that urinating on camera is arousing. But the climax takes the cake (and I might not eat a cake after that for some time) when this fat man slits open the belly of a pregnant woman, takes out the half-formed kid, cuts off its body parts, grates in a mixer, drinks the bloodied syrup, pukes into the container, mixes it again, drinks, pukes and so on.

No, I didn't enjoy it. But I saw it. And could see it till the final scene.

I am watching Never Let Me Go right now. Had read the book by Kazuo Ishiguro in what seems like another life. Hadn't seen the film till now because partly I could not find a good print online and partly because I didn't think a movie could add to the brilliant book.

Well, I was wrong.

I have only seen about 25 minutes of the film. And, even though I have been prone to misjudging a film/book early on, this seems like the real thing.

When the teacher tells these children that they are being reared only for their vital organs to be harvested, it makes for a killing scene. What kind of a fate is that. It scared me. All those cute Brit kids not knowing till now what life had in store for them.

But a little later, it also made me think if I wouldn't prefer having a fate like that.

If donating blood is so orgasmic, imagine how much more satisfying donating your organs would be. And to not have to live beyond your forties must be the best.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Life Support

A friend of mine from engineering went into coma today after a head injury in an accident. Made me think again of something I last thought while watching Guzaarish.

Have mentioned this to some of my friends, but they consider this just another emotional ramble of mine (which I am quite notorious for) after having a few pegs.

But, very seriously (and I am not drunk as I need to be up early tomorrow for a flight), I need to put this in writing somewhere. And this feels like a good enough place, since some of my friends read this. I hope so.

If ever I am in a coma for more than a few days (few being less than 7) or, worse still, have turned into a vegetable that can see, but not do much else - like Ethan in Guazaarish or the horrifying condition of Jean-Dominique Bauby in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - you will do me a huge favor by letting me die. Please pull the plug. I will be very happy and grateful.

Also, I don't know how laws work in this, but please give all my money and assets to my mother. Except for my books (my only possession I really care about), which I would like to be shared between a couple of my friends. I have bothered them when alive the most, and consider this as some compensation. Unless they don't want it. In which case, please give them to my school in Jharkhand, where I did most of my schooling from. If even they don't want it (shucks), donate it to my parents' favorite charity. If they don't want it either, just burn them.

Not my parents. The books.

Ok. Done.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I love George Carlin

You know, if you have been remotely regular at quizzes over the last 2-3 years, you would have encountered the odd George Carlin question. He passed away in June 2008, and it has made many people like me, who hadn't really heard of him earlier, discover him afresh, through his regained popularity at quizzes.

I had seen short clips of his performances on YouTube, but I am watching his full length stage performance for the first time.

He is not funny. I generally don't find stand-up comics of the American kind funny. For instance, I can't understand why Seinfeld was so successful. The only one I enjoy watching is the Canadian Russell Peters. So, I was getting bored in the initial few minutes.

But gradually and surely, I was won over by his opinions. A man who makes fun of religion, young kids, parenting, dead people, parents, all within half an hour of his more than an hour long performance is a good person.

Right now, he is talking about how he has very low tolerance for most people beyond a few minutes because of their stupid bullshit. Nothing resonates more with me.

I hate it when people complain that I don't pay attention to them or don't laugh at their jokes. I have a great sense of humor. The problem, darling, is that your jokes are not funny enough. You are just loud. And tacky. Not funny.

(I just felt like Karan Johar using the darling word there)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I just had a very very surreal moment while watching a film.

I settled down a short while back on my couch to watch a film after watching the news, during which I had a couple of cans of beer and a packet of potato chips (The Lay's India's Magic Masala is really quite good).

I began watching Another Year, the phenomenal film by Mike Leigh, from where I left it last time and the scene I started watching from has an old lonely man having a couple of beers and gulping down some chips on a train.

Shite. But surreal.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Of beautiful magazines and ugly people

I should probably create a label called 'magazines' now.

Continuing my love for Lounge a bit further, I loved this week's edition of the magazine. Firstly, it had some nice articles about gaming, of both the online and the board type, by Krish Raghav, whom I ran into at IIT Kanpur recently. The meeting inspired me to read up on European board games like The Settlers of Catan, and a whole new fantastic world opened up for me. It's been a Narnia moment for me, the one where you open a door and discover a whole new unexplored world that you didn't even know existed.

I also liked the article by Aakar Patel. He must be the man whose articles generate the most hate mails for Lounge. He seems to enjoy doing something that I can't describe in English - 'ungli karna', and there can't be a better phrase for it (I think). He loves bursting the bubbles that we Indians of the present time seem to live in and it's always great to find someone who shares my lack of faith in the 'India story'.

There's a lot going great for our country. But Indians are also the most uncultured, crass group of people I can think of. And Patel captures it phenomenally well. Great credit to Lounge for keeping him a part of its even otherwise great portfolio of columnists, including the Mint editor who writes about graphic novels.

The article by Patel this week was about how we Indians are not city builders. In fact, we bring our cities criminally down, including the great ones like Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. The name changes are not the worst of it.

This lack of civic sense continues into our daily lives too. I was reading the article after my trip to the local mall. People waiting right in front of the elevator door, breaking queues, not letting the people inside to get out, as if it were a vertical motion version of our Mumbai's local trains. A woman just walking away casually after her child took out several DVDs from the shelf and threw them on the ground at the Crossword store without bothering to place them back or even apologizing to the staff. Just two instances of how uncouth we are.

And the daily assault on my senses as people spit casually and honk madly on the roads is agonizing. I am increasingly beginning to hate being an Indian, or at least appreciate the merits of living within perpetually air-conditioned environs, where one does not have to encounter the real India.

This is a feeling similar to what I have had in relation to Bihar for a long time. I love the state, and feel very comfortable when I am in Bihar (even though I haven't been there since 2004), and it is an integral part of me. But, I can't identify with a lot of the typical cultural elements of the state. I can see what is wrong with the state, even though most of my fellow Biharis can't seem to, and they even revel in perpetuating these problems.

The same is happening with India on a larger scale now. We might be one of the fastest developing economies, but our mindsets are not developing at even a quarter of that rate. We might be the largest democracy, but we are unimaginably inconsiderate of other people's opinions. We might be the land that gave birth to non-violent protest, but we are easily one of the most violent people, looking forward to getting offended for the smallest of things.


As might be clear by now, I am a sucker for great magazines. Am reading this other fantastic entrant into my pantheon. Forbes India has recently come out with their quarterly called Forbes Life India. It must be the most beautiful thing I have held in my hands in the last few months (without any sexual connotations). And the articles match up to the layout. I had been seeing it at bookstores for some time, but the (sterile) cover did not appeal to me at all (even though it has a naked person's picture). Then while waiting for the movie today (I saw Tanu weds Manu, which is really really good), I decided to spend some time at the Crossword store at the mall, flipped a few pages and fell in love. Really looking forward to seeing how the Network 18 guys follow up this class act.

Monday, February 21, 2011

More meat in Brunch now

No one does weeklies quite like the good fellows at HT Media. I have been a big fan of HT's weekend supplement Brunch and Mint's weekend supplement Lounge for a long time.

In fact, I had begun subscribing to HT on moving to Mumbai only because of Brunch, but then discontinued it because it felt wasteful as I wasn't reading the main paper at all.
The column in Brunch I used to look forward to reading the most was Rude Food or its derivative columns by Vir Sanghvi. I get to read that now anyway through the link to the online version he shares every Sunday on his twitter account.

I still do read Mint, which in itself is a brilliant newspaper, and so Lounge finds itself placed on my doormat every Saturday morning, all smiling for me when I open the front-door almost the first thing after waking up.

I was in Kanpur this weekend to conduct a sci-fi quiz at IIT as part of their tech-fest TechKriti, and had resigned myself to the fact that someone would have removed my newspaper by the time I got back Sunday afternoon. And was immensely relieved on reaching my flat and finding that it was still there. There are few things more relaxing than retiring on your couch on a leisurely Sunday afternoon, after a few very hectic days, after a hot shower, with, yes, you guessed it, a mug of chilled Kingfisher beside you.

There was a short trip to Hypercity to do the grocery shopping between that return from Kanpur and retiring on the couch bits. One of the reasons I look forward to going to Hypercity every weekend is the shelves of magazines that greet you on entry into the store. I normally buy the latest edition of Tehelka, which I need to write about some time soon, and a couple of other magazines if anything else looks interesting. It usually doesn't.

But this time around a familiar name stood out from all the other India Todays and Newsweeks and Peoples on the shelves. I was surprised to see a thick edition of Brunch being sold there. Turns out the Brunch team has decided to come out with a glossier and meatier version of Brunch as a quarterly.

The inaugural edition has Karan Johar and Katrina Kaif on the cover, in case you plan to go out looking for it.

I haven't got beyond the first few pages, but the remaining content does look promising. I was slightly disappointed with the printing in the part that I have gone through - there are several words where the letters have been printed one on the other. But, hopefully just teething issues.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ki Ab Kar ja re Bandhu...

A friend's GTalk status inspired me to (talk to him and) go back to the Udaan soundtrack.

Under the effect of some fine wine had earlier in the evening and the rising effect of some Kingfisher Strong had just now, I can't help but wonder if we will have music like this again.

2010's gone, and no film or its music has been more worth experiencing than Udaan.

I would ideally like to end with a nice line from the soundtrack. But one feels so blessed when one can't decide which line to pick.

Mr Motwane and Mr Trivedi, you have a hard act to follow.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Behekta hoon...

I have stated on this blog before that Sanjay Leela Bhansali should not be allowed to make movies. Largely because he wastes so much. And overdoes things.

I have a confession to make. I saw Guzaarish recently on Tata Sky. I hadn't seen the movie when it was playing at the nearest PVR because I didn't feel like watching another Bhansali creation after Saawariya. But I was bored that Saturday afternoon and gave in to the only watchable thing on TV.

And I, well, loved it. Despite Aishwarya Rai (I cringe every time I see or her hubby on screen now).

I had been expecting another over the top tear-jerker from the king of excess, but the film is actually fairly restrained. At least as restrained as a partly overacting Hrithik Roshan can be.

I did like the songs - the lyrics are almost Gulzar-like - and the fact that the movie does not last too long. I liked Shernaz Patel. I loved the tone of the film, whatever that means.

So, and I never thought I'd say this, I wouldn't hate it if Mr Roshan gets some of the Best Actor awards this season. And I would be looking forward to what Mr Bhansali churns out next for us.

Ki tera zikr hai, ya itr hai...

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