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.

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