Thursday, April 28, 2005

Black Wednesday

27th April was not a good day for me - or for the 9 people who where involved in this gory tale of stupidity, chaos and luck. Presenting Black Wednesday :

It all started on the night of 26th April, when I decided at 11pm that it was quite necessary for me to wash my face. As I left the room with my St.Ives Apricot Scrub [direct maal from Sydney], I noticed a brand new Titan watch on my left wrist. My brain's right hemisphere crunched the figures and facts and zipped a wave of data to the left hemisphere - "Hey ! This isn't yours !" A millisecond later, the analysis and corresponding conclusion was drawn - Remove the watch and then wash your face.

My mighty muscles tugged at the local strap hurriedly realizing that their friend, the brain, had to study for an exam. It broke. I spent a few minutes feigning interest in repairing it. When that was over, I picked up the buckle and the rest of the watch and proceeded towards Vamsi's room [B-308 AZAD Hall] to return the watch to his friend [a clear abuse of the friend-by-association-relationship].

Of course this has little to do with the crux of the story. Around three hours after the faux pas, I decided to go back to my room. As I passed my hand over my right cheek searching for a bump that would represent the keys in my pocket, my right hemisphere crunched facts and zipped a wave of data to the left hemisphere - "Hey ! There's no bump !". This process was repeated for all possible pockets in my pant, shirt and the bag. Lots of milliseconds later, the analysis and corresponding conclusion was drawn - You have lost your key you nut. I startled quite a few and woke up one Gult as I searched all rooms I entered and exited. The unthinkable had happened - I had managed to lose my keys.

I walked back to the hall with consoling batchmates [2 to be exact]. It just wasn't possible....Jumping to end of part II - I found my room open. I had somehow not locked it at all. How this happened is a mystery that I'll never be able to solve. Maybe two minds can do it, but apparently no other living person is too interested in getting to the bottom of this.

All this excitement generated hunger and I was really in need of chai and a little...food. We three walked towards the gate. I checked the array of PH cycles a few times over. My brain's right hemisphere crunched the figures and facts and zipped a wave of data to the left hemisphere - "Hey ! Your cycle isn't here !" A millisecond later, the analysis and corresponding conclusion was drawn - YOUR CYCLE HAS BEEN STOLEN !

By now, I had little faith in my brain power. I skipped the adda session and went to sleep. In the morning, I thoroughly interrogated Patiala - 'Where did you park it? Sure? No, but where did you park it?' He was defensive, I was offensive. Soon, I was confused. I was not aware of the stolen-cycle protocol. Through the day I received advice from veterans (of stolen-cycle-protocol) and well-wishers. I spent the evening imagining life without independent transportation. Could I bear a life of unending ....end of part III - I had parked it in AZ hall a day ago. This occured to me today (28th) as I cycled back from the dept (borrowed of course). The worst part was that I had to drag two cycles single-handedly from AZ to PH. The best part was that at 6 in the morning not many saw me do the dual-cycle-calisthenics.

Happy Ending -
Apologised to Patiala - pretty smile always works.
Watch repaired - cost 2 bucks - one from me, one from Vamsi.
Exams ending on Friday.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Duplicate

It is quite a hard thing to accept, but there are quite amm...I can't find the right word - let us settle with duplicate, replica or a fancy facsimile. Yes, there quite a few *** in the world than you imagine. And let this misconception not riddle you for a second that you are the best or cream of the lot.

'Hate' would be too strong a word. I would say I have a strong dislike for people who share my name. Birthday buddies were hard enough to bear in school ( yes Vishal, I did not enjoy it :) Thankfully the rare "Iyer" tag in the northern half of the country ensured a certain identity, at least with the surname.

I terribly pity the Abhinavs, Nehas, Sameers, Varuns and Siddharths of my generation. What were your parents thinking ?
"Hi. I am Varun Sharma."
"Me too"
"Me too"
"hehe....I am Varun SINGH."

I recall this 100% true incident that happened in Mhow (yes, with the car and all - more on that later...). Our neighbourhood had its share of duplicates, both at Aunty-Uncle and Bachha-Party level. My father picked up the phone one day and heard the caller say, "Good Morning Uncle, I am Preeti Gupta speaking." He replied with the friendly uncle enquiry - "So Preeti, how are your painting classes ?"...a small pause. Preeti said, "Uncle, I don't have any painting classes". A quick reply - "Oh ! Well then you should have...ho ho ho !"

*ho ho ho - Army Officer laughter.

Makes you wonder what the trend was in those days. Did the panditji pick a chit from a dwindling pot of options ? Did the movie stars provide some inspiration (albeit none of these banal characters have materialized on screen). Of course, the situation is far better than that of Henry the XVths, whose birth concurred with that of an identity crisis. And who can ignore the big chunk of southee's, whose 16-syllable names are invariably truncated, abbreviated and of course lampooned.

Well, what do I plan to do with the unique identity ? Sadly, quite a few doors have already been closed. A quick google search startled me and life has changed forever. A quick synopsis of my anguish:

Arvind Iyer 1: The first abuse is dedicated to the moron who took up the title page on blogspot. Where's the philanthropy in this world when you need it? He's not only selfish enough to still keep the blog to himself, he has also plonked himself in the world of advertising. He also manages a rock band !! Advertising AND rock-jazz-western-music - two of my top alternate career wishes. Now what am I supposed to do ?

Arvind Iyer 2: Turns out HTML too can be a turn on in the world of celebs. I hate this character as well. The profession itself has a metrosexual (read GAY) feel to it. Our man makes websites for top celebrities. He boasts "Each of these sites will reflect the soul of the individual or organisation." Now that doesn't make sense to me. One whole year I struggled and tried to enjoy HTML. I even made my own website, resplendent with pictures and a prolix About Me page. I know how to change the colour too, though I always don't get the shade I want. But that is fine, since quite a few of the surfers are colour blind. But has it got me anywhere ? No. Am I a better person post-geek-efforts ? No. Has any celebrity (or ANYONE) requested me to put up a website ? No. And now this dude has closed that option for me as well. We can't have two Iyers in Bollywood (unlike the Khans).

Arvind iyer 3: I thought a long-enduring association with TDS (technology dance society) would lead to something fruitful. Although my back does occasionally surprise me with its flexibility, I know the poor thing has its limitations. Still, a career in the creative and artistic world of dancing did appeal to me at times. Hey! If Shamik Dawar can dress people half-naked and earn money for their prance, why can't I ? But it turns out, another Iyer fellow beat me to it. Just when I was ready to get jiggy with it !

As of now, the other domains are unconquered. With over a thousand companies waiting to hire me (hehe...IIT), the chances that I meet my bizzaro-counterpart are bleak. But just imagine - with the rate at which kids are being churned out, at this very moment, 3 sets of parents would be staring into a lovely set of beady eyes and announcing, "baby ! your name is ..."

*Arvind Iyer 3 is fictitious. I spoke before I thought and typed before I clicked. Turns out, it is the same guy (AI 2) who has designed something for some famous dancer. Still, the anguish remains..what if...

Friday, April 15, 2005

DIB 342 - The School Jaunts

DIB 342 (our fiat car)used to guzzle an awful amount of petrol. As my dad quoted on some sunny day - 'isko soongne ke liye 15 litre chahiye' (it requires 15 litres to even smell the fuel). Legend says that the car used to hit speeds upto 100 km/h - sadly, it was not so in the 90's. Believe it or not, the car accelerated faster in reverse than in ANY front gear. Fed up with it all, my father decided somewhere along the timeline to install an alternative fuel source. Alas ! Those weren't the days of 'natural gas'. The only aspect natural about the car was its unsteady disposition. We acquiesced on the next-best-thing - LPG.

Quite simply explained, the fuel supply now was directly in control of the driver - a knob near his seat would change its pressure. To simply start the car, one would have to juggle hands between the ignition, steering wheel and the knob in those few seconds. The unsuccessful attempts would release a whiff of LPG. And as you all know, LPG isn't one of the pleasing fragrances of the world - one of those molecules my olfactory senses would gladly avoid.

My sister was (is and probably will be) smarter and more aptly, more circumspect than me. For 2 years, she played her teen-peer-pressure card tactfully and avoided all trips to school by the fiat (oh yes, if an ugly car wasn't enough, I was also one of the teacher-kids. Life hasn't been easy). So mummy quite often would take me along - the window seat providing no relief whatsoever.

The car would infallibly create trouble in the morning. The consummate weather and dewy atmosphere induced too much lethargy. The trio of dad, our helper bhaiya and I would push and push the vehicle in short bursts while it sputtered. As mom struggled with the knobs, the car would suddenly give in and start purring. The journey to the school would usually be uneventful. While the car would cease to cramp my style through the day, my mom would have to handle quite a few solecisms. Some would politely wrinkle their nose, while the bolder colleagues would comment - "Ye smell kahaan se aa raha hai?" or "Mrs.Visalakshi aapka car se thoda thoda badbu aa raha hai." The 'skeleton in the closet' would silently release the gas at a steady rate. Very few knew about the cylinder, and some refused to acknowledge it.

On one such day, after the standard morning procedure and an uneventful day, we were ready to head back home. One of her colleagues Mrs. Negi asked for a ride back home. Although we (mom and I) were quite sure about the vehicle's unreliability, we tacitly decided not to turn down her request. As we three mounted the car, mummy tried. I didn't really count, but the car didn't budge after a lot of attempts. Soon, a faint cloud of LPG engulfed it. Mrs.Negi fiddled impatiently, mummy drowned in anxiety and I hid my embarrassment to my best efforts.

Soon, we(mom and I) knew it was time for the push. The mundus of the school assembled at short notice -the maali, the peon in the white uniform and others. While Mrs.Negi went to phone her husband, the car, mummy, mundus and I made a few pleasant trips on the school roads. I pushed a few times and then resorted to shooting realtime instructions to mom - brake! start! right! left! Thankfully, all this happened in after-school hours and none of batchmates witnessed the promenade.

Around one and a half hours later, Mr.Negi arrived on his bike. The couple waited politely while we pooled in our efforts to start the car. After a while, it did. Mummy drove it back at a terrible pace, terrified it would break down any moment. They escorted us all the way - I mean all the way.

Needless to say, we didn't share any more rides with Mrs.Negi. She had that option. I didn't.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Bad Luck People

My Fan conked off...again...about a week back. Of course, this time I knew the tricks of the trade - deep breathing, keeping the doors and windows open, greeting and entertaining all who entered and enquired and mocked the situation.

It took just 3 trips of complaint registration.

The repair-men fortunately came at a time when I was in the room. Orrr...I stayed back in the room long enough so that they would be able to do their job. There was the stunning chinky guy with a stunning red tee; and the morose bengali man with the dingy bengali kurta. When the chinky dropped a washer, it hopped on the floor like a juvenile, rolling down to an unreachable part under the bed (Of course in a 3m X 4m space, you can't have many exasperating cases of Murphy's Law). As a contrast (I am sure you are enjoying the similie), the scotch tape that the senior passed looked so sad, stretched and plastered over a knife, all sticky. And we all know how that feels...

Ever wondered how dreadful a workshift they have to put up with ? In every room they enter, the fan / light has crumbled. It is like they are living in a parallel universe, where the gamut of electrical gadgets refuse to function. What a life !

A quasi profession would be that of the house-bai. At home, I make a face every time she enters the room for 'jhaadu', because it means a temporary lacuna in fan-ning. For her it is a permanent state - every room is a static space. She glances bashfully at the television and sweeps at a slower pace, while I lie prostrate, flipping at 2 ch/sec. We follow these little etiquettes - like not opening Kurkures and hogging food when the Bai is around. I wonder if it makes any difference to her.

My fan is working now (again), and even the tiny bit of pity/concern/sympathy (fake or real) has now abated. Guilt for lack of altruism is unbearable...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

DIB 342 - an introduction

I am sure you will agree with me on this. A family is made of not only the humanoid members, but also objects, places, events that create that a web of memories, experiences and inside jokes. All feelings of nostalgia, pain, homesickness, sickness emerge from these.

Not too long ago, we owned a car called the Fiat (premier padmini). You cannot offhand realize my jubilance when I use the word "owned". We got rid of it prior to shifting to Delhi. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. This is one of those many incidents which I plan to document. There is a plethora of memories associated with the car. The chronological order might be a bit skewed, but I assure you that will in no way affect the authenticity. An insight into our car - DIB 342

There might be a few readers out there who are not aware about this phenomenon called 'Fiat'. Till maruti entered the market in mid 80's, the Indian consumer had to choose between a rotund ambassador and the Fiat. A few esoteric brands like Toyota Corola and Coressta existed, but hey ! We are dealing with bourgeoisie here. Some also call this a 'Colonel's Car', since the sterotyped heavy-mustached army officers generally succumbed to the car's charm.

We (mom, dad, sister and I) arrived in Mhow a month before the car did. [time scale 1994: I had just progressed to class 6th] For 30 days, we managed with a scooter (Vijay Super - another jurassic item, weighing a ton) and a hero kids cycle. It was squeaky arrangement, but I loved it. I would lead the way on the cycle, the euphoria of riding it obliterating any exhaustion. The rest would follow on the scooter illuminating my path.

If I remember correctly, the car was grey in colour when it arrived on the truck. It was grey a day before, and for the 8 years before that too. In case you thought she was a lassie, let me clear things out. It was a 1956 model, bought sapiently by my late grandfather in 1986 (second hand). It lay unused in our Delhi garage for 3 years before it was hauled 600km to the cantonment.

If you are wondering 'where is the funny stuff', I empathize with you. This perfunctory introduction takes an awful amount of space. Lets skip the remaining irrelevant data
Promptly, the car was moved to an enterprising mechanic's garage christened "Munna Motors". The mechanic (I guess called Munna) flipped out a few catalogues suggesting beautification along with the usual overhaul. I remember we (6th and 7th graders) were not involved in the decision making. Finally a pastel shade was chosen and the deal was made.

We (dad and I) went to see the car a week later. For some reason still unknown, Munna had decided to apply his cognition in the aesthetics. (I vividly remember his garage. To compensate for the visual noise created by the grease and the tools, our man had decided to decorate the fence. Varied frames of radial tyres were arranged as a composition. His mechanic buddies might have appreciated the intricacies, but it looked like a graveyard of vehicles. I wonder how many owners were ripped off before us to amass such a collection) He pointed to the refurbished car with implicit pride. It lay out in the open. It was horrifying. The machine merged with the azure sky. Of all the colours of the world, Munna had chosen sky blue. It was a consummate monster. The windows were correspondingly tinted with a sky blue film. Any modification was impossible, having already spent thousands on the renovation. I am not aware of the abuses my father showered on him. I just hope he had spewed them full throttle. Why ? Lets just say if we had had a more classy looking vehicle, I might have turned out to be a completely different personality. We drove back home - dad fuming ; me smiling ; oblivious of the pain the blue monster was going to be over the next 4 years.


Read the other two DIB 342 stories here and here.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Requiem for rediff

A short dedication to rediff.com - it stinks. It made my blogs disappear. All I was left after a fresh post was the fresh blog. A small shift in brands. Jai blogspot, goodbye rediff.
http://almostfamous.rediffblogs.com is officially dead. I delibrately will keep it alive - let it die, bit by bit.

The Apprentice

I always have had a tingling suspicion that the show is tweaked.

a priori - All the 120 hours of recording are done prior to the packaging of each episode. Which means that the judgement is out before they edit it into one hour.

The thrill of the show lies not only in the tasks, but also in the apprehension - Who'll get fired this time ? My whole effort of not participating in 'Apprentice' discussions is so that the suspense in unavowed. Through the 40 minutes of tasks and drama, the viewer constantly points his mental finger at one candidate or the other. The showmakers cleverly plan the flow of events to bend the viewer's noesis to predict exactly what they want him to. At the end, he assumes he had figured it all out, giving him an extra boost and an incentive to watch the next one. Or they resort to shock therapy, and give the exact opposite judgement. The 3 second high ensures that the audience is anxious for the next apprentice.

A few cyncial friends of mine believe that every step of the show is orchestrated, every emotion is choreographed. Is it possible ?

Some scenes are obviously repeated - The way the 'sleepy' candidate picks up the phone every time ; Or the way they huddle when Trump addresses them (Notice the slanting angle they stand in, and their upraised chins of pride). Trump's banal instructions about meeting in the boardroom and the 15 week job interview is irksome, but it feels as if someone is reading out a famous song. You know the lyrics pretty well, and you sing along involuntarily.

I enjoy the way George mumbles in the boardroom (I am sure he's got dentures for both sets). Caroline is gorgeous, and looks a lot like my school computer science teacher (Aren't they all pretty without exceptions ?).

My questions to the Apprentice crew and the world :

.a. What kind of deal is struck with the companies like Nescafe and The Home Depot ? Is it a symbiosis of publicity and branding ? Is there any other benifit they acquire ?
.b. Is the boardroom a set or a real office ? If its the former, what do the lifts lead to ?
.c. Can Robin be given more interesting lines ? ( Over the past 40 episodes, I've heard her say just 3 magical sentences - "Mr.Trump will see you now.""You can go in now.""They are ready for you in the boardroom.")
.d. Doesn't a camera affect the behaviour of the real audience ? When you are selling candy on the street, won't a crew of 3 with lights and camera a intimidate the customer ?

Sadly, I won't be in Kharagpur when the final episodes are released. A lousy 5 month delay in Delhi before I get to know- "Who gets to be the next Apprentice?"