Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Ring of Batman

You may be wondering right now - 'What the hell is Batman doing with a giant key ?' I hope by the end of this I would have put things in perspective and reinforced an important learning of life.

First, some basic assumptions:
- It is normal to seek attention and appreciation.
- Given a choice, a human being would choose something cool like Batman for a keychain over a 'Jai Mata Di' or 'Mamta Enterprises'

In case you disagree with the above two, you can still read ahead. But I warn you - it may offend your value system.

A fortnight ago, I too was living a drab life like you. Luckily, that day I was gifted a Batman action figure inside a nutritious box of Milo Choco Cereals filled with the goodness of wheat(Note: this is not a product placement). The toy could have either adorned a side table in my room, or traveled the world with two cool keys wrapped around its waist. Considering the plastic figurine's feelings, I chose the latter.

As long as it rode in my bag, we had a good time. When I whipped it out on odd days to open the door my flatmates would drool, drowned in envy and admiration.

Little did I know that this Batman packed a punch in its puny fists.

First, there is the issue about its design. The legs and arms have poked an odd number of holes in my pockets. Some loose change does slip out sporadically, but that is pardonable. Its the overall shape which bothers me. We take all the pains to wear the right kind of clothing. As a principle no man wants to publicly have gravid front pockets (For that matter even fat back pockets are avoidable). It would be quite naive' to stick an object in there to ruin the effect. But I try to put up with that fashion statement.

My friend PD has chosen the other extreme and made a web of keychains the size of a tennis ball. It weighs a ton and apparently he hasn't lost any keys since then. I would have to consume a whole lot of cereal to achieve this and hence its not feasible right now.

So it is neither heavy enough to remind me of its absence, nor does the Dark Knight jiggle or clang as a habit - which explains the other issue.

There is an immense possibility while carrying it in my hand that I misplace
it. As it rained heavily this night, I walked in the shade till the tip of our apartment complex. Then I had to dash for the last odd metres to reach the lobby. I wasn't half as wet the first time. When I realized I had left the keys in the shop downstairs prior to my sprint, I cursed Batman, Robin and all his little Justice League friends. The second dash was not that spirited. Batman had let me down. I was drenched in guilt, annoyance and of course water.

I trudged up to the flat and explained the rain incident to my flatmates. They impolitely laughed and mocked Batman. The sound pierced my heart and hurt my little buddy (Bonus points to you if a dirty euphemism popped in your head right now!). I was reminded by them about the foolishness of carrying a giant keychain and was urged to dismantle the whole thing.

As of now, the issue lies unresolved.

I may continue to parade with the same unwieldy contraption, trading daily comfort for that rare blip of surprise in the eyes of the world. Or I can toss it in with the other paraphernalia on my desk, leading to lonely years and an unnoticed demise. It is too painful a decision to make and hence I shall not burden you with my final choice. But I hope from this whole episode, you too have learnt an important lesson of life - 'Size Does Matter'.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

See no evil, Do no evil

I fear words won't do justice to this vivid colourful story. But nevertheless, I hope you enjoy this tale vicariously, just like I did hearing it an hour after it happened.

A few days back there was a fresh face in our condominium gymnasium - a 5 year old kid who was accompanied by his mother; She took a place to the left of Mallika on the cycle, while the kid wandered to Mallika's right near the second treadmill. Somebody had left it powered and he soon mounted it and began pushing buttons randomly. As it always happens, he quickly figured out the ones for speed and began jabbing at it repeatedly.

Seeing his feet precariously tottering on the speeding belt, Mallika felt concerned, reached over and cut off the speed. Being a smart alec, he again began speeding up the treadmill. So Mallika got off her own treadmill and switched off the power to it. The belt stopped and the intelligent kid realized that the red glowy buttons were not glowing anymore.

So he started crying bawling. He went on relentlessly, inviting attention from everyone in the gym. An embarrassed Mallika stared at the mother, hoping for some 'positive-action'. She got back a brief nod conveying 'Its ok. Let him be.'

So Mallika shrugged and powered it back on (her mind grunted 'whatever', unheard by the rest). But he wouldn't stop crying. And he wouldn't stop using the treadmill. So the gymnasium had a 5 year old wailing jogging kid. The mom ignored it for a while, finished her cycling stint and went over to him. She consoled him as he sploshed the gym floor with big fat tears.

She told him "Its ok. You go to the lady and she'll say sorry."

Mallika tried to gape in astonishment (She only tried because you can't gape too well when you are jogging). The other gym users however enjoyed the whole drama pretty well. Its seldom when one gets to stare at something less boring than oneself and dumbbells. The kid didn't move towards Mallika and she chose not to apologize to the kid for preventing him from cracking his skull.

So for a while the kid kept crying and the mother kept pacifying him. He managed to throw some awesome guilt inducing looks while shedding those tears.(Thanks to the counter on the treadmill, Mallika was able to confirm later that this wailing-lulling drama went on for a full 15 minutes). After she had finished, she walked up to the pair to explain her actions.

Have you ever tried to reason with those mothers who appreciate every little thing their kid does? And I am not referring to the sporting, painting, friendly activities; Remember the punk kid in your school - the kind who warmed up their kada on the table and stung you with it; who buckled your knees from the back, who challenged you to panja(arm-wrestling) and always won...Well mothers are the same everywhere - encouraging these little pests to grow up into villains of our childhood.

Mallika defended herself by assuring she was doing it in the interest of the child. After all, he could have hurt himself on the treadmill. The mother cut in between and said , "No, he comes here often. He knows how to use it. Don't you baby?" The kid gave his god pleasing cute smile. Instantly Mallika lost the argument and the battle. After a while the duo left the gym; And the kid gave a vindicated look to a publicly defeated Mallika.

In the future you may hear about a kid who was surreptitiously shoved off a running treadmill. I hope I am present at the crime scene that day to share the evil moment with Mallika.

Mu ha ha ha...

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Pink Pop

Pink Microphone.
Pink Microphone Stand.
Pink Drums.
Pink Piano.

I think my rugged friend who accompanied me to the Avril Lavigne concert (called the Best Damn Tour!) would be quite embarrassed to reveal his identity. So Akshay, I'll keep your blog and orkut links a secret!

Since this was not a conventional 'rock' performance, we both had expected a slightly different audience for the show. We found our seats in an organized row of chairs, numbered and tagged. Hmmm...The audience milled around us for a long while before the show started. Average age of fans - 10-14 years. Profile: Little girls in pink outfits, squealing and moving in hoards unapologetically excited about everything around them. They say music knows no boundaries. But I am sure its an exception when you are a decade older and over two feet taller than your neighour. Its not the same you know.

Pink Top.
Pink Streaked Hair.
Pink Glitter.

When did Avril turn into this powerpuff caricature ? An overdosage of what young americans succinctly describe as Cooties. The overwhelming pink rekindled a fundamental doubt - Is the blatant association of pink with chirpy girls (or females in general) genetic or a conditioned fact like the Red Santa Claus?

Pink Spotlights.
Pink Backdrop.

If I haven't established it yet, we were misfits in the stadium. The music was good. For a few like Sk8er Boi and Complicated, we even sang along subtly. But we ruled out other public displays of zestfulness. Because headbanging is a lot like fooling with your girlfriend. Its comfortable doing it in privacy. You feel awkward if others are watching and judging you. And some swigs of alcohol can drive away all those apprehensions, crashing your social discomfort. But there was no daaru and consequently no headbanging. I am sure the little girls wouldn't have judged us negatively had we squealed and grooved with them. But we chose not to do so.
The Music

I liked the earlier albums of Avril Lavigne and frankly the new image wasn't palatable for me. But I guess the American music industry has perfected the art of slicing the audience into groups and moulding artists to suit them. Especially within the female pop artists category, if you peel off that layer of raunchy videos - its clear they are meant to span a spectrum and hopefully stay within their own zones.

Squeaky Clean, not sexy -- Hillary Duff

Slight Rebellion, not sexy -- Avril Lavigne (now changed to occupy squeaky clean spot)

Sexy and Latin Roots -- Jennifer Lopez

Sexy, not rebellious, relationship stuff - Britney Spears (started from a slightly sexy, teen idol image)

Extreme Rebellion, anti relationship stuff - Pink

I feel Christina Aguilera is way better than these singers. But the industry didn't have space beyond Britney Spears for a blonde. So she tried to combine sexy and white blonde with black artists and fell through the crack. Quite a similar fate for Jessica Simpson.

For proof of this insight, here's a recent hit song from Pussycat Dolls called "When I Grow Up".
When I grow up
I wanna be famous
I wanna be a star
I wanna be in movies

When I grow up
I wanna see the world
Drive nice cars
I wanna have boobies

Yes, I am not kidding! You can expect aspiring pre-teens and teenagers copying the booty dance sequences and dreaming about a similar lifestyle.

It took me a while to decide whether to bury this pink incident or be proud of it. I finally documented it here. I also hung a bright Avril flag in my room with a pink skull on it. The next step was the purchase of a pink formal shirt yesterday. You know where its all headed now...

p.s: The orgainzers had provided a 6 inch long tube to each attendee which when triggered would glow in the dark - meant to induce us to wave it rhythmically and feel involved in the slow songs. After observing it for a while Akshay asked, "Chalaana hai kya?" I considered that option and said, "Nahi. Lets take it home. Kaam aaega." So we saved phosphorescent sticks which would glow mildy for possible future usage. It feels good to behave like a Desi in foreign land!

Some Pictures picked from here

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

It's so much butter

What is it ?
It is Body Butter. A refreshing intensive creamy all-over body moisturizer.

Moisturizer for your esophagus?

No. Its for your skin. You apply butter on yourself like any other cream.

As men reading this get confused and look for answers, I assure you this is no concocted BS. Body Butter is selling like hot cakes (I thought a food pun is appropriate here). Having accompanied two different friends to BodyShop outlets in India and Singapore, I inferred it is quite popular across different world markets.

Is it made of butter?
I am not sure. But the ingredients have an exciting range - from Almond, Brazil Nut, Cocoa, Coconut to Mango, Papaya, Passion Fruit and Strawberry.

And its not just me who feels hungry within a minute of sniffing these creams. I quote one of these two friends - "I really feel like scooping it out and eating it".

Why would anyone want Butter on their skin?
Its a really sticky concept. The hormones for arousal and hunger have been beautifully confused and entwined to create an appetising whipped cream. It looks like butter. It feels like better. And it smells awesome.

Can we eat it?
I hope so. Possibly as a condiment rather than a main dish.

What is it?
It is Body Butter. A refreshing intensive creamy all-over body moisturiser.

In order to retain my friendship with those two friends, I didn't express these thoughts quite openly. But the question still bugs me - Girls want their skin to appear sexy. So they choose to apply butter smelling of appetising aromas of fruits and nuts. Why ? Perhaps a subtle shining invitation to dinner?

Face it. Women are quite hard to understand. I guess we shouldn't expect anything less from their cosmetics.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Small Talk

(Warning: A post full of rants and lacking depth)

It starts with the name.

"And you are?"
"Arvind Iyer."

The seasoned small talkers move on. I sincerely thank all of them. The rest follow an irksome route.

"Iyer? Oh! Just like Mr. and Mrs Iyer!"

You'd think the reference to the movie title was subtle enough. But some of them tend to drag the conversation to it. Soon after mentioning the title, they attempt a tough balancing act - a part of their face gazes upwards, showing compassion for the story's sensitive theme. Concurrently they also nod and maintain eye contact. Its a tough act. Believe me, I've seen it a lot of times. I have to mimic the same level of compassion. If I frown at them, they think I didn't get the joke and start pursuing a deeper discussion about the movie. And that's really avoidable.

Because its hard to opine about the movie at this moment. As the second comment in the conversation, its the shortest transition from name introduction to movie discussions ever. Unless some twit is christened 'James Bond' by his parents, I am sure this record is safe with the Iyers.

Like I said, only a few follow up their witty comment with movie talk. The bold majority decide to probe my life to derive humour.

"So where is Mrs. Iyer?"

Would they carry out such sensitive conversations with a nice looking lady? I don't think so. An amiable Iyer Boy unfortunately receives all the potshots and dollops of untimely inquisitions.

The ugly question still floats between us.

"So where is Mrs. Iyer?"

They receive a frozen smile as a response. It doesn't satisfy them. They are seated on a fake higher wit pedestal - the kind you plonk yourself on when you think you've made a creative comment. They expect a worthy comeback.

I reply straightforwardly, "I am single."

If there is a tone of disappointment,I am thrilled because it indicates that the discussion can move on. But if they begin to smile (with that gleam in their eyes), its trouble. Because all the wit of the average citizen, all the canned brain power can only lead to this ugly retort.

"So you are now Single....and ready to Mingle. Ha ha."

The conversation experts add that prickly phrase to the end of their inference with a matching wide grin. They ooze pride as if they coined the phrase. Wow, it rhymes too!

Recently, a new pothole of small talk has emerged. When I manage to extricate myself from the above ones, they occasionally put forward this question.

"So where are you working?"
'I am working at P&G with the brand Head and Shoulders."

"Oh, then you can get me some free samples!! Ha ha".

I wish to say: "You want to source free shampoo? Wow, that's really classy." or "Even our best shampoo won't do you any good. Give up."

But every consumer counts! And having endured their atrocity of comebacks till now, I let it go.

"I'll try.", I reply.

The conversation soon ends. And they leave in a better mood, feeling a lot smarter. After all, they were the witty ones. The gurus of small talk.