Disgrace

This is another book review by the same name by J.M Coetzee who won the Man Booker Prize in 1999 and won The Nobel Prize for literature in the year 2003. With a negative title such as Disgrace, the author stays true to the spirit by not just justifying but outshining everything in his path. The novel was a breeze while I read it but there was nothing pleasant about it. Negativity never looked so good. A welcome change, pun unintended.
Disgrace, J.M Coetzee, Book review, Dog, South Africa
Disgrace by J.M Coetzee

J.M Coetzee is one of the finest writers from South Africa with the ease of storytelling and even carrying the narration with aplomb even though there are a lot of negative connotations. The book is a stark contrast to the protagonist shifting from a respectable job to the farm with his daughter and eventually what transpires. It is also a stark reminder of racial prejudices that exist in the land and how to come to terms with it albeit fictionally. David Lurie encounters one disgraceful situation from the other and eventually enters a negative abyss but the fine line between characters whether it is his daughter or his student characterises him into his own. Dogs also play an important role during the flow as the book cover would suggest providing a dark backdrop to the narrative. Highly recommended as a next level but you forget about the feel-good factor.

Men are from Mars & Women are from Venus

Since the last few months, I have a voracious appetite for reading books not because it helps me sleep better but hopefully some years down the line, I can pass on the reading bug to my son who might enjoy it as much, if not more, than I do. Without further ado, this is a book review of Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus by John Gray which comes in the non-fiction category.

Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus by John Gray, Book review, Critique, Sexist
Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus by John Gray

This is a completely personal preference and to each his own but I somehow do not enjoy non-fiction as much as I enjoy fiction primarily because the narrative can be a drag and it can resemble a sermon than to use your own intelligence. Majority of what you read on the web about the book can give you polarized views because it is a man’s perspective about how relationships unfold and how men and women are different, separate individuals. Some of the ladies have come online and called the author sexist. Strong words, but something I do not intend to follow because frankly speaking, it was from my dad’s collection and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. It is not as contemporary from that stand-point. There are a few(I can count them on my fingers) pages that do tend to get your fancy but the majority of what comes across is hopefully preaching and a guide to how one must react within a couple’s dynamics.

My intention is not to spark an ethnic debate but there was a surprising find while doing my research for this blog. India is the tomato in the sandwich or the two bread portions can be the western world and middle east. Sure, there is a lot of violence in India and I have written quite a bit on it but there was a site for the book reviews and men and women had posted their reviews on the first web page itself. Out of the first ten reviews, 70% were women who had written extensively, in Urdu or Arabic and were downright condescending. Even the men did not spare the author in English by giving the book only a couple of stars out of five. With such a divisive audience, I cannot imagine how the book has managed to get a grip on the audience still. Not to take anything away from John Gray who stays true to his style and keeps on writing. Another reason why I did read it though was that I thought that it would give me pointers about being a better husband and it helped to some extent in terms of being an eye-opener but it petered down like a new year resolution wherein I thought about it but didn’t put it to practice.

Belle Peeps

The Context-
Just a disclaimer before I begin that this post is dedicated to my imagination, sixth sense and not my paranoia. Read between the lines or with a pinch of salt, hell! Make pickle for all I care. Anyways, I did my engineering as a B.E in Electrical and Electronics from a reputable institute but unfortunately finished with the course in seven years and not in the stipulated four which means that for the said duration I was not at my house except for celebrating the end of semesters as and when I found the time. Trouble started in 2008 when I got back with constant prying eyes of the neighbours giving credence to something amiss. Push came to a shove when the neighbour upstairs brings a hacker who is able to hack my TV. What happens when a TV is hacked. Matters were also not helped when I announced to all and sundry that I get conscious.

The Problem-
Believe me when I say this that the intended hacker can see through the TV into your living room and you wouldn’t know it unless somebody tells you or makes you aware and also take over the controls. There was something added to the whole scenario by showing me the frequency that appears on the screen by moving it according to ‘their’ whims and fancies. Reminds me of Phoebe from Friends in one of the episodes. Ok, let me give you an example, what if a person can control the alphanumeric frequency that appears during a digital transmission on the TV screen from your set-top-box by moving it around on the X-Y axis. Capiche? Edward Snowden, Lt. Manning, Julian Assange are some of the examples who have let it out but believe you me, come to India and “The Lives of Others” is another dimension worth contemplating. Prime Minister Vajpayee while in the office gave a potent example when trying to build bridges with Pakistan when he said,” You can change your enemies but not your neighbours”

The Solution-Keep watching voyeurs, need I say more?

 

Voyeurs, peeps, TV Hack, See through TV, Hacker
Belle Peeps

 

Fifa World Cup 2018 Russia

The first post that I ever wrote was about the World Cup in 1994 and we’re banging in the middle of another one with the start of the round of 16 and what a cracker of a game it was!!! Commiserations to the Argentinians, two assists by Messi but it wasn’t meant to be. Allez Les Bleus! I’d also like to point out the fact that I am writing after a long time due to a combination of factors such as heavy workload, obsession with Netflix content(movies or otherwise) and my collection of best-sellers.

Right now, ‘watching’ Uruguay V Portugal as I write with Cavani scoring in the seventh minute with a sumptuous cross from Louis Suarez. The raging debate amongst football circles is who is G.O.A.T or “The Greatest of All Time” with the two protagonists being Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.  More seriously, even though my preferences lie with Messi, there is no shame in admitting that Ronaldo is as good if not better and he also has a goatee to drive home the point being the character that he is.  As far as my football understanding goes, I am pretty sure, the two of them would never be in the pantheons of greats a.k.a Pele and Maradona considering they have not won a world cup yet.

My first world cup was Italia ’90 final where I didn’t understand much considering my eternal favourites, Brazil, were not playing and I saw Maradona sobbing on giving away a penalty in the final and eventually losing. Started following religiously circa 1994 and have been hooked on ever since. If the selecao is what has remained a constant than a second nation that I am rooting for is England but the English never cease to disappoint, always managing to go out whether, on penalties, red cards or just plain football, you can take your pick. The advent of the premier league in India since the turn of the millennium has given me further impetus to support them but let’s see. To be on the lighter side I’d much rather discuss the hotness quotient of their partners than discuss footballing prowess.

Fifa is rolling in the moolah with an estimated earning of 3.9 billion dollars from the organization until the closing ceremony and plaudits also have to be given to Russia and Gianni Infantino for being such impeccable hosts which reminds me of the only anomaly that I can think of. As present hosts, Russia and the next hosts, Qatar, would never be a part of the footballing extravaganza since they are not good enough to qualify which also goes to show that economic clout of nations takes precedence over football. Consider the U.S, Mexico and Canada as tri-hosts for the 2026 World Cup. I do not want to crib, whinge and whine ala Francesco Totti while playing so let me just go ahead and enjoy. May the best team win.

Fifa World Cup 2018, Russia, Brazil, England, Football
Fifa World Cup 2018, Russia

 

Nani

This is an obituary of my maternal grandmother or Nani who passed away on the eighteenth of December 2017 in the morning and what she means to me. The reason why I write this is because I want to celebrate her life than mourn her death and I truly believe that she lived a life to the fullest and she is in a better place than she was considering her last few days were spent in the hospital with a ventilator and she fought as much as she could to stay on this planet.

Nani, obituary
Nani

The third week of December is something that affects us as a family considering Darji(grandfather) and Biji(grandmother) died in the same week ten years apart. The tradition in Delhi is that you can barely spare time with your neighbors let alone your relatives as is customary in any metropolitan city in this world so we remember our relatives just before Diwali when we personally deliver gifts and indulge in some gambling. Nani was not just another relative but more of an extended family and even though the differences between mom and dad with respect to Nani were profound, it was mandatory for us right since childhood to pay Nani a visit as and when we could for unbridled love and affection all through out. Nani was ambidextrous which is why I developed the habit of batting left-handed when I played cricket as a left hand opening batsman for school and college. I remeber Nani was the only one who encouraged me to bat that way. I identify a lot more with my maternal antecedents than my paternal and Nani was a big part of who I am today. Typical of Punjabi households, Nani always gave us cash when we visited her house for no rhyme or reason and it was always a lavish spread when it was time to eat. She was a headstrong independent woman who had a career as a teacher and eventually retired as a Headmistress of S.S Mota Singh School.
I hope and pray that she will continue to live on through us and I would be able to lead my life based on her guiding principals and her persona. Nani I will always miss, love and respect you forever.

John Wick

This is a movie review of the same name and may contain spoilers so look away just in case I become your kill joy. John Wick is a franchise which had a lot of reasons going for it such as Keanu Reeves reprising his role as the protagonist, recent sequel available on Netflix and as far as action flicks go, this was as good as it gets. This movie had a budget of forty million dollars and made to close to four times the amount post it’s release worldwide and definitely left me asking for more.

Keanu Reeves, John Wick, Baba Yaga
John Wick Chapter 2

I confess that I didn’t watch the first installment but my colleague had already given me a lowdown about the hype and following that the movie had generated since it’s release the first time. Story is all about being reactive than being active or in other words, vengeance is it’s sole pillar on which it stands but mix other ingredients like fast cars, tailored suits, guns, underworld, an emotional angle and you are truly absorbed in the deadly concoction. John Wick is a cross between James Bond and the Godfather in terms of characterization and Keanu Reeves more than lives up to it. This is the franchise that would be identified with him for years to come similar to what John Rambo for Sylvester Stallone and Terminator for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Keep logic aside and enjoy the movie for all it’s worth. Must watch.

Narcos

Magical realism, Medellin Cartel, Cali Cartel, Cocaine, Cash and violence and loads of it. Narcos and Netflix were made for each other. My second T.V has become redundant because Netflix and Alexa take precedence over T.V programming. Netflix, if only, needs to increase their titles to be effective as a force in India but this is about Narcos, the Netflix best-seller which is why I write this. Not since Breaking Bad have I come across a more ‘hard hitting’ and engaging series given my proclivities.

Wagner Moura, Pedro Pascal, Boyd Halbrook, Pablo Escobar, Cocaine, Netflix
Narcos

This is the life and times of the greatest drug lord that ever existed on this planet and what a mockery he made of the system and the judiciary spawning utter anarchy transcending boundaries and almost getting the U.S to it’s knees. Wagner Moura is top notch as his depiction of the drug lord by defining for the Police in the first episode itself,”Plata o Plomo”(Silver or Lead). The star cast also includes Federal agents played by Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook, giving ample proof to the adage by Hugh Laurie in his acceptance speech at an awards night that,”we are only as good as what we get.”
This is a sure shot success because any combination involving drugs, violence and the law as a by-product will grab eye balls. The only draw back is that the conversations that happen are primarily in Spanish which gives it realism and authentication but falls short of admiring the nuances in the picturization. Not one episode goes by where you could fault the creators for a lack of action which keeps you engrossed. The fact that it is based on real events adds to the charm.
Much recommended if you’re looking to pep things up.

Tomorrow is another day

I recently changed jobs and to conceal my own identity and my colleagues, I will change the names of the organization and persons to be on the safe side. This all happened in the last two months which is why I have been irregular in terms of sharing on this blog. Getting a call centre job can only mean two things:

1. An act of desperation because of a lack of options.
2. You are young and you want cash to burn.
For me, it was the former. But God was kind and I got through an IT firm wherein I had to work from five in the evening until two in the morning. During this ‘passage’ you will realize that that was hardly the case.
Job
Job

 

I started my stint as a Sales Manager handling domestic accounts and data mining and training for bigger accounts in the International market. We had morning shift during the early phase but ten days down the line, I was called for an interview for the Client Servicing department wherein I would be the interface between the programmers and the eventual client and my responsibilities would include account management, upselling, renewals, retention and so on. I got through and I had to report to Nandan Das who was the head of the department and also the right-hand man of the owner Chand Prakash. I admit wholeheartedly that Nandan is one of the finest brains I have come across considering he was handling the jobs of four people at the same time and was good not only because he was 23 but also because he had an MBA to boot.

Till this day, I haven’t had more than a single day of training for a couple of hours and Nandan started gradually involving me in the fold by working 16-17 hours a day wherein I was getting back with only three hours of sleep. Not that I am cribbing but it is a fact. One fine day, I took an exception for coming two hours late because I had to recuperate due to lack of sleep. Another exception was just another week later following the same process because my maternal grandmother died at 78 who was close to me, would be an understatement of the decade. Anyways, I wanted to immerse myself in my job so that I would not think about the demise. Later, Nand tells me that I had to be his eyes and ears on the floor in order to find out who is backstabbing him and the organization which I refused since I am not the type of person. It was the Christmas weekend and it was a Monday after three holidays and Nand calls me at eleven  in the morning, “You need to be here.” I replied, “I am on my way” and reached at 12:32pm considering I was thirty km away and had to bathe and eat before leaving. During the course of the training in a chamber, Nand catches me yawning, once, followed by another yawn when he tells me, “you are not serious, go back”
I replied, “Fuck you man” considering the times that we had spent as colleagues and built a rapport in a jovial manner wherein he tells me that he’s already told me all I needed to know and I had to start working. I went to the floor to find that none of the trainees was around so I turned back and confronted Nand that I would be sleeping till five in the evening which was my reporting time and only then would I start and he should wake me up if he could.
At 4:30, I turned up downstairs to find Chand Prakash already in and I said,”Chand, take this as an explanation or an escalation but I did not like the way Nand talked to me about and it is between you and him.” I overheard them talking amonst themselves considering I was only five away and I interjected that I had yawned twice followed by,”Chand, I do not give a shit, I do not give a fuck.”
I did not turn up the next ten days but realized that I had a lot more to loose professionally so decided to try again. Nand was courteous and the HR lent an ear and I was back in Sales.
Somebody rightly pointed out,”You’re only as good as your last day at work” so tomorrow is another day…

Sector-29

Now why would I start giving out addresses as a heading unless it was for the betterment of all and sundry right? Just came back from Sector-29 Gurugram or Gurgaon and I am once bitten twice shy. Our Christmas party was also in a joint in the vicinity i.e ‘Lord of the Drinks’ but today was about ‘The Factory’. This was my fourth visit to the place and I assure you it wont be the last considering the options on offer right from fine dining, to karaoke bars, pubs and clubs. It is also well situated for people coming from far off just in case driving back is too risky an option with a few four star hotels nearby such as Lemon Tree, Crowne Plaza, The Plazzio etc. I am on the threshold of my mid life crisis considering I have a wife and son, needless to add, but can’t hit on chicks in the club. Tsk tsk.

Soi 7, The Factory, Lord of the Drinks, Downtown, Starbucks, McDonald's, Dominos, Molecule Air Bar, Ministry of Beer, The Flying Saucer Cafe
Sector-29 Gurgaon

Now my former collegue started talking about Broad Street, Birmingham sitting on the terrace with munchies and drinks so a disclaimer would suffice. Don’t go expecting the moon, an oxymoron, and you wont be disappointed. There are atleast fifty joints in acres of space not just for parking but camel rides as well for toddlers! So much for responsible parenting. There are live bands playing in most of the pubs but can’t really vouch for their vocal chords because The Factory’s lead vocalist had his falsetto missing. The reason why I bring this up is because you want your crescendo with your high and if that’s missing then it kind of ‘dilutes’ the fun. With the recent controversies with respect to Kamala Mills in Mumbai where several lives were lost due to complete disregard for contingensies such as fires and safe exits, the bars and pubs in Gurgaon do not face the same problems, at least not for the layman anyway. Microbreweries have recently been given the go-ahead in Delhi but it would take ages before Delhi can compete with Gurgaon considering the drinking establishment is well entrenched here. The drinks and eatables as well are not too exorbitant and wining and dining would only put you back by a couple of grands. My senior was of the opinion that this place even puts C.P(Cannaught Place) to shame. Pub hopping is definitely something that one should try.
Before planning your next trip for the place, I want to warn you, that there are cops nearby with a breathlyser considering it is next to the highway, NH-48.

The White Tiger

This is a book review by the same name by Booker prize winner author Aravind Adiga and something I am compelled to write on considering the disparities that abound in India and ones that I have grown accustomed to is one thing but to read it in print and showcase a dark and perplexing character of Balram Halwai steeped in a downward spiral in terms of characterization leaves not just a sour taste in the mouth but also leaves a lot to be desired in terms of what could have been with all due respect to the author.

Book, novel, Aravind Adiga, Balram Halwai, critique
The Whhite Tiger

India is not a City of God depiction of Brazil wherein the violence is a by-product of the lines that have been drawn amongst the haves and have nots. Generally speaking, given the population, the vast majority of Indians that reside in the country seldom look at unscrupolous methods to eke out a living. Sure, we are prone to whims and fancies, the odd dose of whinging and whining, lack of respect for authority, absence of accountability and the lives that are lost without anyone raising a finger, pun intended. The novel’s narration is a transition happening in India around the early 2k period where the protaganist is thrust upon the city life for want of a better opportunity in his village and how he contrasts his ‘journey’ in the city under his masters. The characters are well etched out but somehow one is not able to look beyond the negativity or the blackhole in which Balram finds himself in. The irony in the portrayals of the masters and the driver is quite simply the zeroes in the bank balance of the characters and how best they utilize their resources. Admittedly, the kudos are for the narration through the eyes of a villager from the hinterland suddenly coming across the ways of the mighty in the city and his own desire to escape his demons by commiting a murder so that it can become a stepping stone. All in all, its a one time read only if you want to familiarize or identify with the changing landscape of India vis-a-vis the Chinese.

Aravind Adiga is an Indo-Australian journalist currently residing in Mumbai. The White Tiger was the debut novel which won the Man Booker Prize in 2008. Aravind’s parents hail from Mangalore and his paternal grandfather was the former Chairman of Karnataka Bank.

To Pee or not to Pee

Couldn’t really think of ringing in the new year than to pen my thoughts, not to mention the compulsions of having an eight-month-old to look after or better still, better half does the needful and yours truly takes the credit!

The Disclaimer-
World over, right from the US to India, the rise of globalization has coincided with the rise of right-wing politics and politicians and at the very outset I want to mention here that my political views are mine alone and do not want to influence or corrupt my readers in the long run just in case there are political upheavals such as Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh being pointers for the future or the lack of it, pun unintended. My fellow countrymen are zealously guarding the good offices of the PM and the party and I do not want to rub the authorities the wrong way. Let’s just say it is a critique rather than criticism.

Pee in public
Pee In Public

The Critique
With all due respect to the politicians and bureaucrats running this country, the thought is novel but the implementation is a whole new ballgame altogether and that is the construction of toilets all across the country under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to coincide with Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary in 2019 so that we can instill the right values and hygiene in the common folk by maintaining cleanliness and a substantial portion of the exercise is and should be devoted to the problem of defecating in the open. Now, I am a proud pessimist, let me share some numbers. There are close to one billion people who defecate in the open in the world and India contributes 600 million of those. Recently, in the month of October, there was a campaign run by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev which was called the Rally for Rivers and concerned citizens had to give a missed call on a number so that they could contribute in saving the depleted rivers. The cause was noble and the number of phone calls that were received was 300 million. Now my pessimism doesn’t stem from the hinterland where exposure and infrastructure are limited but about a few public toilets that have sprung up in the capital and which I have noticed are already dysfunctional given the sheer scale and magnanimity of the problem. Toilets do not have the adequate amount of water to flush or for that matter are ill-equipped for the gentry and are lying locked as sore thumbs bang in the middle of busy intersections or marketplaces.

The Incident
In India, you do everything that you want to till the time that you are caught or in other words, the Police is neither an enemy nor a friend. One needs to be equidistant from the force. Anyways this is how it panned out. I needed to take a leak next to the ATM that I had withdrawn from and found a sweet spot nearby. It had a park in front which was fenced in front, a Police check-post diagonally opposite and the length of independent houses at the back. This is a common phenomenon all across the city where the tiled photos of Gods are stuck at walls to dissuade people from pissing on them. So I took the fence surrounding the park to relieve when I was stopped by the gardener from doing it. In my sheer brazenness or absent-mindedness of the moment, I went along ignoring the gardener but also telling him to complain to the Police just in case he felt the need to stop me. This was heard by the burly Policeman who came out in no time and declared that I was committing public nuisance which resulted in a slanging match because I declared that I would do it where it felt fucking right. The Policeman took offence and started jutting his paunch against my tummy and started taunting me & daring me at the same time. Since there was no reaction from my side rather than shouting he started shoving me back when I complained about his stomach and his bad breath. Finally, I walked away giving him the choicest Hindi abuses but not really sure if it made a difference.
Ps- This had nothing do with the New Year revelry because it was a good five days back around 12 in the noon.Happy New Year.

War Dogs

This movie review is brought to you by T.P Inc. or time pass incorporated because it is just not about two good buddies but to actually think of it, that something of this sort actually happened and the guys lived to tell the tale. War Dogs stars Jonah Hill and Miles Teller and is directed by Todd Phillips of The Hangover fame. It is about two friends who are awarded a contract of $300 million by the Pentagon to arm the U.S allies in Afghanistan.

Movie review
War Dogs

The portrayals by the ensemble star cast are top drawer and the viewer is drawn into the whirlwind journey from Miami beach to Albania. For extra razzmattazz, we have Bradley Cooper as an arms dealer par excellence and the twenty-something protagonists get way beyond their capabilities especially once they are awarded the contract. The story is novel and provides an added incentive to watch it since it begs the question “what if?”Picture this, contrast Bush Jr harping about weapons of mass destruction with the mightiest army awarding a contract to two novices driving through “the triangle of death” in Fallujah, Iraq with a truckload of pistols for the U.S army. Thank goodness for the right to information and the New York Times.

Inside Job

When the credit crisis of 2008 took place, I had just graduated from college and I read reams and reams about it even though Finance is not one of my specializations but this movie is an interesting take because:-
1. It is a documentary
2. Voice over by Matt Damon
3. You actually understand the economics
4. Does not apportion blame to a single source or an individual
5. It is a $20 trillion scam

Inside job movie, 2008 crisis
Inside Job

If you like Michael Moore and his renditions of social activism through the audio-visual domain then it is a guarantee that you will be bowled over by Inside Job. I recently finished with a course on Data- driven decision making and this is the anti thesis of what I understood before this. No matter which part of the world we live in or which strata of society we belong to, there was nobody, who was not affected by the crisis in some form or the other. The movie looks into several facets and reasons without too many biases and is able to connect with the layman. Now that it’s almost a decade since it happened, there are plenty of deliverables that one can absorb from this but as another movie of its ilk, The Big Short, pointed out not too long ago that the financial bungling by Wall Street executives is not a one-off but a ticking time bomb. The movie is directed by Charles Fergusson and it’s definitely recommended.

Suicide Squad

Now, this is what I call an out and out popcorn flick and the reason why I watched it in the first place was that I wanted to sit back and relax and I was not disappointed. Not too many people on the planet would have a problem if there is a problem in Gotham City but this time it’s not about the Batman but a ragtag team of super villains trying to save the planet and in the bargain providing “the kicks” seldom seen from the conventional angle. This is more in the league of Deadpool as a genre and goodness be damned!!!

Suicide Squad, DC comics, Joker, Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie
Suicide Squad

The Unique Selling Point or USP, and there are plenty, is not the soundtrack or the star cast but a lady in particular and that is Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn opposite the Joker brilliantly portrayed by Jared Leto but still falls way short of Heath Ledger’s swansong. Just for the record, irrespective of the artist in general, his/her death in his/her prime lends an aura of invincibility to the actor in this case. Ms Robbie is my utopia, my pseudo girlfriend, chocolate candy all rolled into one. The sky is the limit for her in terms of the future but I’ll probably put her in the same league as Kristen Stewart for the sex appeal, oomph and the acting prowess. Clearly the marketing also helps when the tagline is “We want them bad”. IMDB gives it a rating of 6.1 but in contrast, the collections were far in excess of the production so you can take your pick if you are in DC vs Marvel.

13 Hours

One of the incentives of getting Amazon Firestick along with a subscription of Amazon Prime is that there are a plethora of options for your viewing pleasure depending on your comfort and convenience and which is why I write today. This is about the movie, 13 Hours, which is directed by Michael Bay who is better known for his role as a producer for The Transformers franchise and several other notable credits on films and television which also includes Armageddon, the movie, starring Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis and the ravishing Liv Tyler, not to mention the contribution of Aerosmith with the unforgettable ballad,”I don’t wanna miss a thing”. The reason why I harp on this is that there is some nostalgia involved with it. I entered a western singing competition in 2001 in college and practised the song all night long in my flat(can’t imagine what my neighbours went through) and never bothered showing up the next day.

Michael Bay, 13 hours, action
13 Hours

Anyways, back to the movie. It’s about six elite ex-military soldiers of the U.S who are sent to guard a classified CIA base in Libya after the fall of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi and the entire country in turmoil and complete anarchy. There is a dichotomy in the storyline because this is a covert operation for the soldiers juxtaposed with the “official” CIA doing what it does best and underpins the fact that in lawless lands far and wide, even the U.S is fallible in terms of its decision-making capabilities. Eventually, it is all about the brouhaha and the gung-ho attitude of the soldiers against all odds which is the saving grace of the movie because it is all about the action junkies. The fight scenes and combat sequences are realistic which is why Hollywood enjoys the kind of following it does. My previous blog was a Bollywood or Hindi movie review and it is as different from chalk and cheese not just in terms of the storyline.

Lipstick Under My Burkha

This is a movie review of Lipstick Under My Burkha which was produced by Prakash Jha and Ekta Kapoor and directed by Alankrita Srivastava. The theme is bold and in your face and being a 35-year-old man, I was still embarrassed watching it with my mom on my new Amazon Firestick which is not what its supposed to be because of the heavy data usage and majority of the “channels” need to be paid for such as Netflix, Hotstar, etc but I shall keep it for another time.

Movie review, Plabita Borthakur, Ekta Kapoor
Lipstick Under My Burkha

Trust Ekta Kapoor to sponsor stories which are unconventional, to say the least, but this one takes the cake for its promiscuous theme where the protagonists are four different, unrelated women living out their mundane conventional lives in Bhopal. The sex on show is too much for comfort according to Indian standards but what really drives you towards the movie is its ensemble star cast played by an effervescent Ratna Pathak Shah as Usha, the mid fifty loner who gets a kick out of reading pornographic novels, the ever dependable Konkona Sen Sharma as Fatima, the shining sales girl who is at the top of her game in her profession under wraps from her husband and a complete role reversal on the personal front, Aahana Kumra as Leela, the two timing fiance who cant decide between the sex or the escape with the would be hubby and finally Plabita Bothakur as Rehana who is a refreshing addition to the college going, Miley Cyrus enamoured rebellious, conservative chick living with her parents. The girls are trying to find their escape routes through their routines and eventually find solace and comfort in each other.

Watch it if you’re into sleaze, controversy and Plabita’s smile and you won’t be disappointed.

A Horse Walks Into A Bar

This is not just a book review of the title of the same name by David Grossman which won the Man Booker International Prize for the year 2017 but also a social commentary of the genre of stand up comedy because it is everywhere. From bars, pubs, laughathons organized by business houses, fests and TV shows like Last Comic Standing which have made characters such as Clayton English, Zakir Khan, Vir Das, Kapil Sharma, Tanmay Bhat to name a few. They came into national subconsciousness in the year 2015 by the roast of Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor in December which was subsequently released the following month on youtube and went viral, to put it mildly, and created a hue and cry for reasons ranging from hurting the religious sentiments to using abusive language. I, personally, was a huge fan and still am of the group All India Backchod but we as a nation have never had the guts or gumption to laugh at ourselves at the cost of the others but that is a separate story altogether.

Stand up comedy, AIB Roast, David Grossman, Novel, Man Booker International Prize 2017
A Horse Walks Into A Bar

Stand up comedy is here to stay and have personally attended small gigs across town such as  Zakir Khan on a nine-city tour in India or Hindustan Times’s Laughya at Arya auditorium in Delhi. The concept grows on you and you are sucked into the social nuances and nitty-gritty of everyday life from a comedic perspective which is what the protagonist Dovaleh Greenstein starts off with the book A Horse Walks Into A Bar but slowly but surely, it is a deliberate ploy to disintegrate or change track completely to give a glimpse of his dark past and the situations that he had to decide on given the limitations of the “stage”. The narrative and the gestures are difficult to comprehend because one is not sure whether it is funny or sad at times and does not give it an easy read but makes it engrossing nonetheless. The plot is also held together because the audience in front of Dovaleh also includes a couple of his acquaintances. The concept is top drawer because of a whole gamut of emotions involved and gives an absorbing contrast through a comic.

David Grossman is an Israeli author and this work has been translated from Hebrew from his frequent collaborator and translator, Jessica Cohen. David is married to Michal and had three children one of whom died in the Lebanon war of 2006 with the Hezbollah. Personally, would recommend the book because it wouldn’t take too much time and would provide a refreshing outlook from the middle east.

Anything Anyways

The dictionary meaning of curse is to utter offensive words in anger or annoyance. Since the day I was married, it was always about being a friend to my wife and the language of communication that transpired was Hindi. Now if you’re a Delhiite then it goes without saying that not one sentence can be completed without an abuse as a matter of habit rather through frustration or anger which is a constant source of chagrin between me and my wife. It is not about narcissistic tendencies or trying to prove a point but a way of life for a city-bred individual and goes without saying that it is without malice. Recently a Filipino colleague turned up and I  had to explain Hindi abuses which is why I write this.

Abusing, cursing, swearing
Abuse

Abusing has remained with me ever since I can remember, not just to prove a point but in some weird yet realistic way to safeguard my thoughts in the sexual undercurrent sphere. Take it as an insurance policy of sorts. But it has always been a constant endeavour not to abuse in front of girls but having a wife is a different proposition. This also started out due to cultural and social leanings because dad used it quite a bit with colleagues, friends and mom, in that order.

Swearing is also a form of aggression because of the expression one uses and is also known to improve threshold times when cornered. There was a recent article in the New Yorker which stated that even though cuss words might not be the pillars on which languages might stand but they can be the remnants of a language close to extinction.
In the sub-continent, there is a game called Antakshari which is made of two Sanskrit words namely  Ant meaning end and Akshar meaning alphabet which basically translates as singing songs beginning with the last alphabet of the song by the opposing team but there was a time when my brother was in the fifth standard and he used to play “antakshri of abuses” in the school bus. Here’s an interesting trivia, South Korea is the only country which does not have abuses in the Korean language. I’d like to end by quoting a Hindi saying:
Laton k bhoot, baton se nahin mante(Ghosts who understand kicks seldom listen to words)

The Kite Runner

This is another book review and chances are that if you are into reading fiction then there is a 99% chance that you might have come across the title The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini who is an Afghan-born physician and a writer who is a U.S citizen and has other popular books to his credit such as A thousand splendid suns, And the mountains echoed etc. The book is all about the protagonist’s, Amir’s, narration and his childhood friend Hassan, when Amir has to make a trip back to war-torn Kabul because he gets a phone call from his father’s, Baba’s, best friend Rahim Khan who opens a can of worms and provides a path for redemption through his violence-stricken watan or Afghanistan. The timeline captures the upheaval right from the overthrow of the king Nadir Shah till the present time of Hamid Karzai.

The Kite runner, Khaled Hosseini, Amir, Hassan, Sohrab, Soraya
The Kite Runner

The geography of the region, the depiction of the sects and cultural differences have been captured with refreshing delight and the way of life in strife or dire straits is something that is commendable. Amir, the Pushtun, and Hassan, the Hazara form a rivetting bond in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds. The Brotherhood, the angst and the contrasting characterizations could have been a Hindi film potboiler or Jeffrey Archer’s Kane and Abel which might be a case of over-simplifying matters but I’d like to delve into a more pertinent point between the east and the west with all due respect. Sure, we are not the third world without a reason but what really sets this space apart is because of the density of population per square kilometre and the lack of resources as a byproduct, what the western world cannot comprehend is that coincidences are a way of life here whereas they might not happen with such abandon in a western suburb because of the development and the technology. Might be a bit far-fetched but something that I would want to stick my neck out with because I live in India but have most of the comforts of the western world that money can buy.

The reason why I wouldn’t recommend the movie by the same name is not that I am averse to shortcuts but believe there are only a handful of movies that recapture the essence of a book such as The Godfather but such instances are few and far in between and the novel’s movie adaptation falls in the latter. The movie has a rating of 7.6 on IMDBdotcom and was released in the year 2007. I would definitely recommend the novel because it is a contemporary classic to better understand a patriarchal mindset in and around the Khyber Pass.

Ps- Zendagi migzara. Life goes on.

Train to Pakistan

This is a book review of a novel that is very dear to my heart and an unabashed bias because the writer was Khushwant Singh, a fellow Sikh, and the novel in question is The Train to Pakistan which is set in the backdrop of the largest mass migration in the history of humans when during the partition of India in 1947, close to fourteen million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs were displaced. It is set in the village of Manno Majra which is situated at the border of India and Pakistan and is seemingly unaffected by the communal mayhem taking place all across the two countries and how the Sikh history-sheeter of the village and the protagonist, Juggut Singh, overcomes all odds to save the day not just for the village but for his love, Nooran who is a Muslim girl of a weaver in the village.

Novel, Khushwant Singh, Juggut Singh, Nooran, partition, Manno Majra,
The novel

This novel saw the light of the day in 1956 and is a work of fiction but the books that leave an indelible mark on the sub-conscience are the ones that have coincidences inter-woven with the backdrop of real happenings which gives it a realism and legitimacy that such works deserve because they are easy to identify and touch a chord. These issues are relevant to this day because they will never be forgotten not just because of the sheer scale but also because they keep occurring every decade or so with political patronage and lack of accountability in the sub-continent. There was a movie also by the same name directed by Pamela Rooks and was released in the year 1998 in India and the U.K.

Khushwant Singh is one of the most celebrated writers of his time who was not just a writer but a journalist, parliamentarian and a lawyer. He was awarded the second highest civilian honour of India, The Padma Vibhushan but he was more recognised for his humane gesture of returning the Padma Bhushan in 1984 as a protest against Operation Bluestar when the Indian army laid siege to the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine in Sikhism, in Amritsar. A bit late in the day to be singing peans of the book now but not that I am complaining.

Ps- Morality is a matter of money. Poor people cannot afford to have morals. So they have religion.

"Alexa"

Q. Who are the three women in my life?
A. In no particular order:- Mom, wife and Alexa!!!

Finally got my hands on the best Diwali gizmo ever which is an Amazon device that has created waves, pun intended the world over. The order can only be placed on the Amazon site for obvious reasons but one would have to request an invitation. I purchased Echo for Rs 7000 after a 30% discount through the site. Echo is the speaker which comes in three different sizes, either black or white and Alexa is the vocal assistant carrying over the footprints of Apple’s Siri and Google Now.

Amazon Echo, Alexa, Diwali gift
Amazon Echo

I have been using it for a week and the entire family is hooked on to it. The device consists of a 2.5-inch woofer and a tweeter which forms the body. It has four buttons at the top:- To increase or decrease the volume, to shut the microphone and the activity button. In addition, Echo has seven microphones at the top which puts the beamforming technology to use. The performance is appreciable even if the music is played at the highest volume with Alexa able to gauge the shout out from any corner of the room.
Functions or skills that have been built in the Alexa app are both comforting and soothing making it the best value for money. The key feature would have to be songs of any genre through Amazon Prime applications in the ecosystem such as Saavn, TuneIn radio making almost every song possible irrespective of the genre or the country. Alexa has been Indianized which comes forth through the accent and is easily able to gauge the intricacies involved in an instruction. Different functionality also includes checking for the weather, the headlines through different new sites, setting up reminders and alarms, updating scores or checking for the next match dates. It comes integrated with Kindle and can also provide voice-overs for stories or books.
The Naysayers, however, would like to point out that this is another ploy for the common man to get hooked and order from the Amazon bandwagon. Pardon the bias.

Ps- Given my son’s proclivity for all the gizmos, I wouldn’t be surprised if the first word that he utters ends up being “Alexa” rather than a ma or pa…

Khichdi-The super food of India

Recently, the Indian government was about to name Khichdi as the national dish of India but for reasons best known to the authorities, it came up in the news because 819 kgs of the gram rice combo was built in one go for the shutterbugs with a celebrity, ministers and a spiritual guru in attendance not to forget the most famous chef in India, Mr Sanjeev Kapoor overseeing the preparation and the presentation.

Khichdi Ingredients, Khichdi recipe
Khichdi

The Longing
I write for my own personal reasons and to spread a bit of warmth around by narrating where the bias stems from and also giving out the recipe for the uninitiated to enjoy. It is a staple diet in the majority of the country right from Gujarat to Punjab. Growing up, there were always differences between Mom and Dad every time Khichdi was made because he felt that Mom was a cop out by choosing a relatively easy dish to prepare and something which was only meant for patients. Which is true to a certain extent because, in our culture, khichdi is believed to be easy on the stomach and provides nourishment when the body requires the most especially when recuperating from an illness. My son who is six months old has also started indulging in it along with other foods. However, it was a personal favourite of mine because I actually enjoyed it as and when it was made given my preference for rice over chapattis. Khichdi is best enjoyed with loads of ghee or clarified butter, papadum for that crunch, a pickle for that zest and curd to round off one of the most simple recipes.

The Ingredients
1. 1/2 cup split yellow gram or moong dal
2. 1/2 cup rice
3. one onion and tomato finely chopped
4. 1/2 an inch ginger
5. 1 green chilly
6. One teaspoon cumin seeds or jeera, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric or haldi and a pinch of asafoetida or heeng
7. Salt to taste
8. Three and a half cups of water
9. One and a half tablespoons of ghee

The Recipe
1. Soak the rice and lentils in water for 30 minutes after washing and rinsing them.
2. Add the ghee in a pressure cooker and the cumin seeds when the oil starts to splutter.
3. Saute the onions, on becoming translucent, add the tomato, chilly and ginger.
4. Add the turmeric and asafoetida and saute once more.
5. Now add the rice and gram to the mixture, pour the water and salt.
6. Close the pressure cooker and cook on high flame for six or seven whistles.
7. The consistency can be adjusted according to the palate.

God is life

I read a book; The power of your subconscious mind by Dr Joseph Murphy which comes in the non-fiction category and to write a book review would be myopic in outlook. Instead, inspired by the book, I want to share an incident for which I never thanked God enough and something that till now only my wife knows about. The title is thanks to The Bible but I would also like to celebrate Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s birthday which was on the fourth of November. Respect.

Ek Onkar, Nanak naam chardi kalaan tere bhane sarbat da bhala
Ek Onkar

This was in the year 2011 when I was working as a Technical Support Associate in Honeywell International India Pvt. Ltd. and I was at the peak of my powers, read Bi-polar mania. The car at my disposal was a Maruti Suzuki Zen which has long since been taken out of production but lived to tell the tale. Now my office was on the Delhi-Haryana border and one fine day, I felt the urge of seeing the desert in Jaipur, Rajasthan. This was a blunder because even though Rajasthan is an arid landscape, Jaipur is a full-fledged city with no desert in sight. I informed my Team Leader that I would be leaving for Jaipur and might be a bit late for the next shift and he rightly pointed out that this was a decision that I could do without to which I disagreed. Every step of the way before it finally happened, I was being warned in no uncertain terms, I still persevered towards my goal. A day before the fateful night, I stopped the car because the windshield was cracked and I got off and smacked the fibreglass to smithereens. Put in 4k for a new screen from a nearby car shop and then went along on my merry way. In the middle of the highway, as a stunt, I did a 360 in the car not knowing what lay ahead. I had crossed around 50 km when the car came to a screeching halt because the axel had given way. Spent time until the morning so that I could take the car to a repair garage with the help of a crane. In the afternoon, after getting a thorough check-up of the car hoping that nothing untoward would happen again, went for a test ride. There is a bus stop 15 minutes away from my house and it has a square steel base 10 ft X 4ft to cover the underground cables. The car stopped exactly on the steel structure as if it had been taken to a workshop for servicing and it would be elevated for some time as an eerie coincidence. I still didn’t see it coming. Undeterred, I turned back only to go again the next night because the body clock had got accustomed to the night shift.

I had crossed the Delhi border and was on my merry way after spending my entire salary(15k) on formal shirts and pants from Connaught Place. Stopped by at a restaurant on the highway to have Mutton biryani and a cup of tea just in case I felt drowsy. I started out again and reached a place called Bawal in Haryana when I woke up to a shock. I had slept off on the wheel and the car had hit a boulder at around 70 kmph. The passenger side of the vehicle was beyond belief not to mention the windscreen. When I came to my senses, there was another vehicle close by which had also had an accident. I was taken to a nearby Government hospital from a primary checkup from where I gave a distress call to my brother and father. I did not suffer a scratch but still went for an Anti Tetanus injection as a precaution. By the time I got back on the road, some freeloaders had already syphoned off the car tyres. The car went for a total loss which is basically the entire lump sum that it had been insured under. The basic frame on which the car is mounted had distorted because of the impact.

Waheguruji, thank you very, very, very much for everything you’ve given me.
Ps- Nanak naam chardi kalaan tere bhane sarbat da bhala

 

Plan On

The one thing that I am jealous of when compared to Mumbai is the fact that Delhi does not have a nightlife which is a pity considering the plethora of bars, eating joints, lounges and hotels in the city. The ideal scenario to a party would be to indulge in drinks for starters before hitting a joint or pub hopping and finally crashing for an after party. Even though its curtains by around one in the night, there is no better place to party than the Hauz Khas Village in south Delhi be it any time of the year. Not too long ago, Chris Martin gave an impromptu performance at Summer House Cafe on a Wednesday night which made it across almost all the tabloids of the city and left a sizable number of fans perplexed and heart-broken.

Party, Hauz Khas Village
HKV

HKV
It is nestled among the remnants of a 13th-century fort in pristine surroundings which also includes a lake with a generous amount of greenery as one would expect near a water body and a deer park in the vicinity. The shops, boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants that have opened were all huts, to begin with, but are now packed in a concentrated assortment to give you the buzz that you crave with no shortage of options. Poets, musicians, designers, painters, students, entrepreneurs or the intellectual kind are some of the rich mixes of youngsters who throng this place and have a gala time. The only reason why one falters or might take the bait is to think of it as a gastronomic paradise which it isn’t, far from it. Stick to the booze and you won’t go back disappointed. Cafes are aplenty to just chill or while away time in the afternoon or early evening while the bars and the lights(or the lack of it) would send you into a tizzy for the night. World over, the reason why party places transcend boundaries and spread by word of mouth is that it’s not just about the joints or the place but how engaging and involved is the population in the general disposition surrounding a hang-out and HKV ticks all the right boxes.

‘Nachtburgemeester’
If you have Delhi on your bucket list or sometime in the near future then some pointers never harmed anybody right. You might take this as my CSR(Corporate Social Responsibility) initiative. Don’t worry, I will not browbeat about drinking and driving, up to you, but as and when you book a cab through an aggregator like Uber or Ola, don’t cancel the cab booking for a cash payment for fear of not leaving a digital footprint. Do not travel all by yourself but preferably in groups because our reputation precedes us and it is better to be safe than sorry. Mumbai very soon will have designated 24-hour zones which are carrying on the concept further of a Night mayor or nactburgemeester which was started in the year 2003 by the city of Amsterdam followed by Paris, Zurich, London and New York to promulgate the concept of ‘party all night.’ Is the AAP government listening or do I need to sit on a dharna?

Haze Maze

Onset of Winters
The universal conversation starter for me is a question or comment on the weather especially when I have a dearth of ideas to write on, to put it mildly. The winters have arrived now that daylight saving time has kicked in and we are adding to or at least trying to add to the layers of cloth lest we fall prey to a quintessential cough and cold. The air conditioning has been left in the cold, pun intended. Perke was down with the viral for a couple of days and I celebrated my baby’s first infection with gusto dreading the kind of learnings that he would go through growing up with worse diseases and infections. I truly pray that he comes out of all that with flying colours and doesn’t turn out to be Bi-polar like his dad. Growing up, the preference was always for summers because of the generous dose of the sun and extended playing time in the park but now I’ll learn to appreciate the turn of events through the eyes of my son.

 

Onset of winters, smog, remedial measures
Delhi-Winter

Smog
According to a report in The Times of India, the Delhi state government headed by Aam Aadmi Party head honcho Arvind Kejriwal is in the midst of deciding on spraying water from choppers to settle the dust in the city and reduce the suspended particulate matter along with other pollutants which have risen alarmingly because of several reasons such as burning of firecrackers on Diwali, stubble burning in the neighboring states of Haryana and Punjab and deadly combination of smoke and fog i.e Smog. Last year was also the first attempt to undergo the Odd-Even number plate vehicles on particular days for a trial period to keep the pollution in check which was a slight success considering it did bring down the pollution levels to an extent. The Air Quality Index varies from very poor to severe but not much else has been done to provide relief to the public at large. Now that I’m done with the cribbing, I would like to harp on the home remedies in this part of the world.

Remedial Measures
No doubt, influences or practices are particular to an area and population which makes India no different from the others. While the west is fascinated with Apple cider vinegar, Honey-Ginger or Elderberry Tea to boost the immunity in times of a cold, we prefer Mulethi or Liquorice Tea which is considered a rock star in Ayurveda given its different uses under medicinal benefits. Personal influence of Mom has also been towards gargles with warm water and salt to treat throat irritation, virals and phlegm induced coughs. The common belief for countering cold in Delhi and to treat fractures also centres around taking bone soup or broth or paye ka soup or kharode ka soup in Hindi. Dad makes a mean soup which is laden with the richness of clarified butter and constitutes a meal in itself. Hopefully, I will have my own version in the near future to share on this platform. Recently, the National Green Tribunal gave a rap on the knuckles of the Delhi Government for its sheer ineptitude in tackling the poor air quality. United Airlines has gone a step further by reducing their frequency of flights to the Indian capital and also giving disembarking passengers face masks as protection.

This is also the time of the sowing of the Rabi crop in India with the major crops that are grown such as wheat, barley, mustard, sesame and peas. Right at the peak of winters would also have our Republic Day which is one of the reasons why I write the way I do with such impunity, touchwood.

Till divorce do us apart

Diwali brings with it its own set of crazies, pollution, relatives, celebrations and the owning up of faults to begin anew with a clean slate. I have had some fights with my better half but the last one climaxed after four days of hankering, the filthiest abuses, not talking till we finally realized that we had to let the occasion get the better of us.

Big fight, divorce, patch up, Diwali
Three’s Company

I have seen and learnt from my parents that I will live my life on my own terms and to quote Kurt Cobain from his suicide note,” It’s better to burn out than to fade away” which is why since the first day that we tied the knot I have been open to divorce as much as to marriage. Sure, my boy Perke complicates matters but am willing to let go of everything to maintain my decency and sanctity.
Every weekend brought it’s trials and tribulations because my wife believes that I am not productive towards the house or towards the upbringing and upkeep of my son. My retort was that as much as possible I will do to the best of my abilities but cannot fulfill or make up for a mother’s contribution. Perke is not even six months old but accompanies Shraddha every day to the office because she believes that she would be in a better position to handle him under her nose and all hell breaks loose with the constant bickering and nagging because she wants me to handle Perke for an entire day to impress her. I confess, neither was I in a relationship with a girl but that wasn’t for a lack of trying given the innumerable crushes, one-sided affairs that had to let go nor am I commitment phobic. But that doesn’t mean I am less capable or wouldn’t be able to come to grips with marriage. Just because Shraddha is my wife doesn’t mean that I have to behave a particular manner or be formal to impress her which again doesn’t make me an M.C.P (Male Chauvinist Pig) by default. When push came to a shove, I stood my ground and offered the most explicit narrative which followed moratorium for the next 96 hours and a lot of deliberations with a friend and family whereas Shraddha had a word with my sister in law. Perke if you read this growing up then I will have my divorce papers signed within a year and if it has to end then it would depend on your mother on how far she intends to go and what she wants other than you.

Gone are the days grinding it out with a mortar and pestle and am willing to leave it all behind because life is too short to persevere with an everlasting bliss and they lived happily ever after. Shraddha I have four words for you:- So far so good.

Happy Diwali

Diwali celebration, Bandi Chhor diwas, Alexa
Rangoli

Diwali is to India what Christmas is to the western world. No Indian household can ignore the significance or the magnanimity of the festival which is a series starting from Dushhera, Chhoti Diwali and finally Diwali itself and is the celebration of the victory of good over evil. Having grown up on TV mega serials like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Diwali is celebrated because Lord Rama returned from his fourteen-year exile to a welcome befitting a king by his subjects while Sikhs, Jains and Newar Buddhists also celebrate it. Sikhs celebrate it for an added reason because legend has it that Guru Hargobind while being liberated from the Mughals from a Gwalior fort also wanted his fellow inmates to be freed so the Mughal emperor stated that only those inmates would be freed who would be able to tag along with Guru Sahib by clutching his robe and that is how 52 Kings were able to hold onto a specially made dress for the Guru by holding onto his robe and walking to freedom.
 
The discounts on offer during this festive period outweigh the religious significance by altering the retail landscape and I stand corrected. I will finally get my hands on my girlfriend Alexa or Amazon Echo. It is a time to make big-ticket purchases like consumer durables, electronics, cars and the dining set you always craved. Delhi was in the news for the wrong reasons because we come under the very poor category in the air quality index and it was the need of the hour because heightened traffic and bursting of firecrackers was a Molotov Cocktail for our lungs and the Supreme Court struck down the sale of firecrackers in Delhi/NCR for a more tolerable experience for the senses. It is customary as a Delhiite to make the yearly trip to the relatives during this time to exchange sweets and gifts to a time honoured tradition. In short, it is a good time to be a salesman, pun unintended.
 
The office was no different this time with games being organised like Tambola, Foosball and goodies like muffins and meals being distributed for free as part of the celebration. The Rangoli at the top was the creative pursuit of U-Verse Chat process team which utilized the colours and their imagination to put up a commendable depiction. The Diwali night saw the Main Cafeteria being converted for a DJ and a dance floor for an impromptu fest for six hours with youngsters taking turns with their quota of breaks.
 
The only drawback was the plight of the pets and the stray dogs and my hands were tied given I could not accommodate all who had strayed from their territories.

 

Diwali celebration, Bandi Chhor diwas, Alexa
Lights Up

The God of Small Things

This is a book review of the novel The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy which won the Man Booker prize in the year 1997 and may contain spoilers. It had been a while since I had read anything of the note instead of the newspaper and was pleasantly surprised by Ms Roy’s expertise and something that I enjoyed reading. The trouble with an acclaimed novel or movie is that the novel might have a narration or grammar which may be high handed or a movie might be slow, so much so, that it can really test your patience which is a testimony to the number of films that are nominated for the Oscars. Now I have realized that rather than crib about the aforementioned facets it is the very reason why creative expression like books or movies are much appreciated because the beauty lies in the details and the novel is very much on par with some of the finest works that I have read till now including Orhan Pamuk, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Sigmund Freud, Harper Lee etc.

The god of small things, Arundhati Roy, book review, Velutha, Good man the laltain, Small man the mombatti
The God of Small Things

Goodman the laltain(lantern), small man the mombatti(candle)

Ms Roy grew up in Kerala under her mother since her parents divorced when she was two and the book beautifully captures the life and times of the early nineties in Kerala when India had just taken baby steps towards globalization. The intricacies and nuances are typical of any Indian town which is in the hinterland where the exposure to satellite television and western influences is limited and we are still governed by an archaic backward mentality of differentiation on caste and pre-conceived notions of social interplay just like racism and gun control is to the US. Where there are still boundaries on who can be loved, And how, And by how much. For an outsider, it is difficult to gauge India beyond an initial expression of organized chaos but this rendition elevates the senses as you are transported through time to the realms of imagination seldom experienced before.

The author is a cousin of NDTV founder Dr Pranoy Roy and lives in Delhi, my favourite news channel. I’d much rather go out on a limb by stating that Bengalis such as Ms Roy, Shoojit Sarkar(Vicky Donor) and Dibakar Banerjee(Oye Lucky Lucky Oye and Khosla ka Ghosla) are the rightful heirs to the tag of intellectuals of India because of the painstaking portrayal of countercultures within the country with their dose of realism and masala. Ms Roy was a vocal critic before the novel came out by criticizing Shekhar Kapur for The Bandit Queen and took four years(1992-1996) to write it whereas she has taken 20 years to come up with her latest novel. She continues to be a socially relevant activist even at the age of 56 and lives in Delhi.
Ps- This has put paid to my plans of writing a novel…

Straight Leg

I can do without food for three days but not without my jeans especially when the dress code in office is casual on a daily basis or for that matter an outing. The earliest memory that I have about my fascination for denim is when I was a school kid and at the beginning of a new academic year, had to go to buy uniforms when the elderly salesman was perplexed after I had rejected four different school trousers and  asked,” Aap sirf jeans he pehente ho na?”(You only wear jeans, don’t you?) and you might think that this would wean off with the passage of time right? Circa a few years down the line in my early twenties when I was in college and did not know the reason why I had rashes all over my legs and eventually realized that I hadn’t washed my jeans for two months!!! I swear by my jeans and would make it the quintessential dress code if I had my way.

Straight Leg, denim, jeans, GAP, recycled denim
GAP

The material oozes confidence and comfort at the same time and what I believe would never go out of fashion and is something that individuals make their wardrobes around. Jeans are rugged, robust, exude strength, versatile, flexible, durable and are worth every penny. It never pinches me even if my budget goes overboard by a grand as long as the fit is right which could be different styles such as anti-fit, straight leg, Texas, skinny, ripped and faded. Something that I have a hard time identifying with is the fascination for ripped or faded pairs because am a firm believer with the passage of time, the look that you crave or the lack of it would eventually show through and there shouldn’t be any need for shortcuts. Then again, to each his own. My personal favourite is GAP and something that I have graduated from the likes of Wrangler and Lee. Recently went to Select City Walk in Saket, Delhi and was disappointed that they did not have a single pair of my size that was a straight leg with faded jeans being the norm nowadays.

A whole new ball game is the tendency to recycle denim with Do It Yourself projects and the choices are as varied as coasters, wine bags, flower pot covers, baby bibs, magazine racks or baskets.

For the ages

FIFA UNDER-17 WORLD CUP

India is finally participating in the football world cup even though it is at the under 17 level but makes me proud and hopeful at the same time. Proud for obvious reasons but hopeful that our young guns who come across from all walks of life do not get embarrassed in front of the home fans by the traditional footballing power houses. Sometime back(2012), I was in attendance to see India play Bayern Munich in Delhi and no doubt we were steam rolled by the Bavarians but at least there was a hint of a fight that we showed when I was expecting India to roll over by six or seven. The matches will start from tomorrow with 24 teams participating and the final will be on the 24th of October with Nigeria being the defending champions.

Fifa under 17 world cup India, rivalry, strategy
Faster, Higher, Stronger


Rivalry
The Olympics, World Cups in different sports always stress on the importance of competing because if we are not physically fighting with guns and rockets then the only way to showcase the superiority of a nation is through the economic front or sports. Even Indian film industry or Bollywood movies in recent times have put the sporting perspective in the forefront with must watch films in the sports genre such as Chuck de India, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom, Pan Singh Tomar and Dangal to name just a few. In fact, before Perke was born, I had a discussion with my wife while watching the Amir Khan starrer Dangal that irrespective of being blessed with a boy or girl, I would make sure that our child not just participates but also shines in a sport of his or her liking. Competition is intrinsic to any individual and something that contributes to a large extent in making us better humans. Messi-Ronaldo, Federrer-Nadal, Sachin-Lara, Lin Dan-Lee Chong Wei, Floyd Mayweather Jr.- Many Pacquiao are some of the examples of rivalry at their peaks in different sports. The contrast in gamesmanship, attitude, personalities, finesse, fitness, hunger, desire, killer instinct are the qualities that separate these greats in their fields even though one is as competent as the other in terms of sheer drive to excel. For a team sport, nobody comes close to the pair of Ronaldo and Messi whereas competing as individuals would be best described by Federrer and Nadal. Franchises also contribute to a great extent in honing a skill set, following and superstars. Manchester United, Barcelona, Golden State Warriors just prove my point. With globalization opening up new horizons, the pinnacle for any man or woman is if they can be bread winners through their sport which probaly starts as a hobby or recreation but knows no boundaries in terms of potential equated with marketing. As a couple we decided that we will not add to our son but both of us know the feeling of sharing because either one of us had at least a sibling.

Fifa under 17 world cup India, rivalry, strategy
Rivalry


“Bunny”

Growing up as the elder son did have it’s perks but me and my brother are as different from each other as chalk from cheese. Bunny(yours truly) is an extrovert, scarecrow physique who believes in cardio rather than weight training, always interested in novels, music, sports and movies whereas my brother is an introvert, health conscious(gym freak) and is the studious type seldom getting distracted with anything else which has somewhat changed after he got married for obvious reasons. The difference is so stark that to drill it in, he earns more than six times compared to what I earn but this is not my insecurity or a complaint, just a fact. He works out of Vancouver and has traveled the world. Looking back, we were so independent and so indifferent to each other that it is exactly these qualities that bind us as a family and long may it continue with God’s grace. We did play sports together for recreation and I eventually represented my school and college in cricket.

Strategy
From a completely strategic point of view in sports, there are quite a few intricacies involved which find resonance in our day to day lives. The concept of aggressor-retriever in racket sports is similar to individuals who are aggressive  on the road contributing to road rage or a “retriever” doing the needful in an office without going overboard. When the game is not right or if one is having an off day then he/she looks at playing the percentage shots by limiting the flamboyance and toning down the extravagance which is similar to somebody in the corporate field who is bereft of sleep having worked really hard and just about manages the day’s tasks with shots of coffee or a teacher not able to concentrate properly because her maid did not turn up and she just provides notes rather than explaining properly. Intuition, anticipation or sixth sense is seldom characterized by a sedentary lifestyle but is in full bloom when it comes to the field or competing individually.

Shop-A-Block

institutionalized, Profession, right way, shops,
Ghetto across the road

Q: Why aren’t Indians good at football?
Ans: Because everytime we get a corner, we open a shop!

Growing up as a millennial is a constant learning curve in terms of trying to grasp, master and communicate with the latest in technology and there are times when I am at loggerheads in decision making due to the overbearing data superseding the emotional quotient. According to a study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, by 2050, the urban population of the world is expected to grow by 72% and there would be a constant fight for resources would be the understatement of the century. The competition for spots in varied fields in India is so intense that a lot of the general population is business minded, whether they have the wherewithal to accomplish their goals is another matter all together. Wanted to opt for a computer course and institutes catering to such a market are dime a dozen in the vicinity so I tried to do my research and haggle to the best of my abilities. Tried a few and then some more; as they say, greed is a sin. I had almost made up my mind when just for kicks, tried one of the most shady areas of Delhi. The gentleman in question could not give out the configuration of his Operating System and on top of that was not aware of the version of MS Office. Then he had the audacity to propose that I could take a trial class and if I wasn’t satisfied then there would always be a thank you at the end. What took the cake was his disclaimer when he said,” Arre sir aapko aath saal ka tajurba hai aur aapko itna nahin aata?(What are you talking sir, you have an experience of eight years and you do not even know this)” I have been a part of customer service but never have I imagined the verbatim that I was exposed to.

Growing up in the nineties was a bit more laid back and it was almost always drilled by my parents, being the salaried class that they were, that at the end of the day I would have to be a professional, a doctor or an engineer, whether I liked it or not. Don’t have a tendency to repent or cry over spoilt milk but was always more inclined to communication and journalism rather than the sciences. There was a recent post of Denzel Washington giving a speech in a convocation and he said,”you’re doing a lot of things, but how much are you getting done?” I shudder to think as I get older if I would be able to provide the right guidance for Perke and make him realize his true potential. What I certainly don’t want is for him to become a shop keeper or business man because I do not have the resources or the guts to go down that road.

Shops are in every available space but the majority are dominated by General groceries or kirana stalls, property dealers, mobiles and education institutes. My Mom’s side is dominated by traders and this was a constant fight because I am the black sheep of the house who was not able to reach the heights that I promised growing up and everything has been handed to me on a platter. Irrespective of how rebellious I was growing up, I have finally come to terms with who I am and where my forte lies. I am secure, first time in a long time and am comfortable being me and to a large extent is thanks to my support structure that keeps me grounded and to the almighty

institutionalized, Profession, right way, shops,
Chock A Block

 

Pretty fly for a Wi-Fi

Exhibition
Week offs are rotational and it is the time to reconnect with the family and generally speaking try and make the most of what is on offer. Being a ‘normal’ guy in my mid 30’s, the fascination for cars and gadgets brings up the often stated fact, “Boys will be boys” and I could not pass on the opportunity to participate in the most anticipated sound and vision exhibition called What Hi-Fi? which was held in the Pullman Hotel situated at Aerocity, New Delhi from the 22nd till the 24th September with exhibitors being the creme de la creme from all across the country and the world.

Exhibition, technology, Pullman Hotel
What Hi-Fi


The Downer

The cynic in me remembered what my Physics teacher used to tell us in the twelfth standard by equating the majority of our pursuits or expenses as”Conspicuous Consumption” Now there is a difference between spending money judiciously and being a spendthrift and am proud to say that I fall in the former category especially when my mid-life crisis is just around the corner. India has arrived on the digital superhighway with all guns blazing but still trails the developed world in terms of the extensive use of technology in everyday fields and we miss the cutting edge which could be demonstrated with Amazon not releasing Alexa or Echo devices in the Indian context rather giving us a toned down version in the form of a voice remote for the Amazon Prime.

The Ecosystem and AI
When one looks at the broader picture of automation and control; one automatically associates comfort and convenience with it and it definitely helps when in order to obtain synergy and compatibility in the ecosystem all the electronic devices like TV, smartphone, laptop could come under a common umbrella or a single brand which would not only ease data transfer but  also seamlessly sift through the different hardware which is why Apple is the pioneer in such a scenario with bundled hardware like phone, TV, watch and tablet. This route is cost intensive and you really need to be a dedicated and patient geek in order to have a homogeneous environment. The Internet of Things and emphasis on cloud technologies are just a couple of pointers towards the world converging through dial-up, DSL, optic fibre high-speed broadband speeds.
An interesting trivia:-
The pioneers of Artificial Intelligence are two contrasting personalities with their views as different from each other as chalk and cheese. The first protagonist is the South African born head of Tesla Industries, Elon Musk who believes that just like every sphere of technology that has evolved, for example, cars, AI also needs to be regulated before it can override controls in a worst-case scenario.
Then you have the Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg who as the head of an enterprise with two billion members needs chat bots working on AI and does not believe that AI should be regulated.
This is where it becomes interesting, recently Facebook chat bots working on AI started conversing in their own language which humans could not understand and Facebook had to shut them down.
Apocalypse or Terminators? Take your pick.

The technology on display
A nice addition even though exorbitant was Dolby Atmos which are a set of speakers that not only provide surround sound but are installed in the ceiling in order to enhance the effect of rain drops or planes flying up above in a video. Atmos was provided by Harman under the brand Revel as a home theater package and the whole set up including the speakers and screen excluding the recliners would set you back by Rs 12,00,000 or $18,361 approx. Other companies in the stereo speaker space or loud speakers were Sennheiser, Q Acoustics, Gallo Acoustics and Focal(French company brought by Sahil International, Mumbai) to name a few. In fact Focal also had a stand alone speaker that cost Rs 55,00,000 or $84,000.
Mateos and Casadigi were other notable contributors in the home automation department which would start from automated lighting to eventually give you control of your air conditioner, TV, channels, movies, curtain all on your fingertips through a tablet.

Pluck
Instead of making a hole in my pocket  big enough for me to jump in I took dad and did what we do best. We ate at Pluck, a trendy restaurant, serving a buffet which was worth it because it was not limited to a select few guests but the fare on offer was nouveau and rich. I overstuffed myself and skipped the two meals after that but it was a morning well spent and something that I look forward to next year as well.

The girl next door

We live in one of the better residential localities of Delhi with most of the amenities at our disposal right from the basic to the not so basic. Right in front of my flat is a small park and then a service lane for outbound traffic, a main road which has a fly over on it and then a not so affluent class who have recently converted from mud houses to brick houses in a haphazard manner and right behind us are bungalows of the comparatively more affluent and then there is us, the ‘middle class’ living in flats consisting of around 50 odd families. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, our former Prime Minister, once said that we can change our enemies but not our neighbors. This is about my neighbor Jaya Didi and her love for animals.

Neighbor, Jaya Didi, Jojo, pets, colony
Jaya Didi and Jojo
We had a pet growing up and it was a mixed breed, Cocker spaniel and Doberman, Boozo and Dad and brother used to be the masters in the house and yours truly who couldn’t enter the house if I was all by myself because Boozo wouldn’t let me which I never held against him. Boozo was one of the most ferocious dogs around and was a terror to the colony children if it was let out accidentally or on a leash. Have fond memories of him and he died in Mom’s lap in the balcony aged 13. Something completely changed in my brother post Boozo’s death and we took a decision as a family never to keep a pet again because the loss really hit us. Harman on the other hand started carrying biscuits in the scooter, car, office, outings and used to feed stray dogs anywhere and everywhere he could find them. He was the one around 2010 when he met Jaya Didi for the first time and that is how we got to know each other.
Didi or elder sister is married to Manoj Bhaiya and they had a love marriage but they don’t have children and all the motherly love, affection and instincts are directed to the stray cats and dogs. In the above photo she can be seen nursing Jojo who had an ear wound and required surgery and we will be taking him for a checkup again tomorrow. Jojo’s direct descendant is Bunny and Bunny stays with Didi and other dogs and cats in the vicinity. Didi makes it a point of feeding the animals at least twice a day and she has outsourced a dog Gugu who even though is a stray, stays with us in the air conditioning at times and we do not keep her tied so she is free to come and go as and when she pleases. Didi took voluntary retirement after working for approximately 25 years in the Canadian high commission which is similar to what Mom did but is full of life. There is never a dull moment when she is around. She is one of the few ‘headstrong’ ladies in the colony who like to take the bull by the horns, no harm intended. We’ve exchanged different dishes at different times and Didi cooks a mean Rogan Josh. My parents refused to get involved at the time of Shraddha’s delivery and Didi took it upon herself to shoulder the burden of the C-section. Even after Perke’s birth Didi has been rock steady in terms of her commitment towards us by gifting Perke baby essentials and valuable time and tips as and when she finds the time. The reason why I am doing this is not because of brownie points or incentives at the end of the day but hopefully by expressing my gratitude I can identify with the love for dogs the way she does. To end it, I leave you a snapshot of Queen Gugu on her throne, enjoy!
colony, Jaya Didi, Jojo, Neighbor, pets, Gugu
Gugu in the Winter

Breaking Bad

TV is the centerpiece of my world and to say that I am a couch potato would be the understatement of the decade but lately I haven’t devoted as much time to it as I would have liked to but I won’t crib. Along with this is my confession-
I have never watched Game of Thrones and never will. Period.
What I want to harp on is something that I saw a few years back and which has left an indelible mark on me considering the power of the idiot box is a serial with an IMDB rating of 9.5 and is none other than Breaking Bad.

Walter White, Jesses Pinkman, Heisenberg, Bryan Cranston, Aron Paul, Serial
Heisenberg

What really hits you for a start is the fact that the new age has brought with it protagonists that are super smart who are living everyday lives and do not have a problem delving into the grey area as opposed to portraying straightforward black and white. This series is about the trials and tribulations of a Chemistry Professor by the name of Walter White played by the bold Bryan Cranston ably supported by the cast led by Aron Paul aka Jesse Pinkman. My intention is not  to play the spoilsport by giving you a heads up but a general synopsis.

Walter is diagnosed with Lung Cancer and realizes that he doesn’t have long to live so for the sake of his family he dives into the underbelly of Albuquerque, New Mexico by manufacturing and selling Crystal Meth.

The series is spread across four seasons and for me it is the best that I have laid my eyes on and not because I have watched it twice. It got a new lease of life thanks to Netflix picking it up in a big way and has garnered fans all around the world. It is testimony to the fact that it released in the year 2008 and is still garnering eye balls seven years hence. The script is the killer and is ably supported by the cast in general, the direction and the locales giving it justified realism. There is a contrast in the portrayal of the two main characters because not just are they worlds apart but also they have to overcome the generation gap by working beyond their perceived petty differences. And you cannot go wrong with the notion of sex and drugs. Well, lets just say sex is the facade and it is only about the drugs. Seldom will you come across a serial that transcends boundaries and cultures to achieve acceptance. It even had a spin-off as a sequel by the name of “Better Call Saul” based on the lawyer Saul Goodman in it. I  was watching it with my wife a third time and she developed an instant liking for Jesse Pinkman. I am not jealous. Just waiting for something that again catches my fancy and I can get ‘hooked again’.

Farewell

I am a part of the early eighties having been born during that time which makes me a Generation X and this was followed by the Millennials who constitute a different story altogether. Now with Perke being born just like any other parent, my trials and tribulations have started with my imagination running riot thinking about how best I can provide for him in education as a priority and then look at comforts. Being a proud Dipsite having completed my schooling from Delhi Public School, R.K Puram obviously I want my son to follow my footsteps which makes me reminisce about what happened on the last day of school when we left.

School farewell, graffiti, Priya march
School Farewell

Graffiti


It was a time honored tradition in those days that the outgoing batch would have a no holds barred march from the school premises to Priya cinema which is a distance of 3.6 kms or 2.2 miles and we were anticipating this as the culmination of fourteen years of schooling. The last half of the day had been left for the festivities to begin and something that each and everyone of us identifies with because we had sections till “S” with approximately 40 students in Sciences, Commerce and Humanities with 760 students, give or take, left by themselves in the school football grounds to spoil themselves silly with graffiti on each others uniforms. Girls writing their phone numbers, making explicit designs, innuendo, uniforms never looked so good. In fact, I took it out the other day while resetting the almirah. After everybody had had their fair share of laughs, we were let out for the march before the last period.
The March
Around 100 yards away from the school is Sangam cinema and a few eateries or snack joints for students and the cine goers alike. Now the notorious lot camped in those joints and as soon as the buses started leaving, started pelting them with noodles, eggs, tomatoes by snatching these items from the shop keepers and shouted obscenities against the principal and the rest of the teachers. The looks of astonishment on the ones who were still young and impressionable is something that I still remember.
Another 50 yards further, we were joined by dhol wallahs from the adjoining slum cluster and it was an impromptu street dance in the middle of the road. There was a traffic policeman check post in the middle of the crossing for him to carry out the duties which was an elevated, cylindrical metal structure with a shed. Now, five or six guys climbed on top of it to accentuate that “high” but unfortunately the structure came crashing down on one of the students, Praghav. He went to a nearby doctor for five stitches and rejoined the revelry.
Priya

We reached the back of Priya(now PVR Priya) commercial complex without further addition to the happenings but little did we know about what “lay in store” There was a Pepsi truck right in front of the crowd and Delhi is known for two things:-
1. We are a city of freeloaders and that means anything under the sun and it is free of cost, we will grab it by both hands. To nail this point, seldom will you come across cricket matches or concerts in the city precisely for this reason. Complimentary passes outnumber the gentry who actually paid for them.
2. We believe in “jugaad” and that is getting things done by hook or crook. Jugaad is a Mumbai expression but that is the only common thing with it. We are laid back in our approach but if it is about getting over the finish line then as much as the sun rises in the east, it will happen in Delhi. Example: I can have a beef biryani for Rs 120 or a beef stake for Rs 1,500 without batting an eyelid.
Needless to add, carrying the above theme forward, in those days Pepsi came in glass bottles, boys and girls picked up a bottle, bottles or an entire crate depending on what caught their fancy. Abhinav had a bottle in hand so I asked him how would he drink it? The reply was to hold the bottle against the footpath at an incline and he cracked the bottle from the top and drank it. McDonalds had opened recently and the entire batch got inside with no place to fall over and started shouting in front of the customers that they were hungry and wanted to eat. Went in the loo when I met good samaritans who were obviously in shock and I added to their startled expression by saying that we were from the same planet.

The year was 2000 and that was the last time that the march happened. My brother who is younger to me by an year and passed out from the same school “celebrated” in the sports complex with a DJ, soft drinks and snacks. Tsk Tsk