Monday, December 27, 2004

Vegan delights

No, I am not changing my food habits all of a sudden. I am perfectly happy eating vegetarian food interspersed with omlettes, cakes and other delicacies that egg has to offer. I am referring to Vegas. Yes, I am back from my 8-day trip that inlcuded San Diego, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The trip was awesome. Totally energizing, rejuvenating, and all the related adjectives. I am half tempted to write a travelogue, but I am still settling back into my groove (i.e. I am feeling too lazy right now). So, here are a few highlights that stood out for me in the trip

1. There is an exit called 'The Zzyzx Road' en route to Las Vegas from San Diego. I am not kidding. Apparently, someone else was as intrigued and did some research of his own. Another has a picture of the same
2. I started off with one dollar and promptly converted it to $50 in a matter of 15 minutes over slot machines and Russian roulette
3. I promptly lost all that money the next night
4. I like the false skies that they create in casinos in vegas
5. I'd like to stay once in the Bellagio or the Venetian
6. I'd like a lot of money to pay off the bills for the above venture
7. Hoover dam reminded me solely of the opening scene in Golden Eye
8. The musical fountains in Bellagio rock. I saw them from the Eiffel Tower.
9. For those who wonder what the Eiffel Tower is doing in Vegas, you can visit Paris, New York, Venice and several wondrous cultures of the world without having to step outside the 3 mile strip.
10. I'd like to thank all the Americans who stayed back home with their families on the 24th of December so that there were no queues at the Universal studio theme park.
11. The Universal studio tour was fun, especially seeing the sets where the movies have been shot and seeing the same place in a scene of the movie
12. I drove up Beverly Hills through Mulholland Drive. A movie by that name is right up there with Memento in its complexity
13. Californians deserve the high prices they have to pay for everything. It was 70 degrees, sunny with people playing beach volleyball in shorts and much lesser clothes.
14. The beaches in La Jolla were terrific. For that matter, all beaches were terrific. Readers of this blog already know my weaknesses for seashores.
15. The Hollywood Walk of Fame was a letdown. I did enjoy seeing the Kodak theater, the place where the Oscars are held.
16. The dolphins in Sea World are amazing. I think their trainers must be commended even more.

All said and done, I was very glad to be back in Seattle, back to my home, back to the gloom, back to the rain, and though I must mention this grudgingly, back to my work too!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Able was I ere I sawed my Elbow

End of a tough day at work. I thought I'd spend some time sampling the songs of Kisna and Shabd that have just come out. This year has seen the comeback of the qawwali. First came 'Tumse Milke Dil' from Main Hoon Na, which rocked, then came 'Aaya tere dar par' in Veer-Zaara which was more along the lines of traditional lines and now comes 'Chilman' from Kisna, an Ismail Darbar composition. I loved Darbar's compositions in Devdas even though the music wasn't as big a hit as expected, and given his track record, it seems like he needs a musically inclined director (yes, Ghai qualifies as one) to extract good work from him. I love qawwalis. 'Na to qarwaan ki talaash hai' is the all time best qawwali in Hindi movies according to me. It has never been bettered and never will be. If you haven't heard it yet, please do so. The movies is 'Barsaat Ki Raat' and the music is by none other than the great Roshan (yes, Hrithik's grand-dad). Rafi is the king all the way in the song, and I can't ever get over the fact that Bharat Bhushan got to enact this and many more of Rafi's great works!!!

Feels good to write something after a while. The break from blog was influenced by a few factors
1. We lost the match badly. Juvenile at 26? Perhaps so, but I felt depressed due to that. We just started on the wrong foot, and it ended horribly for us.
2. The adrenalin to blog regularly was missing
3. I wanted to get on top of my work before I leave this Saturday on a trip to San Diego (to meet Sachin), Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
4. I am short on ideas to write about. That sinking feeling, when contrasted with the pleasure derived from reading Caferati (thanks Geetanjali for writing about it on your blog) just compelled me to stay away for a while. I sawed my right elbow for a while, have attached it again

I started watching 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' last night. I am attuned to a Charlie Kaufman script, so it didn't throw me completely off guard. The only surprise was seeing Jim Carrey in such a role. I also managed to catch 'Ocean's Twelve' last week, and it was strictly ok. I think the director played it smart. The doses of self-deprecating humour also helped.

I'll be missing the first day first show of 'Swades' (no SRK bashing: just repeating for those who don't already know), but I am assuming the thrill of Seaworld, casinos in Vegas and seeing Univeral studios might more than make up for it.

I do regret having missed Sachin's century (no SRT bashing too please) even though it was made against Bangladesh. If he decides to relent in the next match, he might make century no. 35 and his 10,000th run against Pakistan next year, and I'll make sure I'll catch it.

BTW, what's with all the cell phone misuse in India? First the DPS clip and now the Kareena affair. 1.5 world country, Tarun? :-)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Makke di DVD aur sarson da blog

Sorry for the bad rhyming. Couldn't get anything better to rhyme with saag. However, I am accurate about the Makke (corn) di CD. A Japanese company (where else can this innovation come from) has developed a corn starch DVD. It is possible to apply the new substance not only to a DVD, but to a CD and blue ray disk, which is a next-generation memory storage device, the company said. Read this amazing fact.

What about sadda Punjab? Chak de innovation??? We can make corny movies, but not corny media?? I can recollect only two uses for corn: eating and nostalgic references in Yash Chopra movies.

Think about the myriad innovations possible:
'If you don't like the movie, eat it up'
'Dinner and a movie' (very American concept)
'Tea, coffee or DVD?'

Oh, I can't think of anything smarter here, but if you are commenting on this blog, feel free to chip in. By the way, as the only known Punju reader, Tarun, what EXACTLY does 'Chak de phatte' mean?

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Recovered drive

I have never tasted any sporting success. At least, not before. When I was at school, I wasn't blessed with height and power. I was sprightly as a kid and largely confused that with being athletic. I never won a single medal in any track event at school or college. In fact, the only race that I finished first was slow racing (the aim is to not fall of your cycle and be the last to cross a certain distance). I had taken some coaching in cricket but my school never had a proper team, so I never got into playing cricket anywhere besides my building. I also learnt tennis for three years, but the racket was about half my size. The only tournament I ended up playing in saw me win the first match 6-0 (they decided who wins based on a set) and losing the second round 9-7. For all the great things my school had, what was missing terribly was the push for participating in intra-school sporting events. Junior college and engineering college had the same story. Over the years, I have realised that my belief that I was athletic wasn't entirely misplaced. I have picked up table tennis, badminton etc. very quickly and play them with a great degree of comfort now. But I never entered any tournaments, and didn't have a sport story to feel good about.

After a few months in Seattle, I joined a cricket team to participate in the oh-so-large-and-competitive cricket league. At that time, the team was fully staffed with quality players, so I had to wait to get my turn. The first time I got a match, I picked up three wickets for next to nothing when all the other bowlers got mauled. Susbsequently, in that league, we made it to the quarter-finals. I got promoted up the order and played a really good innings to make a respectable total. Unfortunately, we lost the match. The next season was better and I compiled quite a few good innings at the top of the order. We made it to the semis, but unfortunately, I had some out of station visitors whom I had to take around. I missed the match, and never got picked for the finals, which we lost. The league after that, I played a match and then twisted my ankle badly in practice which kept me out for the rest of the season.

Before I continue the story, I should indeed explain how the league works here. We play with hard tennis balls (imported from India), 8 players a side, 16 overs an innings on different grounds here. Some are astro-turf used for soccer while others are school grounds with a very uneven pitch and terrible outfields. 65-80 is considered a good score, and anything in excess of 15 is a good score from a batsman. I missed the first two games of the league which my team lost. After that, me and a couple of other players joined in and the results were immediate. We won all 4 league matches after that on a trot. In the fourth of its kind match, I made 21 not out which was my highest score in the league thus far (and got me picked as a man of the match). While it doesn't seem like a lot of runs, one should realise that the conditions are not conducive to run-scoring with the type of the ball and the outfield. After winning the quarter-finals last week, we had our semi-finals today. Here's how the story went

The match was supposed to start at 9 am this morning. When we reached the ground, we were treated with (you will never guess) ... SNOW. Yes, it was snowing, with the temperature around 30 deg F (or 0 deg celcius). It was chilling cold even with a couple of layers of clothing and the wicket-keeping gloves that I was wearing. We were asked to bowl first and trust me, most players were hoping that the ball would not come to them because they'd have to take their hands out of their pockets. The opposing team were scoring freely having lost just one wicket till the half way mark. At that time, I decided to have a bowl (vice-captaining gives some privileges) . I am not a regular bowler, but do turn my hand over with some slow-paced bowling. Today must have been my day ... I got three wickets, including their two most dangerous batsmen ... all bowled. Figures at the end of the innings: 3/15 in 4 overs. We were set a target of 64 in 16 overs.

The one thing I have been concentrating on doing is to keep my wickets intact. In all the previous leagues that I played, I would invariably run myself out not having figured out any other way of giving my wicket away. This league too, I have scored close to 90 runs in 6 innings with two dismissals. This innings though, turned out to be quiet special. I ended up staying right till the end, hitting the winning runs in the 15th over .... and scored 30 not out. We lost a couple of wickets on the way, but a good opening partnership and consistent scoring ensured that we got there in comfort. In the process, I also hit two boundaries on the leg. It turned out to be my best score in the league, in a do or die match, and coupled with my bowling figures, a man of the match award. Winning this match was crucial to us making it to the 'B' league, irrespective of what happens in the finals

Man of the match in a semi-final of the league C of the American Recreational Cricket League in Seattle wouldn't mean anything to almost all but 12-14 souls in this cosmos. One could also argue that this award would not mean much if we lost the finals. But hey, its a success alright. It isn't the World Cup, but shining on a big stage in this tournament after three attempts gone awry means a lot to me. I know this is a self-congratulatory post, but hey, every blog has its way :-) Everyone on the team is looking forward to an enthralling finale with a very tough team (they are yet to be defeated in 8 matches). Reminds you of India vs Aus? We hope to change the script. Wish me luck

P.S> Since I felt that this called for some special kind of celebration, I corked open a bottle of my all-time favorite cola, the one that I don't consume much nowadays, but is always available for a $1.25 in the Indian stores, the baap of all colas: Thumbs Up! (Yup, taste the thunder)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Would you rather be a Greek God?

'Greek God looks' screamed Filmfare, when they carried a series of photos on the prodigal Hrithik Roshan when Kaho na Pyaar Hai was nearing completion. Kabir Bedi is often commented upon as having non-Indian Greek God looks in his prime. There are a select few on the list that I have read being complimented similarly: John Abraham, Fardeen Khan (!) ....

It appears to me that Indian Gods never did excel in the looks department. You may be 'sarv gun sampann' but 'nirgun' when it comes to looks. Ram was never a dasher in comparison with Adonis, Indra wouldn't strike a 'vajra' (thunderbolt) in the hearts of women like Zeus would. Our mythology has consigned the average Indian man to a life of indignation about his looks, pushed him to the backfoot with a quicker one, removed all hope of being loved and desired for his tobacco-stained teeth, bushy moustache, absentee muscles and well-rounded belly. Its an attitudinal thing: "Even our Gods never looked good, what chance do we have?"

But all is not lost for us. To borrow and tweak a line from Spiderman, "With great looks comes great fallibility". These poor Greek souls probably had their minds screwed up with their good looks, what with stories of incest, Pandora's boxers (that was the name I used for my quiz team back in my college festival days) and what not. Being surrounded and hounded by women was second nature to them. That may be an inapparent reason why they are revered so much

Our Gods are a study in contrast. The one time a Supanakha approaches Laxman, he cuts her nose off!! Not the winning of hearts by courtship the way our Gods take. Indra sneaked and peeked and disguised himself as Gautam Rishi to get close to Ahilya.

How does one explain this extreme behavior? Is there an inherent inferiority complex here? Are these the role models we have? Do Indian (or any) men have nothing that they can be equated to an Indian God for? Have you ever heard of "Oh, look at his face, it is glowing bright like Lord Rama" or "Look, his biceps are like Hanuman". Is this the best we can do? You see a good looking man, you tag him as good looking ... you see someone better, you tag him as a Greek God? I think Raja Ravi Verma missed the point when he made our male Indian Gods look ... well, Godly. People don't want to just look good, they want to look Godly good ... to be precise, Greek Godly good.