Thursday, August 31, 2006

Legocy

I'd reckon most kids in middle class background who have had a relative/neighbour/acquaintance visit 'phoren' sometime around the time I was a kid has a 20% chance of having played with Lego sets. I remember my first (and only) Lego set. Our neighboring uncle had visited Australia and had brought back a Lego set for me. This one involved an American astronaut and a moon rover. Marveling at the preciseness and alienness of the small structures, I spent hours creating and recreating them (my other favorite was playing with ‘Hot Wheels’ cars). Eons have passed since. Playing with Lego seems like a thing of the past, and the only set of Hot Wheels are on my 2003 Passat. Just when I had forgotten the phenomenon, a colleague at work popped up one day with a constructed Lego set. A full blown adult with a full blown Lego set. And here’s the bright part: he designed it himself. You can take basic lego parts and construct your design online or buy someone else’s design. Apparently, Lego has moved forward while I have gone nowhere in that world. One look at the Lego site told me how out of touch I was. Gone are the US astronauts. Now you have everything from Batman to Harry Potter to Star Wars. I think that’s smart progress. In the age of the Nintendo DS and other handheld games, you have to work extra hard to maintain your clientele. Anyone else with a Lego story to share or am I the only one here?

P.S> The music of ‘Don’ is out. Anyone familiar with old movie will appreciate the subtleties including the use of the theme music in the title song. Heard it a couple of times. Hasn’t caught on fully yet, but I am sure it will. D2 music should be coming out soon too, followed by Salaam-e-ishq and Umrao Jaan and Guru among others. Can’t remember any recent year with so many big budget movies cramped together.

Friday, August 25, 2006

While the world churned

Well, it actually turned too, but the dynamism of this planet is enthralling. Here’s a summary of what’s happening around the world recently that immediately comes to my pop-culturish, politically churlish and sportingly bent mind.

1. No Paris for Parsis
Actually, no Paris for any Indians living in India. Paris Hilton’s debut album was to be promoted with a video for the song ‘Stars are blind’. But it has been banned in India for being too racy. India, rejoice. You have been saved. There is no escaping Paris ‘That's hot’ Hilton here, but this is a blessing in disguise. You don’t have to hear Paris sing. Your tragedy is to keep watching Rakhi Sawant. By the way, I have seen the banned video and Rakhi Sawant might just beat Paris Hilton hands down in raciness. Perhaps, someone on the censor board dislikes Paris Hilton for all the right reasons too.

2. Pluto planet na rahaa
Pluto has been demoted. From the big boys club to the dwarfs ensemble. The emasculated little fellow is now going to be called a dwarf planet. There are several thrills people are getting out of this. One friend referred to the event with the exclamation: “Now there is no planet left discovered by an American”. Imagine what this changes: navagrahas are ashtagrahas now. The ninth rock from the sun has rocked the third rock from the sun

3. North by North-West
Brown is the color of paranoia, especially if it happens to be on your skin. Perhaps the terrorists have already won. One plane diversion a week is a victory for the schism driving scum. A Northwest flight to Mumbai was diverted back to Amsterdam on suspicious behavior by some passengers. The passengers were Indians and were treated very badly. The Dutch government has issued an apology. Not a good time to be a brown man. Pertinent question raised by someone in an article I read someplace: “What if the twelve people were Europeans?”. Really, what if?

4. Are we there yet?
The South African cricket team ran home. There’s no other way to describe it. Perhaps the previous point and this one is tied in. What is it about teams like NZ, Aus, England and SA and their willingness to take the first flight home even when a firecracker is burst? This particular exit pissed me off no end. LTTE has not targeted foreigners, the SA team was given presidential level of security, the other two teams were willing to stay back. I am sorry, but they are wrong. The game has been skewed for the past century, with the sub-contintental teams and management has always suffered from an inferiority complex. They are ever willing to listen to their colonial masters, bend over backwards, allowed to be treated as some sort of undecipherable threat that they will always be vary about. This has to change. We control the game today. I may dislike Dalmiya for a lot of reasons, but I like the fact that he has brought about the balance of power. Penalize SA, don’t bring them to the subcontinent henceforth. Let them learn a lesson on being a decent cricketing citizen. For they are not.

5. Hair-rising issue
While I am sufficiently upset, let me go all the way. This post is turning out to be a comment on the clash of civilizations. This example perhaps the most fitting. Darrell ‘no-ball’ Hair, the man who declared that the Pakistanis had tampered the ball without providing adequate proof, the man who deliberately handled the situation harshly even though he could have done otherwise, has finally told ICC: give me $500k and I shall leave. Brilliant. This episode was a classic case of rant no. 4 showing up in a repressed sub-continental team. When the two W’s invented the reverse swing in the early 90’s, they were labeled cheats. The fact that they were from a sub-contintental team and the accusations came from the fair-skinned masters gave it legitimacy. A decade down the line, nothing has changed. Maybe the Pakistanis did actually tamper the ball. But they have been labeled guilty even without a trial. In the minds of people. Inzi over-reacted, yes. But what caused the over-reaction? The pent up feeling of being run down and being targeted because of past history. Perhaps both Inzi and Hair will be punished. Perhaps Hair did what he had to do. But my sympathies cannot lie with him. There’s too much history to reckon with. Mike Denness anyone?

Ok, agitated rant over. Taking deep breaths. Ok, here’s a moderate level rant to finish it off.

6. Yun hota to kya hota
Naseerudin Shah is a fine actor. Given. What he has is an attitude problem where he keeps blasting Bollywood produce. All the time. He still acts in it, but keeps calling it crap. What next? He gets a chance to prove that he can make the ‘non-trash’ by directing a movie himself. So he makes Yun Hota to Kya Hota. A movie technique about strangers in a common situation: tried before. The treatment is fair, and I wouldn’t call this movie crap, I like it in parts. But then I am just a poor Bollywood movie fanatic. My tolerance is much higher than Mr. Shah. Back to the movie: this is a plot that he has mangled so badly that the script writer has an open letter on his website to Naseer asking him to take his name off because the script is no longer his. Read here. Sorry Naseer bhai, walk the line, or keep your comments in check. You did act in movies like Daava and Takkar.

Finally. Done. Zen-like work shall follow.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Aahista Aahista

Yesterday, I heard one of my all time favorite ghazals after a while. This is a ghazal sung by Jagjit Singh and written by Ameer Minai. Jagjit Singh sang this in his album called ‘Unforgettables’, which he released with Chitra Singh in the year 1975. This was the first album that broke away from the traditional mould and used modern instruments in conjunction with traditional instruments, something that would become part of Jagjit’s style over the years. In my opinion, this is the among the best ghazal albums that Jagjit has come up with (others like A Sound Affair and Milestone would also qualify). Jagjit elevates the lyrics to a different level by his rendition. You can find it here. The rhythm of the song, the slight hint of echo in the recording and the simplicity of the lyrics adds to its brilliance. Enough said, here are the lyrics

Sarakti jaaye hain rukh se naqaab aahista aahista
Nikalta aa raha hai aaftaab aahista aahista
[rukh=face, naqaab=veil, aaftaab=sun]

Jawaan hone lage jab woh to humse kar liya parda
Hayaa yaklakht aaee aur shabaab aahista aahista
[hayaa=shyness, yaklakht = suddenly, shabaab=youth]

Shab-e-furqat ka jaaga hoon faristhon ab to sone do
Kabhi fursat mein kar lena hisaab aahista aahista
[furqat=separation]

Woh bedardi se sar kaate 'ameer' aur main kahoon unse
Huzoor aahista aahista janaab aahista aahista

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Vignette

The second cube of ice clinked in the glass
As the host returned to his chair with a smile
"Where were we?", his friend inquired,
"Suzy", the host added, with a glint in his eye

"Aah Suzy", said the friend, returning his smile
The story started, more cobwebs cleared
He squinted the eyes of his mind
Trying to remember, Suzy's slaying smile

And it slew them both in its deadly wake
Fierce jealousy arose amidst tender crush
As friends in life became enemies in love
Alas the contingencies of reckless fate

The memories laughed as two friends reminisced
Their misbehaved proposals, Suzy's dignified rejection
As they relived the bitter sweet follies of youth
From their present joined a single word: "Cheers!"

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Distress of Prices

I live in far far away land. Tucked in the northwest corner of the United States of America, I cling onto my "roots" (refer SD's treatise on postmodernism for details) in the most obvious ways. I play cricket with other Indians, watch Hindi movies, the occasional TV serials, ponder on my five-year plan(for that, refer to my theorem). At the end of the day, the biggest and brightest and most earnest connection is food. My wife is an excellent cook and does wonders in the kitchen conjuring delicious Indian dishes along with other cuisines. The raw material is duly supplied by the Indian grocery store. Its probably ironic that working for a company that is often accused of monopoly, I feel a similar passion towards the Indian store. As Gabbar would ask: "kitne aadmi the?" to which hi dutiful sidekick would have to reply "dus hazaar". "Aur Indian stores kitni?". "Sardar, ek". "Bahut na insaafi hai".

Gabbar's empathy is to be expected. Contending with their huge profit margins, buying ketchups and later realizing that their expiry date is October 2003, never finding the same product twice, buying vegetables staler than the jokes on Mind of Mencia, Gabbar knows a thing or two about tyranny when he sees it. The last straw hit me in the face very recently. There is a shortage of daal in this country owing to the banning of the exports of daal by the Indian government. Fair enough, if the justification is to curtail inflation in India. Far-fetched, but the concern of Indians should be considered before those of NRIs. I am ok with that. What I am not ok with is two aunties in the said Indian store ganging up to inquire whether I read news about India and know about the daal shortage. On the first day of the rationing that they passed onto the consumers, they put up some pink colored posters with instructions printed in font size 10 and put them up next to the daal counter on the store. The limit, it seems is four pounds per family. I didn't read it. It wasn't readable, it didn't catch my attention. Darn it, they should have something more prominent if they want customers to pay heed. Ever seen how many such posters they stick in Indian stores? Then the aunties chastise me for bringing more than four pounds. I inquired about the limit and was asked about my knowledge of current affairs in India. Respectfully restraining myself from uttering a dozen or so retorts in my mind, I dragged myself out of the store.

The incident still riles me up. If I need elderly chastising, there are legitimate reasons and people I can turn to. I feel like I am in line to get food in jail and the guy serving it is laughing the evil laugh. We are all prisoners here, of the Indian store's devise. Trapped, in prices, in monopoly, in substandard quality, in aunty-ly instincts, there is no escape. 'Jaayen to jaayen kahan?' 

Friday, August 04, 2006

Another one passes by

This is an easy post. Completed two years of this blog. This is for the faithfuls: the handful few who read and comment on the blog, and the others who read and tell me they follow my writings and the anonymous whose existence will be a mystery to me till they reveal themselves. Thank you. The words will keep coming and I will keep posting till you are around. When that stops, there's always the old diary one is meant to write in. Till the next post, so long and thanks for bearing the kitsch.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Runners Inc.

The three of them rushed towards me
A hurling mass of metal and body
I slowed down and watched in amazement
Mother, pram, dog
Burning up the sidewalk
In an undecipherable order
A mind-boggling conundrum
Who's running whom?

*******************************************************

There he sees it
Right past the bend
Just across the hill
Water, precious water

The limbs get strength
And the will awakens
As he rushes towards it
The mid-point of his marathon

*******************************************************

Sweat trickles to his shoulder
A smile breaks on his face
He watches people run past him
And wonders, why do they bother?
Then bites into his hamburger

*******************************************************

One small step for man
Doesn't count for much on the pedometer