Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Really Bad Day at Office.

I'm sitting at my desk staring at the computer screen. No work to do. No one from our office gang is in today. I've come to office to finish some paperwork with Finance which, as expected will only happen after 5 in the evening. There is not a single person in the adjoining 5 cubicles. Where the hell is everybody dammit? What am I doing here??
Winamp is running on shuffle mode since morning. I've even read all the user comments on rediff.
Bangladesh were giving me something to look forward to, but even they folded for 410 odd.

Okay, I shall drown my boredom in some random musings.
  • Saw Ghajini on friday. Good masala movie, although I felt that there wasn't enough of the intriguing short-term-memory-loss concept even though that was publicized as the USP of the film. I watched it in Urvashi theater with 2000 other people. The ambience was terrific. Aamir khan can take a bow for his versatility. Asin is like a breath of fresh air. Jiah khan has super potential, methinks.
  • Went to Mysore over the weekend. Me & the missus visited chamundi hills & the temple. Huuge crowd. Chaos. Screwed a couple of smartasses trying to jump the ticket queue. Sadistic pleasure :). One funny incident though: A marwari guy walked toward the small hanuman idol inside the temple, pointed toward the idol and asked the poojari "yeh kaun hain"? The poojari looked at him dumbfounded for 3 seconds, then just lost it totally and chased him out of the temple while yelling obscenities!!
  • Visited a friend and her cute li'l 3 month old baby girl. She'd dressed her up in a pink frock we'd gifted her when the baby was born. So sweet. Is it just me or are girl babies a little quieter & less destructive than boy babies?
  • The fact that I only have 2 more days to eat all the indian junk food is making me feel miserable.
  • Whatever happened to Anuradha Paudwal, that singer with a distinctly melodious voice? I'm listening to the title song of 'Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain' (I know), and she sounds so damn melodious. Good song that.
  • My office gang is disintegrating. And its making me sad. I'm leaving for the US, one quit the company, one moved to a different department and a different office.. all this at once. Dunno if life will be the same again once I return.
Okay, enough rambling. Its 3:30. Time to harass the finance guys once more.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Spiritual Conquest, Karnatic Style: Part 2

Dharmasthala was hot. Sweltering hot actually, which didn't make sense because it was December. Walking around barefoot didn't help either.
We headed straight to the temple and stood in the queue for 'darshana'. And thus began the most traumatic 2 hours of my life. The queue moved slower than traffic on Bannerghatta Road, but we were lucky to be surrounded by some very civilized, cultured people who kept us entertained throughout.  These people were also obviously high on personal hygiene. And their kids were a charm. Honest. Highlight of my trip: When one of those kids vomited in the middle of the queue.
The line moved through narrow metal-grilled chambers which made me feel like I was in prison waiting for my hindalium plate of food. After about 2 hours, we reached a point in the queue where there was a security guard who was letting in people in batches of  about 100. "At last", I thought "Here I come Manjunathaaa!". But to my horror, I realized that this was not an entrance to the temple, but to another long crowded prison-chamber which led into another chamber.
And that's when I lost it. I asked the security guard to open the gate and stormed out of the queue after giving my wife a 'don't even think about it' look. (She gave me a "Its Okay, we'll talk later" look which was heartening). I refreshed myself with a couple of cold lemonades, went back to the van and cooled my heels waiting for everyone to come back.
After about an hour or so, I got a phone call, from my wife, and I was ordered back to the temple to join them for the free lunch.
Lunch at Dharmasthala temple is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 
The whole thing gets over in less than 6 minutes. Whether you like it or not, whether you finish eating or not. Taste was okay, but it isn't a lot of fun when your trousers eat more than you do.

Moving on, we started towards 'Kaarkada', a small town near Udupi where we had planned to spend the night at a relative's place. Watched 'Mungaaru Male' on the way, which held up surprisingly well on second viewing. (I'd watched it at PVR last year, the only Kannada movie I have watched at a theater in the last 2 years. Just thought you'd like to know.) I realized that I can actually watch those songs any number of times without getting bored. 
After a great dinner, I slept really well that night.
Next morning, we took an early morning walk around the open fields and the countryside. It was charming and gave me some really nice photo-ops.

After breakfast, which included homemade 'Tatte Idly' and Kesari Bhath, we headed out to see the temples at Saligrama and Anegudde. These 2 were by far the best & most peaceful of the lot. I actually enjoyed those visits.

(Saligrama Temple Premises)

On the way back from Anegudde, we stopped at a road side shop who is famous for making superb 'Mandakki Churmuri'. It is similar to 'Churmuri', but is made from a different type of rice flake. And they use Coconut Oil. All the ingredients come together like heaven and this is what you get.

Believe me, it tastes better than it looks!

So, after spending an astonishing 500 Rupees at that shop, we boarded the van for the jouney back home. We decided to take the Shimoga route thinking that it would be better for our stomachs, backs, etc. Bad Idea. It added an extra 2 hours to the journey.
The silver lining though was that we got to pass through 'Agumbe Ghats' which offered some fabulous views like this:

We stopped at Shimoga for Lunch (although eating at 5 PM is not necessarily called 'Lunch'). We went into a restaurant near the bus stand and waited for what seemed like an eternity before a waiter decided to stop by and place glasses of water in front of us. He disappeared quickly and we did not see him again. Losing patience, we asked the guy at the counter where the hell were all the waiters. He said "Neeru togond barakke hogavre" (Waiters have gone to fetch water).
With brains not working full time because of hunger, we obviously did not understand his response. We did not care either.
We told him that we've been waiting from over 20 mins and we need some service urgently.
For that, he pointed us to a notice signboard near his counter which read (and I kid you not):
"Urgent Service Not Provided". 
(I tried to take a photograph of that signboard, but the guy hid it away!)
In the meantime, my wife, who had gone to see if the bathrooms were usable, came back running, looking like she had just seen Himesh Reshammiya without his wig.
Taking cue, we quickly exited the restaurant and got onto the bus, food be damned. After a couple of hours, we stopped at Tarikere and ate Masale Doses which tasted surprisingly good.

The rest of the journey was spent watching 'Rock On', another movie which I did not get bored watching the second time. I think it has one of the most uplifting and well-crafted climaxes in recent memory.
So there I was, at the end of the trip, uplifted and jovial. I was thinking about the amount of brownie points I had scored by going on this trip and calculating if that would be enough to last another 2 years, when my wife asked me "Great trip alwa? We should do this again sometime, right?"
I nodded with a smile. But there was a part of me that was genuinely nodding & smiling.
I guess Indians are indeed strange.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Spiritual Conquest, Karnatic Style: Part 1

India is a unique country. Strange, but unique.
One one hand, young boys, as soon as they graduate to the exciting world of high-school, are made to sit so far away from girls in the classroom, you can't even make out if they've started wearing their elder sisters' perfumes yet. As much as a sideward glance towards those desks attract a 'yaako poli?' from lady teachers.
And on the other hand, at some of the the holiest of holy places, men are ordered to get half naked and encouraged to pile up in a queue with women where anything goes as long as you are chanting the holy lord's name.

Yes, I finally took the customary family trip to the famous temples in Karnataka and the thought above occurred to me when I was standing in a queue at 'Dharmasthala' wondering if the banian-clad gentleman behind me will ever ask his super-hygenic kids to stop bumping into my posterior every time the queue slowed down.

I'd avoided this trip for 2 solid years, but this time my wife pulled out all the stops ranging from threats of physical violence to the ever-reliable senti looks. And she used the 'brahmastra' in the end - 'If we go to the US again, we won't be able to do this for a long time' - for which I had no response. (See how I casually slipped in the fact that I'm going to the US again. Subtlety at its best I say)
My wife, for all her 21st-century-woman-of-style-and-substance image, is a pukka conservative brahmin girl at heart. So when I broke my arm into 2 pieces in February, she had promptly prayed to god and promised a visit from both of us to 'Anegudde Ganesha' in case I healed up well. (Known as 'harake' in Kannada)
Healed up I did, albeit with the help of a titanium rod to hold the bones together. So now I'm obligated to go wherever she decides to take me. In full enthu, she chalked up a plan with her parents, siblings and cousins which would make maximum use of our time. In short, it meant at least 5 temples in 5 different cities in little over 2 days. 

You see, I am a brahmin guy in my 20s living in Bangalore, occasionally touring abroad. Which means:
a) I wear my 'janwaara' for strictly show & tell, i.e. showing elders when they ask me where it is and telling new acquaintances who I know are brahmins that I'm also one & not a shabby-joe even though I may appear like one.
b) My frequency of doing 'sandhyavandane' is at most once a year. (Mostly on 'Upakarma' day). And the frequency of doing 'parishanchane' before lunch depends on the number of weddings I attend where I'm seated next to/opposite of elderly people.
c) The only times I visit the Pooja Room in my house on non-festival days are when my wife or my mother ask my opinion on some new rangoli/light decoration they've tried.
d) I'm the one who controls the remote for the Music System during 'Ganesh Chaturti' pooja. (controls = fast forwards).

So, you can imagine my excitement as the day of the trip finally arrived. We had 12 people, including 2 kids packed in a minivan which seated exactly 12. Luggage was dumped behind and all around the last row. I was seated at, you guessed it, the last row. 
Once inside the van, we realised that it had a working TV & DVD player. Ahh.. Hope. 
We got 3 new hindi DVDs (A Wednesday, Dasvidaniya and Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye!) for company and started off towards the western ghats to our first destination: Kukke Subramanya.
Within the first 5 hours, we had finished off A Wednesday (which was really good) and Dasvidaniya (which was decent but a little too drawn out). 
And after a quick dinner break (read chitranna & mosranna made by MIL, which was superb by the way), all the great minds in the van decided to start the third movie as well. I know, we are all about the future. No one actually watched Oye Lucky! fully, but everyone kept saying 'bad movie'. I myself dozed out a few times and couldn't watch it fully. 

We finally reached the place by midnight and entered a lodge where we'd booked rooms. We were greeted by this:

"Before 10 barbeku saar", said the guy at the counter. After much haggling, he showed mercy and granted us two rooms on separate floors. "All men in one room and women in the other" announced my MIL. We followed. By 1 AM we had settled in our rooms.
I couldn't sleep at all. Must've been all those Hindi movies I watched at a stretch.
So I did the logical thing and ended up watching 'Main Hoon Na' on TV till about 2:30 in the morning. 

Next morning, I woke up last and delayed everyone else which was highly appreciated by my wife. My requests for 'tiffin' were duly ignored and we headed to the temple.

(On the top left corner, you can catch a glimpse of Kumara Parvata, one of the tallest peaks in the region and a popular trekking attraction)

The temple was nice, but the devotees, not so much. It was not like there were 500 people crammed inside, but the 50 that were there created enough chaos for me to almost say 'screw it' and leave. But I stayed and went through the motions. Inside the temple, all men are required to remove their shirts and vests. So you get to see some memorable sights. 
We were standing in a queue about to enter the main temple and suddenly the line which was moving at a leisurely pace started to look like an impromptu Sourav Ganguly press conference. For no apparent reason, people started pushing and shoving one another. I guess the lord is a little biased towards people who lean over the person in front of them to take a peek at him before entering the temple. Most of my time in this temple was spent covering my wife with my arms and my body the same way one protects his girlfriend on new year's night at Brigade Road.
After an hour of struggle around the different sections of the temple, we were finally out.
A quick breakfast and we were off to Dharmasthala, our second destination, but not before we picked up 2 more DVDs - Mungaaru Male and Rock On! for further entertainment purposes.

I clicked this on the way:

Not bad, eh. 
More to come in the next part, including an episode I'd like to call "My escape from Dharmasthala".

(to be continued...)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Counter Shots at Lavanya Bar

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this exotic concept (you unlucky souls) - please, allow me to explain:
Counter Shot (pronounced "counter shaat") is a popular socializing technique used by adult men across the length and breadth of this great country of ours. 
In the simplest form of this technique, one parks his vehicle in front of the No Parking signboard outside the wine shop on his way home from work, enters the shop, asks for a '60' of Rum/Whiskey, mixes it with water (and in some rare cases, soda), drinks it in one or maximum two gulps, hands over the money to the shopkeeper, returns to the vehicle, spits on the footpath after a long gargle, and gets on his way home.

Sounds Dull? Cheap?
Heh! You could not be more wrong, my friend.
I was like you, pretending to be sophisticated, pretending to despise these places. But somewhere inside my shirt, my heart wanted to give them a 'shot'. So I went to two of the more alcohol appreciating buddies of mine at work and asked them to help me experience this bliss I'd heard so much about. They gladly obliged. (Their exact words were "Wokay maams, tell us when").

After referring to the latest 'panchaanga' to figure out when the raahu kaala ends, we decided that yesterday evening was the most auspicious time. The Place? Hmm.. this was tricky, since we'd all seen our share of dingy spots while commuting, but in the end the choice was unanimous. It was 'Lavanya Bar and Restaurant' in Audugodi.
a) This is one place we'd see every other day while coming to or going from office, and the fascination for it was just too much.
b) It was an enigmatic place. For the untrained eye it looked too classy to be a Counter Shot place. On close observation though, one could see the 'fast food' counter outside the bar sold 'chikan manchuri' whose spelling kinda gave away its classiness.
c) Look at the Name man!!

So, with some potato chips to appetize ourselves, we boarded an Auto and started our journey, during which my buddies gave me some valuable tips I'd never heard before, such as:
a) Never take a girl along for Counter Shots.
b) Don't drink it all in one gulp. ('you dont have that capacity yet magaa')
c) 'Let us order for you this time. There are a lot of fakes in circulation. You'll get conned.'

We finally reached the place. Before entering, we took one look at each other: Formal Shirt & Pant - Check, Formal Shoes - Check, Laptop Backpacks - Check, and finally, Company ID Card - Check.
Yes, we were all set indeed.
We entered the shop, struggled through the elite crowd to reach the counter and asked for the nostalgic favorite of many - 'Old Monk'. Much to our dissappointment, he said 'we dont stock Old Monk sir'. So we went for plan B - Smirnoff. Nobody looked up from their drink, people were just going about their business. Its not like properly dressed folks never come to places like this. Most of the IT hotshots buy their liquor in these shops and then drink at their classy parties or at their homes.

It was when we said 'parcel alla, ille guru' (to drink here only, not for parcel) that people suddenly looked up, starting from the guy behind the counter, who had a half-stunned expression on his face for about 5 seconds. We took the drinks, stood by the counter and started drinking.. slowly.
In about 5 minutes, we realised that this place is a little too classy than we imagined. There were tables around where he served omelets and we heard some guy speaking English inside the shop. (English??)
Our fears were vindicated when we asked for 'touchings'. (which is a piece of pickle kept on a small coaster for you to lick with your fingers in between your sips. And by the way, the licks are not exclusive to you alone). The guy said they don't keep touchings, but he'll give 'mixture' for 2 rupees. We took them anyway.
We mustered up the courage to order an omelet from the kitchen which looked like it was last cleaned for diwali.  It was surprisingly good, although we suspected the oil used might be from 'Kannada Rajyotsava' days.
We tried to strike some interesting conversations with a couple of strangers, but they just minded their business. We asked the waiter (read: underage kid) to turn on the music, but he said they turn it on only for 'special ocassions'.
After 20 minutes, we gave up and walked out. We weren't really drunk. Not even properly buzzed to be honest. Just to keep the evening's spirit going, we smoked a 'King' outside for 5 minutes while we bitched about office politics.

Thus ended an interesting but uneventful evening at Lavanya Bar. By the end of it, we vowed to make the next one a more memorable affair. We've selected 'Famous Bar' near Woody's Jayanagar for it.
And when its over, you can be rest assured that you'll hear about it.
I know you're trembling with anticipation, dear reader. 

Monday, December 15, 2008

We've Won! We've Won!!

What a match! What a win!!
Sachin, I bow to thee. I shall go ahead and eat my words now.

Take a bow Yuvi and Gambhir, nerves of steel you guys have.

But hats off to Virendar Sehwag. The man who set it all up. Incredible guy! One man destruction army. No team will ever declare with confidence against India!

My day is made! :)

(Picture courtesy: Getty Images)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Average Jodi

Yea.. it was just an average movie. More on that later. 

First, a few er.. 'interesting' events of last night.

Event 1: It was an 8:30 show. And we were late. For no apparent reason to be honest. We were home before 7 and just lazing around. Actually, me and my wife have an immaculate record of being late to almost every movie we go to. Its ingrained into our systems. Yep, we're the ones you curse for blocking your screen for 30 full seconds as we get to our seats.
Anyway, hoping to be the cursers instead of cursees this time, we skip our planned 'churmuri' and head to Inox Jayanagar, a full 15 mins before scheduled time.

Event 2: We're at the theater at 8:25 sharp. I'm standing in a line holding up my cellphone where I have the SMS confirmation of the booking. But the 2 guys at the counter are not noticing me. One Uncle ahead of me is leisurely enquiring for tickets for some crap movie, that too for a monday nite show. Valuable minutes are being lost... Ahh, finally, Uncle moves away disgruntled for not getting his favored back row middle seats. I swoop in and place my cellphone inside the little hole at the counter before the over-enthusiastic chap behind me could cut me off. Highly impressed with myself, I turn towards my wife with the 'Didya see what I did there baby' smirk. But she's looking elsewhere. Husbands never get their due I say.

Event 3: With great speed, we bypass popcorn counters and head directly to the hall. We could hear the 'Ghajini' trailer as we were about to enter. I let out a 'yess' and handed my tickets to the usher. "Seats K8 and K9", I said. He looked at them and said "Oh.. first row saar!" and handed the tickets back to me with a smile which I'm sure meant 'Loser'.
First Row.. damn. I am seriously pissed off with You know what first row means right?
a) Neck Pain
b) Your neighbor can easily figure out which part of the heroine's anatomy you're looking at.
We're settling into our seats and I see a guy from my college sitting in the very next seat. He was with a girl too. We said our 'Hi's and exchanged a "we're on the first row" laughter.

Event 4: So the movie is running. Anushka (the film's heroine) is wearing tights and streching around. Gooood. Right at that moment my wife pokes me and says "Did you see that? She has flab too!" I'm like "whaa..?" without turning my head. 5 seconds later I find myself clutching my bicep due to the after effects of a 'onashunti' (sharp pinch). Yup, I wasn't looking at any flab. And she saw it.
5 mins later, she pokes me again and points me to that elusive flab in Anushka's body. (honestly, I had no idea what she was talking about. The babe looked 10/10 to me. But hey, that's just me).
I turn to her and give a smile. But alas, that innocent smile was mistaken for my 'look who's talking' smirk. 'onashunti' no 2.
(Honey, if you're reading this, I do not think you're fat. That's crazy talk. Who says you're fat? What are they smoking? Ummmwaaah.)

Event 5: Actually, it was an ongoing event throughout the film. There were these bunch of hindi speaking guys sitting behind us. One of them was an apparent target for the rest. So, for every emotional scene on screen, they harassed this guy with lines like "arrey yaar, tu please rona shuru mat kar de" or "control yaar". The best one was when the heroine appeared in tights "dekh, teri behen mast lag rahi he". It was juvenile, but hillarious. A throwback to the glorious days of yore for me atleast. And frankly, it was more entertaining than what was happening on screen at times.

Oh, the movie. Right. (spoilers ahead) (you see, this film's story was 'guarded' so secretly that I'm compelled to put a disclaimer)
Shahrukh is this nerd who marries this girl Anushka under trying circumstances. But she can't get herself to love him. So he transforms into a dude and feels her up. She falls for him, but is torn between her husband and her lover which leads to some seriously corny situations and a very predictable and tame ending.

It wasn't all bad though. The film started with a lot of promise. The opening credits were refreshingly realistic. The first 30 mins of the film were genuinely interesting.  And there are bits and pieces of magic, mainly conjured up by SRK. 
Actually, Its a mixed bag for Shahrukh. On one hand, he absolutely nails it as the nerd simpleton. Some fantastic acting there. You feel for him and root for him. But he overdoes it as the dude "Raj". The girl Anushka makes an impression too. She looks good in tights, better in salwars and has a great smile. Surprisingly for a debutante, she manages to hold her own in dramatic scenes. A brilliant actor like Vinay Pathak is wasted.
(By the way, did I just mention 'tights' like 5 times already? Believe me, I'm not 'tight' while writing this.)

Music is decent. 'Haule Haule' (and its wonderful harmonium prelude) is beautiful. 'Dance pe Chance' has a pretty ordinary tune, but Sunidhi and the dhols take it to another level.
(And Kajol makes a guest song appearance, for all of you who care. I definitely did. Its Kajol, man!!)

You know what the best part of the film is? The end credits.
No its not the age old sarcasm. The end credits are so simple and funny, they bring a smile on your face. So, if you do decide to watch 'Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi', cringe through the last hour and stick around till the end. 

(Image Courtesy:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Rejoice, my fellow Indians. Pakistan has finally taken 'firm' action against terrorism by doing this.
During a coffee break, one of my collegues saw this and remarked

"Oh, looks like he'll be working from home today."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Dose & Idly

One of the true pleasures of living in Bangalore is the wide & varied availability of high class vegetarian food, which by extension maps to Dose and Idly.
You see, Being a pukka Kannada Brahmin, outside food was largely limited to dose and idly for a large part of my childhood. (and it was limited further due to my mother's insistence of eating only at places where they don't use excess garlic.. "adeshtu bellulli haakidano haaladovnu").
I guess that's why my first question at any new restaurant is usually "special dose yenenide?"

Having had my (and a few others') share of Doses (not "Dosas", you NRIs), I think the time is right for some information sharings, for the benefit of other dose eating public.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, here's a list of my favorite dose & idly joints of Bangalore.

Any dose is incomplete without the perfect chutney (or with excess garlic!), so that is one very important criterion.

1. SLV, near Ragigudda temple, Jayanagar: Has improved seriously in the last 2 years.. enough to beat others in the list actually. And they make the best Onion Dose.
2. CTR, Malleshwaram: Superb Benne Masale. Mangalooru Goli Bajji is another speciality.
3. Janatha Hotel, Malleshwaram: Unique chowltry style experience. Great Masale Dose.
4. Vidyarthi Bhavana, Gandhi Bazaar: Another Unique experience. Probably the softest dose of all.
5. Ganesh Darshan, Jayanagar 4th Block: Terrific Dose-Chutney combo.

Hon'ble Mentions:
** Halli Thindi: Basavangudi: Makes one-of-a-kind Ragi Dose and Bread Dose.
** Woody's, Jayanagar: Used to make superb Rave Masale and Mysore Masale Dose. Quality has definitely deteriorated of late.
** Kamath Lokaruchi, Bangalore-Mysore Highway: The best place to stop en route to Mysore. Very good doses.

Idly Vade:
With Idly too, Chutney and Sambaar are key. Keeping that in mind...

1. Veena Stores, Malleshwaram: Hands down, the best Idly & Vade in town.
2. SLV near Ragigudda temple: The Best Idly-Vade-Sambaar-Chutney combo in town.
3. Adigas, Jayanagar 4th Block: Good Idly. But the Rave Idly is just heavenly.
4. Janatha Hotel, Malleshwaram: God, what Vades! Super I say.
5. Udupi Krishna Bhavan, Koramangala: Used to serve superb idlis for lunch! (Haven't heard of it in more than 2 years though)

Hon'ble Mentions:
** An Unnamed shop on 'Food Street' in VV Puram: Super soft idlis. In fact, the whole street is awesome!
** Halli Thindi, Basavangudi: Great Idlis with unique chutney.

(Even though this is a Bangalore Only post, being a Mysorean I feel compelled to mention Mylari Restuarant in Kuvempunagar in Mysore. They make the best Dose and Coconut Chutney in this world! Do check it out.)

I'm hungry now. No, its not psychology.. I'm actually hungry. Okay, fine, don't believe it. 
I think I'll convince my wife for a little dose excursion tonight.
(actually, she doesn't need a whole lot of convincing. *wink*)

(If I've missed out on any good places or if you disagree with my choices, feel free to drop in a word below)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Great Indian Tragedy

As I write this, there's a great debate going on on 'Times Now' where panelists Farooq Sheikh, Shefali Chaya and Suhel Seth (their combined enthusiasm is bordering on hostility) are sharing tremendous gyan on everything starting from the unpreparedness of the police to the cliched-to-death Spirit of Mumbai.

I don't want to tear into News channels two posts in a row because I honestly believe that some of the reporting in the last 2 days has been really commendable - One cameraman was shot at directly, the bullet barely missed him and hit the guy next to him flush on the chest, but he ducked down only for a second before getting up to get a shot of the fleeing car.
But the key word there is 'some'. Because the majority of the coverage of the events in Mumbai have been sensationalist first, informative next and sadly, responsible last.

How can you call it responsible reporting if every step of a serious Army operation is being reported live on television?
Breaking News: NSG moving into Trident Complex.
Breaking News: Army combing the 4th floor in the Taj.
Breaking News: Blasts on the 6th Floor... We're seeing some movement there. As you can see, Armed forces are moving up.. they are now on the 7th floor.
Breaking News: Snipers deployed in the building adjacent to Nariman house.

For a common man like me or you, what good can possibly come from knowing all these steps, apart from being able to watch a few minutes of cinema-esque drama? Do we need this to satiate our hunger for realism?

What about the loved ones of people trapped in these buildings, you say?
Well, if my loved one was trapped hostage by terrorists, the only time I'd watch News is when I need some emergency contact information.

On the other hand, all this could be momentary gold for certain men with SatPhones on the other side of the border.
I'm not prepared to believe for one second that the media houses are ignorant of this. Well, if it isn't ignorance, what is it then? Indifference? Or Blind Competitiveness?
How can these ultra-aggressive news anchors ask politicians for accountability when they themselves lack it?

Speaking of politicians, I was initially surprised to see BJP showing some class by not blaming everybody on earth for these attacks, but just providing quiet support. It was short-lived though. Advani blamed Intel failure as soon as he landed in Mumbai.

But he wasn't entirely wrong. Intel failure is often portrayed as the first culprit for any terrorist attack, but yet it keeps happening. The fact that 6-8 men came into Mumbai on a speed boat, each with a rucksack, and they didn't show up on anybody's radar is just staggering. Plain Staggering.
The use of a boat possibly means that these people came directly from outside the border. I just pray to god that that is not the case, because if it is, it shows our border security in an unimaginably poor light. And how on earth did they carry all those weapons into these buildings without anyone noticing?? 5 star hotels are supposed to have some decent security, right?
How can people sleep at night knowing there's a free entry for terrorists into pretty much any damn place they like?

To his credit, Farooq Sheikh did make one very good point about the unpreparedness of the police in this situation. Early morning footage (before the army took over the whole thing) showed ATS officers and Mumbai Police Officers preparing to enter the Taj Hotel. The thing that struck me and was so apparent to me (and I'm sure to anybody who watched it) was their attire. Some of the police officers were shown even without a bullet-proof vest.
I'm sorry, but is this how some of the bravest officers available are sent to tackle terrorists carrying automatic weapons? Who takes these calls? How come a common man like me is able to notice that and people calling the shots aren't? Did they underestimate the resistance of the terrorists? I just don't understand this. What's there to underestimate?
Highly motivated terrorists + Automatic Weapons + Lots of Ammunition + Grenades + So many Unknowns (no. of terrorists, hostages, locations) = Serious Situation, which needs Serious Co-ordinated Action. Shouldn't Serious begin with appropriate combat gear at least?
On the other hand, once the Army took over, we hardly heard of any casualties from their side.

These policemen died fighting terror, but they shouldn't have. Imagine how lethal they could've been with proper preparedness. You could've been talking to them as you praise them, instead of showing file photos of them. Sad Sad day indeed.

And what's with this obsession that the News Channels (all of them) have with the Number of Deaths? They ask this question to every single person they interview. Every channel shows a different number and it keeps changing every 5 minutes. There seems to be some sort of disturbing competition among them to report the highest number, fastest.
Again, I beg to know, what's the use? How will it make a difference to the people watching if you say 100 died or 110 died if you do not disclose the correct identities of the deceased? Somebody please explain this to me.
Most of the times, these numbers don't hold up for more than 5-10 minutes. Sample this: One channel reported last night that more than 900 were injured. I woke up this morning and the number was down to 290.
This is just some sick sensationalist obsession. Again, no one is accountable.

I'd written after the Bangalore blasts that there is no end in sight for terrorism in India, and I have no option but to repeat myself. A former chief of RAW told a news channel that 'Terrorism is something that no one can ever stop, because of the very nature of Terrorism'.
I found that quite interesting, although his point could be argued against with the example of US and UK who have practically eliminated terror threats to their countries since the last major attack.
But then again, they don't have the haven of radical Islam as their neighbor.

The Mumbai terror attacks have just hammered home the by now established fact for Modern Indians:

No one is safe.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Headlines Today(?)

Okay. I can still believe it if Rakhi Sawant's outburst on some poor soul who refused to appear on her chat show (aptly titled 'The Rakhi Sawant Showz') becomes headline of the day.

Heck. I can even digest day long headlines about the Bachchan Family (& Amar Singh) visiting a temple in Arunachal Pradesh.

But what's beyond me is a prime time headline saying 'Are Indians Porn Prone?' and a discussion with 'experts' about the porn watching habits of Indians, accompanied by statistics from some very reliable surveys which included questions like:
* How old were you when you watched your first porn film?
* Have you made a home pornographic video?

For the second question, 91% said "No". And the funniest thing was that they were highlighting the other 9% in bold and discussing those 'modern people'.

Finally, something rewarding to watch after a long day's work.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Look, I never went to this movie expecting a sensitive portrayal of homosexuality. Neither did I have any expectations of a comedy in the class of Judd Apatow movies. What I thought this would be was a decently funny urban film on the lines of Kal Ho Naa Ho.

Nope. Not even close.

This movie is just Lame.
It starts off with an interesting premise of 2 guys pretending to be gay to get a cool pad by the beach in Miami. But nothing really happens in the film! Just one gay joke after another. And God alone knows why Bobby Deol is in the movie. He looks badly out of place.
If it wasn't for Priyanka Chopra (who is so hot, she's almost worth the price of admission!) and the soundtrack (which is rocking, by the way), I'd have been thoroughly disappointed with the movie.
As it stands, I'm just disappointed.

Y'Know what... I don't even want to write a longer post for this film. It would mean giving too much importance to a non-existent story. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sourav Ganguly

Drama and Sourav Gangluy always went hand in hand.

In that sense, it was fitting that he got out for a duck in his final innings. It had to be a duck or a century, for anything in between would've been just ordinary.

I'll always remember 'Dada' as the most aggressive captain India had. It was he, without a doubt, who changed Indian cricket as a whole. Not Kapil, Not Tendulkar, but Sourav Ganguly.
He backed matchwinners to the hilt (yuvraj, harbhajan, sehwag), who've repaid Indian cricket with some memorables wins. More importantly, he infused steel and grit in a team which was typically dazzling but complacent, flamboyant but inconsistent. Its not surprising that he's the winningest captain of India (yet).

His on field aggression wasn't always the in-your-face type. The best example was the first test in Brisbane in the 03-04 series, where he hit a superb, counter-attacking 144 (one of his finest hundreds) to set an example for his teammates. India drew the series 1-1, but came damn close to winning it in Sydney (where another message was sent to the Aussies when India declared immedietly after Brett Lee, their premier strike bowler, got hit for 200). 
The thing that struck me there was that Gangluly looked dissappointed with a 1-1 result. He wanted to win the series. Badly. When was the last time an Indian captain didn't gloat about drawing an away series against the best team in the world?

Initially, I looked at Ganguly as a superb batsman (albeit some 'short'comings) and an above average captain. But all that changed on 13 July 2002. It was the Natwest Trophy finals and England had racked up 325. 
Out came Gangluy, smashed 50 off less than 35 balls, got India off to a flyer, dispatching Flintoff repeatedly over cover along the way. India lost their way once he got out and were choking as usual when Yuvraj and Kaif pulled off the win memorably. It was then that I witnessed something remarkable. On the famous Lord's Balcony was Ganguly, pumped up beyond imagination, taking off his shirt and swirling it while uttering F-Bombs. It was a stunning sight. It was the first time I'd seen that kind of intensity from an Indian Cricketer. It changed my entire perception of him, both as a player and as a captain.

It is a bit of an irony that the man who was once called "God of all things off side" will be best remembered for his leadership than batsmanship. But the fact is that Ganguly was always a couple of rungs below Tendulkar and Dravid in terms of pure batting skills. He was a great ODI opening batsman who could pace an innings superbly. In tests though, he was inconsistent and that's why he's at 7000 odd runs while his peers have crossed 10000.

When Ganguly was dropped in early 2006 due to woeful form, I felt a tinge of sadness, even though the overwhelming emotion at the time was hate. Hate, because of his extended run of awful form. Hate, because of the way the media portrayed him during the Chappell fiasco.
But there was definitely sadness too. I did not want my last memory of such a great player to be one of a coward running away from a test match for the fear of bouncers (as it was alleged). I did not want that painful century against Zimbabwe to be his last remembered century.
And I'm sure there were thousands others who felt the same way.

Which is why his comeback brought so much joy and buzz. It was the stuff of fairytales, capped off with the super double hundred at Bangalore against Pakistan.
And now he goes away. Was it too early? I certainly thought he could play till 09. But it was the right decision in the sense that he got to leave on his terms. On a high. With a series win against the Aussies.
And Sourav, you absolutely deserved to leave on a high. In fact, in a strange way, so did we all.

(Image Courtesy: AFP)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Anil Kumble

And he walks away.

Thousands of tributes have poured in for the man fondly called "Jumbo" by his teammates, so I'll keep this one short.
There are 3 distinct memories I have of Anil:

1. During the mid to late 90s period, when India played at home and lost the toss, almost every time Kumble would start warming up as soon as India took the field. He would invariably end up bowling within the first 8-10 overs, sometimes even earlier. He was our only hope.

2. During this year's infamous Sydney Test, the Indian team got wronged so many times in so many different ways that one would've forgiven Kumble if he'd lost his cool at the end. And he almost did. You could see it in his eyes and his voice. But the way he maintained his composure while suggesting only that Austraila were not playing in the spirit of the game not only gained him worldwide appreciation, but also gave his team the moral high ground, which they used superbly to win the next match in Perth. (One of the more memorable Indian Wins). Shouldn't that be "Captaincy 101" or something?

3. The Antigua run-fest in 2002. If not for Kumble's heroics, I'm sure nobody would even remember this match. (Well.. except maybe Ajay Ratra's fans [are there any?]). I was almost drifting into sleep when I saw Kumble come out to bowl with a heavily strapped face covering a broken jaw. I had not seen anything like it in my life. He bowled 14 straight overs, made the ball talk and scalped Lara's wicket. He boarded a flight home that night and didn't play for months. 

I'm sure Kumble would've liked to play out the year. Or the Australia series at least. You could see it on his face. He wanted to beat the Aussies one last time. He also wanted to take India to the top spot in world rankings. But it wasn't to be.
The eyes still had steel in them, but the legs didn't. Deliveries still carried intensity, but not the bite.
He did the right thing in the end. In spite of being a long time Kumble fan, I felt at the beginning of this week that his time was almost up. And you've got to give him credit for catching the pulse of things at the right moment, you know, for 'getting it'.

Young spinners in India have a huge gap to fill now. They would do well to remember those eyes. The way they stayed on target the whole day, every day, for 18 years.

(Image Courtesy: Getty Images, Cricinfo)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pink Flaaydaa.. yaar saar?

Inspired by the romance that rain brings with it sometimes, I ventured outside (once the rain stopped, of course) to get some pastries for the missus.
'What better than her beloved chocolate fantasy to earn some much needed brownie points?' I thought, and headed towards our old addaa: Cafe Coffee Day at 4th T block.
So I entered the place and ordered 2 portions of the pastry 'to go' (trying to show off some america-returnness), and quickly corrected myself to say 'parcel'.
Precisely around that time, I heard a disco tune playing in the background which seemed vaguely familiar. I could say the words, but something didn't fit in. After about 30 more seconds, I realized to my utter disbelief:

It was Another Brick in the Wall.

Pink Floyd.
Are you kidding me?

You know, I have seen and heard weird stuff before in my life, but come on, Seriously?
I went up to the counter again and asked the guy taking orders (whose mustache was so big it was quite disproportionate to his lean, short build. I shall refer to him as Mushy) what was going on:

Me: Ree, Iden song idu?
Mushy: (confused look) aaa?
Me: Idenree, ee song du kharaab remix play madtidiralla?
Mushy: Songaa? yenaytu saar?
Me: Idu Pink Floyd kanri. Hale Rock songu idu.
Mushy: Pink Flaaydaa? Yen saar adu?
Me: (Under My breath): Nan Pinda. (Out loud): Alla guru.. hale famous rock songgalna ee thara horrible remix madiro CD na yaak haaktira? Original hakdre jana innu enjoy madtare.
Mushy: (with a look that clearly said 'yaakanna praana hindtidya?'): Saar, illi barorella fast songs irbeku, beats irbeku anta keltane irtare.. adakke bari remix CDgale ittidivi eega.

At this point, I turn and look around to see about 15-20 people in the cafe. Not one looked over 20 to me.

Generationext anyone?

(You know what I'm really interested in? Who's the genius who actually decided to remix Floyd in the first place? I mean, isn't that an actual jailable offence?
Well, it should be.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Death Magnetic: Metallica

Is it good?

Is it great?
Maybe. Dunno Yet.

Most importantly, does it make you headbang and air-guitar frantically, further fuelling your co-workers' fears over your sanity?
Hell Yeah!

The Metal Gods have descended on planet earth again. Wait.. make that 'thundered' on planet earth again. And this time, its not Pop/Rock mediocre mixture (The Loads) or self destructive, incoherent noise (St. Anger), but hard-core Metallica, the stuff that made them Metallica.. stuff which will have you youtubing for live versions of 'Master of Puppets' coz you just had to see that again.

Metallica's decline has been well documented. There were fears that the band was gonna self destruct post 'St. Anger', their last excuse for an album. Hetfield was in and out of Rehab. Therapists were hired. Managers were fired. Not exactly the kind of stuff a fan wants to hear.

What a fan wants to hear is 'Death Magnetic'.

Its a return to where it all started for Metallica: no-holds-barred thrash with signature riffs, high speed guitaring, tempo changes and grim lyrics.
Two minutes into the first track and I was smiling. This was familiar territory, and that's not a bad thing if you like Metallica.

The album clocks an astonishing 74+ minutes for just 10 tracks. Most of the songs are more than 7 minutes long. Its almost as if the band is demanding your undivided attention.
The shortest one is the frentic final track "My Apocalypse" and the longest: "Suicide and Redemption", a smashing 10 minute instrumental.

Its too early to pick favorites (I've only given it 4-5 hearings), but for now I'm split between 'The Day that Never Comes' and 'The Judas Kiss', with the former being a sure bet to become not only a chart topper, but also a Guitar Hero favorite because of its killer tempo changes and manical guitaring.
Speaking of which, I've actually been dreaming of rocking this album out on Guitar Hero. (I'm not just saying it, I had dreams of it 2 nights in a row!)

Go ahead, fellow Metal Heads. Rock yourself out!

(Update: Oct 20: Okay.. Suicide & Redemption rocks. It just Rocks!!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Obvious Topic

"Are we Defenceless?"
..screamed the headline of a news channel.

Based on current evidence, we are indeed.

A total of 47 bombs (22 defused) found in 3 different cities of our country in a span of 5 days.
More than 50 killed and hundreds injured.
Dense areas such as markets, bus stands targeted, where you and I go or pass through almost every day. The worst of all, targeting the hospital in Ahmedabad where the victims would be brought for treatment, not only highlights the meticulous planning done by the perpetrators, but also a chilling, sinister mindset.

Southern India had been, until now, the luckier sibling when it came to terror attacks. In fact, Bangalore had seen only one clear act of terrorism (attacks at IISC). Even that, as bad as it was, did not fully accomplish what the terrorists intended : Spread Terror.
This time though, they were successful to a much larger extent. 'Low intensity' bombs placed in various parts of the city made sure that everyone knew about it and cared about it enough to actually stop and think 'Should I go out or stay in?". And that, is mission accomplished.
Though normalcy returned quickly, the edginess has remained (no doubt fuelled by blasts in Ahmedabad the very next day).

To be honest, I have been a little indifferent to news on terrorism in India, simply because they are, for the lack of a better term, a dime a dozen. Kashmir has been cannon fodder for decades now. Mumbai and of late Gujarat have also been attacked multiple times. As Indians, we have taken it in our stride that terrorism co-exists with us and have typically 'adjusted' our lives around it. I definitely have. Until now, that is.
Even though I was not directly affected by the blasts, there's no denying that I was tense this time. For real.
2 of the blasts happened within 2 Kms from my office. 1 within a Kilometer from my wife's office. My office is housed in one of the landmark buildings in Bangalore, an obvious target.
It was all real. Not just news splashed sensationally on TV channels.
People tried to show off calmness, but the tension was palpable. Cellphone networks being jammed didn't help matters either, with everyone wanting to call up their near and dear ones (Google Talk came to the rescue).
Things cooled off a little bit by evening, but people were still tense because it was believed that this was just the trailer, a preview of things to come, when bombs won't be low intensity.
That was perhaps the greatest victory for the terrorists. They have now managed to infect the city with fear.
Bangalore will no doubt shake off this incident, and within no time will you see people flocking back to malls, markets and cinema halls. Politicians will use this to hail the 'tenacity' of the city and its people. And all will be well.

Is that 'tenacity'? really?
Some of it may be.. but isn't it also the typical Indian attitude of indifference? As long as it didn't happen to me, chalta hai, right? This is what the Indian Politician thrives on. All he has to do is look concerned, visit the affected area and announce compensations. News channels will track these for a week and move on to the next bad news. The terrorist knows this all too well. He stays low for 2 months and then begins planning his next attack.
The cycle continues. Deja vu.

Having said that, what difference can I make? can we all make?
Not much, to be honest. The best we can do is carry out protest marches asking for better preventive measures. But will it help?

The system is so badly inefficient and corrupt at every level that even if someone came up with some bold initiatives, it will probably not see the light of the day, or at best, fizzle out quietly after initiation.
Too many things need to be bettered too quickly to help prevent more such acts, starting from plugging the holes of infiltration from our dear neighbors all the way to improving (and keeping corruption free) human intelligence at local level. Needless to say, it won't happen.
I'm sorry if I made your day a little more glum than it was, but this is the sad truth of India.

Y'know, the day after, my wife said 'lets go to the market to buy vegetables'.
I hesitated. Even though it was only for a second. But I did.
And it wasn't because of my usual laziness.

My wife keeps telling me that I need to re-evaluate my life insurance.

Know what hon... I agree.

Monday, July 28, 2008

NY in pictures

Pictures from my not-so-recent trip to New York City

Broadway - A stunning street. Overwhelming at times because of the glitter. Any self respecting major brand will have one of its advertising hoardings here.

Probably the most clicked picture in NY. But it's too aesthetically pleasing to let go.

Manhattan. From the Empire State Building's 86th floor observatory.

Manhattan Skyline.

Camera - Nikon D40. 18-55mm Nikkor Lens. UV filter.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Dark Knight

(Warning: Lengthy Post)

What Hype!
But more than that.. What a movie!

"The Dark Knight" is, in my view, the movie of this generation.
Do I hear "premature", "exaggeration"??

I know it's quite a bold statement to make. But I have my reasons.
Now let's define some basic criteria for a movie to be called the movie of its generation:
* It has to be a commercial success.
* It has to redefine film-making, at least in its genre.
* It has to be critically acclaimed.
* It has to capture people's imagination and make them crave for more.
* It should have high replay value.
and a criterion which I think is important:
* It should stimulate an average adult's mind, in a thoughtful way.

I've seen the film twice. It meets all of the above.

The reason I added the last criteria is to eliminate films like Spiderman, Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek, etc which might satisfy the rest. Not to mean disrespect to any of those films, but do you honestly think that Spiderman was the movie of this generation?

If you've seen the Dark Knight, you will understand when I say that the film is not only engrossing as hell, but extremely relevant in the present day world (more on that later).

Enough of build up. This is an absolute killer of a movie. It rocks.. in every department. I am not exaggerating when I say that most people had a "Whoa! What just happened" look on their faces when they came out of the cinema hall. (and this in Bangalore, where I hear the usual "pakau movie yaar" comment from some I-am-too-cool-with-my-hair-gel-to-appreciate-any-movie type character for almost any movie)

The film starts with a superb bank robbery sequence which ensures that you're hooked instantly and director Christopher Nolan just doesn't let go after that. The script is so taut that even at 2:30+hours of running time, there's no room for any just-for-kicks action/FX scenes.
The intensity doesn't dip for one minute. In fact, it shoots up every time Ledger's Joker appears on screen.

Speaking of which, Heath Ledger gives us a villian we won't soon forget. His Joker is seriously creepy, the kind that would give kids nightmares. (In fact, I honestly believe that kids under 12 should not even watch this movie). Even when he tries to make a joke, there are dark undertones to it, and you're invariably waiting for him to do something unexpected.
Two particular scenes stood out for me:
* His first appearance in front of the mob. The laughter and the subsequent pencil scene is just tremendous.
* The scene where he hangs his head out of a stolen police car after a pivotal moment in the film, is pure magic. So much is conveyed in that one fleeting scene.
It is a superlative performance, which will compete with Hannibal Lecter and Anton Chigurh for the most menacing villain seen in films.

That said, Batman ain't no slouch. Christian Bale looks super confident and comfortable in the Wayne/Batman dual act. Forget Keaton and Kilmer, this is the definitive Batman.
Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are solid as ever (and they're required to be). Maggie Gyllenhaal doesn't have a huge role to play, but is adequate.
Aaron Eckhart plays Harvey Dent, the daring, honest D.A who briefly becomes Bruce Wayne's only hope for a normal life. He infuses enough energy and honesty into the character that we end up believing in him.
Gary Oldman, as Jim Gordon - the good cop, is to me, the third most important character here after Batman and Joker. He represents a lot of things, and I dont just mean the movie. He also plays a crucial role in the climax, which is just terrific.

The film reportedly cost $180 million to make. And you can see why. Top of the line production values, an elite technical crew and some awesome stunts make this THE summer blockbuster.
If the Hong Kong skyscraper scene makes you gasp, the extended truck chase sequence ending in that flip will leave you plain spellbound!

All these are only part of the reason why this movie is so good. The best thing is that it keeps coming back to you. On your way back home. When you lie down later that night.
It is because the movie is extremely relevant in the present day. One needn't look far to draw the anology between the joker and terrorists today.
What would you do if someone half as maniacal as the joker attacked your city?
Would you be able to think striaght if your city was plunged into chaos like gotham?

It also hits home the point that pure evil is so damn dangerous that it can contaminate the best of good (Harvey-Two Face).

These are the things that drove me into the cinema hall for the second time.

I have to admit, I'm a little bit of a sucker for big-budgeted, star powered summer blockbusters.
With age (and some disappointing films) though, I've become more skeptical of these.
That excitement, I'm happy to say, is back now.

Every generation needs, but seldom gets a Godfather.
The Dark Knight comes damn close.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Back to Blogging

After more than 28 months, I've decided to take another shot at blogging.
Let me see if I can sustain it this time.

Here we go!