Sunday, December 23, 2007

Champagne Supernovae

I have no idea why I choose to name this post so...first thing that popped into my head...much like the title this blog carries.

It really is a pity when a band that makes good music goes out of business - or transforms into something else. Guns 'n' Roses is a famous case in point. Did you know they still existed?

Well they do.

In any case, its a real shame when a band that could have been great just gets disbanded. They didnt even get to release a CD.

It was the cultural fest at Pilani and band was called Antaragni. The lead of the band was this guy called Raghu, who 's now trying to make it on his own. In any case he had some real fun stories to tell about his past experiences in Pilani. All bands I ve seen live try to do this - I guess it makes them a little more accessible to us, the audience. Hell.. in a Dream theater concert in Buffalo, we found out that Mike Portnoy's father passed through Buffalo once - to full throated cheers.

Im sure he did.

In any case this band was for sort of an "take two one free" deal with Parikrama - the guys famous for "But it rained"(or was it Mother Jane?). The anticipation in the auditorium was therefore befitting - most people were there just to ensure that they got a seat reserved for the Parikrama show.

They played for 2 hours - I think. And they were simply smashing. It wasnt a real band yet ...nuthn full time. It seemed like, correctly I learnt later, an experiment a few very talented people were trying - away from their main jobs. They had a violinist, and lead and rythm man(Raghu), a lead guitarist (who looked from far like Slash, leather and everything), a KICKASS bassist (Josey John - famed to play for every indian music director, except for Rahman (!!??!!)) and a drummer who played the drums standing up. They were dressed in saffron lungis n stuff...really trying to project their music as a mix of the Indian and the western - known in certain cycles as the Fusion genre these days.

Listen to Indian Ocean - you ll know Fusion music has a future.

In any case, the music was amazing...much better than anything else I have heard live since. I remember Raghu saying that they were on the verge of a record deal - and urging us to buy the record when it did come out.

I prayed hard for these guys...and hoped they would come out with a record. I was certain it would be a smash hit. Well you can judge for yourself.

Heres a youtube link someone benevolent has posted:

And here a folder that has a couple of their favorites that day at the concert

Sometime back, one of my friends wrote Raghu, to ask for a link to download Antaragni's songs from. She learnt that the band had broken up for good. They never did come out with a record.

Too bad..really! badshit! as they say in certain circles.


Happily, they arent gone forever. Oja and Goyal - Thanks!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Drug Abuse and hair cuts

Nowadays I ve taken to reading a few new blogs regularly. I also visit the ones listed on the right hand side of this page... The thing about most of the blogs that are listed is that they were created at about the same time as I created this baby, and some of the authors have lost the "new and fresh blog" enthu that comes along with a new and fresh blog. Most of us have moved progressively further away from Engineering College lives... and I guess out here in the Real World there isnt as much time to while away. Not that I am one to judge - my posting record looks like Ajit Agarkar's economy rate or strike rate or batting average- dismal i.e.

heh ..some Agarkar bashing alwas turns up the sunshine a bit.

My well documented laziness comes in the way of pulling up the scary HTML code that I have to modify to make the new links appear on this blog...So I ll take the easy way out..

One of these new blogs is Scott Adams' blog. He posts with great regularity - being a millionaire who has to doodle a cartoon a day helps with the free time I suppose, and writes about the whackiest of things. India features fairly often too... our overall general whackiness provides Adams with enough fodder - and whacky Indian news is surprisingly well reported in the western press. Hm

I came across this post a few days back on his blog. The post is really about how konked off Adams is - but the part that grabbed my attention was the part about methamphetamines - a drug, not the crocin kind - the cocaine kind. I try to keep my blog fairly "modest" - but I encourage you to read through his post to find out more about the various pleasures and pitfalls of "Meth" abuse.

Then let me draw your attention toward the following pictures (Link from Adams) - they are "before" and "after" snaps of Meth abusers - you know like the mangy and then (OH my god!) hairy scalps youve seen on Dr Batra's adverts in newspapers.

Done? Go ahead..take a look..its just three clicks and back buttons away. If you are using Meth you should know where you are headed, and if you arent feel happy and shiny.
The pictures may horrify the more sensitive of you. They are clearly of unhappy people with loads of problems - and theres something about this kind of unhappiness that makes your eyes widen and throat gulp.

Hm.. so what was the first thought that went through my head when I was looking at these pictures? I ll tell was was "WHAT on Gods Green Earth is wrong with their Hair!!!". Did you notice..the three pictures I linked to each have perfect nice crew cuts and steps cuts and whatever... in the before snap - and in the after snap their hair..well looks like theyve just been treated to shock therapy. Maybe they had..who knows. Picture 8 even plumped for an "overgrown skunk caught in a dryer" hair cut - while she spent her time racked by all the serotonin or whatistshname. So is there something about drug abuse that relates to bad haircuts..a curious passerby might wander.

Now all this is not merely existential stuff...its goddamm personal (As Mike Corleone would say). The reason why my mind flew off at an enraged tangent at this gross misrepresentation of messed up hair - is that I have been a proud owner of some for most of my conscious life. Combs have always looked like instruments of torture to me, and since the time I had grown too tall for my mum to grab a handful of my hair and yank my head towards a comb (quite while back I may add) I have sworn never to get near one. And since I am experimenting with long hair, I could totally identify with the "after" snaps. I also vaguely recall noticing - though the early morning haze that surrounds me when I reach my lab around noonish - vague passersby looking at me with a certain melancholy and nodding sympathetically into their coffee. Couple of times I even recall sympathetic noises being made as I pass by. It all clicked into place in my head and of course I am devastated and bloody enraged!

Would it really have hurt the photographer to give the hair a once over - I m sure the head was within yanking distance. Or maybe take the photo after the hair had settled down after all the shock therapy.

And could it be possible that the sympathy was directed at the Graduate student who walks in groggily at noon and uses his lab key on the refrigerator door?


Saturday, October 20, 2007

When Rome was burning

...Nero played his fiddle.

Now I very much doubt if Chief Minister Narendra Modi can play the fiddle, so that was probably not what he was doing - when Gujarat burned in 2002. But I wonder what he was. Most neutral (and you know how hard it is to find one) observers seem to agree that he was playing the cheerleader performing cartwheels while hundreds of Hindus and Muslims were murdered in the state.
Now everybody hates the US, and why not? They've been screwing around with the world way too much of late. Thankfully, it is not too rarely that the liberal section of the American media calls Bush a War Criminal.
The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was let in to the US and paid a (now infamous) visit to Columbia university. Modi, on the other hand was refused a US visa. Do you think the US measured them using the same scales? I do - this is probably the closest one can get to an observation by someone "Neutral" - if anything Americans feel far more strongly about Mahmoud the Mad... and the implications are obvious.

I hear that Modi might just be the person to replace A B Vajpayee at the helm of BJP...and given his meteoric rise from a RSS backroomer to where he is right now, along with Mr. Vajpayee's obviously failing health, I fear this will not be too far in the future.

In an interview Karan Thapar, Modi listens to 4 questions related to the Godhra riots before walking out of the interview - the first time I have seen this happen. I was quite puzzled by this, let me explain why.

Karan Thapar is irritating as doubt. When interviewing politicians, he seems to come to the interview with a fixed agenda... and is unwilling to listen to the most well constructed arguments. Of course, Indian politicians rarely have the capacity to offer well constructed arguments, and he thrives on this. To see what happens when one does, look no further than his interview of P Chidambaram.. on an issue as volatile as OBC reservations no less.Thapar was made to look ridiculous... and exposed for the hard headed brawler he really is. It also pisses me off awful how Thapar schmoozes up to industrialists. In an interview of Ratan Tata, he asked not one question on the Small Car factory in Bengal.

In any case, he does a commendable job of making most politicians supremely uncomfortable with his unpretentious name calling and mud slinging.

Well, it seemed to me that Modi could not give a damn about clearing his name off the Godhra murk. He seems to be confident - almost arrogant, that people have accepted him for what he is. A very capable administrator, a Chief Minister whose state has consistently been named the best administrated and on a fast track to economic prosperity - with higher foreign investment than the more hyped Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka. And why should he not be, his blatant hindu fundamentalism has only won him admirers and votes. The Godhra riots and the US visa rejection, are no longer unwanted baggage.. I suspect - they serve as symbolic medals of honour, in his war for Hindutva.

Is this a little scary?

A man of immense personal strength who led his country to the pinnacle of its economic and military might. Who revolutionalized the administration of his country to make it the most efficient in the world. A man whose power over his people was derived from, above all, a personal and political pogrom against a certain minority peoples. I am of course, referring to dear Adolf.

Or am I.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

gin soaked boy

Some of you may have chanced across this on the world wide web...all encompassing and far reaching as its tentacles are. I did..some years ago..and was mighty impressed. So here I reproduce it in full, with the proper people credited of course...

Im the darkness in the light
Im the leftness in the right
Im the rightness in the wrong
Im the shortness in the long
Im the goodness in the bad
Im the saneness in the mad
Im the sadness in the joy
Im the gin in the gin-soaked boy

Im the ghost in the machine
Im the genius in the gene
Im the beauty in the beast
Im the sunset in the east
Im the ruby in the dust
Im the trust in the mistrust
Im the trojan horse in troy
Im the gin in the gin-soaked boy

Im the tigers empty cage
Im the mysterys final page
Im the strangers lonely glance
Im the heros only chance
Im the undiscovered land
Im the single grain of sand
Im the christmas morning toy
Im the gin in the gin-soaked boy

Im the world youll never see
Im the slave youll never free
Im the truth youll never know
Im the place youll never go
Im the sound youll never hear
Im the course youll never steer
Im the will youll not destroy
Im the gin in the gin-soaked boy

Im the half-truth in the lie
Im the why not in the why
Im the last roll of the die
Im the old school in the tie
Im the spirit in the sky
Im the catcher in the rye
Im the twinkle in her eye
Im the jeff goldblum in the fly

Who am i?

- The Divine Comedy's "Gin Soaked Boy"

Now theres so much to wonder in this. At times the words really sound too flippant to be serious. No wonder Salinger is invoked in it. Anyway, I found this poem pleasantly thought stimulating and I hope it does this for you too.

I call it a poem for a reason. I have never been more disappointed by a song. Thats right...I chanced across the words first. Do I hear murmurs of Dylan...? I respectfully disagree..I enjoy his music very much too.

The line I find the most to my taste, and would be the one Id best imagine myself to be is

" I m the hero's only chance"

Keeps you on your toes .. this one. In any case, I will not go ahead and spoil it all for you by talking too much.

AND I have made a solemn resolve to post with greater regularity, or as solemn as my dastardly laziness allows me to be...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Holy Cow! They' ve gone and done it

The reason I havent posted in such a long time is that I havent been particularly inclined to. Nope my laziness is not to blame this time, neither is the fact that the rest of the summer in Buffalo hasnt been all that great - although I did manage some fun - in the form of a road trip to Toronto and the interiors of Canada, a Dream theater Concert,and other assorted goody bags.

Anyway, the one thing that have done this summer is play. And this has included playing cricket after a long long gap of 6 years. Did mighty well in an Independence Cup that was hosted here by the Buffalo Cricket Club too... team reached the semifinals ...

Now I have always wished I was born a few months earlier than I was. Primarily because I was born on the 8th of November 1983 and when all and sundry talk about that glorious day in the summer of 1983 a sudden whimsical feeling of having just missed the party takes me over. This isnt helped when the all and sundries turn to me with sudden spastic jerks and a quizzical looks and ask "Ai you ...werent you born in 1983???When When..?" And I morosely say
"Novemebherrr..."(sigh)..and they go "heh heh nobhembar...heh heh.. its ok its ok".. Well.. I tell wasnt my fault!!

So I wasnt going to miss my chance was I. It wasnt going to help that I am now in the US, where cricket only reminds people of a screwed up cell phone company. Well thats not really a hurdle for us battle hardened desis.

My roommate being the diehard cricket fan that he is, has at his disposal several pirated links to internet TV channels that show "near live" cricket. Albiet this invloves a fair amount of surfing obscure sites and clicking on highly suspicious links that read "100% wokring link - Inida v Pastkan" and a lot of work for the badgered Norton firewall.

There s also the small matter of the time difference. Although by a chance that can only be called divine... this one happened to fall right between the time we wake up to the time we finally trudge away to our respective labs - 8am to 1130 am. Although we dont really wake up at 8 in the morning. But 2 hours of sleep is a small sacrifice to make...

In any case there we were in front of the laptop, refreshing pages furiously, with the Norton Firewall popping up compulsively with messages warning us of malignant attacks on our computer. Finally one that worked. Sit back and watch India ride on Gautam Gambhir... to a measly total. Yuvraj looked, for once, like he would rather be hacking at trees in his father's timber farm. The pakis bowled superbly - but I wasnt here for that..

A break between innings. Morning ablutions hurriedly gone through. Much more comfortable as India starts bowling.

Good bowling by India. Robin Uthhapa throws one that rattles and thats the first twist of the game. Nazir walks...pretending his ass off to limp as much as possible. Crowds at home are baying for his blood...or will be. It all goes quite nicely for some time. Sreesanth is taken over by the ghost of the careless zulu hunter whose spear misses the cheetah and is killed consequently and devoured(millions of years ago). RP Singh bowls a spell worthy of Waqar Younis (when he was good). Goodshit!!..India seem to have it in the bag at 16 overs. And then the net konks off. Channels are all down. One channel streams sporadically once in an over. Cricinfo is typed, and score board refreshed feverishly. Turns out our almost live "net"cast was a couple of overs late!!. Cricinfo updates us. We see 5 "six"es in bold while cursing the Gods of the net channels and scamming over the Cricinfo page. Damn!..Looks like we ll lose after all... all the my bragging plans crash onto the hard much for all the yarns that I had weaved for posterity of me being there when India won the world cup (so what if it was t20!!!! they may never win a real one and I m not gonna let that stop me).

In any case another six is hit with a cheesy cricinfo comment right next to it. We are close to being in tears..damn! i should ve just gone to lab early!!...

And then... the net channel crackles to life. We see Joginder Sharma run to the wicket and bowl a harmless ball. Misbah ul haq moves away and plays the same shot that Uthappa played to take India to victory over England not too long ago. Ravi Shastri shouts in excitement... we see the ball loop over the 30 yard circle. We also hear a vague mention of Sreesanth (with the spirit of the zulu hunter)..and the net treats us to a freeze frame...goddam the net!!!...we all are on the fence... refresh refresh is mightly slow...cricinfo comes through slowly and we see the first line on the live score board "India Wins by 5 runs".

Sreesanth took a catch running back from short fine leg..

And I will live to brag at many a fireside of this day..I already have my begining.."AAAAAh that september of 2007... "

A month back who wouldve thought.

(the photo's from Cricinfo)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Summer in Buffalo -1

(Taste of Buffalo)
(Lake Erie, seen opposite is a Fisherman's pier, not the other side)
(Downtown Buffalo on a summer sunday afternoon)

For a native of the tropics, the enthusiasm shown by the inhabitants of more temperate (or if not temperate, extreme in the opposite sort of sense) for the summer can be difficult to fathom - even bewildering. I was bewildered, to say the least, when the absent minded professor who taught us thermo in my first semester here began the class by bemoaning the end of the summer in Buffalo and delivering a very well informed lecture on the pleasures of the Buffalo summer - ending the lecture with a sort of "Top Ten" countdown of the best summers in America. It was Buffalo v/s San Diego (according to him, no offense) for the top spot and after a bit of wrassling he placed Buffalo on the top of the heap. We were stunned into silence - all of us being first year MS students - and all of us having prepared for a major pounding in the ass in Thermo. Of course, the pounding in the ass was duly delivered - and the first lecture proved to be something of a travesty.

I have since acquired the perspective it requires to truly appreciate summer. When, for a long long winter you have to wake up at 6 in the morning to wade through knee deep snow to attend a CFD class - or to go instruct sleepy and bored students in an underheated lab - you long for the day when you can venture out with just one layer of clothing on your hide. When going into the open need not necessarily involve thoughts of never seeing home again - and when such a day arrives, it comes with a feeling of liberation.

In any case, summer in Buffalo turns out to be a veritable whirlwind of activities. The sleepy and sordid Downtown district of Buffalo that one gets to see in the winter with park benches adorned with questionable characters smoking questionable looking "cigarettes" is replaced with riot of colours, and with happy and chubby families licking away at ice cream cones. In the two weeks that I have been here - since I returned from Home, there have been more things to talk about than in the entire winter.

Lets start with "Thursdays at the Square". A summer concert series in downtown Buffalo. The other wise boring looking Lafayette Square is transformed into a huge concert ground. I was there to hear Joan Osborne sing her tunes with an accompaniment of Will Hoge. The music was good, and the atmosphere and the crowd excellent. I was truly amazed to see that there were in fact such a large number of living beings in Buffalo, having grown used to the generally deserted landscape of the winter. One person of interest was an ancient hippie, long hair, braided beard ...the works... dancing a wierd "trance"y dance to the music, oblivious to the people around him. The thing being on thursdays means that you ll have to extricate yourself from your lab, or whatever, to get there - but I hope to be there again often - and definitely for the Soul Asylum day.

Well, thats that. One of my great, and old, follies is a disproportionate love for bicycling. Summer in Buffalo is an ideal time for Bicyclists, much like the early winters in Pilani used to be. It isnt hot, and it isnt too cold, and theres always a steady breeze coming through from the Lake (Erie). Although I plan to bike a lot more through the summer, I like to believe that I have already made the Grand Daddy of all journeys, a thirty mile bike trip from Buffalo to Niagara Falls. There is a little known but beautiful bike trail, that charts this route. It starts from the extreme south end of Buffalo - and runs alongside the beautiful Lake Erie( which to all practical purposes might as well be a sea - since it has beaches, and you cannot see the other side - hell it even has waves) to begin with and then runs right along side the Niagara river. This is the first stretch of the trip and all along, one can see Canada right on the opposite bank of the river. You could jump in and swim accross , but you'd probably be shot down by a customs heli.... We, living in the Indian Subcontinent, attach a quite a lot of importance to borders, as do all humans. Sitting on a ledge over the Niagara, and looking across, I couldnt see the dot-dash line that was marked so prominently on the map - it just did not exist, but is probably more important than everything that looked back at me. Strange....

The second stretch of the trip, begins after crossing the Niagara into Grand Island, and then then crossing the island, half on roads, and half on a bike trail that runs through woods, and corn fields before crossing (the Niagara) back into US mainland. This was the most trying part of trip, most of it being over arid concrete. I would advise bikers in this area to watch out for wolves ( or were those over eager farm dogs?) and wild deer.

The third and final stretch of the trip, is a trail right along Niagara river again... all along the trail, looking forward - you can see a terrifyingly yawning gap in the horizon, no trees to buildings - nothing...that of course is the falls itself. There were several mo - boats heading in the opposite direction - and if I were on one, I am sure I would be tempted to turn the girl around and head for the yawn...just to see what that feels like. Just follow the river, and you know you have reached the falls, when it suddenly starts looking like Birla Temple - there are Indians everywhere, eating Palak Paneer, laughing boisterously, blinding camera flashes, the best vantage points are resolutely hunted down by the Indians, the whites elbowed out ruthlessly - some of them have come from far away, and this might be their only chance to see the Falls, and they are resolute not to let anybody spoil what they came for, to hell with all. When I saw this little Indian kid and his indulgent father, squeeze right between an American family hogging the best viewing point on the American side of the Falls, breaking up the fort from within and then signaling to their 15 strong family to join them, it positively warmed my heart- we arent too far away from taking over the world...:)

Its called the Seaway Trail (also riverwalk for some of the Bike Only routes) ..learn more about it here.

Also of great interest to a hog like me, is the Taste of Buffalo food festival, the second largest in the Country. Held in front of the majestic Buffalo City Hall, on the Niagara Square and stretching out to some of the streets alongside, it an culinary spectacle. We biked the 7 miles to the place, and were hungry by the time we got off the cycles, we sure as hell werent disappointed. It was all here, 55 restaurants in Buffalo had their stalls in the place - the grey square (of winter), had transformed itself to a riot of colours and music and of course, a myriad of aromas. There was loads to choose from, we began with chicken makhani and basmati rice from "Kebabs and Curries", topped that with a Ginger Garlic chicken from "May Jen Chinese restaurant". A chocolate icecream from Nich Charlaps, and a curried chicken with rice from Carribean Experience, led to the piece de resistance. It was close to shutdown time, and we approached the Tandooris stall for some chicken curries with rice. An Indian family runs the place, and as soon as we approached the booth, an Uncle asked us to give all we had (which he suspected, correctly, wouldnt be too much) and take all the food they had left. So we paid him a ridiculous amount of $3.50 and having thanked him for his generosity, sat down on the square, and eagerly devoured what, to a Grad Student, is the best food of all, and the only kind that wasnt advertised at the Taste of Buffalo - food that is FREE!!! We were there until well past sundown...when the police and the security had started cleaning the place up. I was wearing my Mike Slackenerny (scroll down) Tee, and suspected that He might have something to do with our good luck.

With a baseball game, and Shakespeare in the park lodged in the middle, it has been a hectic three weeks. Of course... I am hoping for more, as the " -1" in the title indicates.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Travelling Home

I was in India for the better part of last month. For all the hullabaloo... India is after all just a 20 hour ride in several air conditioned containers away...not too much, the trip from Pilani to Hyderabad was perhaps more arduous. In any case, I m not too fond of flying, so I just close my eyes and try to convince myself that the terrifying slip n slides that an aeroplane performs in the air are infact the reassuring rockings of a good old train chugging away. The images of bloated and bruised legs a classmate of mine had shown in a presentation on Deep Vein Thrombosis, which I had attended in a half drugged afternoon stupor and had no clue I remembered, suddenly reappeared in all their glorious red n black... and each time they did the dude sitting in front my cramped economy class seat got a juicy kick on his ankle. He was either a sound sleeper or a thorough gentleman...bless his heart.

When the plane landed in New Delhi I sighed, both with with relief and with a certain curious feeling of exhilaration that I ve not felt before. Certainly better than my landing in the US, when I had to use muscles in places I didnt know had muscles not to throw up. I was in one of the queerer seats on an Air India flight then - and instead of the reassuring back of another seat in front of me ( with a pocket holding the Barf Bag) was a rudely nonchalant (or is it nonchalantly rude?) airhostess, facing me but looking listlessly away. She ll never know what a close call it was - she was a whisker away from a tepid(??:)) shower and a stiff dry cleaner's bill. I returned in a Lufthansa - going by AI and returning by LH, I guess that makes me a success eh??...heh.

I visited a few of the cities that I know to varying degrees of familiarity. My first morning in the country was in New Delhi, and the place was nothing like I remembered. Its true that nostalgia makes you forget the dirt and the grime and the paan stains, and if not to forget, to attach a romantic nostalgic tint to them. The tint was brusquely wiped away. It took me a little time to return, in the truest sense - something that is bound to happen when you journey between two worlds that have nothing in common except (varying amounts of) personal freedom. Although I hated (and still do) Kiran Desai's beautifully vitriolic book there are certain things that I agree with - now that I have the perspective. It truly is wonderful to live with your self all in one place, and I feel sorry for the many many people who choose live with half their selves all their lives. If I had the book I would have fished out Desai's words to say this - but I have left it at home. I have also felt, many a time in America, what Desai says in an interview - " It feels as if one will never be able to tell an entire story ever again. There'll be an aspect of living half a life, having only half a story to tell."

In any case by the time I landed at Hyderabad, I had trouble imagining I had been far far away for a whole year - it felt like the vacations from Pilani - when all of us used to get off the train in an excited gaggle - and to my Mum's outward horror ( but I secretly suspect inward rejoicing) the same grimy oily smell emanated from my suitcase as had always done then. Hyderabad hasnt changed much - for a city thats weathered 400 years, another year is just another year. Some of the billboards even had the same adverts as when I had left.

In any case, I drove around the city with a vengeance, with excellent company I may add(:)), proudly clocking a 1000 Kms in a couple of weeks. I was also overjoyed to find that the Hyderabad autowallahs were still the most honest and upright group of public servants in the country - and with their impeccable Hyderabadi hindi and amazingly insightful directions (seeeeedhhe chale jao) are the very embodiment of the Hyderabad I love, and miss. A thought has occurred to me since. Those of you who have lived your lives in many different cities - and are faced with the dilemma of which to call "Home" - think of the city where no diabolical autowallah can take you for a ride - and you have your answer (of course I refer to cities in India - a Western parallel escapes me).

It was on one of the several walks in a reassuringly timely indian dusk, that I caught a glimpse of Christiano Ronaldo and Steven Gerrard walking arm in arm - not a care in the world!! I followed them with a cell phone camera for a good while, all the while apprehensive of accosting them in fear that my long dishevelled hair, incongruous goatee and in general my dubious appearance would remind them of all the warnings of "dirtly old strangers" their mums had plied them with. (My chief childhood fear was the "chheledhhora" - who in my imagination looked then very much like I look now). My most excellent companion was amused at my hesitance and eventually snapped them up while they tried hard to take their pick from a kwality walls freezer (above) .

Calcutta was given a miss this time round...although it is true that I used to call this city home once - and haven't visited it for much longer than whats good for me. Next time round. Although I did (to my amazement more than anyone elses) spend some time listening to Robindro Shongeet, while whiling away time in an endless Hyderabad traffic jam.... maybe theres hope for the Bengali in me.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


A couple of days back a deranged student killed 33 people - all of whose professions were either absorbing or imparting knowledge.

A senior student in Hyderabad's Deccan College shot at and almost killed a junior with a licensed pistol, while the victim waited in front of his college to collect his hall ticket.

A Talib hacks into the neck of an "American Spy". The people (women and children) surrounding him shout 'Allah hu Akbar' at the first sight of blood. The Talib continues to hack and cut into the neck of the bearded man until it is completely severed. Then he lifts the head high and waves it around.

The Talib is a young boy - barely into his teens.

He probably doesn't know his alphabet - or his mind has been so filled with religious bullshit for all of his life - he doesn't stand a chance in hell of ever truly being Human - of learning that life need not necessarily be filled with hatred and bloodshed.

Three shocking incidents - in the space of last 3 days.

And most of the news channels carry as their main story - the "dream wedding" of two Bollywood stars - tagged along with "Oh please leave them alone - these poor famous people" interviews from an "important" politician - who, not too long back squirming under the accusing gaze of an interviewer- dismissed the Nithari Murders as "unfortunate" when it was this very apathy exhibited by their government that had caused the several children to lose their lives.

Their Lives - not about "who gets to sit in the hotseat"... you moron!.

That was a real problem - real people with real and terrible horror - yet you seem more passionate about some guy who made a false claim to sing at a wedding.

It just doesn't make sense.

The world needs some good men.

An HBO feature that was never released in cinema halls titled "Hitler - the rise of evil" begins with the words-
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"
- Edmund Burke

I saw an interview of Dalai Lama recently. I have always had immense respect for this man. Like every good man - he has his detractors - Hell!! some people trash Mohandas Gandhi and Mother Teresa , although I dont understand why.

The world needs some decent men - men who want to talk about things, to reason. Not for a minute should one fool himself into thinking of these men as saints. They, of course, have their own agenda - every man does - but they remain human in its pursuit.

And that is enough.

When the Dalai looks the interviewer in the eye - and lays out his political plans for freeing Tibet - each tenet of which smacks of political shrewdness... one can see him for what he his. He is not a saint - he is just a decent man - who wants to use human means to achieve his end - freedom for his people and to save the idea of "Free Tibet" from a slow and surgically precise extermination.

When Tenzin Gyatso - the 14 th Dalai Lama - dies, which will not be too far off - he is already 70 - the Tibetans have a Panchen Lama who tell them who the next Dalai Lama is. Like Tenzin Gyatso - the next Dalai will probably be a little boy in some obscure corner of Tibet - who will be plucked from anonymity.

When the last Panchen Lama died - Tenzin Gyatso pronounced Gedhun Choekyi Nyima to be the next Panchen Lama. The Chinese Government hunted him down - and he is now a political prisoner - the worlds youngest(aged 6 when he was imprisoned) - and pronounced his replacement - effectively a puppet lama - in Gyancain Norbu. Thus, if everything goes to plan - and good men do nothing - the chinese will soon have their own puppet Dalai - who can lead Free Tibet up and over the precipice of extermination.

When the Dalai had come for a visit to my university - in order to speak with its large section of Chinese students - I spotted a gaggle of Chinese youngsters on my way to the stadium where he was to give his address. The atmosphere was like that of a picnic - smiles and giggles - but they were holding up poster trashing the idea of Tibet having ever been free - calling Dalai Lama a separatist.

Now, I know that there is more than one side to every story - but I doubt it very much that - unless some one refuses to use his brain - or has his mind filled with dogma - that the Panchen Lama story can leave anybody in doubt as to who is right and who is wrong about Free Tibet.

Who the good man is and who isnt. Which is why this gaggle of youngsters saddened me... Are they really so different from the young Talib?

Certainly - from how things look - although the Dalai is optimistic about his chances to see his beloved Tibet again... I dont think it ll happen -he ll die in Dharamsala. And the Chinese will have their puppet Dalai.

But will that be enough? Will Tibetans accept a puppet as their leader - as their Father literally?

Of course they wont. Has Iraq and Afghanistan taught the world nothing?

When Dalai Lama smiles and acknowledges the "restless" Tibetan youth and says -

"Unfortunately, among Tibetan people – particularly among the youth – there are signs of growing frustration. But meantime, I tell them ‘yes, your demands are right, doesn’t matter’. But if they really want a different approach then they must assure us, the people the method step by step.... So, if youth have serious programme, they must tell the public and let them elect an assertive leader. No problem."

- we see a decent man say that when the cause is just - and the decent means don't work - something else will. He will soon be overtaken by time.. by death... and he knows that the leaders that spring forth from amongst the youth will not be "Simple Buddhist Monks"... but he doesn't have another way.

... And the world wipes the sweat off its brow as it industriously proceeds to dig a grave for humanity.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Comment - "One" by Metallica

It was pretty late in the night. You know how life in an Engineering College can be. And I was sitting with a friend in front of a computer - and doing nothing in particular - when the video came on.

Rock has had several moments of pure magic - and I am sure will continue to create these moments -for,I believe, this is what rock music - or hell - any music should be about. It might be about headbanging in front of 3000W speakers, and it might be about an anger - or "the rage against the machine" - or even about a certain madness - a desire to get blown off your head. Maybe. But I like to believe that for me, a listener - nothing more, it is about the moments - when something grabs me by the scruff of my neck - and tells me "Listen.".

A few of you might agree with me. In any case - as I began saying - rock music abounds in such moments - when you first watch Slash walk out of the church and rip off that god of a solo, when David Gilmour launches in to the final 3 minutes of comfortably numb, when you first hear Bono sing "One", or hear Rush play "Tom Sawyer"...when Knopfler belts out that solo at the end of "Tunnel of Love" - there are several - but these are the ones that come readily to mind.

But what makes me recall that particular night of the very very many nights spent in front of a computer or in an auditorium brimming with life - or liberating in its still emptiness - listening and watching - was something special even amongst times that are all special.

"One"starts off with the sounds of helicopter rotors and of a missile approaching its target with a dreadful drawn-out whine and eventually exploding. As the sounds of the blast fade away - James Hetfield's guitar starts off - clean and crisp. From then on - One shapes into one of Metallica's greatest creations - and that is saying something. It is perhaps also fitting that this was the first video made by Metallica - introducing it to a world that was waiting to discover it. Perhaps the from the very first time the view of three long haired men playing their guitars around the drummer- in an austere warehouse - with an overhead window providing the only light - aired, the bands rise to "Metalligreatness"(quoting Joe Berlinger) could never have been in doubt. In the preface to the Bantam Books collection of all of Sherlock Holmes' stories - the author remarks that the "Hound of the Baskervilles" is a detective story that people who know nothing of detective stories have read - Metallica is "the Hound.." of rock music.

"One" attempts to tell a story of a young man - who goes to the War and returns alive - or does he?

In the very first few seconds of the song - we hear a child asking "What IS democracy?" - and hear his father answer that "For democracy any man would give his only begotten son".

Soon we learn that the Boy has grown up and been sent to war - to protect democracy ostensibly - and has been injured (Metallica thinks it was a landmine). He returns home as a man who had had both his arms and his legs blown off - his senses been damaged to an extent that we hear him say in a voice that begs.... "How can you tell whats a dream and whats real - when you cant even tell when you are awake and when you are asleep?" He has his meals from a pressurized container via a plastic tube. We hear him whisper desperately "Hear me!". He calls himself a "piece of meat that keeps on living" hear him calling to his mother screaming "help me - I cant wake up!" Of course there are voices that try to convince us that "the armour - the wonder of the 20th century!" and that "Death has a Dignity all its own" but they only serve to underline the yelping voice and the utter indignity - something a human being must never be subject to - and the hopeless futility of it all. He - in the end - uses morse code - to signal "SOS - kill me".

And at this point you are convinced of the utter uselessness of War. The reaction is the only kind that is genuine - it is visceral - the video is like a punch to your stomach that makes your indignation rise like bile. Anything that can reduce a human being to saying - "Inside me I am screaming nobody pays any attention- if i had arms I could kill myself - if I had legs I could run away - if I had a voice I could be some kind of company to myself..I appeal for help but nobody will help me..I ve just got to do something ..I dont see how I can go on like this" - .. is.. evil - pure and simple - there can be no justification to it. In this world of ours where the "righteous" justify waging war against the "unrighteous" - it is important to know that any War leaves in its wake ... something inhuman... that negates all justification.

Metallica make a point in the song - and scenes from this video will live with me for life. Of course the song in itself is a masterpiece.You could hear it for Hetfield's vocals and guitars, the amazing lead that Hammet plays halfway through the song and of course Lars Ulrich's famous double bass.

If you haven't watch the video of "One" yet - I suggest you do something to change that.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

About books..and a book

I don't quite remember who first told me that it was a good idea - I think it was my grandmother - to write the date and place on the first leaf of a book that you either buy for yourself or are about to gift to someone. Although I couldn't understand what the deal was, with the writing - when someone for example gifts you a brand new Tintin - and you sneak away from the boisterous uncles and aunties - who were commenting on how funny your latest haircutting disaster looked - and start reading the first page and are just about to guffaw at the Captain screaming "Carpet Sellers" at an offender .. when you mom calls you back to the living room so that the auntie can write the date and place on the book. Especially when the Auntie asks you "how are studies going beta?"... to fill up the chilly silence. Man!!

Anyway, it turns out that I have right now an immense collection of books that have been gifted, all with the places and dates neatly scripted on the first page. Well - time has passed and I still have haircutting disasters as often as I used to. Each one of those books today seems to come attached with an tiny shred of long - forgotten memory. From Surat... to the tiny Angul in the middle of nowhere - tiny places that no one knows or hears about or cares about.

Well, Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Namesake" was the first book I bought for myself! This was as late as 2004. So accustomed was I to being gifted(and gifting) books, that the thought of buying one for myself seemed unnatural. It finally happened on a footpath in New Delhi - Rs 50 seemed an irresistible deal.

Since then - I have vultured the footpaths of cities I have lived in. The guy selling books on CMH road got so used to me stopping in front of his stall and looking and browsing , that after a few days he stopped giving me his salesman rap everytime I stopped by - and looked shocked to the core when I finally decided to buy one. My stance towards the piracy of books, is what is expected of a poor student in a world where Kiran Desai's new book costs Rs 1120. What can you do!

In America sadly, vulturing has little scope. With the exception of New York City where the footpaths were joyously dotted stalls selling everything for Kebabs to T shirts to Maps - the footpaths I have walked on are disappointingly barren... Anyways, I have therefore had the experience of buying "my first Book for myself from a store with a roof". Borders on Madison Square Garden.

The book was a christmas gift - I had a borders card. Anyway, I picked up "The Inheritance of Loss" by Kiran Desai. I had read about it winning the Booker prize - and had been waiting to get to a place where I could find it. There were no copies in Buffalo. I some how seem to identify better with, and therefore enjoy more, books by Indian authors - and have read authors from Jhhumpa Lahiri to Ruskin Bond - and have without an single exception thoroughly enjoyed them. or Had..

I have never read a book that has been better written - or that I have hated more. Desai is undeniably talented, and I cant but admire some of the magical prose that one comes across in the pages of "Inheritance" - but the book appeared to me to have the net effect of a Civilized Western Man looking at India - crinkling his nose - and saying "Eww - how smelly!". All the major characters of the book are Indian - and they are all one - dimensionally weak, sad ... and in an ignorant blindfolded awe of the west - of the magical land that is America. The characters have also given up on ever being happy. The book deals with the stereotype of the "Poor Dirty Indian". No matter what he does - education notwithstanding - he remains "the poor dirty Indian". He is unhappy, superstitous, a wife beater, a thief and of course - suffers of an insufferable inferiority complex towards the White Man. In fact so entrenched is the Indian in his numerous complexes, superstitions, customs,religious hypocrisy that he has no hope whatsoever of leading a happy, fulfilling life.

It is clear that Desai blames the west for the Poor Dirty Indian - and assuredly, the poor dirty indian exists - in millions, maybe - but in dealing with this stereotype only - she has helped fit the tunnel through which the west view India a little better in its eye.

From the book it is clear that Desai knows her prose, but she doesnt know India - and the gross misrepresentation of the Indian is sad - especially since she does it with so much beauty. She should go read some R.K Narayan.

Now I thought that I might be going crazy, because after all the book has won the Booker - but then I remembered - the Booker isn't given by Indians - or by people who know India.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Its amazing how these things happen. I would rate Steven Gerrard right alongside Ronaldinho as the attacking midfielder of this generation - as I would that Frenchman Thierry Henry as the leading striker, possibly with Samuel Eto'o.

Now for the record, I am a Liverpool fan and admire Steven Gerrard above all the names mentioned above- UEFA Champions League 2005 has sealed that for life-but this is too glaring to ignore.

They say that the past has a way of repeating itself.

They also say that a "deja vu" is actually a product of the order in which two specific nerves fire in our brain getting interchanged.

When, on that fateful day in Arsenal's new home at the Emirates Stadium, Gerrard played a seemingly harmless back pass to his Goalkeeper, and saw the "loping frenchman" bound into his vision just as the ball left his boot - he would have rubbished the above definition.

To learn what I am talking about see this and immediately after - this.

Well - at least the goalkeepers weren't the same!