Sunday, October 04, 2015

A few things worth banning


With all these recent bans flying all over the place and the associated social ills, unrest and resentment I was pondering over what sort of bans could actually be of some genuine use to the people. Mostly thinking from common sense, here's my list in no particular order:


Ban "election based progress" and election time based maneuvers: Every time elections are 'around the corner' ruling parties spring into agile mode, roads become ship shape, fuel prices come down, flyovers which were incomplete dust bowls become swanky and shiny and complete overnight, possibly with a view keeping the good work in recent public memory. Ban this immediately. Work done by a party in power should be evaluated on how they performed throughout those 5 years and not just before election time.

Ban election campaigns based on personal attacks: In election rallies, politicians of late have gotten into unbridled personal attacks. Almost the entire 2014 parliamentary election was fought on the basis of who could insult whom more. None of that bit of discourse did anything to revive my faith in political leaders. Not much was seen from any party or reported in terms of what agenda the vying parties had in store. One particular candidate left his wife decades ago. Another has 2 or 3 wives, or whatever. Their personal life is none of mine or your or anybody's business. What matters is what they have to offer in terms of their political will and leadership in leading this country; can we focus on that for heaven's sake?

Ban TRPs: In the race for TRPs, news channels have begun passing off utter bullshit in the name of prime time and other time 'news'. The famed News Hour for example adds no value or meaning to my life whatsoever. 5 minutes of watching ArGo scream at his guests followed by switching off the TV yields an incredible sense of peace in the house. Then there's the habit these channels have of latching on to anything sensational and forgetting about the real issues that people in power should be held accountable for. Let's ban the basis for TV ratings that cause them to go down this route in the first place. Can we find an alternative to needing this TRP business?

Ban religion based politics: Ban politics and political groups whose purpose of existence is based on any particular religion. Thinking from a secular (and not pseudo-secular or sickular, whatever the fuck that means) point of view, should a country that calls itself a secular republic have political parties that strive for power on the basis of religion? I don't think so. Parties should be banned from attempting to gather votes on the basis of religious sentiments. It should be the job of ALL parties to ensure that in general religious sentiments of the masses are taken care of in their agenda and focus their high spirited behaviour towards things that will actually improve the lot of people. So, away with polarizing people on the lines of religion, away with minority appeasement, away with election agendas which have anything to do with religion. Religion is a personal matter and it should stay that way. Keep it clean and out of politics please. No one should use the influence of something as personal as God and Religion to further their political goals. The only thing we gain from this is further dividing ourselves and hating each other.

Ban political rallies on roads: Book a public ground or park/maidaan etc to hold election rallies. Please don't do it on roads and other essential public places. One cannot truly win the support of people by blocking traffic for 2 to 3 hours. This goes for VIP culture as well, what with ministers blocking traffic for ages in the name of protocol.

Ban moral policing: Anything that takes away personal liberty including moral policing needs to go too. We don't live in the times when it was a crime to look at the princess travelling in a palanquin or it was illegal to walk on the same sidewalk which was bring used by a British national. We are a free country now, and people should be left in peace unless they are breaking the law of course. A couple walking down a street holding hands doesn't make me slap my forehead in shame. Some one bullying them, does.

Ban littering / excreting in public: Referring to the recent urban adage, 'it is not ok to kiss in public, but it's perfectly fine to piss in public', littering and urinating in public are unhygienic and disgusting to say in the least, and should be on the top of the things that need to be removed from the afore mentioned 'personal liberties'. A suggestion: what if our moral police 'forces' focused their attention towards addressing this problem and bring an end to gutters stagnant with rubbish, stinking walls and streets reeking of piss, paan stained walls, and so on? And instead of hiding behind the standard response of blaming the government for lack of toilets, pressurize them to start building more toilets. Ones which work!

So much for a late night rant, and a wishlist for something that will probably never happen. Still, freedom of expression and all that, yes?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The irrelevance of the urban zebra

Like the road is meant for vehicles to drive on smoothly, ideally without being interrupted by encroachments and cattle and other such, there are certain sections of the road which are meant for pedestrians (people who walk beside or across roads, for the uninitiated motorists of our nation) to cross the road. These are (rather unsurprisingly) called Pedestrian Crossings and are marked on the road in wide, white stripes marked from one side of the road to the other. Due to the whiteness of said stripes on a tarred road these tend to look like zebra stripes and are therefore also known as Zebra Crossings.

Harking back to the social studies classes in primary school, we were taught to cross the road only at these designated spots. Presumably because these are crossings for pedestrians to cross safely, where they have the right of way, where they will not get run over by vehicles. But at the rate at which these crossings are becoming irrelevant, the guidelines for crossing roads in India should probably run along the lines of: 

If you are trying to cross at a pedestrian crossing:
  1. Look to your right (for vehicles coming from your right side, which are following dutifully, the rule of driving on the left side of the road)
  2. Look to the left, not only to check if traffic coming from the opposite direction is clear, but also for numbskulls on a collision course with those described in point 1
  3. Look behind you, for the person on a two wheeler who is trying to use the pedestrian crossing to drive across the road and execute a U-turn. 
  4. Look around you, checking for the necessary numbers of fellow pedestrians for the moral support you need to cross the road and avoid being run over by those described in point 1 and 2. 
  5. Pray to whichever higher power you subscribe to and start crossing. Be prepared to do some dodging between cars and bikes, and turn a deaf ear to the onslaught of honking you will be subject to. 
  6. Run, because that sarkaari bus, taxi, car, bike or whatever manner of vehicle equipped with an engine, and with a licensed driver at the wheel will most likely have forgotten the fact that he or she has unrestricted access to that magical device called the brake, or is constitutionally incapable of applying it when they should. 
  7. Once safely across, mutter a word of thanks to the higher power referred to in point 5. 
  8. Repeat, when you have to cross back. 
I probably should not give you guidelines to cross the road where there is not pedestrian crossing, you know, because jaywalking. But since motorists these days don't care about pedestrian crossings, either of two must be the case: 
  1. Pedestrian crossings have ceased to exist in spirit
  2. The entire road is the pedestrian crossing
In either of the above 2 cases, any guidelines for pedestrians is irrelevant. 

It's all very well for the traffic police to insist, in all good faith, that pedestrians use the pedestrian crossing to cross roads, but clearly that's not solving any problems pertaining to pedestrian related accidents. 

Enough ranting for now. I will, as I currently do, continue to stop my car at pedestrian crossings and let people cross, and savour the impatient and outraged honking from the vehicles behind me with righteously sadistic relish. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

You've turned me on

You know that absolutely brilliant feeling you get when an endearing memory from your childhood comes back to you decades later? And how it leaves you feeling marvelous as you share it with the same people who were around at the time. Not something very tangible in my case, I recently felt this way about a 1976 disco song I heard as a child that I never thought I would ever find again.

When still a bachelor, my father had spent a few years in Canada in the seventies when he went to do his PhD. Besides the fact that he returned with a 'Dr' prefix, being deeply attached to music in general he also brought back a small mono cassette player and a mixed tape with music from that era. (Heck, two-in-ones weren't easy to come by either!) I'm pretty sure it wasn't easy getting your hands on the music you wanted back then, but he managed to get a Sony audio cassette, on side A of which he recorded the hottest ABBA songs of the time and songs by some other group on side B. 

Not the exact one, but the mono cassette
player looked somewhat like this

Cassettes those days











The cassettes and the player he brought back with him to India stayed on in our house for many years, and by the mid eighties, when my elder brother Jishnu and I were two little brats up to no good as a rule, we had grown quite attached to the songs and would play them over and over again. One song in particular on side B had a very singular bass groove which both of us got fixated on. We had absolutely no idea what they were singing of course, except a vague phonetic memory of what the words sounded like. 

Over the years as we prospered, we graduated to newer cassettes, twin deck cassette players with karaoke mikes, AR Rahman, Michael Jackson, Guns n' Roses and other such, and those "side B" songs faded away under the attic dust of our minds. All except that bass groove from that one song on the cassette which Jishnu and I would occasionally hum or imitate. The memory of the track remained but a memory until recently, but until then for the life of us we could just not remember what song it was, or which artiste the song was by, nor were we able to "find the right words" to track it down on YouTube. 

I visited his family in Bangalore earlier this month, and our conversation went back to this elusive piece of music. Jishnu could remember the title 'San Francisco Hustle', and we tried searching every possible combination of words matching the 'phonetic' memory we each had! After much searching and browsing YouTube threw a result "You've turned me on", by Silver Convention with a picture of three ladies on the thumbnail. This one had to be it! 

So there we were, a 30 and a 35 year old man, sitting in the living room with an iPad and hitting play on this search result with bated breath. The same singular bass groove came on, instantly bringing back the childhood memory in full and the two of us were beside ourselves with rapturous joy, with resounding high fives, hugs, fist bumps, random clutching at each other and victory dances around the coffee table! It isn't too often you get to relive an unadulterated, un-disillusioned memory without reservations! 

The next thing that hit us was coming to terms with our dad listening to and actually recording stuff that went "You've turned me on, but you can't turn me off!". We generally never talk about stuff like this to our parents, which is probably why it felt awkward even thinking about it; but then he was a bachelor at the time - and younger than we are at the moment. And somewhere, a part of the generation gap between us and our father got a little rope bridge across it with this realization. 

Anyway, my day, week and month were made with this rediscovery. I've got a playlist of Silver Convention and other seventies' songs on my YouTube playing as I write this and relive the nostalgia around it.

And regard the 7 year old me with a benevolent fondness. 

The elusive song we rediscovered in Jishnu's living room




Sunday, April 01, 2012

Hey what's up?

'Hey! What's up?', she hailed him.

You look beautiful today. Your hair looks lovely. What's that perfume? You smell great. Your smile brightens up my day, everyday, without fail. I love your eyes. Will you have dinner with me? I love being with you, there's this cool, awesome, welcoming vibe when you're around.

'Nothing much. What's up with you?'

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Deodorants and Lies

"Actions performed in this advertizement are extremely dangerous and are performed under expert supervision and must not be imitated. "

We've seen this disclaimer and combinations thereof in several advertizements and television programmes. I was wondering whether such disclaimers should be provided wherever imitation of said actions was not likely to produce the desired results. Cars and bike advertizements provide this to some extent. They have lines like 'The mileage stated has been measured under test conditions', intending to say that if you tried to drive that new Indica thing in the city traffic and didn't get 25 kilometers to the litre, you shouldn't be too upset. If you complain, they will have the right to say "We told you so".

Let's cast our minds forward to a particular class of product that sells on the basis of shameless lies. And sex. Deodorant sprays. What a bunch of shameless liars. Apparently if I use a certain deodorant and walk on the streets I can expect to look behind and see an army of gorgeous women lusting after me. Or the neighbour's wife will shiver with pleasure and drop her plate due to loss of self control when I stand at my window and spray stuff out of that pressurized tin. It never happens. Liars. Cheats. Worse than senseless things.

They ought to put disclaimers on their ads. So that well meaning customers who want to smell nice and hit it off with the ladies don't end up disappointed and still continue buying those dratted things anyway.

For instance, Wild Stone should probably add some fine print such as 'Actions performed in this advertizement are performed by experts and under supervision. Do not imitate. Billboards should probably include 'Results portrayed in this advertizement are measured in a standardized test environment.' Or something like 'Please do not try this at home, lest you want to suffer extreme disappointment or chagrin. Well unless of course you yourself are extremely attractive and have the body of a Greek or Roman god.'

The deceivers at Axe should take hard looks at themselves. How they mislead unsuspecting hopeful guys with such tall promises! If truth prevailed, disclaimers of the like 'Do not be disappointed if the women of your town don't run out of their homes and offices to chase you with ruthless seduction in their eyes' would make an appearance in this age of consumer awareness. Or perhaps 'Use of this product may not necessarily turn your body into irresistible chocolate'. 'Visualizations shown in this advertizements are digitally generated. Do not imitate. In the real world, having a chunk of your buttock bitten off by a gorgeous woman on the subway may be a painful and traumatizing experience', and 'Do not attempt to pull off your nose and subsequently drop the debris of said nose into ice cream cones held by attractive ladies on the sidewalk. They may not take too kindly to such actions.'

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The extraordinary cricketing tales of Purvarth Maddhyanakumar - V

Test Cricket: That which separates the men from the boys. And the first B team.

As I'm reasonably sure is the case with many children of his age at the time, the sports my neighbourhood friends and I were interested in depended largely on the sporting season they were in. Let me explain: In the months of June, July or whenever the English summer is, we would have an irrepressible urge to play Lawn Tennis, thanks to The Championships at Wimbledon being telecast on Doordarshan. Or we would sometimes find ourselves playing Hockey with cricket bats, stumps and rubber balls, using a couple of bricks to demarcate the goal posts - during the Hockey world cup season. Cricket was an all season sport, that goes without saying. But the passion for the game would go up every now and then whenever a live telecast of an India match was on.

Doordarshan would also telecast a Cricket tournament called the Challenger Series played between the Indian team, India A team and India B team. By this time, I was in the 6th standard and the marvelous idea of forming a B team in the class struck him like a sack of coals. It made sense too. All proper cricket matches at the time in school were played between the two sections of the 6th standard. Only eleven guys got to play on that team, leaving the remaining 33 odd folks out in the cold to play whatever else they could salvage.

The idea was put forth in whispers and passed note chits (in a moral science classroom) to some members of the main class team, who responded positively to the idea and promptly challenged the B team to a test match! After the B team was put together, little Purvarth M became captain (probably because it was his idea, or others had better things to do!) In the B team think tank strategy meeting, it was decided that if we won the toss, we would bat. The reasons being the A team was armed to the teeth with fearsome batsmen such as TSR, RM, ADT, AR and so on. The B team, if they bowled first, considering that games were played only in games periods and lunch breaks, would end up bowling for weeks (the equivalent of two and a half days of relentless batting until declaration in a test match). To avoid this and the possible humiliation of having records scored against them, we chose to bat when they eventually won the toss to this match.

I had great dreams for this team. It was comprised of the proverbial bench of cricketers who were talented yet rarely got to play. Whatay marvelous it would be if we could give the A team a tough match! Or better still win against them! The night before the match was a sleepless one for the new captain - all I could think about was the match, and dreamed at night and day dreamed my way through the next day in school until the games period. The toss, as we know, was won by the B team and I had no hesitation in electing to bat first.

Disaster struck almost instantly. The records are inconclusive as to who the opening batsmen were, but they didn't last long as the pace of TSR, AB and RM blew away the top order in a matter of one games period and a lunch break. I who initially planned on batting deep in the order (much like our man MS Dhoni does today) had no choice but to come in at 3 down with only 9 runs on the board. Taking guard to much cheer and clapping and some good natured jeers for effect, I strode into an AB delivery first up and defended it down with much precision.

There was a reason I was never known for my batting. Nothing changed in this match either. AB mis-bowled his next delivery and the ball came harmlessly towards me. This was a test match, and I could have taken my time settling down in this one in a lifetime opportunity to bat all I wanted, but no! Throwing caution to the winds, I took one wild swipe at the ball, missed it completely and heard the anguish-inducing sound of all three stumps hitting the gravel. I wished at the moment the earth would swallow me up and send me to the other end of the world. To make matters worse, the score soon read around 12 for the loss of 5 wickets at the end of the lunch break. It was the end.

When the game resumed, it was during a double games period - but I had an extra second language class during the first of these two periods and could show up at the ground only in the second games period. I hurried to the ground expecting the worst, but as it turned out the news was not so bad. AUR had taken the crease and was putting up a defiant show of defensive batting. I watched on in glee as AUR stepped back to each and every scorching delivery and dropped it at his feet with precision. "That's how it's done, boy", said a tiny voice in my head. I forget now who the batsman at the other end was, but he stood and played with equal defiance. At the end of the day our score had reached 34 for the loss of 5 wickets and things were beginning to look up. However, that was just about as far as the first test match of our lives lasted. Maybe everyone had gotten tired of playing the same match for nearly a full week when we could have played limited overs games and gotten them over with!

Thus came to a premature end, the test match which should have separated the men from the boys. And also ended my first experience in captaincy. This wasn't the only B team which was formed though - more B teams were formed in the later years and there were matches played between the B teams of two divisions of the grade; much fun and excitement happened then too, but that's a story for a different time!


Friday, February 25, 2011

The fun of being fleeced

Which ever form of long-distance transportation you use in India, keep an eye out for the taxi and auto drivers who come running towards you offering their faithful services with seemingly altruistic demeanors. If you're new to the city you're traveling to, speak to them at your own financial peril. However if you know your destination city like the back of your hand, or know how and where to go, you can linger around them for an amusing session in numbers and pitching.

I only need look back 2 days to give you 2 examples. I was traveling from Pune to Trivandrum, with a stopover of one night at a friend's place in Bombay. I know Pune and Trivandrum like the back of my hand and I know Bombay decently enough to know how to get around. My itinerary in a nutshell: I traveled by Bus from Pune to Bombay and flew down the next da to Trivandrum. I got off the Bus at Dadar East, and started to look for a taxi to take me to Lower Parel. I chose to humour the couple of taxi drivers who flanked me like bodyguards the moment I stepped off the bus. After 2 minutes of pretending to be not interested in their services I told them my destination.Taxi-driver 1 nodded benevolently and waved me towards his taxi.

He said politely - "Only 170 rupees."

I burst out laughing. It was worth it to see him quote that amount with a straight face. He tried to bargain after this, but it is always a pointless exercise after such an amount has been quoted. Besides, taxis in Bombay are supposed to be famous for charging fare by a meter. So I did some wtf-ing and told him I wasn't going to sit in his car. Eventually I waved down a passing cab and got to my destination for the princely sum of 40 rupees. I saved around 3 times the amount. Muahaha.

The next day I stepped out of the airport at Trivandrum. Here I was comfortable. Knowledge of the local language gives me added advantage when it comes to bargaining. The hitch here is that there is practically no other transportation from the airport to the city unless you have the patience to wait indefinitely for the one city bus that runs every few hours.

"250 rupees", came the quote from the middle aged seasoned looking rickshaw driver. Straight faced again.
"It's the correct fare sir, it costs 7 rupees a kilometer now. "
"Boss, I said take me to Medical College (around 10 kms away), not Attingal (a town half way between Tvm and Kollam).

"OK fine give 150 rupees. Come", he stated with an air of finality.

I kept walking and approached another auto outside the airport gates.

"Medical College. How much?".
"You're from here right, heh heh, you know right how much it costs, heh heh..."
"Yeah I know, but clearly you won't agree to accept standard rates. So, how much?"
"How can I say sir, you know this place... heh heh... "
"80. "
"Aaah, pattilla sir.. tch.. heh heh... "
"100".
"Heh heh.. OK".

Twenty something bucks over the standard rate. Not too bad.

Like I said, it can be fun if you know the ropes where you're going. Else boss, lag jayegi.