Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Branding and Me

Can a particular product mean different things to different people ? If so, is it a good thing or bad ? If its bad is it the fault of the positioning or the branding ? I know I am supposed to know the answers since I happen to be an MBA who has specialised in Marketing but it does get very difficult when the product is a person.. more specifically, myself. After all, one cannot be entirely objective when opining on oneselves :-) Read this really interesting article a long time back in Strategic Marketing (that supplement which comes with TOI) and chanced to see this wonderful quote.

"When you don't take efforts to brand yourself, the market brands you in ways you don't like"

..And almost immedietly, I knew what the problem's been all along.

Brand 1: Smooth flirt, woman's man
Brand manager: De bose @ werk

Act 1 Scene 1
Background: A very serious Strategy session has just concluded and after some really animated discussions, everyone is relieved that the meeting and the day has come to an end.


Sibee(with that mischiveous tinkle in his eyes): So Remgi, now thud dates er finalized en the first review ees on 31st, hev yoo told the Tesk Force Heads about the shedyool ?

Me: Yes Sibee..I just sent out that mail before I came into the meeting.

Sibee:So yoo wond be coming no ?

Me: (Irritated) Yes Sibee..As I mentioned earlier, I will be on leave"

Sibee: Chennai no ? Maybe you can dial in..

Me: (More irritated) No Sibee, am not going to Chennai

Sibee:Then vere ?

Me: (First signs of visible frustration) Rajasthan

Sibee: Oooh, so wedding is in Rajasthan ?

Me: (Even more irritated) No Sibee.. Wedding is in Delhi but then I am going on my annual leave to Rajasthan

Sibee:Very good very good...So yoo er going with femily nuh ?

Me: No

Sibee: Friends ?

I stare at the ceiling and mumble "Yeah"

Turning to all the other 'green belts' in the room "We wond esk him if its gerlfrend or just a gerl who is a frend"

All dumbasses laugh..some of them wink at me..They obviously expect me to blush and offer a denial..Dammit..They aren't getting one...The truth is I am seething in anger..But just as I feared the topic is not over..yet...

Sibee: Remgi, sumthing dells me yoor next vacashun will be differend

I offer a tired smile. You can never win.

Act 1 Scene 2
Background: A dear old friend from the past has just joined the company. The induction procedure is such a pain that she's skipped out and is bored stiff. Just like its been in the past, unfortunate me happens to be 'the chosen one' to entertain her.


She: Hellooo sweetheart

Me: Jesus Christ.. Don't you ever do that again !! And what's this perfume that you are using ? Its so strong....Yuckkkk

She: (a hurt tone) Acha wala hai..cost me Rs 900... Kyuun you don't like it ? Smell it properly nuh

Me: Omigawd...forget it..so why are you here ?

She: I'll tell you the story as we eat ice cream...Chalo nuh Jupieee...

Me: First don't call me Jupieee...

She: Whyyyyy ? I can't change

Me: ok listen..I just had my coffee...Can we do it some other day ? Besides I am kinda busy today

She: (with a naughty smile) Don't tell me you have a problem handling a hotttt woman

Me: Shudddup

She: Or maybe you are embarassed that people will see you walking around the campus with a pretty face ?

Me: Will you please stop that ?

She: (a disappointed tone) So mere liye yeh bhi nahin karoge ?

Me: Woman...ok.. let's go.. but you treatin'

She: Uffoo...I'll pay

She tugs at my arm and pulls me along like a babysitter handling a kid. I am embarassed as almost everyone in the floor is silently stealing glances towards us. In fact some morons even stand up and stare openly at us. We reach the door and I am just about to use the access card to open it when I see my boss at the other side smiling like a devil. I hastily avert his eyes and let him through..

Sibee (chuckling with glee): Remgi, I hope yoo dond forget thet vee hev a meeting at 5 O Clock...

..and the time is just ten past 4. Damn. Damn. I mumble a quick reply and try to make a hasty exit hoping to salvage a teeny weeny bit of my pride but I can sense that behind my back, stories have already started circulating. Now icecreams with her can be a long drawn affair simply because not only does she have to eat her own and narrate those stories, she has to eat mine too. Time flies and before I can realise it is ten to 5.

Me: Hey, its getting late..Lets walk back.

She: 10 more minutes nuh.. My last presentation is at 5..arre wait baba..

Me:But I have a meeting at 5 and I don't want to be late

She: So you're dumping me ?

Me: Please.. EB doesn't work here..

She: Nothing ever does.. Not even TLC

Me: Shuddup

She: Just 5 more minutes I promise

When she is finally through with the story its 4:57 and I run all the way back to Tower 4 to my boss' cubicle. Unfortunately he is not there. I try to call him on the cell but its engaged. I rush to my seat and check my mail only to find that the venue has been shifted to Tower 8, the other end of the campus. I half jog only to reach Jade by 5:06. When I enter in, half the crowd is missing and the meeting has not yet started. I start off my apologising for my late arrival but Sibee's eyes are twinkling and he says

Sibee: No Prowblem..Yoo must hev been bisee..Venew was changed becoz more peepul ver coming..I dind koll coz I dind want to disterb yoo. Btw, Remgi next week is femily day @ Wipro

Trust my boss to say it all in one line and hit where it hurts the most.


Brand 2: Slimy serial rapist
Brand manager: My bro

Act 2 Scene 1

Background: Friday evening fone call

Bro: Mama, may I have the honor and pleasure of your company this weekend ?

Me: Machaan, would love to ..but am kinda busy...

Bro: Which woman are you screwing ?

Me: Asingumma pesadha da

Bro: I just wanna know the truth and only the truth...Which of your women is is this weekend ?

Me: Dei.. Its not that.. I have work on Satuday so am going to office and on Sunday one of my pals is coming from Chennai..

Bro: What's her name ?

Me: Its a he..

Bro: Liar Liar..

Act 2 Scene 2
Background:
Friday evening YM chat sequence


Bro: Why don't you ever call me ? Lets meet up this weekend.

Me: Would love to..but can't..

Bro: I know there are NO women in your life... So don't even try that excuse..

Me: Was actually hoping to tell you that I can't come coz I am sick but since u started it, make up your mind..Am I a womaniser or not ?

Bro: *&^%$

Brand 3: Shy nerd, Softspoken doormat
Brand manager: The Family

Act 3 Scene 1
Background: Yet another wedding

X Chithi: Dei kanna, why are you sitting in that corner so shyly ? Come over here nuh...

Me: No Chithi.. I am comfortable here..

N Mama: This is a marriage and in such social occasions you should meet all your cousins and mix freely with them

Me: But I hardly know neone mama..

R Athai: How will you know people if you don't go and tok to them ?

Me: But....

By now these folks have summoned all the young kiddos around and I am slowly but surely getting scandalised.

X Chithi: Ranjan, you know Anna here was so studious in school.. He was always first rank..You should concentrate on your books, only then u can become like Anna..Tell him nuh.."

The damage has been done and the look on 6 yr old Ranjan's face is one of sheer contempt and disdain. He can't believe someone who looks so cool could have been so stupid in his childhood... Alas !!

N mama: And did you know, Anna was such a well behaved boy...When we went to their house in Trichy in 1988 his mom asked him to go get us vethalai at 9 pm and he still got it for us. He is so helpful to his mom...Aarthi, you should learn from him.

If only Mama has known the tantrum I had thrown that night...And yes, 16 yr old Aarthi thinks I am nuts. She is already a rebel in the family - short hair, no kitchen work, no Carnatic music or Bharatnatyam classes...

R Athai: Most importantly Shriram, see Anna, he is 27 and so far not a single problem for his parents.. No love, no girlfriends...

Shriram: He's too old anyways.

:-( This was getting from bad to worse..Here I was being insulted in every possible way in front of Gen Next and I was helpless.

Brand 4: Agony Uncle
Brand manager: Pals from time immemorial

Act 4 Scene 1
Background: Yet another cribbing session over YM post lunch

M: I just can't stop him da...All he does is talk about the last restaurant he ate at, the last party he attended..

Me: Why do you put up with him ? Just walk off nuh...

M: Are you mad ? He is so cute...

Me: Hello... wots that got to do with his long boring bhashans..

M: You don't understand..Neway today he is wearing a grey sweatshirt...droooooool....

Me: Why am I even listening to this ?

M: Coz he still hasn't asked me out.. and I am sick of waiting...N there isnt neone else who'd even bother to listen to this story.

Me: Then why me ?

M: Coz ur the best buddy I have...

Me: Geee..Thanks...Forget him..I am kinda busy now..Can we chat up at 4 pm..

M: Can't...We have a team meeting at 4 and I just hope he notices me atleast there... Till then you dare not run away...Keep chatting...

So here I am... Different things to different people when all I want to be is a regular 9 to 6 bloke...C'mon, gimme a break guys !!

Disclaimer: Some names have been changed to ensure privacy ;-)


Saturday, January 22, 2005

William Sydney Porter - The Last Leaf

In a little district west of Washington Square the streets have runcrazy and broken themselves into small strips called "places." These"places" make strange angles and curves. One street crosses itself atime or two. An artist once discovered a valuable possibility inthis street. Suppose a collector with a bill for paints, paper andcanvas should, in traversing this route, suddenly meet himselfcoming back, without a cent having been paid on account!

So, to quaint old Greenwich Village the art people soon cameprowling, hunting for north windows and eighteenth-century gablesand Dutch attics and low rents. Then they imported some pewter mugsand a chafing dish or two from Sixth avenue, and became a "colony."

At the top of a squatty, three-story brick Sue and Johnsy had theirstudio. "Johnsy" was familiar for Joanna. One was from Maine; theother from California. They had met at the table d'hote of an Eighthstreet "Delmonico's," and found their tastes in art, chicory saladand bishop sleeves so congenial that the joint studio resulted.

That was in May. In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom thedoctors called Pneumonia, stalked about the colony, touching onehere and there with his icy fingers. Over on the east side thisravager strode boldly, smiting his victims by scores, but his feettrod slowly through the maze of the narrow and moss-grown "places."

Mr. Pneumonia was not what you would call a chivalric old gentleman.A mite of a little woman with blood thinned by California zephyrswas hardly fair game for the red-fisted, short-breathed old duffer.But Johnsy he smote; and she lay, scarcely moving, on her paintediron bedstead, looking through the small Dutch window-panes at theblank side of the next brick house.

Continue here

Friday, January 21, 2005

Main ??? Banna Chahta Hoon

Nothing reflects how fickle and unsure I can be more than the number of times I've changed my decision on what I wanna do with my life. Of course, I know this story is common to almost each and everyone of us - after all every kid grows up hearing that he/she should "Dare to Dream". I wouldn't be very far off the mark too if I said most of us must have wanted to be different things at different points of time only to finally become something which we've never ever imagined to be possible. While society as a whole tends to rubbish most of these 'wild aspirations' and 'crazy dreams' as fantasies of childhood, indiscretions of youth and desperation of the late 20s, what surprises me is the fact that the first reaction in most of these cases is indignation and instant dismissal. On one hand they teach you stuff like dignity of labour and how no job on earth is too lowly for us to not attempt and in the same sentence they keep discouraging you to do 'different things' prefering to rather influence us to follow the herd. Of course I cannot lay the blame wholly at the other doorstep since I could and probably should have put my foot down and bucked the trend.

(23 concentric circles of black and white rotate in clockwise direction to indicate I am in flash back mode)

One of the first people I respected and admired was my cyclerickshawallah Kathiresan. I still remember those early school going days when we devils would play truant after 4:30pm, earning his wrath by simply hiding in some obscure corner of the playground hoping to spend that extra hour on the field. Sometimes he would lose his cool and leave us high and dry and then Amar and I would run behind the rickshaw hoping to catch up before it reached home. There were days when we managed to do so within minutes of the rickshaw leaving and there were also days when we had to run all of 5 kms to finally see him waiting just in the corner leading to our street so that we could board the rickshaw and avoid getting beaten up by our folks. During one of those rare spells when we behaved well (read as: came on time in the evenings) for more than a week, he would even offer us the treat of driving the rick all the way back with him sitting inside. (Of course it helped that I was really tall even in Std 4/5 and was the only kid whose leg reached the pedal below) In his own sweet way, he taught us discipline and there were days when all I wanted was to be another Kathiresan. A rickshahwallah, a free bird who could travel throughout the city. But that never happened.....

Then there was that brief spell when I was so envious of my cousin Balaji who had a hugeeeeeeeeeee bus tickets collection that I almost decided to become a bus conductor. Somehow this fad didn't last long since by then I was also getting madly interested in tennis. Boris Becker had arrived big time in my life and reading stories of Steffi Graf learning tennis (she won ice creams every time her father challenged her to hit over the net more than a certain no: of times) only steeled my resolve that someday I'd arrive at Wimbledon and Centre Court even if it was the Over-35 tournament. Unfortunately there wasn't anyone in my family who'd ever played tennis with a racquet I could borrow nor did I have the guts to go and ask my folks to buy me a brand new one since I was already playing active cricket and a little bit of TT. (which runs in our family very, very deep) But my tennis dreams refused to simple fade away - rather they manifested in an even stranger form. So what if I couldn't play at Wimbledon, I decided I wanted to be a coach. This was the time when every single champ be it Courier or Agassi or Capriati was a student of Nick Bolletieri and the man attained such iconic status that it seemed better idea for me to follow in his footsteps. Even this dream died a natural death and as I got into high school, the next big thing I remember was my desire to become a Quiz Master. At that time, the Derek O Briens and Sidharth Basus seemed to be doing really well for themselves and I could easily picture myself basking in the glory of television.

Then RECT happened and for the first time, Engineering didn't seem to be too much of a bad option. In fact, I even went ahead and took the bold decision of deciding to specialise in Chemical. After all, Reliance was a big name in the industry and I thought working in a gas plant would be kinda cool. This was only reinforced by my second In Plant trainng at IOC, Baroda where I found people eating lunch for 30p and paav bhaji for 15p. Wowww. What also added to the charm was that no one seemd to care what time you came in and went out of office not to forget those afternoon siestas in the rest rooms :-) This was probably the only dream where I won suport from all quarters but by a strange twist of destiny, Reliance never happened and I ended up being recruited by a software firm when I barely knew the ABC of computers. The highlight of the last two years at RECT was Rotaract which also set the foundation for my increasing interest in social service. Someday I promised myself that I would start and run my own NGO and I think this is the only dream that has stood the test of time.

In a lot of ways, my first job and those 11 months in Pune shaped two of my biggest dreams. For the first time, I thought seriously about both movies and management and curiously enough, the idea came to me from one incident. Now, work at MBT was practically non existent in the first few months after training. Added to this, I had three experienced Tamil laterals in my team who had joined after me and eager to make their mark. So what happened was that I ended up delegating my work to them and skipping out in office hours to watch movies First Day Matinee at Navrang which was just opposite our Pimpri office. Mela, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani...so many crappy movies I must have seen...Then Infy happened and my obsession with film-making (note: I use the more refined phrase here) only deepened and thanks to G, we had our first play out. One could call it a success simply because someone actually bought the script for money but then management returned to haunt me and I ended up choosing B School to avoid a 2 year spell in the US doing mundane software maintenance.

Contrary to all expectations, SP was super fun. In the 2 years I spent there, I realised I could be anyone I wanted to - after all if Jack Pahuja could speak on quality, I could become CQO: If Rads could get a PPO from GE for wotever she didn't do during autumns, surely even I could one day become a CFO in a GE company: and if Shteel man could give gyaan, then even I could be consult material - Unfortunately, though B school widened my horizon of options, I realised that I definitely didn't want to sell chocolates, personal loans, cars or ideas (read as: G-A-S). So I was back to where I started off from. Software.

(23 concentric circles of black and white rotate in anti-clockwise direction to indicate flash back is over)

Today as things stand I wanna do a million things.. I want to start a sports management firm that scours every nook and corner of the country, identifies talent and brings them to the fore-front...I want to be at the forefront of a Civic forum that serves as a watchdog against corruption and misgovernance... I want to run a huge library where I can sit there all day, read books and earn enough money so that I can buy more books...I want to make 3 super hit movies, retire on a high and become a hard-nosed critic...I want to be part of some organisation like UNESCO and tour the world and experience life...I want to borrow a million bucks from a bank, go to Vegas and live on the edge like Danny Ocean...Somedays I just feel like standing in front of an easel with a cigar on one hand and act as if I'm painting my masterpiece...And sometimes I just want to be a Secret Service agent with a 00 license so that I can rid the world of people I don't like without having to answer questions :-p

While all this is possible or probable, what appears more likely is that a year from now I will still be rotting in this creaky old chair, staring at this dumb dim monitor, trying to answer that one question which bothers me most "What do I wanna do with my life?"

ps: This one was written in parts over weeks and just when I finally decide to post it, Sidin steals my thunder and comes up with this rollicking one along the same lines.. No respect for seniors in this world :-(

Not another Love Story please :-(

The cop at the chowk stares at me for the third time. I can clearly detect the first strains of irritation building up on his face. Of course I can't fault him for in fifteen minutes peak hours will start and my monstrous Contessa has to be moved before it becomes a major source of obstruction for the rest of the traffic. This routine of picking her up from office on the way back home has been going on for the past 7 months and never once has she been late. And today I've been been kept waiting for almost 7 minutes now. It has to be something really serious. I smile wearily at the cop who coldly replies by glancing disapprovingly at the wrist watch in his right hand. A sudden knock on the window makes me realise that she's finally made it. Letting her in and easing the car carefully back onto the road, I casually adjust the mirror to steal a hasty glance at the person besides me. Her eyes are moist and the makeup on her face, which she is always very particular about even at this late hour, is clearly wearing off. I know better than to ask what is troubling her for experience tells me that she will open up after sometime. In fact, I can even sense what the issue could be but I would rather wait for her to start it. The RJ is playing some fast dance number and I realise that this is probably not the right time for the radio to be playing. On second thoughts maybe Sinatra will calm her down. I coolly open the glove compartment, select our favorite CD and silently play it.

"I can't take this anymore. He's been keeping in touch with her all along despite those lofty promises that the past is history. (a slight pause) I dropped in at his cubicle after tea and he was on the phone chatting away."

"Maybe..." but before I can complete I am rudely cut short.

"No. I've had my suspicions about this before and today, I confronted him. He didn't deny anything but just thinks its no big deal. In fact he's been e-mailing her for a couple of months now."

"Have you..." only to be stopped again in mid-sentence.

"Of course I have. I have told him in no uncertain terms that he has to choose between me or her. I've warned him on more than a few occasions that the foundations of any relationship are based on complete honesty but he always says I over react to these things...Anyway its not that we don't have other problems.. In fact, I can't even see how we've managed to go through this one year together. I am always his girlfriend only when he's not busy making his career moves. I am always his girlfriend when weekend plans are to be made. He's never been around when I've felt really low - remember the time when Priyanka got that onsite posting ahead of me and I was so cross that you took me to your place and we watched My Best Friend's wedding together or that time when sis and I had that horrible fight and didn't speak for a month..."

"Well...." and the obvious happens yet again.

"Ayyo...why won't you just shut up and listen ? Why do I fell he is using me ? Why do I get the feeling that he is taking me for granted ? Why do I always feel ignored or neglected ? It wasn't always like this. We did have our great times. I am soo confused now. Do you think I should break up ? Help me nuh"

"Are you done ? Can I speak now ? "

"Sorry"

"No No..Just answer me.. how long have we known each other ?"

"Four and a half years ?"

"Yeah..."

"So what are you driving at ?"

"I think in these 4 years I've really come to know you well. In fact wouldn't it be fair to say that no one understands you better than me ? To an extent the reverse is also true..I have never felt more comfortable with any other friend like I do with you. Whenever we've had any problems, we've never thought twice about asking the other for a second opinion, right ?"

"Yeah, I guess so."

"The last few months you've turned to me on more than a few occasions when things haven't worked out well between you and him. I've always tried to tell you what is in your best interests but today as things stand, I don't think I'd be the best person to advice you. I know I've reminded you umpteen times that its very difficult finding that one person whom we can truly love and once we find, we should never let go. So I could ask you yet again to try and patch up with him."

I stop so that my words can sink in but I can clearly make out that she wants me to continue.

"On the other hand, we are both aware of the fact that he isn't ever gonna change and you'd have to again compromise and quite frankly, I think you deserve better. So the logical thing for me to advice would be to ask you to break up with him. But then why do I get the feeling that suddenly my own vested interests have begun to dominate my thoughts. Why am I scared that I would then be pushing you into a decision that you might regret later on in
life...Yeah..I don't think I should advice you either way...coz I feel very strongly for you myself..I know this is crazy but yeah, you mean way too much to me now for me to be objective about this whole damn thing..."


"OMIGAWD...Wait a sec...wait a sec...Are you telling me you love me ?"

"That was true even before.."

"No no.. Don't play with words...Lemme rephrase that.. Are you telling me that you are in love with me ?"

"Hmm..Yes..."

A stunned silence.

"How long have you felt this way ?"

"The last 6 months"

I am so relieved that the monkey is off my back that I am almost whistling the Sinatra number playing on the stereo. I can sense that she has still not recovered from my out-of-the-blue admission.

"Please don't let this upset you. I told you this only because I don't want to be burdened any more with the responsibility of having to advice you, esp on matters of the heart." (as an afterthought) "And come what may, we will always be pals, ok ? "

"Ohhh please"

I know I need to say something to salvage the situation but words fail me. To compound my misery, I can't even think of a single wisecrack or smart line. By this time we have almost reached her apartment. There is this sudden awkwardness in the air as I slowly roll the car to a stop in front of her place. It looks to me as if we are at one of life's crossroads. Leaning across the seat, I open the door and smile at her. She avoids meeting me in the eye and walks briskly past her gate. I wait half anticipating her to 'palat' and bring this whole messy evening to an end. She hunts the key to her apartment from her purse, opens the door, lets herself in and silently closes it without even turning a head in my direction. I begin tosuspect that all is lost when my cell phone rings. I am totally confused when I see that its her on the line. I answer the phone.

"Can you pick me up tomorrow and drop me at office ?"

I try to see if I can catch her through the windows but the blinds are drawn.

"Yes Preeti"

...and before I could ask anything more, she hangs up.

It was always the evening trip back home. Now a morning drive ? Strange. And did I sense a warmth in her tone or am I just dreaming ? I've never been more confused in my life, not even when I watched Kabuliwalah as a child and didn't know if it was a happy or a sad ending ?


Thursday, January 20, 2005

Movers and Shakers

Breaking news from:

Mollywood:
In what has to go down as the first big tragedy of the New Year, a move sure to send millions of her fans into indefinite mourning, Shakila the undisputed queen of Malayalam cinema last week announced her intention to try out 'different' roles. Refusing to be stereotyped as a glamour doll, the bold young actress has decided to go in for an immediate image make-over. Her first attempt towards this is Alex Thankachan's Ee Abhaya Theeram where she plays a nun, Sister Mary Magdalene, who takes care of orphaned children. Unknown sources claim that shooting is progressing at a very rapid pace at some secret location where media have been denied entry. However this reporter managed to talk to Lincy, a 6 year old kid who is part of this ambitious project. Here's what Lincy had to say about the star of the project

"Shakila Aunty is so sweet. She gives all of us chocolates when we do the scene right in the first shot itself. And believe me, she is simply fabulous in the movie, she will surely win an Oscar."

Now this is one movie to look forward to.

Tollywood:
So much is happening around me that I've almost forgotten that the ex (:-p) is coming to town sometime next week, hopefully on Republic Day, just before I leave for Delhi. The one thing we always do when we catch up is to shop for clothes and watch a movie together. This time should be no different and I am actually looking forward to watching a Telegu movie after a long time. In fact I even have one in mind Balu...ABCDEFG. No kidding, its true - the alphabet sequence. So any guesses on what ABCDEFG stands for ? Yes, here is is...A Boy Can Do Everything For Girl. Now please tell me there were atleast a few others here who split their sides laughing. The latest I hear is that buoyed by the success of the aforementioned film, Pawan Kalyan has rushed into announcing a sequel...Guess..Yeah, Raju...HIJKLMN... Unlimited rounds of beer to neone creative enough to suggest a whacky name to fit that acronym :-p And P*****k, you do not qualify to take part in this :-p

Kollywood:
Its easier to make George Bush shut up than to extract a few words out of Mani Ratnam. January has arrived but the much awaited officlal confirmation is yet to come from the offices of Madras Talkies on what Mani sir's next project will be about. This has only led to stronger rumours that it will be a youthful subject with new faces in most of the important roles. Of course, the crack technical team of Sujata, ARR and Ravi K Chandran will continue but there have been persistent stories that Mani Sir is on the lookout for fresh talent to join him as assistants. For the record, this reporter knew this news long back thanks to FN but then "To bite the bullet now or later: that is the question"

Bollywood:
That Black is one movie I can't wait to see FDES is old news. What is definitely new is the rumor that Sanjay Leela Bhansali's next could star one of the country's finest if not best actor - Mohanlal. The icing on the cake is the news that Lalettan could be playing a neurotic in the final instalment in Bhansali's trilogy (Khamoshi, Black and now this one) For someone who loved Mohanlal in classics like Iruvar, Company and even watched movies like Bharatham, Harikrishnans, Kilukkam and His Highness Abdullah in a strange language, there couldn't be sweeter news.

Hollywood:
She had it all. At 5'8" she was really tall, hotttttt as hell, kinky in a very nice way ("Quod me nutrit, me destuit"), really smart and single too (after BBT and JLM). Well, it was way too good to be true. Though I've tried my damnedest to dismiss her outrageous public statements as more towards sensationalism than truth, this last one settles it. I don't quite fancy spending a litetime with a woman undecided about her sexual preferences. In case you are still
wondering what this is all about, she gave yet another interview yesterday to a lesbian magazine that she wouldn't mind sleeping with a female fan. Angelina Jolie will now be history. I'll miss ya babes :-(

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

People I admire - SPB

From one legend called Ilayaraja to another called SPB, I don’t know why but this month I seem to be courting controversy with my reviews. To make it amply evident at the beginning itself, let me warn you that SPB for me is ''the GOD'' - I shall brook no contrary opinion :-) I realize my friends who have heard him sing Hindi songs might snigger but believe me, the man has sung in atleast 8 Indian languages and is as competent in his mother tongue Telegu as he is in the rest of them.

Disclaimer:
1. This review is a compilation of my favorite 20 Tamil songs sung by SPB.
2. To do justice to 20 songs without spilling into the comments section is impossible so I have given details about 12 hits here and 8 of the others which make it into my top 20 SPB list are explained in detail in my earlier post on Ilayaraja.

I have attempted to pick and choose from all composers and eras but I guess this will always be MY CHOICE and urs could, nay would, vary. After that lengthy prelude, here is some music for your ears :-)

Song - Movie (Yr of release) - Music Director - Co singers(if any)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kadhal Rojave - Roja(1992) - ARR
This is my all time favorite song, Raja hits included. Period. The pain and angst that the hero experiences when he is separated from his loved one is wonderfully conveyed by SPB. What I like even more about this song is the way SPB improvises it everytime he sings it on stage, mixing Hindi and Tamil. My knees go weak and there is always a lump in my throat when I hear this number. This is what I would call ''Direct Dilse'' song

My favorite lines:

''Vaayillamal ponaal vaarththai illai kannae, Neeyillamal ponaal vaazhkkai illai kannae''

Anjali Anjali - Duet(1994) - ARR - Chitra
This song is a tribute by the hero to the woman of his dreams and who better to sing in this situation than SPB. The soft soothing start, the rise in the pitch at the end of Saranam1 when he cries out '' Anjali anjali en uyir kaadhali'' are all touches that only an SPB can give. Trivia: Did you know that the alaap in between was sung by Gopiika Poornima ?

My favorite lines:

''Azhagiyae unaipolave adhisayum illaye, Anjali paeraichchonnaen avizhndhadhu mullaiyae''

Minnale - May Maadham (1994) - ARR
OK to be honest the first time I heard this song I fell in love with the violins - Then what struck me next were the stunning lyrics - so simple yet so haunting - It was only on my fourth or fifth hear that I had this ''Wow'' feeling sink in about the rendition and from then on this song is a regular whenever my spirits badly need a lift. I would not call it a very complex composition but makes this number memorable are the emotions in the song.

My favorite lines:

''Kan vizhiththup paarththapoadhu kalaindha vannamae - un kairaegai ondru mattum ninaivuchchinnamae''

Yenai Kaanavilllaye - Kadhal Desam(1996) - ARR - Arun, Rafee
Another song sung by the hero who is on a soul-searching mission - the pain, the confusion all so strikingly brought out by some fantastic lyrics and brilliant rendition. Check out the start of the song and watch out for SPB when he kicks off Saranam1 - Simply awesome !

My favorite lines:

''Meyyaaga nee ennai virumbaadha podhum , poi ondru sol kannae en jeevan vaazhum''

Taj mahal - Amaravathi (1993) - Bala Barathi - Janaki Not many would have heard of this composer but yes, besides Amaravathi this guy also gave the musical hit Thalaivasal. This particular choice of mine is a soft romantic number in which SPB and Janaki combine magnificently to create the perfect ambience of love. No loud instrumentation here - its a very pleasant hear.

My favorite lines:

''Taj mahal thevai illai annamae annamae, kaadu malai nadhigal ellam kaadhalin chinnamae''

Nalam nalam ariya - Kadhal Kottai(1996) - Deva - Anuradha Sriram
Once in a while Deva does surprise everyone and this one is the ''perfect melody'' if there ever can be one. A simple yet heartwarming song about two lovers exchanging pleasantries styled in almost conversational mode, this one was a chartbuster when the movie made it big. And for me, this was the dream combination - SPB and Anuradha Sriram :-)

My favorite lines:

''Un mugam naan paarka kadidhamae dhaana, vaarththaiyil theriyaadha vadivamum naana''

Ilaya Nila - Payanangal mudivathillai (1982) - Ilayaraja
This song came during that season when every Ilayaraja- Mohan movie had to have a mike song :-) Check out the wonderful guitar piece towards the end besides of course, SPB in full flow.

My favorite lines:

''Varum vazhiyil pani mazhaiyil paruva nila dhinam nanaiyum..''

Kadhalin deepam - Thambikku endha ooru (1984) - Ilayaraja
Anyone who is a big fan of Rajini in his hey days (when he had lotsa hair) and has watched DD in the 80s would have seen this song in an advert for Bush TV. With the luscious Madhavi as the inspiration being the song, this slow and contemplative romantic number is one of those early songs which helped in catapulting Rajini to super star status.

My favorite lines:

''Ennai naan thedi thedi unnidam kandu kondaen''

Then Madurai - Dharmathin Thalaivan (1988) - Ilayaraja - Malysia Vasudevan, Susheela
First things first - what I like best about this song is the situation in which it is set - a family get together celebrating one of the member's Birthdays - then I have to admit that simple though it is, at a composition level, this has to be one of Raja's best - and yes, all three singers do ample justice to this winner.

My favorite lines:

''Nenjil ennai naalum vaithu konjum vanna thogai ondru''

Mannil Indha - Keladi kanmani (1990) - Ilayaraja
Ages before Shankar Mahadevan tried singing ''Breathless'', the maestro Ilayaraja had experimented with this number. While the jury is still out whether the Saranam was actually sung at one go, irrespective of that, this song is sure to charm any listener. The profound lyrics and the simple tune pale into comparison when compared with SPB's flawless rendition. Another feather in his cap.

My favorite lines:
The entire song

Innum yennai - Singara Velan (1992) - Ilayaraja - Janaki
Wonderful sets - Kamal and Khusboo in a western setting, cowboy attire et al.. Sensitive lyrics, melifluous Janaki and of course SPB is in his inimitable style. This song is a winner all the way.

My favorite lines:
The entire song

People I admire - Ilayaraja

A friend of mine is traveling suddenly to the US on a long term assignment and by his own admission the first thoughts that hit him were very vague

"Oh gawd.. Will I get filter coffee there ?"
"Shittt...I'll lose S by the time I come back"
"Do I have enough pairs of socks ?"
"What about that list of Tamil songs that I wanted to burn in a CD?"

Dunno about the rest but I was contacted for the last request and lazy ol' me wouldn't be bothered to compile a new list. So simply fwded him a few of my reviews at MS. Which led me to think maybe I can put them up here too for the benefit of my blog's Tam audience. So those of you who know me from MS, give the rest of this post a skip.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to be well versed in appreciating all the nuances of music but I can sense a good tune when I hear one. Though Ilayaraja has composed over 600 movies and its difficult choosing ten of his best that will appeal to all, its easier making a list of My Ten Favorites as they are simply my choices. However, I have attempted to look at all his works from the late 70s to the present day before zeroing in on this list. Hope you enjoy this compilation.

Name of song - film - Yr of release - raaga - singers
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Idhu oru pon maalai - Nizhalgal (1980) - Kedharam - SPB
At first hear, what appeals tremendously in this song are undoubtedly the lyrics. But on second hear, one tends to marvel at the masterful composition. Since the song celebrates nature, watch out for Raja's wonderful usage of sounds like birds chirping to create the early morning mood. But the best part of this song is the violin interlude. Simply awesome.

Andhi Mazhai - Rajapaarvai (1981) - Vasantha - SPB
The next time you make plans to go out and find the Rain Gods playing havoc, just go play this song on your music system and believe me your mood will swing. I know this sounds crazy but this is precisely the setting under which I enjoy this song best. The classical orchestration is to be heard to be believed. The chorus in the prelude, the violin pieces before the pallavi, the alaap by TV Gopalkrishnan accompanied by the tabla, then mixing of mridangam in the pallavi...I could go on but let me just say ''This song is a masterpiece''.

Kanne Kalaimane - Moonram Pirai (1982) - Kapi - Yesudas
Quite often, in an inspired move that comes out of sheer genius, Raja decides that voice has to take over completely and instrumentation has to be a bare minimum. This song is one perfect example. A slow and soft lullaby with divine lyrics, Raja's use of flutes is simply mesmerizing. I don’t need to say more, do I? For Hindi music lovers, this is the same song as ''Surmayee akhiyon'' from Sadma.

Poo malaye - Pagal Nilavu (1985) - ?? - Ilayaraja, Janaki
As a singer Raja had his limitations but this was one song, where he did really well. Fast paced and racy, this number had Janaki rendering the higher octaves with flourish. Brilliant violin pieces interspersed with western percussion makes this number one of my favorite Raja compositions for sheer multi layered instrumentation. One singer humming in the background when the other is in song also adds to the charm. Music critics are of the opinion that this was Raja's first attempt to do a breathless ''Mannil Indha kaadhal'' - kind of precursor. Can any one tell me the raga for this song pls ?

Enna satham - Punnagai Mannan (1986) - Sindhu Bhairavi - SPB
A great song needs a memorable start, right? Nopes - Raja has composed so many songs without a prelude and this all time favorite song of mine is the best example. Placed at a critical point in the film, the lyrics fit the mood very well - romantic to the core. The pauses and silence in between are electrifying and Raja's subtle use of synthesizers gels well. Another pet instrument of Raja's - the flute (synthesized though??) - is in full flow here. And well, SPB, what can I say - he is so sensuous in this number. In short, a song for all seasons.

Mandram Vandha - Mouna Ragam (1986) - Keeravani - SPB
Anyone who has ever tried singing this song will tell you how difficult a composition it is (unlike the bland Nilavee Vaa from the same movie). The high pitch is simply impossible to master unless you are well trained. starting deceptively as a soothing number, the song gains momentum and hits an all time high in the first few lines of Saranam1. Watch out for the excellent trumpet bit. I reckon this has to be one of SPBs all time best efforts.

Valai Osai - Sathya (1988) - Sindhu Bhairavi - SPB, Lata
Raja has composed loads of slow and soulful romantic numbers but this selection of mine falls under the breezy romantic genre. This song illustrates how a magical start can make the song a sure fire winner - The flute and the keyboard make for a magical combination here and used throughout the song. And how can any classic be without his favorite Violin - Its there just before the Saranam 1. SPB is in great form but the surprise package is Lata. Her naughty voice and unintentionally funny Tamil pronunciation actually add to the charm. But to be honest, I think I love the song most for Amala(sigh) and the imaginative picturisation.

Om Namaha - Idhayathai Thirudathey (1989) - Hamsanadham - Mano, Janaki
Every time I listen to this song, my heart beats - thump thump - just like the percussion that is consistently heard throughout the song. Other than this the instruments used are minimal be it the haunting flute or the clinking bells. However what makes the song a classic in my opinion is the way Janaki treats the lyrics in the Saranam - Mano is a little nasal but still pulls it off. Another Raja gems this one.

Sorgame Endralum - Ooru vittu ooru vandhu (1990) - Hamsanadham - Ilayaraja, Janaki
How can a hard core Carnatic tune set in a folk setting become popular? Amazing isn’t it ? Well this song is one of my real favorites - The best prelude for any song in my list - the starting drums and the humming simply rock. Raja is wonderful but in the higher octaves he does lose the plot. But Janaki, being the accomplished songstress she is, works her magic effortlessly and makes one wish she could sing forever. The lyrics are devilishly funny and the song is well placed in the movie too. ps: I am not really sure if Raja is the MD or Gangai Amaran - Kindly excuse me if I have made a mistake.

Nalam vaazha - Marupadiyum (1993) - Madhukauns - SPB
Slow is in again. Sensitive lyrics for a song set in a very sombre situation and wonderful rendition earns this song a place in this elite list. If you are looking for some Raja magic with the guitar after Ilaya Nila, check this song's start.

Honorable mentions:
Panivizhum - Ninaivellam Nithya (1982) - Chalanaatai - SPB

Moghum ennum - Sindhu Bhairavi (1985) - Kanakangi - Yesudas

Sundari - Dhalapathi (1990) - Kalyani - SPB, Janaki

Pottu Vaitha - Idhayam (1991) - Harikhambhodhi - Yesudas

Yennai Thalaatta - Kadhalukku mariyaadhai (1997) - Keeravani - Hariharan


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Some quick recommends

Movies:
Ever since Virumandi wasn't selected as India's official entry to the Oscars this year, I've been a little upset. Not after watching Shwaas though. Thanks to Sarika, picked up the VCD a week back and havta confess that it was one heckuva movie. Without a shadow of doubt, one of the best Indian flicks I have seen in a looong looong time. Tis a real pity that Shwaas doesn't have any big names promoting it aggressively for IMHO its a much better effort than Lagaan. Of course even if it does make it to the Best Foreign Movie short-list (which in itself would involve a lot of wining and dining), it doesn't stand a ghost of a chance of winning considering there are heavyweights like The Sea Inside and The Motorcyle Diaries. Anyway the Oscars do not mean much considering they are so politicised but Indian cinema sure could do with some well-deserved visibility.

Shwaas - ***** - Strongly recommended !!

Books:
The Rule of Four

For starters, I must confess that it took me a lot of time, much more than my usual, to finish this book. Maybe it was the meticulous detailing in the plot, the constant references to the Renaissance period or maybe it was just finicky ol' me who felt challenged to understand the book in its entirety, so here's a warning straight away. In case you are looking for a racy, page turner then stay off this book. Though I would not like to bias you more, I cannot seem to stop myself from making just one 'important observation'.

All comparisons with The DaVinci Code are IMHO meaningless simply because it would be akin to comparing the comedies of David Dhawan and Hrishikesh Mukherjee. The Rule of Four and The DaVinci Code are based on secret codes hidden in old texts/pieces of art, but then the comparison between the two pretty much ends there. So what if the genre is the same, definitely there is a huge gulf in the quality of the writing. Here are some review comments /
blurbs with which I can totally identify

"The main differences are that The Rule of Four is actually much better written than The DaVinci Code, it is much more intellectually stimulating, and it doesn't try to rewrite the history of the Catholic Church."

"Comparisons to The Da Vinci Code are inevitable, but Caldwell and Thomason's book is the more cerebral-and better written-of the two"

"It's a complicated, intricate and sometimes difficult read, but that's the point and the pleasure."


"The mystery keeps you interested, but it is the deeper human and emotional elements of Caldwell and Thomason's book that really make it stand out from the crowd."

"As a thriller, The Rule of Four is not especially fast-paced, but the personalities and relationships are well-handled...... This is good entertainment, a Da Vinci Code for people with brains."


If not for anything else, what captured my fancy was the arresting start. Check it out below

"Strange thing, time. It weighs most on those who have it least. Nothing is lighter than being young with the world on your shoulders; it gives you a feeling of possibility so seductive, you know there must be something more important you could be doing than studying for exams. "

I rest my case :-)

Blogs and posts
This one was long overdue but as they say, the wait was well worth it. Never enjoyed a more 'real' post than this hilarious one by 'the bro'. Speaks volumes about pretty readers :-)

Call me sexist pig or wotever but as a thumb rule, I A-V-O-I-D blogs belonging to the fairer sex - find most of them playing shamelessly to the gallery. Before you cry foul, this is obviously a generalisation that has some rare exceptions. And one of them is definitely Phantasmagoria Phantasmagoria. Check out the post "On being shown your place" - Direct DilSe writing ! Doff my hat, lady !

For sports fans, Blockhole here might just interest you, though in its present avatar there is an unhealthy overdose of Yankee sports ;-)

For the latest buzz in Hollywood plus under-production news, check out The Movie Blog here.

Corner talk:
I have a friend in the UK who's doing his medicine who has a room-mate whose ex worked for a PR consultant of a leading daily who has a contact in the publishing business who knows of a private MR firm operator who conducted a survey at JKRs behest....Oh damn, I know you folks wanna cut to the chase so here's the scoop. Its pretty much confirmed news that HAGRID is the one who dies in HP6. If there are people whose first reaction was "...and about time too" then pls mail me coz we could really become pals. Neway June will tell us whether this is yet another rumour doing the rounds or the plain and simple truth but in case its the latter, then remember that you heard it first here.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Raccoon Story

Here's "our strip" on your day :-)

Life and Death 1

Life and Death 2

Life and Death 3

Life and Death 4

LIfe and Death 5

Life and Death 6

Life and Death 7

Life and Death 8

Life and Death 10

"What makes Calvin & Hobbes the greatest ever is its ability to make you laugh your ass off, and identify with it. What makes it one of the great treasures of our culture is its ability to invoke emotions that you never thought you'd spend on a comic strip.

This one's positively touching."

CAM Bill, Jon and Nick.

Happy B'day Div

"                       ,
       
      ,       
            
                      ."

You will always be...a poem without words....

Miss ya lots :-(

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Vijay movies - an analysis

There is something about Vijay films that I simply love. For starters, I can safely leave my brains (assuming I still have 'em after watching so many of his movies) back home, come to the hall with minimal expectations and sometimes actually leave it feeling good in case there was something noteworthy in the 3 hr saga. To be fair to the people who make movies for the Ilaya Thalapathi, they never make tall claims about being 'different' - all of them are unanimous in their opinion that his is a typical Vijay movie - to be read as: mindless rubbish.

I've followed the bugger from his Sendoora Pandi and Rasigan days through the Friends and Priyamanavale time to the current Tirumalai and Madurai avatar and believe me, very little has changed. (I guess I'll forgive him for those two blips: Poove Unakkaaga and Kadhalukku Mariyaadhai) This thoroughly researched, well-oiled mechanism of filmmaking for Vijay is a topic worthy of a P.Hd thesis. If anyone ever dares to undertake such an exercise, he/she might find me a very useful ally. They say that every story if analysed deeply traces its roots to either the Ramayan or the Mahabharat but I strong dispute this in Vijay's case. Here are the ingredients that go into making a Vijay pot-boiler.

A. Hero is a
1. Happy-go-lucky college student
2. Soft spoken do-gooder (Profession unknown)
3. Poor but plain speaking mechanic
4. Affectionate and sentimental tea shop owner
5. Rough exterior, kind-at-heart villager
6. A man with a mysterious past (how convenient, how lacking in imagination)

B. Heroine is a
1. Tough talking, modern gal-next-door
2. Arrogant and pompous shrew
3. College siren lusted by all and sundry
4. Any girl craving-for-love (attention??) coz she is either an orphan or motherless or plain neglected
5. Best friend's cute sister/cousin

C. Villain is
1. A Corrupt politician (acc to location and budget he is either a Minister, MP, MLA, councillor or local panchayat chief)
2. An Influential indutrialist with shady business dealings
3. An Obsessive, eccentric rowdy (preferably with some past connection with the hero)
4. SOCIETY

D. The bone of contention is
1. Rich vs Poor
2. Caste and Religion vs Love
3. Rowdyism vs Law and Order

E. The title of the film
1. Name of the hero
2. Name of some city/place connected with the story

F. The formula
1. 10 romantic one-liners, 9 emotions, 8 not-so-funny jokes, 7 foreign locations, 6 songs including item nos and coat-and-suit dance affairs, 5 death-defying stunts, 4 friends, 3 digs at Ajit, 2 flashbacks and 1 irritatingly repeated Punch dialogue.

Pls note: Decreasing number of options from A to F.

Now that everything is in place, let's mix and match and see what we get. One cursory look tells me that

Madurai = (Slight variation of A4 + A6) + B4 + (C1+C4) + D3 + E1 + F1
Tirumalai = A3 + B2 + C2 + D1 + E1 + F1
Badri = A1 + B3 + Variation of C4 + (D1 + D2) +E1 +F1

In fact, the only recent Vijay movie that was enjoyable in the true sense, Gilli, when analysed using this template shows clearly why its a cut above the rest.

Gilli = Variation of A2 + Variation of B2 + C3 + Variation of D2 + Variation of E1 + F1

So why all this now ? I saw Tirupachi yesterday FDES.... Needless to say, I always get lucky when I need to convince people to watch these hopeless movies with me. Yesterday's bakra was Anton. Since my avowed position is on watching mass movies at releatively downscale theatres alongwith "makkal", PVR and Innovative (where surprisingly Tirupachi was screened for all 4 shows on a screen with hiked ticket prices) were ruled out. Settled down finally to seeing the movie at my favorite SriBalaji and did we have a whale of a time. Finickly ol' me got to the theatre much ahead of time and was there on the scene when the matinee crowd filed out bursting crackers and shouting slogans against Ajit :-p Needless to say, when our show started, the reception that greeted Vijay's arrival on the screen was to be heard to be believed. The first two songs in the movie had the masses in total raptures and people in the front rows were dancing like crazy. But as the movie progressed, people started getting fidgety. The murmurs in the crowd during the interval break clearly showed that the audience did not find the movie as good as they had expected it to. My sympathies were with them since the rest of the songs had been very boring, the comedy track very lack lustre and Trisha had barely had 3.5 scenes and 5 dialogues. Post interval though held a lot in store for the hard-core Vjay fan following since the 'vadham' started then. The best part of the second half was the alarming regularity with which I started predicting the exact dialogues that Vijay would mouth which led Anton to believe I had already seen the morning show :-p Well, what started at 6:20 pm finally ended only at 9:30 pm and the verdict of the masses was unanimous - their Thalaivar had delivered again. Though the movie has been released with a record 207 prints and should recover its money within a week (the initial a Vijay movie gets is comparable only with Superstar's movies) I don't think it will be even as big a hit as Madurai.

In case you are wondering what the story of the movie is (yaawn), you can check it out here or better still its A5 +B5 + (C1+C3) + D3 + E2 + F1.

What are you folks waiting for ? (Esp: Shriya and Hoodibabaa) Pls go and check out the movie in a theatre near you !!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

JLT - wotever number it is....

I should have seen it coming.. The calm before the storm..It isn't often that I don't get mails from my boss for a week. I knew something was amiss and had even been preparing myself for looking out for a new job (you never know you see - besides Infy's Qtr performance was so tempting) but when the mail finally did come today morning, it was something I hadn't imagined even in my wildest dreams. The bugger (and i use it affectionately) wants me to plan and drive a Strategy session for our next year's Business targets. For once I have responsibility and authority. And all this is because of some foolhardy suggestion that I seem to have made a month back. If shooting-oneself-in-the-mouth was an Olympic event, then India would win gold as long as I competed. Anyway to quote him in his own inimtable way "Now yoo hev sum homewerg to do during Bongal" :-)

If that wasn't enough, second half of the day was spent negotiating one of these very, very tricky Do-you-know-thy-partner questionnaires that seem to pop up from nowhere. In the absence of genuine 'soul-mates' (no offence meant), forwarded it to the ex, a couple of really close friends and then compared notes only to realise that I seem to know them better than they knew themselves - and definitely more than their current beaus. These women don't seem to have any good taste :-p

Neway jokes apart, here's the test. Try it out at your own risk.

For both of you
1. Your partner's first crush:
2. Your partner's favorite expression when referring to the current boss:
3. Your partner's first words to you:
4. Your (both of you) favorite song:
5. First compliment your partner paid you:
6. Your partner's preferred honeymoon destination:
7. The one quality your partner most likes in you:
8. Your partner's favorite excuse when he/she is late:
9. The last fight you had with your partner:
10. Your (both of you) favorite hang-out spot:

For questions 1-10,
Score 5 if both of you got it right - You know each other well and share a deep and meaningful relationship
Score - 0 if both of you got it wrong - Its early days and you have a lifetime ahead of you to know each other
Score -5 if one of you got it right - Now one of you is obviously not so committed so quit playing the fool and get serious ;-)

For the men
11. The movie she wept most:
12. Her favorite TV serial:
13. Her brother's (if none, father) nickname for her:
14. Her favorite lipstick shade:
15. Her bedroom wall color:
16. Her favorite cartoon character:

For the women
11. His favorite TV commercial:
12. His favorite movie line:
13. His sister's (if none, mother) nickname for him:
14. His favorite deo brand:
15. His bedroom wallposter:
16. His favorite computer / video game:

For questions 11 to 16,
Score 5 for every correct answer
Score 0 for every wrong answer

There is supposedly a pyschological jusification for most of the choices men and women make and chessy as it is, (Mars Vs Venus stuff) will put it up later.. For now, ensoii !!

Its a long weekend and quite a few wishes are to be sent out. So here I go...

Happy Birthday Cheenu !! May the coming year bring you loads of happiness and cheer (and some common sense too so that you stop giving lifts in your car to strangers)

Happy Birthday mama !! Hope the coming year brings you peace, health and wealth (so that we may start our publishing company soon)

Happy Birthday Tusku !! You can ask for anything you wish and I hope, nah pray, God hears your loud little voice and grants it to you :-)

Happy Pongal to all you folks !!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A true Tsunami story

Television programs, newspaper reports, tea shops conversations, blogposts, chain e-mails, Office canteen gossip....name it and tsunami has been the common link across all these for the past 2 weeks. Lots of stories have been floating around - some good and some not-so-good. But the one that moved me most was one that I saw in front of my eyes. Been wrestling with my thoughts ever since and I think I should share it here - after all there could be many more like me.

Totally stressed out from the cricket played in the morning and still seething over the disappointment of not getting tickets at PVR, I was lazing at Sandeep's place on Saturday evening when the calling bell in his apartment rang. Since Sandeep had gone out to buy some snacks and his roomie Uday wasn't home, I answered the door to see a sweet 9 year kid with a hundi in her hand. "Yet another collection with no accountability" was my first reaction and I was almost about to shoo her away when Sandeep returned back. Binodhini, for that was the kid's name (Bong??), came in and explained that the teachers in her school had spoken to all the children about the tragedy that had occurred showing photographs of homeless children and asked each student to collect Rs 200. Binodhini, in her own innocent way, painfully narrated the stories she had heard from her class teacher and her mom and requested us to contribute. Feeling miserable for my earlier attitude, I quietly asked her how much she had already managed to pull together. Displaying an empty white sheet of paper, she explained that she had just started with whatever money she had saved for the past 6 months in her hundi for some colored sketch pen set and painting books that she wanted to buy.

Here was a 9 year old girl who had just Rs 64 of her own and she had hardly hesitated for a moment to set it all aside for someone she barely knew. And here was I thinking twenty times before donating money that was a tiny fraction of what I earned just because I did not trust people to make good use of it. So what if Disaster relief is a whole industry by itself ? So what if for every rupee that is channelised through an NGO, only 15 paise reaches the person it was originally intended for ? (for Government agencies, its even lower at 8 paise acc. my friend who worked with India-aid)

Why is it that I am always cynical about these things ?
Why is it that I am always scared about what could go wrong rather than what good could come out of such efforts ?
Why can't I simply 'believe' in humanity ?

After all, what is life if it isn't about hope.

Monday, January 10, 2005

JLT - 4

...now where did I leave the last time ? Yeah.. Marriages..Well, here are some more interesting titbits on the same front. One of my dear friends, an elite member of the 'theru pasanga' gang as we used to call it, is getting married this month. Subramanian Rajagopal who spent the major portion of his adoloscence and youth looking for the perfect woman has finally agreed to an arranged marriage.. For someone who always introduced himself to the fairer sex as "Hey, I am Subramanian - you can call me Subbu or Su-Bra", I am surprised that someone actually had the guts to say Yes to him :-) The poor gal's name is Lakshmi and from whatever i have heard about her, she seems to have her mind and her heart in the right place. She's managed to convince all that the wedding should neither be a big bash kinda thing where tonnes of money is blown nor a quiet registered affair where there aren't enough well-wishers to bless them. So they have settled for a wedding at the bride's house with a total attendance of strictly 40 - 20 people from both sides. After the wedding is over, they will be visiting a home for the aged where they will spend a good couple of hours with the elders. (Incidentally I also found out that they have offered to sponsor that whole day's expenses of the home) The best part of the whole thing is that I am on Subra's list of 6 personal invitees. I must confess that though I felt honored, I had no clue what I had done to deserve this. The bad news is that his wedding is on the same day as Pranav's so I will not be able to make it. However I have made arrangements for the wedding gift and since Subra does not know about this blog, I can happily reveal it here. Its a book on Indian names for babies - Subra has always felt his lack of success with women was because of his stupid, orthodox Brahminical name. Here's hoping that atleast the next generation of Tam Brahm children strike it rich in the dating-mating game ;-)

Talking of Subra reminds me so much of cricket and the matches we played in Housing Unit Colony. If ever there was a demon on the field worse than me, then it had to be Subra. Long before the Aussies mastered the art of mind games under Steve Waugh and used sledging as an effective weapon of mental annihilation, Subra had perfected it. And like any good sishya, I took it to the next level. The first time I was involved in big-time sledging was in my last year of playing cricket for Trichy. We were playing Pondicherry away from home at the scenic PEC grounds and it was a quarter final fixture for the PR Thevar trophy. The first day of the two day match had been totally washed out and we'd spent the entire day chilling out. Since I was born in Pondy, I had mingled with the opposition and made a few friends. However all that counted for nothing as we took the field on the second and final day. Pondicherry batted first and scored a mammoth 230 odd runs in 4.5 hrs thanks to some amazingly generous fielding by our side (we must have dropped atleast 12-15 catches though till today our official stance is that it was because of the slippery outfield) We were left with 1.5 hrs to negotiate and then hope to call it right on the spin of the coin. 30 minutes into our innings we were 17/5 and certainly staring at the barrel of defeat. When I walked in to join my captain Naveen, I was welcomed by a beautiful barrage of words that I later found couldn't be found in any dictionary in the world. 15 minutes went by and I was still dodgily defending, yet to open my account. The barbs started getting personal and I didn't ease things by retorting back - gave them a real earful which led to one of the umpires having a quick word with me to calm things down. Obviously we then changed to French and I learnt some of the best words in this alien language that afternoon. Thankfully Naveen was there to cool me down and we played out the rest of the match (I just made 5 runs) and eventually even won the match by calling the coin right. But those 1.5 hrs in the middle was a tremendous lesson in cricketing terms. For one, I learnt the following

1. Sledge but avoid getting personal. However, if things turn nasty, remind yourself of that old adage of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Remember this ain't a sissy sport like throwball, its a man's game :-)

2. Sledge only when you are confident that the oppositon is either mentally weaker and you can definitely get on their nerves OR when you are reasonable sure that they are not as talented/gifted as you are. (Nasser Hussain once said that the worst thing to do when facing Lara is to sledge early on - it only steeled him further and he ended up scoring atleast a double century)

There are so many other sledging stories, the most memorable one being how I used it 2 years back against that helmet-wearing 12 year old kid, all of 4' 11" from the Chandrakanth Pandit coaching camp near our SP campus and how he belted me for a straight six the very next ball (Now I'm not embarassed - maybe he will become the next Sachin and i can tell this story to all and sundry) So why all this now? Simply because though I haven't played competitive cricket for a long time, there are still times when everything seems to resemble the past. Yesterday (Saturday) at our Sarjapur ground was one such occasion. One of my bosses, a Group Head who is very good at sports was the captain of the opposition team and was generally being very aggressive. Beyond a certain point, I couldn't take it anymore and gave him a piece of my mind - how he should be 'playing veteran's cricket' or rather 'stick to business'. It was fun, neither of us willing to give the other an inch and at the end of it, he gave his 'usual speech' commending me on my spirit and exhorting everyone to follow my lead and play to win :-p I should get him to play TT with me some day.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

JLT - 3

Its been a long time since I've had so many ideas on what to write in a post...Usually what happens is that there is tonnes of work (shudddup you disbelievers) and I get so mad staring at XL or googling to find non-existent data to back up my latest harebrained idea, that I need these power breaks. Hot piping coffee in hand, music in my ears, I then decide to either RRAPT or PRART :-) Or if there's so much work that I can't even take my power breaks (Now stoppppppp smirking), then I blog at home on my lappie and upload it the next day...

Today however there are lotsa things I wanna specifically write about. For starters, folks are back..Yippeeee.. I never imagined I would be yelling in joy but I did miss the awesome food at home during their absence. Anyway that wasn't what I wanted to write about...Folks are back and Dad had lotsa juicy gossip about the Kanchi seer controversy. It seems one of our neighbours in Trichy, a stinking rich obnoxious boor whom everyone in our street loved to hate, has been ripped apart in last week's Junior Vikatan. This 'gentle'man who had very close links with the Mutt (Btw, I've seen the late Paramacharya, Sri Jayendra Saraswati (SJS) and Sri Vijayendra Saraswati (VJS) in person thanks to their frequenting this person's palatial residence) has been thoroughly exposed for his not-totally-above-the-board business activities. The irony of the whole thing is that when I heard this news, my first reaction was "There is a God after all :-)" Well.. Grapevine also tells me that the biggest reason for Amma's sudden turnaround vis a vis SJS (besides the hospital issue and SJS's off-the-cuff remark about Amma's defeat in the Lok Sabha elections) is the tonnes and tonnes of Sasikala's black money that is being laundered by the Mutt to finance operations as diverse as civil construction and cinema making. I think that's enough bitching for the day :-)

Other "good news" from Trichy, according to my Mom, is that everyone there seems to be missing me. If what she says is true then there were atleast a dozen people who seemed interested to know if I was "doing good" - starting from the flower vendor Ravi, the vegetables paatti (Damn, I don't even know her name), Iron man Muthu, our dear 82 years young housemaid of 30 years, Manickam (yes, it s a woman's name too) and unfortunately for me, every maami who has a daughter (or knows someone who has a daughter) of marriageable age. I know everyone is concerned that "a chamathu Brahmana payyan is wasting his life away" but Ravi asking my mom how much I earn was simply the last straw. Sad but true. The worst thing is Mom has the gall to actually make it sound as if its all "good news". With every passing day, I am beginning to realise that its an increasingly impossible battle I am waging against this society. My old reason of "not being emotionally mature enough to handle the responsibility of another person's life" sounds terribly cliched, esp after hearing that my bro Venks uses more or less the same words. So I think I'll change tack. The next time I hear something about marriage, I will tell them about how I find my job so mundane and that I plan to quit. (without another job in hand, of course) That should scare the shit outta them and buy me more time. HELL, I AM SERIOUS. I AM GONNA QUIT. (Nice try but still need to improve nuh??)

Talking of marriages, its final now. Atlast I have booked my tickets to go for Pranav's wedding. Just to illustrate how much time I wasted trying to jugadofy people to come with me to Delhi before Papa Bear finally confirmed yesterday, lets just say that I am flying by Deccan now for Rs 4800 and I have been persistently visiting their website checking for availablilty since it was Rs 2500 :-( Wasted hard earned money (for the last time I warn you not to snigger) Neway, did I forget to mention that besides the wedding I am taking a week off and touring Rajasthan - Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Chittorgarh and if time permits, Jaisalmer. So eat your hearts out my darlings !!

So much more to pen but goddamn... Its 6 pm and thats when the last shuttle leaves this godforsaken place...Gotta rush to The Forum to watch a movie and buy greeting cards.. yeah, a few more...

Friday, January 07, 2005

:-p

I am in a very, very bitchy mood.

Disklaimer: This post is fully fictional - all characters are imaginary and if there are any offensive references that a few nincompoops who freqent my blog, mistakenly perceive to be a spitting image of themselves, then I am not to he held responsible, maybe its just their goddamn conscience prickin' . And yes - no apologies are forthcoming, so the faint-at-heart, who have such a poor opinion of themselves that it makes them see ghosts even in the place of shadows, should STOP here.

Hell, reading that long line now, even I don't understand what I meant :-p

A bagful of popcorn, a 2L bottle of Sprite, a messy teapoy with choley spilt all over, three days of The Hindu all opened at the crossword page lying on the Diwan, some arbit Hindi serial running on Sony, Kenny G's mellifluous sax filtering in from the Sony stereo system in the bedroom...Hadn't I seen similar scenes so many times before ? 2004 might have given way to 2005 but some things still remained the same. I hastily switched the channel to Zee MGM and took my corner sofa seat, just like I did last year - which incidentally was last week. Serendipity was on air and I wanted to see it...yet again...and then it happened...

"You know what"
"Yeah.. Tell me..."
"I hate your blog. Its got only mush and movies."
"Hmmm"
"Is that all you have to say ?"
"Man of few words."
"Come on..."
"I know my blog is shitty.."
"Then why not change ?"
"Coz I write the way I feel...and I've been feeling shitty for a long time now"
"Don't get started again. As it is, your journal is like Jeepers Creepers"
"Okie..what do you think I shud write about ?"
"How about your opinion on currrent affairs ? Or about sports ? Or about society and the changes around us ?"
"Unfortunately I'm intellectually challenged"
"If that's the case, then how about humor ?"
"I'm no Dave Barry - besides you always say mine is of the toilet kinds"
"Jesus. How about just providing us interesting links ?"
"Then you want me to be like that pompous P****te...."
"Ufff.. surely not..He's an opinionated a**hole"
"Why not about technology since you are in that line ?"
"I'd sleep even as I write it.. And I am not that desperate to fill up pages jes to be listed as one of the blogging world's gems ?"
"Nah...I guess u have a point..Well..How about a photoblog or a cartoonblog ?"
"Can't pull it off beyond a month, besides photos is not much like ME..I am not a shutter-bug"
"Philosophy, poetry or song lyrics?"
"That I already do in mild doses :-) "
"How about loads and loads of senti about childhood and friends and family ?"
"Like the world's most-politically-right blog ;-)"
"Jeez. I didn't mean like that. Not so nausaeatingly diabetic stuff pls"
"Then.."
"Wait... I got it..how about delightful word play.. How about just treating us all to good ol' English ?"
"Not my kinda stuff.. Neway my MS-Word doesn't have Thesaurus ;-) Nor do I possess the vivid imagination to use metaphors that connect AmmaVasai and Abdul Qadir"
"Hehehe...Do you still get those 'feedbacks' ?"
"You bet, let's not even talk about that yo-dude"
"Khair chodo..trivia, quizzing, amusing anecdotes ?"
"But then I would have to get most of them from the net and I might as well provide the links"
"Yeah..."
"Wait.....and now she will present him with the wedding gift and guess what it is..."
"A million times you've seen this"
" Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the time of Cholera.. and its the same book that Sara has written her phone no: in... Yesssssssss"
"Stories hi likhna hai tho, why not write soft porn ?"
"Like Art Buchwald... Hahahahaha..."
"What's the joke ?"
"Google karke dekho"
"Welll...""Okie, so what do I think I shud write..."
"Hmmm.. Anything but this shitty stuff you presently write..Neway you have so many dumb men and women reading it unfailingly"
"Okie...Will sleep over it tonite.. Now will you let me watch the climax in peace ?"

A day later, realisation dawned on me that I really write C-R-A-P. Thankfully, I had a brainwave. And so I thought, let me just turn this into a greeting blog. Will post just Happy B'day, Best wishes, Congrats, Get Well and stuff like that... Wowwwww...What a stupendous idea !!

ps: Jan 10th, 14th, 17th...here I come...

pps: At the risk of repeating myself

It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them. ~P.G. Wodehouse

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Phantasmagoria ???

February 15, 2004 - 8:32 am: It was the third and final day of the tournament. The gallery was only half full yet there was a general buzz of excitement in the atmosphere. Try as I did, I could not understand the motivation for the curious few who had woken up so early on a Sunday morning to come to this rundown mansion posing as a club. I guess we all had our agendas and mine was very clear - I was on a mission to see if I could catch her again.

As I ambled towards my designated table, I realized that I was a couple of minutes late but then nothing in Bangalore ever started on time. I surveyed the other five tables and identified a few of the losers from the previous day's matches, waiting either for their opponents or for the referee to turn up. It did not look like any of the matches would start for the next half hour. Resigning myself to the inevitable delayed start, I sat back and wondered at how events had led up to where they were now.

It had been a week to the day when I had first received the invite to the tournament. Of course, I was the defending champion and it was more of a For-Your-Information note but little did the organizers know then that I would not be participating this year. On hearing that I had not competed in the Mumbai prelims, all hell had broken loose and after an angry exchange of mails and phone calls, protocol had been broken and I was granted a wild card. One part of me dreaded making the trip all the way to Bangalore for fear of courting disappointment and heartbreak but there was also the other voice, deep inside, which wanted to face the truth. The latter had easily won - I had accepted the invitation and set out in the hope of reliving a small but unforgettable incident of the past. The long, arduous train journey from Mumbai in an unreserved compartment had clearly taken its toll and my first round on Friday the 13th (how rudely ironic) had been a total disaster. I'd lost to a novice, a kid all of 17 years and was condemned straightaway to the Plate playoffs. Left with nothing to do for the day, I had wandered aimlessly across the city, revisiting places from that unforgettable evening two years ago, hoping against hope to catch a glimpse of her. Needless to say, luck had not been on my side and I had finally returned back to the hotel tired and crestfallen. Saturday had brought with it a punishing schedule - I'd been slated to play twice in the morning and if I won both, another in the evening. By the time I had got past all my opponents, it was 6 in the evening and the city had come to life. It was only then that I realized it was Val day. With renewed vigor, I'd repeated the routine of the previous evening but Lady Luck continued to elude me. This time however, for some strange reason I was uncharacteristically optimistic about the next day.

Jolted out of my deep thoughts by a booming voice from the loudspeaker, I woke up to hear the Tournament Director announce from the make-shift podium that matches would start in the next couple of minutes. My opponent for the day was a thin wiry lad with an icy stare who introduced himself quickly as Sidey. (Sidharth??) Since some of the referees hadn't turned up yet, a few of those present had to officiate on more than one table. However this was a Plate Playoff final and we had a dedicated referee allotted to our table, a pan chewing cheery ex-serviceman. Mr. Scindia. We exchanged perfunctory pleasantries and tossed to see who would start. I won and told myself that maybe this was a sign. I glanced around the hall and scanned the small crowd to see if she was hidden somewhere. No luck. I shuffled the bag, randomly drew out 7 tiles and arranged them one by one on the rack. I-D-S-N-T... My heart was thumping with excitement as I overturned the last two tiles.. E-Y..Something inside me was screaming. My eyes lit up. The palms were sweaty, fingers numb. I knew it was my day. Here was the biggest sign I had seen in my life. For the first time ever, I believed in DESTINY. And then I saw her...There she was, standing silently in one corner of the hall, leaning against a refreshment stall that had been temporarily erected for this last day. She hadn't changed a wee bit - tanned skin, frizzy brown hair tied in a messy bun, ready smile, even those horribly loud orange slippers. I could barely suppress my delight and for a mad moment considered abandoning the game and running over to greet her. Better sense prevailed and I signaled to her to wait till I was done with the game. The next hour was probably the longest of my life and I played at a furious pace, hell bent on annihilating Sidey. At ten to ten, the game was over and I had won comfortably. Filling and signing the mandatory tournament card (official formalities be damned), I rushed to join her at the gallery.

"Nice orange slippers"
"Thanks and you look good in those sneakers"

Even the lines were the same - it was as if time had simply been in Pause mode in our lives.

"So how much time do we have ?"
"My bus is at 11:30. I didn't quite hope to meet you here. But then I came over to visit my uncle and read about the tournament in the Engagements column of The Hindu..."
"And you thought you'd drop in just to see... ?"
"I guess so..."
"So who do you work for in Chennai now ?"
"You still act like Sherlock Holmes, dontcha ?"
"Calculated guessing - I thought I'd seen that purse in Ranganathan Street a few months back."

Another smile.

"MI6...Omigawd..Was I too loud there ?"
"A license to kill for Ms.Drop-Dead-Gorgeous ?"
"Stop flirting. This match is so boring. Mind if we go out ?"
"Of course not. Let's go to Residency Road."
"Hmm..Chalo..."

I hailed a rickshaw and we jumped inside, giving directions to the driver to take us to Rex.

"So...."
"You don't give up, do you ? Hell, I am a journo with Tehelka now..."
"So its license to pry, huh? What's the next sting operation ?"
"Do you still talk with rickshahwalas like you used to ?"
(smile) "Of course, I haven't changed much since we last met"
"You've put on weight.. and you look fuglier."
"Really ?"
"Stop kidding me. Hey, who are you gonna vote for this time ?"
"I thought that was supposed to be kept a secret."
"C'mon you right wing nationalist, you really want the BJP to win, don't you ?"
"My philosophy is simple - I shall vote for the party that has made a difference in my life"
"C'mon, the last 4 years has only seen the divide between the rich and the poor widen - people in Rural India are still waiting for roti, kapda and makaan and you talk of an India Shining. The old man should stick to reciting poems to Neha"
"You are becoming a goddamn Commie. Anyway why argue over this - Time will tell."

A wise ol' fella once said "Life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're gonna get." We had reached the Residency Rd - Brigade Rd junction and just as I alighted, the autowallah added what was the final word in this meaningless argument.

"Saar, Madam ennu helutha idhaale aadhe seri. Congress party gellathe, Sonia Madam Pradaan Mantri aaguthare mathe nam Bharatha rajya tum halle olle hesaru tiruga thogolathe."

I turned towards her and the look on her face said it all. I felt foolish. Was I so stuck up in my own world that I was blind to ground realities ? We quietly walked along the pedestrian's footpath, deftly avoiding the hawkers from Nepal who were trying to peddle their woollen sweaters.

"Hey, have you observed this sudden proliferation of English writing by authors of Indian origin ?"
"Yeah"
"Read any nice stuff ?"
"Not really"


What followed was a stony silence broken only by the occasional sound of her slippers squeaking on the newly tiled pavement.

"Hmm...Did you like 'The Bridge Across Forever' ?"
"Well.. After the last time you mentioned it, I picked up a copy at Crossword....It was ...er...So-So"
"So do you believe in soul-mates ?"
"Do you believe in rebirth ?"
"Ambivalent ?"
"If you want to put it that way."


We had reached Crossword and though it was only 10:30 in the morning, it was already crowded with the usual weekend bookaholics. She went over straight to the comics section and picked up a Calvin and Hobbes. Under normal circumstances I would have sneaked towards the music side but time was short and I wanted to spend every minute with her, beside her.

"Have you ever wondered if behind that veneer of disgust that he apparently displays for Susie, Calvin probably likes her lots...even loves her ?"
"Jeez...He's just 7...C'mon, you are confusing Calvin for Juggie"
"Its actually 6.. Btw, who says there is an age to fall in love?"
"Not that way.. But surely not at 6."
"And what was that thing about Juggie?"
"He had a crush in high school who dumped him... and he still carries memories of her..Dat's why he avoids Big Ethel and other women."
"I thought Juggie was just gay !"


I frowned. She giggled and flashed a sly grin. I realized a little too late that I had fallen for her bait yet again. She was too good for me.

"Let's go. Ten more minutes and I will end up spending the whole day here."
"Ya, you've got a bus to catch in 45 mts"
"Hmmm...Isn't it inexplicable how time flies just when we want it to linger on ?"
"I don't quite agree..I could barely wait for a year to pass since the last time we met."
"You came back last February, didn't you ?"
"Of course I did"
"Ohhh"

It was an unusually warm and sunny day, a welcome relief from the cold wave that seemed to have swept Bangalore the whole of last week. As we walked down, it was another chilly silence punctuated only by her short, deep gasps for breath as she struggled to keep pace with me.

"Aren't you gonna ask ? Sometimes I just wish you spoke more."
"If you wanted me to know, you'd have brought it up yourself. Isn't it as simple as that ?"
"Not always. Women like to be asked."
"Well...then.. tell me"
"I was driving home from office the night before I was to leave for Bangalore when I got involved in a horrible car accident. Almost killed a child. Felt so guilty that I had to stay back for the girl's operation the next day."
"I am really sorry to hear that"
"Are you ?"
"Of course !! If only you knew what I went through.. "
"You hated me for not turning up, didn't you ?"
"Hate is a very strong word to use."
"Isn't life a bitch ? Maybe we were just not meant to be !"
"You can't blame fate for stupid games that crazies like us play. Refusing to exchange phone numbers was sheer madness."
"Forget it. So I see that you are married ?"
"Well done Miss Marple"

She playfully attempted a kick on my shins which I artfully dodged. I carelessly fidgeted with the ring in my finger trying desperately to think of a way to wriggle out of this line of conversation I didn't want to pursue.

"Engaged is more like it."
"So tell me about her"
"Well.. Her name's Preeti...She's 21"

"Oooh... 28 and 21...You cradle snatcher...Where did you meet her ?"
"C'mon, I ain't that old.."
"Don't you dare give me that"
"At an exhibition"
"So do you love her ?"
"...and she was there trying to con people into testing their eyes..."
"You love her ?"
"...and offering free Bausch & Lomb contact lens"
"That still doesn't answer my question"
"Which is ?"
"You know it. Tell me"
"Well...We've been going around now for 6 months and she is happy and...I guess..."
"Don't say it. I know."
"What about you ?"
"Nothing"
"C'mon. Not fair. I just told you everything about myself"
"How would it change things if I told you that the first three months after we met were miserable simply because I could not get that evening out of my mind....Summer was even worse - I got posted in Orissa, totally cut off from friends and family. Three horrible months later, one fine day, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I quit. Tehelka happened almost immediately and my first assignment was in Delhi. Winters in the North can be horrible especially if you are alone and mentally tortured. The only bright spot in my meaningless existence those days was our planned meeting in February. You know what happened next."
"So how come you are now in Chennai ?"
"After the accident, I just wanted to leave Delhi for good. I shifted base to Mumbai and had a 6 month stint there. I know you might think I'm mad but during weekends I used to hang around Prithvi hoping for the miracle... You still watch plays ?"
"Oh God"
"What ?"
"Nothing"
"I wanna know"
"I think I saw you in March - you ever watched Manto-Ismat Haazir Hain ?"
"Of course - at Prithvi with a friend of mine. You must have seen me with Rahul, right ?"
"Yeah..some hunk...I didn't believe it was you..."
"Haan.. We were dating and then we broke up and there were a few other short, stormy relationships.. None lasted. And then I had to run away from Mumbai too...Finally to Chennai.. and lo, here I am..."
"I am sorry to hear that"
"Don't be. The story of our lives."
"Hmmm"
"Can we have an ice-cream ?"
"Now you tell me. Corner House was just outside Crossword"
"Don't crib buster. I wanna have Death-By-Chocolate. Let’s go back"

I glanced at the watch. It was 11:05 and we would be lucky to finish our ice creams and reach Madiwala on time to catch her bus.

"That's the third time you have looked at the goddamn watch in the last 5 minutes"
"Baby, you are gonna miss that bus"
"I know."


Acknowledgements: Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan, Jesse Wallace and Celine.