Saturday, May 26, 2007

Part I : Love Blooms Yet Again?

(First part of a two part love story. I have deliberately used Tamil slang at places where I feel it helps the narration. To the readers not conversant with the language, you really are not missing anything, it is mostly swear words anyway!)

, Ranga, Mukund and Shekhar, short respectively for Ravichandran, Ranganathan, Mukundan and Shekhar were sitting at Main Street, the restaurant at the Ground Floor of Residency Towers. Main Street offered one of the better buffet spreads in Chennai but that was not the reason the four bosom friends were meeting up there. The bill was placed on the table. Mukund took it and meticulously scanned it, and then nodded his head to indicate that they had been billed correctly. The four of them paid up their respective charges and then Ravi declared abruptly, “I won’t tip!”.

“Why won’t you tip? These people make very less money you know.”

“Then tell them not to take up this job. Tell them to learn a computer language. As far as I am concerned the job scene is so damn good, if they came here they were getting into it knowingly. Heck, tell them to start a small scale industry for all I care, the government doles out loans. But I am not going to tip.” Ravi said defiantly.

“You don’t tip at all?!”

“I do if they are special. But this waiter wasn’t special. He refilled our beer pitcher only twice. When I am here I want my pitcher refilled four times.”

“Arsehole Ravi, you didn’t ask him to refill the pitcher. And trust me, the last thing you need is a refill of beer.”

“Hey hey, what I need is not the point here, rather what I want. He didn’t ask me if I wanted a refill.”

“But these guys make minimum pay and in India, you know how it is. The minimum pay doesn’t cut it!”

“It may be that waiters may be one of the groups the government fucks in the arse on a regular basis. Forward a petition, I will sign it. But one thing I won’t do is to play ball!”

At this point he looked at everyone triumphantly having delivered that rare, definitive statement which makes it clear to everyone who has won the argument.

Sadly, all this happened in Ravi’s dream. In reality, the other three looked at him incredulously.

“Who said anything about tipping? None of us ever tip! I hear these star hotels make huge margins anyway.” Ranga remarked.

Mukund guffawed. “Poor Ravi, ever since he saw Kill Bill I and Reservoir Dogs back to back in my house, he has been on a Tarantino fantasy trip!”

“Is he your latest crush, lover boy?” teased Ranga.

“Why don’t you guys play ball and indulge me. Once, just once for all that I have done for you”, he complained.

Shekhar, who until then had had a placid countenance, exploded.

“You want a fuckin’ Reservoir Dogs trip. Well, you don’t have the right to a Reservoir Dogs trip because you are a fuckin’ braindead, gay, blustering nincompoop! In fact, you are so stupid you could be a goddamn bastard son of Arjun Singh, for all I know! Didn’t you know you have to wear shoes to Bikes and Barrels? The ten year old kid next door knows that, but you, you don’t, you faggot!!! If you hadn’t forgotten to wear shoes, we will be in Bikes and they may have played Stairway to Heaven, a small chance but definitely not a zero chance. Instead of that, because of you and your Nike Floaters, I have Maamis to the left of me, Paattis to my right and I am stuck in the middle with you!”

Mukund and Ranga were laughing like hyenas.

“Dude, how was I to know that Bikes would have a raid yesterday and therefore, become very strict today! I have got in before with these!” Ravi protested.

Shekhar wasn’t in a mood to let bygones be bygones. “Maiyiru, The raid was for 21 and above. That manager gave a bloody cock and bull story about why shoes were necessary when glasses broke. I have been there six times and nothing has broken. It is just a blind custom dating to the Raj when the English would have used this as one more way to discriminate against Indians. Not only are you stupid, you are as gullible as a first time visitor to a brothel. You are a faggot!”

Shekhar unplugged was a treat. He didn’t speak so colourfully until recently. Till then he had been a quite person. However, his new job in an investment advisory firm brought him oodles of money and he all of a sudden seemed to have acquired a put on Wall Street air. Actually, it was a wannabe air he put on mainly by imitating characters from books like Liar’s Poker and watching movies like Wall Street. However, everyone seemed to love it and he had then gotten used to throwing in a F word every three words.

Anyway, the last comparison of Ravi to a first time brothel visitor and the comparison to Arjun Singh’s bastard son tickled the slightly inebriated Mukund so much that he fell off the chair laughing. The sight of the scholarly looking Mukund lying on the floor convulsed with laughter caused quite a stir. Waiters rushed to help him up and Ravi, looked at the spectacle with a chuckle. He turned around to be greeted by a sea of mildly surprised and disapproving looks. Amidst this sea of disapproval he caught a bewitching smile. A half smile actually, but no less bewitching. He winked hard as if that would help to reduce the intoxication and he turned in all directions. He was a normal man, in fact, below average in many respects but he had a gift. He could spot a babe. And that smile was not that of a babe’s but that of something more, a Goddess. An ethereal Goddess, he thought to himself.

Hard work can be a rather capricious master. Sometimes it pays, sometimes it doesn’t. Today Ravi was in luck, as he spotted his Goddess. And worth the effort she was. She still had a lingering smile on those full red lips. More strikingly her lustrous liquid eyes seemed to have lit up because of this commotion. She resembles Sreedevi at her peak, Ravi thought. Sreedevi, definitely, but Sreedevi with a perfect figure hugging black top with a plunging neckline that tantalizingly stopped plunging just before the cleavage. Beautiful and elegantly glamorous, our heroine was.

Ranga had not used the lover boy taunt earlier without a reason. Ravi fell in love, and out of it , frequently. His “crushes” in fact seemed to sustain him, so much so when he had run out of girls, he had had crushes on the teachers. Therefore, falling for a Sreedevi look alike was par for the course for Ravi. However, Ravi made a resolve that this was going to be his woman. Come what may! He had never resolved anything, but this one he was going to achieve.

While all this was going on Ravi’s head, Mukund had sheepishly paid the bill. He was back in Chennai on a break after his MS before heading back to US for obtaining his PhD. Actually, Mukund had changed from a prick at school, to the now super cool intellectual, Zen in the knowledge that coming second did not mean the end of the world.

But enough digressing, we are not interested in Mukund or Shekhar or Ranga. Our hero Ravi tottered out of the restaurant, the picture of the Goddess imprinted in his brain. The others were chattering on as they waited for the car to come, but Ravi seemed in a different world. He snapped back to attention when Shekhar said, “Hey Ravi! Enna aachu? You seem zoned out!” Ravi smiled and said, “Machaan, I think I have seen my Goddess! You wouldn’t believe it but there was this girl who looked just like actress Sreedevi…”

“Two tables to my left…” Mukund interrupted

“And that figure hugging black top.” Ranga completed.

Ada paavingala, why didn’t you tell me?” Ravi demanded.

Mukund looked about as if to see if anyone else would say what all the other three thought, but seeing that no one else was ready, he did it happily. He said, “You are a nice person and all that but when you see a hot girl, you completely lose it, my friend. You stare at her and open your mouth and close it like a fish gaping at something.” The others imitated him for effect and all four burst out laughing. Actually the description was quite true. The Goddess was used to people staring at her; in fact, she was used to admiring glances and people fawning over her ever since she was that high. But even she was taken aback by The Gaping Man.

As Mukund got into the driver’s seat and the others settled in, he remarked, “By the way, I have seen her at the place I take my French classes. I think your Sreedevi's name is Latha.”

Ravi almost jumped in the back seat.

Dei, intro podu da”, he begged.

“Hey, I just said I have seen her. I am taking a class in French, but she is just at the library for most of the morning. I am assuming she is an advanced student or is a researcher of some sort or maybe just an ardent lover of the French Language.”, Mukund said.

Ranga looked at Mukund. The prey was waiting to be killed. But before that it had to be fattened. Ranga said dismissively,”Hey you have had a crush on everyone. I am sure this is also one of those. Sleep over it.”

“No Ranga. This time I am determined. I have never set my eyes on anything before, now I have set my eyes on her and will achieve it!” Ravi said determinedly.

“Not true. Once you did set your eyes on beating me in Math in 10th Std. You failed quite miserably if my memory serves right!” Shekhar said and everyone burst out laughing.

“That was my immaturity. Now I will say only things that I will do and do things that I will say!” Ravi remarked in the manner of that famous Super Star of Tamil Nadu.

“Okay. Let us say you somehow get to her, then somehow make her notice you, then somehow make her fall out of love with whoever she may be in love with, then make her fall in love with you… assuming you could do all this, why would her parents agree to this? Maybe they could get a liquor baron’s son or an industrialists’ son, why you?” Mukund remarked, traces of the old prick resurfacing.

“Because she is in love and love is blind”, he declared.

“More like she is blind”, Ranga guffawed.

“But there is one line of attack. Her nose and chin seem to suggest that she is from Tanjore. I am from Tanjore. That is a link already!”, Ravi brightened.

“The way she bends her right hand seems to indicate her father is a highly protective IPS office!” Shekhar guffawed.

“And Murphy’s Law suggests that the she will be your gothram, so you will end up back at square one!” Ranga remarked and all including Ravi burst into laughter.There was a silence for sometime.

Then Ravi admitted,”Yeah, you are right. She must have some multi-millionaire boyfriend already. I am a sales person for an industrial refrigeration company. What are the chances?”

Shekhar cut in,”Hey we were just pulling your leg. Give an earnest effort. We never know how these things work out! And I completely support you on one count. You work hard, you study in a free merit seat and get a job and all that, and someone lazy fat ass comes on his father’s money and beats you to it! That is so fucking unfair. I have always held inheritance is the root of inequality. Fuck, I think the government must slap a 100% tax on inheritance.”

Mukund said, “A communist in capitalist garbs eh?! It is a complicated issue quite out of the bounds of slightly drunk, sexually frustrated young men. Speaking of inheritance reminds me of that incident at school. We had some old man talk to us on “Moral Issues in the Modern Age” and in a particular section he went on and on about how money does not matter and we will not take it with us when we die and so on. To this, Ram – I think he is going to complete his MBA - quipped, “Then write your wealth in my name when you die!” There was a minor commotion in the back benches due to this and he was hauled up by the teachers later on. How funny that was!!!”

The conversation meandered on. However, Ravi had left this conversation quite some time ago.

He was in a French town. His lady love had sent word through her trusted pigeon that her father was keeping her in the Castle as she was refusing to marry the Prince he had chosen. Knight Ravi des Tanjore quietly swam the crocodile infested moat at precisely midnight of a full moon day since he had seen on Animal Planet that crocodiles surely were fast asleep at that time of the night. Having crossed the moat successfully, he climbed across the daunting castle walls and skillfully scaled the walls of the fort using the dense ivy growth, to the room where the Princess, nay the Goddess, was waiting for him. After opening the window the conversation went as:

Goddess Latha: J'ai une brûlure à démanger dans mes régions basses!

Knight Ravi: Umm… oui oui!

Goddess Latha: M'embrasser passionément chevalier juste d'O et éteindre le feu de la passion!

Knight Ravi: Huh?

Seeing that he didn’t know any French, she grabbed him and their lips locked by the moonlight…

(End of Part I)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

On Things Neither Here nor There

Have completed all the paperwork and course requirements and now am "vetti" (idle, to the uninitiated), in every sense of the term. Totally enjoy this feeling of time hanging on my hands. Went recently and bought some books to kill time.

My first stop was Higgin Bothams. One of the attractions of this place is the architecture which is quintessentially Mount Road. Or does Higgin Bothams define quintessential Mount Road? The high ceilings, those long fans hanging from those ceilings, the mosaic flooring always leads me on a nostalgic trip reminding me of the company quarters in Virudhunagar (that famous Chettiar stronghold) where I was born. Often, I step in just for the feel but end up buying something. This time around, bought a collection of Feluda stories by Satyajit Ray. Originally written in Bengali, I bought an admirably done translation by a Gopa Majumdar. I found it the perfect companion to spend these hot summer afternoons with. The author employs a by now familiar "Holmesian" approach to solving crimes. However, the charm lies in the fact that the story is told from the viewpoint of the teenaged Topshe (Felu's Watson). This technique of narration from a child's point of view is extremely powerful in terms of appeal, as it exploits a fundamental human yearning to regain lost innocence. In the pithy saying "Ignorance is bliss", I suspect that the word ignorance is used in the sense of innocence.

The same technique is used to brilliant effect in Bapsi Sidhwa's Ice Candy Man. Partition can be captured at many levels, but the story captures it from a child's perspective and the book takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride. Seeing the world through Lenny's "childish" perspective brings out the essence of the emotions and the absurdity of the much touted big picture vividly.

The point to be noted in the cases of successful "narratives-from-a-child's-point-of-view" works is that they do not dumb down the children. In fact, they are presented as highly observant individuals whose logical faculties are in the process of refinement. To me, this is the best way to represent younger characters in fiction. There is a personal undertone here as well. When I was younger, one of my constant gripes was how adults suddenly lowered their standards while talking to people of my age, when just some time earlier, we would have discussed something as intelligently as them if not more!

Then went to Landmark at Spencer's and picked up two works by Kafka for what I thought was a steal in Landmark! (280 each :)) Some more books and a couple of CDs. Now, a regular reader may blanch at the last sentence. Those movies are available in that great free repository that shall not be named, then isn't it not an indiscretion to buy them? Umm... I really love these two movies. Buying them - for some reason - gives a sense of ownership, a feeling of entitlement to enjoy them better. Or to put it another way, paying for it is my way of silent homage to the directors! I do it all the time for books. Ideally, would love to read all books in the second hand first and then buy the original. Most of the times it is not possible or I succumb to impulse purchases. But when it clicks, the process of book appreciation seems complete, holistic and I feel strangely better! My motivation for buying the rather expensive (I thought) collection of Feluda was based on two stories I read in the Library.

But at the end of the day, I must admit that I exceeded my budget. However, I do not like going to Lily Pond because a) I don't the general din in the place, b) it would be unbearable in summer and c) the shops do not have a desirable range. Have these guys even heard of Blossoms at Bangalore! I have a strong suspicion that going to Blossoms and purchasing a similar collection would have been cheaper, Volvo fares included! But then again I was never one to plan these things optimally. Pleasure immediately obtained, (i.e when in the mood for that type of pleasure), is better than pleasure delayed is my credo!

Absolut ChemE

This is more for ChemE junta. A little amateur doodle that I did based on the famous Absolut ads. The Absolut bottle here is supposed to be a CSTR and all that. (The drawing indicates "raw" talent you see :P)

You can browse through a collection of Absolut ads here. If there was a timepass rating scale, this site would get 5 stars or 10/10.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Because We Got High

A song written at the height of The Investigation into the incidents on the Night of April 9th, 2007. :P

Lyrics: Sanjay, Popa and Middle

Based on Afroman's 'Because I got High'. Please watch the song first if you haven't seen it before. (Sanjay did a good job of fitting in the lyrics so enhance your reading experience by listening to the original first.)

I was a muggu boy before I got high
I used to go to class before I got high
I've watched every movie on LAN, you know why
Because I got high (3X times)

I was gonna do my btp* but I got high,
I was gonna meet my prof but then I got high
Now I have an extension and I know why
Because I got high (3X times)

I was gonna buy the booze but I got high
I got bottles in my room, after I got high
Now I got a letter and I know why
Because I got high (3X times)

I was gonna meet the Bean until I got high
I coulda lied and gotten away but I got high
I am now doin’ service and you know why
Because I got high (3X times)

I couldn’t sit on the chair because I got high
But it was broken already someone was high
Gundu is with ol’ Bean now you know why
Because he got high (3X times)

It was 2 o clock in the nite when I got high
But the dance was still goin’ on, the DJ was high
Now I am at the D.I.S.C.O and you know why
Because I got high (3X times)

We tried to lie too much because we got high
But he knows everything that we were high
The Bean knows more than us and we know why
The Snake was high (3X times)

We went to other hostel nights and junta were high
But they weren’t confessing cause they were high
Now they are next on Bean’s list and you know why
Because they got high (3X times)

I hope to pass out now, cause I m not high
I hope to get my VISA, cause I m not high
I ve stopped touching alcohol, you know why
Because I can fly (3X times)

(The Single releasing to a website near you. Watch this space!)

Moral of the Story: Naanga Adangavey Maatom!

*btp = B.Tech Project (FYI)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

On the Use of Smileys in Prose [:P]

With the advent of online messaging, the use of smileys has become ubiquitous.

I wanted to write about smileys and this is the first sentence that came to my mind. I was shocked. I was rusty. This is how paragraphs start in essay writing books ‘colorfully’ named “101 Essays for All Occasions”, “278654 Essays for Competitive Exams” available at a railway station platform near you. You could go to a station with an unpronounceable name where you may not find drinking water in the station, but you will find these books. [:O, :D] The stilted usage of language reduces even the most interesting topic to a banal and mechanical piece of prose. (See!!)

Anyway coming back to the original train of thought, it struck me that I had become extremely comfortable with smileys and they had become an integral aspect of my thought process. Therefore, I present a ‘concept blog’ [:P], ‘examining’ the use of smileys in normal usage. (Blame it on the thesis writing!) [:))]

The rules of this game are:

A smiley can be used anywhere, but it must be indicated in parenthesis, bold. Any number of smileys can be used in a bracket, but each distinct one must be separated by a comma.

Most of the smileys I have used will be common knowledge to people who frequently chat. Anyway, I have used this site as a ‘reference’ or a ‘standard definition’ for smileys.

As a test passage, I take the following passage from the bad movie review section of this site. The review is for a movie called Class of 1999 (1990). View the IMDb entry here. Thought it would be fun 'punctuating' this review with smileys [:))]:

Ok, so it's the future (well, 1999 was the future when this movie was made [#-o]), and gang warfare has gotten so bad that kids rule many areas of major U.S. cities, most of which center on high schools. [:D, 8-|] They are called "Free Fire Zones," and the cops won't even enter them. So here is question number one: if the kids control the areas around the schools, and they've scared everyone to the point where even the cops won't come in, why do they still go to school? [:P, #-o] The armored school bus still lumbers through the streets every weekday, and even the hoods who are supposedly in control dutifully pile on. When they get to school, they have to go through metal detectors and give up all their weapons -- the movie shows school faculty putting confiscated firearms into ridiculously huge bins containing every type of gun you could imagine. So here is question number two: given the fact that, however inexplicably, these kids still go to school, [:O] why do they still bring their guns when they know they'll just have them confiscated? [:|] Are they passed back out at the end of the day? [:-/]Does this surprise them every time? "Aw, man, not again! That was my best Uzi!" [:P]

Well in the previous case, the passage lent itself to the use of smileys. It featured a typical sarcasm often used in chats and therefore, the use of the smileys is quite effective and natural. Let us take a more emotion filled paragraph then: [;)]

The sight of her standing in the wind swept bus stop filled him with a strange joy. [:)] Strange, because after the last meeting, that meeting, he had not wanted to see her ever again. Now looking at her, solitary in the bus stand, carelessly toying with her hair, he wanted nothing more than to go up to her and express his love and make up. But how would he begin? [:-/] This was not the time for words. It was the time for action. He strode forward, went in front of the surprised lady, and ignoring her protests went for the ultimate affectation of love. He kissed her passionately. [;), :*] As they separated, he looked at her for a sign of approval, for what he reckoned was a fine performance. Only, he was greeted with a flurry of slaps [X-(] and then it struck him, that it wasn’t her, but her almost-look-alike-but-slightly-hotter mother! [:D]

Fine, fine I couldn’t resist.[;))] But yes, we can use smileys for emotion filled situations as well. Now, imagine using smileys in the Board Exam!

Why was Akbar called ‘Akbar the Great’? (6 marks)

  • His empire stretched from parts of Afghanistan in the west to some parts of Southern India at its peak. [:O]
  • His court consisted of some of the greatest intellects, nine to be precise, called the Navratnas. This included Birbal, Tansen, Todar Mal etc. [:|]
  • He worked for Hindu-Muslim unity. He married a Rajput, Jodha Bai to further Hindu Muslim unity. [;)] He founded Din-i-Ilahi.
  • On and on

This answer is surely getting 6 marks!

However, reading the blog again, I feel smileys shouldn’t be made a part of formal usage. For one, their usage seems like canned laughter in the sense they prompt the reader to feel the emotions of the author instead of letting the reader interpret things for himself/herself.

Also, if the (ab)use of a few punctuation marks could create havoc, just imagine what this can do!

#-o d'oh, slap on the head
X-( angry
:* kiss
8-| rolling eyes
:-/ confused