Tuesday, September 25, 2007

India wins some cricket

On September 24th, 2007, the Indian cricket team achieved immortality by winning the 20-20 cricket world cup, or so the sportscasters would have you believe. Personally, I think, yeah, sure, these guys are immortal. Others may have to make path breaking scientific discoveries, develop life saving medicines or devote a lifetime to the service of the downtrodden in order to make it to the immortal list. These chaps just have to slam a ball around. I happened to witness these celebrations at a local watering hole.......

I was a reveler at last evening's madness when India beat Pakistan at the final of the 20-20 cricket world cup. We watched it at a pub named On Toes where some 100 people had congregated. The decibel level was huge. I personally lost a significant quantity of earwax on account of a portly gentleman seated directly behind me shrieking like a banshee. If his saliva has therapeutic value for hair growth, I'm going to be the next Rapunzel because every time he shrieked, he delivered a thimbleful on my thinning tresses. By the end of the match I must have collected a good bottle full. My hair feels soapy even at the moment of going to press.

The lubricant for the evening was Kingfisher beer. To put things precisely, as a mathematician would, If "n" be the number of beers an adult male can consume without losing control of his legs, then I had n+1 beers. Luckily for me, the place was so tightly packed that it was impossible to fall down. Otherwise I should surely have been trampled to death. In the event, I found myself miraculously conveyed out of the place after the revelry had ceased. May be God does exist and maybe he does graciously save the likes of me from impromptu physical restructuring. Glory be.

The revelry was consistently high on wattage. Every vocal chord in the room was being subjected to the most intense testing through the game. Since India won, everyone was strutting around like they were Sylvester Stallone. A cost effective way to commit suicide would have been to shout "Pakistan Zindabad". The lingering feeling was "We are the best! We are the best!"

I personally thought it a little far fetched to take this victory as proof of India's overall superiority over the rest of the world in all things, as the crowd seemed to feel. We might have the capacity to hit balls further than people from neighboring countries but as far as government is concerned, India sucks big time. Any way, since this is not about that, we shall discuss matters more germane to the issue.

The game itself was a slug fest where the batsmen heaved at everything that came their way. Occasionally, one of these heaves would connect satisfactorily which would bring our erudite little gathering to hysterics.

One guy had brought a bus horn with which he would make bus-honk noises every time India score runs or got wickets. One or two of the company, on realizing that their Men Friday had omitted to pack such an instrument amongst their personal effects, managed to produce similar sounds with their armpits.

There were many whistlers, of whom I was a distinguished member. I may not be in line for Nobel Prize or even the chairmanship of our PTA group, but even my harshest critics will admit that I can whistle."He was an insignificant person", my obituary might read "and consistently charmless, but he could whistle louder than 97 percent of the population".Say that much and my soul will rest in peace.

I woke up this morning to the usual Broken Compass hangover where one loses one's sense of orientation and decided to quickly put my feelings down on paper - e-paper, if you will - before the moment vanished. Congratulations, all my fellow Indians out there. Way to go!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Traffic Jam Rant

(Note: I wrote this piece last New Year, that is Jan 1st 2007. It was said by knowledgeable sources (namely me) that there were more trenches in Mumbai in 2007 that in all of Europe during World War II. Since that time, most of the trenches have been filled up and levelled. But the traffic is still snarling. Behind my house runs an arterial road where they play what I call "The Horn Concerto" in various keys. This is in several movements and features about 5 hours of virtuoso honking every evening. It is often supported by improptu poets who disembark from their vehicles and narrate instantly composed odes to the parentage of other people).

They are at it again, the jokers at the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. They have opened up the road at the main junction to our house, this being the third time in as many years. And its not one of those small, lets-plant-a-bonsai-tree-in-it kind of hole. Its a holy-smoke-did-an-asteroid-land-here kind and at the moment of going to press, is the scene of a world record traffic jam that a woefully inadequate police force of one is trying to disentangle. We will wish him all the best and with the reflective smugness of one who went walking instead of taking his car, we shall analyze and introspect.

I am forever fascinated by the trouble and expense to which our honorable civic body is willing to go for no discernible reason other than seeing what color it is in there. I've seen it in all these excavations. The place is dug up real fast, all the mud piled up in large mounds along the road. Then everyone disappears for a while as if to allow their masterpiece to mature.

Meanwhile, the doofuses* that populate Mumbai go nuts trying to race everyone else around the crater and end up jamming the traffic something bad. That's a specialty of Mumbai's citizens. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, the Mumbai driver abhors a vacant space in the traffic, regardless of how small it is in relation to the vehicle he is driving. He has to occupy that gap. Now everyone else wedges in and the resultant impasse can be quite depressing. If you've GOT to go to the loo, for example, you're in trouble.

My grouse is, regardless of this scene being repeated everyday - and my description is no exaggeration, any Mumbaikar will bear me out - the Municipal Corporation just shrugs its shoulders, twiddles its thumbs and sits on its fat gluteus maximus**. And the public just grins and bears it. Everytime. Everyone can see the callous lack of planning and coordination. They will invariably dig up all parallel streets at the same time, for example, allowing no scope for charting out an alternative route. They will dig up the place and then wait for months before the pipes or cables that they wish to place in arrive. Sometimes, they get existential doubts and fill up the pit without doing anything till they get their supply of Prozac and dig it up again. I don't think anyone has every lost his job for dereliction of duty in the Municipality.*** In fact, George Mallory's famous quote (Why do you want to climb Everest? Because it is there) is actually inspired by Assistant Engineer Kamble's famous quote (Why do you want to dig that road? Because it is there)

Thus, life goes on as usual. Today is the 31st of December, and later at night, St. Vitus' patients will usher in the new year as defined by Pope Gregory XIII. A meaningless ritual given that it is not our New Year. To complicate things, there are three or four alternative calendars seriously followed in India, positing the existence of three or four New Years. What sets this one apart is the fact that this particular meaningless ritual is accompanied by the consumption of large quantities of the true, the blushful Hippocrene. Hmmm. Sounds like fun, actually. I think I'd like to take part in a meaningless ritual or two myself.

* - A doofus is the scientific name for a person with inadequate intellectual equipment. Currently, with the exception of you and me, includes everyone in the world.
** - A large muscle situate at the lower posterior of the human body. Sometimes erroneously referred to as the "ass", which is wrong. Every one knows that "ass"means "Member of Parliament"
***-Or, for that matter, any public enterprise or Government body in India

Friday, September 14, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Not about Reverse Transcriptase

I am accused of writing only about my family and the old better half has threatened to rearrange my facial features if I don't find something else to write about, or find something nice to write about her.

Well, I guess I do tend to dwell on that topic but that's only because I'm such a peanut-brain. I hardly know anything about anything else. I mean, can you imagine me writing about, say, the role of reverse transcriptase in virus reproduction?

I just looked up Wikipedia on this, which is lucky because otherwise what you would have got on virus reproduction would be a blow-by-blow account of how the boy virus takes the girl virus out to a movie, how they fall in love, how papa virus sends a lot of goon viruses to fix the boy virus, how the boy virus bashes up all of them, how the girl virus and the boy virus get married, how they get a lot of baby viruses and which is why Pamela's got herpes simplex.

So I decided to see how many words I could type without referring to the activities of the loved ones. I know, this begs the question, why write at all, but its either that or watch television.

Now television is something I deeply dread. There is always lurking in every channel a character played with hysterical intensity by a fat young lady who portrays a 60 year old. Her name is Smriti Irani. She has two facial expressions - gritting her teeth and crying. Usually, she does both. Free dental insurance is written into her contract so that she doesn't withhold herself from really launching into the role.

Which is why I think writing is better. For me at least, if not you, my dear hapless reader. I know why you're reading this. Not because you like it. It is because of a morbid curiosity that is genetically programmed into humans. It is why we peep into open septic tanks or order the bright green colored gravy in Shetty restaurants. Can't resist it.

I still haven't said anything specific, have I? Well, I am an MBA by training and I can continue for ever in this vein. You should attend some corporate meetings, just for laughs. They can go on stating and re-stating the obvious in ever increasing circularity and specialize in what is known as creative inaction.

So here's my topic for today, corporate etiquette. Fill out this questionnaire and evaluate your Corporate Etiquette Quotient (CEQ)

1. You are sitting next to your CEO in an important meeting. He farts audibly. You
  • a. Laugh loudly, pointing at him
  • b. Pretend nothing happened
  • c. Behave as if it was you who farted and apologize aloud.
2. In the same meeting, the CEO proposes an idea which is the complete opposite of what you were just about to suggest, and which in your opinion is the shittiest thing you've ever heard. You
  • a. Pretend to sniff the CEO's mouth and ask loudly if he's drunk.
  • b. Sit tight and say nothing
  • c. Tear up your papers quietly and applaud the CEO's idea vociferously
3. Still in the same meeting, the CEO promotes a complete ass over your head and makes him your boss. You
  • a. Attempt to stab the CEO with the staple opener
  • b. Sit tight and say nothing, while surreptitiously wiping away a tear
  • c. Shake the CEO's hand and compliment him on being such an excellent judge of people.

If you've answered all a's, proceed straight to the employment exchange. You couldn't hold a job at a morgue - the corpses would reject you.

If you've answered all b's you're a sure candidate for hypertension, supressing all those emotions. But you'll get you're gold retirement watch, you will, provided you don't die of an infarct.

If you've answered all c's, Welcome to the Corporate World! In CEQ terms, you're Einstein, baby! Would you like your million dollar bonus in Indian currency or should we quietly deposit it in a Swiss Bank account?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Dad, 2007

A good friend of mine, an advertising guru, wrote in his blog about how parenting stereotypes are changing and how kids are increasingly perceiving themselves to be the equals of their parents. At least, that is how I understood it. This, of course, is totally untrue in my case - my children would be mortified to be described as my intellectual equals. I currently occupy the position of earthworm in the evolutionary scale. It is true that I have a certain rude ability to solve algebraic equations but hey, just because a tadpole can swim better than you, it does not mean he is Ian Thorpe.

His point was that relationships at home have changed. Dads are no longer the authoritarian figures they were. That is so true. I remember my childhood. Important decisions were not 'discussed' as they are today. "Discussed " here means "the parents were formally informed by the kids of what they were going to do". Important decisions, such as what career to pursue or what clothes to wear, would be taken by dad or, on occasion, Mom, without any suffrage to the affected parties. Didn't like it? Free country, you could always leave the house.

Thus, most of my generation have a tremendously formal relationship with the male parent. True, the economic strings have long been disconnected but nobody told Dad that. We still behave as if half expecting to be thrown out of the house for our indiscretions. The whisky is hidden away. The language goes up a few notches in formality. The 'bahu' chooses the sari or the salwar suit instead of the capri and short top, when dad drops in for a short stay.

In sharp contradistinction (I love using big words - that one has 17 letters - because of the impression of erudition it carries, as opposed to actually being erudite) the relationship that dads of my generation have with their children border on the patronizing. The children patronizing the adult, that is. The male parent is usually a spent force when it comes to disciplinary matters.I know I'm making sweeping generalizations here. Some of you reading this will say, sotto voce, "Speak for yourself, wimp. My wife and kids tremble when I roar!" If that is so, please autograph my T shirt and send me your correspondence course on Parenting by Terror.

As I was saying, it is the kids who adopt the didactic tone instead of the other way around, instructing with painful patience the minutiae of CS (which is "Counter Strike", the game, and not "Company Secretary", the career option) to the doofus who, had he not been the fortuitous contributor of the necessary chromosomes, would have been unworthy of attention.
"Dad, how did you get to be in your position in life - you are such a clot" might be a typical sentence in most Mumbai households today. May be some advertising could be based on this insight.