Thursday, May 22, 2014

Turning 31

Except for the number, there appears to be nothing prime about the milestone. Over the course of the earth's last two trips around the sun, i have felt older than my years but unfortunately, none the wiser. I can't say i have fully made my peace with aging yet, but i can finally admit to at least recognizing the need for the acceptance.

My slow crawl towards maturity is aided in no way whatsoever by various kids calling me "uncle" or junior colleagues attaching a "sir" to my name (and much to my annoyance). Both 'titles' imply responsibility and respect that i am constantly reminded of never having earned or deserved.

One learns as one grows. Now most of my growth has been physical and a tad too circumferential for my liking. But despite no significant increase in conventional wisdom, i must concede that growing older has yielded numerous learning points. Among the many, many other things, i have learned that:
  • - when i put my mind and body to task, i can run/jog for longer than 45 seconds at once while successfully avoiding a cardiac incident.
  • - most things are not impossible. Closest to impossible is mustering the effort.
  • - paying attention continuously is an arduous task. But the payoff, though sometimes delayed more than an Indian Income Tax refund, is sweet.
  • - i don't listen enough anymore. That needs changing.
  • - life hacks are tough but cool. Until i find a way to make many of them permanent, in which case, they won't need to be hacks any more.
  • - every moment spent in regret is another wasted for future regret.
Sometimes, i think it's not all too bleak. I catch myself staring at hope as it lies there on the floor. It's then up to me to take the pains of bending over and risking a broken back in an attempt to pick it up.

Choices. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Happy Birthday Amma

I call my maternal grandparents Amma and Dada. Why my naana (Hindi for maternal grandfather) was called Dada (Hindi for paternal grandfather; here just a name I called him) is something that remains a mystery to me even after three decades of existence. My grandmother turned 90 this January so the four grandsons each decided to write a short writeup as our tribute. This here is mine.

Growing up is hard. That is why we seek teachers and role models to emulate, to learn from. We observe, we follow, we imbibe and, in times of indecision, we hope we make the same choices they would have made in that situation. We mature with their experiences, we draw from their strengths and we heed their warnings. Amma has meant all of those things to me. And then so much more.

How do I even begin to thank Amma for everything? What do I even thank her for? Perhaps I must start by thanking her for being a constant in my life – I've probably been visiting Amma-Dada on weekends since forever. Perhaps I must thank her for the genes – I may not be the brightest bulb in the box but the her genetic filament is responsible for my flickering every once in a while. Perhaps I must thank her for the strength she imparts – for every early morning phone call the day after school exam results wherein she would virtually hand-hold me through the disappointment and inspire me to fight another day. The truth is there is no clear beginning to this gratitude just as certain as there is no end to it.

All through childhood, Amma for me was always part of the Amma-Dada getaways my brother and I would get to enjoy on every other Sunday or through the summer and Diwali vacations with the cousins. Us boys would generally be up to no good until Amma would sternly settle us down to read books or play something less harmful to the photo frames and holy idols. Meanwhile, she would strive endlessly in the kitchen conjuring up something delicious to eat for the ever-ravenous, ever-demanding grandsons. To great success, might I add, and that too with tireless consistency. 'Tireless' and 'consistency' are words that I employ here for a specific purpose. Because these two words define my image of Amma. Ever at work, never relaxing. To me, Amma always exemplified youth – I would boast to my friends at school and college about my grandmother who never aged even as the calendars rolled over. I am half sure even I had my first grey hair before Amma had hers.

Only once in all these years have I seen Amma uncharacteristically vulnerable. Dada's passing was hard on every one in the family but I cannot even attempt to quantify Amma's sense of loss. When I rushed in from Pune that night, I arrived at my grandparents' home to find an understandably distraught Amma beside herself with grief. I found myself at a loss of words foremost out of grief for losing Dada, but also greatly from an inability to deal with finding Amma in an unnatural state of fragility. When I mustered enough courage to sit with Amma just before dawn, she grievingly asked me why this had happened to us. That was when my already-strained defense crumbled and all I could present as response to her question were silent tears. It is a memory I do not retain fondly but it is one that endures as an anomaly to the unrelenting resilience of this lady.

What is astonishing (or not, actually) is that Amma's strength is not only inward. Her physical health and well-being are something that we all must draw inspiration from. Especially I, as one who has no positive achievements to speak of in this domain. On her trip to the US in 2012, Amma trooped through long-distance trips within the country like a seasoned traveler, often leaving us relatively younger co-travelers huffing and puffing in her wake. She steadfastly refused to take the wheelchair as we scampered at the airports, which led to us sheepishly smiling at numerous airport officials who judged us not too kindly as they saw her walking with us all over the place.

Amma's US trip in 2012 was her first ever but it was personally very satisfying for me. Her curiosity around peculiar western customs, her unabashed joy at meeting her sisters and their children and grandchildren – these were moments of warmth I hope to preserve in memory forever. I can only imagine how much it must have meant to her to meet her sisters, who had migrated to the US more than four decades ago, in their own homes. I daresay I was initially nervous about the trip being my wife's first opportunity to spend extended time with Amma. But Amma took to her so warmly that I was driven to a tinge of jealousy for how much attention the missus (I will admit, deservedly) got from her. Amma and her granddaughter-in-law would get into long-drawn chats, often revealing stories that even I had no prior knowledge of. Although I have shared three decades on this planet with Amma, I easily forget that she also has twice as many as these years more of her life to speak of. And so, setting aside stories of Amma - The Grandmother, we indulged in stories about Amma – The-Freedom-Fighter-Who-Spent-Prison-Time and Amma – The-Young-College-Graduate-Turned-Professional.

My second-most favorite moment of that trip was when Amma and her 87-year-old sister had an interesting debate about Barack Obama's virtues and lack thereof. The debate was intense throughout, at times reflecting childish playfulness in both sisters, and yet often involving political news bits that I was ashamed to not be in touch with. The whole episode was humorous, casual, enthralling, balanced and nuanced all at once! My favorite moment of the trip, however, was a fleeting moment at a lakeside park we visited one evening. I captured that moment in a photograph of Amma standing at a railing looking over at the lake. The photograph was unrehearsed, not posed for and almost accidental but as I went back to it later, it appeared to capture a serenity in Amma's face that gave me immense satisfaction. I sincerely hope those few days in an alien country with her near and dear ones gave Amma the same satisfaction that I now claim to have captured in a digital image.

A very significant quality I observe in Amma is one that I have deliberately refrained from bringing up until now. Love. Amma's love, kindness, humility and selflessness, I am sure, knows no bounds. All I can do is perhaps thank my luck for letting me in on this love. Through the last 90 years, Amma has achieved success in such a large variety of roles – student, teacher, wife, mother, grandmother, chef, freedom fighter – that she would not be wrong in letting her guard down for a moment to feel proud of herself. As a doting grandson, I can only hope to reflect at least an iota of that pride back to her in my acts, thoughts and summarily, in my existence.

Happy Birthday Amma. Much love. And thank you!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Bollywoodization of Cricket: A Business Proposal

Unless you had your eyes welded shut, ears stuffed with molten iron and your Twitter and Facebook logins disabled, you would most certainly have noticed that IPL 3 dominated the news and most of your time spent awake. And if you are even the most average Indian fan, you would have followed the tournament through its month-and-a-half duration absorbing all that it threw back at you - the annoying TV anchors, Lalit Modi's omnipresence, Yuvraj's paunch (not to be confused with the MRF blimp), Shilpa Shetty's husband (not to be confused with anonymous cheerleaders), the Tharoor twist, and perhaps from time to time the activity that went on in the background all along -- the cricket.
I do not (or, more accurately, cannot) belittle the tournament. IPL is what it is: The glorious congregation of game and glamour. Perhaps the primary reason why the IPL has flourished is that it has brought together India's two evergreen favourites: Cricket and Bollywood. That allows Anil Kumble to dine with Katrina Kaif, L Sivaramakrishnan to pose for photographs with Preity Zinta and Harbhajan Singh to (literally) sweep Nita Ambani off her feet.
My lament, if I should have one, is that even after three editions of the IPL, Bollywood continues to play a disassociative role. The glitz continues to be restricted to owning teams, appearing in post-match parties and Navjot Singh Sidhu's so-flashy-it-turns-people-blind outfits in pre-match shows. Bollywood missed a wonderful chance by not bidding for one of the new teams planned for IPL 4. It's also a foolproof business plan - why invest insane amounts of money in other teams with underperforming cricketers, inconsistent coaches and Ajit Agarkar when you can have your own folk playing on your own team?

So, dear Bollywood, it is high time you set up your very own IPL franchise. And I present to you the following tips to go about this tedious task.
Finance to set up franchise: Now there should be no dearth of money in this industry. Clearly, the calls from Dubai aren't from old friends wanting to catch up, correct?
Franchise Name: Needs to be catchy yet self-defining. How about Juhu Juggernauts? Or Film City Fundamentalists? What? I'm serious.
On-Field Eleven: A team entering the IPL arena with such high expectations deserves to carry nothing but the very best of the lot. However, I propose the following starting XI:
1. Harman Baweja - Because the direction in which the acting career is headed, a change of careers is definitely recommended. (Applicable work ex: Victory)
2. Aamir Khan - Played the role of a dashing, inspirational batsman in one of the greatest cricket movies ever made in India, directed by an unchallenged legend. You guessed it right. Dev Anand's Awwal Number. Aamir also played cricket in some movie called Lagaan.
3. Ashutosh Gowariker - Played a pivotal role for his cricket team in the movie Chamatkar and later directed Lagaan. Ironic that he should figure in a T20 XI considering most of his movies are as long as Test matches.
4. Naseeruddin Shah - Played the role of a match-tampering ghost called Marco in Chamatkar followed by that of a washed-out bowler called Mohit in Iqbal. Included in this team because -- think about it -- how many old people do you know who are named Mohit?
5. Rani Mukherjee - Same reason as Harman Baweja. Applicable work ex: Dil Bole Hadippa
6. John Abraham - Has not appeared in a cricket movie (at least, one of note) yet but managed to convince a total of zero persons with his role of a soccer player in Dhana Dhan Goal. Also, he is included because someone from the team has to look good in the ads endorsing jerseys, toothpaste, lightbulbs etc.
7. Mandira Bedi - Included in the team for the sole reason that this prevents her from appearing in cricket shows before, during and after cricket matches, thus reducing the occurrences of brain haemorrhage amongst Indian cricket viewers drastically.
8. Aditya Lakhia (aka Kachra from Lagaan) - An awe-inspiring leg-spinner from 19th century India, his claim to fame is the crucial 10th wicket unbeaten partnership with Aamir Khan in Lagaan. Also, it's fun to shout "Kachra, gola phek" on a cricket field.
9. S Sreesanth - Not an actor you say? Like the typical Bollywood 'hero', he can dance (ref. the Andre Nel incident), cry (ref. the Harbhajan slap incident), express anger (ref. pretty much every match he plays) and act kind-hearted and charitable (have you seen his bowling stats?!)
10. Shreyas Talpade - What? You thought Sreesanth was going to be the dependable pace bowler in the team? (Applicable work ex: Iqbal)
11. Mithun Chakraborty - Because Mithun can do ANYthing. Rather, EVERYthing. Period.

Bollywood should also nominate their members to the Elite Umpires panel. My two choices:
- Amrish Puri: Known for his excellent super-accurate umpiring skills, made well-known by the movie quote "Uparwala (Third Umpire) wrong ho sakta hai magar Dong kabhi wrong nahi hota!"
- Dog who umpired in Hum Aapke Hain Koun: Well, he was being typecast as an annoying dog in too many movies and wanted a change of profession. That's all.

So that's that. Let us all agree that this is a fantastic lineup and an awesome business proposition too. So if you are connected with Bollywood in some way and would like to take this idea further, let me end with these five profound words - I accept payments in cash.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Weekday Rant

It is important for me to state in a public medium that i am not fond of Mondays. Not only do they ruin the weekend reverie but they effectively obliterate the potential pleasures i may have otherwise drawn from Tuesdays. In fact, I despise Mondays so much, i am writing this on a Wednesday. You may not appreciate the essence of that profound statement right away, but that is not the point. The point is -- Mondays are miserable.
I have much to talk about though not as much to put in writing. But i am not much of a talker. But then, i am not much of a writer either.
I babble now.
See, this is what day-before-yesterday (Monday) has done to my Wednesday.
Let me focus my hate to next Monday now.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Doh! It's 2010 already

Note: Did this for a newsletter thingy at work. Parts of it may be too geeky for non-IT folks. But the last line goes out to each and everyone of you who visit this page diligently to have this blog clock in an average rate of 2.5 hits per day. Yay for 2010! Here we go...

The following is not Breaking News: We are into the new year - 2010. We like to celebrate New Year - to most, it signals the start of something new and fresh; a chance to erase the old and ring in the new.

What we actually love to hate (or hate to love) most about new years are resolutions. We make them, we break them, we fake them. To each his own.What is interesting is the nature in which our resolutions for the new year adapt themselves to the calendar as the months roll by. By Dec-31 of the year, the resolution has miraculously morphed itself into something that bears no resemblance to its Jan-01 form. And that too only if it has survived to see Dec-31 - in most instances, the resolution is lucky to even see days beyond summer. Here are some common resolutions you may hear / have heard / may (not) hear few months down the line in the office corridors.


The Health Freak
In Jan: I am going to work out, lose weight and stay fit this year.
In May: I will stop donating 1/6th of my monthly salary to the gym by actually going this month onwards.
In Aug: Salad for lunch every Tuesday from this month.
In Dec: I am going to work out, lose weight and stay fit next year. Promise.

The Techie Geek
In Jan: I will master a new technology this year.
In May: New technology later, let me learn the current one and knock off a technical certification to show off on my resume
In Aug: Let me just target contributions to one online tech forum discussion based on my project learnings.
In Dec: Forget it yaar, I still need to make sense of what I worked on last year.

The Managerial Aspirant
In Jan: By the end of the year, I will be PMP certified and will be leading two large, happy teams
In May: Will book a 2011 date for PMP. Must hold on to one team of any size till end of year.
In Aug: Must learn to use the terms "leverage", "bandwidth" and "core competency" in at least three sentences daily.
In Dec: (changes topic when reminded of resolution)

The Over-ambitious Everything-er
In Jan: This year, I am going to quit smoking, eat non-veg only on weekends, appear for and ace CAT & GMAT, blah-blah .. .blah-blah…
In May: Yeah, yeah! Plan still on. Have not smoked in three hours, was force-fed beef by friends at party last night and tomorrow I am joining coaching classes for ...
In Aug: Er, yes. Sure. (mumble, mumble, grumble and groan) Lets talk tomorrow.
In Dec: (reminder about resolution elicits barrage of expletives)

The Avid Reader
In Jan: Three books a month in 2010. No fewer than three.
In May: I think I'll start with Dan Brown.
In Aug: Arre, this Chetan Bhagat writes ekdam fantastic books, yaar. So thought-provoking.
In Dec: Forget books, man. I've seen Three Idiots four times and I'm following Chetan Bhagat on Twitter also.

Like it or hate it, each one of us will find ourselves slotting into one of the four categories above this year. No? Then you are certain to slot into the last category – The Naysayers Public statement: “Bah, I do not believe in making New Year resolutions”. Real-world translation: “I’d rather sit back, relax and have myself a ‘happy’ new year. World be damned”.

Like I said before, to each his own. Happy New Year, all!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Style Rant

Let me tell you this. This past week has been oddly cold and rainy for October. Promptly, jackets were off their hangers, sweaters were unfolded from their half-yearly hibernation. For it was cold this week. Cold enough for me to pose around in my myriad jackets and sweaters like a er.. poser. Tuesday was especially fun in the pose-y sort of way when the sun threatened to peek through the clouds. Two rays which managed to get past the cloud barrier gave me enough reason to pounce on my sunglasses. So finally, the morning found me driving to work wearing jacket AND sunglasses and the quintessential accessory to go with that combination -- the scowl.

You know the scowl. No? It's that stone-stiff expression that is set on a guy's face the moment the frames of his sunglasses come into contact with his face. Picture this - Before sunglasses: goofy, crooked smirk ; After sunglasses: starched, straight face with zero expression. Yes, that's it. Do not try denying it. Every guy has worn that scowl everytime he has worn sunglasses. It makes you feel like that unshaven, mean-looking hunk with sunglasses in the stylish ads in a Cosmopolitan. Made me too. Only i had shaved just that morning (even cut myself just below the jaw), flicked an ant softly from my jacket without killing it and try as i might, i would have struggled to make it to an ad for Babubhai Suitings & Shirtings in the latest issue of Borivali Today. Much like most other guys.

My point here (you didn't think there actually was some point behind this rambling now, did you?) being - style is blinding. Primarily, your style blinds you. e.g. the dark sunglasses dim reality around you and you slowly turn oblivious to the noise that is the rest of the world, especially the cacophony that is the pointed laughter of your colleagues. In some cases, your style can even blind others. Ask Bappi Lahiri. Or eternal friend of the Little Master and wannabe politician, Vinod Kam-bling who is rumoured to have blinded two people attending his rally during his campaign for the recently concluded Assembly elections by simply flashing his gold chain(s?) and earring(s?).

So men, here's some advice for you. Leave the jacket-flashing and sunglasses-brandishing to me. Don't let me catch you walking around with your shirt-collars turned up. Lets not try getting that oily long-ish hair from your face with a flick of the head. And by any means, do not, and i repeat DO NOT get me started on the pout.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Return

Entries, much akin to exits, must be short, quick and effective.
So here I am.
Again.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Notes on matrimony and other grown-up matters

Last week, for a few moments, i found myself in a state of restricted motion and unable to react with anything more than a few incomprehensible syllables. And this, when there was not a hint of alcohol anywhere around or in me. The incident that caused me to enter such a state of immobility was the sight of an old friend staring away at me from a photograph with a tired yet glowing smile on her face and a slightly more conspicuous live infant in her cradled hands. Now, said friend is one i have known since she wore school uniforms, so the sight of her in a maternity gown had roughly the same effect on me as a well-aimed wooden club at the back of the head. And did i mention the baby in her arms? Thud!

Of course, once the stun-ray effect had worn off, i was all smiles and warm with good wishes for the newly-mommied friend, the sweet little baby and the new pa, who in another pic had that look of slight belief which seems to suggest, "Did I do that now?" - so perhaps a few extra wishes for the hubby-slash-daddy. What also occurred to me is how suddenly i seem to know an ever-increasing number of people who have just been married, or are in the last few laps leading to matrimony, and of course this friend already bearing offspring and what not. A college friend i am very fond of got herself bound in matrimony last month and at least two more good friends and a small army of cousins, close and distant, are scheduled to walk the proverbial aisle before 2009 sets. The only aisles i've been walking - and will be walking for some time to come - are those on buses (there was that one occasion when i got to walk the aisle of an airplane last year but the mind-numbing in-flight 'entertainment' ensured that that was no experience to store in memory).

The age at i am is one where the elders in a regular Indian family start assuming that it is their duty and service to society to hitch every human young and single and rid society of the evil that is the unmarried youth above the ripe age of say, 28. The first wave arrives in the form of the generation two levels over - the grandparents, the great-uncles and -aunts and of course the Seniors' Special - the unidentified, crotchety relative, generally found in family weddings, who pinches your father's cheeks, then yours, comments on how much weight your mother has put on, launches herself into a serious discussion on how it is vital for today's kids to realize the importance of an early marriage set up by the family elders and proceeds to rattle of names of families in the community who house eligible single members of the sex opposite to yours. The second wave, the mom-dad generation, joins forces with the first soon - more orthodox the family, the sooner the amalgamation of forces.

Thankfully, my family seems more relaxed in these matters. Either that or they are resigned to the fact that this son of theirs is what is not so kindly known as a lost cause and they should focus instead on rearing the younger son for matrimonial bliss. Not that i am opposed to marriage, really. Or am i? Weddings are fun, come to think of it – free food, lots of it, happy people everywhere. But then i pass this judgment based on the weddings i have been to, none of which were mine. It’s the parts after which seem to be what i am averse to. To be specific, i am referring to the parts from the next morning onwards, lest you comment harshly on my sanity. But maybe the daily dribble of marriage won’t be too tough either, will it? At least it did not seem so when i played house with my neighbour at age 7.

Eureka! I know exactly what i need to do. That’s what’s going to get everyone happy – me, the family elders, the guy who sells crockery articles which are gifted to newlyweds and which end up lying unused for the first 16 years of marriage when the couple decides to pass on the same unopened gift to another unsuspecting marrying twosome in an act of typical middle-class thriftiness. You know what i’m thinking about. Yes, that’s absolutely correct. I need to find myself someone to play house with.

Friday, February 13, 2009

From "Midnight's Children"

Most of what matters in your life takes place in your absence.

Now what else to do but agree?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Odd

*******

It’s an odd feeling (in the head, to be precise) to be holding another man’s hand by a busy Pune roadside on a Sunday afternoon. That’s what occurred to the man whose right hand was grasping another’s left. At least a minute passed before they could venture on their expedition to get to the other side of the road weaving through oddly heavy traffic in a city otherwise known for its afternoon inactivity. The man with the occupied right hand, the odd feeling in a twenty-five-year-old head and the black shades shielding his eyes from the January sun was the younger of the two. The older man wore a watch with a tattered strap on his clasped left hand, hints of wrinkles above his brow, signs of grey in his sparse hair and black eyeglasses with frames thicker than those on his new, younger companion. The youngster made small conversation as they approached the other side. But he didn’t let the turmoil in his head show. Nary a word about the dirty politics at his workplace or his statuses as a failed son, misconceived friend. Not about his educational ambitions or the ambiguities of his professional dreams. Not a word about his quarter-life crisis. All through the few minutes they were together, the young man noticed that his older fellow traveler never lost the smile on his face. The older man clearly seemed relatively less affluent and afflicted by a handicap graver than something as abstract as ‘quarter-life’ crisis, yet a serenity seemed to have rested permanently on his otherwise blank face. And contagious it was too. By the time the duo got to the other side, the younger mind was calmer than it had been a minute or two ago. Hands unjoined. Ways began to part. The young man bid his roadcrosssingpartner goodbye, felt another odd feeling – this time of much-needed calm - and carried on along the same road, adjusting his sunglasses and staring at the sun for a moment or two. The older man smiled in no particular direction, mumbled a silent blessing, adjusted his own dark glasses and then slowly turned right, accompanied by another companion – his white-cane-with-red-tip.

*******

It’s an odd feeling – she thinks it’s coincidence. How is it possible that each and every time her phone rings, flashing his name, she catches herself thinking about him ?! Perhaps she knows the answer but she wants to avoid it for as long as she can. What she does not probably realize is that there is no coincidence in this at all. How can there be – she keeps thinking of him all the livelong day. He could call an hour or two (or even more) earlier or later and she could still find herself with the same thoughts in that twenty-five year-old head of hers. What, however, she does not know (and is actually coincidental) is that at the other end, he goes through the same odd feeling too. What she also does not know: he too calls it ‘coincidence’.

*******

Twenty five. Quarter life crisis. It’s an odd feeling indeed.

 

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