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A Lot of Salt

22 Jan

…isn’t good for you. But sometimes you need it for the chips.

Shit has hit the fan. India lost to Australia in a cricket match, we Indians believe we could’ve won had it been us – you and I – playing at the pitch. Skipper Dhoni has been getting a good washing ever since. Nadal is out of the Aussie Open. (What’s with all things Australian?). Then there’s the Almighty, the God who chose to hand-pick David Bowie, Glenn Frey, and Alan Rickman just like that, like picking ‘gems’ from a candy box. Looks like He’s planning a show up there. He’s taking away the music and the entertainment, and leaving us with the sounds of bombs and violence and massacres. Even the crash at the bourses has been a foud lucking one.

And we have been left to survive with intelligentsia, few of who have been shitting bricks after the Ashley Madison hack. Sometimes I think we deserve these hacks. Why? Because it’s possible that our passwords aren’t clever enough. According to some data, the most common passwords being used today remain 1234, 123456, 12345678… the wonderful series of numerals in exactly the same original order we learnt at age two. It’s unbelievable. The second most popular password is ‘password’. Oh, same same! Clever! But we’ve got to hand it to those geniuses, who planned to adopt way more complicated shit – ‘passw0rd’ (with a zero). Wow, alpha-numeric! Who would’ve thought of that? Bill, maybe? Nah, Bill is a smart bloke, Bill knows better than that, Bill doesn’t keep hack-able passwords. Do you know Bill? No? Ok, never mind Bill. Do you know Billy from Ilium? Be_Like_Bill_meme1 Billy from Ilium features in Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse 5’. No, don’t know him, either? Ok, never mind Billy from Ilium.

Mum’s really worried that I’m reading a book titled ‘Slaughterhouse 5’. She constantly asks me what it’s about. I keep telling her that I’ve just begun reading it, and up to now, it’s about the Dresden massacre. And that the book is actually quite funny. She asked me what Slaughterhouse 1 to 4 were about. I had to leave the conversation at that, although the question is a very valid one especially if it comes from someone you call ‘Mum’. You don’t mess with Mum.

There’s this interesting part in ‘Slaughterhouse…’ where Kurt alludes to the Gideon Bible and picks the part about Lot and his wife, who turns into a pillar of salt. Do you know that one? Ok, so Lot tells his wife not to look back at the destruction that has taken place – the uprooting of cities and all that, but like all wives, she obviously does what she is told not to do – she looks back, and then turns into a pillar of salt. Apparently, the message here is quite deep. People aren’t supposed to look back. But I’ve been doing that for a few days now – looking back and into all my previous writing – cleaning it all up – polishing it, refurbishing it, dusting off the particles, primping it up with panache and plumes. It’s funny how what you were once so convinced about comes across as a putrid piece of work now. Well, I may turn into a useless pillar of salt, I know. But then there are at least those few who prefer their chips ‘classicly salted’. So not all useless, eh, Mr. Lot? 

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Run. Write. Run. Is this how it’s done?

18 Jan

Overcoming the writer’s block with the daily dose of 500…

Dan Kennedy has a new way of doing it. He calls it the little morning exercise. Correction. It’s called the gay little morning exercise because you are supposed to be happy doing it. Yay! You’re supposed to be happy that you’re writing something – it could be just about anything, so long as you write. Graham Greene was into it, too. 500 words-a-day, no matter what. And up to now, I’ve done 71. Now 73. 74. Okay, it can be easy if you trick yourself out of it. 88. But we are grown up. We don’t do child-like things. 99. Even though we are tempted to.

beagle-tToday, and every day after today – my ass, I have to write 500 words, I have to squeeze them out of me. Yesterday, I had to run a half-marathon. I had to squeeze 21.1 km out of me – Ok, that’s 13.1 miles for all those who don’t get the kilometer-shit, but we shall take that in our stride.

Running a half-marathon, and writing – up-hill tasks both, mental games, physically challenging, and very very unpaying. Writing, physically testing? – Well, it could lead you to pulling your hair out or someone else doing that for you. Mum, for example. All she sees me do is sit for hours-on-end, leg-over-leg, staring at a screen, not answering door-bells, or telephone calls – the ones that come on the landline. And that shit really gets to her.

There’s another similarity in dealing with running long distances, and writing. It becomes easier if you break up the acts into quantified little goals that you achieve part by part. Peu-a-peu, if you know French. Schrittwiese, if you know German. Little by little, if you know what I mean. I’ve reached a crazy 292 words. But the secret to success lies in not doing the math. It’s good to be ‘in-the-now’. Never mind how much has already been done, never mind the how-much-more-to-go, focus only on the present – the current word being written, the current step being taken, and pretend it’s all good. Breathe in. Remind yourself that you are not going to die. Hydrate. Then take another stride, and write another word, because word after word after word is power, and step after step is… another step.

You will feel maimed, mangled, mauled, mutilated, until the rhythm takes over. Remove the negative shit from your head, shut up that insidious little bastard-voice that keeps bringing you back to the numbers game over and over again, trying so hard to knock you down. Overpower it. Concentrate on the marvel of the human form propelling in perfect cadence against the backdrop of a rising sun. Pray that your knees are strong enough for the concrete hills, and keep repeating to yourself: I can do this shit, it’s not difficult. And it won’t be long before you’ve got the whole 385-yards under your belt, and reached the amazing 500! Oh Lord, mum’s still after my life to answer those door-bells, and telephone calls, the ones that come on the landline. 507.

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Let’s make a beginning

Let’s make a beginning

12 Jan

write It’s been years since I put pen to paper, or typed out words on a keyboard in beautiful, lyrical fashion. It’s a shame. I’m out of habit. It’s gone. The words don’t come to me like they used to. But they have to. I’m adamant. Because words make me happy. And I have to write, even if you don’t read. For one day, you will, and when you do, I’d like to give you something you’ll love.

One Super Bowl, Two Crazy Brothers-in-law

5 Feb

AImage second-by-second lowdown on the Super Bowl thanks to two frenzied brothers-in-law back in the US of A has left me sleep deprived, cranky and googling. For those of you, who, like me, don’t know what Super Bowl really is, it’s got nothing to do with a large helping of food. Actually, it may have something to do with food – A Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption, after Thanksgiving, but that’s besides the point. More importantly, the Super Bowl is the most watched American broadcast of the year.

I can fathom the coolness of this event only by the fact that the numbers watching it is more than the ones that watched the final episode of M*A*S*H. Now, I know M*A*S*H is cool because this dude – Charlie’s dad, actually… Do you know Charlie? No? Ok, never mind! – not one to shed tears, actually cried when he watched the final episode of M*A*S*H. So yeah, Super Bowl is cool… like Star Wars, maybe!

It was half-time: the best part of the game, according to my sister, a true Indian girl who prefers cricket to American football, any day. Beyonce’s performance was apparently very oomphy. One of my other brothers-in-law described it as ‘Bootylicious’ (with an exclamation), while the other felt quite bad that he was discussing Beyonce’s sensuality with his wife’s cousins on a social platform. However, they both were at much ease when my sisters, their respective wives, gave them a thumbs up, because they, too, thought Beyonce was hot, and honestly, quite out of reach!

The excitement was interrupted by a power outage. Someone cut off the power chord in the stadium, and around 80,000 people were ‘stranded’ and felt ‘cheated’. My brothers-in-law included. Outrage. ‘Typical New Orleans’ the puny one typed, in all CAPS. So much anger. It was terrifying.

While impatiently waiting  for the television to find its ‘connect’ in order to air the Super Bowl, my bro-in-law (not the puny one) found something else quite interesting. This time it was a YouTube link. Click. Now we see Kate Upton washing the all-new Mercedes Benz CLA in slow motion. I really didn’t know what to make of the ad or the man my sister has married. Anyway, they then spoke of some amazing ‘Doritos commercial – the one with the goat’, and how ‘Terrible, terrible’ some pistachio ad was. Nuts.

Power restored. Back to the game. It was supposed to be getting interesting now. They cheered some ‘touchdown’, a term not to be taken literally (All it means is that a goal has been scored). It was by Bryant McKinnie, who stands 6’8” tall and weighs 365 lbs. They called him ‘the beast’. This was followed by my puny bro-in-law asking the not-so-puny one to look up Haloti Ngata – He earns a whopping 2.9 million a year.  And they both – one an environmentalist and the other some finance guy sitting in a corner of some office – were encouraged to take up football professionally, until they were reminded that they have to be strong, very strong to play the game.

Offended, they claimed Mighty McKinnie would make a good groom for me – just like that, out of the blue. I guess they say these things just to say these things, without realising what a rich lady that would make me. They then discussed Michael Oher – ‘Blind Side’ was based on Oher – and suddenly I felt a little closer to American football than I’ve ever felt before.

Okay, so the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl XLVII. And some Joe Flacco (Quarterback, Baltimore Ravens) who was announced MVP (Most Valuable Player) was caught saying ‘f***ing awesome’ on camera, and the people went plain crazy.The Americans went to sleep, and we Indians didn’t wake up because we hadn’t slept in the first place.

Having spent hours following this update, I assumed that Baltimore Ravens was the side my brothers-in-law were cheering. After all, McKinnie, Ngata, Oher – the ones they had spoken about – were on the Ravens Team. But when asked if they were celebrating the win, they used words like ‘Yuck’ and ‘Never’ and asked if I were mad, and what had gotten into me. And then complained about how the wrong team had won.

They eventually went back to discussing Kate Upton and the Doritos commercial, the one with the goat. And I didn’t know what to make of all this, or the men my sisters have married.

Why I felt like Tendulkar on Marathon Day

23 Jan

Mumbai MarathonThe Mumbai Marathon is the most important day for the city of Mumbai. Mumbaikars put their best foot forward on this day, and the City with Heart looks its best with bobbing heads and thumping feet against a lovely skyline.

Here is an attempt at capturing the Mumbai Half-Marathon experience as Guest-Blogger on mumbaimag.com, a site that highlights everything Mumbaiya. Read on, if you will: http://bit.ly/Ws6011

(Image: PTI Photo/by Shashank Parade)

Look, I’m running!

15 Jan

ImageAre you a morning person? Well, I seem to have become one what with the Mumbai Marathon just round the corner. But the alarm clock has become my biggest enemy. I’ve just about slept that it begins to ring. At least it feels that way, and there is nothing you can do about it, because you’ve filled up the marathon application form, paid the money, got your running bib, and have tom-tommed about your ‘big half-marathon plan’ to one and all – including the chai-wala in office, who ensures you get a nice hot cup of tea simply because ‘Madam bhaagne wali hai’* – ever since Registration Day.

But once up, it’s easy to be about. And once out of the door, you think it’s going to be a breeze. Seriously. You begin your day by appreciating the finer things of life: the sea, the birds, the fresh morning air, the rising sun. Yes, you are on your way to a healthier you: You walk with your shoulders back, back straight, tummy in, and make it to an imaginary starting-line with a spring in your step and a song on your lips.

Never mind the regularity or irregularity of your running/training sessions , the inventory will be well in place – state-of-the-art shoes, running shorts, running socks, a pro-clima top, knee-support, a wrist band in case you sweat too much, a mobile phone arm-band, a bottle of energy sports drink… In short, the works.

You’re halfway to the starting-point and your imagination begins to run wild. You imagine that you’ve already crossed the finish-line, and you’ve already begun to receive well-deserved congratulatory remarks on a race well-finished, and are just short of being interviewed by the press when you say under your breath, ‘C’mon that’s taking it a bit too far’.

Now you’ve reached the point where you intend to begin running. Stretch. You feel that all eyes are upon you, because it’s not every day that one sees a champ do what he or she does best – Run! Mind you, this is Day One, and every day after that, it’s the same story, in this exact sequence.

Workout started. The first twenty seconds feel like heaven, and you are running smiling, and looking around and nodding at many that pass you by. You may even excitedly shout out a ‘Good morning’ here and a ‘Good Morning’ there. What the ‘Good Mornings’ really mean is –Hey look, I’m running! But after those precious twenty – that could well extend to thirty if the wind is on your side – life is hell, and the sinking in of that fact is the most tormenting experience. You’re not sure if you’re going to be able to run for the next ten seconds. You are now striding with much effort, employing every ounce of strength, and breathing so heavily that the person who is just a meter ahead of you is coerced into looking back, and may even then not make way for you. Silly bloke.

The gradual physical exertion and obvious incapacity has now worsened the mental state. All that seemed sublime once has lost character. The smile is gone, beads of sweat have begun to appear, and you don’t care to be nice to anybody anymore. ‘Good mornings’ are a thing of the past, and the only words you know and could care about are – Please God, please, just a little more…  The mood is foul, and nobody or nothing seems pleasant: The drivers don’t know how to drive, the pedestrians don’t know how to walk, the cyclists are way too free-spirited, the school-buses run way too fast and way too much to the left, the school-children are fidgety, the dogs poop too much, the garbage vans stink and pollute the fresh air you were so happy breathing in a few minutes ago, cabbies have blinkers on, and people who are out on a stroll will never use the footpath or make way for the ‘runners’.

By now the knees are shaking and the feet aren’t landing with precision, the ankles hurt and the need to relax one’s hands once in a while seems paramount. You realize you have not made use of the wrist-band that you have so enthusiastically bought and so you raise your hand and use it to use it. You feel you have been running for hours, but the watch tells a different story. Time usually runs, but when you decide to run, it decides to walk and sometimes even stands still.

And you tend to make note of the expressions on fellow-runners’ faces just to make sure that you’re not alone in this battle, and you are almost glad that they, too, seem grumpy and unhappy, most probably because their untold story is just like this one, and sometimes in the exact sequence.

** THE END **

*Madame is going to run (the half-marathon)

Check your list, Mate!

10 Jan

Stop rape now

The ears are ringing with news about rape, mutilation, hate speeches, and everything ugly, and what some seemingly illiterate people think about women and other religious sects. Print space and air-time is pregnant with ignorant bores suggesting that girls ought to go out only with their relatives, not use mobile phones, be home before sunset; Others take us back to the days of the Ramayana and suggest that we should not cross the Laxman Rekha; A few others urge us to refrain from being influenced by Western culture, while a concerned few make the useless effort of explaining the kind of clothes we women ought to wear.

Just two words to all these self-proclaimed intellects: Zip up! – We are not listening. For the fault, my dear regressive darlings, lies in your thought process, and not in our hemlines.

A politician has actually gone on record to say that the number of rape cases is far less in the rural villages of India, and the reason for this, he claims, is the way the lady-villagers dress. No Sir, the incident of rape cases must be far larger, but it’s the ‘voicelessness’ and lack of awareness of the female rural population in a male-dominated and chauvinistic society that may cause the ‘registered’ number of rape cases to be lower. The men, we are sure, are as hands on – if not even more-so – in a rustic ambiance.

It’s all so confusing – a section of these opinion-conferrers seem to be philanderers and another section misogynist. This makes the ‘problem of the girl child’ manifold. We are either so loved that the men can’t keep their hands off us, or we are so hated that the men can’t keep their hands off us. Also, now we are utterly confused about where we live – do we live in India, or do we live in Bharat? Are we Indian women or Bharatiya naris? I can’t tell the difference.

It’s impressive to see how so many bigot politicians are making check-lists of what Indian women should and shouldn’t do to avoid rape, when actually all they need is a four-line checklist that reads:

  • MEN SHOULD NOT RAPE.
  • I need to get an education. Literacy is just not enough.
  • I should speak a language people understand. Ridiculous is not a language everybody gets.
  • Please beat my head flat. I need a broad mind.