Monday, September 30, 2013

The Martian who loved my brother's SUV

October 6, 2023

It’s official. My brother hates me. He doesn’t let me touch his Tata Safari Storme ‘Explorer’. That’s bad -- especially since it’s an SUV launched in 2013 back on planet Earth. But he’s crazy about it; he even brought it to Mars with him when we moved to the red planet.

He caresses his ride with loving fingers each day, smoothing out each hint of a scratch till the vehicle looks brand-new, not something that navigates the rugged terrain of Mars every day.

Which is why I decided to “borrow” the Explorer. It’s the only way I get to ride this beauty since my brother owns the only one on Mars. He’s the most powerful human here -- the president of our Earthling colony.

I stole away at midnight, silently reversing the Explorer from the garage and making use of the on-screen reverse parking assist to avoid hitting the Martian rocks that jutted out into our driveway.

The Mars colony guards didn’t look too suspicious as I drove past; they were used to residents making short trips outside the perimeter. As the head of the Earth’s exploration team here on Mars, I have often driven my official Curiosity 6 rover on trips - but riding the ‘Explorer’ on Mars was a whole new experience.

Within minutes, I’d vroomed past the last human outpost on Mount Sharp, where the study of fossils buried in sediment had proved beyond doubt that life existed on the planet. We’ve even had sightings of the green human-like Martian beings, but have never been able to view them from close range. The only other alien creatures we found here in the last decade were the margolians, centipede-like bluish creatures that flourished even amid the dry Martian rocks.

As for plant life, we Earthlings steered clear of the Red Witches, metre-high carnivorous red plants that blended with the planet’s surface and preyed on unsuspecting margolians -- and the occasional human who wasn’t watching his step.

Here I was, excitedly handling my brother’s Explorer as its 2.2-litre VariCOR turbocharged engine purred along. Despite the colonists’ best efforts over the past decade, there were very few motorable roadways on Mars. Which meant that the Explorer had to traverse several miles of inhospitable terrain, despite its efficient navigation device, just to get to the edge of the Valles Marineris, the canyon system that marked the frontier -- the furthest we humans had ever travelled on Mars.

After an hour’s further off-roading on rocks and gravel, I was ready for a break. Parking on the edge of the canyon, I uncovered the roof-mounted canopy for my impromptu picnic. I unhooked my food rations from the cargo basket at the rear, flicked away a stray margolian crawling along the SUV’s decal, and settled into my easychair after switching on the 2-DIN TouchScreen Infotainment System.

This was life! Going where no human had gone before, listening to Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus duets, munching raspberry chocolate bars and enjoying the view of the canyon floor -- where a river is said to have flowed millions of years ago.

I was nearly drifting off to sleep when I spotted it. A green Martian was coming towards me. My hand moved towards my right-hand pocket, just to make sure my stun gun and tasers were armed and ready. But the Martian ignored me and made a beeline for the ‘Explorer’. He crouched in front of the car, stroking the front nudge guard and gazing at the chrome garnish on the projector headlamps.

“Like it?” I asked the Martian, unsure of its response or whether it understood me. It turned its head towards me and seemed to smile, flicking its pointy ears and gesturing with its three-fingered right hand. The alien seemed friendly and I took my hand out of my pocket.

“Want to sit inside?” I asked, gesturing towards it and pointing to the Explorer. The Martian rolled its big white eyes and its narrow green face creased into a huge grin.

I opened the passenger-side door, but it had already made a move for the steering wheel. 
“Wait a minute! Do you have an inter-planetary licence?” I asked the Martian but it wasn’t even listening, rapt in admiration as it settled into the leather seat and eyed the controls.

It took the Martian just a minute or two of demonstration to figure out how to drive the Explorer. And it whooped in delight as the SUV sprung to life and glided over the rocks and pebbles. Good, so the Martian loved the experience. Just the bait I needed to get him to base camp.

I plotted a course for home on the navigation device and the Explorer made its way towards the colony. The Martian didn’t notice; it was busy enjoying the ride. Within an hour, I had eased the Explorer back into the garage. But the lights were on and I saw my brother standing near the door.

“How dare you touch my SUV?” he yelled.

“I got a Martian for you,” I replied.

“I don’t care,” he screamed.

But of course, he did care. It took a few minutes and five guards to pry the Explorer-addicted alien away from the controls. As he ordered the Martian taken to the lab, he turned to me and said: “If you touch my Explorer again, I’ll throw you into the canyon myself.”

(This fictional post was written for the Tata Safari Storme "I am Explorer!" contest on Indiblogger)

Monday, September 09, 2013

Movie Review: Shuddh Desi Romance - never before has an Indian rom-com snubbed marriage so effectively

There is nothing shuddh (pure) or desi (Indian) about the romance in Shuddh Desi Romance so don’t go expecting a stereotypical Bollywood ending where the hero and heroine are united in matrimony. Anything but.

In the years to come, this unconventional Yash Raj Films movie will be remembered as the first Bollywood film to promote cohabitation (live-in relationships). Yes, there have been films such as Salaam Namaste and I, Me aur Main that featured cohabiting couples but never before has an Indian rom-com snubbed marriage so effectively.

Shuddh Desi Romance would have you believe that marriage is now a far less attractive prospect than it once was for many young couples. You may even feel sorry for wedding caterer and decorator (Rishi Kapoor) whose main business worry in the film is that traditional marriage may be heading towards extinction.

To be honest, any film which brought together director Maneesh Sharma (Band Baaja Baaraat) and screenwriter Jaideep Sahni (Chak De! India) couldn’t really have been formulaic. In an interview to Reuters, Sahni said his films are about real people. His characters certainly do not shy away from using the toilet. Indeed, much of the film revolves around the bathroom break -- even the intermission gets renamed.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Shuddh Desi Romance is the story of Raghuram, Gayatri and Tara and their intersecting lives in the historical city of Jaipur. Raghuram or Raghu (as he prefers to be addressed) is a tourist guide, part-time salesman and professional wedding guest. Just before his own nuptials, Raghu meets Gayatri, who is also in the wedding guest business and is being paid to pose as his sister. Soon, our hero thinks he’s in love with the lively instructor at an English-language school and forgets all about Tara, the woman he was originally supposed to marry.

Doesn't seem much of a storyline to sustain audience interest for two hours. But it surprisingly does. What eventually works for Shuddh Desi Romance is its dialogue. Screenwriter Sahni is at his witty best, effortlessly moulding situations and making his characters mouth unexpected lines. Jaipur city is a character in itself and lends an aura of authenticity to a well-shot film, one that depicts modernity trumping tradition in an India that is still largely conservative.

Sushant Singh Rajput puts in an impressive performance as the bumbling and indecisive lover, at a loss for words whenever confronted by Gayatri or Tara. Parineeti Chopra shines as the mature Gayatri who’s had her heart broken before. Newcomer Vani Kapoor plays the third corner in this love triangle, and does so confidently.

There aren't too many songs (to the film’s credit) but Gulabi is easily the best track. What lets the film down is a slackening of pace in the second half, a flaw Sharma’s Band Baaja Baaraat didn’t suffer from. But Shuddh Desi Romance is a film you should watch even if you disagree with its premise. It's a progressive film that might just work if enough youngsters make it to the cinemas.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The tree of books

Close your eyes and let your thoughts take you away from the city where you live. Your destination is a nondescript village deep in the Indian hinterland. You find yourself gliding through the air and looking down at an enormous tree. An unusual one. Instead of seeds, this tree sprouts books. Thousands of them. Thin and thick and big and small. The book covers - red and blue and green and more - glint in the morning sun.

You marvel at the beauty of this remarkable tree, encased in books of every hue. And yet, there is a faint smell of rot in the air. The books are ripe and ready for release, but have nowhere to go. You'd been so dazzled by their lustre that now you notice, for the first time, the quagmire that surrounds the tree. Barren and marshy land with no signs of human life.

And then, at the periphery of your vision, you spot movement. You take a closer look. It's a boy. And next to him, a girl. And then another child. And many more children standing at the edge of the bog. Looking longingly at the books in the distance but unable to approach the tree. They stare unabashed. Helpless and sad.

A woman approaches. She stops at the edge of the marsh. But unlike the children, she sees you floating near the tree of books.

"Will you help us?" she says.
You look at the woman and then at the children, who haven’t noticed you yet.
"How can I help?"
"The children in the village need the books but can’t reach them."
"This must be a dream. I’m floating in the air."
"That may be so, but you are from the city and can help."
"But how?"
"Help spread the treasure of knowledge."
"Blow on your thumbs and then blow on the books."

I do as I’m told, unsure of what would happen next. Nothing happened at first. And then, the sound of rustling filled the air. The book closest to me broke free of its moorings and floated away. I gaped at the little red book, with a skittish lamb on its cover. Then I blew some more. More books escaped. And like newly freed seeds, they swirled and fluttered in the air like confetti at a wedding.

I watched as the first few books glided across the bog. The children were radiant as they leaped in the air to pluck the seeds of the tree of knowledge. The woman turned to me and mouthed a thank you. As I turned to leave, she spoke again.

"Spread the word! Our children need many books."

This post was inspired by Rohini Nilekani's talk at TED - click here for YouTube link. As founder chairperson of not-for-profit publisher Pratham Books, Nilekani hopes to give each of India’s 300 million children a good book to curl up with. In her 15-minute speech, she compared India to the United Kingdom, where each child has access to an average of six books. Statistics suggest that in India, one book would be shared among 20 children. The problem is getting good yet cheap books and making them available to children in the poorer pockets of India. Nilekani shared her experience and some incredible achievements. But her ultimate goal of a book in every child's hand is still a challenge. I hope this post will inspire some readers to be a part of the solution.

(Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The pregnant queen, the stinkiest fart and the perfect road trip

The human baby had gone back to the house, leaving one of his dinky cars behind. It was my only chance and I took it. Grasshoppers have a reputation for being good-for-nothing insects, but I am never lazy when it comes to stealing a ride.

The Porsche Panamera was green and matched my skin tone. All the better to camouflage me from the prying eyes of humans. Just to be doubly sure, I pushed the dinky toy towards the lawn and headed for the protective shade of its green grass.

I was going to take my usual route home, avoiding the waterfall where humans shed their outer layers, to the denser parts of the grass where they rarely ventured.

It was getting dark and I struggled to take the car in a straight line, narrowly missing some pebbles. It was just after I manoeuvred the car around a discarded human matchbox that a puny worker ant blocked my path.
“Get out of the way!” I said.
“Please, Sir Grasshopper …”
“Shut up and move.”
“… I had accompanied my queen on a royal walk but she’s pregnant and in pain and about to give birth.”
“Please give us a ride back to the ant colony.”
“Eeeew! And spoil my shiny car with millions of slimy ant eggs.”
“Please hurry. You’ll be rewarded with the finest honeydew our aphids can produce.”
Dear reader, if you’ve heard the ancient fable of how the hardworking ant left my poor ancestor to die of hunger in winter, you’ll understand why I wasn’t too keen to let these hitchhikers ruin my car. But there was this teeny, tiny vial on the dashboard that emitted such a heavenly fragrance that my anger melted. I was in a good mood and beckoned the ant over. I even helped him carry his visibly pregnant queen to the back seat.

“How far apart are the contractions,” I asked her, trying to lighten the tension.
“Ooooh!” she screamed, and I turned my attention to the road. It wasn’t easy. The way to the ant colony was unfamiliar territory and the worker ant wasn’t very good at giving directions. The car headlights didn’t seem to work and our path was blocked by twigs, seeds and one giant puddle. The last was probably the handiwork of a sparrow with diarrhoea.

Just when I was about to give up hope, along came my next-door neighbour - the firefly.

“Glowy! Need your help, buddy.”
“Wassup Grassy?”
“Can you light our way to the ant colony? Mother-to-be in back seat”.
“Aaaoooooo!” said the queen.
“Here you go,” said Glowy and switched on his tail-light.
“Much better,” I said as the road lit up and the car sprang forward.
Glowy was perched on my sunroof and staring at the royal passenger.
 “How are you doing back there, Your Highness,” I asked.
“Eeeeaaaaooooooo!” she replied.
“Grassy, this is a really cool ride,” said Glowy, ignoring the queen and admiring my car.
“Isn’t she?”
“Greased lightning,” he said. I smiled at the compliment, rubbing my antennae with undisguised glee.
“And what’s that wonderful perfume?” Glowy asked.
“Aaaaoooo! Is that Chanel No. 5?” asked the queen. “I want it for my chamber.”
“Nah! Just Ambi Pur for the car,” I replied.
“Oooooaaa! Can you … Aaaooo! bring me some … Aaaaaaaa! next time you are near my kingdom.”
“Certainly, Your Highness.”
We were making good progress and I could see the mound of the ant colony in the distance when Rocky the cockroach joined us on our road trip. He jumped in through the open windows. The queen squealed in terror as the cockroach squeezed into the back seat.

“Move your butt, missus!” said Rocky. I didn’t intervene; he’d been a bully even in school. The worker ant sensed this and kept quiet.
“Aaaaoo!” said the queen.
“Sorry about this, queenie,” said Rocky.
“Oooaaa! But you shouldn’t push,” she said.
“Not that,” said Rocky, as he let one rip. “This.”
The car lurched as its occupants screamed in unison and moved towards the vial of Ambi Pur to escape Rocky’s fart. But the stink dissipated in a matter of seconds and the cockroach was disappointed.

“What magic is this?” he shouted. “That was one of my best efforts.” “It’s a fragrance that can repel the stinkiest of farts,” I replied, smiling again.
It was the first time I’d beaten him at anything. Rocky didn’t reply and sulked in the corner.

We reached the ant colony without further ado. As her servants carried the queen away, she beamed and gestured with her antennae.

“Thank you, Sir,” she said.
“Sorry for the rough ride, Your Highness,” I said.
“Are you kidding me? It was wonderful.”
“You are too kind.”
“Aaaaah! Can you get me … Ooooooaaaah! more of that perfume.”
“Yes, Your Majesty, there’s plenty more where that came from.”
“Aaaaah! I’m going to name my first-born after you.”
As the queen disappeared within the portals of her kingdom, the worker ant arrived with two buckets of fresh honeydew. I glanced at the car but Rocky had slunk away. Glowy and the ant helped me load the nectar into the back seat. I took a sip and it was heavenly.

“This is the life,” I told Glowy as we got in to drive home.
“It sure is wonderful,” he replied and switched on his tail-light.
It had turned out to be the perfect road trip.

(This post is an entry for the Ambi Pur contest on Indiblogger)

(Image courtesy of SweetCrisis at

Monday, July 01, 2013

Movie Review: Melissa McCarthy turns up "The Heat" as Hollywood's new queen of comedy

The adorable school teacher from the TV sitcom "Mike and Molly" was destined to be an audience charmer. Remember Melissa McCarthy as Molly? The one who fell in love with a policeman at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting.

If that's all you've seen of McCarthy's work before "The Heat", you are in for a shock. She reverses roles in this Friday's Hollywood release; she's in law enforcement now. As Detective Mullins in Paul Feig's film, McCarthy is in no danger of whispering sweet nothings in her lovers' ears. She curses and crushes; she plays Russian roulette with a suspect's balls. If lovable Molly's students were to see her now, they would be scarred for life.

Feig also directed McCarthy in the 2011 comedy "Bridesmaids". But that was a supporting role and in "The Heat", McCarthy shares top billing with Sandra Bullock.

And in case you were wondering why I haven't mentioned Bullock till now, that’s because McCarthy easily outshines America's sweetheart. Bullock is good (as usual) but McCarthy is better.

Bullock reprises her "Miss Congeniality" role as the hard-nosed loner FBI agent (although not going undercover as a beauty pageant contestant) in pursuit of a Boston drug lord. At stake is a promotion but first, she must team up with the irascible Mullins. The two don't see eye to eye on anything -- interrogation techniques, using curtains for windows or the edibility of week-old sandwiches.

Don't worry too much about the film's plot - it's predictable. It's an R-rated comedy and it's easy to see why. There're enough four-letter words (mostly courtesy McCarthy); a flashback to Bullock's bus-driving initiation in "Speed" (here, she rushes to the rescue of a diner choking in a restaurant); and bullets, blood and brotherhood to satisfy your Hollywood movie testosterone needs.

But who needs heroes? McCarthy and Bullock are an oddball pair with top-notch chemistry. "The Heat" pulled in $40 million at the North American box office this weekend and rumour has it work has begun on a sequel. And that's a movie I would watch.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Why Karan Johar's "Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewaani" is a Bollywood masterpiece

I watched "Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewaani" today. Finally. It's been a month since the latest package from the Karan Johar assembly line of box-office hits opened in Indian cinemas. And it deserves every rupee of its billion-rupee (and still counting) earnings in ticket sales.

Call me schmaltzy. But I like my Bollywood platter to be full of young, good-looking and carefree people dancing in choreographed perfection to foot-tapping music on lavish, glitzy sets. And that's not a bad thing.

Don't get me wrong. I relish my dose of art house cinema as much as the next critic. Give me "Pather Panchali", "Cloud Atlas" or even the latest Julio Medem experiment. But don’t judge me for liking "Student of the Year".

Cinema is entertainment. And Karan Johar is the chef extraordinaire who expertly seasons his Bollywood desserts with just the right mix of pizzazz. (Too many food metaphors; I must be hungry).

"Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewaani" is directed by a still 20-something Ayan Mukerji, the guy who brought us "Wake Up Sid" some years ago. That coming-of-age film was also produced by Karan Johar but "Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewaani" bears the distinct imprint of the head of Dharma Productions.

If you've been living under a rock since the film released on May 31, here's the gist to bring you up to speed. "Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewaani" is the story of Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor, probably nicknamed so because his character at times resembles the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights). Like other carefree young men, Bunny wants to enjoy life on his own terms. This includes among other things a trekking trip to the northern Indian hill station of Manali (NOTE: Some of the scenes were actually shot in picturesque Kashmir and state chief minister Omar Abdullah is seething over Manali getting the credit).

Joining Bunny on this life-altering vacation are bosom pals Aditi and Avi; joined at the last minute by the geeky, bespectacled Naina (Deepika Padukone) - a schoolmate Bunny barely remembers. Long story short: three songs and an action-packed chase sequence later, Naina gets over her inhibitions and falls hopelessly in love with our hero, only to learn her bunny rabbit is hopping it to the United States for a course in journalism. Another case of unrequited love haunts the quartet. Tomboy Aditi (Kalki Koechlin) pines for an Avi (Aditya Roy Kapur) oblivious to her charms.

Eight years later, Bunny has lost his dad. Naina has lost her glasses. Bunny is a continent-hopping video producer for a FOX travel show. Naina is a doctor. Avi's bar business has seen better days. Aditi is getting married to a nerdy engineer in a big fat Indian wedding hosted in stately Udaipur. And the Manali love quartet comes together again. What happens next? No spoilers here. Go watch this romantic comedy.

"Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewaani" is unabashedly escapist but I loved every minute of it. Must admit Madhuri Dixit's cameo as the ghagra-swishing Mohini in a faux brothel threatened to put a dampener on things early on. But Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone breathe life into their characters. And they look good together. Really good.

And the songs. Composer Pritam has struck gold, and I don't really care which cave of vintage treasures he plundered his musical notes from - this is undoubtedly the album of the year. If "Badtameez Dil" is the exquisitely choreographed number that gives the film its vitality, "Balam Pichkari" will entrance Holi revellers for years to come. "Dilliwaali Girlfriend" is the spicy item song that's going to reign at weddings this winter while lovers will seek solace in the soulful "Kabira".

What else was good? Witty dialogue. Brilliant art design. Good-looking young people in shimmering clothes. Talented actors (Farooq Shaikh and Dolly Ahluwalia) whose roles we wish could have been longer. Not to mention a second brother-in-law of Bollywood queen Vidya Balan stealing the thunder from his younger sibling. Enough starry fodder for audiences to actually enjoy the film's 159-minute running time.

Evidently, Karan Johar has taught his protégé well. Ayan Mukerji's filmmaking career is looking good.

Critics may carp about why his films can never win an Oscar but Johar should just ignore them and do what he wants. Here's what he should say. In the words of a certain teenage girl who brushed aside calorie-counting naysayers in a TV commercial for anti-pimple cream some years ago: "I don’t care".

Saturday, June 15, 2013

When Newton met Gabbar and the rest of us

Me: Welcome Sir Isaac, I've always wanted to speak to you about your great discovery.

Sir Isaac Newton: No great discovery was ever made without a bold guess.

Me: Yes, Sir Isaac, that's what you said about discovering gravity in the 17th century. How fortunate that the apple fell on your head.

Newton: An apple didn't fall on my head. It was an orange.

Me: But …

Newton: It was not an apple.

Me: That's what all the school books say.

Newton: For God's sake, it was not an apple. I know the difference between fruits, my dear sir. It was a fruit of the citrus species and it was the colour orange.

William O'Shaughnessy: Good morning, everyone.

Newton: Who’s this?

Me: Yes, Mr O'Shaughnessy, why are you here in our private WeChat group? I only invited the five people or characters I always wanted to chat with because they did something really interesting or led great lives or are fun to watch.

O'Shaughnessy: I did something interesting too.

Me: And what’s that?

O'Shaughnessy: I brought the telegraph to India.

Me: Really? Oh, I forgot I invited you over. Just didn’t know your name. I always wanted to meet the guy who started this telegram business over here.

O'Shaughnessy:  I don’t blame you. Everybody’s going to forget me now. I read that India is stopping the telegraph service on July 15. I’ve been trying to get hold of Communications Minister Kapil Sibal to stop this madness but he isn’t visible yet on WeChat.

Me: Well, I don’t blame you for being angry. But Mr O'Shaughnessy, seriously, now that instant messaging services like WeChat are here, why send telegrams at all?

Newton: Yes, O’Shaughny, go discover something meaningful like I did.

O'Shaughnessy: Oh! And you are the Apple guy.

Me: No, that’s Steve Jobs. This is Sir Newton. You know the story - a man, a tree, an apple, a headache and, hey presto, gravity.

Newton: Yes, you imbecile. I did come up with the Universal Law of Gravitation. But it wasn’t an apple that fell on my head. Let me set the record straight on this WeChat. It was an orange.

O'Shaughnessy: So it was definitely some fruit then.

Newton: It was an orange.

O'Shaughnessy: Who cares? I like apples better anyway.

Newton: I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.

Gabbar Singh: Kitne aadmi thay?

Newton: I beg your pardon.

Gabbar: Kitne aadmi thay?

Newton: Kit nay add me they?

Me: Sir Isaac, he’s speaking in Hindi. He means - how many men were there?

Newton: How many men were there where and who in Dante’s Inferno is this guy anyway?

Me: He wants to know how many people are talking on WeChat. He’s the famous Bollywood villain from the blockbuster film "Sholay", an Indian Western with a menacing dacoit, two amiable gunslingers and a retired policeman with no hands.

Newton: Indeed, the plot sounds more exciting than any of Shakespeare's works.

William Shakespeare: How dare you, Newton?

Newton: Sorry, didn't know the Bard of Avon was chatting here with us today.

Shakespeare: Hell is empty and all the devils are here.

Gabbar: Kitne aadmi thay?

Me: Gabbarji, we are still chatting so you should ask: kitne aadmi hain (how many men are there)?

Sushma Swaraj: How sexist? It should be: kitne log hain (how many people are there)? Why can’t women talk here?

Gabbar: Oye Sush, khamosh! Jaa, Narendra Modi ko bata Gabbar aaya hain. (Shut up Sush! Go tell Narendra Modi that Gabbar is here)

Swaraj: Go tell him yourself. How rude.

Newton: Who's this woman?

Me: Please, no fighting here. This is not parliament or a Bollywood movie or even a Shakespeare play.

Shakespeare: Come, gentlemen and Milady, I hope we shall drink down all unkindness.

Swaraj: Don’t talk of drinking. It’s you guys who have spoilt the youth of India and introduced all these Jack Daniel bottles. Angrezo, Bharat chodo! (Englishmen, quit India!)

Me: Umm, actually Mrs Swaraj, Jack Daniel was an American distiller so you can’t blame the English. I do have a colleague named Frank Jack Daniel though and he’s English.

Newton: I never liked Americans myself. But why is that woman politician blaming us? She’s just being silly.

Me: Sir Newton, Sushmaji is usually very eloquent in parliament. Her Hindi is so good that even Indians like me have trouble understanding her.

Shakespeare: Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Good luck, Milady. I think you will be prime minister one day. But remember, uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

Swaraj: How sweet. Nice boy, this Shakes.

O'Shaughnessy: I see all of you have already forgotten me, like you did the telegram.

Me: No, we haven’t Mr O'Shaughnessy. We’ll WeChat with you again soon. I had a lovely time and hope all of you made some new friends.

Newton: Yes, I should get going too. I’ve to get back to Westminster chapel.

Gabbar: Apple?

Newton: Mr Gabbar, as I’ve explained before. It was an o-r-a-n-g-e, not an a-p-p-l-e. I even ate the orange and had indigestion because I swallowed the pips.

Gabbar: Kitne pip thay?

Me: He means how many pips were there in that orange, sir? Don’t worry, he’s just spouting dialogue from his film.

Newton: Well, there were six pips, Gabbar.

Gabbar: Bahut naainsaafi hain yeh. Tera kya hoga, Newton? (This is grave injustice. Now what will happen to you, Newton?)

Newton: I can't make any sense of what this nitwit is saying.

Gabbar: Khamosh Newton, ab apple kha. (Shut up, Newton. Go eat an apple)

[As you might have guessed, this post was written for a WeChat contest on Indiblogger. Who are the five people (dead, alive or fictional) you want to connect with in a WeChat group?]

[Newton cartoon from Sunday Mercury here]

Connected HumTum - "Jodha Akbar" and "Punar Vivaah"

The evil mother-in-law in a 21st-century Indian TV household is describing her daughters-in-law -- the first one is a steel tumbler, the other is silver. The first storms off in a huff; the other gets ready to follow and console her when ... a town crier in medieval garb walks in accompanied by a drummer to herald his arrival. The newcomer reads from his scroll and announces the broadcast schedule of a new Zee TV soap opera featuring the exploits of 16th-century Mughal emperor Akbar and his queen Jodha. The excited members of the 21st-century Indian TV household start discussing the upcoming serial.

I'm impressed with product placement on Indian television. Even Superman using the Nokia Lumia 925 in "Man of Steel" wasn't in-your-face embedded advertising compared to this.

[For the record, I do not watch "Punar Vivaah" on @ZeeTV. I was merely flipping channels to see if the @AbhayDeol show Connected #HumTum had started]

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Save yourself before it’s too late

He was late again. She pushed the plate away with the rice untouched and went to the living room. The television was blaring in the background and she grabbed the remote to mute it. She needed to think.

He hardly ever came home before 10 at night. And it wasn't work. The woman from the flat upstairs had reported seeing him in the street. His arms had been flung around another woman and he was nuzzling her neck.

“You must be mistaken,” she told the housewife from 303. “It must have been someone else.”
“It was your husband. I am not blind.”
“It wasn't him,” she said. “He was at work.”
The two women stood and stared at each other.
“This is a warning sign,” said the upstairs neighbour. “Don’t ignore it.”
“Bitch!” she said and slammed the door in the woman’s face.

She shouldn't have done that. The woman from 303 was just trying to help. And it was true something was going on. She had called his office yesterday and was told he had left at 6 as usual. But he hadn’t reached home until midnight.

“Dinner?” she asked.
“Had it in office,” he replied. “Busy day.”
“You are drunk again,” she said, helping him undress.
“It helps me relax,” he said, pointing to his forehead. “I need to relax.”
She moved away as he grabbed her breasts.
“Please, not tonight,” she said.
“Why not?” he asked, slurring.
“Please,” she repeated and trembled violently when he slapped her.
“Bitch!” he shouted. “Can’t even satisfy your husband.”

He left for work in the morning, without as much as looking at her. She sat on her chair, stone-faced for several hours. It wasn't the first time he had hit her and she knew it wouldn't be the last. If only she had done something about it when it started several months ago. She had suffered a black eye then but he was like an animal that had tasted blood. She knew then the beatings would never stop. And yet she stayed on.

She should have never married him. But her parents had insisted. He had a steady job and didn't want much dowry. He drank a little. “Just a little,” her father had told her. “You’ll end up more drunk than your husband.” She had laughed then. Another warning sign ignored.

The romance lasted just a few days. She was nauseous and had told him she didn't want to have sex that night. “Bitch!” he shouted, pulling her towards him and tearing off her clothes. “You are mine,” he said as he assaulted her.

And yet she stayed on. What could she do? She had to make the marriage work. Her parents would turn her away. She was nothing without him. She couldn't run away. Or could she?

It was 10 when he returned.
“Listen, I’m sorry,” he said, offering her a box of sweets. “Take some.”
She didn't want to eat it but he cajoled her into taking a bite. Perhaps he had realized he was treating her badly. Was there hope for her after all?

But there was something wrong. She saw it in his eyes seconds before she fell to the ground. She had ignored yet another warning sign. He was gesturing to someone in the doorway.

She struggled to keep her eyes open and glanced at the woman who had come in with a sack. So this is the woman who is going to take her place. As her life ebbed away, she had a prayer on her lips. “Let her not make the mistakes I made.”

[Are you a victim of domestic violence? Do not ignore the warning signs. There’s help at every step. The latest National Family Health Survey says 34 percent of Indian women aged between 15 and 49 experienced physical violence at home. Nine percent suffered sexual violence. Save yourself before it’s too late. Make contact now]

(This post is an entry for the Colgate contest on IndiBlogger)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rushdie, Shadipur and the Delhi Metro

Finally finished re-reading "Midnight's Children". I find Salman Rushdie a better read now than in college but still feel he's over-rated. Magic realism is all very well but I found myself distracted and rooted in reality at various points. Like how Saleem (the protagonist) goes to Shadipur in "the outskirts of Delhi", and I kept thinking Shadipur is the sixth metro station from Rajiv Chowk, while my Dwarka Sector-21 stop is 30 stations from office. "Outskirts?" ... You get my point. Anyway, my rage is misdirected. Shadipur was probably considered really far in 1977 and what is now Dwarka was then a collection of nondescript villages and barren land. Still, tough to envisage knobbly knees and silver spittoons and dung-lotuses and snot-noses. I should really watch the movie now.

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