Sunday, December 25, 2011

Seasons Greetings !

I like how everyone gets in the festive mood at this time of the year !

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Loving to hate

It is nice to talk about progress and society's rising acceptance levels but the world unfortunately is still filled with people who love to hate. I find it rather ironic that there are churches that take an extreme stances against homosexuality when it is the Bible that says we need to love our neighbours and so on and so forth.

Case in point the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Kansas that travels across the US to picket the funerals of gay victims of murder, gay-bashing or people who have died from complications relating to AIDS and other events related or peripherally related to gay people. Yes, there are people who do that.

Now some might say the best way to address such nutjobs is to ignore them but I like the rather tongue in cheek manner in which people have made their disapproval of the the anti-gay picketing by the WBC known.

The picture below proves that humour is a much more potent weapon when it comes to getting a message across.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Probably the sign of the year 2011

The sign says: “Leave already, my arm is hurting.” From a protest in Egypt.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The End

Now Im not the biggest fan of the Harry Potter franchise but if there is one movie series that I really detest, it has to be the Twilight series. I think this accurately sums up my feelings ....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Golden Shower

To say that my interest was piqued when I read an office email that invited bloggers to compelete a scary story starting with "It was a dark and stormy night ...." would be an understatement. Since I had some time on my hands I decided to check out the details which was when I realised that the word limit was just 500 words. Give me 5000 words and I'll have you trembling in fear. With 500 though, I wasnt so sure. Clocking in at 499 words, this was the best I could do.

It was a dark and stormy night. The rain showed no signs of letting up and I was soaked to the bone. I looked around in despair but my eyes could only spot the flickering shadows that toyed with my imagination. My bike had a flat tyre and I was far away from any sort of human contact. I could push my bike down the dark village road bereft of any lighting except from the headlamp of my bike. Or I could wait for a good Samaritan to give me a lift to the next village. I hadn’t seen anyone in the last half an hour and didn’t fancy my chances. Exhaustion overcame me. I sat down by the road waiting for glimmer of hope.

I had difficulty opening my eyes. Groggily I lifted my head and found myself in a strange house. Bright sunlight was streaming in through the window and I lifted my hand to check the time but I realised that my watch was missing. I was suddenly aware of the excruciating pain that was tearing at me from my insides. I reached down and my fingers ran over unfamiliar stitches. My hands were trembling by now and I tried to get up on my feet but it was no use. My legs seemed to have a mind of their own and they refused to move forward. I collapsed once again onto the floor. Summoning all my strength I crawled towards the window and looked outside. I saw an Amaltass (also known as the Golden Shower) tree resplendent in its golden yellow flowers in the middle of a beautiful garden. My strength deserted me and I slowly fell again as my mind drifted away.

I woke up to a loud honk. I nearly jumped out of my skin and saw an old man in a car parked next to my bike. “You look like you could use some help. You need a lift, beta?” I regained my senses and realised I had dozed off leaning against my bike. I shuddered and jumped into his car as I apologised profusely for getting his seats wet but he laughed it off. Dr. Avinash explained that he once a pretty famous doctor in Bombay but had given up the big city life to become the local doctor in a small town in rural Karnataka. ‘Big fish in a small pond’ he explained.

The more he spoke the more I marveled at the sacrifice he had made to move to a small town but something kept gnawing away at the back of my mind. He looked familiar and I racked my brains while making polite conversation. Suddenly it struck me. Illegal organ transplants. A famous doctor who suddenly disappeared. I tried not to panic as he drove into his large compound. In the dark of the night I could make out an Amaltass tree in full bloom in the middle of a beautiful garden.

Monday, November 14, 2011

8 days a week

For 5 days every week, I try to balance the conflicting demands of oscillating work, ridiculous traffic, my reinvigorated reading habit, a season of a particular TV show (currently Season 4 of Spiderman: The Animated Series but shhhh don’t tell anyone) and God knows what else. Sometimes this gets extended to 6 days. If Im really unlucky it stretches across all 7 days. Which is why I like my weekends neither shaken nor stirred.

Come Saturday morning and my plan for the weekend is to have absolutely no plan at all. That way I can curl up with a book for as long as I want and not feel guilty about it. Or I can treat myself to endless episodes of my new found favourite – Dr Who. Or I can take an afternoon nap and put my phone on silent mode and sleep like I have never slept before. Or I can dig up an old Carry On movie and enjoy the campy humour. Basically a little bit of everything that doesn’t really amount to anything. This weekend however, was different.

Growing up in the 90s in Cochin meant that your comic reading was restricted to
a. Asterix & Obelix
b. The Adventures of Tintin
c. Archies series
d. DC and Marvel comics but that was only for a select lucky few

Now I’ve read the complete collection of both Asterix & Obelix and The Adventures of Tintin several times and to be honest I was always more of the A&O fan but the Tintin comics weren’t really that far behind. And now Tintin has made a rather dramatic entry into the movie world. I’m not one who enjoys too many movies these days but I did thoroughly enjoy watching Tintin & Captain Haddock (with the beloved Snowy of course) lay the foundation for what is going to be one very entertaining movie franchise. Of course Thomson & Thompson are as funny as ever. An added 100 bonus points to whoever added the Captain Haddock line – You two timing troglodyte (which is my favourite word of all time)!

Everyone who is a sports fan knows of Lance Armstrong’s incredible battle against testicular cancer and how he came back to win the gruelling Tour de France an incredible seven times in a row. However it was only after I started reading his book It’s Not About The Bike did I realize how easily life can turn upside down in an instant. Lance doesn’t deep dive into his struggle against cancer but he takes you along on his physical and emotional roller coaster ride that will make you question the way you live your own life. As he struggles and fails, you realise that he is after all human. And then he rises. From the deepest of lows Lance rebuilds his life and in turn inspires you. His battle makes you realise how inconsequential your life’s problems actually are.

Ive been a wrestling fan since 1992 and I’ve seen quite a bit of it to say the least. From mainstream wrestling that was the WWF / WWE and WCW on TNT (remember the days when Cartoon Network used to switch to the TNT movie channel at 9PM and once a week they used to air WCW on Indian television) to the underground cult phenomenon that was ECW (thanks to the internet). However my exposure to the hotbed that is Japanese wrestling has been limited to a few matches and it took a review of an event called All Together in Budokan to get me to revisit it. Now Japan has had a particularly tumultuous year and the main promotions got together for one night only to put together a wrestling card that would donate proceeds to the organizations helping in rebuilding the country. The Japanese wrestling industry is very competitive and hotly contested and the Indian equivalent of All Together in Budokan would be to have all of Bollywood’s actors and actresses coming together to act in one huge blockbuster.

And so I spent the weekend watching wrestlers who I don’t know putting up a stellar show that brought happiness to the fans in the sold out Budokan stadium (and those of us in front of our laptops) while listening to Japanese commentary (of which I could only identify the names of a few moves). It was enjoyable to hear the commentators go Shyyyning Wizardo (for the move Shining Wizard) and Byainbustaaaaah (Brainbuster) with the respectful Japanese crowd oohing and clapping in appreciation (a far cry from our rabid cricket fans in India) and soon enough I too was oohing along with them. Of course all of this would not mean a thing if it were not for the hard working Japanese wrestlers who work a very stiff (read realistic) style that made me cringe as I watched them tear into each other. I couldn’t understand one bit of the language, I didn’t know the wrestlers names but I most certainly enjoyed the storytelling.

Which was the story of this weekend now that I think about it. Now to get back to my 5 days of drudgery.

P.S - At the end of the show, the three biggest wrestlers in Japan (the champions of the corresponding organizations) stood outside the stadium after having worked their butts off with boxes in their hands to collect further donations from the people leaving the stadium. Will SRK, Aamir Khan & Salman Khan would do something like this for our country? Think about it.

Sigh! Some things never change

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Khardung La, here I come

As far as new years resolutions go, this was one that I was determined to follow all the way till the end of the year. Yes siree, 2011 was going to be my year of travel. No roads were going to be spared and no destination was too far away for me. All I needed was a map, a camera and a debit card.

As with all other resolutions, my determination fizzled out soon and I havent done too much travelling this year. I have done a solo 1200 km round trip on my bike in the summer & a very memorable group biking monsoon trip to the very wet Wayanad as well a solo high speed car run to Madras but thats been about it. I still have hope though cause I am planning a week long holiday in November followed by my mandatory fortnight off in December. Mile crunching will happen for sure, just how much of it is something I'm not too sure about.

What I am sure about though is that come hell or high water, cranky bosses or broken limbs, next year I will be biking to the Himalayas. Last year I really wanted to do it but could'nt make it due to logistic issues. This year for some reason didnt seem right and I pushed the thought of hitting the Himalayas to next year. Or the year after that. All until I read about the Red Bull Racing team taking their 2005 Formula 1 car up to Khardung La which is regarded as the highest altitude road in the world.

As a publicity stunt, it has done wonders for Red Bull. It has also inadvertently reawakened me from my corporate world slumber. Within the next 364 days, I will be be taking a picture of myself next to the very same board you see below. And as far as mid year resolutions go, this is one that Im definitely determined to follow.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Live (and exclusive!)

Who says the most popular music artists are the most talented?

In the end it took one song from Robbie Williams to get me to finally sit down and write this post. British boy band Take That's biggest ever hit Back For Good always has been and was always meant to be a slow romantic number. Its just that somebody forgot to tell that to Robbie Williams (ironically a member of the same band) at one of his concerts when he performed the rock version of what is a ballad. Surely not the most gifted of vocalists, with that one song Robbie Williams showed what really makes a singer special - the ability to experiment with & perform songs differently at live performances.

Robbie Williams

Take for example a band as popular as the Black Eyed Peas. They have had their share of hits over the years & they have ventured into solo careers to a fair degree of success. On the airwaves, their songs are reasonably catchy & appeal to a broad base but try watching them perform live and you will be left sorely disappointed as they fall flat on their face without the assistance of technology to mask their true lack of talent.

Why do I like albums from concerts? For one, the cheering of the crowd makes you feel like you've been part of the whole experience even though you were nowhere close to the real thing. The intro to an AC/DC song from a live performance has the crowd chanting for Angus before he launches into one of his typical long solos. There are also times when you want to chant along with the crowd as the band goes into the chorus. The examples are too numerous to list.

Secondly, live performances afford musicians creative liberties which they cannot take when constrained by studio recordings. Garth Brooks has an additional verse for his monster hit Thunder Rolls that he performs only at concerts. Several musicians also use live events to showcase the talents of their band members usually the guitarists who often get overshadowed due to the world's unhealthy obsession with lead vocalists.

DMB: The Central Park Concert

One of my personal all time favourite albums is The Central Park Concert by the extremely talented Dave Mathews Band. The album has several fantastic songs but Cortez The Killer and All Along The Watchtower are two standouts for me. Not only are these extremely well done covers, the band has also used the platform to thrill the audience (and the listeners of the album) with lengthy (not a bad thing in this case) songs. Which means you have an extremely entertaining 2 hour 44 minute long album with just 20 songs.

Jack Johnson: En Concert

The album En Concert by Jack Johnson is probably my favourite live album with some lovely songs including What You Thought You Need, Country Road (with Paula Fuga) and Home. It helps that Jack Johnson is incredibly talented but the fact that it is a concert album makes it even more special. It also is a very good documentary, definitely a must see if you're a music fan. Other notable inclusions are Home: A live concert recording with the Atlanta symphony youth orchestra by Collective Soul and Live 1975 - 85 Disc 1 / 2 / 3 by the evergreen and ever enjoyable Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band.

As for my all time favourite live song, it has to be Bryan Adams' acoustic version of Heaven. Great lyrics, a distinct voice & a live version. Who says Summer of '69 is his best work?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I need a Doctor

Being a book worm wasn't easy in the 90s (ok, stop back calculating and trying to figure out how old I am) in India as your reading options were limited to the usual Hardy Boys, Hardy Boys: Case Files, Famous Five, Three Investigators, Bobbsey Twins, Secret Seven and Five Find-Outers series. And when you were done with all the books you could lay your hands on and were waiting for someone else to buy a new set of books, you quietly read the odd Nancy Drew book (I can so imagine someone commenting on this).

That was until I laid my paws on my first Dr. Who book. For those of you who have never heard of the Doctor, he is a Time Lord who is able to move across time and space with the help of his extraordinary time machine called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space) usually with a human companion. To escape detection, the TARDIS looks like an ordinary blue police box from the outside but in truth, is much larger on the inside. The books that our school library was filled with were based on episodes from the long running BBC show (started in 1963!) that unfortunately never made it to Indian airwaves.


The best part about the books was that they took you to different fascinating planets (with the occassional earth adventure thrown in for good measure) and pitted the ever witty Doctor and his faithful companion against some truly formidable foes that included the dreaded Daleks & the Cybermen. The Doctor would regenerate on occassion to signify the arrival of a different actor to replace the existing one on the TV series which meant that the series continued across the years. The morally upright Doctor ensured that no fight for survival was ever boring even though the challenges quite often seemed insurmountable. Unfortunately I lost touch with the good Doctor and with that an integral part of my childhood.

An old school Dalek

All until I managed to get all the episodes of the Doctor Who series that starred Christopher Eccleston as the effervescent Doctor. The books had set the bar so high in my younger years that I was certain that the TV show would be a disappointment and I prepared myself for the worst. Boy, was I wrong! I'm 8 episodes into the adventures of the ninth doctor & I just cant get enough of it. The story lines are as good as ever, the visual effects are amazing (considering it is a TV show & not a Hollywood blockbuster) & Christopher Eccleston has added a whole dimension to the Doctor.

New school Cybermen

Research tells me there are a ton of old episodes out there on the internet. Which means I need to take a break from downloading MMA fights, wrestling matches & seasons of Top Gear (What? Its not like you dont have a hard disk full of illegally downloaded stuff). I also need to bring a temporary halt to the Everybody Loves Raymond episodes that I watch in the evenings now that I have the excellent company of the Doctor. Work however has increased which means I have to sleep less if I have to be able to catch the Doctor in action. Being an old school guy isnt easy in the 21st century.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The quote maketh the movie

He had a voice that could make a wolverine purr and suits so fine they made Sinatra look like a hobo. In other words, Ron Burgundy was the b**ls.

With the inclusion of that single line, the movie (if one can call it that) Anchorman automatically got upgraded from being an insufferable waste of time to a terrible waste of time. As I watched the movie drag on, scene by extremely painful scene, I realised that mercifully 6 months down the line, the only thing I would remember about the movie was that solitary 10 seconds of awesomeness. The agony of watching the remaining hour and a half of the excuse of a movie would not even be distant memory. Which got me thinking, what really makes a movie memorable?

Brilliant acting? Not really, we have too many talented actors these days. A great background score? Not when Hans Zimmer and co do an excellent job in so many movies. Great direction? Hard to say. A fantastic plot? Too many 'unknown' movies come with better plots than the industry pushed biggies. For me, it all comes down to a single quote that steals the show.

Intentional or not, Casablanca for all its greatness will always be remembered for its closing line

"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

We performed the stage version of Casablanca a few years ago & as the co-director (Hey Abhinava, how you doing?) I had memorized nearly every line of the script. I have a ton of fond memories from the play (including the one time when our actors who were supposed to sit in the background and play a game of cards without uttering a line in a scene arguing during rehearsals over what game they should be playing while sitting on stage) but the one moment that will stick with me is that final line before the curtains came down.

So what makes a movie quote fantastic? I really have no clue how to explain that but I can list out a few off the top of my head.

"Ask any racer, any real racer. It doesn't matter if you win by an inch or a mile; winning's winning"

With that one line, Dom (Vin Diesel) was made. From being a movie that was made to provide adrenaline rushes to countless teenagers, the Fast & the Furious became a cult movie that made a star. Suddenly boy racers around the world wanted to be Dom while the real racers grimaced in disapproval.

"I really like you, but I can't be the invisible man. I'm tired of being the shoulder .... I'd like to be somebody's Gerry."

I am the sort of person who prefers to read a book before watching the movie only to see how well the movie director has been able to capture the vision of the author. Honestly, when I read P.S. I Love You I was shocked that such a lousy book could have become a best seller & I made a vow not to watch the movie. Fortunately I forgot my about my vow. The movie was really nice and the show stealer was the monologue leading upto I'd like to be somebody's Gerry. Im sure the silence in movie halls around the world would have been interrupted by Awwws after that classic line.

"The first time someone calls you a horse you punch him on the nose, the second time someone calls you a horse you call him a jerk but the third time someone calls you a horse, well then perhaps it's time to go shopping for a saddle."

Lucky Number Slevin was a sucker punch from nowhere. A movie I picked to watch for no apparent reason became a quick favourite of mine. Not difficult considering it had lines like this.

"You dont need your mouth to pee!"

Unintentionally hilarious moment from The Transporter when the struggling victim tries to scream indicating that she wants the tape across her mouth removed when Jason Statham loosens the knots that have tied her legs to let her use the facilities.

"Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it."

The Dark Knight ushered in the era of the dark villain as the Joker showed a maniacal side that terrified the audience & stole the show from Batman. Long time fans are used to the more light hearted & consequentially less dangerous Joker that was never a serious threat to Batman but this version truly showed how evil he could get. And this perfectly explained the mindset of such a formidable foe.

"Chicks like scars. It's like a roadmap of the soul."

I probably will never understand what that means but kudos to the scriptwriters of The Air I Breathe for coming up with it.

And finally from the very enjoyable movie The Holiday, probably my all time favourite movie quote from the incredibly talented Jack Black

Iris: Miles, you really are an incredibly decent man.
Miles: I know. It's always been my problem.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Save my readers campaign !

For some strange and inexplicable reason, middle class India seems to find it acceptable to drink and drive. I guess I missed the part where invincibility and sharpened senses come complimentary with a drink. Unfortunately as educated and street smart as they are, this is one lesson they will only learn the hard way. Which is scary if you know someone who does drink and drive. And I'm sure most of you do.

Sadly the only reason I see people not driving after drinking is if they know that the cops will be out with their breath analyzers (and very stiff fines) on a weekend night. The fact that their own safety (and worse someone else's) is on the line does not seem to bother them.

I could give you the ridiculously high number of people who die because of drunken driving on Indian roads but it isn't going to be of any use. Those who want to drive even after drinking and knowing the facts will do so. The numbers don't lie but in this case they don't mean a thing to anyone unless something tragic has happened to someone near or dear.

So the next time you or your friend is going to drive after drinking, think about it. My blog hardly has any readers, I certainly don't want one less ....

****** Madrasis !

Introduction: For all the non Indians reading this post (highly doubtful that given that this blog has only 3 readers and I know all three of them) it is imperative that I provide a snapshot of how Indians view the rest of the country. North Indians seem to have not the best of impressions about south Indians (also known as Madrasis to them) and do an excellent job of stereotyping them (negatively of course). South Indians in turn do their best to return the favour. In kind. But not too kindly.

Of course you might wonder what about the other 2 directions - East and West? Well, the only thing about west India that these two sets of people know is Bombay and the infamous Narendra Modi. East India, well noone really cares about east India least of all the Indian government which probably thinks its part of the next country.

And while an instant and fleeting claim to blogging fame can be mine for the taking if I launch into a scathing attack on my brothers and sisters from the northern half of this glorious country (cough cough letter to Delhi boy cough cough) I will not be traversing that path today. All because I have some not so flattering things to say about the wonderful people in Madras.

Bloody Madrasis!

The 2 words are forever on the lips of every north Indian (for no apparent reason) that pays to visit to what actually is a glorious city. A city drenched in history and culture, arts and sports, education and corruption. Each time I have heard these sacrilegious twin words been uttered by my friends (and foes) from the other side of the country, I have faithfully told them that the city isnt half as bad as they make it out to be and given an open mind (I'm not being sarcastic here ... I swear!) they probably would like the place. Of course my comments have always fallen on deaf ears but that has never stopped me from trying to help eliminate the racial stereotype that everyone is fond of nurturing. Until 3 days ago that is.

3 days ago all hell broke loose. I had driven down to Madras from Bangalore and had thoroughly enjoyed the 300+ kms of blissful highway driving with my able companion from Fiat. My happiness however came to a screeching halt as things took a surprising turn for the worse once I entered city limits. Suddenly all sorts of maniacs on two wheels and four continuously kept hurtling towards me from all directions while seemingly defying the laws of physics (Rajinikanth shtyle). It was almost as though they all wanted a piece of me or my Fiat and I had to do my level best to avoid contact with all of them.

As I drove into the heart of the city it grew worse. It was almost like going deeper and deeper into a cancer that relentlessly keeps enveloping you whatever you do. I am not the religious sort but I certainly did send up a ton of prayers over the two days I was driving around that forsaken town. There were at least half a dozen times I thought I was certain to run over someone who had just cut across my car with scant regard to his life and limbs. The best part is almost all the people riding bikes were doing it without a helmet so death is but a heartbeat away for them.

Driving through peak Saturday night traffic was the probably the worst driving experience I have ever had as my heart was perpetually in my mouth. The idiots truly are homicidal, suicidal and genocidal (trademark Sabu) and it took all of my driving skill and the blessings from the man up there to keep me, the people in my car and my set of wheels safe and sound. I certainly don't like to swear but two words were perpetually at my lips while I was behind the wheel - Bloody Madrasis ....

Sometimes a picture just describes life perfectly

The missing piece

Mouth watering home food. Check. Meeting a bunch of friends. Check. Hitting the road for a very enjoyable road trip. Check. Visiting family and having an excellent time. Check. Weddings to attend. Check. Good old fashioned non stop Kerala showers for company. Check. Rest & relaxation. Check. I had all the ingredients for the perfect holiday but there was still something missing that inexorably gnawed away at me that kept it from being the quintessential week long holiday.

That was until I stopped flipping channels when my eyes spotted a repeat telecast of a match from the ongoing rugby world cup. Now I’m no expert on the intricacies of the sport but I have been watching rugby for years and do understand and rather enjoy watching these matches. Actually modern day gladiatorial combat is how I prefer looking at it. Rugby combines the physicality aspect that a MMA fan looks for and the teamwork and skills that make soccer so popular. Plus there is no hiding behind layers of protective padding like cricketers do. I’m a big fan of MMA and soccer and find cricketers to be wusses. Which means I fit the bill when it comes to the requirements for being a rugby fan.

And so over the next few days I was glued to the tele whenever they aired the matches. Unlike cricket, the underdog story is very much alive in rugby as countries that were not in the esteemed top few list challenged the established order and put up a fight in every match that I watched except one. Now I know all 3 readers must be grimacing thinking it is a blood thirsty sport with men built like mountains crashing into each other while chasing a ball that isn’t even round. Misconception at its finest.

Rugby matches can actually be beautiful. Of course you do get the odd scrappy game and the occassional stomach churning tackle but more often than not there is a sublime grace that isn’t usually associated with large men who you would assume have the nimbleness of tractors if you were to see them off a rugby field. Besides which other sport lets you say words like Crouch, Touch, Pause and Engage before two groups of men rush into each other as part of a scrum (as pictured above) ? As an added bonus almost every team had a member with an atrociously long flowing beard. And I like long flowing beards.

Final piece of the perfect holiday puzzle. Check.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

When working out doesn't work out

It just wouldnt go away. I tried looking at in from different angles but it was of no use. Seeing as I wasn't under the influence I was pretty sure that my eyes weren't playing tricks on me. I tried taking a deep breath which worked but seeing as I could only hold it for less than a minute the plan wasnt of much use. My belt certainly wasnt deceiving me. I well and truly was another victim of the dreaded IT Belly.

IT Belly - eye•tee bell•e
The mass of abdominal fat resulting in an increase in waist size caused by excessive working in front of a laptop and the lack of any exercise except for walking to the cafeteria and / or the pantry. Specific to people who work in the information technology industry. No known cure found for long term patients. As common as the cold.

They say once you fall prey to it, you can never escape its clutches. I was determined not to let myself be a victim of this dastardly dreaded disease. I would not let the fact that I did not have time to hit the gym everyday be a problem. Like everything else in the world, there always is a work around if youre keen enough.

First things first. I had to get rid of the songs on my phone and replace it with 'inspiring' music. So out went Mr Sinatra and in came the OST of Rocky. Yes , the greatness of the music of all the Rocky movies contained in one album. Second, a recurring alarm was set for 07:00. Weekends included. This would ensure I got at least an hour of jogging every day.

Third, it was time to watch my diet. Which meant that my regular lunches were out and it was time to join the line at the salad counter. And no, I cant believe it either. And so from my daily sumptuous lunches of chicken biriyani and ice cream, I feel to the deep depths of eating leaves and fruits from a bowl so small that I would've felt guilty about starving a 2 year old baby had I fed it from that. And to make things worse, the miniscule portions of 'healthy' food cost more than my regular lunch that consisted of biriyani and ice cream. Combined. Ouch! Yes, I was paying more for less. Go figure!

Step number 4, more exercise at office. No more elevators for me. It was time to hit the stairs twice a day. Initially I took the easy way out and used the stairs for walking down but I realised that it would not help me trim my waist so I took the bottom up approach. Step 5, sign up at the gym where I was sure I would be making guest appearances but at least I would feel guilty about having spent so much on it (typical Indian mentality) and force myself to go.

Now all this continued for a month and I could honestly felt the difference. The weighing scale definitely wasnt wrong as it showed that I had lost close to 5 kgs with all the effort I put in. I didn't have to think about updating my wardrobe with new pants either. I could also relish the occasional dessert knowing that I could burn it all off over the next couple of days. Happiness was my new found companion.

Until the day I spotted my friends who hadnt seen me in quite a while. All of them said that I had put on some weight since they last saw me. Which was technically, physically, clinically and medically impossible. So I put it down to the tee I was wearing which probably wasnt too complimentary given the lighting conditions and the time of the day. A few days later I bumped into another friend of mine who also insisted I had put on weight.

Now Im pretty sure there is no global conspiracy to make me think Im fat and when I think about it, I have been missing my regular lunches. How many green leaves can a guy eat for lunch anyways? So I've thrown in the towel and recalled Mr Sinatra. And added Dean Martin as well. I've also got a partial refund on the gym membership. Which I will use to buy myself new pants when I do eventually put on. All because the comments that I have put on just dont go away .....

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Married men, bachelors & inevitably trouble

The thing with being an eligible bachelor (yes I know all 3 readers are doing the roll eyes thing right now) is that you can count on your married friends to give you a call whenever they are in trouble. Its not that they don't call you otherwise but when they do manage to dig a hole for themselves large enough to swallow an entire European country, they will faithfully call their single friends apparently for solace and advice. Seeing as we are, well, unmarried (and hence unaware of how a woman's mind works or doesn't work) Im not sure what sort of guidance they seek but nonetheless that doesn't stop the merry band of bachelors from providing free advice. Which usually results in the digging of holes large enough to swallow entire African countries. Oh well, its the thought that matters.

Take the tragic case of my friend who was recently married (poor chap) which coincided with the decision of his boss to send him on business trips across the world (lucky chap). Now this meant that he was home for less than a handful of days each month but this also meant that he had to be on his toes while he was within the confines of home sweet home. The reason being his wife would go to great lengths while he was away to make some changes and like any other woman would expect admiration and approval for all the effort that she put in.

The thing is women don't seem to realise that men dont realise such things. If the sofas have been rearranged, we don't notice it. If the plates are new, we don't notice it. If the curtains are new, we don't notice it. Its not our fault. We were born this way. Now this leads to enough trouble for married men of all races, religions, colours and creeds. There is only way that they can put themselves in more trouble...

Last Month
The last thing I needed at 8 AM on a saturday morning was a phone call to wake me up from my blissful slumber. And the first thing I got on saturday morning was a phone call that woke me from my blissful slumber. I picked up the phone and listened in half attention since my eyes refused to open and my mouth refused to move.
"So what are you doing today? Do you want to catch up for the football match in the evening? How bout a movie in the afternoon? Whats your scene for breakfast?"
I would've answered if I knew who I was talking to. Managing to open my eyes by just the bare minimum required to identify the caller, I realised it was my globetrotting friend who apparently was back in town.
"When did you get back?"
"So why do you want to hang out with me?"
"Have you forgotten our decade long friendship so easily?"
"No I haven't but you're married now so you ought to be spending time with your wife. The fact that you're trying to make plans with me means you did something stupid. What did you do?"
"Errr its a long story."
"Its 8:15 on a saturday morning. I have all day you know ...."
"So does that mean we're not making all day plans?"
"Good to see you're as sharp as always. So how are you in trouble?"
"Its not my fault . I came back late last night after a tiring 20 hour trip that included a long stop over at Heathrow. I was exhausted and glad to be home. I would've given an arm for a tasty home cooked dinner and the smile on my wife's face. But do you know the first thing I hear from hear when I walk in? 'So do you like it?'. Blimey, I knew I was in a royal pickle right then and there. The last time I came home she asked me this & I failed to realise she had got the hall painted. How am I supposed to figure out the colour of the blasted walls has changed since the last time I was in my house when I am severely jet-lagged?"
I grunted in response. (For all you women out there who are reading this, the grunt is a male sound that signifies so many things that it cannot be defined. It is possibly the only form of communication that has carried on unchanged since the stone ages)
"Anyways I paid dearly for not noticing the repainted walls. So I frantically scanned the hall for any changes but everything seemed to be the same. Then I realised she had lost weight and must've joined the gym without telling me. So I said she looked ravishing now that she had lost weight and extended my arms waiting for a big hug. The only thing I got in return was a look that would've had lesser men trembling in fear."
" 'I spent 4 hours yesterday at the parlour and got myself an expensive haircut thinking you will like it. But you didn't even notice my new look. You think I've lost weight? I dont need to lose weight! I look fine as it is. The dinner is in the fridge. Warm what you want and you can sleep in the guest bedroom after that.' With that she walked into our bedroom, slammed the door and left me standing there tired, hungry and speechless."
Another grunt. This time of sympathy.
"I honestly thought she had lost weight by having gone to the gym. How was I supposed to know she got a new haircut? You have no clue how difficult married life is, what with you being an eligible bachelor and all ....."

Last week
@#$*!^#@^ Why was my phone ringing at 10 AM on a sunday morning? "So you wanna head out for a Sunday morning drive?"
Grunt. An angry one.
"So I take it that you dont want to head out on a drive. Well the weather is awesome you know."
There was only one person dumb enough to call me at an unearthly hour while I was lost in my dreams and still expect to have a 2 way conversation.
"What did you do this time?"
"Errr how did you guess?"
"So maybe Im not as dumb as I look. Im all ears, go on."
"Well so you know how I didnt realise my wife had got a haircut the last time I returned to India? This time I was prepared as I walked in my home after another month long trip. Yesterday before she could ask me whether I liked the change or not, I told her that I loved her new haircut."
"So why are you making plans with me today?"
"Turns out she had joined the gym and lost weight since I inadvertently brought it up last time. And she hadn't gone for a hair cut. You wouldnt understand how lucky you are. You're so much better off, being an eligible bachelor ....."

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Save us from SSFF !

I’m in big trouble. I have with me massive discount coupons from all of India's leading apparel outlets. Way too many in fact. Actually they aren’t really discount coupons; they are take what you want for free coupons which I was gifted by the retailers themselves. Why do I have here take whatever catches your fancy coupons and why am I in trouble, you ask? Permit me to narrate the strange turn of events.

So there I was, on my usual Sunday morning jog, wearing a cap that was pulled down real low and ill fitting clothes that meant even my close friends who were passing by the park wouldn’t identify me if they saw me. The park wore its usual seasonal deserted look and hence the only other people who were around were old uncles out for their daily morning walks and pretty young things burning off the calories from another unhealthy Saturday night. My Sunday morning oblivious to the world while I jogged serenity was however interrupted by the arrival two rather odd looking gentlemen who parked themselves on one of the benches and were obviously not there for the exercise. The fact that one of them was pretending to read a newspaper while holding it upside down didn’t help their case either.

Figuring that they were one of the usual we are sitting in the park because we have nothing else to do types I ignored them until they started jogging at a steady pace right behind me. Their bulging biceps and extremely heavy panting were a dead giveaway that they only spent time lifting weights in the gym & stayed as far away from the treadmill as possible. I started to get a little concerned and upped my pace to a steady trot before my attention was diverted by the arrival of some exquisite machinery just outside the park.

Jaguars, Porsches, BMWs, Audis and the odd Merc pulled up as one by one, men in rather dapper suits stepped out of the rear seats of their cars. Safe to assume that it wasn’t the usual Sunday morning jogging crowd. I wondered who these people had come to meet since they obviously weren’t here to burn calories.

I didn’t have to wonder too long as my unwanted jogging companions picked up the pace and were suddenly by my side. Before I could do anything the 2 burly thugs were escorting me, not too rudely mind you, to the contingent that was waiting in the parking lot. I turned around to shout for help but all I could see were 2 pretty girls who didn’t seem to have noticed anything out of the ordinary (honestly, they would’ve created trouble for themselves and more trouble for me had they intervened so it probably was for the best) and an elderly gentleman who would’ve taken half an hour to walk across the park and rescue me (slightly doubtful that).

Seeing as I wasn’t a MMA fighter or a Bollywood hero who could’ve sent the goons flying through the air with all the might of a single punch, I resigned myself to my rather unpleasant fate and let them take me to the parking lot. Rather uncannily, it seemed straight out of the typical Friday night gangster movies that I was used to watching. The ones in which the guy being escorted to a group of well groomed men in swanky cars gets beaten up even though he did nothing wrong. At least in the movies he wins the sympathy and affection of a beautiful lady as compensation for the beat down. I wasn’t so sure I would be so lucky.

"Don’t be afraid, we're not going to hurt you. We just want some answers."

What the hell? Were they reading off some script or something? I looked for the bulge of guns beneath their suits. For a fleeting moment I wondered if I was on Candid Camera. Maybe not. All I had was 2 pretty women and an old man who had by now dozed off. Great!

"Do you know who we are?"

This really didn’t seem to be the time for over smart answers, so I curbed my urge to say something stupid.

"Errr no"

"Why don’t you tell us your name?"

Seeing as they outnumbered me 101 to 1 (more like 15 to 1 including the hired thugs but in that frame of mind I could be pardoned for not counting properly) I don’t think I was in a position to give them an alias.

"Errr Neil"

"So tell us Neil, where have you been the last few weekends? In fact, where have your friends been the last few weekends?"

Gulp! The questions were flying in from all sides. Was this my first brush with the underworld? They seemed to be much too classy for that though (no offense to any murderers, extortionists, thieves, bone breakers and other members of the underworld that might be reading this blog). Now they wanted to know details of my friends as well. Some other Neil must have really done something to get these guys mad and now they were after me and my friends.

"Errr nowhere."

"How can you be nowhere? Surely you must’ve been somewhere. We just want to know where that is" said one guy who I am sure was wearing an Armani suit.

"I’ve been really busy. Who is asking anyways?"

Trust me to ask something stupid at the most inopportune time. Fortunately the question also saved me a lot of stationary sweating due to excessive worrying as they explained that they were the owners of large retail apparel chains in India. After a round of introductions, my heart managed to extricate itself from somewhere next to my jaw and the eagles that were flying around in my stomach quickly settled down. Me and my vivid imagination .... After explaining my initial misconception we shared a few laughs and they even allowed me to check out all their cars before settling down to business.

"So here's the thing Neil. We are a really worried lot. Its sale season time which means we expect a major footfall for each of our stores. This obviously translates into more sales and we are able to clear out our existing stock in time for the new season. It’s a fool proof formula which has been working for years. Except this time"

"So what’s the problem this time?"

"Well this time, we have seen high footfalls but the problem is, it’s all women. It’s almost as if Indian men disappear from the face of this earth on Friday night and reappear on Monday morning. The only men that seem to be visiting our stores on weekends during sale season are elderly dads and husbands who are carrying the kid (s) as the wife shops. That’s it. There are just no other men around.”

Was it just me or were they turning pale as they spoke. Their voices seemed to quiver as the spoke and the others hung their heads and nodded in silent agreement.

“Which means sales in the men's division have dropped drastically. Of course we do find the occasional woman picking up a shirt or a tee from the men’s section but honestly how many women do you think would actually spend any money (theirs or their husbands) on men if it’s a sale? So Neil, we really need to know. What is happening?"

They were putting me on the spot here. I wasn’t really sure if I could and should reveal the answer to their question. I looked around once again. The 2 girls were still jogging around the park blissfully unaware of what was transpiring and the old man seemed to be in a very deep sleep. I pulled my cap a little lower but I realized I couldn’t see anything. After readjusting it and looking around once more to check that no one I knew was around, I decided to take a chance.

"Why are you asking me? And what’s in it for me?"

"Well we sent our guys out yesterday to find a normal guy off the street who we could talk to. Seriously. We sent them to malls pubs, restaurants, you name the place and we sent them there. However we could hardly find any guys and even the ones that we did were not willing to talk. It was the strangest thing. They all pretended that everything was normal and that there was something wrong with us for asking them questions on where they have been on weekends. The ones who were with their sisters / girlfriends / fiancés / wives etc: were the weirdest. They tried their best to shoo us away before the women could understand what we were asking."

"But we would not be denied. As they say ‘If you want to get something done right, you need to do it yourself’. So we decided to roll up our sleeves (Neil’s note: figure of speech obviously), get our hands dirty (Neil’s note: you guessed it right, figure of speech) and get to the bottom of things (Neil’s note: errr figure of speech, mercifully). Which is why we decided to forgo our Sunday morning sleep and find someone to talk to about it. Do you know that we spent the last half an hour driving around Bangalore looking for a guy to talk to and we had almost given up till we saw you in the park."

"Ok, so that answers why me but I am more interested in what’s in it for me."

I’m not the greedy sorts and I wasn’t really expecting anything but hey, there was no harm in asking now was there?

"Which one do you want?"

I didn’t really understand their question at first. The possibility that they might be offering their cars to me crossed my mind and I was amused by the incredulousness of my thinking.

"I’m sorry, I didn’t really understand. What was your question again?"

"The cars. We figure you like them. Which one do you want? If you can give us the answer and help us solve our problem, we are more than happy to give you a car. Or do you want two?"

The thought of a Jaguar XKR in my driveway seemed mouthwatering but there was the slight matter of explaining to the income tax department how I ended up with the gorgeous set of wheels. It was sure to attract the attention of the underworld as well. And I sure as hell couldn’t handle them.

"What would I do with another car?" I asked even though I knew the answers all too well. Sigh!

"Ok, so you don’t want a car. What is it that you youngsters look for these days? Hmmm we could arrange for weekend companions if you want and for as long as you want"

I think it’s best not to type what crossed through my mind for the next few minutes.

"What would I do with more women in my life?" I asked even though I knew the answers all too well. Sigh!

"We could give you free shopping coupons" one of them offered hopefully.

"I'll take it" I said before they could tempt me further.

"So what is it? What’s the story?

I took a deep breath and wondered how exactly I should frame my answer. After all I was about to reveal to these men one of middle class India’s most closely guarded and well kept secrets. But who was I to deny a man an honest day’s labour? And they did offer me their cars. And women errr companions. Sigh!

“Ok but you can never tell anyone that I was the one who told you about this. The reason that you don’t find any men anywhere these days is because of the SSFF”

Before I could proceed I was interrupted by stereo questions.

“The what?”

“FSFS who?”

“Is it a virus? Like SARS?”

I proceeded “Hold on, hold on. You guys definitely don’t know about the dreaded SSFF. It’s the Sale Season Flip Flop. It’s absolutely horrible. No make that terrible. It’s a terrible terrible disease that’s hit almost all of middle class India’s women. And even though they are infected by it, we, middle class Indian men, are the ones affected by it. It drives us up the wall. It makes us question our sanity. We aren’t the stronger sex. Everyone knows that. But add SSFF to the equation and we men really must do everything to save ourselves from an impending implosion.”

“What on earth are you talking about?”

They were exchanging glances. The ones you exchange when you have a That was really weird moment. I decided to change tracks.

“Ok let me try and explain. Now I love my sister a lot. If she were to ask me to do anything for her I would. Without a moment’s hesitation. Except during sale season. And here’s why. When sale season comes around, she gets excited because well she’s a woman. And women get excited about such things. But then she starts feeling a little guilty about spending so much money on buying clothes and shoes when she has so many already. So she makes me promise her that I won’t let her buy anything. Which as a brother I would promptly do.”

“I on the other hand would actually need to buy stuff. Like maybe a pair of jeans. Or formal shirts. So I take her along to help me pick stuff for myself. Now once we are there she obviously wants to check out the women’s section. Quote “Just to see what’s on sale” unquote. Now who am I to tell my little sis that she can’t look at women’s clothes? So I follow her as she starts checking out what’s on sale. Soon (or rather immediately) she has a change of heart”

“What sort of change of heart?”

“The shopping sort. After seeing how nice the stuff in the women’s section is, she decides to pick up some stuff. More than some actually. And I, the dutiful and ever looking out for my sister’s interests brother that I am, remind her that she herself had decided not to buy anything this time and that she should probably keep it back. Which is not something that she likes to hear. And she does an excellent job of making her displeasure known. ‘Who am I to decide what she wants to do with her money and so on and so forth’ ”

“So now I’m stuck. If I let her buy it, I know there will be repercussions. If I don’t let her buy it, I know there will be repercussions. So I cave in and watch as she buys all of them. And since we have spent so much time looking for her clothes, it’s time to leave and I obviously haven’t bought anything that I needed.”

“We never knew that. No wonder men have been missing from our stores these last few weeks”

“Hold on, you guys have only heard half the story. There’s more to this torrid tale of woe. So my sis & I get home which is when she realizes that she didn’t really need to buy any of that. Now she feels bad for having spent her money and bought so many tops and shirts, some of them indistinguishable from the clothes she already has. But, and this is the best part, it’s my fault …..”

“Why is it your fault?”

“It’s my fault since I let her buy the clothes. Since she had told me not to let her buy anything I should have stopped her.”

“But she scolded you when you stepped in, didn’t she? So how is it your fault?”

“My point exactly! And that is the SSFF …..”

I could see that they were reeling as they tried to unravel the puzzle that was the SSFF.

“Now take this scenario and multiply it across thousands and thousands of middle class households in India. For me it was my sister. For somebody else it will be his girlfriend. For yet someone else, it will be his fiancĂ©. For the unfortunate lots, it’s their wives. All of us are victims of this. We dare not discuss it with the women because you know what it is like to argue with women on logic. You never win. The more logical your argument, the greater your chances of getting a cold shoulder for the next year.”

“So we discreetly discuss it with other victims. In offices. In buses. In waiting lounges. In cafeterias. With friends. With strangers. With family members. With guys we despise. The topic obviously changes when a woman enters hearing range but the fact is everyone is suffering. Which is why when the weekend comes along we suddenly find ourselves ‘busy’. Suddenly all of us have to go to the bank. Or the lawyer. Or the mechanic. Or we are feeling ‘feverish’. Or, and this is the best one because it elicits sympathy, we have work. There’s nothing to pull a woman’s guilt strings (if she has any) like saying you’re working hard when she shops.”

I could see that they were still trying to take it all in.

“You see this cap and these baggy clothes? I wouldn’t wear this even if my life depended on it. And that’s why I’m wearing it.”

They obviously weren’t getting it.

“It’s my avoid detection mechanism. I have a few women friends who stay nearby. Some of them have asked me if I was free over the weekend because they wanted to go shopping. Which means they will make me promise them that I will not let them shop. So I claimed that I was loaded with work and had a ton of errands to run. But if they see me running contently with all the time in the world on a Sunday morning, I’ll be in trouble. So I have to disguise myself like this. To avoid detection.”

The rest of what happened is self explanatory. They were pleased as punch to have received some answers even though I didn’t have any solutions for them. Men around India are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel because sale season is winding up in a couple of weeks. And things can go back to normal.

Except for me that is. I am sitting on a ton of coupons. And even if I did pick up whatever I liked and maybe some of what I didn’t like, I would still be left with a whole lot of coupons. Which means I will have to gift them to my sis and my women friends who will would more than happy to receive them. But it also means I will have to explain how I ended up in possession of these coupons. And I am a terrible liar. I should’ve taken the Jaguar XKR. I think I would have an easier time explaining to the Income Tax department why I had it in the driveway compared to the Guantanamo Bay interrogation I’m going to receive on the coupons. I really am in big trouble …..

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Flushing away Harry Potty

Hate is a strong word so I will stick to the word dislike. I dislike Harry Potter. There I said it. Not because it is fashionable to be anti-establishment these days but because I genuinely dislike everything associated with the franchise. It's a money making marketing gimmick that has spun a web around kids who don't read anything else and parents who dont encourage their kids to read anything else. Which effectively means that the loyal 2 readers of this blog will stop reading anything that I write from now on but it is the truth. Permit me to take you back in time and explain before your blood pressure gets the better of you, dear reader (and unfortunate Harry Potter fan).

I love reading. I was a major bookworm in school and had a voracious appetite when it came to anything that was fiction. Often i would go back home after school and spend the entire evening curled up with a book and return it back to the library the next day much to the disbelief of the librarian who was certain I wasn't really reading the entire book. My reading habit took a bit of a breather during my college years but it has picked up again ever since I've started working and I currently have a huge backlog of books that I am planning on covering before the end of the year.

Now I'm a guy who makes sure I read a book, irrespective of the quality of it's contents, from cover to cover and I don't recollect ever giving up on a book. Except for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone which I found to be mind-numbingly awful. How could the world be ga-ga about a book which made my head ache each time I completed a page, I wondered. But I bravely soldiered on, page after miserable page, waiting for the book to rise from the deep depths of its mediocrity that the world seemed to be oblivious to. Eventually I just gave up. Yes, I succumbed to the horror of a success story that was the first Harry Potter book and threw in the towel. It dawned on me that most people who were reading and talking about the book were victims of good ol' fashioned peer pressure. How could they not discuss in detail, the various aspects of J. K. Rowling's yawn inducing book when everyone else was? I vowed never to read the Harry Potter books again after my disastrous debut.

I figured that maybe the Harry Potter franchise was the opposite of the legendary Lord of The Rings trilogy where everyone ranted and raved about how good the movies were, when in fact it was the book that was the showstopper. So with a clean slate and high expectations, I went in to watch the first installment of the movie series which grossed $974,733,550 worldwide.

And I slept through it. Honestly. It was, rather unbelievably, worse than the book. The closest I had ever come to sleeping in a movie hall was when I went to watch the Incredible (or rather Incredibly Boring) Hulk after having not slept a wink the previous night. The combination of a distinct lack of any sort of excitement despite being a massive comic book fan and my brain being in shut down mode could not put me to sleep. But incredibly the first Harry Potter movie did. I woke up during the interval, had some pop corn and went back to sleep once the lousy movie restarted after the intermission. I vowed never to watch another Harry Potter movie again after my disastrous debut.

As time passed, whether I liked it or not, with each book and movie release Harry Potter became an integral part of pop culture and I realised the world was the victim of one massive marketing machine that was designed to make millions off the veritable sheep that were blindly following the rest of the flock. The world could not get enough of J.K. Rowling and everyone knew about her made for the media rags to riches story that was so touching that she could have released a 5 page blank book and still made millions had people known about her struggle to the top. People queued up for hours outside stores to be the first to get their hands on the latest book to be released which to me bears more than a passing reflection to the world's extremely unhealthy obsession with Apple products. Which is why I am overjoyed that the movie franchise is finally put to rest.

But as much as I dislike the Harry Potter series, it provides hope to someone like me. I would not go so far as to call myself a struggling writer but rather a writer struggling to over his inherent laziness despite having some (admittedly questionable) talent. I do have an idea for a book that i feel is good enough to get published someday but my laziness has kept pen from paper. It may not make millions without the backing of the PR machinery of a massive publisher but if it ever does capture the attention of the right people at the right time, I could make a pot-load of money from the book sales and movie rights. Since I'm pretty sure that my book is going to be better than all the Harry Potter books combined, more people will buy my books since the exciting plot and the fascinating characters will actually make my book worth its price and its weight. I'm also pretty sure that when it does get made into a movie, the audience is not going to be snoring away to glory but will instead spend sleepless nights thinking about how awesome the movie was.

So there. The fact that the books which deserved to sell all of 20 copies combined instead sold millions & made an astounding $6,369,345,142 at the box office, is reason enough to ensure that as much much as I dislike the franchise, I do like the Harry Potter series as well!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

She (Part III)

We tooak things very slowly for the first couple of months. We were both aware that we came from different places and had different upbringings and consequently different lifestyles; we viewed things from very different perspectives and yet when we were together none of it mattered. All the troubles and worries of my work life seemed to fade away into oblivion when I was with her. It didn’t matter where we were; on a Sunday morning bike ride or a walk on Marine Drive in the middle of night or just sitting on her balcony sipping coffee and watching the rain, every moment with her was memorable and often at the end of the night I just lay in my bed thinking of all the time we spent together that day before falling asleep with a smile on my face.

I was distinctly aware that my expenses had gone up quite a bit but I didn’t want to be the guy who didn’t split the bill when he took a lady out for dinner. Sometimes we went to places that I frequented which meant getting a ton of stares and people occasionally coming up to her and asking if she was an actress. To whom she would reply in such a perfect south Indian accent that no one would suspect a thing. Often we went to places which were more to her liking, hardly anyone disturbed us in such joints. Just a few of our friends knew that we were meeting each other once or twice a week but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

It all started when a suspicious tabloid reporter spotted us at a couple of restaurants and tipped the waiter who spilt the beans. One fine morning, I was woken up from my sleep by my usually nocturnal roommate who kicked me out of bed and shoved the tabloid section in my face. Well, there I was sitting at a table with India’s leading lady in a photo which actually made me look quite good. The write-up though was less flattering as they had employed their journalists who were more suited to writing fiction and made me look like some glory hunting gold digging nobody. I wanted to take the rest of the week off and go hide in a cave till everyone forgot about me but Jennifer’s publicist called me before I could pack my bags and disappear for a few days.

‘Let’s make the most of this opportunity and bring you out in the open’, he said as he did he best to convince me to see the brighter side of things. My parents were predictably shocked since I hadn’t really told them the name of the girl who was spending time with me and like all middle class Indian parents they too thought that all actresses did was dance in skimpy outfits and sleep around. The guys at the office proved what jerks they always have been by pestering me with questions on how she was in bed. My phone kept ringing all day as journalists kept calling me for quotes. I was in way over my head.

Mr. Publicist insisted that I be seen with Jennifer for all big promotion events from then on and I’m not sure how but he managed to ensure that there was a photographer waiting for us every time we went out for dinner. Overnight I had become one half of India’s most captivating love story with everyone and their grandmothers wanting to know what was happening. I could no longer go to my favourite bakery for some tea and egg puffs without people asking me a 101 questions. I couldn’t walk down the street without someone or the other pointing at me as they passed by. I’m not really sure how celebrities handle the fame. I guess, they need to get the attention to continue to remain famous. Me, I’m just an ordinary bloke.

I realized that just as I wanted her to be a part of my admittedly ordinary life and circle of friends, she too wanted me by her side for events that were important to her. I started joining her for red carpet events, film premiers, launch shoots and pretty soon I was a known face on the film party circuit. It was a world I had read about in newspapers and magazines and one that I never expected to be a part of. Everyone was friendly and welcoming but there was always that nagging feeling that I just didn’t fit in. When every guy at the table talked about buying a new SUV or picking up a new flat, there was a level of awkwardness when I mentioned that I still rode a bike and stayed in a rented flat with two other guys.

Sometimes I really wished that I could just spend a Friday night sitting with my friends and discussing, as always, how much life sucked because of the 2 evil W’s that middle class Indian men cannot run away from – Women and Work. Of course I was seeing a lot less of my friends these days since Jennifer had to be seen at all the social dos and I couldn’t afford to not be there lest the gossip mills get into overdrive.

Some of my long time buddies were understanding and were ready to meet up whenever I had a free weekend which was when Jennifer was out of town on work. Others weren’t so and honestly I don’t blame them. I was caught in a veritable no-man’s land and there just didn’t seem to be any simple solution to keep everyone happy. Which had me asking myself some tough questions – Was I really happy? Life wasn’t as simple as being transported to another world when you were with someone, was it? Did I fit into her world and she into mine? Were we just being blind to what was staring us in the face?

As I dealt with these doubts, Jennifer’s movie career had hit something of a rough patch as movie offers stopped coming in. India’s fickle audiences had seemingly had enough of their golden girl and were clamouring for a change and there was no dearth of actresses to take her place at the top of the movie industry. She was obviously upset about the whole thing and became a little difficult to deal with on occasion and I did my best to cheer her up. Elvis Costello’s timeless classic She became a song which I played over and over again each night and it almost seemed as though Elvis had managed to pull the words straight out of my heart and showcase them to the world. All this was until the day she showed what I now know to be her true colours.

( Read Part IV here )

She (Part IV)

We were at a Sunday brunch and the host had ensured that the drinks were plenty which predictably loosened tongues at the table. Jennifer had again drunk quite a bit more than what she usually did, an act that was becoming something of a regular feature, which meant she started mouthing off a couple of people at the table who she felt weren’t supporting her in her time of need.

Not wanting the scene to get uglier, I interrupted her and suggested I drop her back which is when she turned her ire on me. Nothing I had ever seen prepared me for the onslaught that battered my sense as she proceeded to rip me to shreds. I was at a complete loss for words as I was comprehensively overwhelmed and devastated by what she said. How could someone I had done so much for turn around and attack me with a vicious ferocity that was hidden deep under what I always thought was a calm and pleasant demeanor? I’ve had friends get angry and take out their frustration on me but nothing was ever said that couldn’t be mended over a hug and a drink. This was not the same. It was on a whole different plane altogether.

Even if things would ever get back to normal, I would always live with the knowledge that she would someday lose her temper again and that I just wasn’t cut out to handle it. I excused myself from the table and walked away with my head hung in shame even though I had done nothing to be ashamed of. The stark realization that I just wasn’t ready for a woman like her, and probably never would be, stung but it was a bitter pill that I knew I had to swallow for my own good. A sea of emotions threatened to engulf me as I realized she wasn’t coming after me to apologise for what she said. This wasn’t a movie. This was real life and about as real as it gets.


I woke up with a start and wiped my face which was drenched in sweat. I looked around in the dark and realized that I was in the familiar confines of my bedroom. I got out of bed and took out my phone to dial Jennifer and see if we could sort things out but I couldn’t find her number. I scrolled through the messages but strangely there was nothing there either. I sat down and tried to make sense of the whole thing.

I looked around my table for the photo frame which had what the both of us felt was our best picture together but I couldn’t find it anywhere. All I could see were files of loan application forms from different banks for a Suzuki GSX 1000R. Confused I switched on my laptop and again all I could see were different folders filled with wallpapers, videos and price details of various superbikes available in India. I tried doing a Google search on Neil + Jennifer but all I got in return were linked in profiles. I shut down my laptop and I walked back to my bed in a daze and tried to return to sleep which predictably was not forthcoming.

The pieces just didn’t fit in together. How could I have deleted her number? Why didn’t I have any messages from her on my phone? Surely I couldn’t have deleted all traces of her from my life. Even if that was possible, why couldn’t I find anything on her on the internet? What was happening? Was it all even real? Eventually I realized the truth and fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. She was the best and the worst thing to have never happened to me. And not one person on this planet knew her.