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.

She (Part II)

Friday. 18:45. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. No pressure whatsoever. Its ok Neil, it’s not like you haven’t gone out for dinner with a smart attractive woman before. Nice and easy. Just be yourself and everything will be fine. What could go wrong? The worst thing I could do was make a royal arse out of myself which wouldn’t really matter since no one believed that I was going out for dinner with a big movie star in the first place. My roommate popped his head into my room to see why I was talking to myself before I chased him away.

I looked at myself in the mirror for what possibly was the hundredth time and carefully examined my cheeks for the slightest hint of facial hair. Nothing seemed to have grown in the five minutes since I had last checked myself. I still had a lot of time on my hands and decided to get ready early and wait downstairs rather than making her wait for me. The first impression you make is a lasting impression and this is something that is especially true when it comes to women. I put on a CD loud enough to ensure that I could hear it and sing along while showering which is something that does wonders for calming my nerves.

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo

The perfect song for the perfect occasion. Mr. Marshall Mathers was asking the right question - if you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment would you capture it or just let it slip? Half way through my shower I decided that I wasn’t going to let this chance slip and decided to shave but I just couldn’t find my shaving kit anywhere. I didn’t bother to dry myself as I wrapped a towel around my waist and stepped into my room to locate my shaving kit. Still no luck.

I walked into the hall asking my roommate if he had seen my toiletries kit when I stopped in my tracks as I spotted Jennifer sitting on our sofa with a mile wide grin on her face as she looked at me standing in the middle of the hall, dripping wet with just a towel around my waist. An unfortunately pink towel that too. Which matched the colour of my cheeks as I turned around after mumbling an “Excuse me” much to the amusement of my roommates who by now had gotten over the shock of seeing Jennifer standing outside our door to pick me up.

I was certain they had a pretty good laugh about the pink towel scene. 5 minutes later I was ready and avoiding eye contact with my roommates, I left with Jennifer who thoughtfully, and much to my evident embarrassment, did remind me about the pink towel incident several times during our dinner at the rather plush restaurant we went to. Again I don’t have a clue about how time flew that evening and before I knew it, it was time to pay the cheque. Which to be honest was rather steep and several times more than what I usually paid for my usual Friday night outings with friends. Then again, my friends weren’t as funny or good looking as Jennifer. Plus they weren’t single. A small price to pay for scintillating company.

As I waited for her to return from the restroom before we left the restaurant, I caught a reflection of myself and paused to ponder. Maybe I was reading too much into the dinner, maybe she just thought of me as a friend, which surprisingly brought a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Could it be that the usually poised and collected Neil was starting to like a girl? I dismissed the thought. It’s way too early for that & besides I still hadn’t seen any signs yet from her which should make me think that she was looking for anything more than a friend.

As we walked back to the car, my mind split into two warring factions yet again. She took the initiative and got your number and asked you out for dinner. Now it’s time for you to do something. She’s going to think that you’re too nice and that you’re not interested in her. Don’t be stupid, she likes your company and she could probably do with a friend. It’s not like the movie industry is filled with nice people. She hasn’t done the least thing to make you think otherwise. Don’t be a fool and spoil anything. As much as I didn’t want to, I knew I had to listen to the voice of reason.

“Are you in any hurry to get home?” I asked and did everything I could to stop my hand from smacking my forehead in disbelief.
“No, why?”
“I was thinking maybe we could go for a drive or something” I replied and this time I did everything I could to stop myself from hitting my head on the dashboard. What had come over me? Where was my voice of reason?
“Of course we can” she replied and flashed her winning smile that made me glad to have thrown the voice of reason out the window. She dropped me home at my gate a couple of hours later and before saying goodbye I asked her if I could call her. “Only if I don’t call you first” she said with a smile and drove off. Now I’m no expert but I think she was flirting with me. As I walked up the stairs, I knew my roommates would be awake and waiting to interrogate me. Predictably though they didn’t believe a word of what I said when I told them about what happened that evening.

( Read Part III here )

She (Part I)

It is safe to say that every guy in India knows who she is and deep down, however many times they deny it, each one of them wishes that she in turn knows them. An extremely attractive young lady blessed with a smile that could make your heart melt in an instant, Jennifer made anything but a low profile entry into the hearts and minds of India by bludgeoning the established pecking order in the ever burgeoning movie industry by starring in one huge hit after the other. Every major company wanted her as their brand ambassador and with no known godfather or industry contacts to boast of, her rise to super-stardom was meteoric and at the same time puzzling to those who failed to realize that God given talent coupled with a unique look certainly can take you places in an industry obsessed with a casting couch.

And yet despite all her success, people knew next to nothing about her other than what stories the vivid imaginations of stoned and/or inebriated film journalists churned out in the tabloids. Truth be told, I’m not the biggest follower of the Indian movie industry and had only seen one of her critically acclaimed movies in which she did an excellent job of proving to the world that heroines in Indian movies need not be relegated to just looking pretty and playing dumb. Which was all I knew about her.

Life as I knew it, took an unexpected twist a couple of months ago when I dropped into a friend’s place for a dinner party of sorts to celebrate his first wedding anniversary. As fate would have it, I didn’t really know anyone else there and as I stood out there in the balcony waiting for dinner to get served, I was joined by a very familiar looking lady who as it turned out was an old school friend of the happily married first anniversary celebrating bride and happened to be in town and coincidentally didn’t know anyone else at the party either. For once I actually thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with a stranger and as I went to get her a drink I bumped into the host for the evening and asked him who the pretty girl on the balcony is.

“That’s a good one, man. You think I don’t know that you know who she is? I’m not as drunk as you think I am.”
“Honest to God, I don’t know. I’ve been talking to her for a while now and she’s really swell. But I kinda didn’t get around to asking her her name. And why does she look so familiar?”
“You daft idiot! You really don’t know who she is? Guess what’s common between the 3 Khan’s of Bollywood?”
“Errrr, their last name begins with K and ends with N?”
“Moron! She was the lead heroine in each of their latest blockbuster releases. You, my friend, have been talking to THE Jennifer that India has been talking about for the last few months. Every guy in here, single or married has hit on her without any success and you apparently have something that none of the other guys in here don’t. Now be a good boy and have fun! I have to get back to my other guests”

With a pat on my back, he moved on to meeting and greeting the other guests and I walked back to the balcony with my usually indolent mind racing while trying to comprehend what I had just heard. Taking a deep breath, I shut out everything else and over the next couple of hours proceeded to talk and laugh about everything under the sun with a lady who didn’t even know my name.

As much as I didn’t want to accept it, it was eventually time to leave and as I walked her back to her car, I wondered over and over again whether I should ask her for her number. If it was any consolation, by now she at least knew my name and I hers but that was all that was exchanged in terms of an introduction. Well of course I should ask her for her number, said one side of my brain, when was the last time you actually had such a wonderful time? I was also distinctly aware of the other side of my brain that kept reminding me that even though Notting Hill was my favourite movie, it was after all a movie. Make believe. These things don’t happen in real life to ordinary people. For all I know, I could just have been a conversation partner for someone who was bored at a party and who met people smarter, funnier, better looking and wealthier than me every day.

This is it, take a chance, you idiot, screamed my mind as I shut her door with a smile and watched her car pull away. As I walked back to my bike, I turned around to see if she had stopped her car and had returned to get my number. Of course she hadn’t. That happens only in the movies. Predictably my roommates didn’t believe a word of what I said when I told them about my company for the evening.


“You ******* ****! How did you do it?”
“Do what?”
“Now don’t play I don’t know what you’re talking about, you lucky ******! She called my wife and wanted your number and my better half has given it to her”

Of course I knew who he was talking about. Why else would my friend call me during trading hours to shower abuses on me when he could be making lakhs off the stock market instead?

“You ******* know who I am talking about. She’s going to call you. Soon. Looks like she fancies you. Not sure why. Thought she was the smart kind. Word of warning though, don’t get too involved. Remember she’s high class; you’re a commoner like all of us. She could dump you with the snap of her fingers and walk away with any of the big industrialists or movie stars who are vying for her attention. Just like that. And you’re the one that’s going to be nursing a broken heart. There’s a reason nice guys finish last mate. It’s because they attract the wrong sort of women. Have your fun but don’t get too involved.”

Not that he knew anything about women, he ended up marrying his college sweetheart and hence had no clue what women other than his wife think. But I had to admit, the part about being sensible about the whole thing did make a lot of errr sense.

She did call me later that day and after talking for a while asked me if we could meet up for dinner. Thankfully this time my brain decided not to play devil’s advocate and we agreed to catch up on Friday. Finalizing the location though, proved to be a bit of a bother because she wasn’t used to going to the places that I frequented and vice versa. I offered to pick her up but then I realized she probably wasn’t going to be too comfortable on the back seat of my bike and so we finally decided that she would pick me up by 8 in her car and dinner was to be at a place of her choice. Predictably my roommates didn’t believe a word of what I said when I told them about my plan for Friday evening.

( Read Part II here )