Saturday, December 18, 2010

Leaks 3

The main grouse of the Zatan seemed to be the 200 Rupee limit on gifts. Well here's the last mail in the series:

From Secret Zatan
To meoffice>

Subject: The last post - Confessions of a Zatan

This is the last Zatan mail. Do NOT read further and get offended. It might sound insulting, even when that's not the objective. Please delete.

I read up some good stuff about gentleness, kindness, and all that...and I feel I was wrong. It's made a difference. I'm a changed man....
These are some of the stuff I found on a page:

Speak for yourself.

One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can't utter.
James Earl Jones

The worst prison would be a closed heart.
Pope John Paul II

Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, a touch that never hurts.
Charles Dickens

Such words might move people in a way that swords or orders never can. Coming back to where we left off the last time, I was walking through Ibrahim Sahib street yesterday looking for something. What do I buy her? Hmmm.. Maybe a Salwar Kameez? Found a good looking one. But with the lining it will go beyond budget. Looking at the prices may be I'll just get her the lining and let her figure out the rest. sau rupayee mein miltha kya hai aaj kal?
Kuch nahin miltha

I'm getting so obsessed with this whole affair. Last night's nightmare was the culmination.

I won a lottery. The sponsors of the event are present, and they're all standing up and clapping while someone with a mask hands over the hefty prize package of one crore rupees to me.
I begin to open it. The atmospehere is electric, as the studio suddenly comes alive. People are making Mexican waves and shouting "Hurrah, lucky've made it." In the distance Nirmal danced his ever so memorable rain dance in the most alluring fashion. "Open it." A voice boomed. With trembling fingers I opened the package. Inside the package, there it was, emblazoned in letters of crimson and gold, a royal lot of freshly minted Two Hundred Rupees notes! On the notes, instead of the Gandhi watermark, there was the skull and the crossbow. That really knocked the nightlights out of me, and I woke up, screaming, sweating, panting, like a chick in some B-grade flick.
That's when I decided, I'd better be good.
What about all of you?
Are we all good?
The occasionally rising temper?
Words that we sometimes use that cuts more than we intended?
A modicum of intolerance toward something (c'mon saints)?
Slightest pangs of jealousy that we may feel even when we congratulate someone?
Time wasted thinking about opportunities lost without looking at the life ahead of us?
Getting worked up for nothing (Big John doesn't pay)?
Refusing to believe that your opposition might be correct?
Not applying logic and reason?
Secretly feeling happy that someone volunteered to handle a headache that was coming your way?

The list is endless my friends. I admit I have some of the above sometimes. And that's what keeps me sane...human.
If it was not, then I would be you know who.
Folks...I sincerely hope this mail made sense.

So lets continue playing the best angels that we are capable of. FYI, I had started that on day one I received the chit. And I'm angel to a guy I know. I'm planning to get him a good book.

That begs the question. Can we walk outside of the constraints of a chit and be an angel to everyone? Tough ask?
As a token of appreciation, can we get something for that guy, who's been carrying the lunch for 40 people, climbing 4 floors, without fail for the past eighteen months or so? Oh...I forgot..he's just a contract fellow.

We are living in some contradicting times:

Germans who did not want the Iraq war
Tiger Woods ruling the white man's game
Rupee moving against the dollar
Guess a Zatan with some love can fit in somewhere there.

There's already a lot of filth in the world around us.
Thank God that we are not there....and not that bad.

Long live Michael Jackson (minus his alleged pdo background)

But My Friend You Have Seen Nothing
Just Wait 'Til I Get Through . . .
Because I'm Bad, I'm Bad-Really, Really Bad
And The Whole World Has To Answer Right Now Just To Tell You Once Again,
Who's Bad . . .?????

- Breaking news: Zanzani khabar...An admin assistant in Clown college dropped dead while reviewing student applications for 2008. The Dean had applied.

Wishing you all a Merry X'mas and a Happy 2nuts8,
Whether you like it or not,
The Last of the Zatans.


Wish you all a Merry X'mas and be good!!!! :)

Somebody else:

Hey people,

Whoever this 'Zatan' person is, I'd definitely like to meet him/her. Wouldnt it be gr8 fun if we could get to know his/her identity on the 20th after we all get to know who our angels are!!! What say?



:D Yup u r right!!!!!!!!!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Leaks 2

From Zatan

All right..."The girl next door" packs a punch in her response.
Couple of rules:
1. Read this only if you have spare time. It's a guaranteed waste.
2. Upon reading this, you need to either smile or frown (latter preferred). Remember: It takes 43 muscles to frown and 17 to smile, but it doesn't take any to just sit there with a dumb look on your face. (c)

That nasty angel of mine is pestering me in all manner possible. Dude/dudy wants to know what I want. Look...for one last time. I have all that I want that comes for 200 bucks. I am reasonably managing my life without stressing myself out.

Now YOU and YOUR whiny messages are stressing me.

So angel…if you promise not to nag further, you can gift me the following:

Two stress balls and
One stress bat (yeah the electric one you kill mosquitoes with).
Should come for Rs. 180.
Keep the change thank you.

Phew...Now that's settled.
Jellybum's nasty as ever. Yesterday I loitered around her place, trying to look nice and give
some sort of hints. Didn't work. She looked right through me as though I was Mandira Bedi's sari.
Worse, the office grapevine tells me in the evening that she thinks I'm hitting on her. Boy!

Now here are my ideas for her:
How about 20 scratch lottery tickets? Haan/Naah?

May be a T-shirt which says:

"Samandar mein su su karne se Tsunami nahin hoti"
Might get slapped.

You must be thinking I'm jobless, sitting here typing out these long mails. You got me wrong there. I got enough work to make a living. Yet I manage to write hate mails.


Evil has it's own ways.
It makes my b******s tingle

Secret Zatan
Z to me office> show details 12/13/07

Hi Zatan,

You are NOT funny!!! I wonder if anyone has told u that!!!. You mails make no sense!!. I think we should all donate 10p each and enrol you in CLOWN SCHOOL.

And if you ever manage to graduate, we shall then send you to CLOWN COLLEGE!!!!!.

On behalf of the
ABC Team.

POS to me show details 12/13/07

Cheers N, Great mail!! we share your sentiments.

On behalf of the XYZ Team

D to office>
show details 12/13/07

Hey zatan, I guess you should be the owner of this right?
Or even the best, you should start something called;
You could always ask for suggestions from US!!!

On behalf of the
Support Team J
Zeta to: me office>

Hey Zatan!!!

I, personally, on behalf of no one else, applaud your efforts at bringing in a bit of humor!!!

I appreciate your sense of irony and think that you could be a great trainee/graduate at or!!!

Again, on behalf of no one else but ME, I appreciate that you choose to look at the evil and nasty as well as the good and the funny…

Two sides of the same coin…taliyan ek haath se nahi bajthi… yaadi yaada…

SO!! Cheers to your fresh perspective!! If nothing else, there is still one person hankering after your delicious attempt at irony and intrigue…

On behalf of

Zeta to: me office>
show details 12/13/07

To the Secret Zatan:

“From the valleys and halls of the dark Mordor…
Arises a power that no one can ford off…

The slime and filth forgotten in no haste…
Zatan leaves a sour taste…

In the minds of the lesser mortals
As his subtle reach surely throttles
The gift of love, joy and peace…

But there are some that never adore
The sweet nothings of the Xmas radar
The deer, the light, the yawn and the fight…
Splendidly does Zatan arise;

And behold in true splendor
The gift of gab
An ugly task…truly a mind bender

For the nasty little jibe does hurt
Zatan in his glory is curt

Take a moment dear friends!!
To appreciate, what no one else attempts -
To bring in to the dark ages

A wee smile…and humor from its cages.

Slash!! Grr! Colleges galore!
May (s)he never forget
The bitter truth of ancient lore:

What goes up comes down…
Evil and the good – two sides of the same coin

What perseverance, if shown
Comes with insight and not a moan
What cheer in the world is left…

If Zatan is lost and the truth is bereft???””

Disclaimer: This email is intended for the use of the individual addressee(s) named above and may contain information that is confidential, privileged or unsuitable for overly sensitive persons with low self-esteem, no sense of humor or irrational religious beliefs. If you are not the intended recipient, any dissemination, distribution or copying of this email is not authorized (either explicitly or implicitly) and constitutes an irritating social faux pas. Please note that this message represents the official view of the voices in my head.

Sajish GP me
show details 12/13/07

Hey Satan,

I gotta suggestion for you...
For once, why don't you try thinking like a Santa. Just need to reorder 3 letters in your name.
If not, try graduating from that Clown College. If you succeed we'll chip in some more cash, and send you to the Indian parliament - the greatest collection of clowns.

Again on behalf of everyone in this office who does not object to the above,

From someone to me office.
show details 12/13/07

Ha! Ha! We bow to the your words... well said, and cheers to that !!!!

Zeta to: me office>

Good one Sajish!! LOL!

How about some tales of kindness and compassion? Must be tough for you. But try.

Remember life is about good and bad. Do not just glorify bad. Look at the other side too. It might be brighter at least!
Nevertheless, I shall pitch in too!!



X to me office> show details 12/14/07



1. A copy of the book " A CHRISTMAS CAROL"( Of course not an original copy but a used copy from an Avenue street store)

If you do not know what that book is about go to the links below and refresh your memories or just remember "SCROOGE"

2. A pirated copy of the movie "How the Grinch stole Christmas"

Well thats it for now!!! Please feel free to contribute to this list!!!!!!!!!!

Have a nice day !!!!!!!!!!!

S to me office> show details 12/14/07

Hey X,

That's really funny! Those r excellent gift ideas for giving Zatan!!!

Waiting for the rest of the list :)


Since this is the age of Wiki leaks, here's part one of an unofficial office e-mail chain that did the rounds during a Christmas of yester years. There was this fellow called Secret Zatan, anti thesis of sorts to the Secret Angel campaign running at that time. Some mails are pretty long, especially if you have the time to go through parts 2 and 3 in this chain.

From Secret Zatan
To meoffice>

It was a sad rainy day. I went out for lunch and came back to the office slighly drenched.
Should I make it a half-day, I'm thinking.
I notice some movement in the corridor. It's the HR lady.
She walks into the floor and stands next to me.
She has this bunch of chits in a sad looking box.
She thrusts the box into my face and says "pick one."
I blink. "What for?"
And she says "Secret Angel!!! ofcourse" with a look as though I should've been playing this game all my life. I asked her if it was optional. Nope. No luck there.

I picked one praying that the chit would be mine. No gifts, no funny emails or messages. Nope, no luck there either.

So I'm playing this clunky game, playing angel to a jellybum I never knew existed. I tried smiling at her the next day and she had this "yew, why are you leering at me" look.

#x*%, I suck at this. Why push me into this socializing campaign. Let me alone!!!!
The worst is listening to giggles from neighbourhood cubicles:
"Look what my secret angel send me?"
"Let me have a look...Oooh flowers soooo cuuuute."
BTW I got a card from some moron who is playing angel to me. He/she has asked me in a chweet way to guess the angel. Guess what? I don't know who you are and I don't care. But I sure do know that you gotta hell of spare time on your hands to decorate and paint a silly little card.

Now I gotta figure what to buy for the jellybum. Something that will make her purr and say "oooo nice." Any ideas?

-Secret Zatan
X to me,
details 12/11/07

Hey Satan, you were too nasty!!! Grrr...

Y to me
show details 12/11/07

I AGREE!!!!! Ahem :D

Saturday, November 20, 2010

II. How Ayda came to be

Every child in Ayda knows about its origins. Their knowledge isn't complete, but it goes like this.
Hundreds of years ago, there existed beyond the Eastern ridges of the Kshitidarr, a land called Halyian, one that was more bountiful than Ayda, thirteen times its size, with a huge sprinkling of people. The world of Eywa was not known in its entirety then. And before then, nothing is known, except that people loved what they had, hunting game and perfecting the fine art of growing seeds into food that fed their clan. They settled in Halyian, at the time when the Great King united their clans into one common brotherhood.
The kingdom flourished, but like every thing else, all good things must come to pass. There came a wave of destruction and death, so forceful and unforgiving, that the Great King had to flee. And away they moved to the mountains to escape, where two fears crossed. They feared to step on the mountains, for the Gods they did worship dwelt there. But, overcome by fear fed by evil, they did decide to make the traverse over the Eastern ridge. At what cost, they were to lament, for all the seasons to come.
On the lower reaches, they waited. Much to their relief, the reconnaissance party that had gone ahead had found a pass, dangerous but not insurmountable for the strong and able. Some of the weak were to be left behind. On the next day, the Great King and his best horsemen started first, with prayers of forgiveness on their lips for stepping on the abode of the Gods. Little did they know that pleasant weather was soon to give way. Storm clouds whirled over the mountain in a matter of painful moments engulfing the royal party. When the weather finally cleared, all movement that could be noticed from below was an eagle that circled close to the pass.
Led by their Queen, the remainder of people who made their way to the pass the next day saw below them, in the depths of the mountain, the remains of twenty horsemen who had fallen to their deaths in an icy lake. The storm had blinded the Great King and his best men to their fall. Saddened, but spurred on by what lay behind them, the party pressed on with their march into the unknown. They moved very slowly, weary from hunger, cold, wind, and fear.
The marksmen guarding the rear were the last to make the traverse. When they finally joined the party, they brought with them the news that all those who were left behind were never shown the mercy of death by those whom they were fleeing.
One more day passed, till all could finally rest. When they did, they made a cairn just below the snowline on the other side of the mountain, in memory of the dead and all whom they had left behind. The Queen decreed on that day that no man, woman, or child was ever to cross the cairn of the Great King, for evil lay on the other side. And the noblest of the royal family, no less, would stand guard. From the highest foothill there, as the mist lifted, they sighted Ayda, and they were indeed the first men to do so. They felt a strong warm wind in their faces, one which gave them some relief from despair. It was from a sea, which they did later discover and name Valle Annar.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I. The Pain of Ayda

The Queen Mother looked around from the window in the morning, as the first rays of Vetar kissed her kingdom. Perched at a small elevation, the nucleus of the kingdom was a perfect vantage point. She watched with contentment the numerous villages that surrounded the palace and the lush farmlands that stretched beyond them as far an hour’s flight for the strongest eagle in her aviary. In the distance she could see the foothills and the permanently snow-capped peaks of the Eastern ridge that marked the end of the Kshitidarr, the Great Mountains. It was said that Kshitidarr kept all the rainfall sent from the heavens from escaping the realm of Ayda. Beyond the ridge, lay lands of barrenness for distances obscene, where birds died of exhaustion before they found a trace of life, if the bards are to be believed.

There were signs of peace, and peace alone, all around. Peace, along with the years of prosperity brought boredom alongside. A little kid in a farm far outside the crown couldn't help notice that even the corn was bored by the constant iAydanaction, even when it swayed freely to the westerly breeze. The western winds picked up some speed toward noon and carried with them a wailing that was unnatural, nothing like the kid in the farmland had heard before.

The Princess had passed away, and the golden vibrance of the palace suddenly seemed to have peeled away to welcome shades of white, grey, and black. The Queen Mother, however, was not one to cry. Her watchful eyes carefully flitted from the eyes of one courtier to the other, whose sorrow knew no bounds. She was looking for a sign behind those tears and beneath those voices, for the princess died not a noble death. Moments after the spirit of the Princess of Ayda drifted away from the world of men that noon, her body had turned a ghastly blue. For strange as it may sound, poison was unheard of in Ayda, and not a snake ever hissed in anyone’s living memory.

A few moments passed and the Queen quietly made her way to the antechamber. Moving the linens from the windows, she saw the fluttering regalia of the dispatch riders, eight of them, on the best beasts in the kingdom move swiftly to the East. Leading the pack was Aniveh, her eldest son. They soon would pass the news to the King, the seer who dwelt in the highest foothills of the Kshitidarr. Much ahead of them riders, she saw Garde, the fiercest of her kind, with the mournful message tied to her talons. The Queen sensed discomfort, watching Garde flap her huge wings in the horizon, the span of which became a tad smaller with each passing moment, to her anxious eyes. She looked down at the fields, and found her anxiety heightened by the rays of Vetar that bounced off the polished shields tied to the backs of her dispatch riders.

The Queen Mother looked away.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ad for good times

Scientific research has shown that the intake of beverages like beer does influence the amount of micturition (yeah).
Nobody's paying me for this. In a generous display of generosity, here's a free ad for Kingfisher beer.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Goddesses of petty things

Arundhati “Booker” Roy is an interesting person. She does have some jaded techniques in her arsenal. Before we start with her, let me tell you a personal experience. I’m using one of Roy’s cheeky techniques here.

Somewhere in the early part of this decade, I was in Mumbai. Fresh from college days of student activism, I got an invite from one of my friends to go to a tribal village near Panvel with activists from an NGO based in the US. Boy, was I happy. So the crew was my friend, three Indian activists from the US - a haggard and intelligent looking man, two ladies, a student of Physics from IIT Powai, and me. All three of them had come down from the US. The two ladies, if I remember correctly (I have a bad case of dementia), were studying in US.

So we land in this tribal village late afternoon. The village was perched halfway on a hill, somewhere near the Mumbai-Pune expressway. Those were the days when the opposition to the expressway had been raging because of displacement issues. We just hung around, had some yummy local food, and just casually chatted with locals, and the day was over. Next morning, we started trekking through forests up to another village. One of these ladies had (in the morning) changed from her casual attire to what seemed to my fashion sense as a cotton Saree. On the way, we reached a nice vantage point, which offered a clear view of the expressway at a distance, snaking its way. And the Saree Lady remarked “what an ugly sight!” I could not see anything ugly about the expressway, but I knew she had the pangs of the displaced people in her mind when she said that. At that point I was wondering about the hypocrisy embedded in her statement. She goes to US for studies or whatever, takes advantage of the infrastructure there including (but not limited to) the Interstate, comes back to the tribal belt, looks at a similar infrastructure project, and says “fugly”.

She then climbs on to a rock and raises her hand up in a sloganeering posture, and asks someone to take a picture. And I was thinking, “dude, you have some cheap thrill issues here.” And we reach the destination village before noon. Now this is not a tribal village that you might normally envision. These folks have normal lifestyles, even though they have a tribal ethnic background, and they are perched atop a wooded hill. They had one or two shops, and stuff like that. We had a good lunch there. While lunching, the Saree Lady kept questioning people whether they regularly participate in morchas (sloganeering and stuff), and how many morchas have they participated in. From their reaction, I felt this village was cool to those questions, noncommittal in a way.

I learnt during the course of our discussions that this village was funky. They were self-sufficient because they brew booze, what is known as desi daaru (liquor made from fermented fruits and flowers) in local lingo. They supply to nearby villages and townships. Desi daaru is even available in Mumbai. No wonder, the folks were looking well-off.

And then we had this open ground meeting, where the whole village assembled. There was some rhetoric about the expressway and the loss of land. People were more or less indifferent. Our Saree Lady shouted some slogans in Marathi and asked them to repeat, which they promptly did. I take them to be staple slogans of the resistance.

Three or four villagers then took us to their source of water, higher up in the hills. All along this way, we had a projection in the ground on our sides, which they explained were pipes. After a few kilometers of walk, we reached the Adivaasis’ Dam. They had stopped the waterflow from a few streams and constructed a small dam of sorts from mud and stuff like that, laid pipes for kilometers at their own expense to make sure the water was there. I did not wear a hat that day, but I took one off for these entrepreneurs.

Walking back, I was a different person, in awe of these tribal folk, who identified their key competency. They had the resources of the forest for their brew, they solved the water problem, and they were making good money. The NGO was trying to convert them by telling them to grow/sell vegetables (and participate in morchas). Cmon, you don’t ask the Mallyas’ to grow cucumber!

Back to Arundhati Roy. Some people, (I'm borrowing some lines from a pal) are not happy with the oppressed joining the mainstream. For them, the oppressed have to be there facing further injustice, they have to fight, they have to take out morchas . The vigilante needs the so-called oppressed to remain where they are, when the rest of the world is running crazy just to play catch-up. If the oppressed dares to move on, the vigilante would have the potatoes to ask them to grow veggies. These are indeed the times for the goddesses of petty things.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Stok Kangri

Stok Kangri @6127m is taller than most mountains.
In fact, if it were located in Africa, Europe, Antarctica, or Australia, it would have been the tallest mountain in it's continent.

Too bad for you Stok, that you are in Asia, which has all the fourteen 8000m + peaks in the world. It's a shame.

But wait. May be, it's good that you're in Asia. And for me, may be it's too good you are in Ladakh, India.

9-10 months more Stok. Let's forget eight-thousanders for now. 6 thousand will do.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Perfect Storm ain't so perfect after all - Part II

I was apprehensive about the Commonwealth Games. I still am. People told me that the inauguration was terrific. So I watched some videos on Youtube. I think what we saw was fair and decent. Now, that does not absolve corruption. But we'll save "corruption" for a day when there's nothing else to talk about.

What struck me was the "average" Indian crowd. They booed when they felt like it, they clapped and roared when they felt like it - and this behavior was spot on, which makes me an average Indian, if not an over-age one. Kalmadi got his share of boos. Maadi means "do" in Kannada. Kal could mean yesterday or tomorrow in Hindi. Weird - Hindi - that ways. We don't know if KalMaadi did it yesterday or will do tomorrow, now that 2020 Olympic talks are in the air. He's already done shit, the glitz of the opening ceremony notwithstanding.

Back to the topic of the crowds. I can almost feel like Shuja-ud-din-Malik, the flag-bearer for Pakistan, a few seconds before he walked into the stadium. And this is what he'll probably say to his grand children. "I was feeling awkward. Was thinking, will they boo me and my country? It would be a slap on my country's face that cannot be erased with a thousand Kargils. Charles prince was watching. And out I step into the stadium named after Nehru, and you know Nehru as the opposite of Jinnah don't you, and would you believe it, I walk into a cheer and a roar that even the Indian contingent could not even have hoped for. I didn't know what to think of. I mean, what the hell was wrong with these people? They were to throw their shoes...whatever. But then I thought, enjoy it....I think they meant it. So before you take up guns, know that..."

Delhi means it. Cheers to the people of Delhi and to the rest of us who were there. This was the biggest message that we could have sent to our brothers from across the border. F$%# the pointless peace talks. The common man in India wants you to be good - with us and with yourself.

P.S: All that said, where have all the beggars in Delhi gone? My sources tell me there are none to be seen.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Perfect Storm ain't so perfect after all!

Too early to say, but generally I’m happy with the Ayodhya verdict. No – not because Ram Janmabhoomi is now accepted by the court. Not because Muslims got a share. Not because 1/3rd of the jury was Muslim, so that there’s fair representation. And, not at all because a temple is going to be built in Ayodhya.

I’m happy because my country is not burning. Happy for the thousands who could possibly have lost their lives. Waris Mazhari*, editor of Urdu magazine Tarjuman-e-Dar-ul-Uloom reacted: "I think if the Sunni Waqf Board would have won the entire case then our community would have suffered more. I strongly believe a large number of Muslims are fed up of the Babri mosque issue and we want to move ahead."

It is a fact that a unilateral ruling would have ignited unprecedented passions. It is also a fact that a lot of political mileage could have been drawn from such a verdict. Thankfully, that’s all over. Indian judiciary has prevailed.

I’m reminded of the Maha Bharath in which the Kauravas denied the Pandavas even the space to plant a needle. That obstinacy led to one of the biggest wars in mythology. We can be thankful for the fact the heads of the Allahabad High Court did not think like the court of Duryodhana.

I had written in my last post about the perfect storm. Part of it has been averted. It is in moments like these that you believe in God!

@ Waris Mazhari and everyone:
means the City of God in Persian (I think the obvious reference is to Allah). It is in the City of God that the honorable judges declared their verdict. Incidentally, Allahabad is also called Prayag, which in Sanskrit means place of sacrifice. Let’s sacrifice our egos and move ahead. Both these religions believe God is omnipresent - with or without a place of worship.

*Thanks to Rediff

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Perfect storm

A bunch of Naxals
September 24th - Ayodhya verdict
Past few months - A burning Kashmir
October 3rd - Commonwealth Games
Obama in November
IM does try...a few shots outside Juma

Thursday, September 9, 2010

foxes alone may pass

Please feel free to click on the images for larger versions.

Now, one or two who check this blog occasionally have told me personally about the typos and grammar issues in this blog. And I tell them that I just type out stuff and don't check it later for errors (thus denying them the thrill of what would otherwise be a valid case of gotcha) . Well, I can afford it, coz it's just a blog. It ain't no newspaper. Actually this blog stands somewhere in the long continuum between a news paper and the other paper that people use for less benign purposes. But newspapers and organizations should know better. Here's why. Look at this one for instance:

"Is golf is giving up on Tiger Woods?" Now that's a sad title even for Tiger. If you agree with me on that, here's something less intensive. It's just a typo. But a typo in a title? Hmm!

Anti naional? Whatever. Now for mother lode. The Hindu. Stop dropping your jaws. The Hindu won't give you typos. What it gave was this:
"Sensex surge on better growth concerns" Better growth concerns? How can a stock market surge on better growth concerns? Hindu - may be this was your first faux pas in 122 years.

Move on to the Harvard Business Review. This ain't a typo or a grammo. I was trying to get a subscription and was looking at payment options and here's what I found:

Now if the only option is a credit card, why should we have a drop down menu for payment options. May be that will be the next HBR case study.

Unrelated, but this peculiar thought sets me thinking tingly (a.k.a un thoughte a la peculiare a mon souffle:). Should we call the process for a grammar check, a grammogram?

This one to sign off. Rediff getting paranoid about Shashi Tharoor:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tsen 3

A PG is a Poor Girl's accommodation. Thus a PG is actually a PJ.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Once upon a time in Kerala


I'd been to Kerala last weekend for Prem's wedding. Met with an accident. It took an accident to realize that something's wrong with the devas of God's own country. We were traveling at around 70 kmph when this old man kind of did a flip-flop step while crossing the road. Despite a sudden brake and a screeching halt we managed to hit the poor fellow who plonked to the tarmac. I ran out and picked him up (to clarify, luckily for him, I wasn't driving). He took my hand and uttered the two most beautiful words ever from an accident victim- "Haaappeee Oooonammmm". For the uninitiated, Onam is Kerala's equivalent of New Year, the day when a good king from ancient times visits us to see whether all of us are in peace and in one piece. But this old man was so drunk, he did not even know what hit him. As usual the drama after an accident unfolds with people milling around us. He was not hurt badly - just a few bruises here and there. However, what was really odd was the fact that everyone around me in Kerala were Irish - drunk like crazy. We managed to move the old man to a hospital. His son came in and looked pissed (from what I assumed, he was miffed - possibly having been called out of a binge drinking session).

There was another interesting incident in which an insurance agent went into a morgue to sleep after feeling tipsy. You can imagine the scare he created. I know I eulogized our drinking habits in a previous post, but the situation is fast getting out of hand. A population of alcoholics can do no good for tomorrow.

Now to the other sin that my state is part of - lottery. How much is that worth? The leader of opposition says that is at least worth Rs.40 crore a day. Lottery gets a lot of press these days with allegations of corruption - with obviously the government on one side and private players on the other. A kingpin in the gambling racket is a fellow called Santiago Martin - names don't get more mafia than that.

Together booze and lucky draws are worth 26,000 crores at least - close to 6 billion dollars worth of business in a year. And don't get me started on the other vices like pros-tagonism.

I just looked up the GDP numbers and these two sins alone would put my tiny state ahead of 50 out of 180 nations listed by IMF, much ahead of Kyrgistan and Nicaragua.

But I see glimmers of a silver lining. Possibly in the next post, we'll talk about it.

P.S: BTW, I took a bumper lottery ticket....just in case luck comes calling and asks for some sort of a supporting document.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bangalore musings 1

It is true that Bengalooru has a strong tech flavor. Chances are that you have been asked by strangers when you visit any other part of the country if you are "in software." Somehow people believe that all of those who work in Bangalore are software fellows, that's what they are, and that's what they are all meant to do.

Few years back, I was admitted in a hospital in Trivandrum three weeks before my wedding down with chicken pox. The middle-aged lady doc who was treating me asked the same question. I replied in the negative and and she was surprised and wanted to know what else could I possibly do in Bangalore. I did not want to start a gyan session on "content management" so I plainly told her I work in publishing. Curiosity does not end there - she wanted to know if I'd been to the USofA on projects. I said no. Next question - will I be getting a chance to go to the US. I told her I really don't know. Not the sort of itching and irritating questions that you want to answer when you're down with chicken pox. Any way, after much prodding she left me thinking I'm one of those way-down-the-pecking-order Bangalorean who prints something for a living who will never see Statue of Liberty in his life. The logic behind the questioning must be simple - groom hunting for a relative. A guy in Bangalore, who makes "software", who goes to US or Belgium or any other exotic location on projects is a safe bet.

Well, almost. There were two years in recent history when parents of homely girls were willing to bang laptops on the heads of any broker (more on this breed later) who uttered the word "software." Those were the good old days of depression when people were losing IT jobs like anything. Now that green shoots are sprouting everywhere, and that "the worst is behind us" the marriage market for "software" is apparently back.

Back to Bangalore. The other day I was purchasing vegetables (I do that) and I saw this IT family with a kid. Dad was sporting his favorite apparel - company T-shirt- and mom was wearing the usual techie wife's attire - jeans and top. The kid should have been a year and a half old. Training session inside veggie shop - Dad keeps his hand to his head and says "Dekho beta (See, son :-), Oh...Shit" The kid did not pay much attention. So daddy goes again urging the kid to reapeat. "Dekho beta, Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh...Shit" I heard him say the stuff at least 5, 6 times. Thankfully, the kid did not pick it up (or may be like all kids, he loved embarrassing his dad in front of others).
I pitied the scenario. Mom picking vegetables, dad teaching the kid Swearing 101.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


A bit upset about a man that I knew only from newspapers. PG Tenzing is no more. Like all mavericks that are bound to follow, and countless before. Like....this fellow I never knew.
I love them mavericks. I think I will love your book PG.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Inception, The Movie

Spoiler Warning: Please do not read this if you plan to watch the “Inception.” This might plant some ideas that are not supposed to be yours.

Written, produced, and directed by Chirstopher Nolan

This was one the most stressful movies for me – ever. Why? You just couldn’t afford to walk out of the movie hall not understanding it. A few of my friends and colleagues had already watched it and they liked it. And the rumor mills suggested that those who did not like the movie had not understood it! That’s like damned if you don’t.

The idea behind the movie is good and simple. Get into people’s subconscious minds, plant an idea, and let it grow. Simple ideas are so beautiful that they continue to wow us whenever they appear. So far, so good.

The visual effects were amazing – in exactly one scene in the whole movie – where the whole world kind of inverts while the lady architect learns Projections 101. Ok, if you want to be generous, the van slow motion scene or the zero gravity fight scene may help stifle a yawn or two. We have seen the rest of the stuff before (earth trembling, waves crashing, buildings crumbling etc.). Btw, there is a public interest litigation filed in the Supreme Court to ask the Censor Board to remove all future scenes that shows a shaking glass with a little bit of water in it whenever there’s a slight tremor in a movie.

One thing I liked about the movie is the time-elongation part when you go into the dreams. Imagine a real life project management situation - you have a project that’s due in a day and your colleague tells you s/he needs another ten days to complete it. What do you do? Till now all that one could do was put up a brave face and a fake smile that hides a snigger, give a pat on the shoulder, tell the client that we are doing our best, and pray for the rest.

Man – if this dream stuff could really happen, that script is gonna change. Pop some sedative made by the chemist in the movie into a cup of coffee, go to your colleague with a warm smile and tell him/her “Really? Ten days? Hokay! Try to speed it up a little bit buddy, and hey, while you’re at it, here’s some coffee to brighten you up.”

Time Conversion ratio: Level 1 ten seconds = Level 2 ten minutes = Level 3 one hour.

At level 2 conversion rate, one hour equals 60 hours. I bet every damn project manager was drooling over this prospect while watching this movie. Perfect solution to a project that’s in a limbo.

Some things stood out:

a. The first time they’re trying to wake up LDCaprio from his dream. Shake. Shake. Shake. The guy just doesn’t wake up. And I was thinking “hmm…why don’t they just sprinkle some water on his face?” And the director was like “Excuse me, what did you suggest? I didn’t quite hear that? What…oh...water? Ok” And then our hero is pushed into that bath tub and there are waves all around. Talk about overdoing things.

b. That slow-motion van in the level 1 dream. That van got hit by more bullets than were ever fired in this planet since the launch of the Enfield.

c. Here’s the line that I liked best in the movie. “Welcome to the real world, ___.”
Doesn’t that sound like you had heard it yesterday? Well, you did not. It’s from the Matrix.
For some more from the Matrix, go to Appendix C.

Let’s take a look at characters:

L.D. Caprio & family: I forgot what they called him in the movie. For simplicity sake let’s call him what Kate Winslet used to call him - Jack. Well I thought somebody ought to have kicked the stuff out of him. I mean, he was the one imagining things, and needed to see a shrink in the first place. Here is somebody doing the most dangerous thing ever attempted and his whole life and future rests on it. But he is too preoccupied with his wife and kids to be a key player in the team. You can forgive his wife because she was dead and was only living in his memories. That explains the “why did they kick me out of the mental hospital ambulance” look on her face that she carries with élan throughout the movie.

But what about the kids? We are told that they are alive. But for the first time in my life, I hated kids. I mean, there’s something exciting about to happen, and those kids are there, with their backs to us, and Jack loses his focus. There’s something grave about to happen, and those kids are there, with their backs to us, and Jack loses his focus. There’s nothing happening, and those kids are there, with their backs to us, and we don’t care if Jack loses his focus. There should be a legal limit to the number of times you can show your derriere to the audience.

To top it off, Jack is scared to look at their faces. He does not call out to them when they are playing outside, he cringes when his wife offers to show him their faces (in Level 3 = limbo) and we don’t know why. I was expecting it was something about their faces. And Mr. Nolan, if you thought you would wow us in the climax by showing us their faces, get a life. That was a case of cooties. This reminds me of an old Hindi movie about the army in which Aditya Pancholi has a very depressed look throughout the movie. His senior officer, Mithun Shaka-laka-borthy, asks him on a number of occasions why he is so udaas. He never reveals it. And in one khatarnaak scene, a suicide bomber comes to attack Mithun – Pancholi jumps in between- and Kaboom – he’s gone. There’s no mention of him in the movie after that. Till date I do not have an answer as to why Pancholi was sad.

Other characters: The guy who came into the SWAT team from Mombasa where he was gambling – he was cool. The Lady architect, Ellen Page, was pretty neat initially but then she decided to play a major role in Jack’s melancholy drama that was trying to weave its way into Inception. Dileep Rao (the doctor in Avatar, the chemist cum driver in Inception) is taking a huge career risk with stereotyped roles. I really don’t want to talk about others. Fischer Senior, the rich dad, was the only guy who played his role to perfection – and that was because he was in a vegetative state most of the time.

Question 1: Why would this movie NOT win any Oscars for best actor/supporting actor? The answer is in Appendix B the fag end of this article.

For those of you who liked the movie, I can recommend a fat award-winning book called Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.,_Escher,_Bach
I remembered it because it has illustrations about those never-ending staircases and material like that. If you get past page 40 of this book, try making a movie.

It’s common knowledge that Ghajini is a copy of Christopher Nolan’s Memento. Aamir Lagaan Khan rejected the suggestion and claimed that Memento was just an inspiration. Hmm…right.

Guess who is getting inspired in Bollywood right now? Ram Gopal Verma, you silly. Urmila Matondkar is also getting worked up because she will have a tailor-made role in this movie. But, the name Tere Mere Sapne, which would have been a dream fit for this movie, is already taken. So may be it’s going to be Woh Khwaabein.

Question 2: What’s a better name? (Solution in Appendix B)

Question 3: Will I watch it on DVD again?
Answer 3: May be, so I can fast forward a lot of them snow fight scenes. I also want to freeze the nanosecond frame in which Lady Arch shows the maze that was drawn in 2 minutes that can be solved in one minute.

Question 4: Will Inception become a cult movie?
Answer 4: Not in your dreams.

Verdict: Initially I thought it was a good watch. After that, I spoke to a few people. Almost all of them said it was good. I agreed. But then why did I think it was good? I don’t know. At a subconscious level, someone had done something. They planted this idea into the heads of poor moviegoers like you and me that you have to like it. Something like…if you’re not fighting with us, you’re fighting us. You can fight for your right to disagree, but I don’t like movies that try to do that subconsciously.

Appendix A:
A Somewhat Plot

Background: It’s energy wars. There’s this big energy company (run by an old man called Fischer) that’s threatening to monopolize the global energy industry. Assume that this company is Exxon Mobil and it is headed by Fischer and he is terminally ill. He has a son (we are supposed to hate him in the initial shots for looking somewhat gay or like the loser Prince in the movie Gladiator).

Now, there’s this other company that wants to destroy Exxon Mobil – let’s say PetroChina (Actually the guy representing this company looked Japanese in the movie but the subconscious hint is always on China). The only way to do that is to get Fischer’s son to dismantle the huge empire that his dad has built and make him start from scratch. How do you do that? Get into his head, plant an idea that traditional energy business is not going to be his future and convince him that its wind energy that’s gonna work for him. Get him to believe that his dying dad actually told him to do so before he died. Technology is so advanced that you can get into other people’s minds and weave dreams after dreams after dreams together until the lights in the cinema are switched on.

And in several layers of dreams that we lose count of, the convincing bit finally happens in a level called limbo, thanks to some of the team members going to a level beyond limbo, because Jack’s crazy wife (let’s call her Bimbo - only for rhyme, no reason), who is actually dead, scuttles the operation in the limbo and goes to deeper levels because she is still alive in Jack’s memories and still packs a punch. Anyway, they make Fischer Jr. blurt out a fake access code in level 1 dream, makes him believe in it in level 2, uses that access code to open his fake father’s fake safe in the depths of the dream world, and presto, you have a miniature version of wind blades popping out. Mission over.

And while all of this happens, the crew is actually in an aircraft high above the ground in a 10 hour flight, while their subconscious minds are getting battered in a van, in a hotel, in a snowy fortress, in somebody’s apartment, and in a beach, all at the same time. Add a dash of sedatives, and the story is more or less complete. Everything can happen because time slows down progressively with each levels of dreams, but activity levels remain good. Everything can happen because it is a dream after all.

Btw, Jack and Bimbo had earlier gone to the limbo (and no one knew) and lived years together. One fine day Bimbo gets the feeling that the limbo world is the real thing. And then Jack plants an idea in her head that the limbo is not real. Now they have to die to get back to the real world and they do so together using the most sensible method - putting their heads (yeah heads, not necks…pass 2 pop corns here please) on a railway track. In the real world, she fails to accept reality, predictably goes cuckoo, and jumps off to her death. Before she does that, good sense prevailed and she writes letters to her attorney stating that Jack is trying to kill her. So hubby cannot go back to kids and is languishing in foreign countries. The operation summarized in the above paragraphs will buy him his freedom to go back to his kids and country.

Everybody is happy except Jack who is not yet convinced-so he spins a top to be sure and the screen goes blank and some homosapien sitting behind me in the theatre shouts “it’s awesome.” And then we walk out of the cinema and it was raining. Some of us went to the office to catch up on last minute e-mails. All of us finally went home.

Subliminal message that I got: While the rest of the world keeps battling for conventional polluting energy sources, U.S. will lead the way by going all green and clean just because Beverly Hills is there.

Appendix B:

Answer 1: Because they were sleeping half of the time.

Answer 2: Ram Gopal Verma ka Tere Mere Sapne

Appendix C - The alleged Matrix Connection

Neo: If you’re killed in the Matrix, you die here?
Morpheus: The body cannot live without the mind. (Effectively you die.)

Now, Inception cannot all be Matrix. So they reversed the idea completely. If you die inside the Matrix, you lose. So, in Inception, if you die in the dream, you sort of win.

Terms like Fibrillation (the funda they use to bring the rich kid Fischer Jr. back to life), mental projection, architect etc. were used in very similar circumstances ten years ago.

Matrix: They put the needle stuff into your head behind your skull near the amygdala or the medulla oblongata to make you move between worlds.
Inception: It’s a lot less painful. They just ease the connecting doohickey into your arm (which is connected to a brief-case sized silver-colored base station which is in endless supply that you can carry across levels) to help you run amok between dream levels.

Matrix: You use phone calls to come back to the real world.
Inception: You use death and kicks as mechanisms to level back. Incidentally the phrase “kicking the bucket” that is used when somebody dies traces it’s origins to this landmark movie.

Matrix: Morpheus: What is real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about your senses, what you feel, taste, smell, or see, then all you’re talking about are electromagnetic signals interpreted by your brain.”
Inception: That’s all we’re talking about.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My little brother

My brother was angry at me right from birth.
My elders told me to help him and not hold anything back.
And I trusted the elders.

One fine day he hit me.
I gave him a minor rap.

I was cautious after that.
But twice after that he tried to bite me.
I slapped him in front of everyone.
One of those days he said he was sorry and told everyone this won't happen again.

And then he bled me.
I suffered.
I couldn't hit him because the elders were watching.
He bled me, I suffered in silence, but that was not happiness enough for him.

Then a day came when he said he bled like crazy.
And I told him, "brother our wounds are the same".

But he had grown up by then, and he shouted from rooftops I couldn't kill him.
I told him I never wanted to.
But he never would believe me.
Because he never wanted to believe.

For a new elder that spat fire had come to support him.

He still bleeds me some times.
But I forgive him, because I suspect he has cancer, and got not much to live.

I love you Pakistan.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

WC...Charlton..forgive me

I know Charlton has forgiven me.
Dammit...Charlton may not even remember this.
But I remember.

It was one of those of those days. To make the long story short, we had four Houses in school that competed against each other. And it was football time. I was good in intel sort of boring events(speech, recitation, and etc.) , but nothing much physical, except football. And even in that, nothing too profound except being a goal keeper. Our House (Nehru) was the worst team. And I was Goal keeper #2.

And Charlton was #1. Boy!

And then there was this match. The whole school was watching. I watched from behind the goal post as Charlton was protecting the net well. And in the process, quashing my dreams of becoming India's answer to Lev Yashin.

I was a kid. I prayed for a chance. Like an answer to my prayers, my team mate did fall. And up he walked to me with a hand that was twisted. He had dislocated his left fist. I just looked at him without offering much support. I consoled him for a second and went in to that match. It was my chance, my only chance to play for my team. I rue that day.

Today I may do the same thing, thinking I'm a professional.

But every single time we will find our reasons to play.

i am a kid.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Kumbh ++

Here was our plan. Hari and yours truly felt that should visit the Kumbh.
Day 1: Kiss Haridwar in the morning and reach Joshimath to catch a glimpse of the mountains.
Day 2: Joshimath, Auli, Pandukeshwar
Day 3: Reach Haridwar and stay there.
Day 4: Idle at Haridwar
Day 5: Early morning bath in the Ganges and back to Delhi.

It more or less happened, but the itinerary turned out to be different.

There are a few things that I grasped on this trip.
> How traffic blocks in India get worse.
> Fortune favors the brave (really).
> Higher the stars in a cop's uniform, higher are the chances of minor issues getting resolved. (Hari's theory)
> There's someone bigger than God.

What I did not learn:
> Just how holy are them holy men?
> Does a dip in the waters of the Great Indian River at the almost most auspicious moment make any difference?
> Is global warming for real? I think so, but cannot say for sure.

11th April 2010

We reached Haridwar in the wee hours of the morning when the cock was dreaming about crowing - 3 AM. Police were there everywhere.

We checked into a room, asked Ajay (our cab driver) to get some sleep and went to the Har Ki Pauri Ghat to take bath. There were truckloads of people like us. The final Shaahi Snaan (=Royal Bath)of the Maha Kumbh Mela 2010, was still three days away, but I guess a lot of people were taking advantage of the weekend. The cops were trying to get everyone out of the water as soon as they had a couple of dips. I took a dupki (=dip in the river) and threw the river water in front of me and turned around to face police woman asking me to get out. My hands folded in acquiescence toward her and I swooped down below for another dupki. I surfaced some distance ahead. No swimming prowess, but the current was good, and she had her hands full with other people.

We got out and went to visit Mansa Devi Temple. The ropeway wasn't working and the climb was not exactly to my liking. Anyway my friend had Darshan and I was just loitering around. Haridwar looked pretty in the early morning.

We came back and enquired about room rates 3 days hence. On the day of the Maha Kumbh - the Big Daddy Day, the Rs. 500 room would cost us Rs. 3000. Blame it on increased demand and a fixed supply curve. In the short-term there is no way to increase capacity. The Hotel guy also warned that if we were going north, we will have to walk from Rishikesh (25km) to reach Haridwar for the Kumbh. Sounded a bit shady.

Onward we went. The road to Rishikesh was blocked. The cops were helpful. They told us of another exit route and we took it. Unfortunately, the road was blocked there too. The cops there were even more helpful. They told us of another route through the Kumbh Mela parking grounds. We went that way. The road was blocked there too. The cops there fortunately were helpful. They told us of a rightward route. Thank God, but alas, that was blocked too. We circled Haridwar twice and was fortunate to find a cop who was angry but determined. He said "Jaa Jaa" when we asked him if we could take the road that he was blocking. We almost made it, but the road was blocked further up. Goddamnit, we had to back off and cover 150 kms via Roorkee and Dehradoon to reach Rishikesh. And in that journey I learnt what was wrong with Indian traffic. There's that Jattanda Putthar (in South India, you will find the same species going under the ___ maga/ ___ mon nomenclature) who was to cock his way in when there's no space, like the Ahole below. Come on, this is barely a two-way street.

Once we actually saw cops using the lathi on a car driver who manged to get their 20 minutes of work to clear the road back to square one with a nonchalant drive to the forefront.

Now here's a creative spark in a bus:

Nice play on Diesel. Quick trivia: What's the name of the mineral water brand being launched by the proxies of Dawood Ibrahim?

We reached Rishikesh by around 2 in the afternoon. Hardwar-Rishikesh is approx 25 km/ 1 hr journey, but thanks to the detour it took us 7 hours. It was a tiring journey and the heat definitely played spoilsport. The AC in Tata Indica is not exactly designed for 40+ degree celsius. Had lunch at Rishikesh. Unlike Haridwar, Rishikesh is the happening place for foreigners of all hues. May be the Beatles and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi connection has helped it a bit. Our plan was to reach Joshimath by the end of the day. Vehicles do not ply in the night on hilly roads, so we had to call it a day at Srinagar (not the one in Kashmir but the one in Uttarakhand) still 150 km short of our destination. By the way, Srinagar has got quite a good number of educational institutions.

12th April 2010

Woke up at 5 in the morning, checked out of the hotel and left for Joshimath. The heat was less thanks to the altitude being gained.
Forest fires were staple scenes.

Found this camp near Birahi being run by the forest department. INR 1,000 per couple. The season starts in May, and they're doing up the place for it.

That's me:

Some more scenes on the way:

Don't you think these guys are defining their target market in an extremely narrow manner :-)?

We saw this fellow on the way. Some Sadhus are media shy so we quickly caught a snap while moving. He was carrying a heavy load. We would discover what it was on our way back. More about that later.

Define Irony: National Thermal Power Corporation making a Hydro Power Project.

We reached Joshimath by afternoon and checked into Nagendra Lodge. Left for Auli by 2 PM using the ropeway. Fact: Auli is the cheapest ski resort anywhere. It's open during Jan-March every year when there's plenty of snow. They have installed snowblowers to make artificial stuff to ski on. Unfortunately, 2009 was bad with very little snow. 2010 was alright, but the snow conditions are changing rapidly. The GMVN official at Joshimath told me that earlier on they had to use bulldozers to clear ice till Badrinath when the pilgrim season started in May. Nowadays that isn't needed and the road to Badrinath is almost ice free. Send shivers down my spine. Are we really losing it to global warming?

There was little snow at the top point in Auli, so we rode on mules for 2 kilomteters to find some patches of it. Kishen, the mule rider, is studying in Plus 2 (Science). He had a shy smile when I asked him if he would clear his papers this year.

Kishen, Hari, and Somnath from Haldeah(met his family at Auli)

Went to Pandukeswar. The Yogadhyan Badri Temple here serves as a proxy for Badri in winter. Kuber and Udhav (Udhav is Badri's elder brother according to legend) stay here for the months that Badri closes during winter. These are carried back to Badri once it opens on the date of Akshaya Tritheeya. The current pujari of the temple at Pandukeswar is from a caste called Dimri who live close to Karnaprayag. They also handle pujas at Badri. The chief priest of Badri (Title: Rawal) is from Kerala, as appointed by Shri. Shankaracharya. Possibly in an attempt to strike a balance, only the Dimri pujaris can make the offerings and give it to the chief priest.

Just before Pandukeswar is the trek to Hemkund Sahib (holy place for the Sikhs) and the FAMED Valley of Flowers. All of this should open in mid-May this year.

13th April 2010
Woke up early in the morning and went to visit the Narasimh Murti Temple. They say that when the idol here breaks, Badri would become inaccessible and future generations would have to worship at Bhavishya Badri.

I did not like this washing the linen inside the temple complex:

Sunrise at Joshimath:

Caught a glimpse of some snow clad mountains:

On the way back was the revelation. Remember the Sadhu we saw on our way here? We saw him again and was shocked at what he was carrying. We went a kilometer further, literally speechless and then decided that we had to speak to him, and came back. This is Kailas Giri Brahmachari.

He has been carrying his mother around for 14 years across the length and breadth of India to all the holy shrines. He is on his way to Badrinath – close to 4000m alt. He takes a few steps, keeps the load on the ground, circles it a few times and goes further. I asked him if his guru told him to do this. He said his mom asked him. Walking along with him are two guys. One of them is a Tamilian who runs his business in Sri Lanka – Balasubramiam. He met Kailas Giri in Tamil Nadu and became close. Kailas Giri called him up and asked him if he could escort him for safety for a month. And this guy actually came. And that reminds me of a question that Ajay, our cab driver, asked while coming from Delhi. Who is bigger than God? I did not know any answer so I passed the question. His answer was: “The believer, because if the believer calls, God has to appear.”

Reached Rishikesh by 5.30 in the evening and checked for accommodation. There were a few available, and now the question was should we go further.
Option A: Stay in Rishikesh. Walk 25 km tomorrow morning, Reach Haridwar, take the dip in the Ganges, walk balk, where our cabbie, Ajay would wait, and then go all the way via Dehradoon to Delhi.

Option B: Push it as far as possible today to Haridwar and leave the rest to providence. We could stay en route.

There’s a crore people out there tomorrow so the decision would be crucial. We might get stuck and miss our return flight on 15th from Delhi.

We took Option B and soon enough found that the highway was blocked. We took a detour via Chilla. The road was good. On the side we had the barrage where Ganges was flowing. It would have been a romantic drive on any other day with a different company.

Not too much of trouble and we could see the festivities in Haridwar from a distance. Kumbh was about to rock. Here's a scene from a distance:

We reached somewhere near Chandi temple in Haridwar (Naziabad Gate) and parked our car there. (Our’s was one of the last few cars to get parking there.) We decided not to take a room but spend the night out. Hari's theory about stars on a cop’s uniform proved to be true as we met a helpful CI (Circle Inspector Vivek Kundru) who spoke cordially and told us about the timings of the Kumbh. We had received conflicting reports before, but here was the horse. Bath timings at the Kumbh are regulated, with the best times reserved for Sadhus. Common men could take bath form midnight till 4 am, and then much later in the day. This was the Shahi (Royal) Snan when the Naga Sadhus were also to come. Naga Sadhus are known to be reclusive, they live naked to signify renunciation of the last vestiges of bondage to earthly life, they worship Shiva and Agni, they are known to have a fierce temper, and few gain admission to their group. They had a camp at the Kumbh, but we did not encounter them.

A message at the Kumbh:

We walked here and there and then came back to the cab. The time was 9.30 PM. We decided to have dinner and then move on. Ajay wanted to take a dip, so we asked him to quickly get one and come back so that he can catch a nap before driving to Delhi. Dinner looked unappealing so I went and had Mausambi juice for 25 bucks (without ice -The shop keeper looked at me as though I was cuckoo when I asked him if he had ice.)

Onward we went for the Shaahi Snaan. This was Baisakhi and Megh Sankranti culminating, after 400 years or so. The crowd just kept pouring in. We walked through the makeshift walkways, with camps for each Akhadas and Ashrams on either side. We found Computer Baba, Pilot Baba, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and the likes. Jargons are in, and I would hate the day when I see the board which says “Low hanging fruit Baba” or “Synergy Baba”.

It was a riot of colours. Turbans, Biharis, Japs, Germans, Gujjus, Bongs, all of them kept coming at midnight like flies drawn by some light they could not explain but had to flock to. Everything was makeshift – the loo, the ATM, the post office, the ashrams, the wooden bridge over river Ganges. I personally thought the arrangements were good – or – as good as it gets in this part of the world.

We walked till Har ki Pauri, crossed over and went shopping. The old Bollywood fixation about twins getting lost here is so true. I heard at least ten announcements like “Sushil naam k eek ladka ithar apni maa ke liye wait kar raha hai” And I saw a kid crying, because he couldn’t find his mom. His grandfather was with him and he looked flustered too. We asked him to speak to the cops, and the cops were like “mom is lost right? The kid isn’t. She would come back” True to form, I saw the kid happy after half an hour with his mom. Another classic announcement was "Attention policemen,5000 people have arrived by Hemkund Express at the railway station."

14th April 2010

The night of the Kumbh:

Hari wanted to take bath after 2 AM because he believed we would be getting closer to Sadhu time. We waited till 12.45 and then changed our minds since we saw the human traffic jam. A jam that wouldn’t move wither way. People jostling and pushing and grunting but going nowhere. We joined them.
Here's the jam that spooked us:

And after 20 minutes of jostling, the Ganges was right in front – Brahm Kund where the nectar is supposed to have fallen.

There were strict announcements to the effect of “You only have one minute to take the dip. Take three dips and move on.” They meant it and cops were pulling people out who were overstaying their welcome. Hari went first. And then I went in.

That’s it. The Snaan was done. While walking back I told him I took seven dips…ha ha. He beat me to it, coz he had taken 11. Tragedy of commons.

People kept milling in, the crowds swelling, as we were walking back. Getting out of the parking spot itself was tough. The road was packed. We started at 2.30 AM and I drifted off to sleep. Occasionally, I would wake up and mumble something to the driver. At 6 AM, we woke up and the road to Haridwar still had vehicles back to back. We had covered only 50 kms in 3.5 hours.

Reached Delhi by around 2 PM.

ZZZZZ, Rhythm Pub - Yousuf Serai, damn expensive, ZZZZ

15th April 2010
I read that Russell Crowe is going to act in a Kumbh movie (Bollywood obviously) as a firang who comes here looking for spiritual release and intake and ends up (guess what) falling in love. sins must be deep and dark.

And in the airport I read that Pilot Baba's car crushed a woman (+1?) to their death. A few more people were killed in the stampede. Rules should apply to everyone - Pilot or not, Sadhu or not.

Met a branch-mate from my college at the airport - Gireesh. He was coming back from Varanasi. What’s wrong with us kids?

Back to Bangalore.