Saturday, July 30, 2005

little streams of alcohol

the last time i tried singing was in a cottage in top slip on the TN kerala border. the wildlife which is supposedly quite abundant in that area bolted to god's own country after my rendition of the spoken word version of 'mujhse naaraz ho' from papa kehte hain (remember jugal hansraj singing the more popular "ghar se nikalte hi" thinking abt mayuri kango). so when i start posting about a small subset of my most played songs over the past few days, you need to understand that its entirely subjective. here goes :

cornershop - brimful of asha : sepia mutiny has always been a regular haunt of mine and a post about mathangi arulpragasam aka M.I.A had a link to this song by cornershop. the last time i heard this song was probably when i was in my first year of college when it used to play on MTV. cool,trippy song with the kind of lyrics that one neednt really concentrate also had a link to this article by someone on kuro5hin with an explanation for the lyrics. one cool song.

stealers wheel - stuck in the middle with you : heard this one on 'malcolm in the middle' just got stuck in my head till i googled for the lyrics and found the song. it was on the reservoir dogs soundtrack too and there is a version by bob dylan. i also read somewhere that the stealers wheel singer deliberately used a dylanesque voice.

big rock candy mountain from the " o'brother where art thou ? " soundtrack is a sweet sweet folk song. lyrics that make you chuckle as the song continues its slow course. they are here .the version i'm referring to is the one on the right and the title to this post is part of it as are these awesome lines:

    I'm bound to stay
    Where you sleep all day,
    Where they hung the jerk
    That invented work
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountain

music has this amazing ability to create a mood. some songs do this through memories we have of listening to them and some merely by the sounds and lyrics . the 3 i've listed distinctly scream summer .i'm sure each person has their own list.wud love to hear from anyone who cares to share.

rahman had 2 releases - the rising(hindi) and ah aah(tamil) - over the past few weeks. i havent gotten around to listening to them since i've been doing other insanely interesting things like moving apartments and pushing a loaded moving truck. theres too much invective in that story.i'll let it simmer down a bit before i write a PG version of that rant.

Monday, July 25, 2005

current events

darkness engulfing space like a giant, black marshmallow. candles placed on tins,floors and the rare candlestand. kids running about with torches howling and trying to scare other kids. small flames and weak beams of light that interfered with the electricity board's agenda for the night. except for that weird marshmallow reference, you probably know what i'm getting at. a powercut in chennai( and elsewhere too i guess) was like a festival that wasn't on the calendar. sweltering chennai heat meant that familes would often move out to the balcony or to the front of their houses in the hope of catching a breeze. the powercut would thus transport families to a time when the best primetime show was put up on the sky (its still running but most of us are watching the wrong channel). the ones that remained indoors would feel their way to the special corner that always housed the candle which would then be lit.

and thats when i would take off from my house taking along a huge orange torch which was almost never the first thing that one would find in case of a powercut. most of my friends had those bulky stainless steel ones with ridges along the sides. ours was in orange plastic and had a plasticky yellow button that was once white. it was a tad too heavy and when tinkle or some such general knowledge magazine featured a DIY torch , i jumped at it. went to the tiny electrical shop on the main road, bought a couple of AA batteries and a small bulb. went back when i realised i needed a small wire to complete the circuit and finally had the shopkeeper do all the work. i'll point out that my life's ambition at that time was to be an engine driver of the nilgiri express. so if u r thinking budding electrical engineer, hold that thought right at that railway crossing. the DIY torch didnt work out. i could never find a way to hold the bulb and the wire to the terminal and investigate dark recesses like frank and joe hardy.

i'm not sure if the orange torch went out in a blaze of glory but it was the season for something bigger and better. twas, after all, the night of the emergency lamp. it was a device that from front-on looked like an iron box and had a handle on top. the designers i heard were aiming at the niche market of people who wanted to build muscle during powercuts. it was so heavy that the handle was probably put in so you could tie a rope and tow it when you moved. one thing was clear though, no kid was going to run up and down our street flashing the emergency lamp in other kids' eyes. it had a tubelight, a searchlight and an orange light that could be set to blink. kind of like an indicator..but of course, dumbo.. u'll need it when you are towing it. but why would someone name it an emergency lamp. i mean its a lamp and all , but "emergency"..maybe it was invented during a certain period of indian history. the only emergency that i can think of is maybe when your boat springs a leak and you need to unload some weight off..the first thing to go overboard would be the emergency lamp. how your boat started floating in the first place with the emergency lamp on board will be left as a homework for you to solve.

the power would always play spoilsport coming back just when the fun was reaching its peak. a few kids would still linger around till their parents called them in.i was probably already inside doing my homework ..heh heh..i meant watching the last few songs being called out on super hit muqabla. stupid current cut. made me miss most of the show.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

weekend self suicide

stop stop...stop ... STOP
i've been here for 5 years and except for a really insignificant incident at a grocery store the first day i stepped here ,culture shock was just a term i heard in the international services office. i didnt flinch one bit when i faced shelf upon shelf of different kinds of cereal and quickly picked out the cheapest one without confusion.i thought i was immune to the phenomenon. until today. my culture , traditions and values were jolted right out of the comfy sofas and swimming pools they were lounging in and were treated to about 50 million volts of the most shocking combination of visual and auditory sensations. there they were. ash and sonali kulkarni stepping out of a shop in what i presume is one of those bylane bazaars in amritsar. one where indian culture is displayed in all its colorful splendor on store fronts , available in kilo and meter measures for british directors to buy and then shock endlessly. it looks like any normal indian market till ash and sonia kulkarni burst into some of the worst english lyrics set to an indian tune by that gifted music director anu malik. and thats when i heard a huge thud inside my head and looking inside found culture lying shocked on its side near its couch and tradition pulling its hair in despair was running circles around it.

as i continue seeing bride and prejudice, i keep repeating to myself that this must be a satire. surely gurinder chaddha didnt shoot a english video of ash near the golden temple. i can't make out some of the genres that were cut up and pasted together to make this frankenstein creation. dialogs often acquire a victorian accent (ok ok maybe thats just english and my ears are blocked) with people asking permission to introduce their family. i shouldnt carp abt it so much i guess cos the movie has been funny in parts , especially the part where this indian dude who has struck gold in amrika comes back to seek the hand of ash. hey alexis bledel just entered the movie. you go GILMORE GIRL. and a mariachi band has just started singing in english in a hindi tune. stop wait let me watch the movie..maybe i'll spot anu malik playing a harp in the snow, singing "let it snow,let it snow". ok i stop here. i have to go finish my sambar rice and appalam before the appalam loses its crispness.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

collector's edition

i can imagine this like i was there shooting it all on home video. in one of those triasic or mesozoic or some other era my ancestor along with his fellow neanderthals through luck and sheer stupidity managed to stun a huge brachyosaurus. the giant lizard which was chewing placidly on the leaves from some tree was shocked when a group of tiny humanoids jumped from somewhere making guttural noises that unknown to them consisted of the choicest bad words in dino lingo. like any garden variety dinosaur it should've normally responded with a sweep of its tail knocking attackers of their feet,but now it was confused. its tiny brain, unable to decide between responding to those bad words in kind and giving a command to its tail to thwack the neanderthals (my ancestor included), went into overload, burst a few arteries and succumbed to internal haemorrhage. while the other neanderthals harvested the meat ,most of which would go waste because they chose to invent fire before ziploc bags, my ancestor after having a small bite was busy scavenging for the 113th neckbone from the skeleton. on finding it he carefully and clinically jumped on either side and then hit away with a club till he was able to separate the neckbone. he then lifted it and added it to his velociraptor skin pouch. for you see he was one of the earliest to take to a hobby. he was a bone collector (no reference to that serial killer movie) .

this trait had passed unhindered through generations of wiser men and women till one day (in the past of course) it surfaced. out of the blue i decided i had to start a collection of marbles. those glass spheres were like tiny worlds that were begging to be discovered. i was fairly good at the game but i think i played it only so i could buy more of these. i had a large collection in various sizes and colors. some of these were blue or green ones that one could also find inside those ancient soda bottles. one just had to admire the ingenious way by which the makers had sealed those bottles with those marbles and had ensured that no eight year old, with the singular aim of increasing his marble collection, could possibly extract them. thus a 50 paise panneer (rosewater aka attar ppl..not that cardiac clogging cottage cheese) soda would surely result in a sticky but fragrant t-shirt for the rest of the day as i quite literally showered in that sweet stuff in my hunt for the precious orb of glass. the last time i counted i was upto 102 of them stored in a piggy bank that was actually quite representative of my savings.

when i grew up (not a lot) i quickly jumped onto the bandwagon that many a indian kid was already riding. coin collecting and stamp collecting were the hobbies du jour. i took to stamp collecting after i discovered a huge cache at an older cousin's place who was only too happy to give it all away as he had other "interests" to occupy his time. so without effort i had a huge stamp collection that was neatly organized already. i'd pester our neighbors ,whose daughter was abroad, everyday to see if she'd sent them a letter and had a hand in several shady dealings in school. the dealers would almost always meet up under a tree or a corner of the playground. out came the stamps from the middle of textbooks or dirty pockets. after a quick recce of the other one's offerings and a nod to seal the deal the stamps would quickly exchange hands. one had to be extremely clever to avoid being fooled by the "fakes" for once the deal was closed that was it. the stamp mafia had its own set of laws and no one dared to break it. i got a stamp album that alloted pages to each country , intending to populate it with my collection but grew tired of maintaining it soon and it was mostly empty after Australia.

the whole collection/hobby thing was becoming less fun and i gave it one last try with the bus ticket collection. frankly i dont remember why i even started collecting them. i guess i was trying to be the anti-conductor...he would tear out the tickets and i would collect them and create books organized by denomination. my noble intention to recycle the tickets by selling them back to the pallavan transport corporation was shattered, rather bit, into pieces by a family of rats. they deemed their need for comfortable bedding more important than my intention and that was the end of that collection.

people collect all sorts of things these days. everything that was ever made before 2000 has become a collectible and thanks to ebay even toasted bread has a significant value. i stopped collecting bus tickets after the rat event . the cta issues a silly magnetic card that neither me nor the rats particularly favor. but i'm still collecting memories, real and imagined, by the busload and filing them all away. i'll give you a couple of guesses to figure out where they end up eventually.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

a fair evaluation

i went to "the taste" last week. 'the taste of chicago' is a 11 day feastival dedicated to gourmands from all over the greater chicagoland area who try to solve an age old problem. given an infinite number of food choices, a limited amount of money and a stomach with a somewhat finite capacity, how best to fill it while still retaining the train fare to go back. being a member of the ilk that sprints as far as possible at the mention of math , i wasnt too worried about those choices confusing me. the choices were also severely limited considering the fact that i am of the species that eats fruits and leaves. 10 minutes after i'd purchased 11 tokens for $7, those plundering pirates, pillaging poltroons who call themselves chicago's best restaurateurs had decapitated my long, perfectly perforated token sheet leaving me with exactly 1 token. 3 tokens had fetched me a "taste" of some pita,hummus + tabouleh salad (of course i had the recording of "is this vegetarian?" handy and just had to press play to the first pirate) ..a taste being a small portion of the full dish. they should actually be calling that a "sniff" , cos thats all i did once i got the plate of hummus and salad and it'd vanished. one not-so-good funnel cake later i was pretty much done for the day. wandering about in the jostling crowds, i soon got a familiar feeling and the tortoise mosquito coil that should've been the logo for this blog made its appearance in front of my eyes ..rotating slowly.

i was staring at a stall with strings of chillis hanging around the sides with a small crowd of people around. i smacked my lips and waited for my dad. he was somewhere in that crowd trying to justify our long bus ride to get here. he was getting one of those large appalams that combined with the chilli powder,sprinkled on it with finesse, made for one super snack. it was an essential part of our annual summer excursion to what we kids referred to as the egjibichan and the tamil nadu govt referred to as a trade fair. it took place without fail every summer (how we chennaiites differentiate between the seasons is a highly classified topic not covered in this post) on the Island grounds which was surrounded by the perennially stagnant Cooum. there were a lot of stalls put up by different state departments. the only ones i really remember are the police department , probably because of the weirdly scary, smiling statues of policemen saluting, the one for the fire department, which had this fire engine outside and a stall that sold books from mir publishers of USSR.

i was never aware of the politics between india and the erstwhile soviet union. all i knew was that it was an awesome bargain when one could buy bundles of 5 books for Rs.10 each. i would carefully choose bundles that only had russian and ukrainian folk tale books. it was almost impossible though and i would always get one book in the bundle that had puzzles about old men who bequeathed a princely sum of 17 kopeks to their 3 sons and we were responsible for dividing it in a fair manner. the folk tales also had such puzzles but the authors themselves solved them in a rather creative manner by sending the sons on a long journey towards 3 mountains each taller than the other and with a wooden,silver and golden castle on top. of course each castle also contained a maiden each named evening star, morning star and the sun princess respectively who turned into song birds during the day and a evil tsar who guarded them. so at the end the sons would've forgotten about their poor father who'd probably spent his lifetime saving up those 17 kopeks. i clearly digressed there but i guess u get the story. i must've bought at least 3 bundles over a 3 year period of which only the puzzle books survived, the others having being sent on long journeys themselves after "friends" borrowed them.

the other big buy on every trade fair visit was this top + flying saucer. there was this ingenious little mechanical device to which one could either attach a plastic top or a flexible saucer which was pretty good at flying in the air. the saucer would be lost the same evening having being sent out of our second floor flat's window to explore outer space and moments later the top would unsuccesfully try to emulate the saucer. lacking the aerodynamicity it would plummet down to the concrete floor and fail to make the emergency landing thus reducing a 3 component toy to one useless piece which would also be sacrificed to my curiosity.

our evenings at the exhibition would always end at the rides. i would aways go there no matter what to stare at great giant wheel and wonder if i'll ever be brave enough to go up on one. another tortoise coil and there i was back at the "taste" staring at the ferris wheel that'd been put up at one end. the kids on it seemed to be having a fantastic time. i just turned around and went back searching for a stall that would accept my lonely token. where was an appalam stall when you needed it most ?

Saturday, July 02, 2005

lost ... and found

so there i was staring down at the ground . i was looking at a lonely ant scurrying for its appointment with that black bug over there. standing at long off or long on or whatever that far end of the ground was called was rather boring business. despite assurances from both the captains of our under-10 cricket team that my corner was one that was frequently visited upon by the ball , i was rather skeptical. i knew enough cricket to realise that a tennis ball hit by a 8 year old with that rather cheap plank of a bat would never reach me without rockets attached to its rear. everyone knew that the bat was all that mattered. now had that been an SG , i'd believe that even the next door toddler who practiced tirelessly with a hollow plastic bat would be able to blast that ball to the moon, without rockets.

the ant had by now concluded business with the bug and was heading towards the pavilion. i looked up and realised play had been stopped and that meant only one thing. my game was about to start. you see i didnt own the bat or the ball or the wall on which the 3 squiggly stump lines were drawn. i could hit sixes and fours at will but only if everything including the bat was imaginary and of course during my long stands at the far end of the field i'd even imagined some hatricks while bowling ... to myself. yet my inclusion into any game of cricket being played in the staff quarters we stayed in was a foregone conclusion, for i was a golden retriever. wait let me rephrase that before u go thinking this is the story of a dog. i was a seeker a la harry potter long before rowling even imagined quidditch. any cricket team playing anywhere in that huge quarters knew about my unique capabilities and those were the days when a slazenger tennis ball, even a tattered old one was worth a lot more than one of those silly snitches.

soon there was a call that echoed all around the ground and to a man, the whole cricket team started chanting my name. i looked around and started to slowly walk towards the evil bushes that had recently gobbled up our ball, acknowledging the cheers from the crowds. then quickly broke into a run as the captain of one of the teams told me that i would not get the customary baby-over batting if i didnt come sooner. after interrogating the batsman and the fielders, i quickly calculated trajectory, accommodated for bounce and age of the ball , added in a few of my favorite constants for luck, dived into the bushes, scratched my scrawny arm on some of the branches, tore up some leaves to do unto the bush as it had done unto me and came out with the ball. i even declined any assistance to help me out of the bushes. i knew my job and the baggage that came with it. fully satisfied with my performance i went back to search for my ant when a boy from the other side of the quarters came huffing and puffing across the ground. that could only mean one thing. i strained my eyes to look at batsman, realised no one had given him an SG bat. assuring myself that there was no way he was going to hit the ball to me, i quickly left with the other boy. some other team needed my skills more than this one did.

yesterday i got to play the gentleman's game after quite a while. my first ball bounced near my legs and went towards long on, my next went one bounce towards point and my third ball went right over the batsman's head. yup i was bowling. my batting fared much better though. a greek guy who'd never played before insisted he wanted to try bowling and the other team, seeing it was me with the bat, gave him a chance. after much swishing and slashing, i made contact for a single. the best part however came when someone edged a ball into a corner of the concrete courtyard we were playing in. play stopped and i started walking slowly towards the corner with a lopsided grin. compared to evil bushes, this one would be a piece of cake.