Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Do you feel lucky, punk?

I have never quite understood the fight sequences in movies. They remind me of a bank. It is as if our hero works at the bank. The villains are the customers. Despite being armed with looks rugged enough to bring an expression of fear on Arjun Rampal’s face and enough weapons to pose a threat to the Bush administration, they huddle obediently around the hero. It is as if they have all been given tokens, like at the bank, and are waiting for their number to be announced over the PA system.

Slowly, they come forward, wielding their weapons. The first one approaches the hero. After a brief and formal greeting, he is bashed up beyond recognition. The others wait, anxiously looking at the token display and the transaction in progress. After the first of the villains has been beaten to pulp, the next one in line advances hesitantly, as if checking with the teller – “Token no. 23, isn’t it? Well, that’s me. Start punching.” And one by one they come, with a weapon of their choice. And one by one they bite the dust.

So you think it’s over, huh? Well It isn’t. Because that brings us to the single most important event of these fights - especially fights involving martial artists or Van damme. And hence the most intriguing - The quintessential Swivel Kick.

For the less initiated, the swivel kick is the one the hero deploys after going round and round like a ballet dancer with one of the legs planted. After every 360 degree turn, the planted leg moves by approximately 4 inches in the direction of victim. It is usually executed on the last participating thug, purely because of its dramatic nature. Or so I suppose. Or maybe it is because of the difficulty to execute it when surrounded by men armed with sharp objects. Or maybe he doesn’t want witnesses, in case he loses balance midway. Or it is just the length of the soundtrack, as was the case in ‘Bloodsport’. Whatever the reason, the kick is usually the finishing move. Beautiful. Brutal. And slow. Very slow. Therein lies my problem.

What is that last thug waiting for? He has seen what happens when the token number is called. He has time to run while the hero enters the swivel. If the hero is in his element and decides to employ multiple swivels, he might just have enough time to cross the border, register at a refugee camp and organise a small revolution. But no, he just waits. He is not holding an iPhone and filming the video. He is not busy updating his last words on Facebook. He is simply waiting. To be kicked in the face. As if asking the hero – “See, I am impressed by what you did to my gang and all that. But can you really finish in style with an accurate blow to my left temple?” There is simply no other logical explanation.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Remember 60ml rum and 60ml cold drink? Remember one sips, because there was no money for two? Remember feeding your good friend under the table, the friendly mouse? Remember wiping the empty glasses clean – again, and again, and again? Remember the elaborate conversation with the auto driver at the counter? Remember only needing 100 bucks to get reasonably smashed? Remember chicken pepper dry from the first week of every month? Remember the ‘loose mixture’ from the rest of the month? Remember potato chips and plain peanuts? Remember peeing standing on your toes to avoid stepping on the spillage? Remember holding your pee because of the vomit in the urinal? Remember parliament and congress, the edible kind? Remember the two quick 90ml drinks before entering the pub? Remember the Old Monk peg that didn’t taste like the Old Monk peg? Remember those slices of boiled egg topped with red chilli powder? Remember half-boiled? Remember those perpetually empty salt and pepper shakers? Remember the occasional don at the adjacent table? Remember the fight at the next table and the broken beer bottle battles? Remember the loud television in the background and the local news channel that was always on? Remember the mosquito coils dangling from empty beer bottles? Remember kicking them down after a few drinks? Remember the inevitable faulty bill and the screaming that followed? Remember ‘Murthy’ the waiter? Remember leaving last, as the tables got stacked and the lights went out? Remember those arguments in the dark, because nobody cared? Remember where it all began? Remember…… your local bar?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Loop

“7 missed calls,” beamed the display on Anand’s Blackberry. His fingers scrolled effortlessly through them. They were all from his brother’s mobile. He walked up to coffee machine, filled up a large cup to the brim, and walked back to his cabin. He readjusted his Bluetooth earpiece, and dialed the number on the phone, and slid it into his pocket.

His tone remained casual as he took a sip - “You called?” During the grave minutes that passed, the composed figure that walked away from the coffee machine turned into a crumpled heap of nerves. He was sitting on the floor by now, leaning against a bay partition, breathing heavily. Streams of sweat trickled down his neatly done sideburns. A colleague, passing by stopped, clearly spotting his blood-drained face. As she leant beside him, concerned, he looked up. With a gasp he got up, brushed her aside and ran towards the exit.

The burnt rubber on the floor of the parking lot was still smoking when his car skid onto the main road.His grip on the steering wheel tightened as he brought the spinning car under control. The car ripped away, leaving the screeching tyres and the frantic honking behind.

The words of his brother were still echoing in the back of his head as he fought to negotiate a tight curve. “Dad collapsed. It was a stroke. We are taking him to the hospital.” He moved uncomfortably in his seat, honking incessantly at the truck that was slowing him down. Losing patience, he swerved the car to the right and hit the accelerator pedal with a vengeance.

It was too late by the time he saw the scooter. He threw his head back screaming, thumping the steering wheel vigourously. He was furious. At the truck driver. At the scooterist. At himself at everyone. By this time, a crowd had gathered around his car. Some of them were banging on his window in anger, urging him to step out. He just sat there motionless, staring coldly at the commotion in front of him.

In an ambulance a few rows of vehicles behind, unbeknownst to him, an old man had lost his battle with the inevitable. The Blackberry in his pocket began to ring again.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The name is Blonde!

There are two reasons why I don’t drive back home from work. The first one is slightly socio-economic in nature. To get to the crux of this one, you will have to dismantle, analyse and scrutinise the financial structure in the advertising industry and its effect on a copywriter’s life. Well, the first reason is that I don’t own a car. The second reason is slightly more important. It is an existential one. I can’t drive.

As a consequence of the aforementioned socio-economic and existential circumstances, I am forced to hitch rides back home. My usual benefactor is Meera. Neeraja chips in once in a while when Meera is not in too generous a mood. Both the ladies can easily claim an IQ level way above the average person. The high positions and the respect they command in the advertising world should underline that. As a result, the rides back home for me are usually not dull or blonde affairs. Yesterday, dear reader, was not one of them.

Due to a twisted ankle (goes well with a twisted mind), Neeraja was unable to bring her car. Generous as always, Meera offered her a ride. And along came Pritam Singh. I was the constant in the front. The reason for my being there remains the same as mentioned before.

The incident occurred somewhere near where Victoria road met Airport Road. Pritam was not present in the car at this point as we had crossed the junction where he usually got off. But for the sake of the story, let’s assume he was around. You really can’t leave a Sardarji out of a joke, can you? So anyway. Out of the blue, a sedan emerged from a gate on the left and sprung on to the road blocking our way. The ladies screamed. I let out a few profanities and stayed the man in the car. Neeraja, the keen observer in the vehicle had spotted the license plate. Her hair slightly started turning blonde at this point.

Neeraja: “Hmm... That vehicle is from your part of town Nikhil. ML registration. Must be a mallu car.”

Meera’s green Palio screeched to a halt. We turned back and looked at Neeraja. There she was, her hair now completely blonde, waiting eagerly for appreciation of her observation skills. You really couldn’t tell her apart from Miss Hilton now. Meera looked at me. I looked at her. And then, there was laughter. There was thunder too.

Meera: “How could you Neeraja? (Giggling) That really was your blonde moment.” (Laughs again, her hands off the steering, thumping her chest)

Pritam continued to look out of the window, nonchalant, as if thinking – “Racist jokes don’t really affect me. I grew up with them.” It was then, and only then that Neeraja realised the heat of the soup she was in. In a last gasp effort of redemption, she tried to pass it for a joke. But it was too late by then. (Let’s face it! Neeraja was no Woody Allen to pull off a straight faced joke. She usually laughed before she even began one.) So there she was. As she accepted defeat and slowly let the moment sink in, I heard Meera scream in the background.

Meera (preachy tone): “Kerala is KL Neeraja. That might have been Manipal.”

Note: A decade or so from now. Meera’s son Dhruva will grow up. He will have his group of friends and they will crack jokes together. When Dhruva’s turn comes, he will sit up and say, “Here’s a joke. Two blondes, a Sardar and a Mallu got into a car.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Once upon a time in love...

After a week on Orkut, another week on Yahoo Messenger and a month on telephone, we met. I was at work when she called. She had come to Cottons to conduct a counselling session for the teaching staff. She had just delivered an hour long lecture on how learning disability was as natural as the ability to learn. By the time it was over, she was tired and hungry. We decided to meet for lunch.

Cottons was just around 200 metres from my workplace back then - a small and humble agency called OpusCDM. She wanted to eat at ‘Casa Piccola’. The ‘Rs. 50’ in my pocket said ‘Konark’. I had dined there the previous day and knew that the North Indian meals were Rs. 25 a plate. Blaming it on my laziness and my unwillingness to walk, I had my way.

I walked down the stairs of my office building in anticipation. There she was. An angel of a woman clad in an orange salwar-kameez. I almost stumbled and fell into those bottomless brown eyes. My heart skipped a beat. I told it sternly to take it easy.

She looked a little confused and uneasy. In an effort to cut through the awkwardness of the first meeting, I resorted to a tried and tested method. I made a joke about myself. “Is it the t-shirt,” I asked smilingly. Considering the grotesque ‘Metallica’ print on my t-shirt, I wouldn’t have been surprised had she agreed. She just kept looking at me. And as if she was shaken out of the trance, she said, “I wasn’t expecting you to be this big.” Politeness. I was pleasantly surprised. I took that as a compliment. Love was on its way. That silly little bastard.

Lunch was a quiet and tense affair. Love took a backseat as my love life see-sawed between ‘inclusive of taxes’ and ‘exclusive of taxes’. The bill turned out to be an empathising romantic. I sighed in satisfaction and proudly offered to pay the bill. Her smile read ‘gentleman’.

As we stepped out, so did my want to meet her again. “Your treat next time,” I mumbled nervously. She looked up, smiled that angelic smile and said, “Sure. But here only.” And I, fell hopelessly in love.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The wonderful world of 'Q'

You are a guy. You have just stepped through the gates of adolescence. You are excited in more ways than you knew you could be. You are walking down the street. You pass a gorgeous girl, light years out of your league. You drool. You appreciate your latest set of hormones. You try hard to control them. The girl walks away, without even acknowledging your presence. What are your options? You could click a mental picture of hers, in high resolution, and develop it in the dark corners of your alone time. You could hang your head in disappointment, bend over and pick up bits of your shattered self esteem. Or, you could just ‘Q’ her and walk away in absolute satisfaction. And that, people, brings me to the subject of ‘Q’ – the land of infinite possibilities.

The story of ‘Q’ takes me back a few years. I had just entered the aforementioned gates. I was the kid Newton spoke about. The one standing on the beach, picking pebbles, staring at the vast ocean of truth or something profound. But with a small difference. I wasn’t trying to find solutions to the problems that revolved around purposefully in the universe. I wasn’t sitting under the apple tree. My ocean was simpler. Superficially at least. It was full of women, of all forms, shapes, ages and sizes, swimming around. And I was sitting on the beach – working out my hormones and playing with my pebbles.

Back to ‘Q’ now. I was introduced to the concept of ‘Q’ during a quiet afternoon with the ‘Debonair’ and ‘Fantasy’ magazines of the world. I was with my cousin Mithun (name not changed despite numerous personal requests). We were browsing through his elder brother’s collection, neatly and smartly tucked behind a stack of ‘Hardy Boys’. Not so smart brother.

As we flipped in unison, we stopped at the centre spread. It was as if destiny took us by our throats and demanded us to halt and take notice. And there she was. All of her. Thread bare. The Ebony Goddess - who would later leave the magazine and move, compact and folded, into that tiny space under a strip of newspaper spread on the floor of my instrument box. A gasp escaped me. Luckily, and less embarrassingly, the excitement stopped at the gasp. And then, it happened.

Mithu: “I am going to ‘Q’ her!”

Note: Dear reader, ‘Q’ is not used in this context as a replacement for anything that it rhymes with. So when my cousin said ‘Q’, he meant ‘Q’.

I gave him a puzzled look. And in response, as was the case with Vaisampayana and Janamejaya (both of Mahabharatha fame), he unfolded the world of ‘Q’ and its infinite possibilities before my bewildered eyes.

Remember the guy from the first paragraph and that gorgeous girl he was ogling at? In the world of ‘Q’, things wouldn’t stop at just ogling. There would be results. There would be no shattered self esteem. You would not go unacknowledged. She would be yours. And all that, by simply saying ‘Q’. ‘Q’ is the Matrix and we are the coders. We could do anything here. We could have anyone. Women couldn’t escape our charm in the world of ‘Q’. She could pass you by behind a speeding motorbike with a hunk. She could flee from your line of sight at a crowded cinema hall because you are too short. She could even close her bedroom window shut just before you scaled the last brick on the adjacent wall. But once you ‘Q’ed her, there was no escape.

Let me explain. Here is how ‘Q’ functions. All you have to do is, look at a girl and say ‘Q’ out loud or in your mind. The girl in question is immediately transported to the land of ‘Q’. A beautiful piece of space set in your afterlife where every woman you ever desired can be housed and made love to. Oh yeah, afterlife! Yes, you go to ‘Q’ once you are dead (We were kids back then, but still we knew we couldn’t have everything). If she was old and was once gorgeous, we could put her in an age machine and bring her back to her glory days. Only in ‘Q’. If she was young and had potential, we could take the old lady out, and put the young thing in. And there it was. Only in ‘Q’.

Some of us might die old and some of us might die young. But in the land of ‘Q’, you are anything you want to be. It is like Neo minus those floppy disks and those tubes plugged to his scalp. You can choose your age. Your body has an unending supply of testosterone. You are endowed like the guy from ‘Tarzan and Jane’. No, the other one. Not that it is necessary. Because in the land of ‘Q’, you are the only one the ladies have got!

So boys, the next time you see that gorgeous lady pass you by, don’t stop at a gasp. ‘Q’ her. And she shall be yours in this life or the next.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

If you believe in God, stop praying.

Despite differing drastically in form, name and dress code, there is one thing Gods from around the planet have in common – Omniscience. By the virtue of being the creator, God sees everything. God knows everything. Sometimes even before the things happen. He, or Alanis Morissette in one particular case, is the master of everything. He is aware of it all. He hears the pin drop. He knows where the needle is. And all that without even trying. So when you go shoot off your prayers, requesting a better job for instance, aren’t you making a fool of yourself? The bugger knows you are struggling with your current job. He's the one who put you in that cubicle. He even knows what you secretly call your boss. And with a bit of common sense, and of course mind reading skills, he also knows that you want a new one. So what is the point of praying to him and cribbing about something he already knows, or even better, something he himself devised during potty? Instead, why don’t you just look at the sky, or any of the million divine symbols, and say, “God, please do the needful.”

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Out of syllabus

One of the things no business school in the country teaches you is common sense and its application. If nothing less than a case study will convince you, here is one.

A well known consulting company wanted to hire a few Spaniards for a specific project that required a proficient knowledge in Spanish. I was asked to give them a poster. I wrote a poster in Spanish and mailed it to the beautiful lady from the Marketing Communications (a post graduate from a reputed business school) department who had handed me the job. The conversation that followed went something like what is given below.

Lady: “This is not happening.”

Me: “Why?”

Lady: “I did not understand this.”

Me: “Well, it’s in Spanish.”

Lady: “Yeah. I did not get it.”

Me: “Do you understand Spanish?”

Lady: “No.”

Me: “It is for Spaniards, isn’t it?”

Lady: “Yes.”

Me: “They understand Spanish, right?”

Lady: “Yes.”

Me: “They are the ones who are supposed to read this and respond, right?”

Lady: “Yes.”

Me: “So, it is fine, right?”

Lady: “No.”

Me: “Why?”

Lady: “See dude, it’s not just about me.”

Me (pinching myself): “Yes. I am listening.”

Lady: “Nobody in my team understood it.”

Me: “Do you have Spaniards in your team?”

Lady: “No.”

Me: “Do you have anyone who understands Spanish in your team?”

Lady: “No.”

Me: “That explains it, doesn’t it?”

Lady: “It doesn’t/ Look… We are a bunch of senior people here and the guys we are hiring are all junior level people. So if we don’t get it, how can you expect them to?”

I gave her a poster in English with a bullfighter on it. She bought it without as much as a hint of hesitation. Bravo!

Note: Spaniards and Spanish were used instead of ‘C Programmers’ and ‘C’ respectively for the benefit of the non-tech-savvy public. And I don’t speak Spanish.