Sunday, December 27, 2009

Aal Izz Not Well

I just saw 3 Idiots. And I just had little beer to drink. And now I suddenly have a lot to say! I just found the movie ok ok. While it’s a formulaic & Masala hindi movie and I don’t like those but what actually killed the movie for me was high expectations, or rather wrong expectations. Someone had told me it was true to the book ‘5 Point someone’, while someone else had posted on FB that “It will remind you of your engineering days”, yet another post was “Best story about Friendship”, yet another was “Movie of the year”. Sorry but I didn’t find it any of the above. It was full of ‘done to death’ jokes like the space pen-pencil joke, the 4 women in Burqa getting their photograph taken, the replacing ‘chamatkaar’ with ‘balatkaar’, the mixing exam answer copies with others and a hundred others. And don't even get me started on the music.

The alcohol is hitting my brain now. And I’m just getting warmed up.

So now I will begin to spew my verbal volleys.

Engineering being the flavor of the day I will write this post as an Engineer. I will break it into 3 components. One for each idiot in me probably.

First take the Protagonist, or we say here in Hindi movies, the hero. Rancho. The character is so governed by Hindi Movie clich├ęs, actually the whole movie is, but still. The Mr Goody two shoes, who is the brainiest, creativiest, most free spirited and of course the guy who sets all wrong right. Not possible in real life… You cannot have such a chilled out attitude…. If you don’t come out when a senior calls you, you don’t get your door peed upon. You get your door broken, you dragged outside and you getting beaten black and blue. That’s the reality of engineering college. You don’t address your final year senior by his name (assuming the helicopter guy was in the final year, because you have such projects only in the final year), and you certainly don’t walk in your director’s room to give him Gyan. There is no surer way to get flunked or worse, suspended.

In all autonomous colleges engineering or otherwise, you don’t only get grades on what you write but also on what the Prof thinks about you. So Rancho coming first in exams is also highly unlikely. There are a lot of other 'non sensical' scenes with him too, but that’s pardoned, this being a Hindi Movie and all.

Then the other guy. Raju. Ok I agree having a Bimar Baap, Buudhi Maa and Bin byahi Behan is campy. Maybe it even struck a funny chord with people, but even I being a fan of all things campy/spoof didn’t find some things funny. There is nothing funny about some guy who is poor and his all family depending upon him to make it in the world.

And if you are so desperate that you are willing to take your life if you get rusticated then you don’t do TP in the college. And you certainly don’t pee on the director’s front door. I mean one mischief getting out of hand is understandable but you don’t do it knowingly. You should be scared.

And lastly the third guy Farhan. I like him. He is the most realistic of all the characters. The engineer who actually wished to be a wild life photographer. There are a lot like him. People forced into being an engineer or doctor because his dad either could not become one, or maybe his neighbor Kapoor Uncle’s sons became. All and all it doesn’t matter why are you being forced, neither does it matter what you wished to be. You fate is sealed a long time ago.

I can speak because I am one. Ever since I was in the 4th class and lived near Bansal Classes (for the uninitiated – Bansal Classes is the best and toughest IIT entrance coaching in the country) my dad had plans of sending me there. I did not know the difference between Engineer and Engine Driver then probably, but who cares. I was just an above average student with just a few bright sparks here and there. But one day my parents bought me a form. And I was threatened with no TV, no Bike, no phone, no this, no that if I don’t get through. Scared I shut myself in the room for a w eek and only emerged out to eat. I almost topped the exam in my fear. What I did to become an engineer is another story in itself. But two things are true, first I was good at maths thought I hated it, and loved physics, still do. And secondly the reason of becoming an engineer is the same as doing MBA, the lack of a better idea. I still don’t know what I wanna do. I have thought being a DJ, Bartender, Bar Owner, Rock Star, Filmmaker, Automobile Engineer, Automobile Salesman, IT Salesman, Advertising and everything in between. And I am still confused.

But back to the movie. I’m afraid that the movie fails to break any new ground. He could have focused on the actual engineering hostel life, the tragedy of student suicides, the ineffectiveness of grades in the real life or a maybe some other real issue. But he chose to just touch these issues and move on to more frivolous stuff that pleases the crowd.

Hey, but then this is just a Masala movie and I am drunk. Who cares about my review? And Mr Chopra and Mr Hirani are laughing all the way to the bank. For them, Aaal Izz Well.

P.S. - Though it is published in the morning it was written at 11 in the night. As a matter of principle I don't drink in the mornings.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Waning Moon (Part 2)

“Bloody HSBC didn’t select me!”
She threw her file as she stormed in the house. He has just got up and was still groggy from last night’s booze.” HSBC? What happened?” He asked but she didn’t reply.

“They were looking for some dumb bimbette it seems! That’s why they took that small brained, big breasted bitch Sonia”

“Hey come on, they are still other companies” He said still trying to make sense of what was she saying. Her temper was really off the hook today.

No there are not. HSBC is the last decent company visiting the campus this year” “I think it’s better to join a call centre and sleep with my boss now than sit for any placements in this college”.

“Come on it’s not that big a deal. You don’t know what you are saying”

“No IT IS a big deal. You don’t know what is happening. You should be last person to tell me this. Did you even bother to send your CV to the placement cell?”

She was after him since long to do that. She has asked, begged, shouted and everything in between at him to send his CV to the placement cell. But he always made some lame excuse to delay it further. Actually he didn’t want to send it. He would rather spend time writing a new song than writing his CV. Pragesh, Aditya and Varun weren’t sitting for placement either. He tried telling that too to her but she had screamed “That’s because they are rich spoilt brats and will live off their dad’s money. Not that they care about the band so much”.

But the MTV Campus Rock auditions were near. The jam sessions were going very good, everybody who had heard their sound said they really had a shot at it. One girl even compared him to Jim Morrison in their last gig in ‘Strawberry Fields’. He had dismissed it as sarcasm but he couldn’t sleep that night. It was now or never for them.

Annie’s hysterical shouting of his name had brought him back from his thoughts.

“Aby.. Aby.... Are you even listening to me? Did you send your CV to the placement cell?”

“Yes... I mean no.. I am mean yes I was.. But then I got stuck in my tenth standard percentage... I don’t remember it... I’ll calculate and put it today and send the CV to the P-Cell.”

“What? You haven’t sent it yet? From last two days you’ve been TPing and drinking with your friends. I haven’t seen you in the house. And you didn’t even find 15 minutes to complete your CV! Wow!”

“Hey.. I wasn’t doing TP or anything. We were jamming. Then I just went out with them for a drink. The band ought to hang out there. We need some cohesion if we are gonna tide over this. And the band needs to be on same page musically ...”

“The band, the band, the band. It’s that all in your life? Do you even care about me anymore?”

“Of course I do. But you have been after my life for this thing. And my band...”
“Again you band... Your life... Do you even know what is going on in my life? Dad had called last night. He made it thoroughly clear that if I don’t get a good job after college they are going to marry me. They have even finalized a guy”

“What? You didn’t tell me... But why ... I mean they can’t...” He was too shell shocked and scatter brained to make any sense.

“That’s because you weren’t home to tell. I have been crying in my room alone since last night. That’s why I messed up my interview today.”

“Hey I didn’t know. I am sorry. Listen tell him about us. Tell him how much we love each other. Tell him that our band is about to take off. In a few years we might even start headlining concerts. And then...”

“And then what? Then what Aby? The guy he has picked out for me is earning a six figure salary. He is about to go abroad and wanted to marry me before that is finalized. And you are playing at gigs where no one is willing to give six rupees to listen to you. What should I tell my dad?”

“Hey that’s really uncalled for. Let me talk to your dad”

“Talk to him and say what? Tell him that your only accomplishment in life is that you play the best guitar in the college and you made his stupid daughter fall in love with you? You need a job, something more worthwhile than your stupid guitar”.

“Didn’t you love my guitar? Wasn’t this the guitar on which I played “Do I have to say the words” that made you shout out in front of everyone “I love you”? Wasn’t it this stupid guitar?”

“Yes. And you know what my dad is gonna say? He is gonna say that even if you sell this piece of junk guitar you won’t be able to get so much money that Rajeev Thomas makes in a day”

“Well your dad is an idiot then”

“Hey don’t say anything about my dad”

“And you don’t say anything about my guitar.”
He said pushing her. She had tottered back and hit the guitar. In a fit of fury she kicked it and it made a loud sonorous sound as it crashed on the ground. The headstock twisted. That was it for him. He raised his hand in anger.

“Go on, hit me” she demanded with voiced drowned in sobs “That was all that was remaining to happen between us. But remember that I am dead for you now. You heard me. DEAD”

This was 8 years ago exactly this day. He couldn’t remember the time. It was over too soon as love, hope and promises came crashing down with that Guitar. A lifetime over in a moment.

“Akshay. Akshay.” She repeated twice to snap him out of his thoughts. “You still keep getting lost in your thoughts. So what else? Married? Any kids?”

“No. Not married. What about you?”
“Ya. Married. Been seven years now. No kids. Sorry didn’t invite you for the wedding. It was so sudden and I didn’t have any contact info of you. You also didn’t even call once since... since...”

“I did once”
, he said getting the meaning of ‘since’ “To tell you that I got through IIM Bangalore. But you sister picked up the phone, she told me you were getting married in a few days and also never to call again”

“Oh sorry. That was so rude of her. I didn’t know. But IIM B? Wow. That is so cool. You must be big shot now”

“Seven years and no children?” He quickly asked to change the subject, giving his signature quizzing lop sided smile. He didn’t want to talk about his getting into IIM B. About the toil; the blood, sweat and tears and mostly his reason of getting in.

“Yes. It’s a long story” She sighed

“I am not going anywhere soon” he said sitting down diagonally away from her and signalling her to do the same.

Akshay my baby died in childbirth. The doctors told me they could only save one of us and they chose me. And also that I will never be able to deliver anymore. I was never going to be a mother again. And Rajeev never a father as long as he is married to me.” She spit out almost as if this was choking her.

“Oh I am so sorry. I didn’t know otherwise I would have never...” “Yes we all are.” She said with a tear forming in the corner of eyes.

“So you are in India for....?” He quickly again tried to change the topic.

She swallowed a lump in her throat and said”Today was my dead child’s birthday and death anniversary. I came to put flowers on his grave”

Akshay started trembling and blurted out “Then how come Rajeev, I mean your husband isn’t here?” “That’s because he doesn’t want to be reminded of it. That’s why we left India. He wants to be distanced away from everything that reminds him of his dead son, including me”

“Look I didn’t mean to... I am sorry... I really had no clue...”
He was really at a loss of words once more in his life as he put his hand in his pocket to take out a handkerchief to wipe her flowing tears.

“How could you know? I am sorry. I don’t say all this to anyone. I don’t know why it all came out in front of you” she said regaining her composure and wiping the tears on her face.

“It’s ok.. I mean... I am sorry.. I.. Never Mind”

“So any girlfriends” She asked sitting up, she had really sunk in the chair. “And how many since me? Be honest”

“No. None since. I think this boring hair style and this cheap suit have managed to keep the women away” he said while running his hand through his hair.

She let out a chuckle. “Come on, you look better in these hair than the tresses you had back then. But seriously no girl from past so many years?” “The girl I loved died”

And there was a deafening silence between them for a moment, a moment far too long.
“Didn’t you know that Princess Diana died?” He said cracking up.

Annie hit him with his magazine. “You still have your sick sense of humour” permitting herself a laugh.

An airline girl spoke in her typical airline prep school accent announcing that plane was about to start boarding. They both got up.

“Phew... Finally. I think I was gonna stain the seat with my suit by sitting on it for so long” Akshay quipped.
“You really haven’t changed a bit since I saw you. And you have done really well for yourself” she said laughing as she got up to board.

“Yes probably”, he said. “I just don’t play the guitar anymore” and walked off to get his ticket changed to another flight.

It was almost morning; the sun had almost killed the moon.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Waning Moon (Part 1)

“Mrs. Annie Thomas”
“Mr Akshay Bhatia”

Akshay felt a tinge of nostalgia when he heard the name Annie with his. It had been quite some time since that; 8 years to be exact, and a few hours probably. He was never sure about the time, but he never forgot that day.

Back in college Akshay-Annie was always spoken in same breath, they were inseparable. They used to live together, they both had the same friends, they liked the same things, and even the clothes they had started to resemble each other.

He always wanted to write a song about them but he never got to it. Every time he took up his beloved guitar and started to write something he always got lost, he always wanted to use the words her and the moon in the song. Some people saw a rabbit in the moon, some people saw old woman, he saw her. Though never at loss of words in his real life, he always fell short of expressions when he thought about her love. There was no way he could describe that in his songs.

Annie always used to comment whenever she saw him lost like that with his guitar “I think you love that guitar more than me”.

He always used to reply”Oh yes”. And they both used to giggle like children.

“Strange, isn’t it?” he thought, he now found that giggling in young couples so childish. Sitting in a pinstripe suit with glasses and a leather bag he looked so far removed from it. Like it was some other life.

He looked around to find anything to read in the waiting lounge of Mumbai Airport. This was the best time to catch up on some business articles. At 4 am in the cold November morning there was nobody to call him, no intruding messages on the blackberry, nobody to meet but himself.

He found himself more at peace in this airport lounge than in the fancy holiday resorts where they used to hold the conventions. Those were an exercise in futility for him; there was no point of these conventions but to network. People used to get drunk on free booze and the fact that they were away from their wives always used to egg them on to ‘just one more drink’. The fact that he wasn’t married, wasn’t going to and wasn’t interested in meeting people in his trade made it more like a punishment for him. He did not even go for his IIM-Bangalore alumni meets in Bombay, his sitting in one corner, alone with his ‘scotch on the rocks’ made him look like an alcoholic. “I am drinker with a singing problem” he used to quip whenever somebody commented on his heavy drinking in college days. The alcohol lubricated the jammed windows in his mind and he could go to places in his head he otherwise couldn’t have. He wondered why he was remembering his graduation days again today. He had successfully blocked them out for the past 8 years. Maybe it was that name.

The airline had paged for the business class for the morning flight to Melbourne. And then left him waiting, the flight wasn’t for another one hour. He had come a bit too early, but then he didn’t want to be late. He was always before time in all his appointments now. He had paid a very heavy price for being late in one thing in his life. Plus he liked the dawn, a dark night coming to end and the bright new sun rising out of the ashes. The imagery somehow appealed to the poet inside him that he had tried to strangle.

They had really very well done the new Airport. It was clean, arranged, and very well managed. At par with any other airport, he thought. But now he missed the ‘Indianess’ of it all. The chaos, the rush, people buzzing, India the way he remembered. It was raining and really chilly outside, but the business class lounge was comfortable, warm and dreary. He was looking around for the magazine rack when the something shiny caught his eye. It was the letter ‘A’ hanging from a silver bracelet along with a crescent and a heart. He had seen a similar bracelet once.

It was the time they had gone to Pondhicherry. Annie had really liked it when she had seen it. She didn’t say anything but her eyes did. He always read her eyes and that made him know her; and that made him love her. She wasn’t only all that what she always showed in front of other people, she was more; and she was less.

He asked for the price,
“a thousand rupees” was the reply. He made a quick calculation in his head. His new ‘Sustain Pedal’ will have to wait another month, but he had to buy this for her. She had walked a bit ahead of the shop. He bought the bracelet and casually walked ahead of her, suddenly dangling the bracelet in front of her eyes.

“You bought this!” she exclaimed hugging him. "Idiot! This was so expensive.. And I really didn’t want it, I was just checking it out.."

“Ya ya I know” he said putting his finger on her lips to silence her.

“Thank you! I am going to this FOREVER” she said hugging him again.

“Forever” he gave a mocking smile to himself, “What an inept word” and started walking towards the magazine rack. He picked this month’s Forbes and started walking back when he heard a familiar voice call “Akshay”. He turned and his stomach plummeted as he saw the face he used to see in the moon. There she was, dressed in a white kurta and jeans, big dark glasses hiding her pretty eyes but still looking beautiful as ever. The danglers were the same, the ‘A’, the heart and the moon, but the bracelet was different, much more expensive. She had really traded up. But there was something about her eyes.

“Wow, what a surprise. Here of all the places!”

“Hi” he said, trying to muster a casual smile

“Hi, how are you? God, it’s been ages since I last you” she said getting up from the couch.
Akshay wished to recount the exact time. 8 years ..... but better sense prevailed over him. “I’m good” he said “And you? “

“Oh great as ever. I really couldn’t recognize you in the suit and the short hair. What’s up, what are you doing these days?” she chirped, as she lunged forward to hug him.

“Nothing much, I am working in a company called E&Y as a consultant. Was going to Melbourne, we have an office there” he said clearing his throat, as he gently shook her hand taking a step back.

“Oh yes yes I know of the name. There are a big client of my husband’s. My husband works for Mindtree they provide software for your company” she added seeing the puzzled look on his face.

“Oh” and added “Good” almost as an afterthought. He added two plus two in his head. Mindtree had a major office in Singapore and his flight had a stopover at Singapore. Maybe they were going in the same flight.

“So you going to Singapore?" He asked.

“Yes me and my husband live there, since the last 4 years” There was again that tinge of sadness in her eyes.

He remembered the last time he had seen this emptiness in her eyes. And his mind wandered back to that time, 8 years and a few hours ago.....

(to be continued...)

P.S. - I split the post in two because I thought people like me would be too lazy to read such a long post.

Coming Soon - Waning Moon (Part 2)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hungover Poetry - 2

Get off from your past love’s cobwebs, Shake up,
You’ve had better nightmares, wake up.
No it doesn’t always happen to you, don’t whine.
You've got your troubles, I got mine.

Your love has been shut out and spit out and ripped apart,
Remember that nobody ever died of a broken heart .
My train kept a rollin’ with bitter words and a glass of wine,
You've got your troubles, I got mine.

There is nothing to do but pick up the pieces,
First love’ first pain never ceases.
I lost a diamond and you weep for Rhine,
You've got your troubles, I got mine.

I too had lost my love today,
All of my dreams have flown away.
And so forgive me if I seem unkind,
You've got your troubles, I got mine.

Maybe we will meet in another place at another time
But till then you've got your troubles, I got mine.