About Me

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Who Laughs Last!

It happened around the time the Dal Makhani was brought in. The joke being told was not the kind that deserved intense laughter – atleast not the heart-and-maybe-a-foot-below intensity it held. Having been a passive observer of these traits for some time, I realized what that laughter was even before the Dal was completely served – and in clichéd wisdom remarked to myself – “Dal mein kuch kaala hai”.

Every career brings with it, its idiosyncrasies (every career is a carrier of its idiosyncrasies, anyone! :-) ). Mind it – I’m not talking of a person but a career. Here’s an example – A fireman’s favourite joke (notice reference to gender) will be about his hose being longer than his colleague’s… like that!

Here I write about an idiosyncrasy of a life-time member from the consultancy career – The Consultant’s Laugh! On many occasions our ilk faces situations where clients or fellow consultants need to be appreciated and humored. If you won’t take my word for it, try getting 3 years sales data split month-wise from a client. Pressurize him enough to give you the data and see if his CV won’t appear on Monster.com within a week. In such situations, a little appreciation and humoring is not seen as out of place. It’s termed ‘client-relationship’. There are other easier ways by which as a consultant, one can keep the client and others around in good spirits. Some of these methods involve a 2 year prison-stint and/or a 5000 buck fine. Hence, they will not be written about.

The Laugh is not something one is born with. Like the other great things about a person – leadership, courage, smelly arm-pits and flatulence – it’s an acquired trait. And one that is acquired with a lot of dedication. The Laugh is not made explicit or explained when one joins this line of work. Very much like the bonus-calculation mechanism. And one fine day, if you survive the “induction” where one particular department tests your ability to stay awake under the influence of chloroform, one hears it. Sometimes a hollow sound, like when you open the tap of an empty beer barrel, sometimes full and flowing, like when you open the tap of a loaded beer barrel and sometimes silent and inconspicuous like when you open the tap of no beer barrel. The Consultant’s Laugh!

One can trust the quality of the consultant’s work, based purely on the quality of The Laugh he generates. The more annoying and fake it gets the more certain of the recommendations being a ppt lifted from the company’s archives. Any signs of The Laugh being genuine and one can be sure there is some very good data analysis done before referring to company archives for recommendations.

With a year-and-a-half neatly tucked behind, time and other-wise, it was fairly recently that I realized The Laugh hiding in me. All original and I’ve also been practicing hard using the mirrors in the rest room (only now realizing why some of my colleagues are avoiding me lately). It ain’t too hard to discover the gift one has. Go on… give it some thinking over the weekend and flourish and aim for that career shift!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bite the Bullet

The last two months have been trying! The project having gotten underway, it prevented me and my team from doing anything but that which consultants do - namely, ask for data, reject data given to us, sulk behind the client, clean the data over 70% of the period of the project, (filtering through xl does it well I've realized, though a colleague discovered an easier and more assured way using a P & G product; he refuses to divulge further information and needless to say, was assigned most of the cleaning), build wonderful models using xl sheets and give them names like "Return of the Mother - X-series - V1.1.xls".

In a desperate attempt to discover/invent silver-linings for ourselves in those bleak times, we ran up a very good bill at the local condiments store (being Mallu, he has a wonderful take on diversification and sells tea, tea estates in Darjeeling, low-cost labor for tea estates in Darjeeling, filter coffee, coffee filters and cycle chains). The silver-lining was quick to be seen, when he told us our daily bills. It appeared as a multi-Z shaped cloud right above the head when paying up and some wonderful reverse peristalsis on a jam bun.

That's not all the silver-lining I could bring up. On a personal front, I realized a long-held wish and a near-impossible hope. I bought the Thunderbird that I so much wanted. A-haa, not an old one, but a new one that depleted my savings account like a Las Vegas casino might when dealing with a bad hand at the cards. 'Near-impossible', I use the phrase due to the kind of pressure folks @ home put on me.

"Minimum mileage should be 65kmpl" said Dad.
"Should the vehicle run on water or is milk good enough?" came my reply.

"Its a very heavy bike!" said Mom.
" ". I didn't have to say anything. With arms outstretched I let her take in my complete picture and she quickly figured out where all the butter dosas she made went.

A week after the purchase I fuelled up. I filled myself up with 3 litres of trepidation at the first intimidating traffic junction and headed out to the nearest Ganesha temple. In these days of reckless riding, nothing like some help from upstairs I thought. Parked beside the temple and awaiting the coconut-breaking ceremony was a Pulsar (due regards to the Bajaj family and their pet peeves). The vehicles seemed to have a sense of competition between themselves and I could distinctly feel a rumble from my bike, which told me that it wanted the Pulsar for breakfast and if left over, a brunch! (minutes later I realized the sound was due to the fuel levels having reached reserve and me not acknowledging the fact).

With some clear hand-signs I interrupted the priest's hymns and made it clear that coconuts needn't be broken on bikes for blessings and the road was built for just that purpose. Having settled accounts with Priest Sir, God sir and a pantheon of other god-fathers and god-mothers, I set out to fuel the bike.

It was here that the first of the acknowledgements from society dropped by. Though the bike is very personal, nothing like a bit of Maslow's higher layers pitching in to make one feel good. Fellow-rider of a Bullet started his bike a short distance away. I glanced in that direction without giving it a thought. Bullet-man before taking off, raised his hand in my direction with a leather-gloved thums-up sign. A silent nod of his head later (a vertical nod, indicating respect and approval, not the horizontal one, which indicates non-approval and flies around the head) he went his way. Tough men don't smile I said to myself. I looked at the mirror of my bike and smirked hard instead. With a thumping kick to the start, I rode back home.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Grapes Were Sour

Read the blog below about auto-drivers in Bangalore? If you’ve read it, thank you! If you haven’t, kindly do and then accept heartfelt thanks (ladies stand in front of queue). If you don’t want to read it – that’s alright too – now, that I’ve written it, neither do I. What I’ve written in the current piece draws a wee bit from what I’ve written below. A sequel if you may call it one – hence, the request to read the earlier blog.


With the arrival of the end of my bus-travel days, I looked forward to getting a 2-wheeler. Small thing now, but back in those days, to a guy like me it was as important as a color photo of Silk Smitha. Fate, however, made a quick move on me and sent me off from the city, moving the bike out of the picture. The closest analogy for this kind of disappointment, involves waiting in the movie ticket queue for about 30 patient minutes. With 3 people left, they announce that the last 20 tickets will be sold outside in black by the guy wearing red, on a highest-bidder basis. Multiplexes don’t do that, but try a Tamil or Telugu movie release on a weekend.

For all those intermittent visits to the city, the mode of transport forced upon me, was the humble autorickshaw - ‘humble’ being a reference to my state after being fleeced.

Only recently did Lady Luck smile again and put me back where I do belong – Bangalore. And not in Aruba, as lone touch-up fellow for the Pirelli calendar models… that’s where I would like to belong. I knowwww… its only semantics! On knowing with certainty that I would be in Bangalore for atleast 3 months, my first need was to change the mode of transport. A car was more of a luxury and less utilitarian I felt, like wearing golden jocks! It had to wait its time. It was back to square one. Plans from the earlier years were taken out and the dust covering them blown away.

Deciding to buy a bike was as easy as provoking Andrew Symonds in India. The difficulty was in deciding which one should be bought – how should we provoke Symonds - and therein lies the essence of this current piece.

Its time now to introduce a friend of mine – friend, philosopher and misguide – Manoj Bhat. A senior from college, Manoj in most aspects represents a typical MBA. Which means, he believes he’s either over-worked or underpaid and on Monday mornings, both. There are however, other aspects in which he doesn’t subscribe to the norms. His choice of leisure activities, for starters! Manoj is an endurance runner and most of his leisure time is spent training for the full-marathon. He is the kind who will run 20 kms in a matter of 2 hours and call it a warm-up. I on the contrary, would use a more scientific term to it – evaporation.

Also different or atleast not common-place is what he rides – A Thunderbird from the Royal Enfield stable. One may want to argue that it isn’t the greatest choice of a bike for city roads. “Why, a Pulsar or even a Splendor is far better for acceleration!” you may say. After half-a-dozen whiskey shots later you may even pick the gall to add “A TVS 50 or a Luna is more value for money!” I wouldn’t disagree with the former or the latter – more so with the latter because in principle, I don’t argue with anyone who has that much of alcohol in the body. All said and done, big bikes have a great appeal about them.

Paape’s Jawa was my first interaction with a member of the big-bike club. This was in 1998 when Pulsars were still restricted to the Physics syllabus. He would politely let me handle it from the bike-stand inside the college to the first junction we came across and when he was of a generous disposition, even further. A grand 200 meters it was. I even got to wipe the dust of its covers everyday, I remember. In return, I would ward off any attempts by the junior girls to play the role of Pillion on his bike. A very good friend I make. Loyalty is the key here… that and a mean look when any girl tried to capture the pillion seat. I would fight away the need to get onto a bus as much as I could. And if it meant my close friend would have to remain single and unable to mingle for 4 years – only fair, I thought.


In the run up to the final decision, I was faced with two front-running options - the Bullet always held an appeal, but as a practical choice, the Activa seemed to make sense. Unable to conclude, I checked with some friends.

“An Activa is perfect for city roads; solid pick-up…yes, picking up girls also…. Yes... petrol and charm are both needed”

“Bullet – mileage and maintenance – not so easy. No spare parts easily available!”

“You got just one life Suri, go for it! You’ve always liked big bikes… remember the Jawa?”

“You’ve never owned a bike earlier, the Bullet will be too much to handle.”

Arguments were shot back and forth, all with the intent of easing the selection process. I gave it deep thought for nearly 3 days and an equal number of nights… By the morning of the fourth day, it was all over.

The winner was clear. The Bullet it was! If I ever convinced myself that the Activa was a better choice than the Bullet, I would do so because the grapes were sour and not because I genuinely felt that way about the Activa.


Having made the choice a quick check of the price list of the models at the nearby showroom was made. One lakh Rupees was the general figure. With my savings I could easily purchase the helmet and a mud-guard; with a kidney thrown in I guess the complete bike would be at buying length. Deciding to retain my body intact, I did the next best thing – approach Manoj and check if the biking club he rode with had any used-bikes up for sale.

A day passed by… then another! By the third day restlessness stepped into the picture and I cold-called Manoj. For all of my luck there was one, he said. A Thunderbird for 50K; the owner was abroad and wouldn’t return for a few years atleast. I could check the bike out anytime I wanted. This was it I knew. My bike was waiting for me somewhere. But I was unable to convince the owner for a 2 day warm-up period on the bike. Manoj stepped in again! He suggested a ride to Hoskote on his own Thunderbird, to figure out if I can handle it. At 11 in the morning on a Saturday we met up. I sat on a Royal Enfield, as a rider, for the first time and worked the gears. All smooth! The ride had begun. Power from the engine reached the wheels with precision. By the time we covered a few kilometers, I was convinced.

6 hours later I was back on my own. All that was there was to arrive at a fair price for the bike on sale and get to the haggling part with its owner. A short test ride to a mechanic and a phone call to the showroom later, the price was clear – 50K was on the higher side. The recommended price was 40K. “Five thousand rupees jaasthi for frensip” said the mechanic with a smile that was short of a few teeth. The mech gets his friends for dirt cheap I second guessed.

Within hours, the mail from me must have reached Manoj’s friend – the owner of the bike. 40K was what I was willing to give. It was only a matter of time before we arrived at some conclusion and with that feeling I relaxed. 2 days later the response wasn’t still there. The mail could have been wrongly recognized as spam; he may not have found time to read it – the possibilities were large.

Things couldn’t wait any further at my end. I called his folks in Mysore. It was 12 pm, on a Wednesday that was already loaded with work.

“Aunty, I checked with the mechanic. He said 50K was too high and 40K was a good price. Even the showroom person says the same. I’m fine upto 45K but nothing above that aunty… and yes, I’m also in a hurry to get done with this… before Dussehra goes by for sure… Oh! OK… that’s great to know… pretty good price too… What’s his name? That’s fine… Thanks a lot anyways aunty!”


A few minutes later, some friends and I marched up to get lunch at the office canteen. I felt heavy and settled down for a fruit salad - an unholy mess of banana, shredded oranges and apple pieces, all mixed with honey and topped with a lot of grapes. “So when are you getting that Thunderbird” asked one of the colleagues. “Weren’t you supposed to know the final price yesterday itself”, he continued.

“Thunderbird? It’s not such a great bike” I remarked, while shoving some of the fruit mix into my mouth. “I’m buying the Honda Activa, its certainly the better one for me."

And as I chewed on the salad, I could feel the grapes.... the grapes.... were sour!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Autodrivers of Bangalore - Second half (or) The Journey Not-completed

For the first half of the journey, kindly refer to the blog below this one

What amuses me most is the versatility with which the average Bangalore autodriver has arrived at this juncture – from being a mere con-artist to one who can nudge bigwigs out of the Interpol’s red corner list; from being fluent only in one language – abusive, to being able to swear in 6 – he has come a long path. And if he throws one quick glance around and looks at the path… he’ll realize it’s the wrong side of a one-way road.

I will take you, my dear reader, on a ride with one of these autos. The ride itself may be uneventful, but there is plenty to cover before and after it. See if you can get some learning out of this and apply it in Bangalore or in your own city if there is a fit.

The pain in the backseat starts seconds before you get into the auto. A potential traveler, with hope in eye and good coffee and sweet wife waiting at home, approaching an auto driver will get the following treatment –

Let’s assume the pedestrian can speak Bangalore’s version of Kannada

Passenger: “Bartheera!” (Translation – “Comingaaa!”)
Auto Driver: “Yellige!” (Translation – “Where to?”)
Passenger: “Koramangala” (Translation – “Koramangala”)
Auto Driver: “Tch!” (Translation – “Tch!”)

Other travelers, heading out in any of the other three directions, will meet the same fate. You conclude that that auto drivers have got into market research - using cluster analysis to figure out where citizens would like to travel most - and have quit their natural-born instincts of transporting people around.

Let’s assume that Shukra and Shani in the potential passenger’s zodiac for the week are in the right position. They aren’t upto any of their usual tricks and are rather co-operative. This translates to the potential passenger finding an autodriver who is willing to transport him to the chosen destination. Now, he needs to face the next level of the game – the “Put something on the meter and give no!” syndrome. Here’s how it works…

No driver in his normal senses is willing to go by the meter. There always is a need to ask the traveler to “put something on the meter” and pay them. Being a veteran at receiving such requests from those tough souls, I suggested to one of them, a banana for the putting. The humor not only failed to register but was greeted with the look of a lion being told it had to go on the Atkins’ diet.

Convince the autodriver that you need to be taken for a ride and he might agree, but only on the outside. Deep inside, he has worked out the figurative meaning of “being taken for ride” and will scheme and plot like he’s the white-sari protagonist in a Ramsay movie. At that most crucial V junction in the road ahead, while leading you to believe that the Indian team did win the T20 and that he is indeed going to take the right of the fork as you wanted, he will take a cruel left. Your yelling at him for taking the wrong route will bring out the Socrates in him, convincing you with skewed logic that this route is indeed the shorter one and that all roads lead to the same destination (hence the adage – “All roads lead to roam”).

Of late, I have in my experiments with autorickshaws (read not much between the lines… the experiments are straight and have the SPCA’s approval), figured out that the auto’s wires snap when there are pretty women on the road or when a juicy junction in a busy part of the city is looming large. “Wire cut”, he will proclaim with gusto and a smile, as though that was your most anticipated event for the year since your great aunt infected you with common cold in mid-summer mango season. He will then go onto charge the full amount as shown by the faulty meter, along with whatever you can put on it. Just when you are out of sight, the meter in a pang of guilt will fix itself up and be ready for the hot chick from the north-east who is showing her legs a.k.a Yana Gupta in babuji zara dheere chal. I did try emulating them on one such desperate occasion; the results if memory serves me right, weren’t the same – the post-legging scene also, if I remember, involved a cop, some more autorickshaw drivers and women screaming and running into the front of moving buses. One is always left with the after-thought that he should have given the autodriver a nice kick between his legs and scream “banana split” in Mandarin before running.

A special mention also needs to be made of my friend Varun Veernala. Notice two things about the name – there is bravery spelt out clearly in the surname and there is no hint that he is connected to the Nizam of Hyderabad. When you pluck VV from Pecos and put him in front of any of our friendly autodrivers, both the observations, mentioned at the start of the para will go kaput. The bravery in his name quickly gets replaced with wetness in trousers and all autodrivers will immediately believe he is related to royalty. For the shortest of rides (and on one occasion, just for touching the autorickshaw), the drivers, on looking at VV will say “120”, “100” or the thereabouts. The auto unions have all passed decrees – the actor Ambareesh is our idol and no one shall charge Varun Veernala less than 100 for any ride. Great unity these auto drivers have.

So there! All I had to say about the drivers of Bangalore’s three-wheeled monsters. I do realize that I may not have touched all aspects. For example, his kindness in running over only one school kid when there is potential for three; his penchant for blowing cigarette smoke when the Miss inside is asthmatic – just to name a couple. After all, it is difficult to mention in one piece of writing, all that an auto-driver can do to you, without outraging modesty or referring to your lineage. I also choose to not make it completely exhaustive, so that the reader may pitch in with his views. No word limits. One nice compilation later, I can visit the auto-drivers union at Rajajinagar, and make my presentation. Let’s see if they will charge me one-and-a-half on the meter on my return journey from there. I dare them! And if I don’t blog within another week, you’ll know where to find me… please bring enough money.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Autodrivers of Bangalore - First half of the Journey

The predicament began in early 2003. Having spent 2 decades in Bangalore and having graduated from here, the grass didn’t really look greener on the other side. Add to it, I had mooed away from many a bovine tendency and grass didn’t mean the same thing to me as it did to the fauna of Serengeti or the sadhus of Varanasi.

What I had looked forward to, after graduation, was a pleasant life centered around Bangalore, run for mayor by the time I’m 30, win by 35 and start making my quick-buck. By then I was sure “Greasing of the palms” would have received a small-scale industry status and being a fledgling industry, atleast legally, would be entitled to a tax break. A couple of wives to go with – belonging to the neighbors, frequent presence in the crime beat of the city and life would be set.

With such long-term plans for a stay in Bangalore made, I decided it was time to head to a better way of traveling within the city. For years it was my legs that served as the mode of transport. And when faced with stray mongrels, they doubled up as a mode of communication too. The rear of many a mongrel did meet my feet. But with the advent of the mid-school-life crisis (8th standard as I refer to it), there was a strong need to match the classmates. Peer pressure came in easy-to-use packages even in those days and were available in all classes, near the canteen, at the playground and in the Monday morning assembly. Convenient! I had to get a cycle. Soon!

One fine day, well ahead of the Christmas holidays I did get my cycle. Folks at home had surprised me with a Hero Ranger – one of those rugged ATB (“Any Time Bxxxx” is what my friends told me) thingies that would ensure looks from St. Francis Xavier’s Girls High (7th standards). From being foot-soldier I had progressed to the next best thing on wheels at that age.

By engineering I had learnt how to flashbus-pass while holding onto dear life on the footboard. Many a bus-stop did I see in those years and many a girl did I observe being picked up by men on bikes. The heart craved for one (A bike I mean, girls weren’t priority then and seem to be out-of-syllabus now). 4 years of journeying by bus and I had decided the first salary would go for the down-payment of a bike. The Little Sisters of Charity would have to wait a little longer.

So far so good! Plans were clear-cut and had there been quick access to a computer I could have even given my reasons to the Little Sisters, in ppt format.

However, the clichéd twist-in-story wasn’t far off. Separation from the city emerged within a couple of months after college. Wanderlust set in on its own accord and there was no stopping him. From Bangalore to Mangalore on the west coast; from the west coast to the east coast to adorn Bhubaneshwar and then the plains of the north at Lucknow. My constant companions through all these cities were the urge for a bike and the inability at remembering if Chhak or Chowk was how they referred to a traffic junction in that city. Visits to Bangalore were getting shorter and when in the city I needed a quicker mode of transport than feet or buses. Averaging out the two-wheel drives I wanted and the four-wheeled vehicles of the more fat-walleted, I arrived at the three-wheeled autorickshaw.

Talk about digressing from a topic. Reminds me of a professor who went onto explain why windows shudder when planes fly-by. If memory serves right, it was debit-credit and a P & L statement that he wanted to talk about.

The intent of this piece is to talk about the auto drivers in Bangalore – my chosen mode of transport in the past few months … and how! Heck, nothing like an overdone introduction. Sometimes the foreplay is more fun than the act I think. On that note, let me stop here… my thoughts about the Autodrivers of Bangalore (“Man-eaters of Kumaon” feeling to it heh?) in the next blog.

Khaindly waiting pliss….

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Conservation of Conversation

It’s one of those things that God didn’t distribute evenly amongst his human creations – an ability to converse. I’m guessing the distribution mechanism involves a random algorithm, developed by IBM and sold for a neat 18% profit to God and his scrooges. Those from my institute would vouch that God’s factory (last heard it was located in Taiwan) ain’t the only place using that random algorithm – remember one particular Quantitative-techniques oriented credit in the third term of the first year! (Lest ‘my institute’ makes me sound like a retard, let me be clear that I’m referring to the one that taught me management @ Lucknow).

So where is all the talk about the ability to converse taking us – Picture this!

************************** PICTURE 1 ******************************

Alexander, the Great, enters, dressed in pink pajamas and a striped toga to go with. Wine in hand; approaches Aristotle

Aristotle seated on a high-seat; one look into his mind tells he’s trying to add up 2 and 3 and arrive at 4; with a few Greek meters separating him and his disciple, he does prove that 2 and 3 add up to 4, but for the proof, assumes the following:

  1. God is a mainframe depreciated using the Straight Line Method and
  2. Archimedes lying nude in the bathtub actually said “Aiyyu... Rekha!”

Aristotle to Alexander: “What’s up Alex… how did the toga party go?”

Alexander looking roofwards: “Screw the party. I am thinking of setting off on a conquest. I’ve got this brave unit of 50 guys who will come along. Their love towards me has inspired them to join me. That and the daily allowance for onsite work. I will start by conquering Syria, head out to Babylon and see what them Babylonians have to say about my toga parties; Persia is pretty rich in camels – will conquer them for their humps, cross the Lut desert and the Hindukush mountain range. Then I shall set sights on that great state of Punjab - Bhangra might come into vogue sooner or later and I want to be in Punjab when it does – nice money in music production. The Oracle spoke of this singer called Dailer Mendi who will emerge to rule the world. Atleast that part of the world comprising of later day Jalandhar and Chandigarh.

From then on I shall be known as Alexander the Greatest and my picture shall be engraved on all stamps from now on”

Aristotle to Alexander: (after a pause) “Awesome. That’s neat dude! Sounds like fun… hmm... so, what else is happening in life?”

************************** END OF PICTURE 1 ************************

************************** PICTURE 2 ******************************

Two thick friends (thick on friendship, not in the head or at the waist) through chance, meet at the airport. The clock shows 10 AM. The flight is scheduled to leave at 10:15 AM. Both having booked tickets on Air Deccan, it means there is 1.5 hours for the flight to arrive. It’s their first meet after more than a year.

F1: “Oh yaar F2, after so many dayss! What’s up with you? Kaise ho aajkal?”

F2: “Thanks to God, everything is ok yaar. Bhabhi and Tinku are also doing well. I had been to USA some 8 months ago. What a strange place I say! Very difficult to get vegetarian food. But girls are very good looking yaar. And all wear very tiny clothes. Economic depression I think. Had gone for rafting in Colorado river yaar. Bahuth sahi thi. I’ll send photos to you. Same mail id no? I met with an accident over there. But was surprised no one robbed me when I was lying down unconscious and ambulance bhi very fast aagaya yaar. Not like hamara Dilli. Just now I’m going to Portugal in 3 weeks. Long term project hai naa. What else is happening in your life?”

F1: “Bas, same hai sab kuch. Tu batha... aur kya chal raha hai?”

************************** END OF PICTURE 2 ************************

It’s that group of people, of which F1 and Aristotle are sample representatives, against which I right. While one group strives to keep a conversation going, the other looks to kills it with the grace of Romesh Powar running 3 runs against a South African field set-up featuring Jonty Rhodes.

Their repertoire extends to “aur batha”, “aur kya” and “then” amongst other phrases. There must be some secret signs they use to recognize each other in public places, so they may avoid each other. The allowed list of phrases for such usage, I’m sure, is agreed upon on a quarterly basis through a laconic meeting. Wonder what the inauguration speech would be like. This is not so much an issue of language, than it is about people. And each language certainly has its trademark. I know that the most used Tamil version is “aprama”. Kind of rhymes with “triskaidekaphobia” but is pronounced A P R A M A!

The conductive effect of this group is wonderful. Even an excellent converser in a Coffee Day (would recommend a Café Mocha to my Mumbai friends, the one at Churchgate specifically) would wish he could dissolve into his Café Latte (one sachet sugar only please) when he faces a premium member of the group.

Premium Member: “Oh is it…. What else?”

Regular Bloke: “ What else??? “WHAT ELSE???” I just read out the brief history of mankind and all you have to say is “what el… glug glug glug…”

Phew! Now that it’s out of my system I can go rest in peace. In the meanwhile, my darling reader, please do write in and tell me what's new in life!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

An Anecdote in 2 parts - Part 2

Readers, khaindly refer to the blog below this one for Part 1..which reminds me of Woody Allen's classic - "Of late, I'm at two with nature". On that note....

The folks at the gurukul lived up to the ancient times’ hospitality levels. The long ride had helped us work out a good appetite and we were fed with salted-barley water for appetizers. A sumptuous breakfast later, signs of fulfillment spread around the camp. The mind asked me to treat it as a one-day get away to a resort and not worry about the tasks ahead. Put munch ahead of the crunch it said. I waved a silent acknowledgement at the wisdom of the mind. So with a heavy stomach and tired hands I stepped onto the field, with another 20 of my elective-mates.

Taking the test along with us were students from the gurukul too. Most of them looked a couple of feet taller than me, with muscles that could have ripped my right hand and stuck it in my nose. And those were just the girls. Grace and Beauty competed to display themselves in these girls. I acknowledged both and passed my visiting card to them. They weren’t the only things that came in two that I appreciated in them. Mind you, I was all-and-all from a boys-only school. Co-education until then meant doing Math and Science homework on the same day. Many of my school mates ogled at the girls with the keenness of an optometrist staring into a cataract eye. If they had taken out copyrights on Beauty we had taken copyrights on Ogling!

Being the only one who had taken the elective with the intention of chasing marks and not due to athletic-endowment, the size difference between me and the rest was obvious. Even Arif who was the only guy as short as me (+3 inches) bowled a mean leg-spin during the inter-school matches and could run like a march-hare in pursuit. On the contrary I would have preferred the role of the rabbit facing head-lamps.

Without going into all the events, let me highlight the 2 that remain strong in memory, like bubble gum under the sole. The first is the 100 m sprint. Being a ground of limited lengths, the sprint had been reduced to 80 m with the time taken being extrapolated to 100 m. Most of the students including the girls from the gurukul had run it down in around 12 seconds. Yours truly trudged up to the yellow mark indicating the start. To the end of the 80m strip was the sports instructor of our rivals’ school and looking at me with trepidation was my own instructor. I checked if there was an exit at the end of the 80m – one that I could run through to never come back. The whistle was blown and I took off with the force of a mighty wind. It was a mighty windy day. I had a mean look in my left eye and a few grains of sand in my right. The damn start! Wild cheers were sent out knowing I was the weakest link – cheers from both camps. One laced with pity and the hope of saving face, the other laced with sarcasm and laughter. The latter, I observed was coming from my school mates. 18 seconds later I had reached the instructor at the other end, completely exhausted. Some grass had already grown in the otherwise barren ground in that time. He had stopped recording my time at the turn of the 15th second. Anything below that meant no marks were awarded. Wasted calories I thought; I even had to contort my face when starting off.

The second of the events involved doing crunches – 30 of them in 60 seconds. Positioned on our toes, for each of us was one of the gurukul’s students. Mine was this very pretty girl of good height and gorgeous eyes. I think her name had a Laetitia or a Moss in it. Let’s call her Laetitia Moss to provide an identity. Her eyes were so loaded with kindness; I thought she would have participated in Mother Teresa look-alike contests if she didn’t become a sports instructor herself in the future. I introduced myself in a way that suggested I was looking for her mercy more than my strength to take me through this ordeal. Vincent to my left had got a guy as burly as he standing on his toes and he didn’t look pleased with whom I got. He would make me pay richly once back in school. I paid not just for my mistakes but for anyone’s in the last few benches of the class. Such was Vincent’s affection to me. The whistle was blown.

In the next 60 seconds I crunched and I puffed; I made sounds not suited to such societies; I swore at everything I could think of in a way Tibetan monks would have gone at Chengiz Khan’s life-size poster. With gravity pulling me on one side and the girl's legs calling out to me in whispers, I oscillated hopelessly. All I could conjure up were 12. Of these, 4 seemed like I only lifted my eyelids to stare at the sun and fall back without moving other body parts. I was at her mercy. Years ago, on one particularly lazy day, I had melted cheese with a single look. It was that same look that had landed on my eyes this time and deep inside I hoped she was born to the same cow as the cheese.

The instructor came up to each of the toe-crushers and asked them for the count.

“26” said Vincent’s guy, to my left. He had done well. Most of the marks were in his kitty. The instructor moved to the tall girl in front of me. My moment of truth was there – the girl and I exchanged glances. She looked from me to the instructor and back; and then back again at him. A soft whisper of the most delectable whiffs of air escaped her lips – “33”. A hard murmur of the most angered tones escaped Vincent’s – “You wait!!” I couldn’t care lesser! She was my saviour for that day and that elective. I wished to repay her. When we exchanged positions, her completing 42 crunches in a minute didn’t give me much of a chance for that repayment. I helped her back to her feet and overdid the thanking for the earlier help. By noon we were done and after a very good lunch were heading back to school. Vincent wanted to sit next to me during the journey; He said there was something personal he had to convey. He conveyed a sharp jab into my ribs. It was going to be a long ride and a longer day once back in school. It didn’t matter. I was in a different world by then. The only thing that mattered at that moment was that I had done 33 crunches in a minute. She had said so herself! I had chosen the right elective, indeed!

An Anecdote in 2 parts - Part 1

Every once in a while, a man has to stare into the business end of a double barrel and say “errr.. there’s rust there” and wink at the proprietor of the gun. I wasn’t really a ‘man’ when it was my chance to stare. Mistake me not dear fellas – a ‘man’ I may not have been, but pretty much had bought a one-way ticket to adulthood and in the meanwhile was going around with another three-lettered title - ‘boy’. The year was 1996 and I was in my 10th standard. And whatever be the three-lettered title I went with, my proficiency with four-lettered words was just as phenomenal then, as it is now. So with much haste let me narrate this anecdote.

Those were the days when students facing the board exams were never put under so much pressure as the current crop is. The primary aim for a lot of us was to focus on the main subjects of Science and Math and become an engineer. A few wanted to become doctors. Tuitions were only then picking up as a trend and the staunchest of self-taught (excluding the backing, biting and training I got from teachers) blokes like me, worked out other means. Electives!

I swore I wouldn’t let others influence me and would think this through a good deal. The electives were (rolling of drums, lolling of tongues) – Computer Science, Accountancy and Commerce and last and certainly the least - Physical Education. Having had a tryst with my fair share of grey cells over the years, the first seemed to be the obvious choice. But the eldest of the Chivukula brothers had another opinion. Advice flew thick and fast like chicken in Hotel Empire (Shivajinagar branch). The process of brain-washing was quickly followed by a spin of that same organ in the washing machine’s drying compartment and another 2 hours of drying in the shade on the terrace. ”Computer Science would be interesting but would need dedication – Physical education is a sitter and you should take that!” Just an elective I thought and went with popular opinion. The neighbourhood cheered. Their first trained-in-theory physical instructor! I believed I had comfortably scored an extra 5% in Math and Science with that choice of electives, what with all the extra time I’d have on hands while my other-elective friends would have to slog it out. Hands clenched, there was a kneading of air between them and a devilish grin on the face for the first few days of school. Everything seemed to be working out smug. I celebrated with a crunchy samosa in the canteen. We Physical Education lot believed in having a good diet.

But then, every cloud worth its nimbus and cumulus had to have its dark lining. There was a small catch in the scheme plotted. You see, though now I am above-average in height and just-below-average in weight (fingers crossed behind back), it wasn’t the same back in ’96. In those days, I was the favourite victim of the class’ most creative bully – Vincent Nelson. We were both in physical education to top it off. Many believed that I got my strength and stamina from the ration shops of those days – in very limited quantities a month and in the black market only. There wasn’t much competition I had to put up with in the Shortest-kid-in-school category during the Annual Sports Day.

What I lacked in height, however, I managed to lack in weight too. On more occasions than one I participated in an 8-a-side football match which already had 16 players and a referee. Vincent Nelson suggested to the boys that I, being his best friend and all, couldn’t be kept out of sports, especially not a football match. He insisted that I get a chance too and in spite of resistance picked me to be the football for those 45 minutes. Nice tradition we had there going. My 15 minutes of fame on the field came, when on one particularly rough day, I was in totem thrown twice each into opposing goal posts by opposing teams and also sprained my right ankle while trying to establish contact with a slow-moving ball. All of a sudden, it occurred to me that Computer Science as an elective was what I was born for, made for and craved for. School rules prevented a change. Bless them I cursed and a tear sought its freedom from the eye.

The year went on pretty satisfactorily otherwise. There wasn’t much of studying to do for this elective – Know the length and breadth of a football field, hockey field, nearby meadows, the closest bus-stop and such statistics and one could pass with flying colors. Only a month to go for the final exams, the announcement came! It chilled my spine to the last vertebrae and further. We were to undergo an ‘exam’ in a residential school on the outskirts of the city. Pen and paper were to be replaced by a ground and tracks. The sports teacher, Mr. Dereck Browne said there would be all kinds of sprints to do apart from standard fitness exercises. 30 crunches in 60 seconds, 30 push-ups in another 60 seconds and so on and so forth. The highest number of push-ups I had done in life was 6. And that too, because Vincent one day started pushing me to the ground and I tried rising. 6 times I rose mimicking the spider in the Robert Bruce story and 6 times I had been punched down to the ground. I gave up after that. I fancied I could have done 10 during that incident. The marks were to be for the board exams. It wasn’t to be my elective after all I thought. The honeymoon was over. I sought a divorce; and was refused.

I was had to face fate… I had to stare into the business end of the double barrel and say “errr… there’s rust there” and wink. The day had come. We entered the gurukul-style school on the outskirts of Bangalore. Dread filled my body like huge pebbles and in those crevices it left were a large supply of tears, waiting to be let out. The exam thus began!

Part 2 in a day or 4

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Emergency Exits and Excuse-me letters

Having run a quick 4.5 km, I thought I’d soak-in both the sweat and the feeling of being Michael Johnson on marijuana. Hmm.. Make that Ben Johnson on steroids. I sat down on the nearest and if I may add, only chair, in the gym. Hands locked in prayer-mode and beads of water falling off the brow; I stared down my unstrung shoes to the point where the lace tied themselves up. I knew they were scared of my setting off on another 4 km. Well, atleast someone took me seriously. And I thought to myself, if these strings took me seriously, the ones preceded by a capital g couldn’t be further behind.

The sadistic thoughts behind the gym-instructor's face were always prominent, like a streak of sweat left on the leather that binds treadmill handles. It says “come stick” when it actually means “come suck”. So when I heard my name being called out, I didn’t really jump with eagerness at the instructor’s voice – a la jack-in-the-box. My movements mimicked that of an antelope wearing a “my first name is Dinner” jacket and walking into a lion’s den with some ketchup bottles for antlers. Maintaining his curtness and stressing on his 22 inch biceps, the instructor suggested I go for a stroll instead of sitting there doing nothing. And the smirk he let hinted that He could have sleep-walked through 4.5 km on a Sunday morning. The options were easy to analyze – do more crunches if I loiter in the gym or stroll in the parking area if I didn’t. Which one offers greater comfort? Easy choice there! Fellow-followers of the religion of fitness saw a quick blur of 85 kgs leave the doors.

Half a minute later, retaining the antelope gait, I found myself at the watering hole gulping down a cool mug of beer water. The evening was meant to get a little more exciting.

Wasn’t long before I was joined by an old acquaintance – Curiosity. He hadn’t changed much. The shine on his coat was still on and so was that tiny curling of the lip he called a smile. Between the facial expressions of this acquaintance and the sadistic streak on the primary tenant of the gym, I could have said a 100 Hail Mary and thrown in an “Our father in heaven” free. Just to stay clear of trouble. Wasn’t to be. So we spoke, of times gone by and plans for the future. I suggested we take a little stroll and watched Curiosity promptly lead me out. He took a different path out of the building and I followed behind, murmuring “why not”?

The words were written in font 28, bold and italicized to stress on its importance – E M E R G E N C Y E X I T. Couldn’t have sent the message home better I thought. A lot that one can do with red paint nowadays. The acquaintance suggested I step out of that door and take in some of that fresh air. I tried the door. It wouldn’t budge. Must have been awhile since it was opened I thought and pushed harder. And what happened!?? The door came right away to life and shrieked with all the strength a door in this part of the country would shriek with. The door may as well have grown fists of iron and punched me in the gut. Wasn’t long before I saw two of them security folks run towards me, all the while giving the door a very worried look. I sensed small amounts of trouble and looked around for help. Curiosity had comfortably vanished and instead his third cousin, Shit-scared was hiding behind the curtain.

I had to remain calm. With the kind of cool that Al Capone might have waved with at security cameras on robbing the Bank of Scotland, Chicago, I waved a hand at the guards and said “false alarm”. I had developed an accent before security could have said “European”. I started to walk on to the other entrance hoping to find the first flight to the Seychelles. My quota of running for the day was long over and the well-guised attempt at running would best be described as ‘limping’. The security guards took a minute to dress up the wailing door in fresh nappies and caught up with me. I had by then moved to whistling a tune from Kill Bill and was appreciating the brilliant paint peeling off a corner in the lounge. Another 4 security guards, one carrying a fire extinguisher joined the other two. It ain’t a polite world no more. My smile was not returned by any of the guards. In the politest of tones they asked me to take a seat. I was willing to take one in the lounge if they’d let me run away after taking it. Of course, Al Capone wouldn’t have done that – oh no, certainly not on CCTV atleast. So I sat down relaxed. By now I had whistled 3 of the songs I had heard last and was on my way to copy-righting one of my own.

The head of security walked in pretty soon. 5 of the 6 guards pointed their hands to their foreheads. I guess they were hinting to me that the head of security was high on beef but low on thinking. The 6th guard quickly recognized the critical frequency of the nearest pillar and started vibrating in resonance. Nice picture he made. But certainly not a better one than me. I stood up to shake hands with the security head. Took me a second to learn that smiling was banned last week in their department - cost-cutting. I guessed they needed the money to buy a microwave for burning people who set-off emergency exits.

Wasn’t long before he put me through a test, an easy one I’d say. “In atleast 100 words, write a letter to the Access Control Room, Subramanya Arcade 1, IBM Bangalore”. I swear I heard him whisper “(10 marks)”. It was credits like these that took me through Lucknow. And there I was on the convocation day, about a year ago, querying everyone I met about using Communications-I knowledge from term one in corporate life. The answer my doubting friends is “Yes, you do use Communications-I skills in corporate life – in the gyms”. I put my best hand forward (the one that pushed the emergency exit door) and sat down to write the letter. 20 minutes and a total of 18 sighs from all guards later, I had signed off with a flourish. I smiled at the letter and caressed it affectionately. I added the date to the top right-hand corner of the page. I smiled and caressed it once more and handed the baby over to the security head.

As the entourage walked out of the doors, my hand involuntarily tried waving a good-bye at them. The next day, the inbox was populated with a mail from an id I’ve not seen before – access control. Couple of managers copied on the mail, it said security had stressed upon me the importance of not sounding off alarms like that. The damn liars had not mentioned a word about importance the previous night. Atleast, the ‘stressing me’ part of it was true I thought.

Of late I notice from my corner eye that there is a guard aiming his prying eyes in my direction, every time I stroll in the corridors that have the emergency exits. Process improvement measures I think to myself and take my place in the lounge.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Potter vs. the rest

Here's one that should get all those Potter guy's fans working their best curses and incantations on me. And I could wager half an onion with any blue-blooded Potter fan (henceforth, referred to as Potheads) that there's an equal number of muggles who are keen on mugging Potter and co. and seeing the business end of his broom stick fraternize with his own posterior. "Hi, I'm the biz end of the broom you fly on" the broom goes. "Hi, I'm Potter, Harry Potter. Zorro made this mark on my forehead and it hu...". Swooosh! Booom! There will be a clear reference to two marks the next time someone shakes a hand with Potter.

With 25 minutes of an auto ride in the morning, that sees as many stops on the way as would a passenger train on the Vishakapatnam - Cuttack broadgauge, small thoughts of Potter's abilities in magic ran through my head. Discussions with myself, led me to conclude that the following 5 magicians/wizards/tricksters could whoop Potter's arse any day they want. Here's my list. The list is surely small and this is where I'd need your help, readers of the blog. Kindly contribute to this list with as many names as possible and I'll publish the more complete list soon enough.

1) Houdini
2) David Blaine - did you check out that levitation trick. "Look mama, no broom"
3) Hermaine Granger - she'd kick his arse any day, twice on a Sunday and second Saturdays
4) PC Sorcar
5) Amrish's role as a vazir from the film Ajooba

Unite my fellow muggles, let's get the Hogwart's School of Magic ..well.. derecognized.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Back to the Gym - 25 Sweaty bodies and one single room

Now that I'm back to Bangalore, I thought I'd do something about my 20th birthday pledge of strolling towards a physically fit body. 'Strolling' as in working out for only half the time I spend in the gym. 'Physically fit' as in capable of breaking my previous personal best on the 80m sprint i.e. doing it in less than 16 seconds (Note to self - blog about how I set the record and conquered the world, all in one not-so-quiet evening).

Its only in the fairly recent past that I had quit the gym after spending 2 back-breaking, gym-instructor-abusing months at Crunch, Hyderabad. Readers, kind to note previous blogs about the experiences and escapades there. By the time I had quit Crunch, I felt no trace of laziness anymore and spelt it C R U T C H. The new spelling, I deemed, over Sulaimani chai, was more apt to my state after working out there. Excuse me for the flashback, but please to understand the emotions are high! Cut to the present? OK (bad music rolls in the background, a quick shot of the empty skies taken at 160 frames/sec, blurs past).

From time immemorial, peepal trees have been great places for discoveries of the spiritual kind. For more physics-oriented ones, Newton recommends apple trees (either ways, don't stand too long under coconut trees). It was under one such peepal tree, where the benched in IBM met up at regular intervals, that I made my all-important discovery - the gym at office was well-equipped and was free. Joy knew no bounds and I could feel the pectoral muscles sending neuro-muscular greetings to the biceps and triceps (the latter, merely a fledgling and incapable of comprehending the gym thingie). After a 3 day hiatus from office, I had taken the concrete decision of working out regularly in the office gym from Monday onwards. The day had arrived in all its glory today morning. Birds chirped near the window sill, smells from the neighbouring kitchens played pot-pourri and wafted through the windows, the alarm went off and without wincing a bit, I euthanized it for some more sleep. Today was going to be my gym day and I had no intention of starting by waking up early. Bejan Daruwalla in his recent advise for my star sign had strongly suggested I wake-up later than usual for the coming 15 days. With a name like that, you better respect him.

Around 5:30 pm, after a hectic 12 hours of work (fingers crossed behind back), I headed to the gymnasium eager to greet all the equipment awaiting my arrival there. A tidy crowd of 5 had stepped in already, along with the 2 instructors. A word about the instructors now. As kids, a good number of us might have, against parental advise, watched something called WWF (later called WF - wrestling federation). Any recollection about this brotherly-duo of Mabel and Mo. Do refer to the picture below for a quick jog of the memories. Else, don't bother. I might have exaggerated a bit around the waist areas I think, but honest to Hulk Hogan, my instructors couldn't have been too far from the photogenics ones below.

Mo (the smaller of the instructors) greeted me with a pleasant 'yes, sir' and led me to the cycling machine. I cycled and I cycled, what with the Tour de France going on and all that. With not much of an Indian presence around the Alpine stretches where the tour is headed to, I thought it was only fair that I do my bit from the hometown. 15 minutes later, the calorie meter had shown a clear 135 cals. Exactly 2.5 km had been cycled away. If the cycle had real wheels, I could have made it past Baldwin's High School by then I think. Patting one's own back is a good form of motivation, though in the gym, it needs to be carried out quickly and surreptiously, lest someone laughs their butt off at the act. No one spotted my 3 second version of it. Between the two instructors, I figured Mabel looked at himself as the better of the two when it comes to women. He would be there to help every single female form in the gym, conveniently ignoring its male patrons. Not that it made a difference to us. I kinda figured out that most of us men, were keen on lending a helping hand to the more curvy equipment in the gym.

In the meanwhile, the instructor who had guided me to the cycling equipment (Mo from the WWF), decided to put me on some freehand exercises. The kind that has to be repeated in sets of 15, three or four times and gives you that distinct feeling that you're an elephant at Banerghatta National Park and under high amounts of stress. No bananas there I think. His instructions were fairly simple and contained a lovely paradox - "For any freehand exercise, simple rule is to exhale when you are putting effort and inhale when you are not". Now now, does that sound alright! I am the kind who puts in an effort Always! So if I go about doing the exhalation part of breathing, when do I inhale? Would I have to recruit someone to do the inhalation part of it while I go about exhaling? I wanted to seat Mo and explain the problems I had at a personal level with his ideas of my continuous exhalation. A PYT walked past and he headed off in her direction. Apparently he wasn't concerned about me. Wasn't long before the tiny gym had about 25 people trying to work out on all equipment simultaneously. Pretty much like a scene where Vijaykanth gets attacked by 25 rowdies and he manages to beat the daylights out of all of them. Except, I'm certainly better off than Vijaykanth on the shape-front and the rest of the people work in the same company as I do.

I was kinda sure that it wouldn't be long before 2 people start running on the treadmill simultaneously. With fear of being asked to do that myself, I headed out in silence, whispering a goodbye to Mo and asking him to convey the same to the other instructor. "4 times a week minimum for you" he whispered back.

Tomorrow is a new day and in solemnity I request, you my friends, my physically fit well-wishers to motivate me further on heading back there. Else, I'll have to fall back on the 20th birthday pledge for sometime now.

PB - The picture above is of Mabel; Mo's picture, sadly, was unavailable. Apologies.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Die Potter Die

Do you get that feeling too? Its taking over me very slowly, yet steadily. And the media is the one to blame for it I think. Any channel I surf through, from Nickolodeon to God TV, from Kairali to E Tv Gujarati, they are all showing Potter stuff and I get the feeling that I should take the role of Voldermort pretty quickly, to ensure that this Potter guy dies and stays dead. Reincarnation may not be an acceptable concept in Hollywood, but I ain't taking no risks. I wanna make sure I kill this Potter guy off, once and for all just to make sure all channels on TV are not filled up with him anymore. Sigh! The nerves are getting weaker and I think Potter and his friends are playing on two-thirds of them.
How I'd like to play a game of quiddich with him and ensure that the small flying thingie that when caught ends the game, is something that is poisoned on the surface and explodes on his face at the same time. How I'd like to pull the broom from under him when he's cruising at 40K altitudes. Remember that little kid in ET, with the cycle having a little basket in front. I would love to put the Potter boy in that little basket and let him go off to space.. run him low on oxygen and cut off his supplies of the essentials.. and play him Himesh Reshamaiyya until his heart collapses inwards.. Small troubles in executing the plan, what with space travel getting expensive and all that, but I'm sure the world would be so much better with lesser Potter potty on TV.
Now that I have taken that out of my system.... aaah.. I think I'll get back to watching NGC. Hmmmm.... nice!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What's in a name?? Talk to me I say!

There are few things that stick to a person, through his lifetime. Alright, if not through the life, certainly for that time period when you want to approach pretty things at parties with some Scotch in the hand, and make gentle conversation. Pretty Stranger things included, mind you! Asked me for an example of what these things can be? Go to the cardio section of a gym and the majority would raise tired, 5 Kg holding hands and wait patiently for their chance to answer - tyres. I may not be F1 material when it comes to that part of town, but at the prime of my adiposed past, did give a run, or a wheelie, to the Indian manufacturers.

There are few other things of higher importance that one carries around and takes for granted over a lifetime. One’s name! Wasn't very long ago, before the elders in the Chivukula family sat in a circle to zero down on a name for the second born. Ideas flew thick and fast and they say, overlapped with rounds of coffee and bhujia.

The requirements were laid out clear like extras in a Jeetendra movie from the 80s - it had to belong to the new generation, it had to be catchy, easy to say and sound like poetry. Wasn't a tough one did someone remark? Rahul, Raj and the likes would have been instant choices even in the early-80s I'm sure, assuring namesakes in a fair number of Shahrukh Khan movies too. "Yeah, my name is Rahul, you know, the same one as Shahrukh's in those movies with body-hugging T's. I could drop you home tonight. Yes, in an auto.", I could have remarked in all those parties. But no, the family was clear that it wasn't good enough to meet the requirements. The elders huddled in closer, peered through Deccan Herald, stared down the requirements once more and called for more coffee. From collective wisdom, they zeroed down on the name and it was bestowed upon me - a hapless, silent toddler, with not much of an opinion on names, Laetitia Casta or WMDs.

Chivukula Venkata Subramanya Suresh. There were no nay-sayers in the group. The arguments would have gone thus - sounds like one from the current generation - in the deepest interiors of Andhra; catchy enough that you had four to catch from; mixed with Hebrew words, would have felt like Bengali poetry. All criteria satisfied. The future owner of the name, in close proximity of the discussion, was lulled into good slumber by then and couldn't have cared better. You don't deny yourself a name only because it sounds outdated. It is, indeed a strict Andhraite tradition. A game that families with newborns play. It’s called "How many letters of the English alphabet can we cover in our baby's name". The babies always lose.

By nursery I had taken to the name with gusto. It took me that long. I was the only one who could pronounce the full name in UKG, and I'm not even discounting Miss Brown. By LKG, Vineel Kumar Reddy was a sitter for most. Even Syed Khaleelullah had been long conquered. He cried I remember! By sixth standard, the Math teacher figured out that a roll call in the start was making it difficult for him to complete the day's lesson. A good amount of time was being spent on my name, which the entire class agreed in spirit, wasn't very value-adding. Attendance was moved to the end of the period. After-class I was moved into the coir dustbin, face first, because attendance ate into the games period. A shortened version had to emerge pretty soon. 'Soon' followed the Darwinian path and out came the shortened version - Suri. Years later, Tom Cruise would come by and upset the apple cart by thinking, plagiarizing is a Scientology belief. The jerk! To date, when asked the full name, I cringe; I twist and in alphanumeric order search for alibis. Patience being a diminishing virtue, most folk stop me halfway through saying it. And to the rest, I just mention the four-lettered version.

And sometimes I wonder, Numerology applied, what would I like to change my full name to? Any thoughts?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Was getting ready to blog just nowwwwww..

when the RSS feed from http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html showed up an image of a meteorite heading to Pimpri. Pah, those auto-drivers at Roxy's Family Bar and Restaurant won't have a chance of survival, while me, staying 200 metres away will. Also, my colleague has just stood up and with a i-give-up wave of the hands has declared that she's going home. Rules here - last one to leave has to knock off the lights and fans and deposit the key at security. I ain't gonna be that guy 3rd day in a row.

Hoping I've got my umbrella in place; never know if one moves closer than 200 m to Roxy's.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Of a pimpxx and a woe!

"Yeah, the project is in Pune!".
"4 weeks, max 5 weeks!".
Couple of the lines that the voice at the other end of the phone had uttered. National roaming rates are fairly high. But there was music in that voice - music that told me that I would be onto a project pretty soon.

I packed. I packed like I was heading out to camp in the Redwood trees in California. Two bags, one looking like something really bad had been done to it in prison. A laptop shoulder bag and the laptop standard bag itself. The former to take me on short trips to Bombay - the presumption being that I would be able to make it to Bombay every single weekend.
Bigger incentives had been mentioned - stay @ Ginger, the economic traveller's hotel from the Tatas. I checked out images and videos of it on the net. They had a gymnasium. THEY HAD A GYMNASIUM. Memories of those images ran across my eyes while taking a bath a few minutes later. Glee escaped the mind and a smirk landed on the face. I would lose weight I knew. I would work hard at the project and work-out harder once back to the hotel. It had all been well-planned. The plan looked snug and a silent prayer joined the steam, reaching out ot open skies through the window of the bathroom. Not the nicest place to let prayers out I understand, but heck , I haven't really been the most religous of folks. Not for someone who has let out sighs in churches and smoke rings in Udupi restaurants (I'm not a smoker, mind it! :) ).

The next few days, strangers let out condescending glances at my sight and friends noticed that I walked like I had a six-pack cleanly tucked in under the shirt. I told them that it was a sign of things to come.

Four days and two more visits to Java city later, it was a smooth, though a 45-minute delayed landing at Pune. "Pimpri" I said to the cab-driver and was looking forward to the one major(?) city I hadn't yet set foot in. Friends had told me that it was a smaller version of Bangalore, that the pubs are great here and the place has weather to die for (the last was right, the weather here sure can kill and my clothes stick to me). Small or not, I was sure the people were of the same size as the average Bangalorean (count me out - of late there have been these frequent visits to Pecos that threaten to skew the average).

Mr. Cabbie ("Gore" as called by the guy guiding customers to the cabs), drove. He drove at a pace that would make cyclists yawn. And I'm not even referring to the new range of geared mountain cycles that come by of late!
The woes began thus!

In fluent Hindi - my command over the language is so bad, that it sounded like Marathi for a moment, which is good :) - I asked him how far was Pimpri from the airport. 20 km said the voice without its owner having to turn around. The heart sunk. "Aur Pune city?" I asked. There was a nice poha of hope, anxiety and aloo sev thrown into the question. 20 km said the voice again. Reiterating the question, led to reiteration of the answer. "Aur city se Pimpri tak?!!". This was to be the decisive question. It wasn't a voice this time. It was more inhuman and emotionless. "20 km". An equilateral love triangle. The head went in circles to compliment geometry. The stomach threatened to digest the kidneys and the red blood cells were threatening to go back to the airport and join the strike they were predicting. Clarivoyant, these RBCs I say! But just when one thinks its pit-bottom, there comes this stone which would add injury to injury. The insult was still due. We shall get back to it.

It was the consultant who had booked me @ Ginger and the call was to tell me that the provisional booking didn't go through. Polite was the voice that requested me to report straight to office and squinted were the eyes of the listener. "L..La...Lunch available there right?" I asked with innocence. Funny thing about low-cost airlines - just because they charge such inflated prices for the servings inside, one feels hungrier. I had resisted those pangs, because lunch@Ginger felt like a much better idea, one that wasn't of the same social-good as Columbus' cruising the seas, but important to me none the less. "I'm sorry, but lunch would be over by the time you reach" came the reply. Had I seen the face of the speaker I am sure that helplessness would have been spelt in hieroglyphics and Pali on either sides of the face.

"Gore saab, kahi hotel hai jahan khaana milegi?". With complexion closer to mine, I wondered if his folks were being fair in calling him that. Between milega and milegi, its my belief that milegi serves the purpose better when the subject is food. Don't ask me why! I'm someone who takes calls a lot on gut feelings. Food - gut - food, you get the drift! Gore saab assured me of a royal treat on the Mumbai-Pune expressway. And 20 minutes later, promptly stopped at a wayside dhaba, that seemed to have closer resemblances to a saloon than a place for the stomach. I ordered a couple of vada-pavs, for lack of options. In return I let out a couple of burps and ten bucks. Reaching the client's site, a factory at Pimpri, left me with feelings of clear exhaustion. And herein comes the injury that I have mentioned earlier. I couldn't have got off without it, after all these days, one expects and demands end-to-end solutions. The injury had to be meted out, else it would be unprofessional and incomplete an experience - something I striclty look down upon.

Security wouldn't let me in and requested that I stay at the entrance for a beautiful 30 minutes. It being 2: 30 pm ('late noon' to qualify the same), the sun was up to his antics. He shone, he lit up and if I wasn't mistaken, there were a couple of neatly aimed sun-burns that I might have just escaped. 2 days (or 30 minutes, depending on perspective) I was a free man and could find my place under the fan ("a place under the sun"? pah!).

At Hotel Kala Sagar, the shower won't work after the morning goes by, and the food won't come, until the night is well tucked-in. And sometimes, visions of a Gingery gym dance past me during the morning bath. In such times, a glee still escapes my mind, a smirk still lands on my face and a prayer still escapes along with steam, through the meshed windows. And as the water falls on the face in uncertain sequences, I set my mind back to reality, minutes later heading out to hail an autorickshaw. Security doesn't stop me anymore. A silver lining did you say? Fuck you! ;)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Fingers..twitch..blog.. need.. to.. aarghhhhh!!!!!!!

The project has moved to that phase of its life where team members working late hours and yawning would be stuffed pizzas and lots of work into their open mouths..
Time being a constraint, I haven't been able to pay a visit to my blog - as visitor or writer..
something shall soon follow.

In the meanwhile, brother got married.. :)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Classifying the gym species

In terms of self-confidence about what the gym can do to me, I'm fairly high on the scale of failing on this. In about a month it would be Dr. Reddy garu (MBBS, Central University) who would be doing the lifting - of scalpels. Chop-chop and I'll be done with my fat :).