Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What is a miracle?

Kurla is not the first choice you make, if you want to fix a meeting. As fact, in my 25 years of Bombay - i've not had a business meeting in Kurla. It just sounded far too counterproductive, to make it through the traffic snarls and the impatience that brings with it. Till today. 

The meeting was worth it, and business was conducted. 

The travel, on the other hand - was a revelation. I marvelled at the new SCLR that has been built, while chatting with my cabbie about why Mumbai is the noisiest city in the world, his faith in Modi (despite being a Muslim), improvement in the city's infrastructure etc. I finally saw the markets where spare car parts come from and teak and timber. The  journey to the meeting showed me a part of the city, that earlier was a place you don't just boldly go...

For my return, I hitched a tuk-tuk. And then, the following happened in less than a few minutes:

A slight jam, before the SCLR signal. Road packed with vehicles...
Our auto was behind a big-ass truck...
The traffic begins to move...
I see a frail lady lying on the road... 
Some vehicles halt...
I get off my auto...
Another young boy comes from the side of the road...
We lift that old lady, who must be at least 70...
She's thin as a rake and trembling...
I pick up the package she has dropped and the two notes of 10 rupees each...
I come back to the lady... who's now sitting by the side of the road...
I ask the young boy if he saw what happened...

This is what he tells me:
The big-ass truck had bumped into the old lady as she was crossing the road...
The old lady falls down, flat...
The truck driver does not stop and continues to go over her...
She remains unscathed as the truck (with three axles) passes over her.
The 12 wheels of the truck narrowly missed her, as she lay BETWEEN the wheels - while the truck harmlessly passed over her... 
Had she fallen even half a foot to her left or right, she would have been crushed...

We helped her with water, as she mumbled in almost a delirious state.
Someone who recognised her, came and took her away.

I got back to my auto... shaken at what i'd just witnessed. 
My auto driver said:

"Her time had not come. It's as simple as that."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Why so Horny?"

June 15, 2014.

This month, Mumbai earned a dubious superlative. That of the "Noisiest city in the World".  If you've lived on the streets of Bombay long enough, it should not aurally surprise. Yet, the title really did. Nosiest city in the WORLD?

Here are some facts:

1. Drivers on the streets of Mumbai are horny. So, they honk. The average number of horns per minute at a "normal traffic junction" is a staggering 260 horns per minute. That is about 5 horns per second. (We counted, so we know.)
2. These drivers think that it is not a PROBLEM, if they hit the horn. "It's just the way it is." 
3. Most people did not know that Mumbai is the noisiest city in the world. Did you, before you read this?
4. Mumbaiites don't give a f*^k. they have no clue that noise pollution is a BAD THING. "frankly my dear, i don't give a damn."
5. "Decibels?" What is that? Most people don't know what the norms for noise pollution are. When you say 55 decibels - you might as well as be explaining quantum physics to a 6 year old.
6. Here's the kicker: The legally permissible decibel limits in residential areas is 55 decibels.  BUT, at anytime the decibel count of mumbai exceeds that by as much as 50%. What does that mean, you could ask?

a) Now, even if you are TOTALLY SILENT, the decibel count in most parts of Mumbai is 70 db. It means that THE CITY is breaking the law as a collective - because of AMBIENT NOISE. Kapish?
b) If you have to have a conversation - you have to speak above the already illegal 70 decibels around you. So, when you speak - you take the decibel levels above 80. Which means that even the most basic conversation is breaking permissible noise pollution norms. Kapish?
c) An average horn takes the decibel levels to approximately 100 decibels. That is TWICE the limit at night times. Kapish?

Why should you care, you would ask?

1. Noise pollution causes  a set of very serious diseases - including heart attacks, stress, blood pressure to name a few.
2. Noise pollution is one of the main reasons for "AGGRESSION" in males. There are some studies that link high levels of annoyance and rage to noise, linking it directly to crimes such as domestic violence and even abuse.
3. Our voices, hearing abilities (so that we can appreciate things like music) are severely hampered by Noise Pollution. We have to speak at a pitch which is about 40% higher than our natural voices to be heard. Wondered why most of the people have squeaky/ screaming tones and so few baritones exist? It has nothing to do with what we may have sounded like - but more to do with how we are compelled to sound like because of the polluted environment.

What can you do, you would ask?

1. STOP BLOODY HONKING. That alone will bring the city's decibel levels down below the legal limits. If everyone stopped honking, the WHOLE CITY will become quieter by 40% - just like an on off switch.
2. If you have a driver, ask him to stop honking.
3. If you use public transport, ask your cabbie/ auto to stop honking
4. If you see someone honk - tell them to STOP!
5. Discuss this with friends and family. This is NOT a small issue - but a very, very serious one.

Bring decibels below 45 in Mumbai. How tough can it be?


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Black Man, in the White House

Washington D.C., December 10, 2008.

I’m the first black man, in this White house,
I mean as master - not some slaving louse.
A lot of white mugshots, line the walls.
My favorite is Lincoln, for his humongous balls.

There could have been, another first, of course.
A chick running this place, and the US of Arse.
I must let you in on why I won.
The simplest three reasons under the sun.

1. English! and the need for gender based terms.
No one wants opened a new can of worms.
See, my wife will be called, you know, “First Lady".
What would Bill have been called, First Daddy?

2. Interns! All male, and preferably black,
For Hillary to “mount", as counter Lewinsky attack.
Alas! not enough black degrees to fit the Bill.
We get no education, yeah, despite Mamma’s will.

3. Dicks! And our love for the biggest ones.
The Cheney George had, was bigger than a gun’s.
And you know what they say, about size and blacks.
Didn’t you notice mine, when i campaigned in slacks?

So here i am, in this White house.
The perfect reason for a nation to arouse.
Half White, Half Black and yes, Half all.
So tell me America, why do i still feel small?

The Joke's on the Joker

Paris, January 24, 2008.

And so, another 28 year old took his life this week. Heath Ledger, the Australian actor who dared to break his back on Ang Lee’s mole-hill, drugged himself away from Earth. Jake, you shedding a tear? Youth, are you sufficiently avenged?

“One year too late!” Jested the 3 other J’s, Jim, Jimmy and Janice - who had delivered the same death unto themselves at age 27. Jokers, all of them. To reach 28 in this day and age, and still be alive, is no laughing matter. Dylan, are you shedding a tear?

Another Joker Jack, is much relieved. The challenger to the part he played in Burton’s epic, has furnished a walkover before the jury could choose. Proudly, he side-skips, over another cuckoo’s nest, somewhere on the outskirts of a chinatown that is as good as it gets - and says, about this newly Departed - “Oh! We got a dead one here!!!! Ha1 Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” Nolan, are you shedding a tear? Sweeney J. Todd, are you sufficiently revenged?

The parent’s deny it, but here is a note found about Heath’s death:

“All i wanted to do was to make you smile,
But, Alas! you needed a laugh.
Mime would have sufficed,
Yet, you needed a joke.

I’m done being a Joker, Jim or Jack.
You can ask for the clowns.
They’ll send in the clowns.
Then, you can guffaw.
At yourself.”


PS: “Ever danced with the Devil, in the pale moonlight? I always ask that of all my Prays!”

God, are you shedding a tear? Christ, you are well avenged!

Bollywood - The Frankenstinian Monster

I have never been diplomatic or forgiving enough to conceal my impatience with Bollywood. The name in itself should beget a grimace from reasonable persons. A “B” grade imitation of something “gora", that begins with an H. If only, replacing a letter could truly create a “new", original idiom. Alas! it can never be. Did no one in this alleged “industry” read Mary Shelley as mandatory tuition while growing up? Evidently not, or else half a billion would have recognized and shunned this monster - patched together from the remains of other beautiful bodies. The result, as Victor realized to his despair, of cobbling eyes, ears and organs from buried resources, can never create a singular object beautiful enough to behold. Not even if one can muster up enough heart to truly love it. Or unless you are an old, blind flute player.

I am often chastised for my utter disregard for this “genre” of “film-making".(yeah, right!). And sometimes subjected to it in various doses - the so called “top of the heap". (Names like Eklavya, OSO, Aamir Khan etc. are used to reason with me). I sometimes choose the three hour torture over the ordeal of a two day argument, and bear it as one does the proverbial dentists chair - trying to find distraction in the form of buxom nurses. As I know, it does not happen. There are no buxom nurses at any dentist’s and neither are there any real reasons to watch a Bollywood film.

Bollywood, is like the one and same monstrous creation of young Frankenstien, seen under different, neon lights. A hotch-potch concoction of ideas and original works of others, stitched together by songs that are either lifted blatantly or are as complex in their harmonic progression as “Doe a deer". The cleverness of the manner in which the body parts have been stolen, is remarkable though. Mozart, Kurasawa, La Traviata. Often the sources are the types that very few “aam admis” can get their hands upon. That explains the halos. That explains the worship. That explains our ability as a nation to applaud plagiarists, who masquerade as “creative” people.

I have oft been accused of being too harsh with this opinion. I am told that there are, after all, only so many story lines. Only 13 notes. There is bound to be some repetition (not copying!). Of course, there will be. But ask Schubert to make a melody in C, and then Mozart. And bet that the tunes will have nothing to do with each other. Similarly with storylines. The same elements can give us an odyssey or ramayana. My issue is with Bollywood not admitting the true sources, and humbly accepting that they make a duplicate copy (not adaptation) of other creative people. That is the biggest trick that Bollywood has pulled. To make a nation believe that its doyens are a more than addicts of decadent stardom, with little regard for integrity. And definitely no concept of art. No wonder, Bollywood gets angry when called Bollywood. A word invented to abuse itself.

No wonder I cringe everytime I see another Bollywoodian enterprise (its commercial success can take a hike). It sincerely reminds me of Frankenstien’s monster. Except that Mary Shelly had put some soul and intelligence into that poor creature. And he looked less hideous than what our land dishes out every Friday. The person in the seat next to me, has no idea, though. Who reads good books and sees real cinema, anyways?

Wait! the person in the seat next to me, is just another stitched up monster. Made up of an incomplete British upbringing and faded Sanskrit roots. Agrarian grounding, and capitalist temptations. Unlimited time to while away, and less than sufficient inclination to be the best.

Bollywood, I guess, is not just the industry. It is also the audience of itself.

Narmada Bachao - drops of joy?

Being fiscal year ending, The Parliament was in session. Politicians, musing on if the growth would be at a perfect 10% and whether the yo-yoing Stock Index would yo-yo from unscaled heights to Abyssinian depths for much longer, crowded the Capital. “ A correction is inevitable!!” someone said.

“Omkara!”, a Senator prayed, in Session. “Omkara!”, another agreed.

I went there, for the other reasons. This Rat was not in the Stock Index Race. A bustling Capital held three attractions. Cheese. Sleaze. Grease. Economic soothsaying had never invoked me.

Inevitably, as is the case with mismanaged secrets, the news had spread. And by the time I reached Session, all the three of my coveted lures had been devoured. “Rats!”, I sighed. And slunk away. Some introspection later, I decided to behold the India Gate – a place I had not been able to visit up to, until this unrewarding journey – and looked at the stone structure in wonder. Being a rodent, I was shortly distracted. A set of curves weaned me off the stone, curves that stemmed from a reasonably enticing bosom.

I followed her, wondering what she was called. “Kiran”, someone said. “ As in the other Holy Book?”, I enquired. “No, stupid!,” another admonished. “As in a Ray – married to a star!”

“Oh!” I reacted at my education.

Her husband, I gathered, was India’s most bankable star – and had recently spared a stray ray for Kiran. He was around the India Gate, too, making a film that was a loosely Hellen Keller meets Butch Cassidy. A blind foray into inviting bullets, I was told.

He, The Unsung King, was taking a break from his frenetic schedule. And in his solace, was guzzling the beverage (with his head held high) of his choice. The Pepsi Cola. Now, as Luck would not have it, a voyeuristic lens was focused on the prancing Kiran’s posterior – and clicked a picture. An image purely born of lust – but eventually headed to a much larger, cosmic destiny. Because, it had captured more than a swaying pair of buttocks. It had captured Ameer sipping on the forbidden drink. A picture that was worth more than many a thousand notes. And Ameer saw it being clicked.

He sped behind the sashaying hips, and asked their owner for redemption. “K-K-K- Kiran!” he said, sounding much like the other Khan. (I noticed how much he grimaced at The King’s intrusion into his wife’s boudoir) “Help!”, he implored. Concerned, she thought of a redemption plan for herself. Ameer, exposed, was not the reason for her betrothal. She ran a few blocks in panic, where she stumbled upon a feeble acquaintance from her tree-hugging days. The starved acquaintance had chanced to be around India Gate for an eternal agitation. The right to water. Kiran explained her plight, and the pointlessness of an exposed husband. And her friend promptly provided revolutionary respite. She, as providence would have it, was agitating for a liquid cause – and wielded credibility. Her colleagues, as hysteria would have it, were admirers of The Khan Clan. And were willing to provide a human blanket for the pursued victim, (Since their leader was near starved to death, no one bothered to consult her over the integrity of their intended action.)

Within seconds, Kiran had mustered a million activists to provide the Coke funded Ameer with shelter. To ensure that the curious lens did not capture him with his Pepsi Cola. He beamed at the immaculate conception of his wife. And sipped the illegal drink with determination. “Don’t you worry,” a protestor told his stupefied colleague. “Pepsi contains no juice from the forbidden fruit. It contains additional flavours.” “Maybe we should drink that,” the stupefied one replied. “It seems more freely available than water! Perhaps, we are agitating for a pointless cause.” Ameer solemnly nodded, to endorse their newfound, shared ideals. Quickly, a contract was worked out.

Another bored lensman saw the congregation of activists surrounding Ameer – and asked him why he was in the midst of them. Stupefied, he asked his ex-journalist wife for defence. “He is here for championing a cause!” she proclaimed. Not revealing that the real cause was saving of a staggering endorsement contract. The journalist was taken in by Ameer’s spring towards a critical social cause – and published his picture in the next day’s newspaper. Overnight, he spread rays of hope to the waterless millions.

A Musing Man wondered as to what the motive behind his solidarity was. Was it publicity? Was it a true extension of his last celluloid character? Was it his rebellion against the lyrics of a mediocre jingle maker - penning bad slogans for a Coke wielding persona to spout?

A writer read through his hypocrisy, And was condemned for her seeking God. In small things.
A wife clung through his hypocrisy. And was condemned to plastic smiles.
A fasting activist starved through his hypocrisy. And was condemned to serial breakfasts.
A Rakesh spelt his name with a why? And was condemned to a lifetime of typographic errors.
An actress, playing blind, saw through his hypocrisy. And was condemned to her real life Omkara.
Butch Cassidy was condemned at the Sundance for Kids.

The parliament was not even distracted from The Basanti Session. And was condemned to marvel at yo-yos correcting themselves.

The Rodent told this tale. And was blessed to persist on with his lures. Cheese. Sleaze. Grease. And A Musing Man.

A Real Ball, in an Imaginary Court

Ram – the Alcoholic

The room was bursting at its seams. Being the first time that an Imaginary Court was put into session by a hapless judiciary, the media had hyped it widely enough to ensure that every eyeball worth its socket was glued in front of their plasmas or HHD’s. From those with sight permanently impaired by LCD adorned gizmos, to the fortunate ones with Twenty20 type of vision, all were jostling to get into the thick the proceedings that were about to begin. Violent supporters for the Defendant were chanting slogans at decibels that only religious zealots can muster. Some scampered away to try and arm-twist the judge from appearing, or sting with a covert operation that questioned credibility. They blended with the masses, to prevent the event, even before it could occur. The possibility of such a preposterous institution being embraced by the under-prepared world, would spell scripture-perfect doom.

The nervous judge was ferried through a secret entrance, face masked by a pillow-case with slits that allowed all facial faculties to function unhindered. This was in order to protect well being (and NOT to appear diabolic), as the security agencies did not rule out the possibility of fatal retaliation by the antagonized, unreasonable opposition of the modern, immoral notion. The Imaginary Court was designed to be the fairest in the world, and judges who retained the fine ability to do justice to the balls that fell in it, were a rapidly dwindling species. They needed to be preserved and protected at all cost, even if it meant being acutely clandestine or incurring the wrath of Lincoln’s Ghost and Uncle Tom.

The courtroom was ordered to rise, and it took some coercion by the uniformed law enforcers to achieve decorum. The judge waited patiently outside the courtroom and allowed the Defendant further time to make his fashionably late entrance. “There He is!”, A voice pointed. “He looks just like Salman, that explains why he is being cast in the upcoming re-make of the epic,” another remarked. “Fool! That is Salman, making his once a blue-moon appearance, in the “Alistair Pereira type of open-shut” case. I meant – THERE! Look, it’s HIM!”

A hush fell over the court, as Lord Ram screeched his fourwheeler to a halt, and hurriedly alighted from it. A policeman flashed one of the shiny new breath analyzers that had been bulk-imported from China, (to astonishing results of fines and imprisonments), and made his way to the man. “Breathe into this, Shree Ram Chandra ji!” his prayed. Lord Ram obliged. The shiny machine did not beep. Before the trial had begun, the defense had scored a point. The mob went berserk, waving saffron and destroying the dome of the courhouse. In a crumbling, suburban apartment, Arun Govil, permanently glued to the TV, wiped a tear. Not having lost his religion or job, the constable escorted a god into the defendant’s box. The judge rushed to his seat and asked the inquisition to begin.

The counsel for the prosecution rose and was about to begin his address. “You cannot wear those goggles in my court,” the judge interrupted. “But, your honour, you cannot see me without them.” He pleaded. The judge thought for a minute and granted the permission. No one deserved to see more of that face. Not on public TV, which was being promoted as children’s viewing.

“Your honour! It is my party’s contention that the defendant is a raging alcoholic, wife-beater, pioneer of sati, traitor to friends, proponent of slavery and not even human, let alone divine. He is a symbol of Aryan tyranny that was meant to make poor Dravidians subservient and exploit their fear of nature. It is my appeal that the accused, who goes by a multitude of aliases, not restricted to Shri Ram, be found guilty on all counts and sentenced to maximum possible punishment. He is a repeat offender and this time the minimum term be more than 14 years in exile. Also, as a special request, this time the court must not allow his half-brother to keep the throne via proxy footwear on his behalf. That’s all, Your Honour.” The counsel adjusted his thick black frames, and rested. A marketer of televisions shuddered at the thought of the second request and its impact on Diwali sales. Another maker of footwear swooshed to a faint.

“How do you plead?” the judge asked.

“Obviously not guilty”, was the reply from a bald, old man – speaking on behalf of the Defendant. All those in the docks at the Imaginary Court were not allowed to speak for themselves, as per the rules of the judiciary. It was widely accepted and approved, since it was believed that lay people did not have the ability to express their thoughts coherently and singularly enough – leading to mistrials or misrepresentations. It was, therefore, the approved norm that they appoint a champion of their cause. One that was wise enough to understand the view exactly as it was, and present it in a manner that was not double entendre. The bald, old defense was required to make the difference between alcoholic contents and content alcoholic abundantly clear.

The counsel for the persecution got up again, and a lethal cross-fire ensued – causing many a bystander to become casual collateral.

“Did he not take liberal quantities of soma?” the prosecution thundered.
“Soma is the nectar of the Gods!” the defense retorted.
“Did he not betray Jambuvant?”
“You would to, if you were offered Hanuman as payment for the hit, and knew what Hanumant could do!”
“Hanumant means “large jawed” in Sanskrit. Anyways, what could Hanuman do?”
“Stay a bachelor, celibate and yet, stable for years.”
“The Vatican can do that too!”
“Yeah right! Ask the little boys. Not to mention he could grow his tail and burn it brighter than the Beijing Olympic Torch in Taiwan.”
“Taiwan has refused to carry the Beijing Olympic Torch. Get your facts right. And anyways, does that allow one to murder?”
“Well, there is also the ability to lift a mountain and rip his chest apart to show full-colour pictures way before the Lumiere brothers could shout action!”

A patriot made notes, and went looking for the Neem Foundation for Chess and Ramanujan to lodge a national interest petition. One member of the Bajrang Dal shouted “Jai Shri Ram!” and hurled a stone at the prosecutor. It killed a Muslim child brought there by his father. The rioteer was promptly arrested, with an understanding that a release would be secured before the next twilight zoned.

“ And what about making thousands of South Indians work like slaves?”
“They were not humans. They were monkeys. Is that illegal? Ask the pharma companies!”
“Vanaras does not mean monkey, you dimwit.”
“Objection, Your honour”
“Objection overruled”
“Thank you, milord. Vanaras does not mean monkey. It was the slang for South Indians. Like nigger or chinky or, for that matter, Desi.”
“They were doing it out of choice. It was for their own good. Have you not seen Manderlay? Why it is because of Him that squirrels have stripes on their backs.”
“That’s easy for you to say, you North Indian tyrant.”
“Objection, your honour!”
“Objection sustained.”
“Then what about asking his wife to jump into fire. Do you know how many women in India did not have the good pedigree required to stay alive on their husband’s pyre? Do you know how many women still die because of Sati?’
“That was Manu, it has nothing to do with Ram!”
“Another Aryan!”
“He’s not on trial. This man here is. Stick to the point!”
“He wronged his wife!”
“Who doesn’t?”
The judge squirmed.
“He betrayed his brothers, and killed his own cousins”
“That’s Arjun. He’s not on trial”.
“Another Aryan.”
“He’s not on trial! Next you’ll say my client propagated the Swastik Army, in Germany.”
“Well, he did use the Swastika!”
“Have you read the Ramayana?”
“What has that got to do with anything? That Ved Vyas was the alcoholic.”
“Not Ved Vyas, Valmiki, Get your facts right. Who’s Ved Vyas?’
“Who’s Valmiki?”
“Anyways, the Bhagwat Geeta, I mean the Ramayana, clearly says…”

The sentence was interrupted by a loud gunshot. The prosecutor clutched his throat, as blood gushed out of it. In slow motion, the thick black glasses flew off his face, and hit the ground seconds before the lifeless torso. The assassin fired another round at the cloaked judge, who had jumped behind his solid mahogany desk. The bulled ricocheted off a metal typewriter and lodged itself into the bald defense lawyers forehead – leaving a vermillion line. A melee ensued, hundreds were trampled in the stampede. In the commotion that followed, no one bothered to notice that the Defendant had vanished from everyone’s imagination, just like the trampled nameless would. Another round was fired, before the inspector shot the murderer down. The bullet strayed over a few ducking heads, and hit the fading photograph of another bald, bespectacled man. A wise old bundle of tolerance, whose naked face had hung behind the masked judge all the while, as it does even in non-Imaginary Courts.

“Hey Ram!” were the picture’s last words. Before it crashed into the ground.

Imaginary Court dismissed.