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Monday, 26 December 2016

# 33 - 17 things to do by 31st December, 2017, or before you die (whichever is earlier)

It’s that time of the year again folks, the time we look back at the year that was, and wonder, “what the hell just happened?”

And then we look ahead, hoping that the coming year will be better.

I had decided that new year resolutions weren’t my thing long back, and had focussed more on the outcome than the means, in fact, it was on the 26th of September, 2006 that I had decided (yes, decided) that 2016 was going to be my year.

I would own 2016.
I would be rich, famous, and most importantly, happy.

It was my 10-year plan, and as you might have guessed, things didn’t really turn out that way.
Never the one to give up (my PT teacher would disagree), I have decided to postpone joy for a year, and be a bit more detailed with what I want this time, and while at it, I have also decided to make your new year resolution for you, because all of us want more or less the same things from life, right?
So, here goes, in no particular order, the things you (and I) must do by 31st December 2017, or die trying.

1. Reasonably restrict vices. Don’t stop because people tell you to, stop because you want to.

2. Write more. All of us, no matter what profession we are into, need to write more. Be it personal diaries, letters, or legal notices. The tragedy of the 21st century is that the most writing we do is on WhatsApp – not a good idea. Writing is cathartic, liberating, and tells us a lot about ourselves. On a personal note, ‘the great Indian law college’ novel that I have been working on since 2013, needs to be finished, before memory fails and before it becomes totally out of sync with the times.

3. Get a six pack.
 It was fine when Salman, Shahrukh and Aamir sported those washboard abs that you could probably grate cheese on, but now with Bunty from my housing society flaunting it, six packs, like PayTM and online shopping, has truly turned mainstream.  So hop on the fitness bandwagon, before you’re left out.

4. Read at least 25 books this year.
Note: Femina, Filmfare, Cosmopolitan, Tinkle, Champak, Maxim, etc., do not count as books.

5. Accumulate enough knowledge on House of Cards, Game of Thrones, or whatever movie/book/TV show/flavour of the season that everyone is raving about, OR, improve acting abilities so that you can pretend to be ‘in with it’. Else, be prepared to listen to lines such as “WHAAAAT? YOU HAVEN’T SEEN ________?”, or the more disturbing “You should die already.”

6. Read more. Because saying it once isn’t enough.  

7. Accept the ageing process. Gracefully. YOLO/YODO are all fine, but we can’t still look 20 when we are on the wrong side of 40 (not speaking about myself here). We need to accept this fact and ignore commercials featuring movie stars who have gone under the knife and are paying for the botox sessions by endorsing creams that claim to reverse the 27 signs of ageing. Thirty signs that you’re bullshitting, I say.

8. See more sensible movies. Gunda, Deshdrohi and Snakes on a Plane are amusing once in a while, but the trouble with watching too many bad movies is, before you know it, you start enjoying them, like really enjoying them. You forget that you started out poking fun at these kinds of movies, and you know you’re in trouble when you actually start wondering how Mithun da is going to be able to match up against the formidable and ‘always open’ Bulla. Another sign that you’re in deep shit is when you unconsciously start humming ‘gutar gutar’.

9. Search for the extremely good looking singles in my area that pop-ups on my browser keep telling me about. Seriously, where are they?

10. Get more people to read my blog. If you’re reading this, spread the word. [Promoted point]

11. Chuck that smartphone away and go to sleep before 12 midnight, at least on weekdays.

12. Get better at writing, table tennis, and quizzing, in that order. <Insert your own non-work-related hobbies here>

Note: ‘Surfing the net / Watching TV’ DO NOT count as hobbies. How do you get better at browsing the internet, by getting a better broadband?

13.  DO NOT FORWARD RUMOURS BEING PASSED OFF AS NEWS ON WHATSAPP/FACEBOOK etc. There’s a reason why newspapers and websites dedicated to news exist. So quit the temptation to forward messages that talk about GPS embedded chips in Rs. 2000 notes, UFO sightings in Jhumri Telaiya, and 30 feet tall humanoid skeletons. And while at it, stop forwarding and sharing “if you do not pass this message to 20 people you will die” or “comment with Amen” posts.

14. Ignore Kamaal Rashid Khan (KRK). Like Deshdrohi, he was fun for a while, but now it’s just sad. Your time deserves better.

15. Learn something new. Remember the time you bought a guitar to impress your crush? And how you abandoned it the day you found out that it was your face that was the problem and not your lack of guitar playing skills? Well, it’s time to remember the guitar and forget the girl. Dust it off and learn how to play it. Studies show that learning new things keeps the brain young. And maybe, just maybe, your face might have gotten better since then.

16. Learn to let go. To hell with the past, there are other (hopefully better) things to come. Accept who you are and what you want to do with yourself. You are not your job, you are not who your parents/spouse/children want you to be. Stop bothering with what other people, no matter how close or important, think of you. You are the star of your movie, don’t let the secondary actors take away your screen time. Accept the fact that following latest trends, and forcible listening to the Billboard Top 20 do not make you cool. The traditional definition of being cool still holds true. Cool is not giving a damn about what others think of you, cool is about not pretending. So stop keeping a beard just because they seem to be in vogue. Okay, maybe I should cross out #3, I am still cool, baby! Okay, #5 too.   

17. #Abandon #Unnecessary #Hashtags #That #Serve #No #Purpose #Period

Don't be like Meena boy.
That’s it, boys and girls. I hope you have enjoyed reading this list. May we stick to our resolutions.
Happy new year in advance people, let’s own 2017.

Image from here.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

# 32 - Why I write

Why do I write?

Why is it that I bother to write on topics ranging from Ra.One to Blackberry phones, knowing fully well that only a handful will be interested in these subjects?
Why do I bother to religiously paste the links to my latest post on Facebook and Twitter aware that only 15 percent of my Facebook friends and 1 percent of my Twitter followers will bother to click on the links? 

And no one, absolutely no one will ‘like’ them, unless they are feeling particularly generous, or of course, the finger slips. 

Why do I spend time writing short stories (or for that matter, blog posts) even when I know that my odds of getting published are slimmer than the chances of Mithun Chakraborty’s onscreen sister surviving the length of a movie, or Nirupa Roy not getting widowed within the first half an hour of an Amitabh Bachchan film, or Shahrukh Khan not getting the girl, or an auto driver giving you the change for 2000 bucks?  

Okay, you get the drift.

As with all of life's questions, there's a short answer and a long answer.

The short one:

Because I need to matter, goddamnit. I need appreciation and recognition - be it for my writing, my work, or for my still intact hostel record for the longest number of days passed without having taken a shower – recognition which obviously I am yet to find.

The long and more specific answer….well, there is no one single answer. 

I write because I need to collect all the pent up anger, disgust, humour, regret, sadness, happiness, and other assorted feelings; and then mix them all up and smash it against a wall, watch the green, gooey stuff splatter and feel somewhat better....but that feeling is short lived.

Then with the audacity of a three-year-old who has been drawing his masterpiece on the interior walls, (or perhaps been collecting dog poo from the streets) I feel the need to show it off.

"Look what I did, Ma.” 

And that’s what writing does for me. 

Because, like that old saying about a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it, the writing only makes sense if it’s out there, available for people to read. 
I honestly don’t really care for the facebook likes (okay, maybe a little), any cat picture or a post on politics could do that, but as long as you are clicking the link and reading what I have written, I am happy.

I am a big fan of Christopher Nolan’s earlier movies, and my favourite is ‘The Prestige’.
There’s a line in the movie, and I seek your permission to cite it, well not really, I am the one who’s writing, so buzz off or stay with me as I quote from the movie.

‘Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. 

The first part is called "The Pledge". The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of probably isn't. 

The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn't clap yet. Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. 

That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call "The Prestige".’

What a great line! And I think that the quote is appropriate not just for magic, but for all things creative. Be it a piece of music, a movie, or a story. 

The quintessential story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. 

The beginning is where you show your deck of cards, something ordinary, something or someone that you and I could probably identify with.

And then, enter the conflict -  an event, a person or even a decision, who or which comes in and turns the mundane into the unexpected. 

But life seeks balance, a kind of resolution, and we follow the story to find out what will happen, how will it all end – because everything that has a beginning must have an end.
But of course, not all stories end with a clear outcome, some leave the reader wondering about what actually happened, they aim to confuse, or leave the ending to the interpretation of the reader, think ‘Inception’, or the ‘Lady, or the Tiger?’.

The ending is important because this is what will stay on with the reader, this is what the story culminates to, and no matter how exciting your premise is, how real your characters are, or how pacy your writing is, if the ending doesn’t satisfy your reader, it will all come down to nothing.

Now I have been blabbering on for a while now, and while I had started off with why I write, I have gone on to discuss the elements of a short story, anyway, coming back to the reasons.

The motive for writing will, of course, be subjective, there are people who write and the nature and content of their writing are too personal to share, or they simply don’t feel like sharing. There are noble and talented beings who write because they simply love writing and it comes naturally to them. 

Unfortunately, I don’t belong to this category. 

Words don’t come easily to me, I am not one of those people who can form coherent plots from one line of prompt, grammar remains a concern, and I have a limited vocabulary and resort to right clicking a word and choosing ‘synonyms’ more often than I would like to admit. 

It is a painful, frustrating process that more often than not leaves me wondering, why am I doing this, what’s the point of it all?

But when I do manage to finish a piece, the effort seems to have been worth it, not only because I have expressed myself, but because I have managed to create something out of nothing. 

Almost godlike.

Dance, puppets, dance!

There is no one single answer to why I write, but unlike the other things which take up my time, be it games, movies, television, combing my hair etc. – I have never, ever, regretted the time I have spent in writing.

And, that’s a good enough reason for me.

P.S. In case you are wondering, the record for consecutive days spent without having a shower:-  50. What can I say, it was a really cold Delhi winter.

Image taken from here. 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

# 31 - The Curious Incident of the Boys in Noon-time

During my college years, I had intentionally done most of my internships in Mumbai; I loved the city from my first visit, and in spite of my limited travels, I was confident that Mumbai was the greatest city on earth - from the hustle and bustle of the streets to the affordable keema pav, anything and everything seemed fascinating.  

As a youngster in the city, I was always up for some adventure, in spite of the fact that I never had more than a couple of hundred rupee notes in my wallet (sadly nothing has changed on that front).
After work, our group of 3-4 guys, who mostly worked at offices near Nariman Point, would walk our way up to Marine Drive, and do nothing but sit and stare at the vast ocean stretching out in front of us.

This was our everyday routine. 

We didn’t talk much, and the term ‘selfie’ hadn’t made its way to the dictionary yet, so we just sat and enjoyed the view, for hours.

It was on one of those heady, hopeful days that one of us had remarked that if by chance we ever ended up working in Mumbai, we would visit Marine Drive every day after office.
And all of us had immediately agreed.

I have been living in Mumbai for quite a few years now, and I can’t even remember when was the last time I visited Marine Drive. The fellow who had suggested the idea of meeting up every day at Marine drive, well, he is in Mumbai too, but we rarely speak, let alone meet, but that’s a story for another day.

I guess that’s life. With time, your priorities change, old habits and preferences wither away, but they don’t quite die - so long as you visit them once in a while in your memories.

And while on memories and Mumbai, there’s one particular incident that I can’t help but recall every time I cross Bandstand.

Mumbai, winter of 2007.

A Saturday morning (probably closer to noon). 

I woke up leisurely at the shabby lodge where I was putting up during my internship, only to find my friend from college (let us call him ‘P’) all dressed up and ready to go.
“Finish your breakfast and let’s go someplace.” He said, more charged up than he was on weekdays.

“Where are we going?” I asked, groggy-eyed.

He gave the smile of the sphinx and asked me to just make sure that my phone’s battery was fully charged.

My filmy friend didn’t give any more hints until we ended up at Bandstand sometime around 2 in the afternoon. The oxymoron that is “Mumbai winter” ensuring that we were drenched in sweat. 

I had had enough of the mystery by then and asked P point blank what the plan was. 

“Are you aware of the term pilgrimage my friend?”,  said P, and then pointed at the very ordinary looking complex in front of us. 

“Galaxy Apartments.” I said, and realized immediately what P was inferring. 

“Yes, you are standing in front of Bhai’s residence, and even as we speak, he is somewhere inside, not more than 200 feet away from us. This…this…road is all that stands between us and him. Apart from the entrance, his security guards and all, but you get the point.” 

For those who don’t follow Bollywood – Galaxy Apartments is where THE Salman Khan resides. 
Calling P filmy – would be the understatement of the century. He is not just filmy, he is stalker level filmy, he is an encyclopedia so far as Bollywood is concerned, he knows the schedules of the stars, whether they are on outdoor shoots, which phone they are using and some claimed that P could identify vehicles of stars by their license plates, including TV actors.

So when he said Salman Khan was 200 feet away, I knew Salman Khan WAS 200 feet away, plus minus 20 feet. 

“So what’s the plan?” I asked him.

“Now we wait for him to show up.” He said, plonking himself on a cement bench that overlooked the apartment.

He explained that it was customary for stars to show up and wave to the gathering of fans on weekends, and that was P’s grand plan....we would wait, until he acknowledged our presence by waving at us.

“How long till he does that?” I asked. 

“Anything between half an hour to three hours as per my estimate.” P replied.

Truth be told, this ordeal wasn’t what I was expecting, but given the fact that I had nothing better to do, and I was a major BhaiBhakt once, I made myself comfortable.

“Aap bhi bhai se milne aaye hai?” [You too have come to meet bhai?] said a voice from behind.

We turned around to see who else could be crazy enough to waste their Sunday in bhai-spotting, or for that matter confusing ‘celeb spotting’ with ‘celeb meeting’, but one look and we knew that this guy was serious. 

Dead serious. 

In terms fan level, on a scale of 1 to 10, this guy was obviously level 3000.

His hairstyle was ‘Tere Naam’, he had the faux turquoise bracelet, the faded jeans with patchwork, and his shirt….well, the only way he could go more ‘Salman’ was if he went shirtless, but he wasn’t (perhaps because his physique was the one thing he couldn’t Salman-ize).  Instead, his preferred attire resembled the vomit of a chameleon that had eaten a rainbow and had peacock feathers for dessert - the kind of clothing that you get to see on Chiragh Din ads, and make you wonder who actually buy these. 

Judge not, lest thy be judged.

The three of us soon got talking, his name was Subodh and he was from some town in Uttar Pradesh, the sole purpose of his week-long visit to Mumbai was to ‘meet’ Salman Khan.

“I am bhai’s biggest fan”, he proclaimed, as I nodded, P had trouble accepting this fact, but he eventually reconciled himself to this, the fact that P had never thought of embracing the bracelet, hairstyle and more importantly the clothes was the crucial factor. 

“I have been loitering around here all week, and I have seen everyone from the family - Sohail, Arbaaz, Malaika. Salim Khan actually spoke to me one morning, he was going out for a walk. But I haven’t yet met Bhai.” He lamented.

We asked him what did he and Salim Khan talk about, and he admitted that he was sternly told to go back to his town and not waste his time. 

“But I must meet Salmanbhai….else my entire trip will be fruitless.” He was afraid to think of the consequences if he didn’t get to meet Salman. “I have promised my cousin that I will bring him Bhai’s autograph”, and just as we were about to ask him when he was supposed to be returning, he told us that his train was in the evening.

P tried to cheer him up, “it’s just 2pm, you have plenty of time.” and Subodh seemed to brighten up a bit at the thought.

We must have made a funny sight, the three of us sitting on a  bench, ignoring the heat and staring at a balcony of the flat opposite us, from where we expected Salman Khan to jump out any second, and call us by our first names.

But of course, he didn't. 

P formed a special connection with our companion by virtue of the fact that he hailed from the same state, and I too joined in on the conversation.

He worked as an electrician and was roughly the same age as us, and in spite of the superficial differences, we formed a bond thanks to our shared love of Salman Khan.

Hours rolled by, and P and I started getting impatient, we came to know from Subodh that Bhai being at home need not translate to him giving a darshan to his fans.

"Last Sunday also, I was here, he was was the crowd...but he didn't come out."

"Wait, what crowd? Today there are just three of us." 

"Oh, you'll see..not too long now, they will start coming. All pretending to be his biggest fan." Subodh replied, with no attempt to hide the contempt for the pretenders.

I exchanged a glance with P, surely in a city like Mumbai where spotting celebrities was not too big a deal, there wouldn't be a crowd in front of Salman Khan 's house, just for his glimpse.

But as the day wore on and the sun started dipping into the Arabian sea behind us, a funny thing started to happen.

Just as Subodh had said, other people joined us in front of the apartment, we were no longer the only losers who had nothing better to do, there were plenty of us. Autos started slowing down while crossing the road, some stopped altogether, and curious folks alighted and joined the gathering. While a lot of them were casual fans, I noted that there were other die-hards not very much unlike Subodh.
Before long, it seemed like the whole of Bandstand was standing with us. There was pushing and shoving because the footpath could only take so much, and the crowd spilt over to the road, creating a traffic jam in the process. 

Our friend had gotten separated from us, but we managed to track him amidst the chaos. 

“He isn’t going to show up, is he?” he asked, more to himself than us. 

P tried to sound hopeful, "Maybe he will, you know how Bhai is...always late."

"But I can't be late for my train, 10 more minutes, then I would better get going."

We didn't respond, nothing that we could have said would have probably helped...we had been here for only three hours, and were on the verge of giving up, for someone who had come to the city with this single aim, and was virtually spending his day and night waiting for a glimpse of the star, and failing, it must have been hard - accepting defeat. 

He drifted away from us once again, but remained in the crowd.

And then, after what could have been five minutes, or half an hour....Salman Khan showed up.

In an unreasonably tight pink tee, with his dishevelled hair falling on his face, looking every bit the cocky superstar that he is, he waved and smiled, and the crowd went crazy.

Chants of ‘Salman Salman’ filled the air, and I witnessed a level of mass hysteria that I have never seen before or since.  

And then he went back to wherever he had come from.

Almost immediately the gathering started to scatter. we looked around for Subodh, but we couldn't spot him. soon, it was again just the two of us.

"You think he was still there when Salman came?" I asked P on our way back.

"I don't think so, he said that he would be leaving in ten minutes, Salman came out at least 20 minutes after that." 

"Impossible, couldn't have been more than 5 minutes." I said.

"We couldn't say bye to him." P said.

And that was that, we couldn't tell for sure if Subodh did get to see Salman Khan that day.

Needless to say, neither of us ever met Subodh after that.

Unlike Marine drive, I do happen to visit Bandstand from time to time, I go past galaxy apartments too, and sometimes when it's a weekend, and I see a crowd gathered outside, I think of that afternoon from 9 years ago.

And the funny thing is that, it's not Salman Khan I yearn to see, but that man from the small town of UP with the Tere Naam hairstyle and the weird shirt.

Image Taken from here.