Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Winter cleaning

I have to give a seminar on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder tomorrow. I thought I'd finish leeching material off the web by putting a night-out tonight. But what better way to know more about OCD than obsessively, compulsively cleaning up the room?

So after what seems like several decades, I cleaned my room today. Yes, all of it. Even the parts under the bed. Rocky helped me with the heavy stuff. Therefore, I now have a nice, clean room and Rocky has lower back pain and dust allergy.

Needless to say, quite a few unusual things turned up:

  • two socks. Different pairs.
  • one large, green, dead grasshopper.
  • 6+1 (!) computer case side panels. (WTF, I have 2 computers, one which is used to write this stuff, and the other which I have eternally promised to send Banner the following week. One of these has a panel already on.)
  • two rotting fungus-infested t-shirts.
  • three rotting fungus-infested hard disk drives.
  • cheque made out to Rohit Taklikar in April 2004. Not cashed, now outdated.
  • also, Rohit Taklikar's CAT admit card and lots more stuff.
  • two "Operating System Fundamentals", both second editions. Great, wish I were doing computer science instead of elec.
  • one green candle.
  • 300 tonnes of Shaastra-related paperwork. NOTE: mild exaggeration.
  • seven porn magazines.
  • eight metres of twisted pair cable.
  • fifteen packs of free ICs from TI.
  • one lizard that scared the shit out of Rocky.
  • one Rasna in a pouch.
  • three year old canned cheese. They say cheese ages with time. I don't think I'm going to try and test that out.
  • five-year old mixed fruit jam. Now, this is most definitely bad for health.
  • four buckets. I threw one out.
  • three shoe-polish brushes. Unusual, since I don't own any shoes.
  • five empty bottles. 1 beer + 3 vodka + 1 whisky.
  • one cigarette lighter that worked exactly once.
  • thirty-two leaves of expired antibiotics.
  • thirteen certificates for "First place in Choreo", with no names on them. Muhahahahaha!
  • not-too-old cornflakes that I'll have for breakfast. :-)

Other stats:

  • Time taken: 6.5 hours.
  • Floor space cleared: ~15 sq. ft.
  • Cigarettes smoked: 3.
  • Number of items originally belonging to Rohit Taklikar found: 17.

Whew!! I'm tired now. Must sleep and leech info off the net later.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Spot the Difference:



Yes, I am totally jobless!!

Copyright (C) 2005. Created using the same tool used to create graphs on BTPs. Yes, Microsoft Paint

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Before Lanset, after lanrise

We've got quite a thriving community of quakers and counterstrikers out here. You can log into practically any game at any time of day, and find a fistful of opponents to vent out the whole frustation off.

Unfortunately there's a downside. Pained by the decreasing attendance in morning classes, the insti made a new rule: no LAN from 1am to 4am.

"Bah, Humbug!" I say. Proof, you ask? Well, I am writing this blog; so, sue me. Everyday now from lanset to lanrise, junta watch movies that they've downloaded by bunking the morning and the afti classes. Let's see what miracles that brings to attendance.

The only effect of this sham has been counterproductive to those seriously apping or trying to finish their projects at night.

Which reminds me, I saw the movie "Waking Life" tonight. Ok, yesterday night. Yeah, whatever.

Although it's a FOX production, it's quite different from regular Hollow-wood fare. For starters, it's not real life action, but it's not animation either. It's something in between. It's about a dream and, hell, it looks like a dream. Excellent use of animation. A host of characters and ideas on life and on dreams. Then, there's no story as such. The characters don't stick to a plan; instead they talk about a variety of ideas and experiences. Very very insightful.

This movie is art, not formula computer graphics, fake sex and mindless gore.

In short, if you know Banner, this is the kind of movie he couldn't ever hope to comprehend - he would hate it and label it fart, probably by just seeing the animated content. On the other hand, if you liked "Before sunset" and "After sunrise", you'll love this one - it's a MUST-SEE. There's even a scene with Julie Deply and Ethan Hawke talking about reincarnation, which gives you a strong deja-vu.

Watch this and if you don't like it, go see "Shaadi No 1" instead. You'll be a happy person.

PS: Julie Deply has the sexiest voice in the world. Just the way she pronounces her "R"s and "O"s turns me on bigtime.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

An all-in-one trip

Like the 11 year sunspot cycle or the annual flooding of the Nile, it seems that the triennial submerion of Mandakini hostel's ground floor has a deeper meaning than what appears at the surface (pun intended).

So anyway, that is how I landed up yet again in Bangalore, and it's been a very eventful journey right from the start.

After my afternoon train was cancelled due to rain on Friday, I stood three hours in line to get an RAC ticket at 7:58 pm. One more guy had been in front of me, and the counter would have closed with my entry. All this fight to find a train which was so empty, there were seats left after all the RAC tickets had been confirmed.

Ever since, it's been a mish-mash of activity and adventure - quake, a bike trip to Mysore, a miraculous escape from a near-fatal accident, meeting with a cousin, a joyous diwali after a long time, raspberry flavoured vodka... - basically masti of the jhakaas kind.

The scariest moment has been the accident. On our way up to Mysore, I was riding pillion to Takli, and Banner was behind Dumbo. Takli was doin 110+ and Dumbo, despite protestations by Banner, was trying to race ahead. Obviously, Takli's Unicorn kept Dumbo's Discovery (or whatever that contemptible vehicle is called) far behind. It was just after Dumbo actually overtook us, when the most ghastly (but incredibly lucky) sequence of events unfolded. It was by far the most number of things happening in front of me ever in just two seconds.

Dumbo overtakes us and we follow him into an unmarked diversion. He bumps into a pit and then strikes some inclined plane from hell, which sends his bike flying four feet into atmosphere. They land, but tilted dangerously towards the left, and Dumbo loses control. The left leg guard screeches against the road, giving out bright orange sparks and leaving behind a hefty skidmark. Takli slows down, and I can see Dumbo falling head first onto the road with a skull-cracking thwack. Fortunately, he's wearing a helmet (but only because there weren't enough caps for all four of us). Meanwhile, Banner grabs Dumbo tightly from behind, juts his head into Dumbo's back and as they fall, he performs some awesome acrobatic stunt. He flies six feet and falls down. Now, our bike hits the half-built road and shakes the jeebies out of us. Takli's unicorn is heavier and slower, and we take no damage.

Immediately after this, Dumbo removes his helmet, and yells around for Banner, who walks back from his landing point, asking if Dumbo is safe. The net damage: A bruised Dumbo, a shaken Banner, bewildered Takli and I, and a bent left leg guard. NO ONE HAD DIED!

Let me repeat that: Nobody had died. Heck, no one even had any serious injuries. Even the frigging bike was working despite its former leap towards heaven.

So, with an extraordinary nudge of luck, four weary and injured souls (with bodies still intact) made their trip to Mysore good and returned the following afternoon, with Takli driving 100+ yet again.

Look, we even took pictures.

After lamenting for years about how Madduland Diwali sucks so bad in just so many different ways, I made up for four years of lost Diwalis in Blore. We contributed to buy candles, crackers and colourful fireworks, and shot amazing videos and pics of the beautiful displays. Pics here and here.

Raspberry vodka followed, and since the extended weekend had been so eventful that nobody realized that I had to book a ticket back to Chennai, I've decided to live it up here till Monday. With Bachi coming this Friday, it ought to be twice the fun.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A question of space and time

Suppose you have two tables and four benches arranged around them, each of which can comfortably seat two people. Add several large vodkas, a dozen tequilas, and obscene quantities of beer. Now, put up a video screen. Of course, some earsplittingly loud rock music is in order. Also, a crowd numerically strong enough to make jostling the only form of movement possible, and numerous heads in upswing-downswing motion to the beat of the music. Add springs under the tables which give a particularly woozy feeling if you stamp stoutly on the floor. Suppose you are holding these two tables.

This scene is routine. Welcome to a Saturday night at Styx. A trip to Bangalore without a night at Styx is like going to an amusement park and not riding the roller-coaster. In fact, for people like me, it's more than that. It's almost a teerth sthan.

Now the question: Can you fit in sixteen more people in the 20 sq ft or so of space that you hold?

Surprisingly, the answer is yes. And it's been experimentally tested.

Over the last two weekends, taking a break from it all, I've been chilling out in Bangalore. It isn't very surprising that I probably know more of the city than I know of "hometown" Chennai. Aur kyon na ho with Banner, Jha, Takli, Dumbo, Lala, Naan, Dil and Bachi all staying there in one flat?

The first time I went there was with Banner. Now a full engineer with more than just a muttocked-up project to worry about, poor Infy-placed Banner had gone to Blore to attempt placement at Yantra. The abovementioned party took place right after the interview, and soon news arrived that the poor Yantra-wallahs had actually agreed to employ him.

What Infy had lost, Yantra had gained - One BTech Banner and my wholesome and heartfelt sympathies for the millions of dollars they could otherwise have made.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Serves six, Sir

I remember the day when a bottle of beer was enough to have me rolling on the floor spewing, well, "stuff" everywhere. Times have since changed. Things have since been very different.

Today was the day when Banner finally got done with his viva. He's a full engineer now as far as the degree is concerned - Sourav Bannerjee, BTech (Ocean Engg), IIT Madras. Therefore, it was time for a treat. The name "Bikes and Barrels" comes to mind. It has always been the favourite, albeit a bit expensive, location for most such treats, and we decided to indulge ourselves a bit over there. Just a bit, I had decided, for someone had to guide the auto back home since Banner had already decided that he wasn't going to let mere currency in the way of complete bliss and a bad hangover.

We initially ordered a single bottle of beer for the both of us. "For starters," I thought. Of course, the waiter was a little concerned. So he came back in about five minutes, as soon as the first two mugs were over, enquiring whether he could fill our glasses with another bottle of Kingfisher. "2 minutes," we told him, "We'll order more later."

It wouldn't be unfair to assume that the word "cheapskates" crossed his mind about that time. After all, if you come to Bikes and Barrels, you ought to let down on your pursestrings a tad. Especially, when this is known as a place to enjoy, not dribble over money, or lack thereof.

That's why our second order caught him a little off guard. "Bring us a pitcher of Bloody Mary." we told him simply. The reaction was priceless. His eyes grew wide. "But that's worth six hundred, Sir" he divulged, with some consternation. "It serves six!", he exclaimed after some hesitation.

"Right!" Banner told him, matter-of-factly. "Get some French fries and a Tawa Paneer while you're at it."

The order was duly served after a small delay. Much nudging of elbows, raising of eyebrows, and general chitchat happened between the waiters consequent to the delivery.

Half an hour later, it was time for a second pitcher. Wide eyed surprise gave way to dutiful conformance - "Of course, Sir. No problem at all". Bikes and Barrels had just discovered the two most profitable customers of the day. Soon enough, complementary salad, peanuts, popcorn and an unknown paneer dish followed, replaced every ten minutes or whenever the stuff got over.

Enriched by a serving of beer and six of vodka each, Banner and I left a generous tip, and auto-ed back home. Needless to say, we overpaid the autowallah, since negotiation on price was beyond us at the time.

Moral of the story: On a treat, keep your initial order small, and then follow up with an insane amount. If nothing else, it'll give you the pleasure of looking at flummoxed faces trying to put it all together.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Days with DD

"Naugarh Vijaygarh ki thi takraar
Naugarh ka tha jo Rajkumar
Chandrakanta se karta tha pyaar"

That was DD a few years ago, when indian television was not yet overpopulated with a 1001 satellite tv channels and our very own rendition of arabian nights was still enjoyed a host of people, inspite of its special effects.

In fact, I feel even slightly nostalgic about the Byomkesh Bakshi's and the Junoon's. But today is a different story. I have no cable tv at home these days. Nobody even watches tv at home. And in these times of excessive boredom when I am forced to watch DD's fare, I pray fervently for the souls of fellow watchers out there.

Hey, wait a minute, nobody said these people behind DD productions aren't dumb. They're doing exactly what anybody in their position would do. They're copying stuff from other channels and mixing it up with old tried-and-tested DD ideas.

Like this serial called Qayamat, which is a mixture of a saas-bahu serial and Alif Laila. A Muslim couple give birth to a Jinn, who is prophesized to destroy all humans. Meanwhile the guy remarries and struggle ensues between the two wives. Of course, the editing is as slickly done as an ass rubbed on sandpaper.

Wife 1: Nahin, main ye kabhi nahin hone doongi.
Wife 2: Main tujhe dekh loongi.
Genie Kid: (with magical special effect) Masterji aapke bag mein saanp hai.
Masterji: Ui ma!!!

The clear-headed will notice that the above are lines from two different scenes. The magical special effect is some sort of Ramayan-style ray shooting out of the kid's eyes and reaching into the bag. Why the background didn't change betwwen them is left to the scene editor.

DD even has its share of saas-bahu serials placed right at dinnertime to help dieters lose apetite immediately. They're even stricken by the "Kkkk" bug. Kkaanch is a story of a journey of emotions, the saga of circumstances where relationships are fragile and yet tough - basically it's full of bullshit and mindless & impossible housewife politics.

But clearly the best ones I've seen as serials with names like - "Lady Inspector" or "Detective Karan". Lady Inspector wears a uniform a shade khakier than the others and is never afraid to squeeze the balls out of any criminal. Detective Karan is played by some guy who's appeared as side-villain in 3 billion bollywood movies and is now obviously out of a job.

One thing the DD folks completely don't realize is that taking ugly wannabes off the street and pouring a bucketful of make up on them does not make good artistes. Lady Inspector looks like she had been on the job forty years too many; and when Detective Karan's enemy's secretary smiles seductively at him, one is reminded of a shady grin from one of the Ramsay Brothers' early horror flicks.

The only saving grace is reruns. DD still plays golden evergreen classics like Byomkesh Bakshi, Mitti ke Rang, Neem ka Ped and some others at odd hours of the morning and night.

Pity though that DD's news channel actually seems a better option than DD1 more often than not.

3 more days of misery... Which idiot said "Something is better than nothing"?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A different kind of railway mishap

So this was it. Leaving my best friends behind, I was traveling alone in a 3AC Tamil Nadu Express compartment, all the way to Delhi. It was a thirty-hour trip, and I was well stocked on books - Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist", Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons", Wells' "The First Men in the Moon". For food, I had bought a single big bag of Lays, and a two-litre bottle of water to last for the time being.

Seat no. 25 AS2 was a lower berth. "I am traveling alone. Anyone who wants to exchange an upper berth?" I looked at the varied multicoloured faces staring at me. I swear I heard a whisper saying - "If he has seat number 25, why is he putting his luggage under #26?" Thinking the remark to be a figment of my imagination, I smiled heartily and closely regarded my neighbours to-be of the next thiry hours.

There were four traders: two Tam Brahms, a Jat from Jallandhar, and a Sri Lankan. There was also a Gujju aunty. One of the Tam Brahms and the Jat had the upper berths - both refused to budge. Helplessly, I looked across to the side berths. No luck there either, as a seemingly newlywed couple sat there, hand-in-hand. It seemed like a love marriage for three reasons: 1) both the guy and girl were dressed from top to bottom in red - the woman in a red salwar kameez, the man in a red silk kurta pyjama (and btw, that is totally gay) 2) the guy was a little shorter than the woman 3) the woman had a sense of humour that involved a) shouting "soopi soopi soopi" in a southie accent after the soup-wallah passed by, and b)marrying such men shorter then herself as would dress completely in red silk if asked.

This menagerie apart, there was the inevitable faceless baby, the presence of which was inflicted upon everyone only by its merciless bawls. One wonders how a 3 kg instrument can produce 300 decibels of noise.

They could even have been good company, but at least three of them chose to open their mouths during the journey. The Sri Lankan kept quiet (or spoke in a mixture of Tam+Sinhalese that would bring shame even to the dialect of Madras autowallahs) and of course the Gujju Aunty, with her 5 kgs of luggage and 50 kgs of food, never had the chance to speak lest she accidentally choke herself on delicious home-made gujju grub.

"So, sir, what do you do?" began the Tam Brahm.
"Hello myself Rakesh. I am a trader." The Jaat said with odd contentment in his eyes.
"So are we!" exclaimed the other excited Tam Brahm and they shook hands. "What do deal in?"
"Ah, garments!"
"No, no, clothes" clarified Rakesh quickly, but then his underclocked brain decided that it was just a synonym. During this time, the others actually nodded. I guess their underclocked brains had decided that these were in fact not synonyms.
"Yes yes clothes and garments. I deal in both." Rakesh smiled. Then everyone shook hands and the Tam Brahms introduced themselves. Their names could have been included, but then the blog would be several pages longer.
"Crunch Crunch Slurp" said the Gujju Aunty.
"Soopi soopi soopi" began the fat woman in the red dress.
"Saapad-qzwtghy blethargqooey" went the guy from Sri Lanka
"Bwaaaaaaaa" bawled the faceless baby
"Oh my God. Oh my fucking God!!!" said the little voice, drowned in all the noise. It took an effort to realize that it was my mind reacting.

A while later, things were mostly settled. The traders talked like old friends (from a loony bin). Other noises continued. Paulo Coelho told me the importance of having faith in omens and realizing that "overshadowing all other human languages is the One Language of the Mind, which communicates with everyone regardless of any distinctions". Unfortunately, since it was already 11 o'clock, the Tam Brahms decided it was time to sleep. Midsentence, Paulo Coelho's book was clothed in dark as the light turned off. Right now the One language was telling me to go and throttle each and every one of these characters and make a bed out of their corpses. After successfully turning on the light twice for fifteen minutes each time, and being rudely interrupted each time, I decided that vengeance would be mine tomorrow morning.

I woke up just before Nagpur the next day. The Tam Brahms were perched narrowly against my feet, careful not to accidentally touch them.

The heat of Nagpur not only took over the atmosphere of the AC compartment but also the conversation. After having an ice cream each at the station, the traders started debating on why Nagpur was so hot this time around.

Several interesting observations were made:
1. A coal mine had just been discovered near Nagpur.
2. Some fart about rain causing less humidity and more temperature. [!]
3. Due to pollution, "global" warming was more here. [!!!]
4. We were getting closer to the equator. [!!!!!]

"The Alchemist" is an altogether nice and compelling story. Sadly, it tells of caravans with expert traders following stars and directions for weeks on end. I wondered if they sold garments too. Or perhaps only clothes. It was time to switch books. At such a time, the opening chapter of "Angels and Demons" makes one overcome with a desire to brand an ambigram of "Eat this, asshole" into the skin of the aforesaid, well, assholes.

The rest of the journey was also mindnumbingly dull. Dull, at most places, but completely mindnumbing where not dull. I made no attempts to speak at all, and as few tries as possible to catch their attention.

Finally, New Delhi Rly Stn approached. The traders got up and into their shoes. They shook hands again for the gazillionth time. Then they exchanged visiting cards. Oddly enough, the Tam Brahms (who seemed to be a group all this time) exchanged cards too. It appeared the Jaat was taking the Sri Lankan to Jallandhar and was due to catch another train.

Nice try, asshole. I should have told him. Does he really expect traders he knows from a train journey to visit him, when they can't even make out which side of the equator they are? Heck, they even do the same trade, doesn't that make them bloody competitors?

But I guess when the God of Logic was distributing brains, these four were shouting "Rs 150. SALE! SALE!" to the people standing in line.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


The sultry, hot weather of Madras.
8 hours of tiring classes a day.
Workshop, where you work like an ass.
Ragging, abuses hurled away
At you, then an unknowing prude.
Life@IITM is sometimes rude.

The first Saarang - cultural flavour.
Ogling at women, coming of age.
Dressing savvier than the next-door neighbour
Who cashes anyhow. Frustration and rage
On this "friend" you decide to "forgive".
Life@IITM is highly competitive.

Bunking: 8 hours of classes reduced to 4.
Notebook in hand, but brain elsewhere.
Wingmates "borrowing" food in store.
Exams passed on the power of prayer.
Thinking of parents' hopes to live up.
Life@IITM is sometimes "give up".

Another Saarang, old errors repeated.
Sticking to forgiven friend like a limb.
At the room alone, feeling kinda cheated.
Resolving next sem to join the gym.
"Never again!" - the heart reminisces.
Life@IITM is empty promises.

Payment for gym given contently.
Mess not visited for the entire term.
Weight gain and more because, incidentally,
The resolve for fitness was not that firm.
Eating out daily at prices just double.
Life@IITM is financial trouble.

CAT or GRE: what choice to make?
Feeling so lost about a career choice.
Enthuless mugging for CGPA's sake.
Waiting for the sem to end to rejoice.
Taking a stand, then parents' opposition.
Life@IITM is confused ambition.

A few more courses, the final project.
Sit back, relax. Cigarettes and booze.
But problems appear: Which guide to select?
Time's running out. Attendence blues.
Meeting deadlines by working long nights.
Life@IITM is last minute fights.

A pitcher of vodka. A pitcher of rum.
A pitcher of whisky, some cigarettes and grass.
Jovial company, all comfortably numb,
Look back at those years and exclaim - "Alas!
These days of our lives forever we'll miss"
Life@IITM is everlasting bliss.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Golden Age of quake endeth...

The first time I played the game of Quake 3: Arena was in class 12. It was a new game, a first person shooter with a twist of vengeance never before seen. Fancy graphics, simple gameplay - just frag. In my first year, it still represented stress relief of the twisted kind... you kill, and your veins surge with the excitement of an adrenaline rush. But by God, was it addictive! The image of the stereotypical Quake fanatic comes to mind. Geeky clothing, teeth bared, eyes glued into the monitor, he glowers in anger and gloats at the corpse of his dead opponent. Competition emerges. The defeated swells and tried to vanquish the victor.

By the end of second year, it was a daily activity. I was a part of the Quake religion. The capital Q in Quake gave way to the small q in quake. That's when you realize how far reality is from stereotypes. That's when you find out how many other "normal" people were part of the same "cult".

It's really a great feeling. Unknown and talented opponents identified only by their quake aliases became good friends. A new subculture emerged out of the already rich heritage IITM had. "Newbies" practiced hours on end to challenge the successful and the famous. All entertainment. No hard feelings.

We had our own legends - Faisal and Vibra to mention a few. No other year had as many quake afficionados as ours. True, our juniors have had their own crop of enthusiasts, but none of them have gone through the kind of conditioning we have. From mere beginners to people who downloaded every mod available to test all challenges, all limits. From duels against lone nightmare bots to two-versus-six CTFs. Each challenge bigger than the next. From standalone machines to home-made networks to the insti lan. Bigger and better.

Now that the current fourth year leaveth, with it endeth the Golden Age of quake.

Old friends leave and only the legacy of their legendary skill remains.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A Hair-raising tale

"Addy's hair are perpendicular to his scalp, 'nuff said"
"He's shed his hair for more durable and sensitive antennae"
"Aapka baal nagaland house ke logon ki tarah hai - mota. Mujhe har baar kainchee badalnee padti hai"
"His head with its scalp of hair resembles a puffer fish all puffed up"

All odes to my hair, once a live tribute to a point charge's electric field... diverging radially outwards from a point right inside my scalp.

My cousins called it "khandani baal". Apparently, the family genes perpetrate a hairstyle which stands on end. However, before any of them reached the age of eighteen, they had been magically cured of the electric field and sported more familiar and smarter looking partings. But not me, nuh-huh. In my case, the familiar carpet hair refused to sit down. Like freedom fighters bent on gaining independence, they stood right through onslaughts as varied as mom's applications of oil, the hairstylist's regular scissors and comb, and many a succesful hair gel.

There was a time when a particular "famous" hairstylist finally accepted defeat. "I'm sorry, I've seen nothing like this before. I can't do anything about it. Maybe next month..." He refused to accept payment!

At school, I was jibed at as the "porcupine" or more affectionately "the guy with the carpet hair" with some of the more adventurous kind ruffling my hair - a truly enjoyable experience, I was told. In fact, if somebody from school bumps into me, their first remark is - "Wait a minute... Aditya Pandey, oh my God, whatever happened to your pointy hair?"

And so it is. But I know the pointy hair is all but gone. The secret is just the length. Grow hair long enough and it's bound to lay down - after all, even thick pointy hair can't defy the laws of Physics. It all began in third year, when tired of the same style I'd been a victim of for all these years, I decided to not get my hair cut for several months. When I finally did go to the barber, he actually told me to come visit him more often! And as an onlooking friend of mine exclaimed - "It was like shearing the wool off a sheep! Enough hair to make a truckload of wigs and still weave a sweater out of the rest." It was that long. Over thirteen inches and counting.

It was almost miraculous - what happened after that haircut. Like a class of rowdy students suddenly behaving well with the teacher pondering confused what trick they have up their collective sleeve, my hair just settled down. Just like that. No attempt at any anti-gravity stunts. No defiance to stand tall and face the world again. And for a while, it was good. It was new and smart. I looked into the mirror and felt different.

All in vain. Only to suddenly burst forth into full bloom after the subsequent bath! And not just the "natural" antenna-like stance. Something stuck in the middle. Like a cross between a lady's locks and the hair on a boar's tail. It might even have looked better before.

So I tried a middle parting. And it was good again. All seemed well till I went home - hair all grown long, and a parting to rival Salman Khan's in "Tere Bin". Then mom saw it. Four hours later, my new hairstyle had vanished, replaced by half-crazed antennae again.

Since that time, I've tried half a dozen different things, but the resolve of my hair never fails. It's still the ugly cross kind. No matter how long. The worst part is, even shortening it doesn't seem much of a help.

Well, at least it's not "porcupine" any more.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The roaring ocean

I finally understood the meaning of "roaring ocean". A first hand experience is worth a million words in a million books, however descriptively written.

There was a general warning today about the sea behaving abnormally in Chennai. Fishermen were cautioned not to venture too far. My friends and I, not knowing this fact, decided to spend some time at the beach tonight. After all, the weather had suddenly turned pleasant in the evening, and the beach by night looks all the more mysterious.

When we got there at first, it all seemed normal. Then, we noticed that the beachfront was considerably steeper than normal tonight. Also, the total absence of sea breeze. You could light a match without it blown off in half a second. Yes, I tried it. It burnt through and I had to fling it away before the flame touched my fingers. That kind of breeze. The water near the beachfront had collected in some sort of a pool. Obviously, it was much deeper than usual. It was also totally calm. The waves were coming, strangely, in an oblique direction and breaking several metres away from the beach. It was an awesome sight, a Mexican wave breaking up here at one instant and elsewhere a few seconds later, making a great splash and all. As if a large fish was swimming along the coast in one direction and its fin was cutting across the water in a straight line. Mysterious and yet blood-curdling at the same time. We had the jitters anticipating a giant tsunami washing us up before we knew it.

Ah yes, I forget, the sounds. At times the sea would go totally calm, with just the swish-swash of stagnated water splashing around. Then a new wave would come and break, and make a sound like a huge vacuum cleaner on Full Suck. Many more smaller waves would follow and the result was a cacophony which sounded like a deaf band beating their drums totally out of tune. It sounded like a warning alarm. Heck, it even looked like a military base after a warning alarm has gone off. White foaming waves here, there, everywhere, all criss-crossing each other in random directions.

We stayed there for the better part of an hour, seeing the waves growing only bigger. When we left, the biggest waves, about 20 metres into the sea, must have been at least ten feet high.

The next logical step would be to inspect the beach in the daytime, and I plan to do just that tomorrow.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The end of an Era

Now that the final few weeks of the fourth year approach, and the joblessness of the BTech junta increases day-by-day, a feeling of melancholy overpowers me. Affection. I try not to think of it too often. It is meant to happen, it is inevitable, it is all for the best. And when that day comes along ultimately, when all these amazing friends of mine leave IITM for a better life elsewhere, I don't know whether I'll have enough words to bid them goodbye.

Time flies. First year, new friends. The blink of an eye. Then whoosh, before you know it, a teary-eyed farewell to the best friends you've ever had. And a guarantee that your life will never be the same again.

We did so much together. We shared our joys, our miseries. We wrote plays to make people laugh. We had long discussions all night long on totally pointless topics. We thought about the future. We worked our asses off for the Litsoc. We frolicked on the beach like six-year-olds. We played Quake till our eyes were red and minds numb. We celebrated Holi and Diwali like they were the last days in our lives.

And then you bat your eyelids. Everyone has a job in a different city. And then I think of the good times behind us. And how they're gone, how they'll never return after this point in life. And I feel terribly, terribly sad and old.

Maybe it's a mistake. Or maybe I am just too emotional. Maybe it is all for the best.

I thought I had let it all out when I cried for four hours at Ganga's hostel night. I had plunged into Shaastra to avoid exactly this feeling. Then I wake up today and TG reminds me that it's Faisal's treat. And like a river waiting behind a dam's sluices, the feeling flows over me again, drowning me.

I remember. The memories are still fresh.

I remember when he had graduated, and was leaving for his Infy job. I had gone up to his room. I think I woke him up, and said goodbye, ready to leave since my train was due. Faisal came out, bulbing, shook my hand and went right back in to bed. But I broke down. And when he came back after his trasfer, I was so totally overjoyed!

I remember getting impressed watching Faisal beat the shit out of his opponents in Quake and I remember putting fight and reaching a level where I could too. I remember all the conversations we used to have after every single CTF match when we set up our own LAN. I remember listening to him sing in the bathroom, and search around for the music system which was playing the impeccable melody. I remember all the new lingo we coined together, some just for the moment, some to become a part of IITM's heritage. I remember the skit we made on the train to Bombay. And I remember the excrutiangly long bus trip back from there, and the stopover at Bangalore at Ganaps' place. I remember the smiling face, the resilient voice, the sharp wit, the dextrous fingers, and the best friend called Faisal.

And when I zoom forward into the future, and look back from there at this point in time, I see so many farewells, tears, hugs and smiles. I see so much excitement, tension, joy, nostalgia and above all, so much change.

I see the end of an era.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Just a story

Ordinarily, in Creative Writing class, it takes me much time to put pen to paper and write something. So much time sometimes, that I leave with a blank sheet :(. This is a story I wrote at home for an assignment. The object was facial description. I thought up two different expressions and emotions on the same man's face, and then connected them with a story... The good thing is it took only an hour or so.

Asai Nagamasa cupped his plams and splashed his face with the cool water. His breathing was fast and he studied the image in the looking glass, taking in short gulps of air. His moist breath clouded the reflection which stared back at him, the water dripping off his high cheekbones and his moustache, which drooped low. The eyebrows were strained into thin lines, his forehead knotted like a tree’s roots. The front part of his head was shaved, a scar running a short length from left to right the only reminder of the hundred thousand battles he had fought during his life. He had undone his oiled topknot and his graying hair was spread unkemptly upon his long neck. His lips, pink and full, spread slightly apart and quivering, showed his tightly clenched teeth, coloured alternately black and blue, the mark of a master samurai in assault. Hot steam escaped his mouth every time he exhaled, depositing drops of moisture on his philtrum. Yet, the rest of features were overshadowed by his otherwise unremarkable narrow eyes. He opened them as wide as he could and looked at the mirror with fury and hatred, and they glared back at him. Fiery and reddened, they seemed to boil the water on his smooth skin and heat the air around him. His muscular chest rose and fell, stretching the fabric of his kaleidoscopic kimono, like the high tide on the Shirahama beach lashing and pounding the sand. For an instant, he remembered his dear wife Yuri and his unborn daughter, and his face twitched from the agony. It was only for a moment, and before his eyes could become moist, he filled himself again with rage and resolve, reminding himself of the great Matsuo Basho’s haiku:
Summer grasses,
All that remains
Of soldiers’ dreams

“Bushido. One must follow the way of life.” He called out aloud to himself. “Let not emotion weaken the temper, for a warrior’s greatest strength is not the weapon he holds in his hand, but the spirit in his mind.”

Asai Nagamasa washed himself with soap and ash, taking the usual time to complete the ritual. He lighted the incense sticks in front of the temple to his ancestors, put on his sandals and drank cold tea. Once again, the pangs of memory struck at him and once again he steeled himself. Trying to keep occupied, he read his favourite Kabuki script and made his bed. With a soft puff, he blew out the candle. He was soon fast asleep.

* * * * *

“Don’t go out today, please,” begged Yuri. Her oval face was the Sun glowing even in the dark morning, her eyes were little slits, her voice soft yet wispy. Her lower lip, red like a rose blossom, held pouted, she pleaded - “The dogs bark and the clouds are black, the omens foretell misery.”

Asai responded matter-of-factly - “This will be the last time. I have routed enough of Hojo Ujikuni forces, that today’s last blow will shatter him. I must leave, and leave I shall.”

“May you be safe. I’ll have warm sandals and hot tea waiting when you shall come back.” Yuri came up behind him and helped him adorn his kimono and chain mail. Her swollen belly brushed against his back, and his face lit up and he smiled - “What shall we call our daughter, Yuri-san?”

Yuri blushed - her cheeks turning beetroot, rivaling the blood red of her full lips. “If you win today, we will call her Shouri, Victory.”

Asai fetched his katana, the longsword and his wakizashi, the dagger and wore them. Humbly, he bowed before his ancestors’ place and planting a kiss on Yuri’s forehead, left for the road.

* * * * *

With a cold sweat, Asai woke up and sat on his bed. He took a towel and wiped his forehead. A tidal wave of emotion swept him over. His memories haunted him again. He had led his men to battle, and they had routed the last surviving enemy force. But, Hojo Ujikuni had escaped with a small band of whatever was left of his men. The coward! No one knew where. He left him for another day, and thought sweet thoughts. He would go back to Yuri and Shouri tonight. He would buy toys and sweets and decorate the room for his firstborn daughter.

Instead, he came home to despair and suffering. Yuri had been slayed by Hojo’s men. Shouri had been swallowed by the darkness of death before seeing even her first light.

“Avenge them. But forget not the Bushido. Go and calmly slay your enemy.” said a voice in his head.

* * * * *

Asai Nagamasa cupped his plams and splashed his face with the cool water. His breathing was controlled and relaxed. His beard was trimmed. His hair was oiled well and folded first front and then back and tied into a tight top-knot. The water drops danced on his face till they reached his elegant moustache, then dropped from the ends. His forehead was clean like a washed slate today, the eyebrows were steady. His tenacious expression still had a hue of pain, but he put on his eboshi, the ritual armored helmet, till only his fiery red eyes showed.

The warrior proferred the lighted incense sticks to his ancestors. He put on his kimono and his armor. In his belt, he fixed in a knife. In one hand, he grabbed the sharpest katana, in the other his dagger. As Asai Nagasama marched out of his house, the wind itself seemed to grow shriller and the Sun less bright in the face of this valiant warrior. Elsewhere, Hojo Ujikuni’s aides gaped dumbfounded, discussing about their escape plan from the region, when they saw dark raincloud beginning to form suddenly out of a perfectly clear sky.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

You win some, you lose A LOT

hi all

Congratulate me. Pat me on the back. Shake my hand. Crack a joke or two. Feign a laugh as I fake mine. Swear to be my friend forever. Lick my feet for a co-ordship. I'm now the co-curricular affairs secretary of IIT Madras, the first ever "northie" to do it. To win an insti-based election for Shaastra. But at what cost? Why, oh why, did I ever stand for this post? What was I ever thinking?

There are "friends" all around, congratulating me, saying I was worth it. Saying that my opponent deserved to lose. So many of them were openly supportive of me before the elections. Yet, what was the margin? 23 out of 3033 votes!!! Is that all I'm worth?

Barefaced liars. Bastards with no souls. I don't care how many of them even went through my manifesto, went through my credentials. I believe there were only 23 who really did. Those who made the difference. The others? Whores who sold their support for a co-ordship. Prostituted themselves to get a hold on the Saarang bandwagon. Motherf*ers who just saw the names "Uthpala Raghavendra Rao" and "Aditya Pandey" and figured out the longer one made the grade.

They predicted a hands-down victory. They foresaw a 500+ margin. They pledged they knew better than to vote on vague "fundaes". They promised they'd act sensibly and without prejudice. They cheered and applauded at the soapbox. They met me afterward and said I was great. They asserted that they knew me as a person, not as a candidate. Some of them were later surprised to know I'd won.

I always thought that people in general were sensible. The mass was sensible. The majority saw the manifestos and the credentials, and voted with objectivity. It's all wrong! And I thought that this was a pinnacle of an engineering institution, where logic and reason prevailed over regionalism and casteism. Oh, how naive I was! And yet, one expects politics to be clean. The truth is we have the keenest brains here. And that spiderman saying is all hogwash: There's just great power, there's no concept of responsibilty. With great power, comes a large cache of false friends, of sycophants of the highest orders, of two-faced people so full of themselves they'd do anything to be the next me.

And my best friends. I did it for them. To serve what I thought was some sort of "poetic justice". To see to it that their dreams left unfulfilled were finished with my beginning. They turn around now. Look the other way. They say it was a waste of time. It wasn't meant to be.

I am a fluke. I got into this place by accident. I was involved in Shaastra by mere chance. And here I am, a general of a force of enthusiasm, left hanging by the sheerest of margins. My opponent calls up and says "No hard feelings!". I reciprocate. At least he acted sensibly. No one else I know did.

The day is over. A new dawn begins. I must put all this behind me, they say, and work out a new and better beginning. But I am lonesome. I am afraid. I am looking the future in the face and it's staring right back at me. The past meanwhile is chuckling, at my naiveity and inexperience. At my failure to judge. At my over-confidence. At my inability to come to terms with what I thought was right, but in effect was a pile of smelly crap.

So here I am again. I have power. I have responsibility. They expect me to judge truthfully, but discount objectivity for "friendship". Some of them are as afraid as I am. Thinking I will seek "revenge". Contemplating my moves to suck out their blood. Yet claiming to be the truest friends I will ever know.

They congratulate me. They pat me on the back. They shake my hand. They crack a joke or two. The feign a laugh as I fake mine. They swear to be my friends forever. They lick my feet for a co-ordship. I'm now the co-curricular affairs secretary of IIT Madras, the first ever "northie" to do it. To win an insti-based election for Shaastra. But they don't care about what it cost me, emotionally.

Why, oh why, did I ever stand for this post? What was I ever thinking?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

How I grew to hate exams

A long long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, there was a kid in kindergarten who was not yet introduced to the concept of the exam. Life was a playground, life was a dream. In that dream, he was a doctor one day, a plumber that evening, then an armyman at night, and an actor the next morning. School was synonymous with a few hours parting from his parents and being forced to stay in a classroom and being fed with ideas a grown-up was spewing out. But it was fun in a way, because the grown-ups would show the kid weird new things and ideas he had never seen at home, and his mom would be delighted when at the end of each weekday, he told her all about what he had learnt in school. And there were other kids to talk to and play with and share food.

Then came class I, and twice a year they made him sit in a room on a desk by himself, forbade him from talking to other kids, made him regurgitate the contents of his mind, and then scribbled numbers on his papers. And his parents looked at the numbers and were unhappy if they were too low and their mood was visibly brightened if the numbers were large. He was confused at first, but learnt soon enough that if he merely imitated the very words his teacher had spoken in class, the results were mostly good - and this was ironically the first real thing he learnt in school by himself. Soon, he was used to this, and devised ways to maximize his potential marks like buying lots of copies and taking down notes. It was a new experience at first and although painful, there was a sense of achievement there. He took his exams with a mix of fear and anticipation and awaited the results with excitement and sometimes even anxiety.

The years flew by and exam after exam passed. By class 5, he was used to the two exam a year notion. However, the sense of achievement and a lot of creativity had died down - exams were plain boring to him now, an unwanted responsibility, a burden on his fledgling brain, a merciless and useless cut on his playtime. But, he was good at it by now, he would mostly finish top of class. That is when in class 6, they introduced the weekly test.

A test every week? With marks to be added into his ? His first reaction was panic, despair. He reciprocated with more sincere effort - spent the first six weekends studying for the following dreaded Monday Test. Sincere effort soon gave way to mere mechanical slogging, and then to laxity and finally apathy.

He was in class 10 now, and the board exams hung heavy in the air. They told him his future depended on this! So all his efforts uptill then had had no meaning? An exam which could affect his life? He thought over it and mulled. The Monday tests continued meanwhile, as regular and going as unnoticed as his heartbeat. The month of the big exams finally came and he sat through them and wrote down pieces of his future with pen on paper. He eagerly awaited the results. They were random enough.

It was class 12 now, and another big exam awaited. His previous experiences had taught him the tricks of the trade. Writing exams was by now a totally emotionless, taken-for-granted act. After he wrote his last board exam, he celebrated with all his friends. He no longer cared for the marks.

His hobbies had taught him more than school, and he now believed that the real world was far removed from his exams. As he went into college, his belief only became stronger and stronger with each passing course, each passing exam (no pun intended). Exams were now about beating the system - about the only enlightenment they provided him anymore.

He was just sitting at his desk one day, thinking about how to go about the department quiz the next morning, when his mind wandered away. He remembered how he had chopped time off his playtime, his story books, his drawings, and the system had swallowed it all away without as much as emitting a burp. He wondered if he would have been different if he had pursued any of those interests further. He wondered if he had actually been the one writing his own destiny all the while. He thought when it was the last time he had done something truly new and unexpected and showed all his friends. He wondered, and he lamented.

He had been a doctor, a writer, a plumber, a sportsman, an engineer, a scientist, an artist, an actor, a dancer, an architect, sometimes all of it at once ... but they had taken it all away from him and given him a sheet of paper which summed up his life.

It had 8.14/10 written on it.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Victory at the beach

I am what you could call "a beach person". I love idling away on the beach. That is, when the sun is not yet out. When the ocean's deep blue and the beach full of people. When it's frothy and sprays you across the face. When it makes you want to throw your clothes away and plunge into the salty water. When it transforms grown-up men into the amoebae they once evolved from, thrashing away at the waves, feeling tranquil and content with this way of life. A thousand voices of laughter all mingling to form a general "happy" background noise. It makes you want to lie down, stare at the horizon and stay there forever.

However, tonight was the first time I went there after dark. At night, the ocean looks sinister and dark. The beach is empty. It looks as if conspiring to take you alone by surprise. Reach out with unseen tentacles, grab you and swallow you deep into its maw. The froth reminds me of a mad dog's mouth, slavering canines and all, ready to bite without warning or reason; the swish-swash of the waves breaking as they reach shore sounds of low growling.

In fact, I am so scared of the ocean at night that the mere sight makes my hair stand and churns my stomach.

So tonight I tried out an experiment. I first decided that I have noctomarephobia (nocto=night, mare=sea, yes, i coined this) - the unnatural fear of the sea at night. Why unnatural? Well, consider the odds of a tsunami suddenly rising out the ocean at the exact time that I happen to be strolling on the beach, and then all my limbs cramping at the same time so I can't even swim back. Or the probability of a deep sea giant squid lashing out its tentacles and finding me for dinner. You get the idea - it's very very very very improbable. So my fear must be unnatural. Given that, the only way now to get rid of the fear is to confront the situation - much like AXN's "Fear Factor" (except not do it on camera and make it all artificial).

Hostel life is a two-sided coin. It's fun to live out freely but tends to get overbearingly boring in routine. In recent time, I had been feeling totally pained and idle. Therefore, ... beach. There were eight of us who'd gone to the beach, and here I can extoll endlessly about the virtues of hostel life - independence, friendship, blah blah blah....

So I nervously (I admit) walked towards the sea, and unable to push it all away, finally succumbed to fear about 10 feet away from where the waves were hitting the beachfront.

This is when four of us just continued on to the edge and waded into the water. It was my cue. I followed, albeit still scared. And reached the edge. I let the waves come and wash my feet. Nothing happened. No sea monster, no sudden wall of water. No dead bodies floating bloated in the water. No crabs gnawing on my toes. No plastics filled with nuclear waste. Actually, that last one, I just made it up. But seriously, the rest were all things I would fear.

I stayed there for a long time. I walked along the edge of the water in one direction for a few minutes, just to be alone. Everyone was quite for a while - something that doesn't happen too often. I just kept staring into the horizon, at the dark ocean merging into the cloudy grey sky so seamlessly.

We stayed at the beach for quite a long time. It was about 11 o'clock when we finally returned. The general chit chat had begun again.

I stole another glance at the beach. It was still dark and gloomy and lonesome. But I wanted to lie down, stare at the horizon and stay here forever. I had conquered my fear of the ocean at night.


Since my D-slot is free and happens to lie between the C and A slots, it made sense to take up French class for fun. So I did just that today. Granted that it's a bit late in the semester to take up any new courses, but with all the experience in school I thought I'd ace it up easily.

Unfortunately, I've been out of touch for quite a long time now. But fortunately, the blokes in class are all in fourth year and too lazy to really learn up pronunciation well enough. So it was immediately obvious to Evangeline Manickam - when I took up a passage to read and pronounced all the R's like the err's they are meant to be - that I had taken French before. "Combien d'ans?" she proceeded to ask. It was then that I realized that although back in class X, I had aced the Alliance Francaise interview for the CFE, the "touch" was all but lost. So I stared right back at her much like a stuffed pig stares back at you if you ask it its name. For a while, she kept repeating the question, then finally gave up and asked "How many years?"

"Four," I answered, and only by reverse-translating the question into French was I able to make sense of what she'd asked. And even the four was a lie. It's actually more like seven, but three years we did nothing but parrot the teacher's sounds without understanding a word of what was taught. So, I guess those three years don't count. In any case, I made a quick judgement about the period of time so that given my failure to understand an ordinary two-word question despite repetitions, she doesn't take my first impression as a pathetic birdbrain. Stupid ego.

Of course, deep down all this was deeply depressing.

We went over the text and some grammar after that. Articles indéfinis, Pronoms possessifs. It's been a month and a half since the course began. Conclusion: These people are primitive :)

So it's decided. A revision of French fundaes is required. I am auditing the course. At worst, I end up being far ahead of the class but get some practice recognizing really basic spoken French. At best, the level of the class increases and all my friends end up scoring high and give me a treat for the coaching.