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.