Friday, February 24, 2006

Good bye Sourav

To be honest, I've never been a big fan of Sourav Ganguly. At his zenith, he was one of the most elegant left-handers ever to set foot on a cricket field. Rahul Dravid once said "On the offside, there is God. and then there is Saurav". At his worst, he was reduced to a bumbling idiot by even the most innocuous of seam bowlers with a few well-directed short-pitched deliveries. He refused to admit that he had technical deficiencies, his fitness levels deteriorated and his actions eroded not only his confidence but that of the entire team. But all that was in recent years.

What I would like to remember of Sourav was the inspirational leader, who picked up youngsters in the raw, a la Imran Khan, and polished them into world class diamonds. When Harbhajan Singh, forced by poverty and lack of success at the domestic level, was considering moving to the United States and driving trucks for a living, Sourav fought for and succeeded in picking him up for the Australian tour of India. The rest, as they say, is history. Yuvraj Singh, after tasting initial success, let that get to his head, his performance dropped and consequently he was dropped. When everyone saw what had become of Yuvraj, Sourav alone saw what could be made out of him and fought for him. Yuvraj is now set to become one of the all-time greats. Zaheer Khan, Virendar Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, the list goes on.

As an Indian, he made me proud because he was the first Indian captain to get rid of the colonial mentality and face the English and Aussies on an equal footing. When he took off his shirt to celebrate an unbelievable Indian run chase at Lord's (to mock Flintoff who had gone topless on an English win earlier in India), he showed his finger to the tradition and snobbery associated with the ground. When he was late for every toss with Steve Waugh and got on his nerves, he made us laugh and shake our head with his guts and cheakiness. When he almost chewed his fingers off everytime India was in trouble on the field, you could see the raw passion on his face. That was Sourav - emotional, passionate and proud. You may love him. you may hate him. But you can never ignore him.

To be fair to Rahul Dravid, he's a better captain and an even better player than Sourav could ever be. He's well-mannered, meticulous on planning and preparation and is in a different league as a batsman. But there was something in Sourav that speaks to the animal in you, his 'go for broke' attitude and risk-taking was a thrill ride. You knew that it was either going to work out great or crumble all around us.

I did not want to see Sourav go the way he did. It was ironic that the first captain who got rid of parochialism and nepotism in Indian cricket, is now reduced to banking on the Bengali support to find his way back in. I wanted him to retire on his own terms, doing what's best for Indian cricket, and bowing with a last hurrah from the International stage. I would have liked to see him walk back proudly to the pavilion while the Indian dressing room and Eden Gardens stand up in ovation for one of their greatest sons. Good bye Sourav. We'll miss you...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Aur ek, aur ek and aur ek

When I was leaving for BITS, Pilani, everyone told me that I would only need English to survive there. That the little Hindi I had learned as a third language since 5th standard would be more than enough for "emergency purposes". Unfortunately, no one remembered to tell this to all the dhobis, the raedi walas, the mess workers, rickshaw walahs and the restaurant owners in our quaint little town in the middle of nowhere, otherwise called Rajasthan. Consequently, there were quite a few embarrassing moments when my Hindi did not keep pace with my thought process. However, my only consolation was that, however bad my Hindi was, there were always others who would beat me hands down when it came to making asses of themselves.

The cool thing about BITS was that the best and the brightest from every part of the country came there. However, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh accounted for the majority presence there so much so that pilani came to be represented in our state maps (Actually, I once saw a post card delivered wrongly to my hostel by a dyslexic postman who misread Palani, the temple town. But I'm digressing here!). But what bothered me so much was that while almost everyone, irrespective of what state they hailed from, could speak fluent Hindi, the shady characters that went from Tamil Nadu alone couldn't speak a coherent sentence if our lives depended on this. I guess this is what comes of living with a Government that has had a history of anti-hindi protests and probably still harbors illusions about making Tamil the national language.

So when it came to Hindi bloopers, some of the stuff we said and did were legendary. For example, a bottle of camel milk was being delivered outside a guy's hostel room everyday, even though he had never asked for it. When this routine did not stop for a while, he decided to do something about it. So he kept his alarm for 5 o' clock, prompty got up and waited for the milkman. When he heard the bottle outside his door, he went out in a huff and, in what he perceived as Hindi, told the milkman he did not want any milk from then on. Mission accomplished, he came back and happily crashed for the rest of the day. Understandably, he was quite proud of his achievement, and strutted around the next day throwing some "saala"s and "arre yaar"s for good effect. This lasted all of one day. The next morning, he got up, came out of his room only to find two bottles of camel milk, instead of one.

I remember another incident when a friend of mine went to the co-op store to buy a few notebooks. He needed 15 of them, but could only count till 10 in Hindi. So he told the shopkeeper he needed "dus notebooks ji" and patiently waited for them to arrive. When the shopkeeper brought them to him, he came up with this master stroke - "aur ek, aur ek, aur ek, aur ek and aur ek". I would've given anything to have seen the expression on the shopkeeper's face.

Another time, my wing (corridor) went to grab a bite at ANC (All Night Cafeteria) around midnight. I had ordered masala dosa while my friend "mandai" (big head bony body) had ordered a plain dosa. The waiter, under the influence of a few hundred filterless beedis, mixed up the orders. So mandai went up to him and loudly and clearly said "uska dosa mera paas... mera dosa tera paas". We still haven't let him forget that fateful night.

Once, a guy was trying to negotiate with the jeep wala. After some frenetic hand gestures and syllables that could have come straight out of the Mayan civilization, he thought he had struck a great deal. Only to be told by his friends later, that he had managed to negotiate 250 rupees for the trip when the driver had been perfectly happy with 150. Turned out he was a little confused about "daed" and "daayi".

I'm still hopeful that someday, the genetic inconsistency that is solely responsible for the 'Tamil and Hindi are mutually exclusive' syndrome would be corrected as a result of inter-cultural marriages and more hindi movies starring Rajni Kanth.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Me, Myself and a Martian


me: argghhh... err... who's that? who's that?

unknown intruder: What the hell is this place? this is not what I programmed.

me: what the $%*&! who're you?

unknown intruder: Whassupp?!! i'm from Mars...

me (a little sober now): Aren't we all mate!

unknown intruder: eh?

me: You know, as in "Men are from Mars, women are from Venus"

unknown intruder: No dude, I'm really from Mars. My teleportation beam screwed up... its over the expiry period. dammit!

me: But you're not small and green.

Martian: That's actually a rumor we started so you wouldn't recognize a martian if you came across one..

me: But we sent small robots to Mars to take photos and collect samples. They're roaming on the ground there as we speak. How did they miss you?

Martian: Actually, we removed the cameras from those and fixed them on Martian toads. Our kids are playing with those robots now.

me: How did you end up here?

Martian: Well, the original plan was to land in Chennai...

me: wow! really? that's my hometown. I had no idea its famous across the galaxy. Why did you decide on that place?

Martian: Well, even if we were to destroy some landscape while landing or knock over a few statues, people would just assume that Jayalalitha is mad at someone or planning another wedding. Comes in handy! The chennai-vasi is the most passive of your species. Plus I like the local lingo. Words like "dubukku" and "bajaari" always cheer me up.

me: You planning to take me up to your space craft and perform some sort of invasive procedure on me?

Martian: Hell no! it would take us a day to get thro' your fur... Besides, we've already examined better specimens like Lalloo Prasad Yadav and Marilyn Monroe.

me: (now totally awake!) Lalloo, as in Bihar ka Lalloo?

Martian: Ofcourse. Our experiments with him were going swell till he started trying to form an alliance with us to beat the ruling Janata Dal party. Had a hard time convincing him that we weren't really interested in Earth politics.

me: So what did you do?

Martian: Well, we had to erase his memory and send him back. It was quite stressful. Even more so than the time the Nair guy tried to acquire sole rights for setting up tea stalls in Mars. whew!

me: Can you pass on some powers to me like ET? you know like electricity in the fingers, mind-reading etc.

Martian: With great power comes great responsibility!

me: Isn't that dialog from 'Spiderman'?

Martian: Dammitt! that movie seems to be famous around these parts... Well, help me get out of here, will you?

me: Wait! There's lots of stuff I need to ask you.

Martian: (thinking "what a nincompoop!") like what?

me: Have you ever been to earth before?

Martian: Sure mate, plenty of times. . Whenever I feel a little blue, I just attend a high school class in Alabama. 'Intelligent Design' always cracks me up!

me: Is time travel possible? Are there objects that travel faster than light? Are gay people born gay or become gay?

Martian: Take it easy kid. Will come back some other time and chit chat with you. I've got to take off now before the Missus finds out I'm missing. You don't wanna get on the wrong side of a Martian woman. She's got those tentacles and all. Comes in handy in bed and housework, but can be a real bitch at other times. I think I'll figure out the way out of here myself. (leaves)

Masters of Comedy - Part 3 : The young guns

Despite continuing protests, not-so-well-hidden insinuations and downright insults (enda ippadi kotti thalra? nee enna millionaire comediansku ella PRO-va? translation - why're u not making any sense? Are you a PRO for millionaire comedians?) , I've decided to go ahead and complete my series about comedians, comedy and the impact of comedy on the world in general as well as the perception of public about comedy and the important of comedy in our day-to-day lives (If you are thinking "don't push it". I hear you and will stop repeating 'comedy' now. Comedy (hee! hee!).

Well, let's move on to the concluding part of our Trilogy with three parts (yes, inspired by Douglas Adams. For those saying "eh?", please read the 'Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy' before you waste time reading my silly blog!). I'm going to introduce 2 of the up and coming talents making waves in the stand up world.

Dane Cook: This is the in guy with the American college crowd. His latest album 'Retaliation' went right to the top of the Billboard charts. He's more of the physical humor type of guy, rolling around on the floor, hating the mike, pouring water over himself and hissing like a snake and all that good stuff. The best comedy bit I've heard from him is when he tries to analyze the psyche of single male friends who decide to go to a dance club - "Girls love music. They go to clubs just to dance. But have you seen any guy go to a club just to dance? Do we go like hey dude, f@#$ the chicks. Let's go dance man. Let's express ourselves on the dance floor...". This bit is a favorite among my friends. To this day, whenever we make club plans, someone will make sure he repeats this dialog.

Russell Peters: This guy came out of nowhere and took my breath away, literally. I made the mistake of watching this clip at work where, as it so happened, I was supposed to be working. I laughed my ass off and almost fell off the chair. Let's just say my co-workers avoid me in the corridor these days. Russell Peters is a Canadian Indian and he uses his Indian background to perfection. His best sequence is when he talks about racial integration in the future - "The whole world is mixing you know, and eventually everyone's gonna look the same. For example, a girl from Phillippines marries a guy from Holland, we get little 'Jalapenos'. A French guy hooks up with a Greek girl, we get 'freaks'. A guy from Iceland and a girl from Cuba, we get little 'ice cubes'". You can watch a couple of his clips at

Well, that brings my comedy trilogy to conclusion. Hope you guys follow up on my advice and check up on a few of these guys, if you haven't done so already. Nothing like a few good laughs in these dark times when friends shoot friends with pellets meant for birds.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Masters of Comedy - Part 2 : Bigger and Blacker

That was the name of the path-breaking stand up show by another one of my favorites (and the topic for today) - Chris Rock. With his naughty grin, trademark constipated expressions and high-pitched voice, he's scandalized millions of Americans and spawned innovative theories on gun control, strippers, reverse racism and more. At times, he can amuse you with his street logic and then do a volte-face and shock you completely with his anger and fierce attacks on a variety of issues.

You might know he's a great stand up comedian and a riotous actor, but did you know he's garnered 2 Grammies (yes, really!) and 3 Emmies along the way? Screen play, dialogues, directing, producing - he's done it all. But its when he gets back to his stand up routine, he's at his best.

Here are some gems from his work over the years...

On the noblest of professions: "You know what the biggest hoax of this century is? Strippers strip to pay their college tuitions... How many smart strippers have you met in your life? Does any stripper, while giving you a lap dance, go like "Have you thought about diversifying your portfolio?"...

On gun control: "Instead of getting rid of guns, you should make the bullets expensive so that you'll have to think twice before you shoot at someone. Shit! I'll kill you if only I could afford the bullet. You just wait... I'll take an evening job, save up enough money to buy a bullet and then come back and shoot you..."

Enlightening bit about men and women: "Men lie more, but women say the biggest lies. Men say things like 'you look pretty'. Women say 'Its your child'...

If you haven't done so already, go today and rent his 'Bigger and Blacker' DVD or any of his earlier works. You'll thank me later.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Masters of Comedy - Part 1 : A show about nothing

In this series, I'm going to make an honest effort to mention all the comic geniuses that have influenced me in my lifetime, made my belly ache and gave me ample material for conversation during endless hours of pubs and binges. In the first of this series, I'm going to toast my all-time favorite - who else? - Seinfeld , the master of sarcasm and chaos.

I think Seinfeld has touched a chord with the young and the shallow crowd like us, especially those who hail from big cities. He masterfully reflects our fast-paced lives, short-lived friendships and romances and the 'live for today' attitudes, and spins them into a self-effacing and utterly disrespectful brand of comedy nobody has attempted before. Seinfeld and Larry David have probably made the best sitcom ever to be on TV.

Here are a few of my favorite punchlines from this classic series over the years...

- When George comes back running to show off his hands after his new job as a hand model, Seinfeld examines them, agrees on how smooth and perfect they are and comes up with a nonchalant "Well, that's what comes from a lifetime of trying to avoid honest work".

- "Not that there's anything wrong with it". In the episode when a journalist wrongly assumes Seinfeld to be gay, everyone's trying to appear broad-minded.

- When a new girl friend finds out that Seinfeld has been trying to find out if her 'assets' are real, she leaves him but not before a classic "They are REAL and they are SPECTACULAR!"

- Seinfeld making an honest effort to succintly sum up Elaine's new love interest - "He's a male bimbo - he's a mimbo!"

- After George's new girl parades topless in front of Seinfeld , Kramer and Elaine, Seinfeld blurts out "Butros! Butros! Gali"

- Seinfeld, in response to George's warning that he may have put too much time on his dryer - "you can't over-dry, just like you can't over-wet"

- Seinfeld again (don't remember the exact words) - "This detergent even removes blood stains?!! when you have blood on your clothes, you have more serious problems than laundry"

I can go on and on. This serial is a riot and an absoluter masterpiece from a duo of comic geniuses and a brilliant cast that includes Kramer with his physical humor, cheap George and man's woman Elaine...

Friday, February 10, 2006

A blog about blogs?

Absolute darkness. Completely devoid of ideas. This is how my head felt whenever I tried to psyche myself up to write my first blog. Its funny. There's so much going on in your life, but nothing interesting enough to share with others. Then it came to me out of the blue! Why not a blog about writing blogs? That's it... The more I thought about it the more it seemed to make sense. Don't ask me why!

Have you ever tried to maintain a diary as a kid with regular entries about your day-to-day life? No? - Join the club. Yes? - No comments. Well, my point is some people do. But do you actually go around showing it to everyone and asking for their opinion? No, right? A diary is supposed to be a place to hold and safeguard your innermost feelings, fears, hopes and complaints. A blog is just an extension of a diary. Instead of a notebook, you use your own small niche in the world wide web. But why is it that when it comes to blogs we want people to read our entries? And request them to leave their comments and count the number of hits to our blog site? Could it be that as we move towards a society that has successfully alienated individuals and advocates the "live for yourself" philosophy, everyone feels the need to share, to be understood and to be vindicated? Could it be that the anonimity of the internet provides us with the cushion to air our private thoughts without having to directly face criticism or judgment? Or is it for the simple reason that you feel left out from the blog revolution when everyone around you is a part of it? Well, whatever your reason is, I think a blog is a great way to use your creative energy as well as let off steam once in a while.

I do not intend this blog to be a commentary on social issues. Nor a place to critique books or movies. Nor a forum to vent my frustration on the state of Indian cricket. Although, I fully expect that I will do all this and more. My blog should be a place that I recourse to once in a while and capture snapshots of ideas forming in my head, so I could come back and laugh at them a few years down the lane. And if some people would like to jump into my rickshaw along the way, then ofcourse they are welcome.