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“F is for Family”

Remember the feeling when you’re eating a giant apple; it’s a huge Red Delicious, neatly sliced into eight pieces with the pit carved out. The eight pieces, laid out in a straight line, are made into a public buffet just for you. This is the very essence of leisure. What can be more relaxing than the ability to choose from identical slices of an apple when watching a great new animated series on Netflix? Bill Burr is voicing the protagonist in his trademark angry-about-stuff tone. Everything about that character screams frustration and disappointment with life. His life is loud and chaotic. Not yours though. You are sitting on your couch, yet to shower, because its a Saturday in your life. In your life, you get to pick from identical slices of an apple.

He is funny though, so you get caught up in this new animated series and lose track of your day. Obviously, Netflix is looking out for you; it snaps you out of your binge to ask if you’re still watching. That’s when it hits you – you’re still craving an apple. You were binge-watching and binge-eating. In that moment, when Netflix snaps you out of your flow, you feel deprived. The deprivation goes beyond the drone of Bill Burr’s character. You feel deprived of your apple when the numbing stimulus of mild entertainment ceases. You notice that you’ve got used to being distracted from your apple craving, and you are filling the gap with the background noise of Burr’s blatant racism masquerading as comedy. Because you’ve suppressed your honest and sincere appreciation of a performance. You prefer voluntary laughter over turning Netflix off to shower that day.

Or, may be you haven’t suppressed anything, and the remote really is way over there. Either way, the background chatter from the show has diverted your attention away from your enjoyment of the apple. You’re too invested in the show. Remember how much better than Bill Burr you felt, because you were enjoying the perfect apple on your perfect couch on a perfect Saturday, and he wasn’t? But now, you and he aren’t that different. Ever since Netflix paused to ask if you were still watching all those minutes ago, you’ve been living the cacophonous life of that character. All the noises and voices that were coming from the TV are now just bouncing around in your head. Your craving for apples and perfection has given way to the need for the opioid doses of irrelevant stimuli.

So, just as you pick yourself up to find the remote to continue the show, you find two more slices of that once perfect Saturday-afternoon-apple, brown from oxidation, but still red and delicious from a return to consciousness.

Later.

I have a number of problems.

First, I am lazy and extremely good at procrastinating. Right now I am convincing myself that making lists and lists of lists is a very good idea to be organized and efficient. I am spending so much time in planning and making lists that I am never going to get any of things on the lists done. Every time I open a cabinet to clear, I end up making tea. All my attempts to clean the sink have resulted in “let me check my phone before I get my hands wet.”

The other problem is that I hardly ever write by hand, on paper, with a pen. I spent a few hours looking for my notebook and my notepad, and a pen. I found them, so obviously I spent some time choosing between the book and the pad. I find that it is much neater and convenient to use typed notes and lists, though.

Thirdly, I can’t make lists or take notes during a dish-washing or laundry folding activity. Wet hands make bad writers, and terrible typists. Kitchen towels smell. So I must make all lists before commencing the associated activity. This is highly inefficient because real-time updates are necessary for these lists to be functional. Otherwise they’re just a procrastination trick.

USB

The USB should take up the “Connecting People” tagline now that Nokia is ancient history. Ancient history; we will find fossils of these devices millions of years from now. A Nokia cannot be destroyed. The Internet will attest to that.

The USB is universal indeed. On the panel to my right, there are five electrical outlets. The American, the UK, the European, the Japanese and the Universal. Serial Bus. I thought the European and the UK were the same. Anyway, all I’m really using it for is charging my Android phone. Android phones mostly use public standards.

Public standards are wonderful. The public’s standards should reflect this. Standards always work, regardless of enhancements and deviations. Standards are tolerant, neutral and secular. They let you do your thing and all they ask for in return is compatibility. People need standards.

What are standards really? A set of guidelines agreed upon by most people to facilitate harmonious co-existence. Like the USB.

Universal. Simple. Beautiful.

Hello

I am looking up Adele’s new song lyrics. Hello from the other side and all that. I do not understand why she is so keen on telling us about her love and her life. She released 21, and then 4 years later she released 25. I do not understand why she is so keen on telling us how good at math she is. Rumor has it that this time SHE broke someone’s heart. Someone like her. Make up your mind, woman. We haven’t got all day. And why do you use a flip phone?

The only reason I am writing this is that I like the way I am pounding on the keys of my stupid laptop threatening to break it. There is an inexplicable satisfaction derived from furious typing. Unnecessary, but the fury road is the one less taken and usually makes all the difference.

It might appear that I have been completely out of touch with the reader of this silly blog, but I have been meaning to update for ages. I have scraps and snippets all over my mail drafts and other virtual note-taking tools which I systematically deleted right before typing this little piece of text.

Okay I lied. I was actually busy training velociraptors to fight a genetic mess that is the Indomitable Rex. No wait, that was Chris Pratt. What was I doing then? Shake Shack is not that good, by the way. The fries were mushy and the burger was probably a nibble and a half.

Let’s see now… what else did I do with my life this year? Wait, is this supposed to be an end-of-year post? I think my rants were relatively shorter this year compared to previous years. I think that is because all I did this year was watch Jurassic World, not watch Mad Max and ‘discover’ Adele all over again. Why am I broke then? Wait, I am broke?!

I think I should buy the Stratocaster. Why shouldn’t I after all?

Speaking of cheap stuff, it is sad that Chipotle has had to shut down outlets due to contamination scares. I hope they recover and come back stronger. Chipotle literally saves lives by existing. It is hard to say the same about other fast-food chains. Someone on my Facebook said prosperity is when you don’t think twice about adding guacamole to your burrito bowl for $1.95. I would like to add that content is when you get to enjoy that bowl watching Jon Stewart clips on your dining table. Yup. I have a dining table. Deal with it.

And I wonder why I am broke. Sigh.

I knew Arsenal would eventually fall to mighty Bayern, thanks to the usual, clockwork-like injury patterns in the team. I am however extremely appreciative, in fact, emotionally indebted to you, Arsenal, for that splendid reverse tie at the Emirates. Also the one against United. I think we, as Arsenal fans, are good for a couple of years. Everything else you do now is a bonus. So, thanks.

I don’t know why, but I chose to write this here so that you can read it instead of directly emailing it to you. It probably means I still hope against all logic that you are not the only reader of this rantage. It’s not a real word. Duh!

Haha! You thought the “reader” in paragraph 3 was a typo, didn’t you?

It was she

She was a simple farmer’s girl, with a simple life in a simple world.
She was bright as a star, sharp as a pin and worked really hard.

On a bright sunny day, she went to the stable to feed the horses hay
And found her way to the pen where the sheep of the farm lay.

“To the pasture”, said the flock, and took her with, as they began to walk.
As a mirthful child might, she frolicked about the sheep with no shepherd in sight.

Time passed as night fell, the vile wolves began to shed their woolly veil.
The gentle gait and silent bray gave way to a heinous prowl and a piercing howl.

With no light for many a mile, she shunned her fears with the prettiest smile.
The angelic face in her diminutive size stared right back at the frightening red eyes.

Albeit a scratch but no real flaw, she dodged and fought the relentless claw.
Surviving, she had no hand in help, until there was one involuntary yelp.

The shriek rode the wind to a Royal Knight’s ear who valiantly mistook it for fear.
He set out on his high horse to answer the call from the other side of the grassy knoll.

Wielding his sword that led his way, in his unblemished armor he entered the fray.
He found himself amidst a battle with giant wolves seen past the haze and mist.

He swung and missed and scampered around, until he was struck and thrown down to the ground
He was outfought, outnumbered and outdone; to his mind, the wolves had already won.

Tired and torn, he stood no chance in his impending surrender to circumstance.
Bruised and battered in this lost lonely land, it was she, who then held his hand.

——————————————————————————————————————-

Boarding Groups

Did you know that first-class passengers need to wait the same amount of time as coach travellers when there is a flight delay? It’s true. After working hard all their lives, or collecting miles, they weren’t able to cut the delay for themselves.

Priority boarding and free champagne is what they collected so many miles for. So instead of waiting at the gate for the flight to take off, they can now sip at golden fizzy water during their wait while sitting in seats with real leg space. And potentially look with guilt at the hard-working bourgeois that didn’t work hard enough. “May be if you had worked a little harder…” in the words of Jerry “frequent flyer” Seinfeld.

And if you don’t consume alcohol, your entire life struggle (or luck and reward) has only given you the ability to forgo the freedom of the gate for an opportunity to avoid making eye contact with other people boarding the plane and walking past you. If you happen to be a nice person, all this is more of a bane. You feel bad at the fact that most people don’t see the pre-takeoff drinks until they are already a man.

So before I make a DJ mix of a Seinfeld and Louis CK joke, let me squeeze in another preaching. The Queen’s Necklace is nice and symbolic, but don’t call it the best place on earth. I went to NYC a couple of weeks ago, and most things there are just ten times the size and density of the things in Mumbai. So people who visit both places will go, “Meh…” when they see CST or Tardeo. So if anything, Mumbai is probably “my most preferred” place on Earth. Carlin’s “accident of birth” bit does a decent job of explaining one side of the story of this regional allegiance. May be it’s the familiarity. Not to say NYC is better or worse. Just that in both places, tourists are impressed for two days, and most people who live there visit Times Square and Nariman Point and the Gateway and the Statue once or never in their lives. These are not the things that attracted them (us?) to the city in the first place.

The promise of a better tomorrow is what brought them here. The idea that days following the seemingly temporary day-to-day survival are a commensurate reward to the cost leaving home is what brought them here. Opportunity and probable prosperity brought them here. They travel coach with dreams of watching from their first class seats, as their past selves trudge along the narrow aisle with infants in one hand and rollerboards in the other.

A flight that was delayed by three hours. 

Yellow

An antagonist is called Shloka. A shloka is loosely defined as couplet, or a couple of lines that convey a message much like a haiku. This antagonist is trying to pretend to be a nice guy to be accepted by the family of a girl, and the girl herself, who apparently is good-natured and cultured, yet progressive, intelligent and independent. The protagonist, let’s call her Umber. She probably recites shlokas with blues rhythms in the background. Such is her personality – she will shut up a leather-donning tattoo-flashing college-going everyday kid for criticizing an incompetent government among a group of friends. And she will skip lunch to help a malnourished beard-wielding homeless actor steal a bunch of bananas from a fruit vendor. Speaking of whom, Shloka has a stubble that is glued on and wears bright orange shirts and beige pants. His face is too big for his shoulders, but it is important when the camera has to be lower to make up for his lack of height. Someone cut the sleeves of his shirt to end just before the bulge of the biceps. Oh and the biceps are useful during dandiya episodes where he wears a sleeveless yellow kurta to try to seduce Shagun, or Shagun’s daughter or Shagun’s innocent and oblivious sister.

There is another woman, called Shagun. Shagun is sometimes a boy’s name too. But the only thing in common between a girl-Shagun and a boy-Shagun is the shape of their eyebrows. Shagun speaks in short and cryptic sentences. Her crisp rhetoric is directed towards two kinds of audiences. One is her ally. The ally understands everything she says before she says it. But he is slightly confused after she says it. Yet he carries out his designated tasks. Such is the power of her eloquence. The other kind is he who knows of her noble ways, but is too poor or powerless or ugly to do anything about it. He too understands her style of encryption and always carries a dictionary of idioms and soap-opera clichés.

So, this Shloka fellow does all these good deeds like saving Umber from attackers, saving her mother from attacking, stopping a bus between stops so that some tardy bloke can get in and all, but he also gets his voice muffled by random chants and lezim music. What a gem! He is also considered funny and clever by Umber’s mother and well-mannered and responsible by society. So, while Umber is pretending to not give him attention and be unimpressed while secretly dancing to Skrillex’s Macbook Pro , we get to see a whole range of Shloka’s talents. He can almost lip sync and his hair-gel does not get washed away in the rain. During all this, there is a five-second segment where the key of the background music changes revealing his evil intentions. His evil intention is to marry Umber and officially be part of the family. So dastardly!

Meanwhile Shagun is plotting something similar from within (the family). She has very, very straight hair and is arguably the best-looking actor in the house. So obviously, she wants something bad to happen to Umber. My guess is that she wants to be Queen Bee. Her most prominent skills are being supermodel-thin, wearing flowery yet dull sarees and heels. Oh and rouge and eye-shadow. Violet. Shloka and Shagun do not know each others’ plans yet. They share a certain telepathic connection, however. How else would they be wearing colour coordinated sandals and jewellery? So now, two highly motivated individuals are plotting against sweet and innocent Umber. But it is not a crime yet, because the motive is not clear. We might have to wait for a few episodes and an out-of-the-sky flashback to tell us what it is. But one thing that is clear is that Shloka was not seducing Shagun on dandiya day. He must have forgotten his real kurta in the closet.

I Love Coffee

“Would you like some coffee?”
“Sure! I love coffee.”

“Coffee?”
“Oh, I love coffee.”

“There’s coffee in cabinet, juice in the fridge.”
“I’d really love some coffee.”

“Any toast? Coffee?”
“Coffee, please!”

“Hold out your glass for chhaas…”
“I’ll just have a cup of coffee.”
“Oh, we don’t have any coffee.”
“Oh…”

That’s How He Lost His Marbles

Four of them, or may be it was six. They played in front of the water tank where there were just enough potholes of just the right size. One of them won more than the others. A handful of marbles multiplied into a jarful. But marble season was over. Over for a long time; they grew out of it. And the jar stood on the shelf on the wall. It stood there in all its glory, glimmering in the sunshine, standing out among old dusty books and plastic boxes full of rusty nuts and bolts. Each marble was a metaphor for experiences, for each of several rich and full summer days.

Until it was time for someone else to grow into it. Someone who watched from the sidelines. Who knew about the jar. He had a head-start, he thought. He tried to get in on the game. He wanted to win. Go from jar to jars. How hard could it be? Lose two today, but win four tomorrow, right? Wasn’t to be. Lost two today, lost four the next. By the time marble season ended, the jar was reduced to a handful. And on the last day, he returned empty-handed. And the empty jar was filled with rusty nuts and bolts.

It’s been several summers since the jar went empty. And as he looks back at how he could have saved some of those marbles, he wonders – did he really need to win to have them? He thinks he can just buy them. As many as he likes. Then why doesn’t he? Because marbles are still a metaphor for each of several rich and full summer days.

Doing Speed Limit in the Fast Lane

Road etiquette demands that you do greater than speed limit in the fast lane. I have seen memes that confirm this unwritten social rule. So I thought about this a little during my commute.

The sign says that the number on it is the upper limit to speed. So, it is not wrong to be going at speed limit in the fast lane. Is this one of those times when being not wrong and being right are different things? Out of three lanes, one is called the fast lane. Sometimes, express lane. The laws of the sign apply equally to all lanes, yet, one is called the fast lane. This fast lane is meant to enable people in a hurry, or people seeking a clear road ahead of them for comfort, or plain impatient people to pass other cars, other cars that are doing speed limit in non-fast lanes, or cars that are going slower than speed limit out of caution, or out of being unsure of the next turn. But mainly cars doing speed limit on non-fast lanes.

It is then necessary that to pass a car doing the speed limit, one must go faster. It should really have been named the faster lane. Nevertheless, the fast lane’s primary purpose thus becomes clear – letting people do greater than speed limit to achieve a specific goal.

Don’t forget, the sign requires you to stay below speed limit irrespective of lanes. Then, are you wrong in going at speed limit in the fast lane? You’re not speeding. You’re not too low below speed limit, so you’re no grandma (even if you are one in reality.) You should be the most loved driver, loved by the law, loved by fellow drivers. But not when you’re in the fast lane. Doing speed limit in the fast lane is as wrong as not holding the door for a person ten meters away, as not waving pedestrians across an unmarked crossing, as shushing a person at the cinema.

Why? The reason, I thought, is very simple. Actions that engender a feeling of righteousness in the person at the cost of discomfort to others are wrong. If I go at speed limit, I am causing the person behind me, who is looking to pass the person beside me, to fail. But I think I am not wrong. In fact, I think I am golden. Despite of what I think, I see the guy behind, just centimeters away, egging me on. I can see him dipper-ing and honking the hell out at me in my head. But I’m at the speed limit. I don’t want to break the law. I am an ideal driver. Why has this become such a grave situation? Am I really not wrong?

I sped up. I didn’t want to, but I had to, only to change lanes after passing the car beside me. And slowed down to the speed limit, to be not wrong, and right too.

TL;DR: You’re not wrong if you’re doing speed limit in the fast lane, you’re just, let’s say, a very bad person.