Ant & the Elephant

Do you like mysteries? Is there a King Solomon or an Indiana Jones hiding inside you? Is your favourite book “Treasure Island”? Have you ever contemplated Sudoku over Sex? Did you like Nicholas Cage better in “National Treasure” than “Leaving Las Vegas”?


If you answered ‘yes’ to at least 3 of the questions above, pack your bags, book a Kingfisher Red and relocate to Bengaluru. This is your kinda place.

wanna know why?

Bengaluru is a book of mysteries waiting to be solved. Take her roads for example. Road names are the best kept secrets in this city. You could be at the junction of 4 major roads, but there might not be a single fuckin sign telling you which is which. Moments that bring out the Sherlock in you – in every walk or drive. Magical!

Or consider the traffic signs. What is, is never what it seems to be. Take this sign for example.

What do you think it is? No Turn? That may be the right answer from 100 mts away, but as you draw closer…..

Voila! Welcome to Neverland! Its a ‘No Free Turn’ sign. Subtext, My Dear Watsons!! Those finely painted white letters that are visible only when you are 2 feet from the sign!

If you think it is all about just magic tricks, think again. Bengaluru also respects history. You might find a million cities in India that are modeled on Paris and Rome – stupid white-ass licking wannabes! Why look outside for inspiration when you have so much history & tradition in our own country? Bengaluru is the one and only, patriotically inspired city of our times. It is modeled exactly after Harappa & Mohenjadaro. The most striking similarity is the drainage. Just like those twin cities, Bengaluru has adopted an approach of having open gutters running along roads, for miles together. Be it the airport road or the more populous church road. Even the unbearable stench will not deter the city from its single-minded goal of following history. Bravo!

Puzzles! Did I mention them? Oh they are wonderful. Take a traffic light for example. In normal cities, you will have road signs before you cross the signal, so you choose your route. What a nonsensically boring thought! But Bengaluru is different. The signs are on the other side of the signal and so small that by the time you are close enough to reading it, you have already crossed the signal, made your decision and committed yourself to a road. Just by this one bright idea, Bengaluru makes every single commute an eventful journey that you will never forget in one lifetime.


If that doesnt excite you, there is more. Did you know that there is only one road in India, where you have to drive on the right? I will let you in on a secret – It is right outside the Garuda mall. Keep your eyes open, o’ traveller, coz there are no signs and you might miss it. And if you do and keep driving on the left, you might just get mowed down by a truck and you will miss all the magic! And that would be tragic!

Oh, I can go on for another 10 days, but I would’nt want to break the surprises to you. They are meant to be enjoyed in person. So travel, one and all!!! and make that journey of a lifetime.

How did it all start? Most people say that the city became a wonderland only after corporates invaded it in the last decade. I dont know about that. I just like to think of Bengaluru as this lucky ant that a huge elephant made love to. A love that continues to charm the Ant.

Venky

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan is a pioneering scientist. Am sure his body of work will someday affect my granddaughter’s protein consumption.

So what is interesting about Venky?
He has a name that is made up of four god’s names (with one receiving unfair advantage of a repetition). A pretty defiant name, me thinks – considering he comes from a city where traditionally all of these 3 gods were despised. In short – a possible vaishnavite from the saivite capital.
Dont dig that trivia? cool. So what else is interesting about Venky?
He left India in 1971. Roughly 6 years before I was born. ‘So what about that?’, I hear you ask. ‘An entire generation of educated, upwardly mobile Indians left the shores in those days’. True.
So what else is interesting about Venky?
He came back to India about 7-8 times (to teach in IISc, charity, etc). Thats coincidental! Thats about the same number of times I have gone to Vegas – for charity, again. Dont trust me? Ask the number of casino workers who got a raise that year, thanks to the money I lost on the poker table.
So what else is interesting about Venky?
‘Dude, he got the nobel’. Remember the award instituted by the guy who invented dynamite? (Yeah yeah, the same guy who refused to institute an award for Mathematics, because his wife ran away with a math teacher). I often wonder how the guy who invented the dynamite can give away an award for peace, but I digress. Lets get back to Venky.
So what about Venky’s nobel?
Nothing. Just that it is weird that the Indian media is celebrating. ‘Why not yaar? he was born in chidambaram, he studied in vadodara and what the heck? he is brown!!!’. OK. ok. ok.
what? what was that? did i hear you call me a jealous bastard? well, may be I am. But I still think it is weird that we are celebrating. Some asshole even had the headline “Venky is India’s pride”.
Fuck you.
The man left India almost 40 years back. He left because there was nothing this country could offer for his development. And he did not come back because he could not do what he wanted to do, here. In other words, he abandoned this place for something better. Dont get me wrong, I think he is a very nice guy and a wise one at that. And ‘smart’, obviously – he got the dynamite prize, remember?
So call him that. Smart, wise and nice. Dont call him India’s pride. Coz this award doesnt tell you what we did. It tells you what we couldnt. And cannot, still.

quick notes from Madras…

  • Mylapore smells the same, but for a whiff of Davidoff in the air
  • Theres traffic jam on mount road at 11:30 PM on a thursday
  • An Apollo “1066” ambulance (siren blaring), for heart related emergencies was stuck with me in the same jam. We both took an hour to go from little mount to guindy. Ironically, their tag line is “every minute counts”.
  • Am definitely having the “1066” episode in my film
  • Aachi masala is presenting “National Treasure – book of secrets” in the city
  • After years of yearning for it, finally made it to a family wedding. Filter kapi, Nadaswaram, the smell of sweat+jasmine+Davidoff+homam+pongal, paati, chiti, gorgeous relatives…..life’s good!
  • The foodworld in city centre has snickers, mars and cigarettes near the checkout counter
  • Have been holding on to Shantaram for a long time, but surprisingly have not crossed page 11. I think I will start Sujata’s “Kanavu Thozhirchalai” instead
  • There is no “comedy central” in dad’s satellite TV plan
  • Went to Akkarai sisters’ violin kacheri. I am now a fan!
  • I think the 100 rupee note is the new 10 rupee note.

10 Realities of Moving

#10: You can categorize your things how much ever you want – Clothes, ties, books, CDs, fancier ties, the stuff you bought from the india store but never used, etcetera. However, the sad reality of the 11th hour is that all of ’em go into either of the 2 bags that you plan to travel with. In fact, there are only 2 categories – bag A and bag B.

#9: “A friend with a gift is a friend indeed” (I tried rhyming that, but gave up!), is a myth. After the first beer in a reunion, almost nobody will care.

#8: There are things and there are Things! How much ever objective you are in getting rid of stuff, you are always going to end up with a set that “you can neither sell nor throw away…..nor pack!!!”. Like your bookshelf, your IKEA lamps and your pressure cooker!

#7: When you moved into your apartment, you chose the top floor because you did not want kids running above your head in surround sound? Bad Idea. BAD IDEA!!!

#6: When you were 24, shopping for your friends meant that you hit music stores, duty free shops, game sites and book stores. When you are 30, most of your gift shopping happens in ‘Babies R us’ or ‘Toys R us’. Its scary!

#5: Sell your car first. Shop last. Not the other way round.

#4: That 1955 8mm mechanical film camera that you bought from a remote antique store in Wilmington, might be special….but that issue is between you and the camera. You cannot expect your suitcase to relate to it!

#3: Buying a CD every time you visit the ‘Half price book store’, is not cool anymore. Especially not, if it becomes 20% of your travelling mass. It is about time you started buying music from iTunes.

#2: You cannot afford to be emotionally entangled with your coffee mug.

#1: Packing is work. You are not supposed to be enjoying it!!!

That ‘home’ feeling….

Its weird how you feel at home in the most unlikely of places, isnt it? Tired of buying vegetables at Walmart and HEB (It has become so mechanical that I bet I can shop blindfolded in both these places!), I drove a longer distance to the ‘Hong Kong Market’ today. True to its name, the place was littered with neon signs and smelt of fish and saltgrass…even at the car park!!. I dint even take a cart coz i was so sure I wouldnt find anything there that I could cook…..but five minutes into it….there it was…..the most stunning of all sights……i found ‘vazhai poo’ (‘banana flower’ for my non-tamil speakin friends) in one of the aisles……would you believe it???…. it is such a rarity that even indian stores here dont carry it!

its not like I am a big fan of that vegetable….it probably wont even feature in my top ten…..but the very sight of it, took me back home…. straight into the alwarpet markets and back !!! and it dint end there….i found a six pack of kingfisher in the next aisle…..how is that for a smashin night?! 😉
moving on….
Guillermo Del Torro’s Pan’s Labyrinth……

As expected, the film was stunning….multiple academy award winner this year…..the movie astounds you with the imagination of its maker….set in 1940s Spain, it weaves a soul stirring fairy tale in the back drop of the civil war….a heady mix of dickens, death, violence, hans anderson, blood and tinker bell. A wonderful script…..phenomenal acting (Ivana Baquero as the little girl Ofelia is amazingly endearing in her restrained performance)….and a haunting background score, make the movie a memorable piece by themselves….but the knock-out punch is Guillermo Navarro’s cinematography…the color palletes are a feast for the senses and i would have been surprised if he had not gotten the Oscar (though I thought Giles Nuttgens deserved at least a nomination for his work in ‘Water’)

I think the best review of the film came as a one-liner in one of the news papers…. ‘A fairy tale for grown ups’….thats pretty much what it was! 😉
moving on…..
The god is back…..and how! Talking of feeling at home…..I had to leave for work in the middle of the sixth ODI…but I left after sachin’s fifty….grinning ear to ear all through the drive, knowing that the man was back to his elements….where he belonged…with the sword drawn out…..not rusting in its case, in the pretext of maturity….the cover drives were finding their rightful gaps and the audacity had come back to the lofted drives…
I went through a mini depression when I read the article speculating on Sachin’s retirement….we all know its round the corner…..but its kinda hard to let go off a man who gave you the most goose pimples and pumped the most adrenaline in all your life….it will be a loneliness of sorts, when he really leaves….

Matagorda Island

‘Thick Brush’ is the literal translation from spanish. I am not entirely sure why they called it so! Matagorda island is a good 180 miles south west of Houston, by the Gulf of Mexico. It was my pick for a ‘less picnic-sy’ and more ‘solitud-ish’camp site for the June weekend. That is precisely was the websites told me.

So after days of scheduling and re-scheduling and re-scheduling, Vikrant Gandhi, Kiran Unni and yours truly finally picked up our brand new camp equipment and hit the road on a super warm saturday morning. The idea was to hit the port by early afternoon, take the ferry to the island and spend the night there, in the company of mother nature and fellow campers. At least, that was the idea on paper!

2:00 PM – We arrive at port-o-connor after a thankfully uneventful drive, except for the weird, dark restrooms of that lonely gas station!

2:30 PM – we hit the water on Ron’s fishing boat cum ferry. Easily the best part of the trip.

2:59 PM – I realize we forgot the beer. Thankfully Ron has backup in his ice box!

3:30 PM – kiran’s home made pav bhaji ka jawab nahin!

(photo removed)

4:00 PM – After a furious battle with the user’s manual, we finish setting up the tent – at least in our opinion!

5:30 PM – We begin the walk to the other side to say hello to the Gulf of Mexico. Little did we know at that time that it will be our longest and most terrifying hello ever!

7:15 PM – After losing our way 5 times and not spotting a single rattle snake (it was supposed to be the rattler’s country), we are still a mile from the gulf….but at an interesting cross road and sign!

(photo removed)

8:00 PM – After surprisingly not waking up any alligators on our way, here we are at the gulf. Hello!

8:45 PM – The sun is still out and surprise surprise, we are still alive…what better time for relief!

9:30 PM

after an entire day’s vigil for rattle snakes and alligators, mother nature uses her alternate weapon of mass destruction on us….fire ants!!! shock & awe! as we tried to sneek in….
camping lesson 1A : Never pitch a tent on grass, if you have an option.

9:45 PM

Thats not all….surprise surprise, the other campers have called it a day. That means that we were the only homosapiens on that island for the night. Not exactly the saturday night plan we had….and with the ant revolution, it was time for a frantic call to ron the ferry guy!

10:15 PM

No sign of Ron’s boat….but we had company….distant sound of Coyotes……(very) ugly! With Vikrant and a kitchen knife standing between us and a potential argument with a pack of wild coyotes…..we wait for the boat…which eventually docks in pitch darkness….with the help of a fancy gps system.

1:00 AM

Back home at the apartment. Red wine and fast food. Not the ideal camping night we had in mind, but hey….I am not complaining!

Chick Flicks et al

Been the most relaxing weekend in a long time. Spent most of it at home….surprisingly, havent done that in a long time bcause of the moving and then friends and family coming over, etc. Saw Guru finally and also managed to catch 2 other films on TV – both of which I have seen atleast 5 times. ‘Titanic’ and ‘Goodwill Hunting’. While the latter has been a personal favorite for a long time just for the way it has been written (matt damon/ ben affleck co-wrote it), I got the feeling that Titanic has been a critically under-rated film unfortunately.

Many of my friends slot it into the infamous ‘chick flick’ pigeon hole. I guess that is justified as a genre for this film. However, as I saw it today for the millionth time, I could see once again how smartly written that film is. Agreed, Di caprio mouths some very trite cliches, which sometimes border on the mundane…..but that doesnt really break the spell all that much….I think cameron has done a fantastic job of crafting this film with the greatest common denominator, so a majority of homosapiens can relate to it.

Guru was as expected, very good. I think it is the closest Mani has come to ‘engrossing’ cinema that is both believable and entertaining at the same time. Am thinking…if it takes someone like Mani roughly 2 decades to hone his skills to this level….what about shaky-kneed part-timers like me? Time is running out, I guess….I might see it again just for Mithun!

By the way….bought a new couch through craigslist. This website continues to freak me out. I wonder how popular it is back home. I see a packed page when I go to chennai.craigslist.com. have attached the couch image. I think it might have broken the record for the largest piece of furniture I have bought in my lifetime. All of 8 feet long and 3 feet tall