Saturday, May 31, 2008

Train Art - II

Going through my pictures i realised that along with ads for everything from cookery classes to ear lobe stitching there are also ads offering massages (done by a 'decent boy', any time at reasonable rates) and free friendship for 'mens' and 'womens', any age in any city.

Who needs Orkut/Facebook/Mindspace/Hi5 so on and so forth when you have...well...Friends466!!!!!!

Train Art

Travelling in Bombay local trains for nearly a decade now one gets immune to the smells, the crowds, the sweat (your own, not others’) and the graffiti inside the ladies’ compartments (all of which is graphic and mostly badly drawn)! What one doesn’t get used to (and I mean it in a positive way) are the advertisements people put up in the train compartments.

They are an art form in their own right, what with their handwritten phone numbers, bad grammar, even worse spellings, and an assumption of knowing what the public wants!
They offer everything from cookery classes (Rs. 1000/- mein Chinese, Tandoori, Moghlai, Breakfast food, Chocolate desserts and other courses, Icecreams, Cakes, different types of biryanis and much more.) to ‘Elongated ear lobe repair without stitches’. They also come in various colours, from boring white to bright green!!

Recently there were these small envelopes stuck in the compartments, over the seats and near the doors. They simply read: ‘Take 1’. Everyone looking at them would think, take what? Several of these people (including me) took a look at what was inside the envelope out of sheer curiosity (and the fact that I was forced to face the envelope near the door owing to the fact that I was being crushed by the weight of some 50 women behind me!). What better way to advertise?

I personally think it’s the best and cheapest form of marketing – who needs ad agencies when you can do it with a copy machine, a bottle of glue and local trains?

[Note: This post is not considering the morals of sticking material in trains, which can be construed as vandalism. The author is just appreciating individual ingenuity and good marketing strategy.]

Friday, May 30, 2008

King to Commoner

Nepal is now a Republic after more than 2 centuries of monarchy. I honestly don’t understand the politics of it or the economic consequences of this change. What I’m more curious about is how the king is going to make the transition into being just another citizen of Nepal. Of course it isn’t going to help his cause that he isn’t one of the most popular people there right now!

In all the discussion and speculation about what the political scenario is going to be, who the president is going to be, which party will provide the prime minister etc, one forgets to wonder what will happen to the royal family, suddenly stripped of all their, oh well, powers (especially when a lot of those powers are ones that you’ve bestowed upon yourself!). It has to be difficult thinking of yourself as a common citizen when you’ve grown up ruling a country.

I’m sure the king sensed the political unrest in his country. But who expects to be thrown out in a day…I mean he probably expected to be shot or blown up or poisoned or something to that effect. And given his situation right now, it has to be pretty depressing (he probably should be on suicide watch!)

I mean just imagine being monarch of a country one day, and the next day standing in line waiting to buy bread and eggs at the corner around the shop?
One day travelling in a bullet proof car with outriders and security personnel, and the next day trying to flag a cab (and failing).
One day living in a huge palace and the next day, well, looking for a place to live in!

One day King. The next day Commoner.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Games children play (or dont play)

There was a piece in the papers today (one of the several colourful, ad-filled, bollywood news flashing supplements). It mentioned how playing will really not help children with their obesity.
I have a simple question.Will playing help children NOT reach a state of obesity?

In India there is this unfortunate love of plump babies and chubby toddlers. You see a 2 yr old child with cheeks like chipmunks and all the women go cootchy-coo and maternal and oddly scary (what with the cheek pulling – the child’s, not their own- and funny faces that are meant to be amusing!).
Grandparents constantly feel their grandchild is being malnourished and ill-treated and thus give in to any demands made by their precocious (!!) darling (which, at a young age mainly involves eating anything remotely junk and unhealthy and buying anything that will allow them hours in front of the computer/tv).

Which brings me to why I started writing this. Children today do not play anymore. At least they don’t play in the traditional meaning of the word. Their play is more sitting at home in front of the computer with joysticks in your hand type of play. Their play involves weekly outings to the closest mall with a gaming arena.
Obviously play is not going to help with their obesity, except perhaps to be a cause of it!

What will help children avoid obesity (and also control it) is a more traditional form of playing. The kind of playing we participated in when we were children (as much as I don’t like to think about it, I am growing old!!!).

The games we played gave us as good a full body workout as anything – be it Sankhli where we struggled to either get away from a human chain encircling us or remain part of the chain and run behind others, or Lagori that had us running helter skelter after 7 stones of varying sizes and at the same time dodging missiles being thrown by the opposing team. Then there were the all time favourites, Hide and Seek, Langdi (a strenuous exercise!), Hop Scotch (oh the agony of not being able to make ‘houses’!), Lock and Key (a strain indeed on not being able to move), Kho-Kho (oh my what fun), and Dodge ball (oh my what a pain).

Parents fail to see the value of such games. They fail to realise that one hour of playing kho-kho or langdi will help their child (in more ways than one, but that I will leave for another time) much more than one hour on the treadmill.

Today children probably do not even know of these games. What they will know is the address of the closest gym.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Of Bimbos and Sound Bytes

A certain Ms. Carmen Electra recently made statements on how to ‘snare a man’. Apparently keeping a ‘sexiness kit’ does the trick. Quite a relief to know that intelligence and personality has nothing to do with ‘getting a man’. All you require is a kit at work or in the car with the essentials – perfume, lip gloss and a pair of heels to show off your legs – and the knowledge that you look hot!

Our papers pick up this statement and decide to get an opinion about it. Who do they go to? The closest they could get to Carmenesque figures (pun intended) was Rakhi Sawant. That, or they knew talking to her would at least give them an excellent scintillating sound byte. And I must say, the woman never fails to deliver.

She agrees with Ms. Electra and then goes on to add that she would not wear a bra (although she would a panty!). Since her lips are very pouty, eyes are very sexy and face is very glamorous she would enhance them using make up.
But the final clincher here is that Ms. Sawant would make sure she smelt good.
To quote her (and what fun it is do it), “Ladki mein khushboo na ho to mazaa nahi aayega”.

Need I say more?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

News or Nonsense (i choose nonsense)

A couple of days back I realised that in all my TV watching, I wasn’t devoting much time to the news channels. I figured should keep updated with current events and latest happenings in and around the world. So with that good intention in mind, I moved from the English movie channels to news channels. I surfed through a couple of them to stop at a reputed channel (at least that’s what I’d heard). What I saw/heard was something that first had me shocked, then in disbelief, and then plain disgust.

The story they were running was titled “Kitne door kitne paas”, and no it wasn’t a political piece on a certain Mr. Singh and Mrs. Gandhi. It was, if it can be believed, a story on the ‘badshah’ and the ‘shehenshah’ (as the dramatic voice on the screen told me). For 10 minutes (probably longer but I wouldn’t know coz I moved to a different channel) the annoyingly melodramatic voice told audiences how Karan Johar’s (!!) birthday part was given a miss by Mr. B while Mr. K attended it yada yada yada. The whole effect was sealed with them playing a clip from a movie with a weepy sonundtrack!! Aarrgghh!!!

So I change channels. There I get the “Aarushi Hatyakand”. Ok. Maybe some new leads since they’re flashing ‘Breaking News’ (I know, misplaced hope), but no. They never fail to deliver. The news this time was the emergence of a former servant and alleged suspect in the murders (which was improbable since he was in Nepal). So basically it was media hog getting the attention of a bored and stupid media who kept flashing ‘Mil gaya Inder’ all over their channel!!

So then I move to another channel, by now hoping for a miracle. And lo behold! I get one. In some mandir in some part of India, there had emerged a water stain in the shape of ‘om’ under the idol of Sai baba. That was the latest breaking news with devotees flocking to see the miracle water stain!!!!!! Is it ok for me to sue the media?

I then gather my courage and move onto another news channel. There I see the words “Saas-bahu ke kanoon badle” and move on. I didn’t even want to know what that was about.

My final attempt bought me closer to news than anything. I was finally beginning to feel relieved when it all came crashing down. Headlines started off with the Gujjar scene in Rajasthan, the Noida double murders, BJP win down South, and then the biggest story: The Bachchan family (mummy, papa, beta, bahu) walking barefoot to Siddhivinayak temple early in the morning to pray for their new movie.

One thing is obvious. The only praying that needs to be done is by the audience.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Making a Phone Call

Another long forgotten piece that deserves to see beyond an obscure folder in my D drive.

“The number you have
Called is busy.
Please try again later”
An unknown woman
A strange voice
And yet you have begun to
REALLY hate her.

“Please press 1 for english
2 for hindi and 3 to
Know your (very long) bill”
The electronic voice
Irritates you loads
And makes you
So want to kill!

“Your call is important to us
Please stay on the line.”
You are repeatedly told
Little does the machine
Know that you mother
Dusted you twice
While you were on hold!!

-Avantika (29.09.06)

Sunday Mornings

Found this in a long forgotten folder in my computer (apparently my computer is as cluttered as my wardrobe and table. Sigh).

Turning and twisting
And lying and sprawling
Wondering what to do next
“Get out of bed” you
Maybe might think
But you ask your
Conscience to give it a rest!

“It’s Sunday morning
And not even noon
The sun aint properly up yet
Getting out of bed
Isn’t the done thing
For Sunday it’s just too soon!

“Too soon” your annoying
Conscience retorts
“You’re just staring at the
Ceiling over you”
“Not staring but thinking”
You reply
“For a Sunday morning
That’s exercise too!”

“Bah!” says your still
Annoying conscience to you
“Another waste of half a day
People have been up and
About with the sun
What have you done with your hay?”

“All right mister (or miss)
That’s enough said already
You’re doing the sowing
But I’ll have to reap”
Saying thus you close your
Tired little eyes
And go back to a conscience free sleep!!

-Avantika (29.09.06)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Bullshit you find online.

People have some huge amounts of time on their hands.
Searching for bullshit on Wikipedia (when i say people, i include myself) will throw up a detailed article including (among other things):
a) The etymology of the word: The word "bull" itself may have derived from the old french 'boul' meaning "fraud, deceit" (Oxford English Dictionary).
b) Uses of Bullshit (Bullshit is commonly used to describe what often occurs in situations where truth and accuracy are far less important than the ability to achieve a suitable response in the audience, often needed in politics, religion or advertising. In many cases, such a response helps to gain popularity or favor.) Seriously!!!
c) Bullshit and Philosophy (and im not kidding).
d) Euphamisms: BS, Bull, Bullcrap, Bullish, Bull honkey etc.
e) Further reading (!)
And the part i liked best: A ballad written by T.S. Eliot (but never published) titled 'The Triumph of Bullshit'.
Ladies, on whom my attentions have waited
If you consider my merits are small
Etiolated, alembicated,
Orotund, tasteless, fantastical,
Monotonous, crotchety, constipated,
Impotent galamatias
Affected, possibly imitated,
For Christ's sake stick it up your ass
I love Wikipedia. :)

We Love You Jeffrey!

I know more than one person who doesn’t like JA’s books. They find them repetitive, convenient, sensationalised, and tied up very neatly (among other things).
I love them. And after Tuesday evening, I know that at least another 300 do. Why else would they stand 4 deep, literally falling over each other and they hundreds of books around them?!
Lord Archer was in town promoting his latest book. Not his best work. I belong to the ‘We love Kane and Abel’ club. But it was an opportunity to see the man who wrote one of my favourite books and hearing him speak.
And I wasn’t disappointed. Far from it in fact. He had the audience charmed as soon as he walked onto the dias and asked the people at the back to come in the front and take the empty seats in the ‘reserved’ section. This one act told everyone that he cared more about his fans than snooty journalists who couldn’t make it on time.
The man is funny, witty, expressive and can sure tell a story! He knows his audience and says just the right things. He pauses at the right moments, and he poses at the right ones too!! :D He had the bulbs flashing all the time!
He is 70 and exudes excitement like a 10yr old.
He takes his writing seriously and makes sure the audience knows and appreciates what an uphill task writing a book is. He is appreciative of intelligent questions, and handles the stupid ones with amazing tact and diplomacy.
He just makes you want him to go on for hours.
So I stood in line with everyone and got my book signed and a picture taken and came home all tingly and excited.
Now I can finally understand why people spend hours waiting for a Mr. Khan or a Mr. B to pass by in a car. :)

Like a Phoenix

Cambodia. A small country who’s only claim to fame (at least till recently) has been killing fields, landmines, mass genocide and Pol Pot.
Faced with such destruction and loss, it would be easy to forget that it is also home to one of worlds most magnificent and beautiful temple complexes.
Angkor Wat.
A breathtaking witness to time and history, peace and war.
A piece of heritage believed to be the saviour of a country on the brink of collapse.
But this is not about Angkor Wat.
This is about the people I came across while visiting Angkor Wat.
Agreed that the people in one city cannot be equated with people all over the country, but the people in the city of Siem Reap are nothing short of amazing.
They aren’t high level intellectuals, or rock stars, or page 3 socialites.
What they are, are hard working optimists who believe in the future and have learnt from their past and the horrors they have all been part of. They are smiling and welcoming. They love talking and discussing how you and they are alike and different. They are proud and protect their heritage fiercely. They have learnt English with an American accent to work their way around tourists.
They are a lesson for everyone. Instead of depending on the UN for their future, they are making their own. They are making full use of their resources – even if it is the Angkor Wat – to turn their fortunes around.
They are rising from the ashes to turn into a beautiful people full of life, history and a rich culture. Just like a phoenix.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Planning and Preparing for a Vacation

Its that time of the year again.
A time when families sit around the dining table and discuss where to go on vacation this time round, where schedules are checked to see when all the members are free on the same days, quick calls to check for availability of tickets and a final check with every member (to ensure they are of the same mind) before paying up for tickets.
This is just about the least important thing required when planning a vacation.
What is more important is the week before actual time of departure.
Once a place and time has been selected, there comes the all important wardrobe check. This involves placing yourself in clear view of your wardrobe and running an expert eye over all the clothes piled/hanging/artistically draped in it, and then finally claim that there is nothing appropriate to wear on the vacation.
Thus is planned the shopping expedition. This involves pen, paper, and a good grasp of the merchandise sold in various stores in and around your home. Of course, a good pair of legs and the patience to deal with trial rooms is also a must on such expeditions.
So you go shopping for something appropriate to wear on the vacation. Depending on where you're going and what time of the year it is, choices will vary between smart jackets and knit wear and cool summery cottons and pastel prints. But finding the perfect garment requires browsing through a lot of clothes racks, and a lot of trying on clothes in tiny cubicles with what im now sure are the most unflattering mirrors money can buy.
Once shopping is through, you make a list of the accessories and realise that the new clothes dont go with the shoes you have...which means only one thing. More shopping. This time for shoes. Sigh. This takes even more effort than clothes and such is the energy expended in this seemingly trivial task that i expect a standing ovation when i come back after successfully having bought a pair of footwear after an entire days searching!!
Having done clothes and shoes is like winning three-fourths of the battle. The remaining quarter involves putting together the basic essentials - sunscreen lotions, body lotions, hand lotions, moisturisers, perfumes, deos, cleansing milks, etc. Then there are the hats, caps, scarves, bandanas and sunglasses. There are also other essentials but i forget.
One day before the ETD you pile all everything on the bed, and then stack them in the suitcase. Then you take a deep sense of relief and fall back onto the bed and revel in a sense of achievement at completing such a strenous task.
All that is remaining now is making sure that the tickets and passport are in your bag when you leave the house.
But that is another story.
For now, i need a vacation from just planning and preparing for my vacation!