Now being published as a novel. Click the picture to find out more:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Occupational Hazards of being a Superhero - II

While waiting at the check-in counter, I happened to glance through the barred items list. At first, I found it funny that somebody had actually taken trouble to explicitly bar explosives, flammable gases, cutting tools, gun-powder, toxic substances etc. But then, I pondered over the difficulties faced by the world saviors when they choose to travel and I was moved to tears.

Yes, Superheroes do need to travel by traditional means. Can you imagine Spiderman swinging his way outside of Newyork? What if he has to chase Sandman across territories devoid of high-rises? Batman is no exception either. Superman, theoretically, doesnt need tranditional transport but he can be immigration authorities' headache and aerospace securities' nightmare. A few weeks back, a small private unidentified aircraft carrying two drunk Australians in Singapore contributed to a 45 minutes shut-down of Airport operations. A couple of missile carrying fighter jets were hastily summoned, just in case. Now, give your imagination some exercise and substitute the private aircraft with Superman. Lets also add in the fact that the world will be saved mostly in big cities where the aerospace is monitored even more closely. Phew; Superman will be straddled with fighter jets spewing heat-seeking missiles and before you know it, he might miss out on saving the world.

But then, may be Superman will succumb and try using conventional flights. He will have to break laws for illegally carrying laser eyes. He will, of course, disguise them behind his spectacles . Although, it is not in line with Superman's character to break laws but he may justify this in favor of the greater good. Batman, on the other hand, will have no qualms about breaking such rules. He will simply presume that they dont apply to him. He does have his own set of problems, though. He cant possibly carry batarangs, batmobile etc. while travelling out of Gotham city. Theoretically, he can use his private Bat-plane to travel but even that is subjected to the same jurisdiction. The only way out is to use his financial muscle to bribe his way through. Afterall, he is useless without his gadgets.

Spiderman will also be barred for carrying toxic web-slingers on him. Infact, his spider-sense might also interfere with the airoplane's communication system. He may take down a few flights in an effort to save a distant part of the world. A small price, some would say but again, completely not in line with Peter Parker's character.

If I were a Superhero, I would have taken over the world and not be worried about such hassles ever. But as Batman mentions "It is a remarkable dichotomy. In many ways, Clark is the most human of us all. Then, he shoots fire from the sky and it is difficult not to think of him as God. And how fortunate we all are that it does not occur to him."

PS - If you like this post, check out Occupational Hazards of being a Super Hero - I too.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Goodness exists; more so in simple gestures

I am rushing to the airport in a cab after a long day filled with tiresome meetings. My companion is talking to me in between taking calls from his boss. My mind is wandering somewhere I dont remember. I am not sure if I have my travel documents on me but I am too fatigued to make sure. We arrive at the airport and are almost instantaneously in the flight cabin. I try to sleep but the crying baby one row ahead on the right is not helping much. My companion is coiled because of the super-chilled interior but is still fast asleep. I am shivering. I notice a couple of fellow travellers asking for a blanket; but I cant be bothered. I am in a zone and I dont like it here.

The flight has landed. In an effort to get out of the spaced-out mode, I spring into action and collect my bag before anybody could get up. Others follow me but all of us are put back into our seats because of a stern stewardess. Finally, we are allowed to get out. I am feeling a little light and surely I am missing something. I check my pockets and sure as hell, my car-keys are absconding. I stay back and check my seat, its bottom and underside; no luck. I come out wondering where I might have dropped them; no clue. My companion calls up the cab-driver; no response.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the port of embarkation, the cab is trudging along. The new passanger finds the car-key and hands it over to Amardeep. He is perplexed and starts making calls to the previous passangers. Some answer; some dont. None owned the key. He sleeps restlessly.

I wake up the next morning and go through another hectic day. In between, I find time to call up my car-agent. It will take two weeks and around 500USD to get a duplicate since it is a coded key. I dont understand what it means but accept it.

Meanwhile, Amardeep figures the car company name as well as the license number plate from the keys. He drives around 50kms to get to volkswagen showroom, tries to enquire but is shoo-ed away, albeit like an untouchable. He doesnt give up. He looks up the various show-rooms in yellow pages and drives another 25 kms to another showroom. The folks here know me because I had given them a tough time when my car air-conditioner wasnt working. They identify me but want Amardeep to hand-over the keys. Amardeep persists with the keys and finally manages to get my mobile-number from them.

I get a call from Amardeep. He is coming to pick me up when I get back and he is going to bring the car-key. I arrive back. I dont remember what he looks like. He is the anonymous and faceless guy one meets everyday on the street, in cabs, at restaurants, in the elevators and in bars. I am too afraid to ask him for his cab license-plate because I dont want to offend him lest he should think I dont remember him. I am roaming around outside the airport when a guy calls me over. I finally get to meet him. He is of medium height, slightly over-weight with a beard and a turban. He is ecstatic at meeting me; his little excitement for the past couple of days finally reaching its logical conclusion. He strikes a conversation as he drives me to my car and cant help unfolding his quest. I cant believe my luck.

The downside isnt much for me. Two weeks of struggling with public transport and 500USD. It is manageable.

The upside isnt much for Amardeep. Wasting time driving around on a wild-goose chase finding the owner of car-keys. I would not have done that.

But he did and without any expectation of any reward.

When you are faced with a dying man on the roadside, you have a choice to take him to hospital or feel guilty for the rest of your life. Hardly a choice.

When you find a car-key, you do have the choice to throw it away without the slightest guilt.

Goodness exists; more so in simple gestures.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Demise of Pen

An extraordinary event happened way back in my life...

When I reached sixth grade, I was allowed to use pen. Before that, we were forced to use pencils, in an effort to improve our hand-writing and in cognizance of the fact that as toddlers, we were prone to making typos. My earlier prized-possessions of pencils, rubbers and sharpeners were replaced by pens, ink and ball-point, chinese and local, long and small, paid for and bartered. Along also came the arsenal of nibs of varying points, inkpots of differing shades, refills of varying length and use-by dates etc. I was blissful.

An extra-ordinary event happened recently in my life...

I actually finished a pen; in other words, I actually ran out the refill in a pen. Seemingly innocuous, but I cant remember the last time, I actually used up an entire pen. Well, to be fair, I didnt really use this particular pen by myself (Heck, I dont even know how I landed up with this pen in my pocket); nonetheless, I actually witnessed the historical event. I am not sure off late, how many of us witness a pen being used up entirely!!

So an extraordinary realization happened recently in my life...

I cant remember the last time I bought a pen. I think I might have forgotten how to do that. But, I still have a few dozens of pen lying at various corners of my house, in my car, in my bag and in my office drawers. In fact, I suspect that the recent clogging up of my water-pipes might have been contributed by some pen or the other finding its way there. A little flash-back revealed a number of times when I came to office with one pen and left with something entirely different, when I borrowed a pen from a fellow traveller to fill in the immigration card and absent-mindedly put it in my pocket, and so on and so forth and vice versa.

Thus ends an extraordinary era, well, almost...

There will be no more pens; only PDAs; there will be no more letters, only emails.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Movie Review: No Smoking

Recently, I was watching "Don" (the old and better version) at a friend's place. Among his collection, by chance, I stumbled upon a DVD called "No Smoking" which I watched over the weekend. It is one of those movies that I would have never seen but for the title. As it so happens, three of my friends are trying to quit smoking. They have taken all kinds of measures like using nicotine patches, creating social pressures by advertising their "I have quit smoking" campaign, using sugar-free candies, avoiding tea/caffeine/coke etc. I dont think they will succeed though (I am trying reverse psychology; but lets keep it a secret).

The movie is largely based upon Stephen Hawking's short story "Quitters Inc." which, by the way, was also filmed as one of the three parallel stories in the hollywood movie "Cat's eye". Directed by Anurag Kashyap, "No smoking" is horror treated in a dark comical fashion. Very creatively told, the plot revolves around a chain-smoker who enrolls himself into rehabilitation with "Prayogshala" which puts a heavy price-tag on each puff stolen. Once you have enrolled, your first puff will land your loved ones in a gas chamber filled with the cumulative smoke of all sticks that you have smoked so far. If you still cannot keep away, your second puff will mean that your fingers will be cut. The next puff will result into disappearance of your loved ones and if that doesnt deter you, there is more in offing (You have got to watch the movie). The most interesting part of the movie is the way it has been shot - backwards/forwards/sideways. The sets are gloomy, offering very little details and as a result, the entire focus lies on the actors with the motion picture independent of its context; well largely anyways. The performances by Paresh Rawal and Ranveer Shourie are fantastic and even John Abraham isnt that bad. And you just cant have enough of the title song, check out the Movie Trailer.

PS - Dont quit after the first scene. You will have a strong urge; suppress it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The new year marks the death of cricket

The Aussie tour controversy rages on and is gathering steam. I am biased but still not as extreme in my view as some of the Aussies are, specifically Peter Roebuck. Refer the below two articles (The first one contains Roebuck's article in Sydney Herald):

I personally agree with Border when he says that most of it is cultural misunderstanding. But that is where my agreement ends. I think Australian team, specifically, Ponting/Clarke/Symonds have failed to recognize that cultural diversity, time and again now. What is worst is the way they are still defending their position. A tragic time for cricket. Thoughts?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Steve Bucknor - Man of the match

Thank you all for helping my hit-count cross thousand. Many more thousands to come. Meanwhile, keep visiting (And comment, if you feel like it:-)).

The day 4 at SCG was filled with edges, almost spectacular catches (but not quite), definite negative play by Australia and incredulously bad upmiring. Before all that, however, Bhajji presented us with another proud occassion - Ponting's wicket within his first over. His celebration was as jubiliant as it was unrehearsed. He has now dismissed Ponting the maximum number of times for any bowler. That is some feat. I still dont like Bhajji, however, who has gotten himself smack in the middle of another racial controversy involving Symonds.

Hayden and Hussey played reasonably ok but not quite the scoring duo that they normally are. Clear negative play by Australia; not something we expected. The natives were also shouting "boring-boring" and it wasnt an exaggeration. Kumbles produced yet another couple of wickets out of nothing. The guy is a fighting machine. However, the man of the match will be Steve Bucknor who gave bad decision on a couple of occassions and one of them, Hussey is still out there (like Symonds was in the first inning). If Bucknor had his way, he would not have given even Clarke out who was caught off an edge at first slip. Clear deflection and noise (the catch was taken at first slip for crying out loud), but Bucknor was caught sleeping. Clarke refused to walk and it was only after a brief commotion where the audience (Aussies/Indians included)were stumped that he was finally given out. Incredulous !!! Mr. Steve finally resorted to bad light to avoid any further embarassment. I think his umpiring days should be over.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Curse lifted

We witnessed Sachin break his 90-jinx on his way to score 150+. It took the four of us to come all the way to Sydney to break that curse but oh my, was it not worth its while!!! I swear I have smudged my life-line short while clapping away to each of his shot.

We have a decent lead and the trick is, as always, to get them out within tomorrow. Lets see.

Last evening, I had the fortune to meet Rishi aka country who gave us quite a download on friendship, how it is formed and maintained. Among various underlying reasons offered for any group's friendship were loyalty, transparency etc. However, we all finally concluded that we are good friends within our group because at the very basic level, we are all idiots which gravitated us towards each other.

Yesterday evening, we also did a bit of shopping. Lal/Ganji have bought pointy shoes, so they will now be the lady-killers on the dance-floor (Literally). I bought some nice pair of jeans for cheap (Stocktake sale) and also bought a t-shirt and a shirt. $200 under. Lal was $600 under (Not including his ever-increasing poker losses)!!

Indians are back again (Sung as Backstreet's back again)

We had an insight yesterday while comparing notes on the local media's coverage of cricket. They are full of respect for Indian team. They think that if there is any team that can stop the Aussie Juggernaut from rewriting the world record of most consecutive test wins, its India. It seems that we have been too harsh on Indian team. Or may be it is just that the standards are harsher in the family.

One thing is for sure, Australia is rewriting the way test-cricket is being played. Take the first inning, for example. They lost six quick wickets but their scoring rate never dipped below four. It is almost saying that losing wickets is a matter of time, so we might as well make the most of the four or five sessions that we get to bat for. It definitely does push for results and it seems to be working for them. I would not talk about fielding intensity which I have covered before.

So, on day 2, we got up pretty late. As hoped, Aussie innining was bundled but for a massive 463 and we could not even get Symonds out. As predicted, Jaffer lost his wicket early on. Laxman was, however, delightful in the way he batted. As we settled onto our seats, we were welcomed by a vintage Laxman batting. He hit four boundaries of a Mitchell Johnson over, just before drinks. As we filed out for a break, we were all unusually silent. After some time, we figured that we were all silently thinking about and admiring his strokes. The best thing was each one of us picked a different stroke to be the best among the lot. Laxman, of course, went on to hit a century.

Dravid, on the other hand, was a story of pure temperament. He stayed at 18 for over an hour. Towards the end of that hour, there was so much hooting/din for every ball he faced that I cant believe he still didnt flirt with that ball outside off. When he scored his nineteenth run, it was like a thunderclap; he just kept smiling. A commentator said - "They dont call him WALL for nothing. Look out there. There is a wall (The Aussie infield) around him and still nothing is happening."

Its a pity that both of them got out at around the same time. Both of them got a standing ovation and so did the incoming Sachin Tendulkar. You have to give it to the Aussies who love and respect a fighter, be it of any team.

I am hoping for a double from Sachin today. Arent you? I think even some aussies are secretly wishing for that, for the love of the game.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Down in the dumps

Happy new year to you all.

Our new year celebration plan was quite simple, made extraordinary by the rowdy crowd on Sydney streets. We celebrated with Irish (Ganji/Lal talked to a few of them for many minutes and could not understand a single word - To quote Snatch, bloody pikeys), with Indians (They were doing bhangara on the street and were in serious risk of getting beaten up; so we refused to associate ourselves with them)and of course Aussies (Cheers, Mate). We witnessed the "best fireworks since the millenium" but found it quite ordinary and ended the night wishing for a grand new year for Indian cricket team and development of alternate sources of energy (Dont ask!)

The following day was spent roaming around Sydney. We took a monorail and landed up at the Opera House. Like most great architecture, it looks better in person than in photographs. The walk around was positively energizing and I was silently wishing for the sunset to never happen. It, however, did and we moved to Opera bar which offers a great view of the bridge as well as the Opera house. We mocked around there for a while before having a delicious Korean meal. The night consisted of light poker and I lost for the first time (Did I mention first time?).

Sydney cricket ground is a lot smaller and more uptight than MCG (Surprisingly considering the crowd behavior during new year's). One has to sit in alloted seats and there are hardly any "You are a wanker" or "Show us your handcuffs" taunts. The day for Indian cricket, however, could not be any worse. Having taken six wickets for less than 120, we allowed the hometeam to come back from behind and spit in our faces. Andrew Symonds batted beautifully, although he was probably out caught behind off Ishant Sharma in his twenties but Mr. bucknor was as biased as ever. In any case, truth be told, Indian deserved this. The Indian team was a replica of the "Chak-De" hockey team in the first half. There was Yuvraj Singh not joining in team huddles and celebrations and there was Bhajji stomping in disgust at an otherwise decent fielding from Dada. Misfielding galore; catches dropped; overthrows conceded. All-in-all, it was a miracle we even got the early breaks (More out of bad shot selection than anything).

Can Indians beat Australia? Surely, on an off day, that is. They might even win a series due to individual talent aided by a lucky streak. But they are definitely not a team that deserves to beat the world champions. That would not prevent me from hoping that they do, though.