December 13, 2009

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2009



After the stirring synonyms of Plagiarism is Alive, and consequently, several questions regarding my pursuit of the GRE, it is time to make the transition from poetry to prose. Now, it has to be admitted that the idea for this post came to me during a mundane family prayer that is generally typical of the late hours of a Sunday evening, and is generally typified by vehement protests from my side, citing a whole range of reasons, from (inconsequential) football matches to a-burning-hunger-that-cannot-withstand-the-torment-of-a-30-minute-prayer(in the event that both these arguments fail, I've discovered that feigning sleep can be an elegant escape). Needless to say, this post stands as proof of the fact that my parents are becoming increasingly aware of the EPL and all the football clubs that constitute its sediment, that insatiable hunger and a call to prayer cannot possibly have a correlation co-efficient of +1, and most importantly, that no one, no one can fall asleep with equal servings of abruptness, precision, ease and consistency, albeit for only 30 minutes, every Sunday evening.

Sitting comfortably on the sofa as my mom prayed, with my religious inclination and overwhelming drowsiness engaged in mortal combat, it was a good time to reflect on 2009. A year of Swine flu, Copenhagen, unwarranted Nobel prizes, extended recession, Telangana, disgraced golfers, online CAT, irresolute wars, Michael Jackson's demise and Federer's tryst with Roland Garros. Not an exhaustive list, but certainly a well thought out one. Special thanks to NDTV.com, for saving my quickly-waning long-term memory from certain embarrassment. With current affairs quickly out of the picture, ever the narcissist, it was time to mull over personal accomplishments.

It was a year in which: my Body Mass Index trudged towards respectability, the Road Transport Organisation finally deemed me fit to drive a Light Motor Vehicle, my Deutsch skills improved by one grade(though my Malayalam skills received an identical shift in the other direction) and travel was the fulcrum. Mudaliar Kuppam beach, goods train from Castle Rock to Madgaon, Virginia Beach, Chivas Regal in Dandeli, kayaking in Pondicherry, Niagara Falls, beach-hopping in Goa, bike trip to Tonnurkere(to name a few, though not necessarily in that order), were nuggets in the goldmine that was 2009. This year will also be greatly remembered as the year I discovered the comedic genius of George Carlin and the only comparison that would seem even remotely analogous would be that of cavemen discovering fire. One of the greatest minds of all time. Witty, sarcastic, caustic, forthright, philosophical, funny, cynical, scathing and above all, a master wordsmith. Basically, everything I aspire to be. If you still need convincing, here's what you will need to do:

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6J3OD4Z0UQ&feature=fvst
2. Fall on your knees.
3. Worship the man.

That, I guess, settles that. And, as I wind down to the end of my last post for 2009, I realize that we still have a couple of weeks left. Which could only mean one thing: we are at the peak of the holiday season. The most wonderful time of the year. Or so I've heard. For those of you who are unaware of the reason behind this most magnificent holiday, let me clue you in on some of the details.

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It is believed that many, many years ago, a son was born to the virgin wife of a Jewish carpenter, in a stable, in a box from which cattle feed and in a town that is today one of the most widely disputed and strife-torn regions of the world. Wise men--possibly astronomers of some kind, saw a star in the sky---and followed it, for roughly 2 years, to reach the patiently waiting baby. And how do we know all of this for a fact? Because on the day of his birth, shepherds were informed of this wonderful news by angels in the sky. This baby had come to save us all. Unfortunately, this was not considered to be important enough for his exact birthday or age to be documented(until 336 A.D., when the Western Church, decided on the basis of _______, that the baby was actually born on December 25th). Is it any wonder then, that this very church enlightened us with the Crusades, gave us such wholesome periods as the Dark Ages and sought to establish, through the Inquisition, that the notion that the earth revolves around the sun was "false and contrary to Scripture"?

Needless to say, had the same fable been broadcast in a more scientific time, the carpenter would have got a hefty alimony from the pregnant lady who claimed she was a virgin, the baby might have contracted scabies from being born in a manger, the shepherds would have been beaten to a pulp for reporting of angels in the sky and the wise men would still be travelling---because no star in the history of mankind, has ever stopped above a god-damned stable.

So essentially, a story that should have been as inconsequential as a Youtube comment, has become as commonplace as a Surd who supports Manchester United, or an Iron Maiden t-shirt on a goateed guy. Apparently, 33% of the world's population are so grotesquely devoid of logic, that the above tale seems not to perturb their beliefs. Last I heard, the same percentage also thought Aesop's Fables was a thesis.
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But, I digress. 2009 will be gone by the time most of you read this post, so I guess I might as well hazard a few resolutions for 2010. It should be the year I learn how to swim(as opposed to my current strategy of just trying to stay alive in water), the year I finally make a long-overdue trip of North India, a year filled with several sleepless nights, watching the Football World Cup, a year of weekend beers and weekday football.


October 31, 2009

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Plagiarism is alive



Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee, into ever-widening thought and action,
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

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Where the mind cowers in the face of injustice and servile submission is the norm;
Where the carcass of knowledge has been bartered for the silhouette of currency;
Where the world has been broken up into fragments by intolerant buffoonery;
Where words come out from the bowels of falsehood and the deepest depths of ignorance;
Where steady grovelling has no need for perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has been swallowed by the sea of incongruous belief;
Where the rabid greed of a few is the silent misery of many;
Where multitudes are united only by a lack of resolve;
Where religion rears its ugly head at the confluence of ignorance and tradition;
Out of this abyss of drudgery, let my country awake.

July 10, 2009

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M1J1



North for the Summer took a lot out of me, quite honestly and I sincerely had no intention of returning to the scene of the crime this quickly. Therefore, I will attempt to keep this within tangible limits. The last couple of weeks have shot by, with the passing of a fallen pop-star, followed by sometimes surreal media coverage of the after-party. I have been determined as hell(till now) to hold my silence, quite simply, because others could not hold theirs. Perhaps, also because, commenting on the deceased is generally not becoming of an infrequent blogger like myself. Quite likely then, that the image of that bleedin' Armani-clad, bling-wearing rat-faced music-killer Usher singing Gone too Soon, as if he was performing at The Grammy's lent itself as a more than adequate spark.

Gone too Soon
. I cannot even begin to comprehend the irony behind the choice of song. Gone-too-fuckin-Soon! No, not the innocent Iraqi girl who died in her sleep as war ravaged her land. Not even the little children dying of severe malnutrition in Somalia. Not the boy who died after falling into an open manhole. But yes, this 50-year-old-man has certainly gone too soon. A person who had had so much plastic surgery done--it is quite likely that the hard-working folks at Madame Tussauds occasionally had trouble telling him apart from his wax replica--that living to the age of 50, itself qualified him as a medical marvel. A person who ought to have been grateful to modern medicine for keeping him chugging till the ripe old age of 50. Someone who should have been eternally thankful for a world of over-the-counter-drugs and pill-prescribing-quacks. Gone too soon. Why, did he have his sights set on someday being the grandpa of a mannequin? Don't we really have bigger issues to deal with?


In these "tough times", when everyone seems to be mourning his loss and everyone, from the owner of the kaaka-kada down the road to even my parents, claim to be/have been a fan, I have devised a simple test(that, FYI, most of you are bound to fail) that will forever cure you of what I call the M1J1 virus. It's quite simple. If you get a question right, move to the next question. If you get it wrong, scroll down to the end of this blog.

1. Simple one first. What is the name of the amusement park/ranch Michael Jackson owned?

2. Well done! Peter Pan would certainly be proud. Here is your 2nd question.
Name 5 Michael Jackson songs.

3. Excellent!! Well this is certainly a surprise. Here's number 3.
Name 3 of his Albums.

4. Wow. You really must be fan. Two more questions for the jackpot!!
On how many counts of child molestation was Michael Jackson charged during his career?


5. If you are doing this without any help from Google/Wikipedia, this is certainly getting eerie. One final question. Make-or-break.

Which of his three children, during their infancy, had the fortune of being dangled over the railing of a hotel balcony, by the King of Pop himself?
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In the event that you have got all these questions right, the following material is for you(Parental Guidance is advised).

Congrats!! You are a certifiable MJ fan. You have every reason to be sad. It will probably take you another 2 weeks to digest the fact that he's gone. In those 2 weeks, several thousands more will die, quite possibly for no fault of theirs, most of them strangers to you. Death frequents us all. If you can give them a fraction of the emotion that you so generously bestowed upon a man characterized by questions 4 and 5, this world will know no hunger, no war, no poverty. For the coming 2 weeks, I would recommend copious amounts of some of the artistes that "performed" at his funeral(Mariah Carey, Rat-Face and Lionel Richie, in particular).
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Welcome! I was expecting most of you here. Some of you might say that your earliest memories were of Michael Jackson getting his groove on, in music videos, the names of which you cannot recollect now. Of attempting to do the Moonwalk as children. Of repeatedly hearing the term Break-dance being thrown around without discretion(especially in Malayali circles); not having a clue what it meant. Good memories, yes, but do any of these really warrant a membership in the Michael Jackson Fanclub on Facebook? By the same token, shouldn't we all be members of the, errr, Scooby-doo, WWE, Backstreet Boys and I'm-a-Complan-boy groups? Most of you(us, rather) have been sucked in to this bubble, by the heartless bastards at Headlines Today/Times Now--who would probably even broadcast footage of a grazing cow, as long as it guaranteed good TRP ratings--and social mandates to raise the MJ topic whenever the silence gets awkward. For the most part, he was the butt of all our jokes and the subject of our ridicule. No amount of praise(genuine or otherwise) after his death is going to change that. In fact, it is a greater disservice to his memory for all of us to do a complete 180 on the subject. Perhaps it would be best, then, if we could all decide not to broach the subject again.

June 21, 2009

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North for the Summer



Fear not, it is I.

After an extended hiatus, I am back. With something(finally) to write about.

2 things to get out of the way before I begin.

1. I have the short-term memory of a fruit-fly and hence, the following is an approximate reconstruction of a recent trip to the U.S. of A, with a little help from general observations saved in the "Drafts" section of my Inbox.

2. Towards the second half of the trip, I got tired of saving my observations as text messages and hence, will attempt to recreate this part with a little help from images saved on Picasa.

Now, my parents tell me that I have been on a plane before, but that was sometime in the late '80s and it is only natural that I have no memory of this whatsoever. Therefore, it was a momentous occasion(for me atleast) when our (Air France) flight took off from Bangalore. The flight to Paris was quite uneventful thereafter, except for our "Hindu Non-veg Meal" which pretty much was to my tongue what a repeated flogging would have been to my backside. All this was washed down with some yogurt, which incidentally, became part of my staple diet during the course of the holiday.

Paris was where the trip really began. One of the moments of the trip was looking out the window as we flew over sun-drenched Parisian fields, and the sparkling Atlantic Ocean at mid-day, Heineken in hand.

Setting foot in the U.S., the only thing that seemed more diverse than the range of automobiles on offer was probably the number of ethnicities on display. Mexicans, Italians, Indians, Spaniards, Pakistanis, Indians, French, Brits, Indians. With the odd "American" for good measure. All jokes aside, I was really impressed by the assortment of automobiles that met my eye. Buicks, Pontiacs, Cadillacs, Nissans, Chevys, Mercs, Audis, Toyotas, Hondas, BMWs, Fords. Quite necessary, considering the public transport system is virtually defunct. Once you get your head around driving on the right side of the road(which, in my case, never happened) and driving at an average speed of 60mph(yes, you will also have to purge away your knowledge of the metric system) , you're good to go. Till then, I can guarantee that you would be scared shitless. The immediate impression one gets is of a nation and a people that don't believe in moderation. There is excess in everything. From the cheese on the burgers to the square footage of the malls to the displacement of the engines to the range of extended waist sizes, there is no such thing as too much.

My only memory of the first 2 weeks is of long summer days, incessant sleeping and even more shopping. Pillaging food from Burger King and Pizza Hut. Of watching PG13 movies with my underage cousins. Of hulu.com and the unlimited hours of entertainment it gave me. Of getting acquainted with that old nemesis--toilet paper and getting used to drinking anything but water with my meals. Listening to that rich Malayali musical heritage we call Boney M in my brother's Honda Civic as we drove around. Of playing golf for the first time. Of looking around for souvenirs that weren't made in China. Snuggling up in the basement in a chair that felt like a lamb's belly, with a PS2 joystick in hand. That basement was my refuge for the most part, where I spent hours honing my table-tennis(or ping-pong, as they like to call it) skills; trying my hand at the drums, only to be reminded every so often that I was damaging the aural senses of those around me; occasionally taking the time to open a can of whoop-ass on my cousins at NBA 2008 or Gran Turismo. Of meeting cousins that I hadn't seen since I was 7. Of taking Maths classes for younger cousins and asserting my dominance every so often by asking them what the Differential of x2 was or the value of Planck's constant. Wicked, I know, but it sure was fun. Of being embarrassed to tell them that I had forgotten how to convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit. Of an epic barbecue party in the backyard that threatened the existence of most types of fowl, the entire bovine race and probably a couple of trespassing pigs. Of eating Lay's on the swing till it got dark(9 in the evening). Of attempting to fly a kite. Of a trip to the beach. First time I've ever worn a sweater at the beach, but it was totally justified. Cold as hell, but a small price to pay for dipping my feet in the Atlantic Ocean.

Wow, that is a lot for a fruit-fly.

And then, we started to really travel. The highway system is a thing of beauty, if and when you find your bearings. Routes, Exits, Interstates, the whole thing can even seem extravagant at times. Of course, finding your way around isn't really a problem if you have a comforting female voice in your front seat. GPS unit, silly. That thing single-handedly took us across states, without incident. It did however go kaput(probably out of sheer fatigue) on our return from Niagara Falls, and in those 2 hours, I learnt more about the American highway system than I had on the rest of the trip.

A cheering squad consisting of close family(this ranges from 10 to multitudes for the average Malayali) and friends gathered in Baltimore for my brother's graduation, which was pretty much the focal point of the trip. We made an appointment with Washington D.C. the next day, and managed to catch a glimpse of Mr. Obama's abode, among other things. We returned to Baltimore and started planning for the monumental drive ahead.

400 miles. 9 hours. 1 very tired brother. A holiday within a holiday. Niagara Falls. With the gripping beat of Rasputin--by this time firmly tattoed in my brain--playing in the background, we set out for the promised land, with anticipation in our hearts, H1N1 on our minds and disco in our bones. The drive felt like a bean-bag on a cloud and naturally flew by. We checked in at the Hampton Inn(thank you, Picasa) and headed to the falls as quickly as was humanly possible(read: after 3 hours of mind-numbing sleep).


Walking through clouds in Yercaud. The road from Madikeri to Virajpet. Echo point in Munnar. Leeches at the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Boat-house in Allepey. Sunrise at Kodachadri. The Arabian Sea from the lighthouse on Kaup beach. Sunset at Palolem beach. Afternoon at Gokharna. Niagara Falls.

The sight of the water in Lake Erie plumetting hundreds of feet as it made its way to Lake Ontario and finally to the Atlantic, creating the Niagara River(and Falls, of course) on the way, was so vivid that it wiped clean that tattoo of Rasputin from my memory. A feeble attempt at a description of what I saw, but http://picasaweb.google.com/mathewsajiv/NiagaraFalls# is likely to give you a better idea. That sight has become my benchmark ever since. A benchmark that is unlikely to be overshadowed anytime soon. A customary boat-ride on the legendary Maid of the Mist(with the Indians and Chinks on board heavily outnumbering even the seagulls) the following day took us right under the Falls, resulting in several wet glasses and even more malfunctioning digital cameras from the third world. The Cave of the Winds experience consisted of strategically positioned stairs right below the Falls, that guaranteed copious amounts of adrenaline. We soaked it all in, quite literally from several vantage points. It was soon time to leave; we had to drag ourselves away from the compelling views and into the Civic. Barring the 2 hours when our GPS unit reached the Pearly Gates, the drive back was fairly incident-free.

I have very vague memories(even by my own standards) of what happened after our return from Niagara. I may have even met a talking dog. So firmly entrenched in my mind were the memories of Niagara, that even talking dogs would've had little impact. I do remember the buffet of a lifetime at The Wood Grill, but the rest is pretty hazy. A few days later, it was time to head South again. Not to mention a long way East. It was difficult to leave, naturally. It had been the trip of a lifetime.

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