It’s only the terror that’ll bounce back

I have never been glued on to the television more than this. Thanks to Tata Sky, the channels are in order and I can flip through them without some sepia toned group dance or ads featuring dentists interrupting the flow. I’m now in a state of numbness having done that. I haven’t been relieved by any of my favorite shows, to divert me into newer emotions. Barkha, Arnab and Vasu are invading my dreams.

The new message I’ve gathered is ‘Enough is Enough’ and balls to resilience. I’m in agreement with that. And like any average viewer I’ve been pondering over ‘How not to take this shit anymore?’.

I’ve always thought that it would be great if we had a nice dictator, one dude we can look up to, maybe someone like ‘Akbar’ or ‘Ashoka’.

The truth is we don’t have one. Instead what we have is a complicated system of a massive flowchart that sums up the country’s civics. And a simple word to describe this incorrigible nonsense -Democracy.

And then we line up the most uneducated bumpkins to choose from. Shuffle them around in a manner where the draw of lots can pick specimens like Deve Gowda and others of similar calibre to rule a nation. Only to make sure that the stain on your index finger morphs into a scar on your fate.

“jaago re’……done…..I’m jaagofied.

Following the system seems simpler than deciphering it. I did go to the voting booths the previous time.

My question was “Having arrived here, who the fuck do I vote for?” The only info I had was the pink or yellow pamphlets with photoshopped images of the local stars in my area. A guy who had a Xerox shop that flopped. Another dude who had managed to assemble the largest crowd for the local orchestra during Ganesha. An ex-rowdy. A guy who was tired of running his pop’s milk booth. A newspaper agent, since he already has a distribution network for his pamphlets. And other powder puffed clean shaven characters.

What an idiot I am to think that I could choose the PM.

“Sorry dude! You should only be worrying about who’s going to call the road roller to fill the pot-holes in your street.” said the man at the booth.

The PM just gets decided through a complicated process that’s beyond mathematics, statistics, tarot, nostradamus or any other form of calculation or prediction.

I kept thinking “Shouldn’t it be the other way round. I choose the PM. The PM then decides who should take charge of filling pot-holes in my street. I don’t know this chap who promises to summon the road roller. I’d rather choose more famous figures who I’ve seen on National TV.”

A guy who just earned himself a transistor with batteries, shoved me aside, jammed the beeper on some symbol and walked away with lesser confusion.

I still kept looking at my sad choices. What a waste of all the Tata Tea I drank. I voted for the cricket bat, just because it looked like the modernest symbol of the lot.

Some Assamese must have rammed the beeper on some symbol of a bamboo basket. Some Bihari would have pointed guns at someone and made him vote for the white dove. Some Oriya in some drunken state must have pressed the earthen pot. These pots, bats and baskets are then aligned to some fruit. And swung in the direction of some human anatomy. Then some peculiar calculations are made. And Deve Gowda is declared the PM.

Why is everything as complex as an agency’s studio rate card?

Why do I have to choose between buffoons and buffaloes?

I don’t want my precious vote ending up in some sleep deprived fatso deciding my fate.

The civics of this country has mind-fucked me. Why don’t they make it as simple as this?

1. 1 hour is dedicated on national television to every party to put out their manifesto in simple terms. Something as simple and measurable as our school impositions “I will not talk in class. I will do my homework on time. I will not copy.’

2. There is one CEO to this party. If this party wins, he is the PM.

3. He also lists out the key members of their parties with their bio-datas.

4. The same manifesto is printed in the newspapers.

5. Read through all the manifestoes, pick your favourite one and proceed to the booth.

Any other form of campaigning should be banned.

Once the elected party comes to power, his performance will be reviewed and aired on national television on a fixed date. A fair jury of eminent people should review these results and decide if they need to continue or be sacked.

They bloody well make sure that none of their members ‘fuck up’, if they want their party to survive.
No opposition party cock or minority bull.

And then if an attack happens, we can blame ourselves or maybe bad luck.

What’s sad is that this terror will end, and make way to a more familiar one. The politicians who’ve been shooed away, will now resurface, seated on some talk show, all set to spew bullshit. They’ll refer to the copious notes they’ve been taking on every possible loophole in this operation, and begin their finger pointing game. Just when this game begins to gain some sanity, the dentist and his toothpaste who’ve been kept at bay will make their entry back again. And before you know what’s happening, the host will run out of time.

We’ll shuttle between the dozen news channels to understand the complexity of the system. And succumb mid-way, as decoding that trash is beyond the capacity of any human brain.

That’s the terror that refuses to leave.

The biscuit man who never smiles

I have taken it upon myself to advertise the places I love. I picked on this one because I’m sure that this place will never ever advertise.

It’s a place that sells biscuits. I choose to call them biscuits and not cookies, because I don’t want you to wrongly visualize a ‘Frazer Town Anglo Aunty in an apron, baking goodies’ and corrupt the simple imagery that this shop has.

It’s called ‘Shobha Baking Products’ or ‘Shobha Bakes’ or something similar to that. A tiny shop run by an average looking man wearing a checked bush shirt. It’s so unnoticeable that you’re bound to miss it.

Get to Jayanagar and take the road that leads Jain Temple to Ganesha Temple. You’ll surely reach Ganesha Temple because I told you… you are bound to miss it. It’s about 2 to 3 shops before Ganesha Temple, on your right. 

No fancy baskets in golden paper and red bows. No tins with retro graphics. No bright orange or yellow walls. Nothing that transports you to the Irish countryside. No experiential gimmicks. No nothing.

Just an uninviting shop with boring glass showcases styled like an Iyengar bakery, containing biscuits tightly wrapped in polythene packets. Each weighing 200 gms with a red and white sticker saying Rs. 30. 

As soon as you enter, you’ll be stared at by a middle aged poker faced man. All he does is gives you a nod, to acknowledge your presence. He just needs an assurance that you haven’t walked in to buy fake jewellery, verify some address or ask for the timings of the neighbouring shop. So, start the transaction by announcing the purpose of your visit.

“Biscuits”.

Once he is relieved that you are actually a prospective customer, he’ll promptly attend to your needs. But don’t be disillusioned. This man who never wastes his smiles, is probably the sweetest and the sincerest trader I’ve met in my life. 

He’ll now pull out a tray and place it in front of you. Then open the oven and start placing warm samples of his biscuits one by one, announcing the variety as he goes. “Sweet and Salt Wheat”, “Sweet and Salt Ragi”, “Masala Wheat”, “Butter”, “Ginger”, “Cashew”, “Coconut” and finally a biscuit that has a nickname “Melting Moments”. That’s his favourite part. He’ll wait for you to quiz him on the last one. “A variation of coconut” he’ll reply and walk away to the counter, leaving you undisturbed to do the tasting. 

I’ve been there many times, and by now he knows me by face. I have tasted all his biscuits. And still everytime, he religiously goes about placing all the samples for me to taste. Even after me telling him that I’ve tasted it before and don’t want to taste it again, he refuses to break the ritual. Only later did I realize that his intent is very noble. The biscuits he stocks belong to the current batch, and he wants me to taste the current sample before making up my mind. 

The biscuits are divine. It’s like they’ve been delicately held together only to crumble inside your mouth. They’re light and have the right amount of spice in them. My favorite is the sweet and salt. It’s almost like they’ve been programmed to release the taste of sweet, and the taste of salt, in alternate bites respectively. “Melting moments” is aptly named so and the ragi variations make you relook at the non-glamourous cereal in a new light. Reaffirming that he’s been the best student of the baking class he attended.

All the varieties are round and of the same size, slightly bigger than a two rupee coin.

Once you’ve made your choice, he’ll reappear. After you point out the preferred choice, he’ll pick the relevant packet and tell you one little detail that he’s proud of. That he uses no ‘vanaspathi’ in any of his biscuits. I have never seen him pushing down any rejections down my throat. He’ll only talk about the ones you’ve selected. A rehearsed 20 second speech on the biscuit you’re about to take home.

He also makes Nippat, Kodbale and Chakli in a few variations and sometimes he stocks bread. In case you enquire about the snacks, he’ll remind you that none of his snacks are fried but all baked. His bread is not as soft as bakery bread, which he explains “You should judge a bread by its taste and not its softness. Add more yeast and it’ll get softer but too much of yeast is fattening.” His bread is of an unconventional size, and I agree, it does taste better. It’s unbelievable that his snacks aren’t fried because they taste as good as the fried ones, if not better. 

I think he should be the benchmark to marketing men. He’s never intrusive, never smiles to add to the pressure and at the same time, extremely passionate about what he sells. If only our powerpoint addicted marketing maniacs learnt this simple lesson, they’d do far better. 

I don’t think he’s famous yet, and that’s precisely why I’m doing my bit.

Miss, can i pass recess?

The new buzzword is recession. I just love the sound of it. The whole world seems to be going berserk on this. I am more than willing to mourn on this subject….but will someone please explain to me who or what exactly is this recession? Who is this dude who declared that its now recession time?

 

Things seemed just fine. No fire. No flood. Nobody died. No earthquake. Nothing at all. And then suddenly, for no damn solid reason this thing just started.  It’s almost like there was this bored bloke in the stockmarket, who just felt having some fun. So he just walked in one morning and said ‘ok guys, enough is enough, from this minute onwards ….it’s recession’. And everybody clapped and spread the word like fire.recess

Like all other calamities, like the orissa flood or the tsunami, this one seems to be latest national cause of concern.

Suppose I were to create this mega ‘Save recession’ campaign to raise funds, at the end of it, who do I contribute all the cash I collect to save our country from this wretched disease?

Somehow anything and everything is connected to recession.

“Obama is the new president, the world is unstable and so is the economy. This recession is not going to end”….

“What is the necessity to spend so much money and send a satellite to the moon, when the entire country is going through recession?”

Like the client tells you that you shoot the commercial at half the cost….’sorry guys, it’s recession’. So you tell the producer ‘dude, dont you understand it’s recession’. And he tells his camera crew ‘shut the fuck up and shoot, it’s recession’ and the word just spreads.

“Papa lollipop’

“No beta, after recession’

I have come to the conclusion that ‘Recession’ is one big unstoppable rumour that people are more than willing to spread. For two reasons

1. You are happy deep inside, because finally people are getting poorer, and it’ll reach a stage when everyone is as poor as you.

2. Or it just sounds cool to be affected by the recession. You feel like a big industrialist who’s business is at stake, by participating in these discussions. ‘Ya I know…this is not the right time to invest….The market speculations are unpredictable. Money is locked in the wrong hands.”

Anything you say here makes sense, because anyway the whole discussion is based on nonsense.

I haven’t met a single chap who’s been able to explain this without me raising more questions. I am sure there must be some complicated fundas attached to this, that the white bearded reporters are desperately trying to explain in channels. I only wish they uncluttered their channels and made it more watchable. The tapes ticking below how now reached their chin, but the anchors and the viewers seem fine with it. Or worse still are the drab brown coloured newspapers. How does anyone feel like reading them? 

What’s worse is that I feel alone in this confusion. Everyone seems to have it sorted out in their heads, including the liftman, the man at the petrol pump and the autodrivers. But maybe have a little difficulty in expressing it? I wish the reasons were as simple as

“Someone ran away with all the money. So it’s recession till we catch the culprit.”

“No country is giving us loan because they need it themselves.”

“The big oil well dried up.’

“Just for variety, the prime minister thinks we need to observe recession for some time.”

Give me a damn reason. Even if it is stupid.

While all I have gathered that its basically a time when people are not supposed to be spending. 

They’ve just made me feel guilty about spending for no reason. Suddenly there was this panic that the banks are running dry. So people ran to the ATMs to withdraw all the cash and keep it at home. I felt left out in all this drama. I’d love to see a bank not able to shell out the peanuts I’ve stored with them. Imagine a bank being more broke than me.  

Everyone seems to be spending. So where is the fuck up? I see my colleagues downing expensive whiskies, more than ever before. They still wear new stuff and go partying in non-smoking pubs. Crap films like Fashion are running houseful. The prices haven’t gone down at my vegetable shop and neither has the attitude. Someone paid 6 crores to Salman to act in the unbearable ‘Hello’. Recession must have at least stopped that, if not anything else. 

pton107l3The ones who kept it alive are the Jet boys. For some time they made me believe that ‘Recession’ is here to stay. So, I went on time to office the next day. But Goyal and boys chickened out even before I started believing in it. 

Bloody liars. In the name of recession, they just tried a cheap stunt of getting the balance employees to work overtime, ha ha …..but it fired back.

 

I’ve concluded that this recession shit is as false as India Shining. A vague term that can accommodate any imagination, any definition and used mercilessly to take advantage of ignorant fools like me. 

A sentiment that people might share when they get their letters in April.

 

 

So before this boomerangs, I’m saying ‘The market is back and booming’.

i-refuse-to-particpate-in-a-recession-badge6Please spread the word.

 

Alternate cinema

Siddalingeshwara, Renuka Prasanna, Raghavendra, Shiva, Kamakya, Mahadeshwara, Maheshwari. These Gods have something else in common….they also lend their names to some popular ‘touring talkies” of Bangalore. Also colloquially known as ‘tent‘ or ‘tent cinema‘.  11112008478

If you ever looked beyond your nose, you might have noticed posters in two-tone, plastered on walls that also serve as free urinals. These posters, usually in combinations of bright red, green, yellow, blue and pink are like front page solus for the pissers-by. In one leak, they give you a glimpse of all the movies running in the nearby locality. So as you release yourself, you also get an idea of the latest releases, right before you.

The posters follow the rule of territorial pissings. Never does a poster stray into a wall from where the tent is not reachable by cycle or foot. So if you are seeing the poster, sniff harder, and you can smell the tent somewhere nearby. 

These posters artistically reduce the entire story line to a single picture, maintaining absolute transparency on what to expect. Designed for people who have no time to waste. They only part with vital information, cutting out all the crap. And mostly supported with line drawings of the hero and heroines in relevant poses for the benefit of ones who don’t enjoy reading. If it’s action, it’s only the hero with a gun or a machchu (big sickle). If it’s romance, the heroine is also added, in the arms of the hero. If it’s an adult movie, the lips of the shapeless heroine are given an extra bleed effect, and the ‘A’ certificate is flashed like a headline. 

11112008477No space is ever wasted.

What matters is what’s mentioned. Like a poster for Tarzan that says ‘Starring Kimi Katkar’. Why even mention ‘Hemant Birje’ when it is of no consequence? The poster for the kannada movie ‘Jogi’ reads ‘Shivarajkumar and Yana Gupta’. Even if Yana Gupta is only there in one song, she surely has been put to better use than the main heroine of the film. So ‘Jennifer Kotwal’ has been mercilessly knocked off from the credits.

If your nose doesn’t lead you to the location, look out for carts selling ‘Mewad‘ cone ice cream, vendors carrying huge placards displaying screen printed photographs of heroes and heroines or mithaiwalas who pull gummy tapes from under the skirt of a doll and shape it up like a ring or a watch on your hand for you to lick on.

Look further and you’ll see a thatched roof cinema house…..The tent

As you approach the tent, a rare scent of arrack mixed with urine invites you to join a queue of assorted characters. This is probably the most open-minded audience you can ever come across. The language is of nobody’s concern, as everyone is clear as to what to expect. They blindly believe that the poster will live up to its promise.111120084801 

(All kinds of films including Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and English, yes even English movies are screened here. Currently, one of them is playing ‘Quantum of Solace’. They have all their love to give, be it for Akshay Kumar, Annavaru, Rajni, James Bond, Jackie Chan or Shakila. Oh no! How did I forget?…they also screen Malayalam movies. In fact they even have a fixed slot – The morning show.)

As the queue gathers length, the scent of sweat proportionally intensifies. Once the counter opens, the queue changes its shape to a circle. But there is no reason to panic, as the concept of ‘HOUSE FULL’ doesn’t exist here. 

There are no seat numbers, infact a part of the tent has no seats. Every tent has two basic classifications. ‘Nela’ (means ground), where it’s an open cemented floor right below the screen, where you can squat or lie down or do what you please. And seat, which are rows of steel or plastic chairs welded to each other to avoid any chair being hurled at the screen out of excitement or disgust.

There is also a separate queue dedicated to brave women and family folk. Somehow, people who do not belong to this esteemed crowd, know without being told, and just leave them alone.

Nela sells for Rs. 5 a ticket and seat for Rs. 20. The two are separated by a long horizontal bamboo pole and a mutual understanding to stay away from each other’s spaces. If the seats are filled up, simply find your own corner to stand.

The cleaners are grounded, the drivers are seated and the show begins, if it already hasn’t. Usually, there’s a small chamak (a little stunt to give a sudden dose of excitement) before the film begins. A random glimpse of the movie on hold, is played for a few seconds to check picture and sound quality. Enough to send the audience into a frenzy, and make them express ‘impatience’ in as many variations as possible. The madness continues till the projector gets its tuning right, and reaches a crescendo when it finally manages to. 

Two naked kids blow their trumpets from either side of the canvas. A tuneless tune blares out from the ‘Ahuja‘ speakers, prompting the spectators to outdo their previous performance. The screen is now filled with silhouettes of ecstatic drunkards blocking the projector.

Once the credits begin to announce names that don’t matter, the audience settle down, leaving behind a trail of beedi smoke to follow the rays that’ll soon unveil their God on screen.