Viral Pandya – That sounds like a really cool name

Yesterday afternoon, a colleague of mine asked me

“Machaan, have you heard of Viral Pandya (he pronounced it right..not like viral as in viral fever)”

I was like “Ya man…I’ve heard this name. Isn’t he some famous advertising dude.” Pardon me man, because my networking skills are really bad.

But I had heard of you…as this really kickass art guy who has won a lot of awards and all that.

But then he showed me your post.

And I was shocked. Like in Rangeela…Aamir says no..”I shocked”..ya..that kind of shocked.

I was shocked at various levels. Actually not shocked, but some mixed emotions.

One was…shit..why is this famous art guy accusing us of something which is totally baseless.

But then I thought about it from your point of view.

Yes. I admit..it does give you some kind of kick when you spot the original of something. Something that is generally popular. Like even when we suddenly spot the original version of a song or a TVC or a scene in a movie or a picture…we go like..”Dude…check what I spotted. and everyone gushes and bitches about it for sometime. I agree it’s fun. It’s a kind of a kick.”

So let’s leave that part.

But usually we do that with a few set of people we know…in private. Laugh about it.

But you decided to post it on FB. But that’s ok. It’s your wall. You can do as you please.

Infact, I am quite motivated by what you did. See how influential you can be man. I am also planning to post this on my wall, after completing this. I mean what the hell. If you feel something, you should say it. Say it openly.

But then you jumped the gun. Shot off your mouth. We all do it.

And when we realize we screwed up, we kind of shut up. Tuck our tails back…and say sorry whatever and get back to life.

So when we told you the actual story of what really happened, we expected you to kind of shut up, tuck your tail and get back to life.

But no. You seem to be of another type. This part onwards is when we start feeling a bit puzzled. Because dude, you are not like us normal folk.

Then we realize, oh yes, you are different. You are trained to think ‘out of the box’.

I really became inquisitive about you. So I googled about you. And stumbled upon some of your ads.

I must admit. Some of them are quite mind blowing. And yes, I share your feelings on this one. It’s sad that they had to be with strange logos. Like I wish the world got to see it. So much effort gone into it. But sadly, it’s only earning you awards.

Like the one where you have so painstakingly arranged grains, lentils and all, and it forms the image of a dog. And it’s about Vegetarian food for dogs, for some ‘SM Store’ in Pitampura.  I thought it was quite kickass. I mean so what if this kind of a treatment has been done some zillion times where small small things are arranged, and the larger picture is then something else. Just out of curiousity…what was this? A poster? If it was, then was it instore. I don’t think so. Because if it was then the ‘Pitampura’ is totally unnecessary. Because they are already there. So it’s pointless. But if it was for other places outside the store. Then don’t you think its kind of too small to read. Ya, I agree it will totally screw up the layout. It’s for awards right. Then fine, because they usually see it from close quarters.

Sorry, I digressed. Ya, I also came to know you are the jury member for One Show. Yipeeee…congrats on that. It must be quite a proud feeling.

Just out of my experience, I want to just point out a few things. I don’t know much about awards and all. I haven’t won many. Since you are into it big time, I just wanted you to know a few things. What I hear from other industry folk, it’s a bit sad for some of them.

Apparently, a lot of young interns from art schools are engaged in doing these things. these pain staking things like arranging those grains and all. They sit and slog for many days doing that. Of course the idea isn’t theirs. They are only used for executing it. Because the ones who come up with that idea, don’t have the skill or talent to do it themselves. So they ask these young fellows to spend half their lives doing such stuff. They promise them credits. And they are made to believe that those credits can then give them a great career ahead. So poor chaps fall into this trap.

But no. Nothing happens. Because even after years, they don’t grow up in the system. They just remain mute executors. I’ve even heard that sometimes they don’t even get the credit.

I hope you are giving them their dues. Because they spend their lives doing only these kind of posters for SM Store, they are quite clueless about real brand work. Oh yes, going by your moral standards, you surely must be.

Ya, real brand work is boring. I don’t know if you’ve tried it…but it’s quite an uphill task. Because there are too many people with too many opinions. And you know budgets, market realities, building a brand, reaching out to consumers and all that jazz, can be quite a bummer.

But then there are a whole bunch of people out there who’ve dedicated their lives doing this stuff. Ramming their heads, killing themselves, to get their stuff through all this, and still manage to do some work that people out in the streets end up loving.

Sadly man, these chaps aren’t the ones who are celebrated. You know, they have never been to Cannes, drunk at the gutter bar, or seen their names on One Shows. Nothing.

The only thing that concerns them is ‘what’s good for the brand’.

And if they happen to spot something that seems like a good idea for the brand, they will find a way to make it happen for the brand. It could be a cause, a song, a play, a celebrity, anything. Or sometimes a picture.

They know their brand. And are passionate and pretty selfless too about it.

Those 86 people out there, are defending that my friend.

Lastly, I feel, it’s still better to search for a picture that suits the purpose of your brand, than search for a logo that suits the purpose of your award.

Remember….SM Store, Pitampura.

By the way, Viral Pandya is quite a cool sounding name.

And I’m not copy checking this shit. It’s not for an award.

Kabali – Don’t review God

o-KABALI-facebookImagine standing in front of a tornado that’s fast approaching you at the speed of 280mph. And you stand there ready to dive into it. You stay put. All willing to hitch a ride. The tornado arrives with some dizzying surround sound. Engulfs you. And carries you to a spot which is the epicenter of an earthquake. And then suddenly ejects you out into outerspace..where you are floating somewhere between Neptune and Uranus.

I think such an experience cannot be called ‘watching a movie’.

So when a lot of them seem to be let down by ‘Kabali’ because of high expectations…I feel sad. Because I feel their expectations weren’t high enough. They weren’t willing to let go….and probably wanted to be sitting close enough to the ground…and maybe take them only as far or as high as a giant wheel can . Where they still get to see ‘familiar things’ around them. Like spotting their school from up there. Or point around towards some parks and roads which they’ve seen from close quarters. And get all excited because they are now seeing the same from as high as a giant wheel.

Kabali is certainly not that.

Don’t go, if you are in it for a movie. Don’t go if you are in it for a story. For screenplay. For familiar emotions being replayed. Don’t go for technical brilliance. And certainly don’t go if continuity, logic, brilliant performances, a coherent story, great character sketches all come in as prerequisites that first need to be fulfilled and tick-boxed before you are ready for the ‘take-off’.

Don’t go if you are not willing to ‘let go’.

Go only if you are willing to get carried away. And be swayed and swung and spun and churned and thrown around by the only superhero we know who exists for real.

He’s here in his newest avatar to take you on a heady trip you’ve never experienced…not here as a cuddly grandpa to sit you down and tell you a story.

And yes, he and we, want no time wasted before we’re in the middle of this trip. Because he knows and so do we that we’re here only for that trip. Nothing else. Rest is mandatory.

Yes, since he’s decided to only meet us at movie halls, he’s engaged some mere mortals who have sat down and put together some mandatories for that to happen. If you are going to be stuck there…then you are missing the ride. The larger picture. The madness. The heady giddy mix of all things Thaliava…all things Superstar…all things that we are in it for.

I have been watching every movie of Rajini ever since he made my brain understand that there are some things in life where every part of your anatomy can be given immense joy at the same exact moment.

There is nothing more supreme than this euphoria. Everything else is a means to it.

And ever since, after having watched every movie of his, he’s only left me behind with this feeling that makes me pissed off with the people who contribute words to the dictionary. Only because they haven’t invented a word that can fully express what this feeling is.

This feeling has now grown with passing time. And now this feeling has somewhere crossed the line and now has the audacity to make demands.

‘Expectation’.

‘Expectation’ makes you the higher one. Makes you and your imagination the elevated one. And then someone has to rise above to meet it. It is great when you have it in some cases…and it’s absolute stupidity when it comes to some other things. And certainly impudent and immodest when it comes to Rajini.

kabali hi resTo me, ‘Kabali’ is a return of sorts. Right from the credit title. Where it’s back to where the ‘Superstar’ phenomenon all started. Back to those little led lights that tries to illuminate that feeling on the screen. A feeling so euphoric, that we’re unwilling to accept any word that the dictionary has to offer for it.

Rajini gives this feeling a new journey. A new path. Rajini reboots. Restarts. And goes back to a place where it all started. Back to that place where he walked into that dingy stage at the ‘Gubbi Veeranna’ theatre. Where he played the character of Ravana in a play.

A time when people queued up only to see him. He was there to show you how menacing he can be. People came to watch that. Nobody came to see the story of Ramayana. Everyone knew it. They came there to lose themselves and travel along with him.

Over there people knew the story. Over here I feel we need to assume it. Either way, the fun is only in travelling along with him.

He’s back here playing an evil baddie. He goes about killing everything that doesn’t suit his taste. Who or what he’s killing doesn’t matter or shouldn’t. Why he’s killing too shouldn’t. That part is ours. To fill it up on our own.

Half of what Rajini does lies in our imagination. Whatever he was fighting…we weren’t fighting the same enemy in our heads. We were fighting our own. He just gave us the manner in which it needs to be done. And we loved it.

We’re only back here for a refresher course. Not for a movie. To learn from a man who teaches us as to ‘how it’s done.’

And then…we now have to come back to terms that this is a movie.

Tiring.

Tiring to interact with people who still see him as an actor. And as an actor who acts in movies.

And then to see some reviewer say ‘his age is beginning to show’. I wanted to laugh out loud. Like the way Rajini laughs. I only want to ask him ‘where or when was he trying to hide it?’

“He’s not moving in the same speed. Not picking up the guns with the same swiftness.”

Now show me a 60 something man doing that with even half that speed. Fuck that. Show me a 20 something anybody who does that with one hundredth of that swag or style.

Infact he adds a whole new body language. That I think is nuance.

Chuck it.

Ok…now coming back to what if ‘Kabali’ were a movie.

After the previous two disasters, Rajini has understood the dangers of the tried and tested. The very idea that he now stars in a movie like this sends out a strong signal that he’s moved on.

Rajini has chosen a guy with right kind of sensibilities.

Even if he doesn’t have the right sense.

Pa Ranjith’s desire of seeing Rajini as a menacing gangster who probably should have been in ‘lock stock and two smoking barrels’, is absolutely mind blowing.

The mind-blowing part of Ranjith pretty much ends there. And is then taken over by Santosh Narayan.

Santosh is sensible enough to understand that all the bullshit that Ranjith serves and all the awesomeness that Rajini radiates, needs a separation.

His job is now then to become a guide of sorts to bring our attention back to the screen at the right moments.

Which comes in the form of a siren. A siren that summons us back. A siren that has been programmed to release the dormant endorphins within our bodies..asking us to drop our popcorn, leave our phones alone, stop our pee midway and rush back in time to succumb ourselves to the God on screen.

Kabali_2834894fAnd It is in these parts where Rajini takes it upon himself to more than make up for the mistakes committed by his mere mortal crew.

It’s only then when it strikes us.

That we were here only for him. Nothing else matters.

Chennai teaches us everything

Don’t give fodder to the North Indian South Indian divide debate. 
Don’t give fodder to the politicians about how they branded stuff with Amma stickers. 
Don’t react to the photoshopped Modi’s picture about how the central government tick marked its duties. 
Don’t give fodder to the bad infrastructure the city has. 
Don’t give fodder to that channel that sensationalised the disaster with bad graphics. 
Don’t give fodder to the looters at Cuddalore who waylaid the relief trucks. 
Don’t give fodder to the insensitive tweets by the so called representatives of the North Indian community. 
Don’t give fodder to the media that woke up so late.
Don’t give fodder to the Rajdeep Sardesai’s guilt trip of the media.
Don’t give fodder to the memes that compare this to the Paris disaster. 
Don’t give fodder to any superstar’s retweet of your concerns. 
Don’t give fodder to celebrate any star’s humanitarian efforts to bring about a change. 
Don’t give fodder to encourage postmortem debates on the situation you are all dealing with. 
You need nothing of the above right now. Because you are right now making the entire world realise what humanity truly means. 
We are learning from you. Every single Minute. 

Truly inspired. Respect. 

Yeah Summer holidays

This is my fourth day of my long holiday. 14 more days to go. I am back to doing nothing. Something that i love doing.

I am in the mood of appreciating things. So, this post is all about things that have made me feel nice. I am choosing to be random in this one, since I am on a holiday of random things.

I’ve already watched five films.

Masoom. Hadn’t seen this till date. Am feeling foolish that I have spent a good part of my life without this being inside my brain. Had I seen it earlier, I would not have noticed Jugal Hansraj walking like a Dinosaur, a walk that he has been made to practice to perfect the role of looking innocent. I might have not found the littlest kid screechy, and would have joined a happy bunch of fat ladies who find such notorious pesky creatures, cute. I can almost visualise some aunty from delhi spilling her popcorn on her chiffon and going ‘haay, kitni cute hai bachchi, bilkul apni Pinky ki tarah.’, pinching Pinky’s cheek beside her and getting her to rehearse ‘lakdi ki kaati’ for the talents day in her apartment block. But in spite of becoming a over cynical product of advertising, I still loved the film. The story is charming, and I slowly realise why Shabana is who she is. It’s sad that Shekhar Kapur has diverted his attention to larger subjects of lesser importance. Gulzar is at his schizophrenic best, penning an absolutely charming song, stringing together words that are absolute fun to utter ‘sabzi mandi, tag bag tag bag, dum uthaake dauda’.  The lyrics are so perfectly meaningless, that it could give the guys at Disney Pixar a thousand ideas. And then switching over to a soul searching number ‘Tujhse naraaz nahin zindagi’, with such versatile adaptability that it makes sense to different situations in your life.

Trainspotting. Hmmm….a typical ad guys typical favourite. It has all the elements in it to massage your ego. Weird characters, crazy cuts, bizarre philosophies and banned substances. I liked it. All the techniques of story telling. The characterizations. The supreme use of camera. Ya…but what. In fact, stories of such kind are so predictably unpredictable, that you know from the beginning that this is not going to follow the path of your mind. Caters to an audience who are in perpetual quest of topics that challenge their imagination. I cannot think of reasons to store this in my memory.

Scoop. After Vicky Christina Barcelona, I started getting inquisitive about Woody Allen’s work. I had only heard of his sense of humour, but had never seen his films. Saw Vicky, only to see Penelope Cruz. But was amazed with the dialogues. Easily some of the best lines I’ve come across in Hollywood. I love his writing and play with words. So decided to see more of Woody. Got this one called ‘Scoop’. Its such a differently same film. A murder mystery that is funny. Its strange. You are on the edge of your seat, and also laughing. I havent experienced these two emotions coming together in me before. Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johannson and Woody Allen make you not want to see any other character. Brilliantly written. Brilliantly performed.

Idhu Sadhya. A suspense film in kannada that boasts of a fantastic line up. Shankar Nag. Ananth Nag. Revathi. Prabhakar. Devraj. Srinath. Ramesh. Srividya. Disco Shanti. Apparently this film was completed in two days. A record of sorts. That’s what prompted me to watch it. But it’s nothing but a whole load of bull. Garbage packaged in garbage. I seriously wonder why it won so many accolades.

Two days in Paris. I have not seen a film with so much conversation. There is not a second in the film where everyone is quiet. Its a simple story. And so real, you’ll really wonder if it was all shot. Absolute attention to details of everyday behaviour. It is hilarious. Hilariously hilarious. The strange ways of the french and their strange behaviours. An american caught in the middle of this. I am saying it again. Funny as hell.

This world is a damn confusing place

mechanical-headfuck-1346681895Years after, many many years after I have passed out of school, college and every other form of education, I now hear from everyone around that ‘asking’ is the way of learning. It means an undying quest to learn. Someone told me that ‘Jiddu Krishnamoorthy’ is the dude who spreading this new funda.

I like it.

Since nobody told me this when I was in school (not that I had too many questions to ask), let me ask my set of questions before it is too late. My brain is filled with too many questions that is obstructing my day to day life. But not the kind of intelligent questions that Jiddu expects innocent kids to ask, but more stupid ones that are badly hampering my ‘ignorance is bliss’ existence. Questions that only seem to be bothering me, because when I look around, everyone seems damn happy. And if they aren’t, they have a very valid unanswerable existential question to fall back upon, like ‘What is the purpose of my life?’ kind of questions.

Well, till I get my own such brilliant question, I need answers for my stupid ones. So that I can then elevate my brain to higher level problems.

To begin with, now that I’m moving house, after a good seven bloody years, I’m dealing with one question that I can’t hold on to anymore. Why is a rent agreement the way it is? I mean, I cannot believe that lakhs and crores of people are drafting such agreements everyday without a brain haemorrhage.

I really want to meet this man who invented these words. Who the fuck says ‘hereinafter’ or ‘hereinbefore’?. Three words squeezed into one. They take simple words like ‘tenant’ and ‘landlord’ and  make them into lessee’s and lessor’s and squeeze them between un-punctuated threeinone words like hereinbefore and whomsoever and expand this simple negotiation of rent and deposit into a chapter from National Law School syllabus. And then this difficult chapter is then published on a stamp paper. I shudder to think how would they have drafted the Jan Lok Pal Bill. I’m sure it’s drafted with 6-in-1 words. Reason why it’s not getting cleared.

The real estate agent asked me “Saar, should I make agreement in 250 rupees stamp paper or 500?

“What is the difference?”

“Nothing saar. It’s totally your wish. I mean you can even do it even on 100 rupees. But difficult to get 100 rupee stamp paper saar.”

“But what is the advantage of making it on a 500 rupee stamp paper?”

“Saar…like that no advantage and all saar. It is totally dependent on you. Whatever you wish….but better 1000 rupee stamp paper saar.”

“Why?”

“Safer saar.”

Now, the only question that remains in my head is “Should I ponder over this or not?”. In the limited time that I have in this world, is this a question that is worth taking on or should I rather invest that time on ‘Bob Dylan’s lyrics’ and try to figure out what was he exactly trying to say in all his songs. Which would give me more fruitful results?

But honestly, how many of such basic questions can I procrastinate? I still need to set aside some time to think about why did they fuck our heads in school teaching us that the locomotive organ of amoeba is pseudopodia. I’ve been dying to use this piece of information ever since I gathered it. OR what really is the use of ‘Homo Sapiens’ when the whole world has come to terms with ‘Human Beings’? Was it some kind of a prank by some Latin bloke who is trying to preserve his language from going totally extinct.

I guess it would mean wasting reams and reams of paper by printing new text books. Which probably is more costly than this mistake. And on the stamp paper problem it would mean many typists, xerox people, real estate agents etc. would be out of a job if it weren’t so complicated. I have no choice than to simplify this in my head. While I’ve found my own coping mechanism to deal with these I still can’t find answers to some others which are eating me up alive.

images (1)Like the PNR. If it is the most important shit that most airline chaps, travel agents and world in general is keen about, why the fuck is it hidden away in some corner. And sometimes not even mentioned. Ha ha…did you know that PNR means Passenger Name Record. The airline way of making it seem all important, formal and crap. Actually I haven’t understood why is there no standard format for an air ticket. This seems like too small a crib, but it’s bigger than the ‘Homo Sapiens’ problem because it affects your life. Your day-to-day life. Because that guard who stops you to check your ticket at the entrance of the airport is groping all over the place. Just to figure out 3 things. Your name and where and when the fuck are you going? And just because this information is all over the place, he is too. And you are just standing in that queue wondering if you’ll make it. Or are you going to hear a Hollywoodish dialogue ‘Sorry, the captain has already signed the papers.”

I mean things that need to be big and bold need to be big and bold. and in a place where the eye can reach without wandering all over. Like in my newspaper, if only the date appeared big and bold then I wouldn’t be reading about Schumacher retiring and wondering why he keeps on retiring.

Talking about ‘difficult to read things’, the next in my hit list is manufacturing dates in that smudgy black ink. You first spend time in figuring out where the fuck is it tucked away? On the lid, under the carton, beside the price or some random corner…you then spend time figuring out if the 8 is a 8 or a 6, if the 4 is 1 or 7, or if 3 is an 8. And once you’ve locked in on your guess you then search for the expiry date that is hidden away in some other random place. ‘Best before 8 months from manufacture.’ Now that’s a good two minutes of my life which I could have spent listening to Raahat Fateh Ali Khan’s new track in Dedh Ishqiya which I have still not got the time to listen to, because I don’t have that 2 minutes.

images (2)I have just discovered that I am not busy. It’s just that the world is making me spend my time on the most futile shit. Spending it on getting OTPs for online transactions, registering my details on every stupid site, sorting my spam mail, trying to block linked-in mails, figuring out why there are 77 buttons on my TV remote, trying to reach customer care by jabbing 1 and then 4 and then 3 and then 5 and then 7 and then 8 and finally 9 to speak to the service advisor, inventing new passwords for expiring passwords, waiting for waiters, waiting for waiters to bring your order and then waiting for the bill and then waiting for the change, finding charging points for my phone, trying to figure out the private settings on facebook, opening a bubblegum, trying to separate the wrapper from bubblegum, searching for a bin to dispose the wrapper and then searching for a bin to dispose the bubblegum, and waiting for ads to finish on youtube, advance searching on google…I am sure that there is a good Al Pacino film waiting to be discovered by me in this time.

And in the meanwhile there are other questions that are threatening to baffle my innocent mind..

Why is an air conditioner measured in tonne’s when it should actually be the square feet it can cover?

Why is a refrigerator measured in litres…when it should be measured by size?

How can anyone buy a headphone without being able to try it before buying?

first-world-problems-internet-memeWhy is a Pepsi fridge-pack bottle-shaped and not square-shaped like Real juice to fit into your refrigerator? Or at least have a more stable bottom so that it doesn’t topple down every time I even tip-toe beside it.

Why don’t darshinis sell idlis in the evening?

And Colgate says ‘cavity protection’ on its pack. Shouldn’t it be ‘protection from cavities’?

All kids-wear brands have sizes in 18 to 24 months and then it jumps to size 4 to 5 years. So do 3 year olds have to walk naked or in oversized clothes?

How can they have a fall collection and spring collection in India when those seasons don’t exist here?

And for what joy does the Airtel ebill that has been mailed to my personal id need a password? Who would want to pay my bill?

Why is the word ‘curd’ not there in any default dictionary in a mobile phone? Okay, they call it yoghurt? Then why the fuck don’t they call ‘tofu’, bean yoghurt?

And thinking of curds, why does no ‘Set Dahi’ brand have a lid to seal it back instead of making us suffer by trying to precariously tear open that stupid silver foil and then reseal it?

What is 12 at night? Am or PM?

I have a Samsung A/c that has an anti-bacteria button. If it’s a feature in the A/C, why should I press a button to activate it? Under what circumstances would I not want anti-bacteria air?

Who is this man in the universe who can teach us how to exactly rip open an alpenliebe candy from its wrapper?

How can you call it ‘Food World’ and then sell soaps and brooms?

What the fuck can I do with a Aadhar card that I can’t do without?

If home theatres are sold with 5 output speakers and 7 output speakers, then what is 5.1 and 7.1? Why waste that ‘.’ and that ‘1’?

Why is the ‘domestic’ airport of Mumbai called Chatrapathi Sivaji International Airport?

Why do hotels make a big deal of their ‘welcome drink’ which is some shitty Fanta, and put ‘complimentary’ tags on their 12 rupee water bottles when they charge 10k a night? And not have latches in their bathrooms and faucets in their loos.

first-world-problems-19

I know these are first world problems and are way down in the list below ‘why is there war?’ or ‘deforestation should be stopped’ kind of problems.

But I’ll wait for my turn.

In the meanwhile I read this on the internet.”whatever material they made that ‘black box’ with, why the fuck can’t they make the entire airplane with that shit?”

I want to find out who wrote that and make him the president of the world.

The lonely roller coaster ride-part 2

Kannan, his assistant and I bundled into an Omni along with Kannan’s paraphernalia, looking like an ad for Omni’s spacious interiors. He had brought enough equipment to shoot the flora and fauna of The Amazon. I was feeling disgusted that all this drama was for some crappy brochure. I felt guilty. And I’d have stopped myself from feeling that way if I knew that this guilt would slowly graduate to pity.

I had spent a lot of time hating Kannan and had gotten bored, so just for variation I changed it from hatred to pity for a little while.

After all he was just a passionate guy going about his job. I had no reason to be pissed off.

The journey to Niladri amusement park was about 2 hours. I had stayed awake the previous night thinking about ‘what the fuck to talk about during the journey’ and had narrowed down on a few topics that could maybe work.

“So you like Bollywood?” I started with my favorite topic.

“No”

With this answer Kannan had straightaway knocked out the conversations I had planned for half the journey.

This left me with only two other topics. ‘How did I land up in advertising?’ or ‘How did he land up in photography?’.

I instinctively knew that he cared two hoots about the first one. And I was scared approaching the second.

So I saved them for later. And spent time looking out of the window at Shilpa Medicals and Chandu Tailors and New Modern Hair Drassars and other shop boards to keep myself occupied. Kannan kept polishing his lenses one by one throughout the journey. And Kannan’s assistant polished them again before packing them back in their cases. I wish they’d let me polish them too since they made it look so engrossing.

I waited till we hit the highway. The sign boards were fewer. And I had memorized every pattern of the seats inside the van. And Kannan had finished polishing every single spare part in his bag.

I decided to launch the topic that I had kept reserved.

“So Kannan, how did you end up being a photographer?”

Kannan’s adam’s apple moved up and down to clear the lump in his throat. And he looked like he was going to burst into tears.

“I believe that destiny chooses you. Not you choose your destiny.”

By the time I could find the connection between the answer and the question, the driver jammed his brakes for a speed breaker. Kannan gave me a look which made me feel the need to probe further to unearth the wisdom in those lines.

“So how did it all happen?”

“I thought I just told you”

“Ok…destiny chose you….how?”

“Ask destiny”

I had half a mind to tell him “Fuck it man. I wish I had destiny as my companion. Instead I have you…so cock up and answer.” but “Ha ha…you are so right” is all that I could say for the sake of that shitty brochure that was on my lap waiting to transform itself into an artwork in two days.

“I hope there is someone there to guide us” Kannan spoke to the roof of the vehicle.

“Ya. I guess while destiny always chooses a different path it still expects us to be its guide.” I replied trying to sound as close to the lyrics of his favorite song.

“I’m talking about Niladri Park…is there someone out there to guide us?”

“Oh…ok…ya there is someone.”

That’s the problem of being an AE. People think you have no right to intrude into worldly wise discussions. You are not allowed to speak anything outside of your joblist.

My pity for him ended and I reverted to the initial emotion.

I hated Kannan. And I could not admit that I hated Kannan. Just like I could not admit that I hated that brochure. That client. My job. Niladri Water Park. The Omni I was travelling in. The driver who kept jamming his brakes. And Kannan’s assistant’s red ears. NO. My job was to not just conceal my hatred but also make it seem we were off bungee jumping to the alps.

“I think the shoot will be fun, don’t you think so?” It sounded like shit after I said it.

”      ” kannan replied.

I spent some time remembering motivational quotes on perseverance and hard work and positive attitude and other such jazz written by people who were lucky enough to escape from it.

These self development techniques helped me kill some time before we reached the amusement park that was waiting for the jokers to arrive.

Niladri opened its gates for the first time to any visitor. It was still under completion though most of the rides were already installed.

Kannan got straight to work. He inspected the tiles in close quarters and mid quarters with some yogic poses.

And I inspected the rides in the amusement park in close quarters, mid quarters and more quarters than Kannan examined the tiles. According to me my job was over. The next job in my list was to arrange lunch. Ofcourse I had other parental tasks of calling the client periodically to assure him that his brochure was being looked after.

So while Kannan was unpacking his 967 items, out of which only 2 or 3 were needed, I took a stroll around the amusement park.

There was a water slide. And another massive roller coaster with a track that took you to a great height and then plunged into a pool of water. And a giant tora tora. And some dashing boats. And some other exciting rides.

It was empty with not a soul in sight. I returned from this little investigation back to the most boring spot in the location. The part where Kannan stood.

He looked like a killjoy amidst all these joy rides. I sat down nearby watching him assemble his camera that had more parts than a Lego toy.

Kannan’s assistant was handing him over the parts one by one. And then I suddenly remembered that I had never heard his voice. I didn’t know how it sounded. Did he have a booming voice inside that skeleton? Or was his voice squeaky?

I tried exploring this pastime and went up to him.

“Are you hungry?’

He nodded his head in a manner that could have meant a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ or a ‘I hate you because my boss hates you’.

“Shall I get something to eat?”

He repeated the same action.

He had no idea how important it was for me to hear his voice. I took a special interest in him. I relied on his company for the rest of the day.

Kannan barked back ‘no we have eaten’ which sounded like ‘leave us alone’.

I walked back and took a seat in the parapet.

Kannan had finally finished assembling half of his father’s earnings. And took the aperture readings.

And he suddenly started to look gloomy.

I was worried, and then I realised that it was not him this time, but the weather.

Kannan looked above, and before he could start weeping, the skies broke open and it began to rain.

Kannan’s assistant dived and rescued the machine as Kannan and me ran for cover.

It poured and poured like mad. And the three of us stood under a nearby ledge that extended about 5 ft.

The next shelter was around 500 meters away.

We watched the rain like we were watching a movie. Kannan stood in the corner balancing himself from not getting drenched and at the same time making sure he did not brush against any part of my body.

“Oh no. What rains!” I restarted conversation.

Silence.

“This is crazy”

Silence

“I mean it was so sunny and suddenly such rains. This is crazy.”

Silence.

I had found a new relief with this popular topic of bonding. The weather. And still noone wanted to participate. I had never seen this topic fail so miserably before. I continued trying to save the interestingness of rains.

“I hope we will be able to complete the shoot”

Silence

“Outdoor shoots are so risky. You can never tell.”

Silence

“Wow. Such nice weather. It would be great to have some hot tea.”

Silence

“The trees look so beautiful in the rains”

Silence

I tried cutting the weather in every possible angle. But nothing seemed to work.

Kannan put a cigarette in his mouth and reached out for a matchbox. His matches were wet. And I had a lighter in my pocket. I waited for him to ask me.

Kannan kept smoking his unlit cigarette. And I took out my lighter and tried lighting it up for him. And the lighter failed. And so did the opportunity of bringing back conversation into our stupid lives.

Being cramped in that space, every minute felt like an hour. And suddenly Kannan spoke.

“Do you realize?”

“Realize what?”

“Probably even God is in disagreement. This is his way of making us realize that we are doing something wrong. And that’s why He’s stopping us from doing it.”

Approximately 6 blood vessels burst inside my head. I thought that the battle was over. But Kannan’s brain was severely damaged.

“So what do you want to shoot?’

“Nothing. I don’t think we have given this enough thought. I can promise you that I will not be able to give you a picture that I’m satisfied with.”

“Ok. So give me one that you aren’t satisfied with.”

“Listen pal, this is not just a camera. It does not take pictures. It is a machine that paints my imaginations. I worship it. And I will not misuse it.”

It was only then I realised that Kannan was not suicidal. He had a strong desire to be murdered.

“You should not have taken up this project if you weren’t convinced.”

“Yes. You are right. I should not have taken up this project.”

“So is the shoot cancelled?’

“No. I will give you what you want. But I will take no money from you.”

I had no idea how to respond to this philanthropic offering. It was too long a journey to go searching for my conscience. It was the first thing that had been frisked off me when I took up this job.

So I tried dealing with the situation without one.

“Ok. Cool.”

It also sounded cool.

The rain suddenly stopped like God was in agreement with this settlement.

And Kannan got back to work. And started setting up all over again.

“Now you decide what you want me to shoot? And I’ll just shoot it.”

I think that line was meant to move me to tears and make me grovel with shame.

“Ok”

“Oh. So you’re ok.”

“Yes. I’m Ok with that.”

And Kannan continued setting up his imagination painting machine.

But the rain had created puddles all over. And we had to wait for it to dry up.

With silence as company.

Kannan’s assistant and me yawned at each other. Even with this, Kannan made sure to not bond by suppressing the yawns inside his elongated face.

A horrible looking frog hopped by making me notice his species after a long time. I started to fall in love with the frog.

I followed it like an inquisitive seeker to get away from the situation.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

“What’s this?’ I asked the first human being I spotted in the environment after a long time.

“It’s a water slide” the human being replied. The human being was an employee of Niladri water park, whose job was to hang around till the water park declared itself open to public. He looked bored. I looked bored. And we kept giving the ‘so what do we do?’ type look to each other.

“This trolley goes up all the way, and then comes down in full speed and plunges into this pool of water” The human being explained the funda behind the contraption.

It sounded exciting. I was getting tempted. But wasn’t sure if this was the right time to indulge in any form of entertainment. Kannan had so badly infected the air with his funereal mood strongly banning any form of joy from entering the premises.

But I also got a strange joy from seeing him depressed. I had had enough. This was one of those rare moments where I could slip into joy without being noticed. I had no boss around. I had no client around. It was like ‘Joy’ was making me a limited period offer.

“Want a ride?” the human being asked me noticing the deprivation of happiness in my life.

I nodded.

Kannan, his assistant and the tiles surrounding him zoomed out in my vision as I sat in the trolley that took me high up above. I realized that sometimes true joy meant distancing yourself from depression more than anything else.

I sat there in a roller coaster, all by myself, with the wind blowing on my face. The world beneath me looked like a tiny speck. As an AE, I had no option but to take refuge in these momentary metaphorical delusions of life. I felt like a king.

I could faintly hear Kannan’s assistant screaming something below.

The trolley now reacted to gravity and all the weight that was weighing me down got thrown around in a blur. As I momentarily freed myself away from deadlines, clients, brochures, creativity and other such idiotic entrapments.

It was the most exhilarating feeling. I screamed loudly in a decibel that would have matched a fully loaded roller coaster. I felt happy to be probably the only man who went on a roller coaster ride all alone.

Splash.

I had water all over my face and body. I was cleansed from the misery that this project brought along with it.

Suddenly I cared a fuck about anything and everything that I was responsible for.

I could hear Kannan’s assistant louder and clearer now.

He stood beside me mumbling some crap. It took a while before I could make out what he was saying.

“Sir, Boss says that if you are not there he will have to bill you for this project.”

“So, let him bill me.”

Yes. I realized that Kannan was taking me on a ride. But he had no clue how much I enjoyed it.

One small love is all it takes

“It’s Valentine’s.”

There’s a tone of voice attached to that…like ‘hey, It’s party time’.

There used to be a time when it mattered to ‘Us’. ‘Us’ is a club of losers who remained single whatever shit you did, however hard you tried. Which I think is now a fast vanishing tribe. Everyone seems to be hooked up. And if they are not, it only means that they have managed to get out of one. And back in the game.

But to Us it was more like ‘Shit, it’s Valentine’s man…again.”

It was something strange that came from nowhere and hit us. Probably leaked along with a pair of Nike shoes and Toblerone Chocolates that some rich bum brought back with him, after visiting his cousin in the US. And unleashed on innocent folks like Us who suddenly had to buck up and find ways to be a part of this cool thing.

Nobody had a freaking clue of what this was all about. And when we did, the pressure started to build. And to add to it was the ‘Archies Gallery’ chaps who flaunted red banners outside their hideous looking shops, stuffed with so much mush that could even make Cyrus Broacha turn romantic.

Inside ‘Archies’ was…..broadly two sections. The “Will you be my Valentine?” section and the ‘To my Valentine” section. Obviously the first one was more crowded with more people and lesser cards. And even more obviously, we’d be the ones standing there, peeping on to the other section, scanning the faces of the fellows there, and wondering what part of ours went wrong.

The florists would stock up bunches of red roses and sell them at prices of gold. All for some miscellaneous chick to chuck it back at your face. Or take it out of pity, or worse still because she considers you like a brother. The concept was new, and so the confusion gave birth to some strange cases. Suddenly, Valentines started to double up for Rakhi…another occasion to express brotherly love. Conveniently, some of them refused to get the simple concept that brothers don’t buy roses for sisters, especially paying a hundred bucks for a bunch.

We expected bombs in return but we only ended up spending one.

The love in the air funda got all that air by borrowing the wind it took off Us.

So, like what most would refer to as cheap loafers on the street, we roamed around with a bunch of cards and roses and chocolates and speeded away in some random direction, looking purposeful, and expecting…..well nothing. When you do that for 3 years in a row, it kind of becomes an accepted practice that this is a festival to give love and not necessarily get it back.

The fever would start about a week before the event. It was more or less a day to realize that noone in the world gives a fuck about you. And it reaches a finality when the clock strikes 12:01 on Feb 15th. Ya, we’d secretly hope for miracles to happen and give it time till the last second of that night.

But it was sadder for those who had a date. It’s like, if it’s Christmas and there is only one Christian in your gang, everyone would go out together so that he can celebrate his Christmas. The same concept was extended to this festival too…so about 5 of us would tag ourselves to that one lone couple in the gang, and follow them everywhere…..or atleast till the entrance of “Time and Again’ disco at Brigade Road. A disc that reminded us time and again that it’s entry for ‘couples only’. So the 5 singletons would be identified and stopped at the entrance, and the only couple in the gang would make their way inside and we’d stand there to get a glimpse of how ‘hundred inflated heart shaped balloons’ looked like together. The thick door would slam shut the voice of a dozen chicks going berserk to a remix of ‘Unbreak my heart’. And we’d scatter away in different directions, because it was still better to be spotted being single alone, than being singles in plural.

What’s even more disgusting is if you are playing mediator. Or Cupid. Or stupid. The chap who has nothing better to do than transport love notes and other love accessories between two lovers. Between the guy you hate, and the girl you wanted to date.

The only way to play that role is to find every possible way to convince yourself that the girl is ‘not so hot’ afterall. And the guy is an asshole who deserved no better. It’s a lonely training session between yourself and yourself.

And yes!! This is also the day when you realize that among all the people you know, there are more numbers in your gender than the other. The women you knew were the same women everyone else knew. And you spend a good week lowering your expectations and then realize that the even the one at the bottom of your list is taken. Either by some mysterious boyfriend, her parents, her grandparents or some aunt who lives in an unreachable address.

And then there was this disgusting series of ‘Everlasting Love songs…Volume 1 to Volume 28”. Loaded with numbers by Boyz II Men, Boyzone and other nauseating boys who wailed in heart wrenching pitches, waiting to be ejected out of your tape deck and passed on to some lovestruck chick you are unable to locate. But the tapes remained with us. Till they got twisted and tangled and strangled and the same boys now dragged and cried in unbearable variations.

I still remember the junk. “I’ve been waiting for a girl like you’ by Foreigner. Or ‘End of the Road’ by Boyz II Men. In pink, mauve and purple covers with sickening graphics of flowers and silhouettes of men and women by the sunset, that resembled the posters on the walls of some ‘Welcome Lodge’. We’d sing along with these pricks who were still pretending to be boys, alone in the afternoons in some locked up room, to some imaginary women, who never surfaced. And then these tapes later became embarrassing pieces in our music collection.

And movies like Maine Pyar Kiya and Dil and QSQT would release around the same time, mind fucking us a little more. I am sure that this Bokadia chap and his variety were even bigger asses of their generation than we were in ours. They packaged all their fantasies and passed it on to us and we followed it like a text book. And we’d watch these, replacing the heroine with some hazy woman in our heads, so that we could replicate whatever the Khans were teaching us to do. We never found them…and we’d sleep better that night by concluding that it was actually ‘them who are not finding us’ or some such idiotic theory.

You don’t have a Valentine, you are uncool. And if you are uncool, you don’t get a Valentine. It was a loop that you could never get out of.

Now the scene is different. Everyone single takes learnings from those going around. And remain skeptical. It’s almost cool to be single now.

We never had anyone around to take any learnings from. And if anyone fucked up, we were more than willing to step in and correct it all.

There was no commitmentphobia or jack like that. We could have been committed to a tree.

We’d spend sleepless nights thinking of every possible reason for ‘how did that jerk of an asshole of a ‘the latest bad word’ land up with a chick like that??????’

It’d have been fine if we had not seen all those miraculous cases, where some dumb looking dodo would zip past us with the hottest chick clinging on to his designer shirt from ‘Sona’s Men’s Favorite Shop’. These chaps kicked back the hope within. And we’d follow them on our mopeds on this mission armed with love ammunitions and take the longest possible route to nowhere.

On the night of Valentine’s, all the bums would gather  again to discuss the fundamental reasons for failure. More or less a summary of everything that they have analyzed over the week that passed by….

“You need a bike man…that’s the problem.”

“Balls man. You need dough.”

“No man…It’s not that…the bottom of it is that we are truly ‘fucked up’.

Now when I see a million women sending pink chaddis, I can’t help but wonder where were they all then?

The problem now seems to have taken a different turn….. noone’s allowing these poor lovemakers to dance beyond 11:00 pm and spread the message of love.

How I wish we were blessed with such agonies!!

Happy Valentine’s Day.