Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Pardon my self-indulgence

But I was bubbling to say this. This weekend was spent at Hyderabad, and the aim was to run the Hyd half-marathon on Sunday. The stay was very comfortable, courtesy the wonderful hospitality of Raghu's parents and extended family.

Although both Raghu and I were scared because the starting time was 6am and we only had three hours of sleep the previous night, but we somehow made it just five minutes late. The marathon itself was pathetically organized (bad medicinal+water infrastructure), but the run itself was great and there were only 200 odd runners in the half-marathon, with no Kenyans/Ethiopians to spoil the party.

Both of us managed to vastly improve our personal best, clocking 2 hrs 9 mins each. As Raghu rightly mentioned, we managed to finish within twice the winner's time, and thats a mean achievement!

I will stop now before I lose any more readers.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Only in India

For every smart person in this country, a hundred morons are born to level the equation back to zero.
Consider this hypothetical situation. A guy takes his 10 year old son to a multiplex. But mistakenly, they enter the wrong theatre where the movie has already started. Soon, a couple of adult scenes come up on the screen. Now after the usual reaction of shock and awe, much publicized by Bush in Iraq, the father has the following options:

a) Sit through the movie as if nothing has happened.
b) Walk out of the movie with his son, and ignore this incident.
c) Sue the multiplex for letting a kid enter an auditorium that is screening R-rated movies.
d) File a case with the authorities, asking for the immediate termination of the multiplex as it is showing content that goes against the 'great' Indian heritage.

Now a bold father would go for (a) (I wish my dad was this cool), and a sensible one would go for (b). A slightly firebrand father would accept (c). And remember the moron I talked about earlier? Yes, idiots of those kind would go for (d). I hope that you would agree that anyone who opts for (d) is a Darwin-award qualifier for surviving evolution inspite of nowhere being the smartest.

Now let us replace the hypothetical situation with a real one. Replace 'multiplex' by Orkut, 'movies' by Orkut communities, 'adult content' by an obscure Anti-Shivaji community, and the moronic father figure by this wonder of evolution called 'Subodh Balsaraf'. Yes, he discovered the said community, and has filed a PIL in the high-court, seeking immediate banning of Orkut in India. More details here.

In the not-too-distant past, the Indian government matched such an act with a flawlessly stupid performance of their own --- blocking blogspot for a few days. So this has me worried, because the fate of my 12554 'frenship' requests now hangs in a delicate balance.

I will not go into the details of the dozens of fallacies in Mr. Balsaraf's case. They are too many and too obvious --- freedom of expression, obscure community, low Orkut penetration, American website, state-sponsored censorship and so on.

Just makes me think that is Shivaji's stature so fragile that nincompoops like Mr. Balsaraf have to constantly defend it using such means? Sadly, it seems so.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Of tippers and tippees

Ok ok I admit the last word is made up. But I am talking about one of the great pillars of the Indian cultural heritage --- bakhsheesh a.k.a. 'tip'. Like every good son, I too celebrate Diwali at home with my family. Now, my folks live in Lucknow, which is pretty much a provincial town, the new Pijja Hut and Cafe Coffeeday notwithstanding. Ya ya, I know, a metro doth not a Cafe make, but I guess you know what I am trying to say. The bakhsheesh syndrome (BS) is in full swing in such towns during such occasions.

A few days before any major festival like the D-day, there is palpable BS in the air. Hordes of wannabe and veteran tippees start popping up all over the neighbourhood, like dengue cases in Delhi. They come in all colors and shapes too. You have the postman, the garbageman, the bai, the 23 peons in sarkari offices (my dad is a bank manager in a nationalized bank), the driver, the Blue Dart courier delivery kid, the watchman and so on. Every year, I find a whole new genre of tippees showing up at my folks' house.

Now as all of you know, the tipping process is a three-way handshake. First, the tippee initiates the courting process, where he/she sends out pheromones to allure the tipper. The second phase is when the tipper acknowledges that he/she too feels the same way and the third phase deals with the negotiation and transfer of the tip.

The courting phase is usually almost silent, with all signals exchanged aankho-hi-aankho-mein. I say "almost silent", because, usually phlegm is always involved. For example, the postman shows up to deliver a greeting card from my relative, and then lingers, all the while coughing his lungs out in order to convey his desire for the tip. I part with some of my money, just to keep a safe distance from him. The courier kid is pretty savvy in this aspect. He acts coy, flutters his eyebrows, smiles and tells me that he has come 200 metres out of his way, in the afternoon, just to deliver my junk mail. This ploy always works with me, because I get all weak-kneed and get entangled in throes of passion with him, also involving a 20-rupee note.

The garbageman and the watchman usually do not believe in a silent exchange of vows. They show up at the door and go "SHOW ME THE MONEY!!" (politely ofcourse), as if the Lord himself has chosen them to be tipped on the holi day. Nothing wrong with that, its quick, simple and effective. But lacks that element of romance and elusion, the playing-hard-to-get feeling, which is very essential in a relationship between a tipper and a tippee. It is very important for love and money to co-exist, if you ask me.

Then comes the mothership of all tippees -- yes, thats right! The bai. Unlike the watchman and the courier-kid, this one doesn't have to indulge in any foreplay or dirty-talk to get her tip (Ya I know what you are thinking, you SICKO!, it doesn't mean that). It is tacit that the day before Diwali, she is going to get a big load of gifts from my mom. This time, I was fortunate enough to witness the holy transaction. It involved a saree, two boxes of sweets, a packet of almonds and some trinkets. The goodwill, the bonhomie was too much for me to handle and I had to turn towards my computer-game, lest they see my tears of joy. A happy home is definitely one where the parents and the bai live in perfect symbiotic harmony.

Apart from the fine gentlemen and ladies who comprise the class of tippees, we have the extortionists who take undue advantage of the situation (ya i know, the word "undue" is unduly used). These are usually members of some vague mandir committee, who wish to construct a western style toliet in the temple compound, for the squatting pleasure of the priest. These people show a matter-of-fact attitude, as if my wallet really belongs to the Lord (Hindus say there are 84 crores of them, so which one?). Then begins the stare game, where I try to act macho and unyielding, but something about the triple-stripe tilak on their foreheads convinces me that they will break my bones if I don't pay up.

The other kind of extortionists usually consist of some people representing an orphanage, who soul-stirringly explain how the orphans will celebrate a dark diwali unless I fork out fifty bucks. All fine and good, except that the orphanage's name has three spelling errors, and there is no register, which makes me suspect the entire operation. Sometimes they do end up taking my hard earned dough, but mostly, I too give an Oscar-winning performance on the lines of "Aapke sahyogi [colleague] aaye the, unko hum de chuke hain. Diwali ki shubh-kaamnaayein".

The final kind of tippees comprise of the lucky ones, who usually are not looking to get involved, but circumstances throws them into the relationship. Allow me to elaborate. In the few days after Diwali, somehow there usually is some electrical and/or plumbing problem with the house, which requires minor repairs. The repairmen show up and do their task diligently. Now before they leave, and here comes the good part, my mom usually shows up with a box of cashews for them to take home. Strictly, this is not a tip, because they don't ask for it, and we don't grudge giving it. But the sight of a quintal of dry fruits and a ton of barfis as gifts is enough to break the strongest of us. Strong enough for my mom atleast.

I hope I have convinced you of the rich cultural heritage we carry, and as a sign of being patriotic, I hereby request you...ahem! ahem! (cough) shell out a buck or two whenever you read my blog.

PS: I thought I had seen it all, but a week after Diwali, my Delhi-waala garbageman showed up for a tip. It was also the first time he had offered to pick up the garbage of my house. I told him that I am flattered, but I am already seeing someone. Fidelity is important to me.