Archive for December, 2006

come over to the dork side

December 29, 2006

i was a bad kid in school. not “mischievious but makes up for it by doing well academically”, because that makes you popular. i was plain-bad. mediocre as far as grades went, and not particularly liked by either the other kids, or by teachers. although i played a lot (basketball and athletics) and hung out with some of the sporty sorts, it was a tenuous affiliation at best, because i never really identified with them. to tell the truth, i was a dork.

there are no real dorks in indian schools, the kind you find in schools in America. social awkwardness and a discomfort with all things non-geek are essential requirements for being a dork. in india, kids who put up science projects in school exhibitions and memorize the capitals of the world by heart are much more likely to be academically superb teacher’s pets, those supremely confident literary types who win debates and elocutions and such-like, and in the process, score all the school awards. they are overachieving freaks, not dorks. real dorks are not popular.

i loved reading science fiction. i had read almost all of Asimov by the time i was 12, i knew my sagans from my arthur c clarkes. Later i consumed the dune series, star wars, all of david eddings and terry pratchett and robert jordan. the latest on this list is the stargate series, for which i have developed a newfound addiction.

To add to my dorky kid cred, i was terrified of public speaking. The mother tried to convince to enter into some elocution shit as a kid, and i froze so badly on stage that someone had to come and physically remove me. i was also very, *very* awkward with girls. (S, the class goddess and now a friends wife, once had to tell me she was not going to eat me up. she’d asked me for the time, and i got so nervous i couldn’t read my watch right.)

You can be a dork too. Social awkwardness is essential, but it can easily be faked. A liking for sci-fi cannot be faked, although it will take you a long way in becoming a dork. But *knowledge* of sci-fi can be faked. Go through this list and see how you measure up. Answers in a few days. if you care, you can drop me a mail at geek.fin@gmail.com with your answers.

1. Where do the terms goa’uld and tok’ra come from? Props if you know the difference between the two.

2. Complete these lines:

The stars, like dust, encircle me
And bathe me, with their light
As though all space and time i see,
In one __ __ __ ___

3. House Atriedes is building an army using a secret technique unknown to us, a technique involving ______.

4. I am Queen Amidala, of the _____. (easy one)

5. Who wrote the play “lairënde lómëva lórë“? (this one is easy to reverse engineer)

6. “The wheel weaves as the wheel ____”

7. Who said, “Was there ever a trap to match the trap of love?”

8. When someone succumbs to groupthink, he’s been “assimilated by the ____”

9. Connect symphonic rock, stephen king and “the good, the bad, and the ugly”.

10. Who says “beam me up, scotty”? (think carefully)

Bonus non-sci-fi yet dorky question:
Who was the drummer for Rush? Dream Theater?? (KM: *Don’t* judge me)

An alternative holiday music list

December 27, 2006

december is an annoying and depressing month. as if the fact that the sun sets by the time i wake up in not enough, stores and delis in are full of the tra-la-las and la-di-das and the hallelujahs of irritatingly chirpy christmas music.

it is an especially trying time if you, like me, believe that having to listen to Handel’s Messiah even once is one time too much. but worry not, for there is a whole world of not-so-cheesy christmas music out there. Here’s a list of some of my favorites, along with a few *defining* lines from these songs.

more suggestions are, of course, welcome.

1. “Merry fuckin’ christmas” from South Park

Hey there Mr Hindu, Merry Fuckin’ Christmas
Drink eggnog and eat some beef
and pass it to the missus
In case you haven’t noticed
It’s Jesus’ birthday
So get off your heathen Hindu ass
And fucking celebrate.

2. “Jesus’ brother bob” by The Arrogant Worms

I have to pay the ferry

To cross the Galilee
But not my brother
No not him
He walks across for free.

3. “Twelve Days of christmas” by Boymongoose, an indian-australian band from Brisbane

On the sixth day of christmas, my true love gave to me
Six IT graduates,
Five Indian Games,
Four Hare Krishnas,
Three Butter chickens,
Two Nosy in-laws
and a totally insufficient dowry.

4. “Santa doesnt cop out on dope” by Sonic Youth, indie-gods.

All year long he’s busy making toys
For all the little girls and little boys
He puts them in his sled and gives his whip a crack
On Donder, on Blitzen, but never on smack
Cuz Santa doesn’t cop out on dope!
Has he ever even tried it? Well ya know
The answer’s no!
So little kiddies, here’s my point
Just leave him cookies, and save your joint

5. “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues, featuring a rather attractive and crystal-voiced Kristy MacColl (wait for the ad to finish)

You scumbag you maggot

you cheap lousy faggot
happy christmas your arse
i pray God its our last

Also, these have to be the nuttiest TV ads i have ever seen. Check them out.

a classic minderbender

December 19, 2006

there i two thinks i dont normally do on this blog.

a. i don’t blog drunk.
b. i’ve forgotten what it was.

i’m going to resort to my book of cliches and say that there is a first time for everything. so here’s me, writing a post, accompanied by a glass of macallan 18 year old cask strength with one ice cube to turn it just a tad bit cloudy and condense those aromatics (thanks S, for the bottle, in case you are reading this). coltrane plays in the background since no self respecting bender can be without soothing and warm jazz. perhaps, when the alcohol has dissipated from my bloodstream, i will not even recall writing this post.

whoever told you it was not a good idea to drink copious quantities of alcohol by yourself over an extended period of time, was wrong. a few’s dos and don’ts, though. don’t drink shitty alcohol, treat your tastebuds and your liver with the respect they deserve. i prefer a good single malt. make sure you have lots of water (don’t mix it with the malt, you philistine) and are stocked up on good non-acidic food – to be had during and in the aftermath. also, keep an alka-seltzer ready, in case things get out of hand. tell a friend you are doing this (hello, B). take it easy, don’t force yourself. exercise control. the idea is not to get drunk, but to create a mellow haze and marinate in those thoughts you have been keeping suppressed because they interfere with your functioning.

this bender officially started in the afternoon. my last significant task for the year done, i followed it up with a few rounds beers at the pub, got home, and poured myself a stiff drink. when day turned to night, i drew down the curtains, put on soft lighting, and put my favorite bender playlist on. i have been drinking without break since, but i’m not impaired yet, although i might just go back to sleep to pick up the tread when i wake up in the morning. ah, yes. here’s b.

b. i don’t write “the year in review” posts.

the chinese had a curse that went “May you live in interesting times”. it has become some what of a western catchphrase – it has lost its negative connotaion and is generally thought of as a blessing. trust the goras to seriously bastardize the ‘wisdom’ of the east in this manner.

if you think about it (and since i’m high, i think this is a very profound thought) ‘interesting’ is merely a descriptive word. ‘interesting’ people are fun to be with – they also teach you lots of stuff, about yourself and the world. they are also messed up. that is also the case with interesting times, like the year i just had.

in all the mind-numbingly monotonous years of my quarterlife, this one stands out for the strange combination of love, futility, hopelessness and the good news that it brought. first the good news. it was an incredibly productive year for me. i thoroughly enjoyed the work. my inner maharashtrian stayed low, so i did not have to deal with his laziness and constant whining. it isn’t a happy feeling having him around here, since the most he wants to do, like many maharashtrians, is to live in a flat in pune and take his wife to the cinema on saturdays on his bajaj scooter. the wife rides pillion and the kid stands up front. we want much more than that – and on that front, the year delivered.

i travelled, i hiked a lot ,and checked alaska off my map. it was my 41st US state, in a list that had stagnated at 40 for over a year. i fell in love with the place and made plans to buy some land and have a log cabin there, and was promptly laughed at by my more pragmatic friends. some day, it might happen. practicality isn’t one of my strong points. i also renewed my ties with pommieland.

i did experience love. i also experienced hopelessness. more importantly, i learnt that no matter how strong feelings are, they can sometimes not be enough, and when your instinct tells you that things are unworkable and that you should let go, you let go. Remember that sometimes things do not work for no fathomable reason – not everything is under your control, some questions do not have answers and that the choice not to carry baggage is one that is easily made. Also, know that closure is a made-up word invented by some TV friendly psychotherapist with too many hyper-romantic delusional patients.

I made some new friends, and they’re all the good sorts. i’m binary about people. i give people i like a lot of leeway and people i don’t like none. And once in a while it is good to discover someone who can teach you a thing or two, while being totally cool. three dear friends are on their way to parenthood, and i am very happy for them. yeah, and you are welcome make me babysit your kids when they are a bit older because you ‘tired parents want to go vacation in europe’.

it was a year of achievement, a little growing up and not nearly enough alcohol. and *that* is why i am on a bender.

the house

December 15, 2006

The house straddled an entire block and faced a park to its north. It was bounded by streets on all four sides. over to the right, across one of the streets, was a giant well, used by the municipal corporation to supplement the town’s water supply. It was more a water tank and less of a well, originally built by my great-grandfather when the properties beyond the street were also his. They had been sold off long before I was born, and now served as accomodation for about thirty households. The days of my childhood summers were punctuated by the coming and going of water tankers as they filled up at a small pumping station located at the edge of the well. For entirely unexplainable reasons, this fascinated me, and I spent countless hours sitting by the window closest to the well. Two generations of the clan, including my father, had learnt to swim in that tank. I am told they used old car tyre tubes as flotation aids.

My great-grandfather was a barrister who went on to become judge of the high court. An anglophile, and later in life a born-again orthodox brahmin, he built a house to emulate the mansions of mother england, right there in the dusty plains of India- replete with a big fireplace in the central hall to ward off winter temperatures that went down to a supposedly freezing 6 degrees Celsius. When you entered the main hall, having passed under the mughal style arches of the front verandah, and the big front door that could be fastened shut with big iron bolts much like the door to a castle, the first thing you noticed were the trophies on the walls – chital and a barasingha, from his and my grandfather’s hunts. It was an elegantly furnished room, full of handcrafted wooden recliners, a big octagonal central table, and an old brass telephone.

Above it was the upstairs hall, its walls covered with portraits of seven generations of forefathers, more trophies and two antique guns. As a kid, I was spooked by the upstairs hall, and never went there unaccompanied. Family stories about my long dead great-grandmother who paid visits to the family there only made it worse.

Behind the main hall, and beyond the stairs that led upstairs and to the basement (another eerie place – it was unlit and had a vault with the family jewels), was another verandah that had a swing in it – another favorite place for me to pass time. And then there was the central courtyward at the back with a small well in it, flanked on two sides by the east wing and the west wing of the house. The west wing had the dining hall and the kitchens on the first floor, and bedrooms on the second. The east wing had bedrooms on both floors. Since my great-grandfather had eleven children and he planned it as a home for all generations to come, the house had 35 bedrooms.

His plans never worked out – he himself stayed in a government house in another city even after the house was built, and all his brothers and all but one of his children (my grandfather) flew the nest and settled in other places, and most of those bedrooms were occupied only for a brief period in the 1930’s. By the time i was born, my grandfather had let out the rooms that had independent access to the central courtyard. The others were locked up and left to gather cobwebs. For me, it was fascinating to have G, the head servant of the house open up those rooms one by one and explore them – many of them had never really been cleared out when their original occupants had left – the furniture was shrouded up, and if you pulled off the shrouds, you would see, through clouds of dust, stuff that had been essentially untouched since the thirties.

I remember finding a set of tablas in those rooms once, but nobody could recall whom they belonged to. Even today I like to imagine that the ghosts of my forefathers emerge from their portraits in the upstairs hall, and get together in those rooms in the dead of the night, and reclining on the beautiful wooden beds, have private music recitals, all the while shaking their heads at the things that kids of my generation are up to.

Another exciting discovery was that of a balcony that could be accessed from one of the second floor bedrooms – a balcony that I had never seen from the outside. How could I have seen it? It was on the giant well side of the house and we kids weren’t allowed to play on that side because of all the tanker traffic. Anyway, discovering that balcony made the nine year old me realize what columbus must have felt like.

In the long row of rooms that fringed the south end of the courtyard lived the fifteen or so servants that were needed to keep the house in order. A tour of these rooms revealed interesting things. Here was the gardener’s room, full of old gardening equipment – there, the cook’s apartments, containing a big stone mill used for grinding wheat – a ‘chakki’ so huge that it must have taken superhuman strength to operate.

The house remained the birthplace of two generations of children in the family (although i was born in a maternity home, i was taken there immediately upon my birth, and true to family custom, spent my first six months there). But in many ways, it never served its purpose. My great-grandfather expired while still living in a house provided by the government, my great-grandmother in a hospital far away from home. My grandfather and grandmother themselves spent their last years in a cramped (by their standards) Bombay apartment.

The sad thing about ancestral houses is that nobody has any real use for them these days. There is a risk of squatters taking over unoccupied property, and large pieces of real estate in the prime area of a fast growing tier 2 city are in great demand. Old houses are also expensive to maintain. And when their owners live hundreds and thousands of miles from them and are unable to visit them more than once every couple of years, (and in my case, well over eight), they are usually disposed off. In most cases, they are replaced by big boxy commercial complexes.

The house will no longer be in a few months. All I can hope for is to salvage some of the furniture, and most of the memories.

this post does not make sense

December 7, 2006

I found a mouse in my closet. I thumped him against the wall and he died.
In case you are wondering about how i knew he was a he, male mice have large ‘nads. Anyone can tell.
I also discovered that i make a couple of appearances (four, to be precise) in a book a friend has written.
In the wider scheme of things, i wonder which is cause and which is effect.