Category Archives: Pink Floyd

2 Months with My Parents in America

It is now a little more than 4 years since I set foot in America. The last 2 of them have been under far more financial freedom and stability than ever before in my life. It was during this time that I traveled significantly – taking in new experiences and dwelling in the wonder of what I saw. I went to dozens and dozens of concerts, visited big cities, explored national parks, discovered places that even none of my American friends knew about. At no point in time did I forget to appreciate how fortunate I was to be able to do all those things that I did and to visit all the places I wanted to. Yes I had to work hard and go through significant troubles and bear through uncertain times to get to where I am now – like so many of my friends who chose the same path. But behind all of that was this one constant, unchanging thing: the  support, encouragement and trust of my parents. Having always been very close to them since as long as I can think of, they gave me a sense of belonging and a platform I always knew I could fall back on in times of need. I have absolutely no hesitation in declaring that I would not be where I am today without their effort over the past 25 years or so. And so, during my travels in America, everywhere I went and felt the wonder of having discovered something beautiful, I ALWAYS imagined myself sharing that same experience with my parents – to bring them there and show them what they had helped me to do.

I finally got the opportunity when my parents’ visa got approved (in what ended up becoming a 1 minute interview with exactly one question asked). They arrived in the second week of July and I immediately absolved myself of all responsibilities related even remotely to the kitchen and other household stuff- including but not limited to the maintenance and upkeep of the house, laundry, dishes etc. My mom was more than happy to take over for the duration of her stay and I just let her run the house – like she has done for the past 27 years or so.

I was more than happy to have them at my place. But there is no denying my apprehension about how my lifestyle would be affected with their arrival – especially with having lived by myself for over 2 1/2 years. Fortunately, I was able to work my way around it and my parents were understanding of my evening disappearances to see my friends. And I have to admit, just the food almost made it worth it. I had long forgotten about the idea of a proper breakfast during weekdays. There was also the whole thing about someone actually serving me food – that felt like a long forgotten experience. My mom’s cooking also reminded me about the existence of so many different dishes that I immediately decided that I would simply over eat at every single opportunity and not care one bit about potential weight gain. And today, I am extremely happy to have over eaten (to the point of feeling gluttonous) at least 3 times a day continuously for about 2 months straight.

There were exactly 4 places I wanted to take my parents to. And I am very happy that I was able to accomplish all of that and under very pleasant circumstances. I got my parents to ‘hangout’ at the Old Market district in Omaha – something they never got tired of. It was and still is one of the most beautiful few blocks of downtown I have ever seen, and my parents clearly shared my view. The 3 days we spent in Chicago was extremely fulfilling too. More than the downtown boat ride, Navy Pier or the Shedd Aquarium, I had one specific thing in my mind that I wanted to do. On the second night, I took my parents to the Observatory on top of Hancock tower. A mind blowing night view of the captivating Chicago skyline – especially when you get to look down upon it. But it was not just the view that I had in mind. Yes, both my parents were thrilled beyond words at the sight in front of them. But it was only when I got my dad a glass of Jameson, right there in the Observatory, did I feel the experience complete. Sharing a drink with my dad at the Observatory was the first thing that had come to my mind when I had visited the place previously. And finally being able to do it felt like a landmark moment and a perfect celebration of my relationship with him.

As far back as I can remember, my dad has always wanted to see the Niagara Falls. My mom too. So I took them there in the Maid of the Mist. For about 5 minutes, we were completely transported to a different world – one where all you could see was this gigantic rushing mass of water. It really is one of those out-of-this-world experiences when you are at the foot of the falls in that small boat and looking up at this massive sea of water falling with an incomparable intensity. It was there at that moment that I asked them to remind themselves of where they came from, how and where they spent their childhood, and all the things they went through. And with that as the context, I asked them to look around and see where they were at that moment. The contrast dawned on them immediately and with that, a strong sense of fulfillment took me over.

Our trip to New York City happened mainly because my parents wanted to go there. I had no intention to visit the place as a big city experience has never been my idea of travelling somewhere. If you want a tip, here it is: Don’t go to NYC unless what you want to see is swarms of tourists every step of the way, a big gaping hole in your pocket and generally nothing to admire. (I will admit the Museum of Modern Art was a clear exception. I saw Starry Night and THIS painting which I now have on my wall).  But my parents wanted to do the tourist’s trip which inevitably included the Empire State Building (and the mandatory 2 hour waiting period), the Statue of Liberty (an eyesore that is to be avoided under all circumstances), a drive through Wall Street (the only place where it is OK to openly admire the testicles of a bull) and the Brooklyn Bridge (good engineering, no aesthetic offering). So clearly, I did not enjoy it (and I would definitely not be going back) but I was fully aware that this trip was not for me – it was for my parents. And so it never occurred to me to complain at all.

But perhaps the best was really kept for the last. I took my parents to Wisconsin over Labor Day Weekend. Arguing against my parents’ wishes to see another big city in Minneapolis, I took them to House on the Rock, Madison, New Glarus (including the Brewery there) and Lake Geneva. The House on the Rock was where I really wanted to take them. It is a place which nobody can ever satisfactorily describe. It is a celebration of humans going beyond the limits of imagination. It is a reward for those who seek something beyond the mainstream offerings of tourism. And my parents were left in complete awe and wonder – and rightly so. Trips to New Glarus, New Glarus Brewing company and Lake Geneva was really an eye opener for my parents with regard to the other side of America – the one with the small town, antique shop and record store feel to it. My dad was particularly pleased with the New Glarus Brewery – a place which felt more like some ruins in an old Mediterranean city than a brewery where you could sample some of the best beer in the Midwest. Lake Geneva was perhaps the best portrayal of a small town American city which had maintained its small town feel in spite of the popularity of the place among tourists. Both my parents enjoyed it and the whole trip was an extremely satisfactory end to their travels here.

In addition to the travels, I was particularly happy that my parents just took in what the American Midwest – and specifically Des Moines – had to offer with great satisfaction. The extremely good nature of the people, the laid back lifestyle, a complete lack of noise or air pollution and a beautiful and safe suburb experience – all served as the perfect getaway from the stress of working life. My mom declared her love for Dunkin’ Donuts, making that her first go to place for breakfast in Chicago and NYC. My dad had never been spoilt for choice in beer before he came here (For one, he was not even aware that there were options beyond Lager). So I took him to the El Bait Shop on his birthday and he was clearly overwhelmed at their selection of beer. But perhaps my dad’s biggest achievement during his stay here was his discovery of Pink Floyd and his strong desire to see The Wire. Clearly, my dad is going in the right direction.

They left a couple of days after the Wisconsin trip. My mom made sure I did not have to cook for the following 2 weeks and I still have quite a bit of her cooking in the fridge. They took back with them bags loaded with goodies for all my family back home (including what is perhaps the best of the lot –  a ‘Better Call Saul’ shirt for my cousin) along with some memorabilia from every one of their trips. But to me, their trip was more about all the things that they had always wanted to do, all the places I wanted to show them and all the experiences I wanted to share with them. It was also an opportunity for me to connect with them after a long time. And I can happily say that I was able achieve all of them.

All in all, very satisfying experience for my parents and me. Now I am back to living my old lifestyle and still savoring my mom’s cooking.

2012 in Review: All My Concerts

So this post has been sitting in my draft box for quite a while now. And then after I read about this particular concerto-phile’s recap of her year in concerts, I just had to put forth my own recap. After all, I have her beat pretty damn good! :P

Living in Des Moines in Iowa, there are two ways to look at the ability to go to concerts. The more popular frame of reference, and one that is perhaps quite obvious too, involves noting the glaring lack of big name bands coming to town and instead choosing to go to any or all of the bigger cities around Des Moines – Chicago, Minneapolis, Omaha, Kansas City et al. It is almost like the bands just don’t SEE Iowa – they simply go around it. Now the other line of thinking essentially involves the ability to travel to ANY of these aforementioned bigger cities (and that too on a date of my convenience) to see most of the big acts that travel through the United States. Needless to say, I choose to classify myself under the latter category of people. And have I reaped my rewards or what?!!?

I have said this before but I will say it again.

When I want to go to a concert, the universe conspires with me to make it happen.

And again, I can only hope not to get jinxed by saying so. But in all seriousness, looking back to 2012, there is simply no other way of interpreting the sheer number AND quality of the concerts I went to. So here goes:

1. Puscifer in Omaha, NE: There is something about Maynard Keenan’s Live voice  that can take you to a place you haven’t been before. I had seen him Live as A Perfect Circle in 2011 and I was haunted then. Puscifer was even better. The show itself was more like a theater play complete with props and filler videos showing Maynard Keenan as General Douche. It was clear that he wanted to do more than just sing. He wanted to teach. (Among the many memorable quotes, sample this: “Good aliens listen to Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and the Glee soundtrack. Bad aliens listen to Tool!”) And the concert was handcrafted to help in that regard. I wrote 1 part of what was supposed to be a 2 part review back then. But clearly, no amount of reviewing can capture the calling of that haunting voice when you hear it Live. Add to that the most unlikeliest of scripting for a concert, and you probably already know you will be thinking about it for a long time to come.

2. George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic All Stars in Council Bluffs, IA: Funk has been something I discovered only in the past one year (and to this day, I cannot figure out why). Funkadelic, on the other hand, well –  let’s just say I knew every single note of Maggot Brain. I have very fond memories, from back in undergrad, of being in a ‘higher’ state of mind and playing the song’s arpeggios on my acoustic and on an infinite loop. So what if Eddie Hazel is no more? Michael Hampton played the whole song note for note – 10 ft in front of me, and at a bar. But that was just the beginning. George Clinton maybe 71 years old, but the energy he shows on stage is more fitting for a 25 year old. Still singing with a respectable voice, he even smoked a joint on stage. Sir, You have my seal of approval! I am just glad that I got to see him live and in such an intimate setting before age (finally) takes over him.

3. Megadeth and Rob Zombie in Sioux City, IA: I had seen Megadeth once before in Bangalore, the most significant memory from which was the extremely horrible sound quality on stage. And I had vowed to watch them again if I ever got the chance to. I did get the opportunity and I did take it. Much closer to Dave Mustaine and the band this time around, I headbanged my way through Hangar 18, In My Darkest Hour, Holy Wars and much more. Redemption was indeed complete.

I have to admit I have not listened to much of Rob Zombie. But it barely mattered. That dude has a stage presence incomparable to any I have seen.  Filled with massive and creepy robotic props, he lit the stage on fire – quite literally too! The pyrotechnics was phenomenal and I headbanged some more.

It had been a while since I had been to an outright loud metal concert and this will surely take care of that need for the near future. On a side note, I have to add that I had an extremely bad inflammation in my neck muscle as a result of all the headbanging. It took more than 6 months for the pain to reduce to manageable levels. The real awkward moment was when I had to explain the cause to the doctor.

Comfortably Numb

Comfortably Numb

4. Roger Waters at Wrigley Field in Chicago : What can I say? He was the first person I saw Live all the way back in 2002 in Bangalore in what was my first concert ever. And I had always fantasized about watching The Wall played Live with the same settings from the 1970s. I guess I really did indeed get to live out that fantasy. The simple fact of the matter is that The Wall just sounds too damn good in a stadium. This is not just something you will brag about when you are talking to your friends about concerts. This is the kind of stuff you tell your grandchildren about. This is the kind of stuff you can look back on and know that you made the right choices all your life to have ended up at Wrigley Field on June 8 2012.

In any case, I did recollect my full experience from the concert some time back and I am so glad I did it.  (I still pride myself over the fact that I convinced my friend to cough up $300 for the ticket through a text message. Practically conned her into wiring me the money!)

5. Radiohead in Chicago: I had never been a fan of Radiohead (apart from Karma Police) for the longest time. Other than the result of a handful of friends strongly recommending the band to me, I somehow was never able to get into their music. Then something happened about a year ago when I went back to NITK to say hello to my undergrad Professors. I stayed over at my cousin’s hostel room and let us just say certain ‘completely natural’ things were consumed. It was at this point that my esteemed cousin (also the official slacker of NITK)  told me he would play a song and wanted me to tell him how I felt. About 5 mins later, I am in a trance. The song has taken me places I had never been before. I particularly recollect this very strong and desperate feeling building inside me just wishing that the song wouldn’t end. But when it did end, I just asked my cousin which song it was. And to this day, I have a crystal clear memory of what he said, and more importantly, how he said it. He told me: “The song’s name is ‘How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found Again'”. It was almost like a revelation – like I had suddenly become aware of some arcane, hidden mysterious knowledge. It was probably in the way he said it, but for a moment, I believed that the song really possessed the secret of how to disappear completely and never be found again. And then, right at that very moment, I began to worship Radiohead. 

Radiohead in Tinley Park, Chicago

So it was kind of ironic (to my cousin) when I learnt that Radiohead would be playing in Chicago the same weekend that Roger Waters was playing at Wrigley Field. A $15 ticket later, I found myself at Tinley Park with both my hands over my head, mouth open and staring in simple disbelief to the sheer profundity of the situation. There may not have been any natural substances this time around, but I perhaps didn’t need them.  Thom Yorke’s voice is up there with all the best voices I have heard Live. And yes, he will take you places too! They played one of the longest setlists and I have a recording of the entire concert that I keep listening to even today. Another instance when I just wish it didn’t have to end.

Black Sabbath at Lollapalooza

6. Black Sabbath in Chicago: There are certain things that can make life worth living and help validate all those choices you have made all your life. The night I saw Black Sabbath at Lollapalooza will definitely rank high up on that list of things. To see the very people who have defined 2 generations of music, to whom so many many bands today owe their influences – to see them play all those songs right in front of you is a tremendous experience. Black Sabbath played EVERY single song that I wanted them to. Every one of them – including Snowblind and Fairies Wear Boots. Considering this was their ONLY show in North America after Toni got diagnosed with cancer, I just feel so blessed and fortunate to have been there. I might have already seen Ozzy at Ozzfest, but this is something I will tell my grandchildren and probably put it on my epitaph.

6. Grace Potter and The Nocturnals in Des Moines: If you like going to concerts, you must go to a Grace Potter show as a matter of general principle. This is irrespective of whether you like her music or if you have even heard of her at all. If Grace Potter and The Nocturnals are playing in your city, you simply MUST go! Yes it definitely helps if you like her music – a catchy and melodious blend of pop, rock and even some country – but you will love her shows nonetheless. I had seen her at Kansrocksas in 2011 for the first time ever and I didn’t even know who she was back then. And so when I learnt that she was coming to Des Moines, there was simply no way I was going to miss the show.

Grace Potter and The Nocturnals in Des Moines

She played for over 2.5 hours, a setlist that included a Rolling Stones cover (because it was Mick Jagger’s birthday) and a Heart cover (Crazy on You). Her new album has more than a few songs co-written by Dan Auberbach (of The Black Keys) and when played Live, they can really get you in the groove! Add to that, Grace Potter’s passion and enthusiasm on stage along with her beautiful voice, and you have a concert experience worth remembering. In an interview just before the concert, she had remarked, “I play every concert like it is my last.” And she is not lying. Not by any stretch. There were periods during the show when it seemed that the audience let the music take a backseat and instead let her performance fill their experience. Her stage presence will rival any performer that has ever played at a concert. And those who have seen her Live will definitely attest to that.

That Grace Potter show by the river and overlooking downtown Des Moines is definitely among the top 5 concerts I have ever been to.

Special mention to Natalie Prass -the opening act for Grace Potter. Some of the best music I had heard in ages and definitely one of the best voices around right now. Must check it out.

7. Death Cab for Cutie in Des Moines: I just like Death Cab. There is no other way to put it. Simple, straightforward melodious alternative music with songs (almost exclusively) about breakups and troubled relationships. Ben Gibbard plays a good show and I was definitely happy to see so many of the songs I loved played Live at 80/35 music festival.

8. Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan in Omaha: Simply put, I grew up with the music of Dire Straits. Mark Knopfler’s voice was synonymous with and perhaps the cause of my transition from death metal to more classic rock. And for the longest time, I have been troubled by the fact that I could not watch him Live when he came to play in Bangalore. Not to mention my good friends who did go to the concert have constantly reminded me of that ever since. I could not care less that Mark Knopfler was playing mainly his solo songs when I came to know about his concert in Omaha. I just had to see him Live to absolve myself of my past misdeeds. And really, you did not need to know any of his solo songs to let his voice mesmerize you. He still has that voice for sure – not changed one bit. And that was all that I needed to hear. A lot of my friends went to see him in the current tour and were disappointed that he only played ‘So Far Away’ from his Dire Straits catalog. But fact is, his solo songs are equally good and I am not sure if my friends were familiar with his solo work. In any case, I had a bonus thrown my way when I heard him play the intro to ‘Brothers in Arms’. Turns out, that was the only show in his entire tour (at least that I am aware of) wherein he played Brothers in Arms in addition to So Far Away –  and I do not have any complaints about that!

And then came on Bob Dylan. Well, I knew his voice was shot and all that – but still, he was Bob Dylan. So I was looking forward to him playing as well. If Mark Knopfler’s voice had the ability to mesmerize you, Bob Dylan’s voice had the ability to give any death metal  band’s vocalist a run for his money! No kidding – it was THAT bad. It was so bad that I could not even know which song he was singing. His songs were reminiscent of the Hindu priest conducting a ceremony – wherein his long and incomprehensible chanting is followed by a loud and prominent SWAAHA! at the end. I realized Dylan was playing one of my favorite songs  – Tangled up in Blue –  only about halfway through the song when I deciphered him speaking out the words “Tangled up in Blue”. His current concerts really are a disgrace to the legacy that he seeks to leave. So much so, I actually walked out of his concert before he was done. Even for the sake of it, I would not recommend anyone paying money to watch Bob Dylan live. Not anymore definitely.

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So there you have it! A long post recollecting my best experiences from 2012. Without a doubt, I have a lot to look back upon and so I consider 2012 successful. I already have a nice run of concerts coming up for 2013. Already watched Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (AGAIN) Live in Des Moines. Upcoming are Omar Rodriguez’s new band Bosnian Rainbows, Fleetwood Mac, Steven Wilson and Sigur Ros. All tickets have been purchased and I am looking forward to these things like always. Maybe I will write a separate review for each of these this time around. Maybe.

Remembering THAT Weekend in Chicago: Part I – Roger Waters Live

NOTE: This post (and the next) is easily more than 2 months late. But figured it was something that had to be said before I forget. All pics courtesy my good friend who got conned into coming to the concert through a text message! :) Anyway, here goes: 

At the risk of jinxing myself in the future, allow me to share with you a recent realization. It goes thus:

When I want to go to a concert, the universe conspires with me in helping me achieve that aim.

And so it has been for the past so many months, when I had the opportunity to watch a number of bands live.  And so it was again a couple of months ago, when I was blessed to see two of the biggest acts  in a span of 3 days: Roger Waters and Radiohead. Yes, you read that right – Roger Waters AND Radiohead, within 3 days.

I do not intend for this post to be a review of the concerts at all. Instead, I want to write down what this meant to me and how it made me feel. The Radiohead experience will be documented in the next post.

ROGER WATERS – THE WALL LIVE @ The Wrigley Stadium, Chicago

I had seen Roger Waters Live before, when he had come to Bangalore, India way back in 2002 – and when the music of Floyd had just begun to grow on me. I do remember that experience quite well but not vividly enough. That concert was good, but it was completely devoid of all the reasons a Floyd concert is known for – lighting, multimedia, props, the ‘wall’ et al. And so when I found out that Waters was planning to do the highly acclaimed The Wall tour for the second time  all around the world, my plans just got made for me. (I also used my chicanery to convince a friend of mine to cough up $300 and to drive  2 hrs to give me company for this event! Turned out I could have easily conned her of that money!)

The Wall is really an album. Irrespective of how much more popular certain singles may have become over the decades, the complete essence of the work is revealed only when listened to as a complete single unit – not as a collection of discrete singles. And for those of you who know a little more of the history of this album, you will be aware of how Roger Waters initially did NOT prefer to play this album in stadiums. The irony, of course, was that The Wall sounded like it had been specifically made to be played Live in large stadiums. Over time, Waters did embrace the stadium experience and went back to them over and over again. And so it was, that he brought The Wall show to Wrigley Field in Chicago on the 8th of June 2012.

Me at Wrigley Field for the Roger Waters Concert

A lot of musicians – past and present- are capable of filling in entire stadiums and arenas during the peak of their careers. But so very few are capable of repeating that act 45 years into their music career – and very much in their twilight. Roger Waters is one of those few. And Wrigley field was indeed sold out with people of ALL ages –  young and old – paying big bucks (I paid close to $300) to watch this one man play his magnum opus for possibly the last time ever. Waters has publicly stated that this could very well be his last tour, describing it as his ‘swan song’. And I was never going to miss that for anything in the world.

And like the album, my experience was something that can only be described as a whole, single unit – not as a collection of how I felt when each song was played. This happens only when a number of factors come together to take the whole experience to a whole new level: a place where you haven’t been before. And they were ALL there that night for sure. The huge and gigantic wall, the hypnotizing and jaw dropping art and multimedia  projected on the wall, the massive surround sound speakers in full effect, Roger Water’s (surprisingly) crisp clear vocals singing with all the venom and purpose in the world, and not to forget the music itself – ALL came together in the right proportions and combinations to make this concert into an experience like none other.

But every such an experience has to have a peak –  a point during which you transcend everything around you and break that invisible barrier into the realm of that higher state of mind; something that will make you look back at that experience one day and mark it as a reference point in your life. During the show, that point came with the words:

“Is there anybody out there?”

Comfortably Numb

Sure, I might have heard it a thousand times before, and I for sure know every single note and bar on the song. But watching Roger Waters sing that same song live in that haunting setting, and watching one of the 3 stand-in guitarists (for Gilmour obviously) standing on top of the wall rip through that captivating guitar solo with note to note perfection, I realized that this song still has the ability to give me the jitters and make my hair stand on its end.

Special note on the stand-in guitarist at the top of the wall: he really did play the full solo NOTE for NOTE. No attempts at improvisations and no mess ups. And as far as I was concerned, I didn’t attempt to sing along to the song, and I realized not many around me were trying to either. I guess there are few songs you just don’t sing along to (and a few guitar solos you don’t improvise)  – at a concert. You just shut the fuck up and  experience it – and then feel blessed.

But in all seriousness, watching him perform on stage with the energy and passion of a 25 year old, I realized that all this had to mean something more to him than just a way to remind people around the world of the legacy that he leaves. And he did have something to say for sure. Interpreting The Wall album through a contemporary looking glass replete with references to today’s problems – the government, capitalism, religion and war- was always the idea and motivation behind this tour. (Waters himself has said this). And I have to admit, I was also thoroughly impressed with the clarity in his voice at this age (68?), and even while singing at a high pitch.

At the end of the day, I left Wrigley Field happy and thoroughly satisfied that I had experienced The Wall album the way it was meant to be – in a stadium, with surround sound, a massive wall, hypnotizing multimedia and the man who created it all.

Blessed I am indeed.

Encounters of the Upanayana Kind-Part I

Firstly, this is not MY Upanayana that I am going to write about. The Upanayana  described here is that of my cousin, who has NOT written about it here (yet). My own Upanayana took place some 8 years ago and under totally different circumstances as you will eventually understand. Oh and for the uninitiated, UPANAYANA stands for the THREAD CEREMONY, a (sacred) ritual popular among the Brahmins. It is  a ceremony where the VATU (or the child) is supposedly initiated into the Brahmin tradition- so to speak. Of course, in recent times, all this boils down to is a set of fixed rituals that the Vatu-no-more (or now called Brahmachari or a celibate) performs twice a day- well at least is expected to perform- called Sandhyavandane. And so last week was the day that my cousin was inducted into the Brahmin community amidst quite some drama and action. Hereon in, my cousin will be referred to as VATU (child) during the incidents before his formal induction and BRAHMACHARI (celibate till marriage) after induction. But first, lets have some background about the VATU in question.

The Vatu is an atheist. The Vatu likes Metallica and has recently discovered the bliss surrounding Pink Floyd, Old Monk and the various combinations involving the two. The Vatu went to the same IIT-JEE coaching center and is now studying at the same Engineering college that I went to. The Vatu likes living in the hostel except for the part wherein he has to eat the mess food and use the same mess water and sink to brush his teeth.

So now let us flashback to about 3 months before the Upanayana.

Vatu is in the hostel playing FIFA’10. Vatu’s mobile phone rings. It is his mother. Vatu reluctantly answers the call.

Vatu: Hello?

Vatu’s mom: How are you?

Vatu: I am ok.

Vatu’s mom: Had your dinner?

Vatu: Yes.

Vatu’s mom: Ok. What did you have?

Vatu (getting impatient): Rice and Dal.

Vatu’s mom: Ok. We are having your thread ceremony on June 2.

Vatu (thinking): WTF??!!??

Vatu’s mom: Good night.

Back to 1 week before the ceremony:

Vatu (to his mom): I will be going to KQA Mahaquizzer on May 30. I will be occupied that day.

Vatu’s mom: No you are not. That day we have the Devara Samaradhane for your Upanayana (Loose translation: Pleasing of the Gods for your Thread Ceremony).

Vatu (thinking): WTF??!??

DEVARA SAMARADHANE:

The day of the Pleasing of the Gods was a Sunday and the complete First circle of Family randomly decided to show up for the occassion. (It should be noted that for ‘occasions’ like these, the FIRST circle somehow always gets redefined to include every Seena, Guru and Ramesha- the equivalent of Tom, Dick and Harry- in the family) And so I found myself dreading at the prospect of meeting all the vicariously existing Aunts and Uncles, not to mention random second cousins seeking career advice from Akshay Anna (Big Brother Akshay). And of course, for those of you who remember, I knew I would meet up with THESE dudes as well. But perhaps what I dreaded the most was the inevitable enquiries into my life over the past 10 months-thanks largely to me having gone to FOREN and all. So, in my case, FOREN referred to the USA and so I could totally see people thronging around me yelling “Akshay Anna has come  back from FOREN!” or “Akshay Anna how was FOREN?” I could also see me being introduced to random people as “This is Akshay. He has returned from FOREN.” Apart from the sheer WTFness involved here, I still had to keep in mind that this was the day when the Gods were going to be pleased to bless my cousin’s (the VATU) thread ceremony.

Eventually, I did show up at the Vatu’s house where I found the Vatu himself (clothed in dress code for the day- Panche/Shalya) with his parents, in front of what appeared to be a mess of flowers, Akshathe, coconuts, random blouse pieces, fruit, other relevant junk and one self righteous Shastrigalu (priest). The whole show was being directed (as is always the case in Hindu ceremonies) by this self righteous priest sporting a supercilious attitude and accompanied by his two mandatory sidekicks whose only aim in life is to emulate (quite literally) him both in the mantra-chanting aspect and the attitude sporting aspect.

So as I watched the actual Pleasing of the Gods (“the Gods” basically referring to the junk mentioned above), it took me exactly 2 mins and 3 seconds to get bored enough to actually strike a conversation with one of THE DUDES mentioned before- the dude with the stitched sac. The other dude seemed to be completely at home and at peace donning the Adige Bhattru (cooks) uniform and helping out the Adige Bhattru in their adige (cooking) and eating arrangements. Soon I was inevitably drawn into the career advice doling role of Akshay Anna and I did my best to spread my belief that Engineering was evil and that aspiring to become a software engineer is not exactly an aspiration. You will end up like that anyway. However, there were no games of chess involved this time around, largely due to the failure on part of the kid to get the chess set to the ceremony.

Now every family has a family douchebag. My family douchebag happens to be a 45 odd year old man (who also incidentally looks like an actual douchebag), who does not spare any opportunity to convey the fact that his IQ is less than that of TIMMY. I am not exactly sure what this dude does for a living. But I have heard from various sources that he used to run a Detective Agency somewhere! No kidding. And it appeared that now he had shifted professions and was presently working as an arranged marriage broker! Imagine that! Your marriage being set up by a family douchebag! This guy happened to sit in the same room as I was during lunch time and I was subjected to some interesting one-sided conversations (in Kannada) of his over his cell phone. Excerpts:

“Sorry there was a mistake in the newspaper ad. We want brides not grooms.”

“I have 32 grooms and 4 brides.”

“All the brides have ran away somewhere!”

Presently, one of his brothers accused him of blatantly trying to get one of his friends/relative (the groom) married to a woman who reminds people of the “Gajalakshmi” from old Kannada movies. (Think Boiler dimensions!) The douchebag defended himself by saying that the said Gajalakshmi was very insistent that she be married to a man of good standing and that he himself was very keen to ‘offload’ her off his brokering lists.

Eventually, the ‘guests’ began to leave and I found myself just loitering around doing nothing in particular. The Vatu’s father spotted me doing nothing and suddenly beckoned me and introduced me to who I believe to be some lady related to him in some way. The dialogue that ensued was quite remarkable really:

Vatu’s dad: This is Akshay. Akshay this is my “insert n degrees of separation where n>3” relative.

Me: Hello aunty.

Vatu’s dad (in Kannada): Ivara yoorunu US nalli MS madtha iddhale. (Loosely translates to implying-“There is some person whom I do not know who is doing MS in US but is related in some way to this lady here!)

Me (thinking): OMG!!! What a coincidence???!! Somebody whom I have never heard of or met before in my life knows somebody else who happens to be one among the lakhs of people who are studying Masters in USA!! Un-fuckin-believable eh??!!?

Stranger Aunt: My friend’s sister’s daughter is also studying in US.

Me (thinking): Wait! Who? Does she even know you exist?

Stranger aunt: Where are you studying?

Me: Virginia Tech (hoping it would ring some bell. After all, she happened to ‘know’ someone who was doing their Masters in US.)

Stranger Aunt (betraying her ignorance): Ok ok. So you are doing Masters in Computer Science?

Me: No.

Stranger Aunt: Ok so you are doing MS in Electronics is it?

Me: No. I am doing my Masters in Civil Engineering.

Suddenly, Stranger Aunt began to change her expression to “looks-like-I-have-been-wasting-my-time-talking-to-this-guy” kind of a look. Eventually she realized that she had to say something positive and so :

Stranger Aunt: Oh Civil is it?? Ok. So is there scope for Civil Engineering there??

Me (thinking): WTF Biatch??!!?? Who the fuck do you think are building all the skyscrapers around you? Don’t be proud to display your fucking ignorance around just because you know some girl, who really doesn’t care a fuck if you live or die, happens to be studying Computer Science in some random US University!

And on that note (and without giving a response), I just walked out of the room. And in a short while, I found myself liberated from the clutches of meeting random people who seem to pass judgment at the slightest opportunity. And so just before I left, I met my cousin, the Vatu, and empathized with him for a short while for what he had to go through and for what was still to come. But what was to come on the actual day of the thread ceremony was something neither of us could have anticipated or be prepared for in anyway!

Thats up in Part 2 of the Upanayana series!

How NOT to pay a tribute to Michael Jackson

This post is my tribute to Michael Jackson and in this, I shall describe in full detail exactly how NOT to pay a tribute. This post is essentially a response to an editorial piece that appeared in The New Indian Express the day after MJ’s death which can be found here. The piece was written by the Editor-in-chief Mr. Aditya Sinha himself and is titled “POP GOES THE KING.” I would suggest the reader to first read the editorial piece and then read my response to that.

First, let us set the context right. This editorial appears the day after the entire world is shocked to learn about MJ’s death. I for one, having been a long time admirer of his works, was particularly disappointed. The entire world flooded the internet with messages paying tribute to the king of pop. Practically every news channel was running the same story. Now this being the case, I open the editorial the next day and I found an article titled “Pop goes the King” which essentially described why One person (Mr. Sinha) considered Michael Jackson as someone “who lacked dignity at his core.”

The article can very easily be classified as the point of view of one single individual as most of the comments that he has made inevitably involve “I never really liked…”, “My objection to…”, “I could not understand…”, “I was ready to believe….”, “I almost feel sorry for….” etc.  In fact the article itself begins with “I never really liked Michael Jackson…”. The article thus begins with such a self-centered approach and the same tone is carried on throughout without giving the slightest explanation as to why the writer’s personal preference and opinion should necessarily constitute the real image of the person in question. There is absolutely no basis provided for any of the conclusions that are drawn apart from the writer’s own preferences and very clearly biased points of view. Let me elaborate with some quotes.

In the very beginning, Mr. Sinha statesMy objection to Michael Jackson’s songs was that they were too stupid for me and appealed to the lowest common denominator.” Apart from the very obvious reference to HIS OWN tastes, it should be noted that he terms that MJ’s songs were “too stupid”  for him. Not caring to elaborate on what exactly constituted the “stupid” part in all of the celebrated Michael Jackson catalog, he goes on to state that the songs appealed to the “Lowest common Denominator.” And in the next sentence he goes on to state who or what he considered as the Lowest Common Denominator. He says After all, which college intellectual wants to share his musical tastes with grandmothers and 13-year-old girls?” Now apart from the very obvious point that so many high profile people in various capacities around the world are big fans of MJ, I am curious about one thing. If it can be considered that, say, Pink Floyd songs are not stupid (if you disagree, kindly leave this blog), and assuming that Mr. Sinha likes Pink Floyd (or if it is Kishore Kumar, feel free to substitute), then on what basis can he say that there is no 13 year old girl or grandmothers who listen to them? Because, as he himself has put it, he wouldn’t want to share his musical taste with them. I sense a generous dose of hypocrisy in here. He goes on to rationalize his way of thinking by quoting what Socrates might have said “If something was popular then it probably wasn’t good.” At this point, I would like to state that one has to understand that there is a difference between something being “popular” and something being “contemporary”. Michael Jackson was (and will always remain) popular, but he was in no way contemporary.

Other aspects dealt with in the article include his plastic surgery from black to white. And in response to this, Mr. Sinha starts “Perhaps he felt shame in being black…” Again, without making any effort in providing any information/incident that might form the basis for this personal opinion, a statement suggesting Jackson suffering from shame about his color is made. His new appearance is then broken apart and criticised for each part in the following lines and is compared to The Joker from Batman comics. But the real striking remark is made in the next line when he says : “It is arguable whether he looked HUMAN.” Criticising a person’s look is one thing. Calling for a debate whether he looked human or not is something totally different. I am not even going to respond to this horrifying and baseless personal opinion. But alas, the criticisms don’t stop there. Further personal opinion is doled out with his change in looks being termed “..a pathological attempt at self-improvement” and he then contrasts Jackson’s “self disgust” (again, this is the writer’s own inference) to America electing an African American for President. He then suddenly, out of nowhere and having offered no reason, states that “Michael Jackson really had lost touch with reality.”

And while dealing with MJ’s child molestation case, Mr. Sinha says, “.. by the time that news of Michael Jackson’s troubles with little boys came, I was ready to believe the worst about him.” Somehow I am not surprised at all. But what really put me off, was the suggestion that MJ got acquitted just because “nothing could be proved against him” and the comparison of MJ’s trial to that of the infamous OJ Simpson case when it is written ..or perhaps, like O J Simpson (who killed his wife and her lover but was acquitted), he had a sympathetic jury.” This particular paragraph, I have to say, contains as much suggestion and speculation as it lacks solid facts. He further makes an inference, again based solely on what it all meant personally to him, as to how MJ could have possibly committed the crimes by stating : the fact that he tried to change his skin colour meant to me that he lacked dignity at his core, and if he lacked that, then anything was possible.”

The main reason why I sat down to take the pains to write this long post was not just because I have always been a die-hard MJ fan. But it is mainly because of the way in which a complete editorial was dedicated to air the opinion of one man about how his preferences and opinions went against popular belief. I do understand that Mr. Sinha is a highly qualified individual who holds an extremely high post in the Indian print media. I also recognize his right to personal opinion, and being in that high position, I also recognize his authority to write an editorial to his liking. My objections to this editorial are not as much about the content of the article, as it is about it’s timing. There is always a place and time to air certain views about certain people. And writing an article such as this when the whole world is mourning the death of a star who defined a generation is definitely incongruous and wrongly timed. If anything, it is only demeaning to all the millions of fans around the world.

I now wonder. The author of the article has made comments terming Michael Jackson as a person who “lacked dignity” offering no basis whatsoever apart from his own personal opinion. And this statement is made the very next day  after Michael Jackson passed away, in the editorial of a leading national daily in India. Something doesn’t seem right. Something seems out of place. Come to think of it, I now wonder as to who it is exactly that “lacks dignity”.

My Comeback Post!

Before I say anything at all, this post is not for the faint hearted or for those looking for decency or decorum of any form. I am just pissed at my life and this post is just going to vent my ire on the present state of affairs.

Ok so here is my situation. I am out of my job. No it was not the fucked up recession- I just quit on health grounds. So right now have nothing to do but surf the net all day, laze around or at best, watch some movies and TV Series. Now in case all you working assholes think that being at home doing what I am doing is better than your fucked up workplace, well fucking think again. This aint half as good as it looks like. All I got now, is a fucked up computer with an unpredictable net connection, loads of books which I am trying to read simultaneously (8 at last count) and a fuckin inability to go out often thanks largely to my perpetually fucked up health. So what the fuck am I doing right now? Well, for one, I finally got my ass down to right a post after like ages together of inactivity. Then I sleep. I sleep till I fuckin wake up by myself. You understand what that means you suckers? No damn work or committment makes me keep some god damn alarm at 7 in the morning spoiling all the excitement that I get from the only one source of entertainment- my fuckin dreams. Yeah thats how fucked up my life is right now.

So what else am I doing? Well for one, I am definitely waiting a lot-waiting to get out of this shithole called this country to study what I want and guess what? I am on my fuckin way! UK looks like the likely destination but frankly speaking, I still have not yet decided. So if any of you morons suddenly feel the urge to enquire about which continent I am headed to, then expect me to use the choicest of the slangs which will necessarily include the word Fuck followed by or embedded in I DONT KNOW. I got two admits in UK so far.  And yeah I am quite happy about that. But I aint decided anything yet. So if any of you still asks me where the fuck I am going, dont be surprised if I use more than just FUCK OFF in my reply.

My last few weeks have been largely spent in the cyberspace and on the wasted Idiot Box. I did have a drink with my dad though last weekend. Mom had gone out of station-to a pretty boiling Bijapur-on some office related work-thanks largely because of her “Promotion” to an Audit Officer. The drink lasted exactly one hour and included discussing arbit shit and listening to my dad talking the same stuff for over like some 15 years now. But I was liking the whisky-Blender’s Pride- and just concentrated on that and the extra-ordinary car chase sequence in the movie RONIN that was being played on Star Movies. Perhaps, one major achievement that I was able to do in the meantime was to watch DEVD. If you have not watched it, then go watch it. Then watch it again. And then watch it some 10 times more. And after all that, if you still find the movie  mediocre or bad or just OK, then go fuckin die somewhere. You seriously do not deserve to exist on this planet. There is one fact and one fact only. Anurag Kashyap and Amit Trivedi are the new GODS of film making and Music Direction respectively. And if any of you wasted nimrods even as much as think about saying anything less credible, consider yourself the biggest fuckin douchebag on the planet.  I loved the music so much, I actually for once in 6 years, went and purchased an original CD of  DEV D. It cost me just 145 bucks and I would have gladly paid 500 bucks for it. I listen to the entire fuckin CD some 3-4 times a day and will continue to do so till God Knows when. Anyway me going to watch DEV D again this weekend with Sadanand, famous in this blog largely for spending 4 fuckin years in the same room with me. Also of late he has a different claim to fame. He has made a complete mockery of the dreaded CAT exam by going there with exactly ZERO preparation except probably getting his ass down to the exam centre (which is a big thing for him trust me) and giving a quite significant middle finger to the exam and then getting ALL the FUCKING SIX CALLS from the IIMS. Now all you wasted wannabees who enrol yourselves in all these wasted CAT Coaching classes spending thousands like morons and slogging your ass of for the major part of 2-3 years and then not even figuring in any of the IIM call lists, all I have to say is this:

for(n=1;n++)

{MOCKING LAUGHTER}

Of course it will be the greatest disaster known to mankind if this dude fails to convert any of his calls, but I have a feeling that is not likely to happen.

Just a small thing aside my rantings. I recently met my friend who had somehow, for whatever strange reason, decided to wear her Salwar instead of her habitual Pants and shirts. The first thing that struck me was that this Salwas stuff was actually quite a feminine looking thing. Then I didn’t understand why the fuck all these girls wear all these manly masculine things like pants and shirts and all that. This female was, for a change, looking very very very very feminine in her new never-before and never-again tried attire. And I told her that like some thousand times and somehow she just couldnt accept the fact that she was looking awesome in that new type of dress. She later told me that that was the only Salwar she owns and that all the rest of her wardrobe is necessarily filled with masculine stuff. I haven’t seen her since but something tells me she reverted back to her masculine looking Shirts and Pants and all that.  She is also the same female who took an auto rick from Bangalore Central to Garuda Mall and then back from Garuda Mall to Bangalore Central paying in excess of 70 bucks for a 200m drive! ROFL!!!!ROFL!!!!ROFL!!!!!! Taking a rick for 200m when you can actually see one building from the other!!! Oh man! Now THAT is something!!!She also asked me not to tell any of this on my blog here for fear that someone living some half the planet away might get upset. Hey dude (you know who you are): you upset man???

Apart from all that, I have to say my blogging has fuckin sufferred. There was never a time when I went for more than a month without writing. I wrote shit and I wrote some more shit. But I wrote some shit atleast. Now I have like 3 fuckin drafts in my wordpress account which I haven’t been able to complete in all the free fuckin time I have had the past few weeks. Among them are my trip to IIT Madras to see Opeth, my even more memorable NITK Convocation, and also the recent Maiden concert in bangalore. I cant believe I havent finished these posts still. I cant believe I havent done any fucking constructive work for the past few weeks. I have never felt so fuckin dead in a long fuckin time.

Every fuckin day I wake up at like-whenever I wake up- and I brush my teeth and eat whatever makeshift breakfast my dad has prepared. Then watch some wasted TV or try my best not to get frustrated when my fuckin Internet connection isn’t working. Then go have some lunch in my granny’s place or my aunt’s place and then come back and try to convince myself that I am still alive and that I am not dreaming. Oh wait, I dont think I do the last part. My dreams are way more exciting to convince myself otherwise. Perhaps the only damn constructive activity I have been doing over the past few weeks is to teach my cousin some math for her Tenth Board exams and to teach my other cousin some multiplication before she is taught that in a routine wasted way at her school. I have also been writing a shitload of essays for some scholarship that I have absolutely no damn hopes on and submitting it like 10 minutes after the deadline and then thinking it is too late only to realize that it was not and that I am still eligible for being considered for the scholarship. And oh yeah, I have been having this very interesting and totally unexpected role to play as the guy who can end up breaking up a 5 year old strong relationship, involving his extremely close freind, heading for marriage, with astrology. Ok now, seriously What the Fuck am I doing with my life? I feel so fuckin dead, I dont even know what the fuck I am doing anymore.

So what the fuck is needed to make me feel better? I have no fuckin clue. Probably a bottle of whisky with all my alcohol buddies and some Floyd in the background will help. But thats as far as my brain can work. I don’t know why the fuck I wrote all this and that too in this wasted FUCKED up manner using more slang in this one post than all of my 100 posts combined. I guess that can be easily attributed to this new TV Series I have been watchin- CALIFORNICATION-about a guy who, well, fucks women and then writes and then still believes his ex-wife will come back to him and then fucks some more women. Thats one of the very few good things that has happened to me of late. Not the women fucking part, but the TV series part.

I think I am done here. I said all I wanted to say. I have sworn all I wanted to swear. And I still dont have any fucking clue what I am going to do for the rest of the day or rest of the hour or even rest of the fuckin minute.

Aaah! This shit sucks!!

TIME

“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

Waters under the moon

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Pulse

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time has gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say”

Waters in Bangalore

I dont know why I have typed the above lyrics. Maybe its because it has had a profound effect on me ever since I first came across it and it will remain the best lyrics ever written.

Concert

And for those of you who do not know what the above lyrics stands for, I strongly suggest that you either commit suicide or spend the rest of your life exploring Pink Floyd and subsequently realize how you have led an ordinary life till the time you listened to Pink Floyd.

And I am blessed to have attended the Roger Waters concert that took place in Bangalore! The happiest day of my life! Singing “Another Brick in the Wall” with 20000 other floyd maniacs and with the man himself-Roger Waters! That is something! And I have watched the P.U.L.S.E concert video so many damn times that I know exactly which light in the concert behaves how!

And if you belong to that really hopeless group of people who cannot appreciate Pink Floyd, then trust me when I say that you guys are the biggest losers on this planet. You might as well commit suicide.

And oh ya! I am high!

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