Monthly Archives: June 2010

Report Card for FIFA WORLD CUP 2010-Group Phase

This post had to be done before it was too late, (where too late = end of FIFA World Cup). So I will get right to the point. This is a not-so-SHORT REPORT CARD on the Group Phase of FIFA World Cup 2010. Also, this is an extremely judgmental post. If you don’t like to see your favorite players or teams being mocked, ridiculed or judged, then feel free to skip this post and browse the rest of the blog. But if you are one of those people who wants to have a look at a very unforgiving, yet fair judgment of the quality, flair and entertainment (or the lack thereof) in the matches that we have witnessed, then by all means please read ahead.

First up, make no mistake. This World Cup has sucked balls so far! Any of you nimrods who think otherwise have, I can guarantee, never followed any of the European Football leagues. You know- the ones in which all the Football players play week in week out all through the year? Not like just showing up once in 4 years to play a bunch of matches in a month and hope to be declared World Champions! There has been a total and glaring lack of quality in the football that has been played in almost all of the Group phase matches. Apart from the clear lack of goals, most of the games involved just dull passing and hopeful long balls into the box. And most of the intended shots on goal ended up as just that- intended shots on goal. I literally lost count of how many times the players tried to take a shot on goal from outside the box and the ball just ended up either hitting a defender who was like 3 feet away or went sailing comfortably some 10-20 feet above or away from the goal posts.

And screw that Jabulani football! If I am not mistaken, out of the 48 matches that took place in the Group phase, just 1 match (that’s right just one!) produced goals from a direct free kick! And that too it was one of the last matches where the Jap dudes Honda and Endo sent one free kick each curling past the goal keeper and actually INTO the net. This is in contrast with literally all of the other free kicks being perfectly aimed at the row of people in the stands who are at least 20 rows above the cross bar. I am convinced that the blame lies mostly with the ball as practically all the best free kick takers have been unable to keep the ball down. (Or maybe they should take a lesson or two from the Japs.)

Now lets get a bit more specific and talk about teams. Spain and Brazil started off as favorites and it took all of 1 match to played by each of them for them to be stripped off that spot. Spain, I strongly believe, expected to be awarded 3 points against Switzerland just for showing up and passing the ball around. Brazil, having consciously renounced the Sambha football, I suspect, forgot that they still needed to score goals to win a football match. England, on the other hand, were still trying to figure out how to make use of World class players such as Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard, Terry and Cole (both J & A) to muster an actual shot on target ever since Gerrard scored that opening goal against the USA in the 5th minute. Germany promised some real entertainment after that opening display against Australia and then quickly decided that they were giving all their fans and viewers too much to be to be happy about. And those of you who are firmly behind the Oranje Netherlands better admit the fact that the Dutch have played some of the most boring and dull football among all the teams. The fact that they have produced results from all their games better not be mistaken for some kind of a strong showing in the football sense. After all, Denmark, Japan and Cameroon are not countries you pride winning 2-0, 1-0 and 2-1 against if you are aiming for the title.

Italy, on the other hand, had apparently forgotten that they were playing in the World Cup Finals and instead continued to play each match as some kind of a practice match! They realized their mistake somewhere half way through their match against Slovakia, after which they produced what turned out to be BY FAR the most entertaining and gripping match of the entire Group Stage! If it meant that Italy had to go out in order to produce that awesome match, then so be it! Which now brings us to France! I just have two words: IRELAND Schadenfreude. And as far as Portugal is concerned, well, apart from that 7-0 drubbing of North Korea (which really doesn’t count btw), they haven’t really scored a single goal have they? Sparing a thought for the USA, who eventually ended up playing the wrong sport (Soccer) against Ghana (which played football) in the Last 16, I have to say I felt awesome to see them getting knocked out by an African team! Which finally brings me to Argentina. And simply put, this is the only team that seems to make any effort to play football in ALL the matches. And I sincerely hope they go on to win the World Cup.

Getting a little more specific, lets talk about the players who have made any or no difference to the matches played so far. For a long time now, I have strongly been against the continued presence of totally redundant football players, most of them in a forward role. And this World Cup, if anything, has only proven me totally right! I shall start with the most redundant of them all, namely an Englishman named Emile Heskey. He is simply put the most worthless, useless, unproductive and shameless football player in the entire World Cup. Come to think of it, I don’t even know if he starts for his club (whichever that is). Next comes any Italian striker you can think of. Less said about them the better. Then come the likes of Klose and Anelka. Though I am strong Chelsea supporter, I still don’t approve of Anelka’s inclusion in ANY team! And also, one good kick or one headed goal doesn’t absolve any of the above mentioned players’ inability to perform consistently. Also, it seems to me that Fernando Torres is making every effort to jump in to the bandwagon of unproductive strikers.

On the other hand, we have had some real scintillating displays of football by the likes of Messi and the rest of Argentina. On the same plane comes David Villa and Luis Suarez. But I have to say, among all the people who have stood out, the one that really caught my eye was the Argentine Sergio Kun Aguero. The Athletico Madrid playmaker created some of the best moves for Argentina in the last two group matches. He is being strongly linked with Chelsea and Juventus and he ending up in either place will be pretty awesome as far as I am concerned!

So now lets choose the best and the worst of what the FIFA World Cup 2010 has had to offer in the group stages:

Most Entertaining Team: ARGENTINA. By far the only team which made a sincere effort to play attractive football without yielding to the temptation of defending deep and wasting time when in the lead.

Most Boring Team: NETHERLANDS. Anyone disagreeing has some really really low standards regarding Football entertainment.

Most Entertaining & Gripping Match: ITALY vs SLOVAKIA. The 5 goal thriller went right down to the last second corner when Pepe could have still put Italy through to the next round but used the wrong foot to put in the corner kick.

Most Entertaining Player: SERGIO AGUERO. The Argentine playmaker played less than 2 matches but if his skill and pace are anything to go by, he is pretty much the next big thing in Football history for sure.

Best Goal: Fabio Quagliarella’s goal for ITALY against SLOVAKIA. The Napoli frontman’s shot on goal from outside the box is the stuff of Champions. Keeping his cool at such a high pressure situation and taking the shot with a “Screw-all-you-Italian-losers-I-will-do-this-shit-myself” body language, he saw the ball sweetly sail just under the crossbar and into the back of the net.

Best Howler: Quite a few contenders with Serbians Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Vidic’s awesome handballs along with Mark Schwarzer’s fumble against Serbia (Last I heard, Arsene Wenger was already looking to bring Schwarzer to Arsenal! :P) but the winner is clearly  ROBERT GREEN of England because of which they finished 2nd in the group and ended up facing Germany and then get raped 4-1.

Most Disappointing Team: ENGLAND. As I write this, England just got raped 4-1 by Germany. But even before this, England hardly looked like a team that was going to pose any threat. Rooney hardly got a worthwhile touch, thanks to some archaic strategy that only Don Capello seemed to understand. Scoring 2 goals in 3 matches against 3rd rate teams and claiming to be Title contenders is the same as India narrowly beating teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and then getting royally humped by the Aussies in Cricket.

Most Disappointing Player: FERNANDO TORRES. It takes real effort and skill to consistently mess up every single clear cut chance created regularly by the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Villa. And Torres seems to have mastered that art.

Most Disappointing Match: PORTUGAL vs BRAZIL. Yes I know Kaka wasn’t there nor was Robinho and a draw would see both teams through. But this was still the lamest, most retarded match in the entire group phase. CR7 could have done better to show he can actually score some goals but alas not to be.

So there you have it. My not-so-short assessment of the Group Stages of the FIFA World Cup 2010. My judgment of players and teams is based solely on their performances in the Group stage. It should not come as a surprise if it turns out to be the complete opposite in the Knock out stages. I will be making a separate report card for the Knock out stages. So if you strongly feel the urge to comment on this post by saying how I will be proven wrong about the players and the teams,  then first realize that I have spoken about that possibility myself. Then feel free to comment. Till then, keep watching FOOTBALL (not Soccer)!!!

Song of the ‘Real’ IRON MAN

THE REAL IRON MAN!! (Pic Courtesy http://www.kamat.com)

All of us have our own local Iron man. He comes once a week to iron our clothes. Whether you wish to admit it or not, he forms a very integral part of our lives. Where would we be without those clean, wrinkle free, perfectly creased clothes? This blog post is a recognition and tribute to all those Iron Men/Women who have helped me get through all these years-wrinkle free and perfectly creased!

NOTE: This song is to be sung to the tune of (what else?) IRON MAN by BLACK SABBATH.

THE REAL IRON MAN

I am the REAL IRON MAN!!!

Here comes the Iron man

To iron their clothes as per plan

Pushing his cart on the road

Even if he is really bored.


Parking under a tree

He gets ready for his ironing spree

He don’t need no seat

He just makes sure of the coal’s heat


Then he collects their clothes

Back to the cart the iron man goes

And as he starts his job

He turns up his radio’s volume knob


CHORUS:

Nobody cares for him

They just pass him by

Nobody notices him

Unless he doesn’t come by


Wrinkles have no place

They just vanish without a trace

He finds the perfect crease

Then he folds them in a breeze


He winds up his work

He smokes a cigarette as a perk

Showing no signs of rage

He now goes to collect his wage


CHORUS:

Taking their payments

He just makes his living

Feeding his family

Next week he will be returning.


PS: Thanks to somebody for giving me the idea for this song. Unintended help is still appreciated. 🙂

Encounters of the Upanayana Kind- Part 2

The process of ANY Hindu ceremony inevitably involves waking up at least 4 hours (or in the Vatu’s case, 12 hours) before your usual wake up time. So now you know where the Vatu’s problems started. Waking up early in the morning and being expected to stay hungry for over 5 hours after waking up was not exactly high on the Vatu’s agenda. But, as with the way things were going for him, the Vatu knew better than to argue this time around. And thus started the day when the Vatu would eventually make the transition from Vatu-ism to becoming a Brahmachari.

The “ceremony” started off with the same self righteous Shastrigalu (priest) with the same 2 sidekicks continuing where they left off with the “Pleasing of the Gods”. This time, the GOD referred to a small fire or HOMA as it is called in Hindu circles. The ceremony immediately ensuing the Vatu’s awakening (from sleep that is, not the spiritual thing) involved pouring miniature amounts of ghee and oil onto the fire every time the Shastrigalu ended a sequence of necessarily undecipherable sounds with a prominent and loud “SWAAHA!”, at which point even his 2 sidekicks would join in with a loud “SWAAHA!” of their own. Three very distinct things seem to take place with the sidekicks every time they joined in with their own loud “SWAAHA!”.

  1. It appeared that saying “SWAAHA!” was as close to exciting as they ever got.
  2. Their lives seemed to get some meaning and purpose every time they chanted SWAAHA!
  3. Their self esteem seemed to undergo a delta increment, which I believe was a direct consequence of 2.

But now back to the Vatu. The Vatu was also expected to undergo the process of Mathrubhojana, which loosely translates to “dining with your mother.” This happens to be an event wherein the Vatu and his mother are expected to have their breakfast served on the same banana leaf. Also, the Vatu is to be actually “fed” by his mother with her bare hands. The idea behind this process, I believe, lies in implying that this is going to be the last meal that the Vatu (child) shares with his mother. The Vatu did eventually agree to undergo this seemingly ridiculous procedure, largely due to his hunger breaking tolerable levels.

Now there is one aspect of a thread ceremony that every single guy wishes to avoid. This is the shaving of the head. In olden days, this involved shaving the entire head except for a small round patch of hair at the very top and centre of the head that was to be left untouched. This would render a half-ponytail kind of a look to the Vatu. However, with the passage of time and the demands of modern society and the preferences of young boys of this age, this criteria was relaxed to just a few strands of hair taken from right above the forehead in such a way that it is hard to spot anything out of place. My own thread ceremony involved this and so did the two previously mention dudes’ and most of the other boys in the family. At this point, it is relevant to reveal some more facts about the Vatu.

The Vatu is widely acknowledged in the family to possess hair of the highest quality. And the Vatu likes his hair. He totally despises people meddling with his hair in any form, including just running their fingers through his hair. The Vatu also delays visiting the barber shop because he likes to keep his hair (it is also sometimes attributed to the Vatu’s inherent laziness).

The Vatu was then promptly asked by the self righteous priest to shave his entire head for the half-ponytail look.

Practically the entire congregation present there went WTF??!!??!? The Vatu just presumed that the priest is only suggesting the option of reverting back to the practices of olden days, as a show of good faith. And hence, quite a few of the family members spoke to the priest (whose self-righteousness level had increased significantly) to convey the fact that it is not a practical suggestion as the Vatu is likely to travel around. But much to the surprise of all the family members advocating the loss of fewer strands of hair, the priest just refused to budge from his initially stated position. At this point, more family members began to join the cause for loss of lesser hair while some sadistic and hypocritical aunts simultaneously teamed up to counter it. Their argument was essentially based around the age old “we-should-not-give-up-our-customs-and-traditions-even-if-they-don’t-mean-shit-today” diatribe. But amidst all the shoutings and counter-shoutings of family members of the female  kind, the Vatu just went even more WTF??!?? The reason? The self-righteous priest with a pronounced smug, had just resorted to direct and open blackmail about his preferences! He had simply declared that unless the Vatu shaves his head fully with just a half pony tail dangling from the centre of his skull, he the priest would stop the ceremony and just leave!

Yes now even you, the reader, can go WTF??!!??

So as you could have expected, the Vatu did end up having his head shaved and did have a small patch of hair on the top of his skull with some hair dangling around more than the others. This seemed to feed the priest’s ego and arrogance as he continued to direct the proceedings with more vigor and attitude. ( Of course, all this time, the sidekicks were just fantasizing the day when they would be in a position to make someone lose more hair just by blackmail!)

However, the remarkable redundancy the priest seemed so keen to exhibit did not end there. He took the Vatu on a trip to show him the sun. That’s right. He helped the Vatu to spot the sun on a cloudless day at 11 in the morning! (Go Figure). The priest “explained” that the Sun contained GODS and so it was important to look at the sun during an auspicious event like a thread ceremony. This was later followed by the priest ‘educating’ the Vatu about the relevance and importance of chanting the Gayatri Mantra. This essentially included a story about how a small boy was able to make an idol of a Goddess move from one place to another just by talking to it while old priests couldn’t do it themselves (the explanation being that the small boy used to chant the said mantra a lot). However, the issue of why the Vatu would ever be interested in moving the idol of a Goddess in the first place was never raised.

Coming back to the ceremony itself, after donning the sacred thread, it was now time for the “enlightenment” of the Vatu by revealing the sacred Gayatri Mantra to him. The Vatu’s father was expected to do the honors with the priest guiding him (read directing him) all the way. The actual revelation process involved making the Vatu sit on top of his father’s lap while his father whispered the erstwhile mantra in his ear! And as the Mantra was being revealed to the Vatu, all the “guests”, who had so far been involved in intellectually stimulating activities such as passing comments and judgments on people they meet only on such occasions, were called into action and they promptly obliged by throwing yellow powder-flavored raw rice grains (also known as Akshathe) at the Vatu with purposeful missile throwing actions. Of course, the Vatu was no more a Vatu as he had stepped up a rung on the Brahminical ladder and was now officially declared a Brahmachari (celibate till marriage).

YAY! I guess…..

Of course the end of the Upanayana only meant the end of the Upanayana. It did NOT imply the end of the pursuit of redundant practices. And so the Brahmachari found himself in front of a large banana leaf meal, expected to finish every bit of it after having gone through the pre-meal ritual of water-sprinkling and food donation to God (Go Figure). Surrounding him were fellow Brahmacharis including the dude who felt at home donning the Adige Bhatru (Cooks’) Uniform and carrying out their activities. The first meal the Brahmachari has must be in the company of fellow Brahmacharis of the family and Yours Truly was expected to be one of them. But rest assured, all precautionary measures were taken for my notable absence during the lunch ceremony.

And finally, the Vatu-turned-Brahmachari found himself done with all the inane rituals and simply ‘escaped’ to his home nearby. But alas, his father who spotted his son’s absence and MY presence, gave me the ultimatum to drag his son back to the ritual arena- if it came to that- as some of his office colleagues had decided to show up exactly at the lunch time. And so I found myself convincing my cousin to show up back at the ritual arena, which thankfully he did oblige, thus saving me a possible tricky situation to cope with.

More random family introductions followed for the Brahmachari with most of the conversations following the following pattern:

Brahmachari’s Father (extremely excited): This is my <insert random family relation position> who shows up only on occasions like these.

Brahmachari: Hello….

Random Relative: Do you remember me? I had seen you last at your naming ceremony or <insert other random relative>’s marriage! You were so small then! Look at you now! All grown up and all!!

Brahmachari (thinking and faking a smile): Somebody please put me out of my misery…

 

Eventually, the Brahmachari found his way back to his house for a much deserved break, courtesy a bike ride from Yours Truly. After some insightful conversation into the working of the hindu practices amongst ourselves, the Brahmachari’s father came home with more of his colleagues who had showed up a little later. After more random introductions, there was an uneasy silence that was hanging in the room when the Brahmachari’s father decided to introduce me in the following way:

“This is Akshay. He is….errr….umm….err…..” “I am the Brahmachari’s cousin” I finished. The father continued “He is doing his Masters in States!” I gave a Hello smile to everyone present there who returned the gesture. But then one person decided to go further and make an ass out of himself. Out of nowhere, he quipped “So you are with Samsung is it?” Well first I couldn’t figure out what he was trying to convey but then I realized the true WTFness involved. You see, I, being a hardcore Chelsea supporter, was wearing a Chelsea jersey which as you may know carries the logo of SAMSUNG in the front and the number 8 and the name Lampard at the back. And this douchebag kinda presumed that I was somehow “with Samsung”. I immediately clarified saying “No no this is just a Football jersey. I am still studying” which I believe he never really quite understood.

But perhaps, the most remarkable piece of conversation that took place during the entire thread ceremony was between the Brahmachari and his father towards the fag end of the day when almost everyone had left. This conversation perfectly epitomizes the present state of the stereotypical Indian nuclear family  with regard to keeping in touch with other family members. The Brahmachari’s father came rushing into the door with a clear purpose in mind and appeared to be in no mood to be disobeyed. He found the Brahmachari and immediately instructed, “Come down now itself. X is waiting for you!”

Brahmachari: (WTF???!??) Who is X?

Father: X is Son of Y.

Brahmachari: (WTF???!???!!) Who is Y?

Father: Y is my <Insert Generally unknown Kannada Family Relation Terminology>  who you get to meet only on occasions like these! Now come down and meet X.

Brahmachari (thinking): WTF??!!??

I, of course, was just left speechless! But more was to come from the stereotypical Hindu religious ceremony. My cousin and I later learnt that there had been an altercation between the Adige Bhatru (cooks) and the organizers of the ceremony regarding the (lack of) quality of the lunch and breakfast. And the altercation had apparently taken on the physical component as well with one of the organizing committee members (read random short tempered relative) (almost) slapping one of the cooks for bad mouthing the Brahmachari’s father! This having taken place at the ritual arena, both my cousin and I missed watching it first hand and regretted not having spent more time at the arena.

Random Observation: There was this one 50-odd year old dude who (I had never seen in my life before) just showed up at the ritual arena, looked around, sat for a while, ate lunch and then promptly left! So to put it in the cliched form, He Came, He Ate, He Left! The surprising aspect was  that apparently this dude was actually invited!

And thus ended my encounters with a typical Hindu religious ceremony. 2 days where I witnessed the most inane and redundant of what Hinduism has to offer in terms of practices and customs. 2 days when I saw how judgmental and hypocritical relatives tend to be. 2 days when I met some of the most awesome characters my family has to offer (including and especially the two recurring dudes). And as far as the Brahmachari is concerned, well, it took him all of 2 days to pay a visit to the barber and have his half pony tail shaved off, thus revealing a uniformly bald skull. And it was also later revealed that the Brahmachari had initially made a deal with his parents that he would obey them completely for a duration of 4 days for which they would have to give him whatever he may ask for. Last I heard, the Quid Pro Quo was still yet to be determined.

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!

What I Do NOT like about American Capitalism

**This post is reproduced from another of my blogs which I have decided to delete**

I am not going to argue in favor of communism here. I totally support capitalism but I have come to understand that unbridled capitalism is inevitably going to lead to consequences that I personally do not wish to see. This realization occurred to me during my visit to Raleigh, NC. On the way, my friend and I drove through quite a few cities (though none of them BIG). As we drove along, there was one thing that stuck out in every single place. At that time I was not able to put my finger on it. But then later, I came to realize that each and every place looked extremely familiar. I live in a place which is so small, it is pretty much a village. But I have been around this village to ‘bigger’ villages. Now all I seemed to see on  my travel to Raleigh were just a bunch of these ‘bigger’ villages.

The point I am trying to make here is not that there are no BIG cities in America. I know there are no big cities from Blacksburg to Raleigh. But the familiarity of the ‘big villages’ that I encountered lay in the repetition of the same retail outlets every god damn place and town. There are Subways, McD’s, Starbucks, Wendy’s, Jimmy John’s, Papa John’s, BurgerKings and Hardee’s in Blacksburg. Then there are Subways, McD’s, Starbucks, Wendy’s, Jimmy John’s, Papa John’s, BurgerKings and Hardee’s in every single place right from Blacksburg to Raleigh, and then there are more Subways, McD’s, Starbucks, Wendy’s, Jimmy John’s, Papa John’s, BurgerKings and Hardee’s in Raleigh.

My complaint is that I don’t have enough variety. If you plan to suggest to me yet another retail outlet which sells its own food, then please dont bother. Firstly, there is a fixed menu that is pretty much common to the entire country in every single of the corresponding retail store. There is a fixed recipe for each of the food item and hence no room for variety. Secondly, if you look at it closely, all the food on the menu of all the retail outlets are pretty much the same and even taste the same. What I am looking for is some random dude running his own fast food joint preparing stuff that he thinks he is good at. And if you have many such fast food joints, there is inevitably going to be a few of those places which become famous for a certain dish which cannot be found anywhere else. And this is what is pretty common back home in India. Come to think of it, I used to love the fact that I got awesome Khali Dosas at Hotel Dwaraka and awesome Masala Dosas at Vidyarthibhavan (both in Bangalore).  There is no place in the entire country who can prepare such awesome Khali dosas and Masala Dosas.(And the best part is that there are people from other cities who will claim to have eaten better dosas at their local hotel).  Yes, you can find the same item in every single hotel in the entire country, but you will NOT find the same taste and definitely not the same atmosphere. And to know that there are dozens  of such places in mycity which are famous for few specific dishes gives me the variety that I want. Instead, if Khali Dosa and Masala Dosa became the trademark dishes of some big retail outlet, you would find the same god damn dish everywhere you go tasting the same and you would have to eat it coz you dont have any other options available. You might have different retail store preparing Masala Dosa for you, but none of them would come close to Vidyarthibhavan dosa.

Getting back to the larger picture, retail outlets simply rule America. Every city you go, there are the same retail outlets that you saw in the previous city. The Walmart, Lowe’s, Belk, Food Lion, Kroger etc that you saw in one city is what you will find in the next city- complete with the same color to their buildings.  My friend said, “This Greensboro is big. Its bigger than Christiansburg. But it looks like it is just 5-6 Christiansburgs put together. There is nothing different here” So I ask, what is the difference between one city and another apart from a name and pincode? There are no places to see in one city that you have not already seen in a previous one. (Nobody will say “I have seen Saravan Stores in my city” before coming to CHennai.) There is no food that you have to eat in a new city that you havent already eaten before. (Nobody can come to Bangalore and say “I have eaten the Vidyarthi Bhavan Masala Dosa back in my city.” )There is nothing new to do in any activity that you havent already done before. I simply ask, WHERE ARE MY OPTIONS? WHERE IS MY VARIETY? Well, I guess American Capitalism guarantees you there are none. All the supplies in all different fields are in the hands of  retail outlets  whose only objective is to sell as low as possible. Probably someone’s suggestion might be to try a new Retail outlet that I havent visited. And then what?

Deccan Herald: A Case of <Insert Synonym for BAD > Journalism

I have very strong opinions about the standard (or lack of it) of journalism- both in TV and Print media- that widely prevail today. Having returned to Bangalore a couple of weeks back, I found myself excited to be holding a local newspaper in my hands and learning who has been making the news and for what reasons. One of the local newspapers I subscribe to is Deccan Herald. Since as long as I can remember, it has been widely acknowledged that Deccan Herald provides the best coverage of the local news. Fair enough. And so I didnt exactly feel anything out of place when it decided to give front page coverage to a local news item. The news item in question was this“Lalbagh to lose trees for a ‘Sentosa’ look”. It  was dated May 24 2010. And here is what it had to say:

It is a perfect case of the fence eating the crop. The Horticulture Department, which shoulders the responsibility of protecting and preserving Lalbagh Gardens, is set to axe the precious green cover in the State’s only botanical gardens.

…..the department will chop off nearly 10 full-grown trees to make way for a musical fountain and a laser show. However, the department has kept this fact under wraps, fearing protests. Even Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa has not been informed about the need for cutting the trees for the project, it is said.

The department simultaneously wants to develop a rock garden on the Kempe Gowda monolithic at the cost of Rs 29.30 crore. The plan is to ensure that people watch the laser show sitting on the proposed rock garden. The department’s plan has come close on the heels of Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation cutting over a dozen trees for the metro rail project. The garden shrunk by 350 metres and lost 15 trees as a result.

Now anybody in their normal senses will interpret this article as a measure taken by a Government body and which is going to cause damage to the environment. The article makes it appear that the Horticulture Department is conspiring against public opinion in order to execute a project based on self interest.  It makes it look that this new proposed project (rock garden and musical fountain) is an evil thing and that a  Govt body is to be held accountable for intending to go ahead with it. This should not come as a surprise at all as every day one can read many such articles in newspapers across India.

However, what did surprise me (and to no bounds) was what I read in the same newspaper, Deccan Herald, the very next day on the front page itself. In a complete U-turn on the stand it took the previous day, Deccan Herald carried this news item (written by the same dude) which was headlined as “GSI dashes State’s Lalbagh dreams”.

With the the Geological Survey of India (GSI) around, it may not be all that easy for the State Horticulture Department to realise its dream project — a musical fountain and a rock garden at the Lalbagh Gardens.

Any work on the monumental Kempe Gowda rock requires a GSI nod, and the department has made no efforts so far to seek it. According to GSI, the proposed fountain and rock garden might pose a threat to the rock.

Yes you read that right! What was one day before a “perfect case of the fence eating the crop”,  suddenly became a “dream project”! This new article now tries to paint a picture wherein the Horticulture Department aims to realize its “dream project” but that it is inept enough not to obtain the permission of the Geological Society of India for the same. Nowhere in the article is there a mention of the trees that would have to make way for the  rock garden/ musical fountain. All it does is to make the State Govt. appear so as to be looking to do something big but not being adept at obtaining all the necessary permissions. There is not a single ounce of criticism from the writer about the project itself anywhere in the article. In fact, the writer seems to endorse the project, only complaining about the inability of the State Govt to get the necessary permission.

If this isnt a case of disgusting/unethical/substandard/<insert synonym for BAD> journalism, I dont know what is. I am sure I can find many more cases, which may in fact be worse than this, but there is really no excuse for what we see here. It appears that the writer wanted to make some news out of the proposed project and so decided to paint two contradictory pictures on consecutive days. My question is this: Does the writer actually take us readers to be so dumb as to not be able to spot the difference? Or perhaps, looking at it differently, is this newspaper  meant for people dumb enough not to spot these glaring contradictions?

<5 Seconds of Thinking later>

MORAL OF THE STORY: I am not reading Deccan Herald anymore. Strongly suggest you decide if you  belong to the “Dumb people” category or not as well.