Rediscovering the Joy of Coffee

A few months ago, the wife and I purchased a Nespresso Vertuo coffee machine and a variety of coffee capsules to go with it. (Nespresso is a Nestle-owned company that creates and sells a variety of coffee and espresso ‘capsules’ and the coffee machines that extract the coffee/espresso from these capsules). We spent a good amount of money on that purchase too – something we later calculated would have covered 2-3 months of our Starbucks expenses.

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But within a couple of days of receiving our Nespresso machine, I had buyer’s remorse. Was this even necessary? Why did I get this when I was already happy with the awesome coffee beans my mom would ship to me from Bangalore? How much will this increase my ‘per cup’ cost at home? What else could I have used my money on? Will I even like any of these coffees? Did I really need all these different varieties of coffees when I was happy drinking just one kind?

I seriously considered returning the product but decided to give it a shot with an open mind. 2 weeks later, I had a very different outlook about it. The first and foremost was that these coffees tasted wonderful. I tried about a dozen different types of coffee and espresso, and without exception, their quality exceeded my expectations. It had been a long time since I had simply just enjoyed a coffee for its taste.

For someone who grew up on the best filter coffee Karnataka could offer, I found myself being delighted in the coffee coming out of a packaged capsule! I will freely admit I have always been a bit uptight in my opinion of coffee that is not of the ‘filter coffee’ variety (even leading to arguments with the wife who grew up in Ahmedabad with Nescafe as the idea of coffee. It’s a mortal sin, I know!). I have tried many different varieties of ‘regular’ coffee from the stores – everything from “Freeze-dried Taster’s Choice” to the “Serious Gourmet shit”! But I had never found as much raw delight with any of them as I did with these Nespresso capsules.

The other major value addition was the convenience. Instead of going through all the different steps of making filter coffee – or ever brewing the regular coffee – at home, now all I had to do was pop a capsule in the machine, press a button and the coffee is in the cup in less than a minute. The accompanying Aeroccino machine steams/froths milk (I use oat milk) in the same time. I add that to the coffee as needed and I have my morning concoction ready to go without much effort at all. This might sound like a legit first world problem (it probably is) but there is significant value addition in it for me.

The other value additions to me are the coffee and espresso varieties, and the ability to only brew one serving at a time. I have enjoyed exploring and making different recipes of coffee while not having to brew an entire pot every time. This latter aspect was of particular appeal to me as I didn’t have to worry about wasting a lot of coffee every time. I was also very impressed with Nespresso’s commitment to recycling their capsules. I ship them the used capsules in a pre-paid container where they recycle the capsule and compost the coffee – all free of cost.

Simply put, Nespresso has brought back the joy of drinking great coffee – how it tastes, how it makes me feel, and how it has become a positive part of my morning routine. Ultimately, I realized that while we are certainly paying a lot more for our morning cups of coffee, it is for a better experience that we are both enjoying significantly – excellent taste, convenience, and variety. I now look at it as an investment that is going to pay great dividends for a long time to come.

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PS: My personal favorites are Odacio, Aflorazio, Cookies and Caramel, Voltesso, Mexico & Scuro.

Life Lessons from Uppi 2

In 1999, the Kannada movie director and actor Upendra released what is probably the most intriguing Kannada movie ever made. The movie was literally named after him (Upendra) – because why the fuck not? After all, the movie was largely about a self-obsessed man (named ‘Naanu’ – which literally means ‘I’) entangled in the human condition, with the 3 female actors portraying the ideas of fame, happiness and responsibilities. I can talk for hours on end about all the insights I have gained from that movie. In fact, every time I watch it, I gain a new profound insight into the human condition. But this post is not about that movie.

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In 2015, 16 years after the first one, Upendra finally released the sequel to Upendra. It was titled ‘Uppi 2’ – possibly a play on the popular breakfast item ‘Uppittu’ (Upma), or not. The general premise of this movie was that the same character – now going by the name of ‘Neenu’ (meaning ‘you’) – is now living life completely in the present moment. The movie compares and contrasts this with other characters who live in the past or in the future.

The general principle of ‘living in the now’ is not at all new. There have been many many books written about that idea. It has also been represented well through characters in the movies (think of ‘The Big Lebowski’:  “Is this a… what day is this?”). So it is not something totally earth shattering what Upendra explored in his sequel. But what stands out in Uppi 2 are the scenes that show the different specific manifestations of the main character’s ability to live completely in the present. There are many to list here so I will stick to the one that made a big impression on me and has stayed with me ever since.

In this scene, ‘Neenu’ and his friend visit his home where he finds his entire family apparently massacred – with corpses in pools of blood all over the place. It is a rather gruesome scene which is made even more strange by Neenu’s continued calm and smiling nature even as he examines the massacre in his own home. Rather alarmed by his lack of response or shock, his friend asks him if he does not feel shocked, sad or angry looking at the tragedy in front of him. To this, Neenu responds by explaining (and I am paraphrasing here):

After a tragedy like this, most people take years or even decades to accept what has happened and to come to terms with it. After that, they are able to lead a normal life without the pain or sadness. I just accepted all this immediately and have already come to terms with it. So where is the need to feel sad or angry anymore?

Of course, it later turns out that his entire family was acting all of it to expose Neenu’s apparent apathy towards his own family members.

But the message was very revealing to me. Of course, we don’t need to go through a tragedy of the magnitude that his character did in order to make us realize the utility of the idea. Instead, we can just look at the daily frustrations and struggles we face that are beyond our control: a delayed flight, a trivial argument with the spouse, bad traffic, your sports team losing a game, you name it. We typically see many such incidents every single day of our lives stretching as far back as we can remember. We probably got frustrated, angry or sad at that time and likely stayed that way for a while depending on how severe the incident was. But over time, we almost always move on. That incident loses its significance and impact on our mood and its impressions go away.

So if we can confidently state that most of these daily frustrations eventually lose their hold over our state of mind, then we have to ask ourselves why get angry or frustrated in the first place? It is a legitimate question, and one I have formulated in a slightly more specific manner:

Say I have a frustrating experience today, what would my general thoughts be 5 years down the line:

  • Will I still get frustrated, angry or sad thinking about it?
  • Will I feel like exacting some kind of revenge or retaliation towards anyone or anything?
  • Will I even give a shit about it?
  • Come to think of it, will I even remember the damn thing?

If the answer to these above questions is a NO, then I simply have to ask myself why would I get frustrated, sad or angry in the first place? There is just no point in doing so if I know that it will eventually pass. So, much like how Vincent Vega responded after shooting Marvin in the face, Uppi 2 taught me how to immediately come to terms with and let go of the daily frustrations in life.

Of course, it takes a little practice to incorporate this into our daily life, but it is actually pretty easy. And once we are able to remind ourselves to ask this question every time something goes wrong, it becomes that much easier to come to terms with all the daily frustrations.

What ‘Shooting Marvin in the Face’ Taught Me About Making Mistakes

One of the most, if not the most, memorable scenes in the history of movie making is the shooting of Marvin in Pulp Fiction. It is a scene that completely turns the movie on its head, generates a shock value unparalleled in its nature, and leads the movie down paths that turn out to be future reference points in movie making. But I am not here to sing praise of the movie or the scene. I am here to point out something rather subtle that I observed in the scene and which has taught me a valuable lesson.

So let’s revisit the scene, shall we? Here it is, in all its glory:

Wow. Talk about shock value! Nothing hits you in the head (pun intended) more like this scene!

At about 55 seconds in, Vincent (John Travolta) shoots Marvin in the face that results in a blood and gut drenched car driving on the interstate in broad daylight, with two men in blood soaked suits in the front, and a dead, headless Marvin in the backseat! Now I am going to ask you to completely set aside the dark comic nature of the scene (no, really) and focus objectively on the way Vincent Vega reacts to the ‘incident’. Here is the transcript:

Vincent: Whoa!
Jules: What the fuck's happening, man? Ah, shit man!
Vincent: Oh man, I shot Marvin in the face.
Jules: Why the fuck did you do that!
Vincent: Well, I didn't mean to do it, it was an accident!
Jules: Oh man I've seen some crazy ass shit in my time...
Vincent: Chill out, man. I told you it was an accident. You probably went over 
a bump or something.
Jules: Hey, the car didn't hit no motherfucking bump!
Vincent: Hey, look man, I didn't mean to shoot the son of a bitch. The gun 
went off. I don't know why.
Jules: Well look at this fucking mess, man. We're on a city street in broad 
daylight here!
Vincent: I don't believe it.
Jules: Well believe it now, motherfucker! We gotta get this car off the road! 
You know cops tend to notice shit like you're driving a car drenched in fucking
blood.
Vincent: Just take it to a friendly place, that's all.

                         

Now Vincent’s first reaction to the shooting is significant. What he says is as important as the way he says it. What he says is “Oh man! I shot Marvin in the face!”. And the tone that he uses is completely out of sync with the nature of the situation at hand. Instead of completely freaking out (much like Jules does), the tone he uses is perhaps something more appropriate for far lesser ‘crimes’. Something along the lines of the following everyday oversights:

  • Oh man! I forgot to add sugar to your coffee!
  • Oh man! I forgot to charge my cell phone before heading out.
  • Oh man! I still haven’t renewed my drivers license.
  • Oh man! I spilled some milk on the floor.
  • Oh man! I locked myself out of my car.
  • Oh man! I left my debit card at the ATM machine.
  • Oh man! I missed my exit on the interstate.

You get the idea.

Now use Vincent’s tone and expressions in any of the above reactions to every day oversights, and it will seem to be rather fitting for a ‘crime’ of that significance. So how or why would Vincent use that tone after he shot a seemingly innocent kid in the backseat who just ‘didn’t even have an opinion’ about ‘divine intervention’?

The answer to that is Vincent instantly acknowledged his ‘mistake’, accepted the situation, AND forgave himself for it. And with his ‘mistake’ forgiven and firmly in hindsight (within a few seconds), he proceeds to describe the situation as such – something wrong he did in the past that he doesn’t feel attached to anymore, and having come to terms with it completely. He even proceeds to clarify that it was indeed an accident and that he had no intention to shoot Marvin.

Now make no mistake. There was a marked carelessness that preceded the shooting – Vincent holding his gun in his hand, finger in trigger, AND pointing it straight at Marvin while talking to him. It is a carelessness that could have been easily avoided, thus sparing Marvin’s life*. But our man Vincent Vega chooses not to dwell on those aspects. He perhaps acknowledged those actions of his and ensures that he doesn’t repeat them in the future. And he does so instantaneously, thereby also ensuring that he doesn’t live with the guilt and blame for the rest of his life.

*But, seriously, why on earth would anyone want to be in a world where Marvin is still alive?!?

Now let us just ask ourselves some questions here.

  • How do WE react when we or other people make mistakes?
  • How long do WE dwell on our or others’ past mistakes and situations?
  • How long do WE hold our guilt and regret over something that happened in the past?
  • What does it take for us to accept the situation for what it is and move on in our lives – free of baggage?

We all make unintended mistakes – many of them arising out of our own carelessness or indiscipline. And then we typically spend months, years (and maybe even the rest of our lives) blaming ourselves or others for them and holding varying amounts of guilt/resentment and/or living in despair. Our lives and the lives of people around us are adversely affected because of our guilt and resentment. But what if we could simply forgive ourselves the way Vincent Vega did after accidentally shooting Marvin? It doesn’t have to be instantaneous, surely. But what if we at least genuinely considered that forgiveness was an option? Wouldn’t that be a far better option than living the rest of our lives with a ‘What if’ of ‘If only’ preceding our every thought?

So let’s run by a few such situations where we shall substitute our typical reactions with what Vincent Vega would say in a similar situation:

  • Oh man! I got badly drunk the night before the <insert name of important exam> and screwed up my chances of going to college.
  • Oh man! My alcoholic mom totally screwed up my childhood.
  • Oh man! My ex cheated on me big time.
  • Oh man! My dog got run over when I was distracted on my phone.
  • Oh man! I wish I was around more often with my kids when they were growing up.

There is absolutely no attempt at humor with what I have written in the list above. I write this only to put across the point that even things mentioned in the list above (and similar) merit our acceptance and forgiveness. The path forward would lie in accepting the situation for what it is, recognizing our mistakes and role in the situation, forgiving ourselves for it, and ensuring that we do not repeat them in the future. And the first 3 are necessary to accomplish the last one because it is that much harder to not repeat the mistakes when we are still beating ourselves up over what we did in the past.

So please, whenever it is you find you are blaming yourself for something that you did or that happened in the past, just stop and ask yourself the following question:

What would Vincent Vega do?

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PS: It should be pointed out that this post was written sitting in a coffee shop and watching Vincent Vega blow Marvin’s head off on a loop! Try doing that and still having a straight face to write a post about acceptance and forgiveness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Hidden Gem in ‘The Bonnie Situation’

So there is this movie that was released in 1994. It went on to win the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and brought to limelight a certain Quentin Tarantino. The movie goes by the name of Pulp Fiction. You may have heard of it. If you have watched it, you probably worship it. If you haven’t watched it, you WILL watch it….. and THEN you will worship it.

The Bonnie Situation: Pulp Fiction

I classify in the former. I can probably justify the worshiping aspect with the small fact that I have watched it at least 50 times (That is to say I lost count after 50). And perhaps the reason why I revisit the movie every now and then is because every time I watch it, I find something new – something I hadn’t noticed earlier. It is usually something very subtle, but profound. These moments usually get lost in the build up to a more memorable piece of dialogue which we generally look forward to on every repeat viewing. One such moment came to my attention a few weeks ago.

This takes place during ‘The Bonnie Situation’ part of the movie. This is where Jules and Vincent come to Jimmy’s (Tarantino) house to clear up the mess in their car after Vincent accidentally shoots Marvin in it. Needless to say, Jimmy is visibly upset with the situation he finds himself in and does not appreciate Jules much for putting him in it. This is the part where Tarantino utters one of the most memorable dialogues ever:

“Did you notice a sign in the front of my house that said ‘Dead N****er Storage’?!!!??!!”

Everybody who watches the movie is inevitably looking forward to this piece of dialogue – whether they like to admit it or not. The sheer audacity and the matter of fact nature of Tarantino’s character helps pull it off without sounding particularly offensive or explicit. But there is no need for me to talk about that. What I intend to draw your attention to is something that follows this above mentioned line. Specifically, it is how Jules reacts to Jimmy explaining that it “ain’t there to storing dead ni**ers in his fucking business!”. Watch the clip and see if you are able to catch what Jules exactly  says to Jimmy in response to his explanation.

Caught it? Jules says it exactly at 1:00 but Jimmy overrides him with a dismissive “No, no, no…”. See it?

Well, in essence, what Jules says to Jimmy is this:

“Jimmy, we’re not gonna STORE the motherf***er…..!”

Do you believe it??!!? Amidst all the drama and tension that Jimmy is expounding, Jules makes a sincere and genuine effort to actually CLARIFY to Jimmy that they do not intend to actually STORE the ‘motherf***er’ in his house! Now how is THAT for comic and ironic humor??!??  I can’t decide which part is more funny – the sincere intention and attempt to clarify, or Jules referring to the corpse as ‘the motherf***er’! It really is a gem of a line!

Now go watch it again….and again..and again!

As I had pointed out earlier, this is one of the many instances in the movie which can easily be missed while we look forward to all the memorable parts. There really are plenty more like this. The true joy is when you discover it for yourself. I have given you a sample. Now go watch the movie a dozen times and find more for yourself! Then feel happy that you got it!

How I Watched Inception…

After being subjected to a hype exceeding that of anything I have seen in the past 5-6 years, I decided to see for myself what the fuss was all about. INCEPTION it was. The Monday of the first week of its release. But the problem was that I was in Indore. And in Indore, you speak in Hindi, you think in Hindi, you listen only to Hindi, and as I had found out a few days earlier, you get to watch movies only IN Hindi or dubbed in Hindi. And thus Inception became CHAKRAVYUHA. (Knight and Day was called Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena. I thought there was already a Fardeen Khan Hindi movie by that name.) So I had sufficient reason to believe that I would have to wait till my return to Bangalore to watch the original English version. But thanks to the advent of Capitalism in the form of PVR Cinemas in some <Insert Stereotypical Mall Name> Mall, there was ONE show per day being screened and since it was NOT Bangalore, it was priced at a lowly Rs. 50. So I found myself purchasing tickets at 1130 AM for the 1155 show and I got myself a seat right at the centre of the top row.

After loitering around aimlessly in the mall (is there any OTHER way of spending time there?) for the remaining 25 mins, I found myself sitting in the top row of the cinema hall. It was not long before some random Amit came to me and told me ,”Boss, can you please sift to the next seat?” I didn’t see any reason not to so I just moved myself one seat while some Jewelery ad was being shown on the screen. Soon the guy who was supposed to sit in the seat I “sifted” to showed up and demanded that I go back to my designated seat. The other dude then told ME to remain where I was. It took me a good 2 mins to make both of them realize that they needed to be talking to EACH OTHER rather than to me if they wanted the seating arrangement sorted out. In the end, I found myself 5 seats away from a designated seat, sitting between another guy who had come alone and a girl who had come with her boyfriend.

Fast Forward to movie. The lights dim. The screen goes dark. Warner Bros logo appears on the screen. You can sense the anticipation in the theater fully thronged with college goers. And then, the title appears on the screen. But wait! WTF is that? The screen shows CHAKRAVYUHA as the name of the film! It takes about .5 ms for the entire crowd to start screaming that they had come there to watch the show in English and not in Hindi. (Of course the irony was that they were swearing at the projectionist in authentic Hindi slang such as Madar/Behen-C**d) And in the meantime, I had embarked on a thought process that would begin with me walking out of the theater and end with wasting my money trying to sue PVR. But not to worry as the movie turned out to be in English itself and the angry crowd who had been given a reason to get angry suddenly seemed to feel cheated off their anger and eventually stopped playing their parts in the herd mentality.

You see Inception is a movie that NEEDS you to THINK in order to understand it. And remember that there is a girl next to me. Ok. Did you make the connection? No? Sure? Isnt it obvious? Just suffice it to say that the girl found the urge to “inquire” from her boyfriend what level of dream was going on every 5 mins among other things. But perhaps the thing that was really ticking me off was not WHAT she was asking but the way in which she went about showcasing her (in the words of BORAT)’ retardation. ‘

And somewhere half way into the first half, the dude who had made me change my seats decided he was not in the acoustic sweet spot and so embarked on the process of convincing half a dozen of his ‘neighbours’ including Yours Truly to ‘sift’ two more seats to the left. The frown on everyone’s faces at that very moment got me thinking. What if anger in a group was accumulative in nature as opposed to being normalized to the most angry person in it? That would have surely cost the dude some teeth and a lot of money. But alas, group mentality doesn’t work that way and so the dude watched the movie from the place where he wanted to.

The Interval was totally uneventful as I simply did not move from my seat. And when the movie resumed, so did the girl’s badgering of her boyfriend for ‘answers’. Considering the fact that the guy then began to give her B.S explanations as to what was happening, two things are possible:

1. The guy’s retardation was also significant.

2. Or the guy might be super intelligent to realize that he could tell anything to the girl and get away with it! Hell! He could say that DiCaprio was doing quadruple acting with a different person in each level and that they were brothers seperated at birth or some shit like that and she appeared to be someone who would still go “OMG!! That is so complicated!”

And so the movie got over and I was feeling overwhelmed, until that time when I joined the crowd leaving the theater. You see, unlike me, most of them had come in big groups to watch the movie. And in every single group, you always had 2 dudes who were discussing and passionately disputing each other’s interpretation of the movie, as if Nolan had flicked the script from either of them. Here, sample one such conversation I heard:

Amit1: Arey yaar! That was so awesome! I had never known ki yeh itni amazing hogi! You understood the plot properly no?

Amit2: Of course man! The entire thing was a dream! That ending was just too good! Did you get that?

Amit1: Han Han! Woh tho I understood. It was like the main story line was in Level Zero!

Amit2: Nahi Yaar! The main story line was in Level -1!

Amit1: How can it be -1 man?

Amit2: You see………

And it is at this exact point that I decided not to dive into ‘retardation’ and so just moved away from the conversation. Within 2 mins, I had walked out of the mall and was in a rick headed back home.

And that was how i watched Inception.

And as far as the movie goes, there is no question it is a good movie. Is it a great movie? I am not too sure. It has a mind numbing script and structure agreed. But it is not a movie that I will end up watching over and over again. You see it doesnt have a bunch of sequences which are truly memorable- like Pulp Fiction or As Good As It Gets or Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans or that Tipping Discussion in Reservoir Dogs or even John Malkovic’s scenes in Con Air. Inception doesnt have anything like that and so it does not make it into my Great Movie list. Feel free to express total disgust and shock at that revelation of mine. This is public domain after all…..