Thursday, June 22, 2006

More Toon

Toon's a great guy to travel with on the train to work. His knowledge is vast and his interests are eclectic. He can talk about any subject under the sky. Or for that matter any above the sky. Or anything in between. You get the point. He is very knowledgeable about most things; about things he doesn't know he is very ingenious. Either way, he has a lot to say. The one time he can bore you, though, is when the conversation is about cars. He can make you want to jump out of the window when he starts to talk, for instance, about the "continuously variable transmission on the ML 350". Of course, like the true car connoisseur, he is on a 'first name' intimacy with most cars. So if you don't realise that by ML 350, he means the Mercedes Benz ML 350, he has a look of disgust handy. He rattles on about the new innovations, compares them with those on other cars, all the while making you feel, alternately, stupid and irritated. He's like Marissa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, but without the charm. Ah! Mona Lisa Vito, my longest lasting celebrity crush, one that lasted till I saw Tomei again in The Guru. But I'm digressing...

A thing you can't help noticing about Toon is the way he ends every other sentence with a 'la'. I'm not new to these filler noises. Aren't we all familiar with the "What's up YAAR"? If you grew up in Bangalore, you are likely to have used "da" (as in "keep quiet da") or "man" ("come here man") or the very exotic "maam" ("chumma give it maam") depending on whether you went to a school in the cantonment, in malleswaram or in frazer town respectively. Now I add 'la' to my repertoire. It works like this (if you are planning a trip to malaysia you might want to take notes): if you end up saying anything regrettable or offensive, just put a 'la' at the end. Whether you say "you are a son of a bitch" or " you are a son of a bitch la" could mean the difference between you getting a sock in the face or receiving a nice cordial laugh.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The 10 PM Twilight

"Are those gulls or terns?" she wondered aloud. He turned to face her but all he could see was a bright red spot; he had been staring at the setting sun for too long.

She was frowning now. "Why are men so shallow?" she asked, once again, not expecting an answer. He wasn't going to let this one pass, he had too much to say "You folks have been fooling yourself for too long. Didn't I see you drop your tongue and wag your tail at the handsome rich guy we met at the concert? We are reconciled to our shallowness and you have invented chivalry, sense of humour and intellectual stimulation."

The surface of the water still shimmered and the clouds over the horizon were painted in a thousand hues. Things like that didn't touch her; "Simple pleasures are overrated" she had always maintained. She was staring at her own toes. He heard the drummer by the quay, the racket caused by three drunk teenagers kicking a cola can and the distant steamer's heart-rending wail. She was a loner, always had been. She had blanked out all the noise and she wanted nothing to break her peace. He, on the other hand, could hardly bear the agitation of the long-drawn silence. "Those are terns"

Sunday, June 18, 2006

No. 100

This is incidentally my 100th post.
There's football almost on every channel on my TV. When the game is not so interesting, I get my kicks by switching to commentary that's in a language I can't understand. (Yeah you're right. I'm easily amused)

I can't stay long on the dutch channel because the guttural noises of the language are deterrants.
The german channels...wait! I vowed to myself; no more german bashing on this page.

For some reason, the french guy just can't get excited about anything. You could have Ronaldinho passing with a scissor kick and Ronaldo reverse kicking (at his current weight, just taking off from the ground would be considered a miracle) into goal, and the french commentator would still be talking dispassionately like he's saying "Our father in heaven holy be thy name" in french.

The longest word in spanish has to be 'Gol'. The commentator starts saying it as soon as the ball hits the back of the net. The players have finished celebrating but the commentator has still not reached the 'l' in Gol. The channel has shown replays from 15 different angles, both teams have forgotten about the goal, the guy has significantly altered the CO2 levels in his room, but he still hasn't finished the damn word.

And then I switch back to good ol' John Motson.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tagged by a co-weirdo

This tag passed by Anu, requires the condemned to mention 5 weird things about himself/herself and then make 5 others do the same.
I thought long and hard about my weird ways, and I found nothing. I almost concluded that I am the paragon of unweirdness but the following came to mind just in time.

I want to perfect juggling four balls. I can juggle three while running and I'm awfully proud of it.

I get recurring dreams about me being in a cottage that is surrounded by lions. Another rank nightmare that I used to get, was one in which I'm chasing an old lady who is just walking leisurely, while I'm running as fast as I can and yet, I can't catch up with her. There's another weird nocturnal phenomenon associated with moi. I have a double bed at home. I use one half to sleep and the other half for strewing clothes. Sometimes I find myself waking up in the middle of the night folding up the clothes almost in a state of unconsciousness. I bet it's due to a recessive compulsive-cleaning-disorder-gene that I inherited from mom.

I know the advertising folks at Pears have carefully positioned their soap as a woman/baby product, but your's truly uses it. It has nothing to do with getting in touch with my feminine side or concern for my complexion. I have an allergy that makes me sneeze my innards out if I use anything else.

I travel alone a lot. But I hate to eat alone. When I travel alone, I skip a lot of meals. I'm one of the least fussy eaters in the world. While I'm on eating habits, I should mention that I can live on Ragi mudde 3 times a day (ok not 3 but atleast 2) , 365 days a year. I also believe you can't ACQUIRE a taste for it. You have to be born into a ragi-mudde eating family.

I'm constantly guilty of some really silly prejudices. Like against people who read Mills and Boon, people who use sms language in mails, engineers who claim "this is what I wanted to do all my life", people who wear Che Guevara T-shirts, and some others I'm too scared to mention here.

I trust extroverts even if ....hey wait a minute I've mentioned 5 already. I have also rambled quite a bit in an earlier post.

I'd like to victimise
Jax - I really hope this will draw you out of a self-imposed retirement.
M.S - calls for another of your trademark staccatos dude.
Lyn, Kavs and Swathi - if you haven't done this already
Traaks - A guy who used to converse in fluent pig latin should have a lot to write, although I seriously doubt if he'll oblige.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ghana vs. Italy

Yesterday, J had been fidgety all day. His team, Ghana, was playing Italy that evening. He was going to watch it in the Dubliner pub and I decided to latch along. You would think this was an unimportant game, but the pub was packed half an hour before the kick-off time. The crowd was almost entirely Italian. We ended up being the odd guys amidst a bunch of Albertos and Robertos shouting "Stupendo" everytime Italy did something nice. At first, it was just the impulse to support an underdog that made me support Ghana. A little later, though, I had clearly been won over. They played some great football. For me, this was the best match so far in the world cup. It's incidental that Ghana lost 2-0, because, as the highly irritating Ravi Shastri would have said, "Football was the real winner." Gross!

My dream semi-final line-up already had Holland, Czech republic and Brazil. Yesterday I picked the fourth team.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Bij brand de lift niet gebruiken

The corridor that leads to the door of my apartment is one of the most airtight spaces in the world. You could fart there, come back a week later and still smell it. (The illustration is purely hypothetical. It is not based on actual events and definitely does not reflect the author's sense of hygiene in any way) So when a burning smell wafted through the spaces around my door, I assumed it was a culinary experiment that went wrong in one of the 8 apartments that open into the common corridor. I can't remember if I saw the smoke before I heard the fire engines, but I knew for sure that there was something awfully wrong. I stepped into the corridor and I couldn't see a thing, partly because it was full of dark smoke and partly because they had cut off the electricity mains. Like a good scout, who had earned his fireman badge, I mentally revised the lessons. Held a wet towel to my nose, and walked out without panic. I even remembered the sticker on the lift that said "Bij brand de lift niet gebruiken" (In case of a fire, don't use the lift).One of the things of living out of a suitcase is that I don't own something as basic as a torchlight. I had to use a lighter to find the fire exit, but the smoke was now so thick that the fire wouldn't burn. While I was taking the stairs down I realised the fire was in an apartment in one of the lower floors, because I could see the smoke getting thicker as I went down. As all the houses in the building are duplexes, the 5 floors I had to climb down seemed more like 8 or 9. It's ironic that the descent seemed to take forever and yet I can't remember anything except for the fleeting thought I had at around the 3rd floor "I should have taken the iPod." After I got out of the building I felt silly about my misplaced priorities. I didn't think of my passport or my wallet or my mobile or the laptop or any of the other things that would have been useful if my house were to indeed burn down. I thought of my stupid iPod. I blamed the lack of oxygen in the brain for that weird thought. Anyway I came out and my neighbours asked me "What took you so long?" From outside I could actually see what had happened. One of the apartments in the 4th floor was badly gutted. I learnt later that 4 people were injured. Lots of expert opinions were being thrown around. (It takes a fire to finally get acquainted with your neighbours.) After a while, when people realised everything was in control, they even amused themselves with comments full of the typical flemish cynicism. Some even complained about missing the Henin-Clijsters match in the French open. At around 8 I finally got back inside. Did the incident give me some new perspectives on life? No, I was just happy that my iPod was safe.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


The Ardennes are a mountain range in the south of Belgium. With the highest point at a dizzying 485 mts above sea level, the term "mountains" is a bit of a stretch. I've seen road humps in India more worthy of that title. But you should forgive the Belgiums for calling them the mountains, because coming from the 12000 sq km billiard-table-flatness of the Flanders region, these little hills probably look imposing to them. I must admit, though, that it is probably the most beautiful part of the country.

Our trekking route was near a town called Malmedy in the Ardennes range. Compared to trekking in the western ghats in India you notice some differences here.
* While every trekking route in the ghats ends in a bhattru's house or D'Souza's place or a Ragi-mudde-serving pujari's abode, here they end in plush air conditioned French restaurants. Kinda spoils the experience a little but I must concede that the food is extremely delicious.
* Ticks, and not leeches, are the bloodsuckers here, and despite being more dimunitive they somehow manage to be creepier.
* You get overtaken by mountainbikes while you are trudging along on foot. It's not a nice feeling.
* At no point do you really feel removed from civilization. Even when you reach the peak, you just have to look up to see all the ultra light planes above you to spoil the fun.

It still was one hell of a day. The high point of the trek was when I discovered, during the lunch break, my life's true calling. We shunned the restaurant in favour of cooking our own food. While doing so I realised that I've been sent on this earth to make pancakes. They really don't get better than the ones I made that afternoon. I tossed one golden beauty after another while the phirangs watched admiringly. It was a little disappointing to find out later that the admiration was actually for the way I sat with my legs crossed for that long. Buana remarked 'You actually sit like a fakir'. Buana's impressions as usual were a laugh riot. Especially on this trip, maybe because he was wearing army boots, he did the german impression all day long and had us in splits.

Some pictures.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Story Behind The Name Antwerp

I first titled this The story behind the name of my town, but calling it 'my town' seemed a little too intimate. After all I've been here just 8 months. I then changed it to The story behind the name of the town I live in and apart from being too long that felt too impersonal too, because there are things about this town that I really have an attachment to.

Now that I'm at the fag end of my contract, I thought I should chronicle a few sights and sounds from here. I start with the origin of the name Antwerp.

Legend has it that a giant thug, curiously named Antigoon (talk about non-intuitive names!), controlled the opening to the harbour and demanded a huge pay from the ships that passed. He would cut the hands of anyone who refused to pay. This went on till a roman soldier called Silvius Brabo turned up, cut Antigoon's hand and threw it away. This came to be called the place where the hand was thrown (werpen in dutch). In time, Handwerpen got corrupted, as names of towns usually do, to Antwerpen.

Voila! Here's the hand.

At the city's most famous square, the Groenplaats, there is a fountain commemorating the legend. A colleague tells me that the statue is anatomically incorrect because the weight is on the wrong foot, but hell, I wouldn't know.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Democracy ,eh?

They call my country a flawed democracy. Flawed? Aint it more like 'defunct'?

Reservations for the OBCs
Does anyone remember Rajiv Goswami? He made it to the front pages of every newspaper back in the 90s. Now he is reduced to a nice trivia that's thrown around in quiz competitions( Just out of curiosity I googled his name and found out that he died at 33, and he was jobless at the time.)
This time too, the goswamis will fight a spirited fight, but this time too they will lose. Government endorsed racism will continue. It's disheartening. We are not close to solving the caste problem, we are in fact in the process of making the boundaries clearer and the divides wider. There's something else that I find equally vile. There are people, some in my family too, who firmly believe in the caste system for all purposes, take very seriously their upper-class status afforded them by an accident of birth, but are opposed to the reservation issue only because they are disadvantaged by it.

We are proud of the riots. Of the dam too.
Gujarat bans a movie because an actor expressed an opinion. Who's in power there, Parthiv Patel? Reminds me of a rich kid in school who used to deny us access to his video games if we said anything that he didn't like to hear.

Oru Kutrapatrikai
Tamil Nadu bans the Da Vinci Code because they (some asslickers in power) felt it would hurt the sentiments of the "minority". I'll let AB, who happens to be a christian, have the last word "If your faith is fragile enough to be shaken by a badly written novel, then what's the point in having it?"