Sunday, 13 October 2013

Dussehra: Shortened Effigies, Elongated Speeches !


Every thing changes with time, and so do our customs and traditions. W are not taking about literal transformations but about small evolutions which eventually culminate in noticeable changes. Dussehra, our annual festival marking the triumph of good over evil, could not escape this phenomenon. What we've seen in this regard is a combined effect of changing credos and preferences. Initially, setting of the 3 effigies on fire was considered just a consummation of the 10 day carnival. During those times, what was more important was the way in which the Ramleela was conducted and the Ravan Dehen was just celebrated as a final touch to the histrionic epic's replication. That was the time, when people were more amazed by seeing the multifarious ways in which the actors replayed the most defining moments of Ramayana on the stage because till then they had only read it in books or had heard it from others. That was the time when actors too considered it their utmost responsibility to literally get into their corresponding roles and then ardently portraying them. At that point of time, Ramleela was not just a mere means of entertainment and getting acquainted with the tenets of the story, it was also a means of congregating in you soiree and enjoying the nights of the Navratri festival to he fullest.





The first change came in when other modes of entertainment began to supersede the grandeur of the Ramleela and diminished its entertainment quotient in the modern context. Though Ramleelas kept on going and go on even today, the cult associated with them has lost its intensity. For people who once had a penchant for witnessing the Ramayana every year by means of the Ramleela, certain other modes like the movies and the TV shows appeared more resplendent. Moreover, these modern modes of depicting the Ramayana and other epics manumitted the people from the esoteric terms and verses which were so characteristic of the traditional role play. Also, people started having lesser and lesser control over how they spent their lives and the number of people who preferred to go nocturnally active for 9 days, substantially went down. This was a transition phase where Ravan's and other effigies assumed gargantuan proportions and the way in which they were finally lit, marked the success or failure of a, what they call, Ramleela Committee. People fought their way to witness this final spectacle because that's precisely what meant Dussehra for them. The awe of the viewers became directly proportional to the size of the effigies and the grandiose of the final ceremony. An entire atmosphere marked by enthusiasm and a volition to see the villains burning, was build by using slogans and small role plays to provide impetus to the pre-existent acrimony towards these evils. 



And then we have our times- times marked by the enormous avidity of seeing your icons setting effigies on fire(something that is no longer risky as laser beams are used as the source of heat). We have local politicians, directors of various associations and in the high profile areas, we have regional and national stars from various fields doing what is considered adept to be done only by them - blowing the trumpet of victory. Irrespective of what these people achieved, it's believed that only an achiever should actually perform the auspicious task of setting the effigies ablaze so that victory could be commemorated and celebrated. I don't know how many of the commoners would acquiesce with the underlying belief but at least that's what the organizers believe. So, as it turns out, these events are marked by variegated role plays imitating the final defining moments before lord Rama defeated Ravan. But more than that, it's the scintillating fireworks which are launched at regular intervals for about an hour, in some cases after a breathtaking dialog was delivered or after the chief guest had just arrived or said something. What amazes me the most is that even though most of what these supposed statesmen utter is ridiculously redundant and hackneyed, their adulators and sycophants leave no stone unturned to impress upon them and make them feel like real gods. Anyways, what suffers is the length of Ravan. Courtesy of the excessive funds and energies put into the entire ceremony, the associations are often left with lesser to spend on erecting the effigies. Moreover, the entire market always seems to be hit by inflation and hence even otherwise smaller effigies are available. To counter that, we often witness theme based ceremonies and pandals where a fourth effigy is erected which in some cases symbolizes a national evil like corruption or inflation or in some cases is put up there just to compensate for the shortening of other effigies, it seems.



 Whatever it may be, Dussehra still continues to titillate us, in new ways and in new dimensions and what's important is that it never loses it's essence,not even a bit. The triumph of good over evil still holds the paramount importance and hence the festival continues to enlighten us with the celebrated dictum every single year in the same savory and grand manner.Happy Dussehra people. May the goodness vested in our intents and actions continue to nullify the evil that resides within and outside. 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Paranormal Activity 5: The Final Déjà Vu

As a blogger, one of the most chagrining of things is the absence of a stable Internet connection. Some vague idea strikes your conscience and the next moment, you’re looking for your blogger dashboard to allow you to turn that wry visage into a new post. You simply loathe those moments when you’re not allowed to do so. Anyways, here I am, once again, in a place and a time that are not the most conducive and favorable of parameters at this point in time for blogging, but I simply had to blog it out, so what if the post shall ostensibly see daylight at some later stage. I’m travelling in a train and I've witnessed a Déjà Vu by not getting access to the Internet for a prolonged period of time, especially in a place that was so trite and subdued that you desperately wanted it. This is not an exact replica of the situation described in A day without the Internet, but this one has some indelible reminiscent of it. So, while I witness this Déjà Vu, let me tell you the story of a man who witnessed a Déjà Vu in a train like me. His had to do with an entirely different set of considerations but he too witnessed it in a train, nonetheless. The biggest difference though is the fact that it was the last one he was going to witness in his life.

Here was this guy, whose story is somewhat unfathomable and yet so revealing. His name cannot be found in any books or records because he was another one of those multitudes of Indian guys born in indigent families with the minimal of resources. He was born in one such family which found it hard even to attain the desiderata. Just like the other majority of Indian youth born in such families, he thrived through the odds and became another part of that cohort which has shaped itself through constant struggle and a living marked by sheer niggardliness and parsimoniousness. From that juncture, people of his group choose different courses. Some take up petty jobs, some continue to be jaywalkers for the rest of their lives, and some, who have gathered erudition at being a cozen or a top notch thief, choose the easier yet risky way of getting their pecuniary needs met. This guy we’re talking about, chose the latter. He became an exorbitantly erudite thief. His skills of deception were impeccable and immaculate. He was also very good at cajoling prospective targets at falling in his trap and conniving prospective partners whom he often ditched after he was done. He used his skills almost everywhere - markets, cinema halls, public transport, but his magnum opus, shall we say, was his stint of burglaries in palatial luxury trains. This was where he found his biggest targets and this is where he worked at his optimum.

His strengths were his looks that never seemed specious and his veracious joviality that never seemed suspicious. His overall attitude never seemed murky and even though his persona emanated brawniness, he still appeared as a palpably nice gentleman. He had the clothes of a common Indian man of those times and he was quick to learn some of the most characteristic inveterate habits of these men as well. No one could have guessed that this man sitting right beside them is not another passenger but an extremely adroit thief who was either commuting without a ticket, or was travelling with an untraceable identity. He was an expert. He was quick to sight his prey. Normally he targeted a passenger who was travelling alone but appeared to be travelling with some hefty luggage. He usually targeted the first class to get the maximum out of his efforts. He also preferred families who appeared to be carrying some jewellery and cash with them. For someone who was an expert at their job and someone who knew the nerve of the common Indian, he could spot such prey easily. The anxiety and trepidation on the very faces of such people was what made it outright palpable to this meticulous burglar. He had a variegated set of burglaries to his kitty, having robbed people of watches, spangles, cash, expensive clothes and what not. And then that one day, here he was, on that train.

It was no different from the other trains that seemed so lucrative to him. It contained the same class of people, travelling in same numbers with the same prospective stuff. He once again found his target with ease. A group of 2 businessmen who were going to alight the train at the final stop. His talk never seemed gibberish; rather it exuded the confidence of a well aware man. That’s precisely what made people divulge essential details to him. Within an hour of sitting beside them, he found out what they did, where they did it and their purpose of visiting the place which the train was bound for. He immediately figured out that they would be carrying some cash and then silently waited for the people in that bogie to go to sleep. When it did happen, he punctiliously searched the accessible pockets of the bags of these businessmen and after finding nothing, he searched for money in their not so impressive carry bag. He found some cash in there. It wasn’t worth the effort he had put in. So he patiently waited for the men to change positions so that he could dip his fingers into their pockets. He had to wait for 20 minutes and he finally found a note bundle in the chest pocket of one man. It had enough currency to keep him going for a month, at least. He took all the available cash and after collecting his stuff, he moved towards the train’s nearest gate. His planning was so superb that he precisely knew when the train was going to slow down. Within minutes of him approaching near the gates, the train lost speed and he gained it as he jumped out of it. The mission was accomplished!

He never had any avidity of staying abreast with the latest news but here was a piece of news he simply couldn't have ignored. It sent shocks all across his body but he was quick to recover. He knew the repercussions which expression of his awe and intrigue could have had. He had a secret identity to maintain and he couldn't have let the fact that he too was present in that train, come out. In fact he always pretended never to have traveled in any train to simply stay out of circle of suspicion. But after stepping away and going to a secluded place, he contemplated what had happened. He simply couldn't help but feel restless. He soliloquized for the next few moments but then set off. For the next few days, there was no need to jeopardize anything.

The money lasted longer than he had anticipated. He did not have to go out hunting for 50 days. But now, the pockets were shrinking and the urge to get the next buck was building up. He got his tickets booked. This time, the destination was different, but the train was the same royal train, just plying to a different destination. He was there, waiting at the station, standing near people who apparently were going to sit in his bogie. It was imperative that he took less time to set his eyes on the prey so that things never look fishy. He was analyzing people and their demographics just when the announcer announced that the train is running late by 3 hours. This rarely happened for such trains but due to some stoppage at a construction site on intermediate section, it inadvertently got delayed. He thought about ways of spending time. He couldn't have done a lot with magazines and books whose letters wouldn't have even seemed legible to him. So he finally decided to sleep on a bench. The platform was sparsely crowded and hence no one would have bothered to displace him from there. He set an alarm on his wristwatch due to ring in 2 hours and 45 minutes, just in case, you know. The climate was good and it proved to be extremely soporific that day. He fell asleep in no time. 

The honking was not only cacophonous, it was nerve jabbing. The guy jumped from his seat when he heard it. He knew that the next train due on the platform was his. The train seemed to be picking up speed so he simply gathered his belongings and ran towards the nearest bogie. He was fortunate enough not to get hurt while displaying his celerity. But he just had to, he had no option. He obviously climbed on the wrong bogie and he knew how much distance he had to traverse to get to his. He looked out to see a few people on the platform yelling at him, including a railway constable. “Cretins!” he thought, and started moving towards his bogie.10 minutes and he was at the door of his bogie. When he opened the door, he felt something eccentric and peculiar.

He, for a moment, thought if he was back in time to a place where he once belonged. He had done a plethora of train robberies so it actually obviated any consideration, but this was somewhat different. The overall setup somehow seemed resembling to some setup in the past. He tried to recall but he couldn’t. He kept moving forward. Suddenly, he felt an unusual warmth. All the people he was striding across were smiling at him. He felt an anxiety building within him. He simply kept moving towards his seat. As he inched closer, he noticed that people from the seats he passed started to accumulate behind him, with their crochet smiles. Droplets of sweat tickled across his forehead, partly because of the effort he had put in of late and partly because of the situation he was in. He knew he was in some trouble but he had too many things running in his mind. That Déjà Vu seemed fallacious and truthful at the same time. He tried hard to recall where he had seen such people before but he failed. Then he gathered the courage to move towards his seat. At the same time, he had a grip on his knife to take care of some people who were now moving towards him. Grotesquely, the people didn't seem to attack him. They simply kept smiling and they also stopped when he stopped moving, as if waiting for him to make the next move. As he finally moved to his seat, before he could pull off the curtains, his wristwatch rung an alarm which he had literally forgotten about. Now he was in the train for 15 minutes and he had set an alarm for 15 minutes before train’s revised due time. That means he boarded a train that came 30 minutes before the train he was supposed to board! But how was that possible? In India, 3 hours late can become 4 hours late but never does the delay go down by 30 minutes. And there wasn't any other train due on that platform. He now recalled that those people yelling at him on the platform were doing so because he caught the wrong train. But what train it could be?

 As he stood there, thinking what to do next, the train’s lights started going on and off again, and the whole train started trembling. This was something he surely didn't expect but things were becoming somewhat clear now. He somehow knew what resided behind the curtains and yet he slid them to welcome it - his own fate. He also smiled back at the people near him and they smiled even more. He finally pulled off the curtains to see devastatingly distorted bodies of the same two gentlemen whom he had met just 52 days ago, and robbed 52 days ago, and then he looked back at all those people who were now standing behind him, all of them in their distorted crumbled avatars, marred by the odious train accident that claimed the life of every single one of them in the derail which saw just one survivor - the robber! The train, which he alighted after getting his job done, had derailed moments after he came out of it. Each and everybody present on the train died a gruesome death. The robber was lucky to leave the ill-fated train on time. This was the news which had shocked him early on. He now knew what was coming his way. As he moved ahead to witness his final moment, one of the businessmen uttered, “We missed you! We’re here to take you back”. The other one said with a smile, “Our fates were sealed my friend, you somehow escaped it. But fate finally finds a way”. The robber smiled at all of them. A small girl, who probably had the worst of blemishes over her face, offered her hand, and so did another guy from the other side. He smiled and joined hands with them as the train started careening even more wildly. He shut his eyes and kept his ears open to hear that rattle and that long overhaul which eventually tore apart all the bogies and claimed the final survivor.


The railways authorities as well as the police authorities were all surprised to find the severely damaged body of a man whom some people at a nearby station witnessed boarding an unknown inexplicable train, at the precise spot where that first train got derailed and the place which saw such a massive mishap. They also did some investigation to find out that he was the thief they had been looking for. They decided not to file any papers recording these events because they would have got a hard time explaining the case of the mysterious train which no one else claimed to have seen at the previous or next stations. A train that started between two stations and disappeared midway! They thought it would be better to leave it unexplained and they discreetly set the thief’s body to pyre, which smoldered away the final reminisce of that trail of events- something which only I and you know now. 

Date - 12-10-13
Place - In Transit, somewhere in MP
Time - 00:42 AM IST

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

5 associations Rahul Dravid has in the mind of a 90's boy !

Times pass by and what's left is a reminiscent of what existed or what happened in the yesteryear. As we move into tomorrows, leaving behind the yesterdays, we leave traces to help us gather our ramblings and step back into the past and relive it once again. These vivid visits to the past are ephemeral, but they are precisely what makes the past so glorious and enjoyable. As Rahul Dravid, the man who gave walls a figurative sense takes leave from all forms of the game, it's time we commemorate a career with a surfeit of resilience, punctiliousness, grandeur and pristine unhindered and unadulterated passion for the game.

90's were unique in a number of ways and for cricket, we saw quite some transformation. We saw Lara transcending the realms of barriers and scoring a gargantuan 375, we saw Kumble getting a 10 wicket haul in a test innings, we witnessed Saeed Anwar scoring a 194, we witnessed Tendulkar singlehandedy leading India to victories, we saw the upsurge of the South African team, we saw the befuddling and devastating West Indian bowling attack,we saw the inimitable opening partnerships of Tendulkar and Ganguly, and the most defining moment - Aamir Sohail intimidating Prasad in the 96' world cup and Prasad knocking him off on the very next ball. But above all, we saw cricket shifting gears and the ODIs becoming the deal of the day. I still remember that during the Sharjah Cups of the late 90's the streets looked desolated and electronics shops had a tough time keeping viewers at the windows at abeyance. Amidst this transformation, one man stood the ground to bring glory back to test cricket. It was our very own RD.

So, as I recollect those moments and organize this potpourri, I recall how a 90's boy got acquainted with the magical game. It was 95' when I first realized that an over can have a maximum of 6 balls. It was 96' when I figured out that bats are waived when individuals reach 50 and not when the team reaches the milestone. It was 97' when Ajay Jadeja scored 3 sixes of consecutive balls and I found out what a hat trick is. And it was 99' when I found out what it means to not be in the final 4 of the world cup. It took me long to fathom the intricacies and vicissitudes of the game but it took me no time to realize that Rahul Dravid is a guy who is there just to play cricket and do nothing else. His focus was conspicuous and his determination was prerogative. He simply came out to stick to the crease and obliterate the bowlers to the last bit of their perseverance. He was rock steady, like a bulwark for the team. And then he slowly assumed the title of the wall and the notoreity of being too slow a starter in ODIs. The pressure lead to momentous capriciousness but he eventually became equally adroit at One Day cricket as well. The 145 in the 99' world cup at Taunton is a testimony to that. So, let's celebrate the cult of Dravid, the Wall with 5 things of paramount relevance that I believe define Dravid for me. Memories shape characters in our minds and memories help us conjure their past later on.

The 200th Blinder

So, as if to consummate a career embellished with a multitude of catches that took enormous perspicacity to grab, RD took his 200th test catch at slip in a fashion that flummoxed everyone in the usual way. His celerity seems to be unaffected with age and he still has the reflexes of a fox. 




The historic 180 at the Eden Gardens

The 2001 Kolkata test which set the plot for India to come back in the 3 match test series and topple Australia, thereby deterring it's string of test series victories and putting it to a halt, was perhaps something that every Indian would cherish for a lifetime. When all hopes seemed lost, the humongous partnership between Laxman and Dravid pulled India from the jaws of defeat and led it to triumph. Though Laxman's performance and Bhajji's 33 wicket tally and hat trick gained immediate recognition, Dravid's contribution was viewed as ancillary, but no one noticed that he meticulously held the ground to steady the ship and take it ahead, thereby letting someone else to move the sails. Nevertheless, the innings was another typical Dravidian innings characterized by focus and determination. The usual way in which he poured sweat from his helmet, is another thing which emphasizes the fact that he was simply born to play long innings. 



The Jammy Ads

And just like Sachin's Sachin Aala Re and Jadeja's Ooo La La  ads got exorbitantly famous, RD did it the contemporary way, introducing the culinary delight of jams and the ingenuity of Paratha Pizzas to the youth and its helpless moms who tried their level best to get them the right nutrition. The Jammy campaign associated the term Jammy with RD and the association soon became perpetual.




The 145 at Taunton in 99' world cup

India was reeling under pressure after giving not so impressive performances and it needed one strong performance to get itself back on track. The duo of Dravid and Ganguly took it upon their shoulders to deliver a performance that would not only flabbergast their opponents but elate the Indian crowds in a manner that was hard to imagine. 373 is what we made when even crossing 300 was considered to be an achievement. And the final result, we beat SL by 157 runs. Can you believe that ? 




I wanted to end this post by including a video of an awesome catch RD grabbed in the Castle Lager series against SA in 1996. He was not at slip but at silly point. I'm putting in my efforts for getting that video from cricket archives. Let's see if I succeed. He pulled off a catch which stunned everybody on the field. I still remember it because every single time a day ended during that series, the video summarizing the series included a glimpse of the catch. It was wonderful and so was the man on the field. I don't know if we'll ever again get a man who had the aura of an impeccable test player, the exquisiteness of perfect wrist play and the brevity with which he played his hook shots. Here's wishing RD the best of the times a man is likely to have for all the awesomeness he endowed us cricket fans with.  

Friday, 4 October 2013

How ridiculously plaintive drives became exuberantly invigorating.

Busybees all across the world are arraigned by the urbane for doing everything in their cars that they are not supposed to do. Everyone eats in their cars, but busybees gormandize, everyone avoids a routine cleanup of the car, but busybees avoid it for perpetuity and last but not the least, everyone doesn't want to switch a car for very long, but busybees are so busy that they normally use the same car for their marriage as well as those of their pupils. They are not niggards or parsimonious, but they are so busy that driving is nothing else but a requisite task inculcated in their tenacious and hackneyed schedule. For someone whose commitments are so tarrying and binding, it makes sense to convert these few minutes of drive into an experience that removes some of their subdue and at least palliates them of some of their banalities.

I happened to find such a bunch of busybees in my own neighborhood. They are a family of 4 and all of them are engaged in tasks which demand so much from them that they have 3 cars, all of which exhibit the aforementioned traits. I've asked them for a lift twice or thrice and although I always reached my destinations on time, the drive felt somewhat enervating. The atmosphere in almost all of their cars seems so engorging and subdued that you feel like you are present in one of those plots from George Orwell's 1984. You're almost afraid of some random insect or something coming out of some random place in the car. More than making you afraid, it chagrins you and even exasperates you. But at the same time, I also felt for the poor souls whose lives are so engaging, that they can't even pay notice to what has ensued in the internals of their car after years of operation.

Aroma is so endearing that the redolence can plunge you in a surfeit of bliss whereas odor is so odious that it can plummet you in a surfeit of gloom, thereby extracting from you every single bit of enthusiasm that you once possessed. Hence my neighbors were not only present in a state of predicament already, their usual drives were exacerbating the problem further, thereby gradually converting them into a set of pacified bricks who lost every single bit of their bonhomie. Hence, I took upon myself the mission of palliating them from this ordeal and manumitting them from this atrocity.

Ambi Pur has long been known for its innovative fragrance dispersal mechanisms and scintillating aromas but this case needed a device which was not only purposeful, but was assertive enough to sweep people off their feet.Coincidentally, their recently released Mini Vent Clip exudes just the same. With its cherubic looks and propitiating set of fragrances, it emanates a palatial grandeur which is inimitable. It enthralls you, titillates your senses, emancipates you from all the distress and produces a long lasting mirth. For my neighbors who had the inveterate habit of not resorting to the services of Ambi Pur's fragrances, it was apposite to gift them one and change their drives forever. The egalitarian Ambi Pur guys sent me a sample which I could test on the most incorrigible of subjects and guess what, it's hard to recognize them now.

I gave them this New Zealand Springs sample which I received courtesy of the #FreshNHappy campaign and to my surprise, they deployed the device on their AC vent without any delay. They seemed a little apprehensive because gifting them an odor eliminator simply articulated what I felt about the uncouth and unkempt insides of their car, but I told them that I,as a blogger, had received an umpteen number of samples and my job is to collect opinions from all those whom I give a device to. The gullible lot stood no chance in front of a veteran cozen like me. They bought my story. I decided to meet them a week later and take a drive alongwith them to see if it was of any help. As always, I held my hand out asking for a lift to the nearest bus stop and for the first time, the gate opened for me with an indelible smile !

What befuddled me more, was the fact that their car no longer had that chagrining odor which was so repulsive and pungent that you felt like putting a mask on. Instead, the car seemed like an Elysium where one is likely to indulge in reveries. The fragrance soaked the car in the aroma of New Zealand's flora and produced the effect of us driving in a convertible on an NZ highway. Boy, did the thing work ! Another flummoxing thing was that I had never witnessed the head of that family listening to any songs and on this day, I found that their car has an audio system! It was an old one but was still working. It all seemed so incongruous at first but then I realized that their vehicle had seen quite a transformation. The audio system perhaps became more conspicuous now. The lead guy was not only smiling while listening to songs on the radio, he actually appeared palpably elated while driving his car. Perhaps these were the first times after his marriage and him taking up this job that he was experiencing the same, but his happiness implies the fact that 1 week with the Ambi Pur Mini Vent Clip had changed their drives from a liability to an experience that is lingering. Now their drives shall be more pleasing than tarrying and will energize them for the day instead of sucking energies out of them.Mission Accomplished, I guess.So, when are you going to try this with your neighbor or yourself, in case you yourself happen to be a busybee ?