Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Who's your daddy?

Sayesha Smitten showbiz kitten is back!

And this time she brings you hot news about the two most awaited Diwali releases – Om Shanti Om and Saawariya.

Large living room with a small bar in a corner. Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor are sitting on a two-seater couch. Deepika Padukone and Shreyas Talpade are seated on another two-seater opposite them. The two parties are pouting at each other. Shah Rukh and Salman are seated on high stools at the bar, having drinks. Farah Khan is seated on a rocking chair in the balconey. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is pacing the floor. Sayesha Smitten Showbiz kitten is, as usual, perched on a tree outside the living room, taking careful note of the proceedings.

Sanjay – So is everyone here? Who’s missing? Rani?

Salman – Rani just sent me an sms. She can’t make it.

Sanjay – Huh? Why not?? This is an important discussion that can affect the performance of both movies.

Salman – She said she's depressed and can’t participate in any conversation about performances of movies. She says her chunari has got a daag. I'm not quite sure what she means...

Farah – Arre yaar! Let’s just go ahead without her. My children (points to her tummy with the triplets) are hungry. Let’s wrap this up quickly.

Sanjay – Hmm… okay. (turns to face everyone) We have gathered here to discuss the clash of release dates of Om Shanti Om and Saawariya. If both release on the same date, they will cannibalise each other. It’s best that we hold the release of one of them, and push it to a week later.

Farah – Exactly. But of course neither of us wants to push our movie release. So we have to come up with a way to decide.

Ranbir – Simple. Just pick the grander of the two movies and that gets the Diwali release!

Sonam – I agree!

Shreyas – I think…

Deepika – Sounds good to me!

Shreyas – But I think…

*Farah and Sanjay shrug their shoulders and agree.*

*momentary pause in the room*

Shah Rukh – Sallu Bhai, haar maan lo yaar. Mere paas toh Swades bhi hai, aur Pardes bhi. Tumhaare paas kya hai?

Salman – Mere paas… mere paas… (tries to remember his last hit movie)… mere pass Partner hai! (dials Govinda’s number)

Govinda – Bhaiya, keep me out this, please. I can’t be involved in any Saawariya vs. Om Shanti Om war.

Salman – But why not??

Govinda – Erm… I have a cameo in Om Shanti Om.

Salman – Aila! Baaghi! Sangdil Sanam! Paththar ke fool! Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha… Sanam Bewafa!

Govinda - *click*

Salman – Aila! Phone kaat diya!

Shah Rukh (grins) – So?

*Salman looks helplessly at Sanjay*

Sanjay – Farah, let's get real. This is only your second movie. I am a more seasoned director.

Farah – Hmmm… let’s see, my first movie was a superhit… your first movie… hmmm… what was it now? Khamoshi the musical? I rest my case.

Sanjay – Errmm… but don’t forget I made Aishwarya act! The entire industry acknowledges that.

Farah – I give you that. Any day. *bows head*

Sanjay – Well?

Farah – Well what? I have Shah Rukh.

Sanjay – Well… you may have Shah Rukh… but we have two heroes in the movie.

Shreyas (indignantly gets up) – Excuse me? We have two heroes too! Did you not watch Iqbal?

Salman – Baal? Mere baal? (instinctively touches his head with an alarmed expression)

Shah Rukh – All there, all there…

Shreyas – So I was saying… didn’t you watch Iqbal? Didn’t you read the critics’ reviews?

Sanjay & Farah – Critics??? Critics???? Hahahahahahahhahahaha!

Farah – Well, you know what? Shreyas is right. We have two heroes too.

*Shreyas looks at Farah with utter adoration, his eyes almost tearing with emotion.*

Farah – Shah Rukh Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. Reincarnation, remember?

*Shreyas looks stunned for a minute, gets up and storms out of the house in a huff.*

Sonam – Am glad he’s gone. Who is he, man? I mean, like… who’s his dad and stuff?

Ranbir – No idea man. Unknown person?

Farah – People! My kids are starving! So how are we going to decide this??

Ranbir – Well, you know… your movie is called Om Shanti Om… and don’t forget, my dad starred in the original song ‘Om Shanti Om’!

Sonam – But my dad was Mr. India!

Farah – Well, we don’t have to go back in history. It’s actually quite simple. My movie has Shah Rukh, the biggest star. My movie is grander.

Sanjay – Now now. Don’t undermine Salman’s star power. Plus, I have Rani and two star kids. Add ‘em up and Saawariya has more star value.

Farah – Oh you wanna add ‘em up? Do you know - one song in my movie has 31 frickin’ stars??? Beat that. Star value ki baat karta hai…

Ranbir – Ha! There are like… 31 stars in my family itself! (starts counting on his fingers) Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor...

Deepika – Uhhh… I think I am seeing stars…

Ranbir – (continues to count) Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Kapoor, Karisma Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor…

Sonam (annoyed) – Oh stop it, Ranbir!

Ranbir – Hey, you don’t have to feel bad… I mean you have a famous Kapoor in your family too… only one Kapoor yes, but it still counts I guess? He may not be one of “the Kapoors”… I mean that’s us, of course… but he was… kind of a famous Kapoor, no?

Sonam – Oh puh-leez. My dad was Mr. India!

Ranbir – Oho ho! You really wanna go there? My great granddad was Mughal-e-azam!

Deepika – (coyly looks at nails) Ahem. My dad can kick both your dads’ asses.

Sonam and Ranbir – Oh yeah?

Deepika – Yeah! You wanna try him? You call your dads, I’ll call mine, and let’s have… say a badminton match? We settle this right here and everyone goes home. What say you?

*Ranbir and Sonam roll eyes at Deeepika.*

Farah’s triplets in her womb, also known as Om, Shanti and Om – Tch tch… kids these days… so immature...


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Slipping partners

“Hi XYZ,
I was wondering if you received the email I’d sent you last Thursday. I have to send this month’s issue to press in two days, so I’d appreciate a quick response from you.

“Hi Sayesha—
Sorry about that. I'd received your email but it must have slipped through the cracks. Here’s the info you need...

Slipped through the cracks? So this person received my email but did not respond because it “slipped through the cracks”? Man! What cracks are these??

And here I thought the only things that could “slip through cracks” were friendships.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about friendships, especially of the lost variety.

Long long ago, there was a Big Bang and the universe was formed. And according to scientists, everything in the universe is still reeling from the effect of the bang - moving away from one another at very high speeds, expanding towards the unknown. And that is what is happening to our lives as well. Not only are we physically moving away from one another, we’re doing so emotionally as well. The things that bound us together are slipping through the cracks. When we were kids, we could not make up our minds about who our ‘best friend’ was. Today, we still can’t make up our minds about who our ‘best friend’ is. The reason, however, is different.

The older we grow, the smaller gets the pool of people we can become friends with. The busier we get at work, the less time we have to meet people who are not gonna buy stuff from us or appraise us. We meet new people but we don’t have time to follow up. Over time, everything slips through the cracks. Sometimes, we get so cynical, we stop looking at people as potential friends. We look at them as “someone I work with” or “someone I randomly bumped into” or “someone whose blog I read” or “someone I know through someone else”. And more worryingly, "someone I'm eventually gonna lose touch with or have a fallout with, so no point investing in this". We stop investing our time, our effort, our emotions into friendships because we have seen them slip away. As far as friendships are concerned, time froze the moment we left college. At most we look back at our old friendships – school and college friends - with fondness. Our yaars, our buddies, our partners, our dost-log. Sometimes we’re lucky to have them still around. At other times, everything, everyone slips away. Right in front of us and there’s nothing we can do.

In a world where ‘home’ has been redefined as not a place, but a concept, where everyone including you is on his or her way to somewhere else, how do you stand still and stay friends? Perhaps the only way you can stay close to your best friend is to marry him or her, a strategy applied rather successfully by many people. But then of course, there is a limited number of people you can marry so this doesn’t really work.

When I was a kid, I had a favourite cousin. He and I were so close to each other that when all of us cousins played monopoly, I’d become the banker just so I could slip him a few notes here and there when no one was looking. When I grew up, I found out that he was actually not even my first cousin – he was not even remotely related. His grandma and my grandma hailed from the same village or something like that, and that was why we'd been hanging out all our childhood, not because "he was my cousin". But that did not change anything. He was my favourite cousin, and more important to me than my own sister. He was the brother I never had. Fast forward 15 years and not much is left. We do see each other every few years, and it’s apparent that both are aware of how close we used to be, but we can’t do anything to bring back that closeness. That has slipped. Slipped through the cracks.

Nine years ago, when I landed in Singapore, I was pretty much a reject. There was the Delhi bunch, the Mumbai bunch, the Bangalore bunch and the Madras bunch. And then there was me – born in Orissa, brought up in random cities, hailing from seven schools most of which fall under Jharkhand now – and not fitting into any of the coolness quotients. We were all there on the same scholarship, but we were not quite the same. My spoken English wasn’t too good (I was used to thinking in hindi and translating it to English, and discovered that doesn’t really work when people speak as fast as my classmates did). I was by myself - friendless because I could not identify with my own classmates. Yet, somehow I managed to make friends with a bunch of third-year guys who smoked and drank and did all the things that ‘bad guys’ do. But we were friends who hung out without judging one another. They were themselves around me, and I was myself around them. It was the most comfortable kind of friendship you could think of. But over the years, it all slipped away. Yes, they are all on my Facebook, but I have practically nothing to say to them. We've all added one another, but not even a “Hello” seems to be in order. I just watch them fling sheep at one another, and tell one another how drunk they got at the last party they attended. Everything sounds the same, but it is not.

There was this phase in my life – I think it was quarter-life crisis – when I had a sudden horrifying realisation that my friends and I have all moved away from one another. It was around the time my closest friends were moving to the US to do their MBA degrees. I felt lonely, incredibly lonely. And I started looking for what had slipped over the years without me realising it. Cousins I had not seen in a decade, friends I had not spoken to in years, teachers I had not remembered in a while. I reached out and for a moment, it looked like I could get everything back. But it wasn’t true. I had probably missed the 'window period' - the duration after losing touch when you still can get it all back. Once you miss the window period, even if you get back in touch, it's nothing but odd and uncomfortable. Time had corroded away everything we had in common, everything we could talk about, and even though we got back in touch, it just wasn’t the same.

That’s the problem as we proceed from quarter-life crisis towards mid-life crisis. Sometimes it's the things we don't know about each other that bind us. The more people we meet, the more we get to know them, the more we realise how different we are, and the lonelier we get. The lonelier we get, it becomes a way of life. We stop realising what’s slipped or is slipping through the cracks anymore. And worse - we stop caring.

In a world where we are getting lonelier by the second, what is worth investing your time, effort and emotions in - peering down the cracks and reaching out for what has slipped, or just holding on to what has not yet slipped, but will do so any moment now?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Eyelash batting

So Viv is going to China.

*rolls eyes.*

Viv is going to China. Again.

*rolls eyes higher*

*eyes hurt*

The Singapore team is in Kuwait for the ACC (Asian Cricket Council, not the cement company) Twenty20, and Viv's office rejected his leave application to go and play for Singapore. Instead, they decided to send him to China on work. Bloody hell. I believe that the real reason why his office moved from Central Singapore to Expo in the east, also known as "right next to the airport" is not "bigger office space". It is because the back door of his office leads to the back door of a China-bound aeroplane.

So all the other guys in his team got the cool new cricket kit and the cool new cricket cap, and flew off to Kuwait, while Viv prepared himself for the extremely tough life of "a non-Chinese speaking vegetarian in China". I was very angry at his company. And not just because I'd planned to tag along. "If we were in India na... and you were in the team, your company would have been so proud of you! They would have handed you your leave on a plate, along with a fat bonus. And they'd have gone to the airport to welcome you back armed with garlands. Or erm... tomatoes, depending on how you performed." I said.

The one time I want to go support the guy and watch him play, this is what happens. The one time I'm willing to be a WAG, this is what I get. Erm, do you know WAG? I didn't know either, till Viv told me. Apparently it's a sports term. WAG - 'Wives and girlfriends' aka the women the cameraman zooms to every now and then when you're watching cricket matches on TV and nothing's happening on the field? The women who wear dark glasses which are so big that you can't see three-quarters of their faces so they end up looking hot anyway? And the cameraman just keeps focussing on them even though the next over has started and is three balls down and the two commentators are yelling at him to turn the camera back to the pitch? Yup, that's the kind I'm talking about - the wives and girlfriends of the players. In other words, "the WAGs".

Okay, confession time. Till a few weeks ago, I'd never gone to watch Viv play in any of his matches. Of course I'd watched him play in university tons of times, and had even played cricket with him and his study-buddies using a book as a bat in tutorial rooms at midnight just before the damn engineering exams. But that was gully cricket. I'd never gone to watch him play a proper match as 'his girl'. Many people had expressed surprise at this.

"You've never gone to see him play at the ground?"

"Nope. Never."

"Why not??"

"Because... I dunno... he's playing well, and I'm scared I'll jinx it... maybe he'll score a duck or something if I go watch him play."

This was only partly true. The other part was that I did not want to become a WAG. I had heard horror stories about the other WAGs on the ground - many of whom did not even understand cricket - forming 'groups' that had 'cool names'. I was afraid that some day if I did land up to watch him play, they'd hand me a set of pink pom-poms, a short frilly skirt and a teeny top and motion me towards the dressing room. Large-sized dark glasses covering three-quarters of my face I could take, but that I was not prepared for.

So I made up by hanging around with him and his cricket kit at other places. Other very unconventional places. Due to the odd timings and long duration of his cricket matches/training, if we had any plans on weekends or weekday nights, he'd turn up with his cricket kit. He wouldn't have time to go home and keep his kit, just enough time to shower at the shower rooms in the cricket ground and look civil.

I've been to parties with him and his cricket kit, I've seen movies with him and his cricket kit (remember I lifted his bat and yelled out 'Chak de!' in the movie theatre after watching Chak De? Erm, actually I'm surprised no one yelled back, "Wrong sport, you bimbo!"), I've even been to serious concerts with him and his cricket kit. Imagine a guy in formals, accompanying a girl who is all dressed up in fancy clothes and high heels, and then imagine them with this large cuboidal canvas bag that can fit a grown man, knocking against people in the bus, train, movie theatre, concert hall and what not. I, my friends, have lived through it all.

So a few weeks ago, I told myself, "What the heck, I've been seen all across the city with my 'bat & batsman' entourage. Maybe I'll just go watch him play." Maybe I couldn't 'bat' my eyelashes and say, "Go, get 'em, tiger!" but I could be there - just for the sake of being there. In any case, I told myself, if people have to score a duck, they will score a duck.

"Viv, if you score a duck, I'm not responsible, okay?" I warned him thirty-seven times. That was my 'batting order' for him - you don't have to score a century, just don't score a duck.

And I sat on this plastic white chair in the covered area of the cricket ground and waited for the guy before him in the line-up to get out so Viv could go and bat. He did, soon enough, and I watched our man walk up to the pitch, dressed in his whites and helmet and pads, holding his bat in one of his gloved hands.

His moves today would decide my presence (or the lack of it) at all his subsequent matches.

And I crossed my fingers and watched.

Disclaimer: This post does not have a sequel.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Keep the Boll(ywood) rolling

So a few weeks ago, one of my Chinese colleagues told me, "Oh I caught a bit of Munnabhai MBBS on Central over the weekend. It was funny!"

I paused to absorb that information. It meant two things.

1. Contrary to my belief, Central – also known as crappy channel with crappy shows - does show good movies.

2. Here was a perfect conversion opportunity. It was time for missionary Sayesha to get to work.

"Did you watch the whole thing?" I asked.

"Nope, I didn't."

"You didn't watch the whole thing?" I tried hard to say it without gritting my teeth amidst visions of myself kidnapping thousands of Singaporeans, tying them to their chairs in a large theatre and forcing them to watch Bollywood movies back to back for a week.

"No, it was already half-way."

Hmmm... I forgave her.

"Do you want the DVD?" I asked.

"You have it??" She sounded excited.

"Of course I do." I said coolly.

"YES PLEASE! I'd love to watch the whole thing. It looked very funny from what I saw."

The next day I got her the DVD. She returned the DVD three weeks later. She had not only watched it herself, she'd made her sister and mother watch it too.

"Oh, if you liked this, you should watch the sequel." I gently suggested.

"There's a sequel??"

"Yup. And it's funnier than the first one!"

"Really? The first one is hilarious!"

"I'll bring you the DVD tomorrow."

The next day, I passed her the DVD. She loved the movie so much she even wrote a review on it on her Facebook. This morning she told me she was buying her own copy of both movies. I beamed like a salesperson in an electronic goods showroom who had just sold 13 high-definition LCD TVs on her first day at work.

Yesterday, I saw another colleague's comment on the first colleague’s review, saying something like, "Ooooh I should borrow the DVD from Sayesha too! I watch Bollywood movies once in a while. You know, the best Bollywood movie I have ever seen is Asoka! Have you seen it?"

I stopped in my tracks when I read that. It was time to call in the troops.

Asoka? Asoka? The movie where the only thing more moronic than the sword-wielding long-haired SRK was no-lipstick-but-a-kilo-of-kaajal Kareena with her silly antics in the water? I'd like to find out who lent her Asoka. Come on - own up!

Troops, if people out there are thinking that Asoka is the best Bollywood movie ever, you're not doing your job properly, damnit!

So who are these troops I am addressing with such deep anger and agony?

It is the Bollywood brigade.

As many of you are aware, Bollywood is my full-time religion. (Cricket is another contender, but it's a part-time religion because I’m not faithful to it all the time.) And I'm glad to say that I am not alone. Just like any over-religious freaks, we too are passionate about it to a mind-numbing degree. You can call us missionaries. We do have a mission – to convert as many people as possible into Bollywood freaks. I fancy myself as the President. *looks coyly at her nails*. And if you want to know how I got to the top, I have a story for you. This gal right here – one of my bestest friends - was inducted by yours truly. She is Chinese, and has not only watched 76 new and old hindi movies and reviewed all of them on her blog, she even took hindi lessons! She has seen movies that I have not seen! Unpleasant truths aside, she is to date, my biggest success story.

And there are many more like me all over the world, selflessly doing their bit without expecting anything in return. If this is not passion, what is? *shoutout to all fellow missionaries* We don't know one another but we're all striving towards the one common purpose in life – world domination by Bollywood. We're like Alcoholics Anonymous. Except that we're high on Bollywood movies.

And here I present to you, our ten commandments. It is important for each of our new members to fully understand and absorb the holy commandments before they go on their converting spree.

Bollywood produces movies by the truckload, of which about 20% are watchable, 10% are good, and 5% are very good. And I am being kind here. Most Bollywood movies are bad and the sooner we accept it, the better we will be at our job. In fact, some are so bad that they make 'Van Wilder – the rise of the Taj' (*pauses to wince*) appear like Academy award winners. The important thing is to use the right filter and drain the rest away. Henceforth, the term Bollywood movies will only refer to this filtered stuff.

Commandment #1: Thou shalt admit publicly that Bollywood produces a lot of crap before you embark on your mission - for that will grab your market's attention.

Bollywood movies do not discriminate. No matter which nationality, caste, creed, gender you belong to, they will entertain. You do not need Einstein’s IQ to understand them. Sometimes, you do not even need to understand hindi to understand them. They treat everyone equally, and anyone can understand them. Use this as a unique selling proposition, but be diplomatic - don’t tell your victims that even someone as dumb as them can understand it.

Commandment #2: Thou shalt market Bollywood as the neutral force the world needs.

Hollywood makes short movies, most of which do not have songs. Bollywood faces some resistance here from people with low attention spans. One strategy is to introduce the songs first and get them to appreciate why Bollywood is so musical. Then slip in the fact that each movie is 3 hours long. And oh, with some people, the "the songs are for toilet breaks" strategy works. Use whatever they will buy.

Commandment #3: Thou shalt know your competition well and strategise accordingly.

Know your victim… err… target… err… I mean customer before you lend the first DVD. Do not induct someone with ‘Vivah’ if his/her favourite movie is Fight Club (the one with Ed Norton, not Dino Morea)! Do not pass Lagaan to an American who thinks the only sport in the world is baseball. Know the Iqbal types from the Kal Ho Na Ho types. And oh, love it or hate it, you can't ignore Karan Johar's contribution to hindi cinema. It is important to note that while his movies can be the glue to keep some kinds hooked to Bollywood, they can also make someone run away so fast you won't even know what hit them. The placement of Karan's movies in the platter is crucial. Understand the nature of your client before making the first attack. Once they get into it and Bollywood grows on them, you can get experimental.

Commandment #4: Thou shalt think before you pick.

Play up the modernisation of Bollywood to the cynics. Rarely do you see movies any more where the hero and heroine jump out of their window in a slum in Mumbai and land in Switzerland to sing and dance (unless of course, it’s a dream sequence, then it’s forgiven). Rarely do you see movies any more with lines such as “Nahiiiiiiin, yeh nahin ho sakta!” and “Main kisi ko mooh dikhaane laayak nahin rahi!” and “Kutte kameene, main tera khoon pee jaunga!” The directors are getting smarter, the actors are getting more and more talented, the humour is also getting better and is not confined to making fun of accents from different states of India any more. And we have had some real gems in the last decade or so. Not to mention some of the oldie classics.

Commandment #5: Thou shalt champion the cause using the right examples.

Target the NRIs, especially those who have never been to India, but are curious about it. Get ‘em hooked. Get ‘em emo. Tell ‘em how Bollywood keeps us NRIs connected to India. That is not a lie, by the way.

Commandment #6: Thou shalt make ethical use of emotion to get your point across.

Never criticize Hollywood when trying to sell them Bollywood. Especially if they are hardcore Hollywood. Use the ‘It’s different’ strategy. Give them time. The hardcore ones are the last to admit that they cried when Farida Jalal tied Hrithik’s shoe laces in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. Let them be as long as you know in your heart that the conversion is complete. Let the sleepover effect take effect. Let them be. Pretend to lose. Don't hang around. It's the ones who still roll their eyes at the mention of Bollywood after all your efforts who will hunt down the DVDs and secretly watch them behind closed doors. Of course, do acknowledge that there are some who just can't be converted. Do not waste your time on them. Be professional when making your exit though, just 'thhhrrrrbrrrrt' at them and move on. There are plenty of other fish around.

Commandment #7: Thou shalt not waste time on those who do not deserve it.

If you’re going to India for a vacation, offer to buy them DVDs. Tell them how much cheaper it is compared to buying them at Bombay Talkies or Mustafa. If they get 'em, they’ll watch 'em. Do ensure that the subtitles are of a good quality. If the subtitles suck, to a non-hindi speaker, the movie will suck too. And oh, do spread the word that Video-Ezy carries hindi movies.

Commandment #8: Thou shalt travel for the holy cause.

Don’t be overenthusiastic in your DVD-lending mission. Lend the next only when you get the first back. Firstly, because they may never come back to you otherwise, and secondly, you gotta maintain the class and credibility of the cause.

Commandment #9: Thou shalt act pricey should the need arise.

If you run out of movies, admit it. Do not start lending movies like Asoka and all just because the convertee has exhausted your ‘good’ collection faster than you expected. If there are no good movies left, wait it out. Go back to Commandment 1 and think of all the crap. Remember, the gold will rise above the crap.

Commandment #10: Thou shalt always maintain the standard of service.

If you would like to be a part of this great cause, you’ll be pleased to know that we are currently hiring. Please send in your applications, stating your name, age, number of Bollywood movies watched, favourite movie and level of obsession. If you have the passion and the right attitude, full training will be provided.

Help spread a good cause.

We will achieve the ultimate nirvana when people start thinking that Hollywood is Bollywood with an ‘H’.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The key(s) to his success

Just when I thought that the most incredible thing about Adnan Sami is the massive amount of weight he has lost, I was in for a shock. A pleasant one, but it was a shock nevertheless. If that makes sense.

As many of you probably know by now, I spend my weekends writing books for children (and here come the "Bhai, future generation ko barbaad kyun kar rahe ho?" jokes) and during writing-breaks, Youtube-ing to keep myself updated on the latest in the Indian music scene. It was during one of my crazy Youtube-ing rounds (I had exhausted all videos of Shekhar dammit!) that I came across this gem. "There she goes again!" I hear my friends who are fed up of my particular fondness for Pakistani musicians and my crazy raving about them (by the way, have you heard Atif Aslam's "Kuchh is tarah"? It's a killer, that song. A killer.) but I just had to share this!

Watch him (Adnan, not Atif) as he matches tabla player Ustad Fazal Qureshi (Zakir Hussain's bro) beat for beat, pause for pause, in a piece played so fast that I swear if you step away from your computer and just listen to it, you would think it's a santoor (or even a sitar at times) playing, not a keyboard. And if you step back on to your computer, you will notice that his fingers seem to be treating the musical keyboard the way we treat a computer keyboard. And he's so chilled-out the entire time he's playing, he actually has time to look up and casually flash cheeky smiles at Ustad Fazal Qureshi. I made Viv listen to it (yes, I keep him in touch with music, and this is what I get in return. Sheesh.) and switched off the TV while F1 was on (oh the horror!) and played it three times over.

I knew the man was talented
(Adnan, not Viv) but I was so not prepared for this. Absolutely stupendously enthralling.

The man may not be big anymore, but his talent sure still is. And boy, aren't we all glad about that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bhaigiri 101 - Apun ka alphabet

So I was on the phone with my sister getting the latest updates on baby Aish.

"You know, she repeats everything she hears?" my sister said.

"Huh? Really?? Like everything??"

"Yeah! Do you wanna teach her something?" She asked.

"YEAH-A!!! Pass her the phone!!"

My sister passed the phone to Aish.

"Hiiii!" I said.

"Haiayayaya!!!!" Aish screeched.

"Aishu, say 'Apple!'? Apple? Apple?" I said, sounding extremely silly.

"Apple." She said.

"HOLY COW!" I said (to myself, of course. Wouldn't want Aish to freak her mother out by suddenly saying 'HOLY COW!').

And that's when I felt the resounding thud on my head. It was my alter ago Sash Bhai, who had administered a dose of the rolled-up-newspaper weapon-of-ass-destruction on my head. (For those who don't know, I have about ten alter egos.)

"Shyani... Yeh tu kya kar reli hai??" Bhai said.

"Arre Bhai aap... bahut dinon se dikhai nahin diye... Woh kya hai na Bhai... apni Aishu bolna seekh rahi hai na... bole toh..." I said nervously.

"Pata hai pata hai... mast repeat kar reli hai... lekin tu bachi ko bigaad kaiku reli hai? Kya bakwaas sikha reli hai usko??"

"Bakwaas? Bakwaas nahin Bhai... Woh Bhai... kya hai na... Apple... woh 'A for apple' seekhegi na school mein... toh... bas apun socha thoda paileich preparation..."

"Abbe dhakkan! 'A for apple' toh usko uske shyaane Amreeki teacher log sikha hi denge. Tu usko kya naya sikha rahi hai?" Bhai demanded furiously, tapping her fingers on the armrest a la Mogambo.


"Bhai, aapki baat mein dum toh hai. Toh thoda advice de dijiye... kya sikhaya jaaye?"

"Kuchh sikhana hi hai... toh usko mere sanskaar sikha... baaki toh woh apne aap seekh hi jayegi... abhi usko kuchh alag... kuchh solid sikha." Bhai said with a proud smile.

"Haan bhai... samajh gaya apun... bilkul."

So I came up with a new alphabet - only for my tiny tapori - containing all the keywords she needs to pass Bhaigiri 101.

A for Apun
B for Bhai
C for Chikna
D for Dhakkan
E for Englis
F for Fultu
G for Ghanta
H for Hafta
I for Ishtyle
J for Jail
K for Kharcha-pani
L for Locha
M for Mamu
N for No tension
O for Oopar tak (pahunch hai apun ki)
P for Pulis
Q for Q re shyaane?
R for Rampuri
S for Supari
T for Tapori
U for Uthwa lo
V for VIP log
W for Wasooli
X for X-pert
Y for Yeda
Z for Zabardast

Monday, October 15, 2007

Instant impressions

So it turns out that some people in the US office of my company believe that Singapore is a remote village in China where there are no computers, people do not speak English, and offices are up on trees with telephone cables dangling from them. Okay, that was a bit drastic, but you get the point. In fact, during a teleconference, one of my American colleagues very diplomatically asked me if I was familiar with the concept of a fax machine. Fighting all urge to say, "Fax machine? What's that? I don't have one in my tree, sorry." I assured him that we did indeed have a fax machine in the office.

It was very interesting - in the last decade, I have on many occasions found myself explaining and justifying India and all things Indian to people here who had a certain weird impression of it. The questions and statements I faced were of all kinds - whether elephants formed part of India's public transportation system, whether dowry was compulsory, whether my caste disowned me for marrying outside of it, whether Indian offices have air-conditioning, and what not. It was therefore a pleasant surprise when I realised that there are certain people out there in the world who have impressions of Singapore similar to what certain Singaporeans have of India.

And I started to think of impressions. First impressions. Last impressions. Lasting impressions. Instant impressions. Every time we say or do something, someone is forming an impression of us. Someone is judging us, thinking of us in a certain way, and we may not have the good fortune of being able to undo it. Ever.

My company has been hiring a lot of new people lately, and every time a resume from my ex-company pops up, my boss forwards it to me and asks me what my impression of the candidate was. It is a lot of pressure because what I say can invariably alter the chances of a candidate making or breaking it. At times I came across resumes where I did not really know, or had not worked closely with the candidate, but had vaguely interacted, and had somewhat of an impression of them. Too cynical. Surfs the net too much. Disturbs colleagues too much. Is frequently late. Takes faux medical leave. Fools around too much.

And it set me thinking - back then all of these people had no idea that some day I would be looking at their resumes and passing up my judgement to my manager. Was I even in a position to judge them? At times I felt that I was. It was work after all - and I would not want to hire anyone with the above traits - at least not for my team. At other times, I felt like I was forming instant impressions in my mind without giving them a real chance. And I wondered if people I have worked or interacted with have/had certain impressions of me which may not affect me now, but may prove to be a critical point in my life some day in the future. It was a very very stressful thought.

A few months ago, one of my blog readers whom I'd shared some cordial emails with, told me she had downloaded a picture of baby Aish from my blog and was using it as her desktop wallpaper. I was quite shocked as I was sure my sister would not approve of anyone using her baby's picture as their desktop wallpaper. So I asked the person to remove the picture. A few weeks later, she sent me another email asking for permission to make a collage of baby Aish's pictures. I told her that no matter how close she felt to me or Aish, her obsession with Aish was making me uncomfortable and I requested her to delete all Aish's pictures from her hard disk. Things turned ugly over a chain of emails, as I accused her of using my niece's pictures without permission, and she accused me of accusing her of stalking my niece. Till date, I can't figure out which one of us was wrong. Maybe neither was. It was just one of the things that just happen to people. But what I do know is that we went our own ways thinking each one of us was right, and forming certain impressions of each other. I would really like to patch up, but I figure we've moved on and are on totally different pages now. Trying anything would make it messier than it is, so it's best for both of us to just each other be. Of course I was partly to blame for putting up pictures of Aish on the blog. So I pulled out all the posts with pictures of her even though they were supposed to be my gift to her for her 13th birthday. Amazing how your impression of someone you have never met can be such a lasting one.

I recently had a tiff with a friend of mine who had the impression that I had a certain impression about him which in fact I did not. And I wondered if it was his impression of himself that he was trying to superimpose over my impression of him to prove himself right? It just got too confusing and I decided to shut my mouth and not make statements that could imply that I had formed an impression of someone when I hadn't. Till you completely open up with a friend, you can't tell what he is thinking. And in a formal setting like Singapore, no matter how close you think you are to someone, sometimes it's better to keep your mouth shut. Henceforth, I have maintained a very formal and diplomatic relationship with this friend. It's not something I like very much, but it's better than the mental distress both of us went through.

Tonight, someone Viv knows dropped by for a quick software lesson from him. I was in my teeny weekend shorts, and I didn't bother to change. His 'student' turned up in a salwar kameez and had vibhuti lines on her forehead. Whoa, maybe I should have changed, I thought. The entire time that she was there, I wondered if she was disapproving of me and the way I was dressed. But then I also wondered if it was my imagination, and tried to avoid forming an instant impression of her. Turns out she had made an instant impression of me. As she left, she gave me a 'look' and with a proud smile said, "You should come home for dinner sometime. I cook." Holy cow. What made her think I didn't? She had barely spoken to me! At first I thought it was in my head, but even Viv said he was offended with her 'Oh-you-wear-teeny-shorts-so-you-can't-cook' tone. I wanted to grab her hand and pull her into my kitchen and dunk her face in the matar paneer I had made for Viv and myself (but could not have because her goddam software lesson was so long), but like many other moments, I resisted. Sometimes it's just better to let it go. Especially when you have nothing concrete to base your hypothesis on. There is no point trying to undo something that may or may not be there in someone's mind. And even if some people do think of you in a certain way, what are you going to do about it? How are you going to hunt these people down and how are you going to make them change their minds? How many people are you going to worry about?

That's the problem with impressions – you have no idea how and when you contribute to someone thinking of you in a certain way. Sometimes you don't even actively contribute towards what someone thinks of you. Someone somewhere is always judging you, and you can't help it. And the truth is - no matter how strong we are - all of us at one point in time or the other, do tend to get affected by the who's-thinking-what syndrome. Yes, some impressions do help us become better people and even shape our own impressions of ourselves, but if we started taking each of them seriously, we're only setting ourselves up for misery.

The strangest thing is - the ideal solution to avoid all this stress and distress is a simple one in theory, but extremely complicated to carry out in practice.

Do not care about what impression someone has of you; worry only about what impression you have of yourself.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A hot topic

Every once in a while, a post on fitness and hotness makes an appearance on my blog. Such posts are mainly for me to motivate myself, and if aate-jaate kisi aur musafir ka bhala ho jaaye toh subhan allah. Putting it down in black and white (green and white in this instance) just makes sure I don't cheat on my resolution till the post is off the main page at least.

But this time I decided to be a little different. This time I decided to combine two of my passions - fitness and hot men who can sing. :D

A few days ago, I came across two videos on Youtube. Going by how many posts originate from my watching something on Youtube, if they ever close the site down, my blog may also have to shut down. *shudders*

Youtube ki jai ho! Watch this!

The after

Video courtesy Nishas810

*swoon & thud*

Ladies, you may want to replay the video from 02.22 to 02.20 for an added *swoon & thud* effect. For the benefit of the cutie-curious (curious about the cutie, duh!), this is Shekhar Ravjiani who has the ability to bring any Saregamapa cynic back into the game. For those of you who are wondering who the heck this chap is, well, he's Shekhar of Vishal-Shekhar, the hot music composer duo who are also mentor-judges on Saregamapa. I admit I do not watch the show as I still maintain that I have not heard one unique voice in such contests since Shreya Ghoshal's crystal one, but this, my friends, is one unique face (*swoon & thud again*) which I'm sure is more responsible for raising the TRPs of the show than the incredibly inane fights that Himesh 'main-tumhaare-ghar-aakar- roti-banaunga' Reshammiya gets into on the show. And also responsible for music-lovers like me you-tubing the show like mad in the weekends. Anyone who decides to jump and yell that he's married and has a kid and blah-blah will really get it from me – eye-candy is eye-candy. Eye-candy is never engaged/married/has-a-kid/blah-blah.

And now watch this...

The before

Video courtesy Megandiva

So after watching these videos (particularly the first one) a million times over, two 'How the heck' questions popped up in my mind.

1. Between the 'before' and the 'after', how the heck did this guy get so hot?

2. How the heck does this guy manage to look 10 years younger than he looked 10 years ago? (did you check out Sonu Nigam's clothes and hair in the second video? Those were the days, huh? ROFL!)

I started to list the changes that seemed to have gone into his amazing makeover. New haircut. Youthful clothes. A fitter body. And of course, the most important one - a brand new attitude encompassing that confident-naughty smile that reaches his eyes (ah, time to watch the video and pause at 02.22. Again!). The new and improved Shekhar (as opposed to that other Shekhar [Suman] fella) is amazingly easy on the eyes. Looking at the 'before', who would have thought he had so much potential? In the first video, he just looks like "random singer chap I couldn't be bothered about", but in the second, he's... errr.. "hunky and talented crush-material I can't stop obsessing about". The man has practically turned back time. He looks better now (I'm guessing he's in his 30s) than he did a decade ago, and I won't be amazed if he's still this sexy at 40.

And it set me thinking. Remember how we say, "She looks like an aunty!" and "He's like some 40-year-old pot-bellied uncle!"? Well, looks like there are no such generalisations anymore. Just because you're 40, you do not have the license to carry the 'aunty' or the 'pot-bellied uncle' look. The new 40-year-olds have arrived and they do not look like Rishi Kapoor in a pullover in the month of June. Akshay Kumar and Shah Rukh Khan are just two of this new breed that has redefined the age. Agreed, they are celebrities and they must look good to stay in the game, but when a 40-year-old gets himself a six-pack in three months for an inane song (of all the freakin' dards in the world, there's a dard-e-disco? Sheesh!), you know something has changed. And when music composers start looking so good, when they don't have to, and probably don't have the time for, you know something has drastically changed. Forget the celebrities, it is now trickling down to the common man's level. Phrases like "baby fat" and "I'm genetically fat, I can't help it" and "This is the prosperous look" and "I am what I am" and "why the obsession with youth?" and "I'm married. Who cares how I look?" and "I'm too old for all this" and "I'm too busy at work" and joking about one's own weight, denial ("I'm not fat. I'm just chubby.", etc.) are mere excuses for laziness. Being too much into one's looks may not be good, but being totally out of it isn't too good either. It is surely laziness, for who here does not want to look young, fit and pleasant? What really bugs the hell out of me is that fitness has no bad side effects. It's good for your health, and the only side effect is that we look and feel great! How much more of an incentive do we need?

Beauty may be skin-deep, but it does not mean we incorporate another layer of fat under our skin. Yes we may have flaws - everyone does - fat thighs, bad skin, a stubby nose, thinning hair, small stature, a paunch, but there is so much that can be done without resorting to plastic surgery. The right clothes, the right shoes, the right hairstyle, the right diet, the right workout regime, the right make-up, a genuine smile and the right attitude can more than make up for our flaws. Everybody has the right and ability to look good. Only if they want to. I consider myself a fairly fit person, and even I fall short of my own expectations. And joining me are my friends from all over the world who would like to lose some flab or get some abs or just get generally fitter. How many of us are going to get better-looking in our 30s than we are now? Do we really want to wait till we're 40 and then see how things look before we buck up?

I think our generation, particularly our age – is a unique one. We are well-read and aware and driven and energetic. We're sufficiently crazy to stay happy, yet mature enough to understand a little of this puzzle called life. We do the maddest things, laugh at the silliest things and behave in the most random of ways, but we still know the value of values. We're between the boring and the immature generations. We're young at heart and will probably stay so till we die. We just need to put in a little effort to make sure we look as young as we are. But the problem is - we're also the generation that likes to procrastinate. We've had an easy life and we're spoilt. We're the generation that follows a sinusoidal curve when it comes to fitness or any other form of discipline – one month we're all charged up, and the next few we're back to our old ways. We need spurts of inspiration every now and then to keep us going. Something that friends and family can't provide, because they're too damn exhausted. Especially when we're going downhill.

And then suddenly, the clouds part and the sun shines through. What seemed so difficult is suddenly deemed easy. One hot guy on TV is all it takes to bring in the much-needed spurt of inspiration. Not just any hot guy, but a not-so-hot-before-but-now-smokin'-hot guy. To inspire us to look a little better. Or at least to put in a little more effort into looking better.

Good looks may be over-rated, but looking good surely isn't.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Now that's what I call frand-sheep!

“Dude! Get on Facebook, man! Everybody’s there!” Viv got a message from his very excited friend.

It sounded like someone from the old days getting all excited about the Internet – the days when hotmail was cool, and email addresses like and err… ‘ruled’. Viv coolly ignored it while I decided to do a little bit of exploring. After all, it was a message like this that had got me on, and I can’t imagine my life if I had ignored that message. I still remember asking, “So like… what is this blogger thing? You just write stuff like an email? And who reads it? I mean… what’s the big deal?” Oh boy, what’s the big deal it seems.

Anyway, my inbox was also flooded with at least 16 invites to this Facebook thing. Not to mention messages like “Orkut’s so out man. Totally uncool. Facebook is the new ‘it’.” Err… o-kayyy. Thing is – I may crib about all the "hot and saxy guys wanting to make a frand shib with honest and lovely person" on Orkut, but it is a necessary evil for me as I found a lot of my friends there. For someone who had spent her childhood in seven different schools (before you think I was expelled multiple times I’d better clarify that it was because her Dad’s job entailed a lot of transfers), it was an achievement to have found everyone at one place – Orkut. I’m not that active on it, but I do find it a good one-stop-database of my friends from ye olde days. I still remember how I got started on Orkut – two of my blog friends were telling me how they were playing scrappy-scrappy on Orkut and I was curious to find out what the grown-up version of ghar-ghar and gudiya-gudiya was like. The rest, as they say, is history.

So I thought I’d give Facebook a chance and signed up. It was amazing how many more people I found – ex-colleagues, colleagues, cousins, nephews, what not, especially of the non-Indian variety. Facebook appeared to be quite non-sleazy, but then like Clueless says (and I completely agree) – give it time and everything will become sleazy. Anyway, Day 1 on Facebook felt like Day 1 in primary school. Everything was unfamiliar, and though there were people like me around, they all seemed to know their way around. So I fumbled and stumbled and finally made it. I was of course, bombarded with the millions of applications that you need to add to do anything on Facebook. And boy are they clever – they make your friends say good things about you, but you can’t read them till you add applications A to Z! Sheesh. And these applications then appear on your profile page all at once till you have to hire someone just to locate your profile picture on the page.

However, amongst all the applications that I had thrown at my face, and subsequently ignored, I found one really good one. Superpoke – throwing sheep in particular. So this application allows you to fling a virtual sheep above all the ducking heads all the way to the person you’re feeling affectionate (albeit in a strange way) towards. Now that's what I call frand-sheep! There is nothing quite like finding a friend who sat next to you in class twenty years ago, and flinging a sheep at him before saying “Hi, remember me?” I tell you - it’s the best. Of course, you can superpoke people in normal ways such as hugging them, sending them flowers or drinks, etc. but I think it's just too boring. One of my favourite actions is to especially stun the ones who're nice to me on Facebook. Someone sends you flowers or drinks – you hurl a sheep at them. Someone waves at you or hugs you, you hurl a sheep at them. It’s the most fun you can have without getting a rap from Maneka Gandhi.

Of course there are other things you can throw, such as a fish or a chicken. Oh, someone once threw a cow at me. Oh the audacity. But I can't explain to you the joy of prying yourself out from under the cow that was thrown on you, picking up a sheep and hurling it at the offender. You just have to sign up to experience it.

Of course, counting the number of outgoing sheep on my profile, anyone can tell I’m new. Usually, it's the new people on Facebook who are excitedly throwing sheep around like kids of four. I guess the more 'experienced' ones have run out of their share of sheep and are now too dignified to be hurling wolly mammals at their acquaintances.

But of course, the best things about Facebook are the alerts you get when you add someone or someone adds you – specifically the way the alerts are phrased. I cannot explain the feeling of relief-mixed-joy when you find a close friend XYZ with whom you had an ugly fallout almost a decade ago, and your Facebook page now says, “Sayesha and XYZ are now friends.” Now that is closure all right.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must get back to Facebook and throw some more sheep at people before it becomes uncool to do so.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The ultimate man vs. machine war

Baby Aish has reached the age where she has started saying things. Not like she did not say things before. There has been more than one occasion where Aishu has held the telephone and poured her heart out to me, narrating heart-wrenching stories of how her evil parents and grandmother are making her bathe every single day (oh the horror!), eat yucky mushy stuff, and wear stuff that is so not her style *coyly looks at nails*. Of course what I actually heard on the phone was something like what you would see on your screen if you accidentally fell asleep on your keyboard:


But a conversation it was, even though it was heavily intercepted by “beep beep beep” sounds, which was not Aishu using expletives, but her expressing fondness towards pressing the buttons on the phone, especially 'cancel' followed by 9-1-1, in that particular order. It was no wonder therefore that my sister decided to confiscate the phone. Aishu was not to go anywhere within 100 cm of the phone. And every time I’d ask for Aishu on the phone, my sister would decline.

I was devastated. If she did not hear her eklauti mausi’s voice, how would I become her best-friend-godmother-confidante?? So I bought a webcam. Forget hearing, now she could see me! So I asked my sister to point to me when I was online and say "M-A-U-S-I" ("aunt") as often as she could. Baby Aish was excited at the proceedings on the computer and the delightful proximity with another gadget she could destroy.

So last week, I asked my sister what baby Aish had learnt to say so far.

“Oh she says Papa, Mama, everything. And she can count to six. She drops the four, but she goes on to six. And we’re trying to get her to say the computer parts – we point to different parts and make her repeat it.”

Sheesh. What do you expect from two programmer parents?

“What about 'mausi'? Can she say 'mausi' yet?”

“Aishu, say 'mausi'?” I heard my sister say.

“Mauuuu…” Aishu said, in true Shakti Kapoor style.

I didn’t give up. Over the next few days, I tried and tried till she finally gave in one day.

"Mausss..." I heard her say.

"She almost said 'mausi', she almost said 'mausi', she almost said 'mausi'!" I said, jumping up and down.

Over the next few days, I heard her say it many many times, my heart exploding each time with utter joy and adoration.

“You know, I feel so happy when she says 'mausi'…” I was telling my sister once.

“Hehehe…” my sister laughed nervously.

“What? Why are you laughing like that?”

"Errr..." said my sister.

"What? What?? What???"

"Actually, she doesn’t actually say 'mausi'."

"Of course she does! I’ve heard her say it so many times!" I yelled.

“Errr… She didn’t actually say 'mausi'.”

"Well, what did she say then?"

"She said 'mouse'."



"Mouse as in the rodent?"

"No! Not that!" my sister said emphatically, as if that was supposed to make me feel better. "The computer mouse!!!"

Ooh, the computer mouse. :/


My niece thinks I am a computer mouse. Not the CPU, not the monitor, not even the keyboard, but the mouse – a part that is actually redundant in some computers.

“I don’t think she quite knows the difference between 'mouse' and 'mausi' yet. We point in the same general direction when we say either word, you see.” My sister explained.