Days of our Lives!

March 31, 2010

IIM Indore, Class of 2010

Filed under: I at IIM I,Top Draws — Santhosh @ 2:44 AM
Strange how, when we think back on these two years from the perspective of all that’s happened, it seems like an eternity. Yet, when we look back and remember everything so clearly, everything so recent, everything so close we could stretch out and touch them, it all seems like it really is not that long ago. When we first came, we were hesitant, we weren’t sure of what we were getting into; we weren’t even sure about what we wanted.
It’s said the beginning is always difficult, and it was especially so for us thanks to jogs at unearthly hours and truly SAD classes. From such physically painful days and the mentally painful ones of Chunauti, MAC classes and our first microeconomics quiz (remember? remember!), over the last two years, we’ve all come a long way. From the wide-eyed Tonty-somethings that we were, we can now fit the world into a 2×2 matrix. We can now walk up to any company and confidently announce in our best Savlon-voice that we can “strategically realign their organization to external exigencies using a process driven approach and scalable, replicable models that offer long-term sustainability.”
We’ve shared movies, maggi, bikes, cabs, rooms, notes, assignments, wake-up calls, proxies, doodles, after-dinner walks, suits, seats, fights, secrets, time, fun, and love. We’ve scrambled to class with a minute to go, yakked away for hours in the mess corridor, loafed around TI, swapped chapters on exam nights, and let the batch decide. Over our two years together, we’ve all grown close and helped each other grow. There will be some whom we’d like to have known better. And some we shouldn’t have known this well for the sake of our grades. What each one of us has done though, is to leave a mark in each others’ minds and hearts.
As the answers to “Why MBA” show, the reasons we came to the hillock were various: from the refreshingly truthful “Money” to the very honourable “to impress girls” (I’m still figuring this one out though); from the truly global “in-depth understanding of the market dynamics and to broaden my horizons for a long-term global perspective” to the very philosophical “Because I managed to crack CAT”. Some of us managed to switch careers, got the profiles and jobs we really believe in; some of us are walking out with dollar signs as eye-balls; some of us did wonderful community service, others served the community as office bearers; some of us found love; some found ourselves. Over time, hopefully, we would look back and realize that we managed to get exactly what we came for. Except the part about the girls, that is!
Finally, now, the bloody joke’s on us for thinking that all this will always be around. Yes, we’ve all hated waking up for 08:45 classes, getting memos from the PGP office and having to sit up all night for projects. Yes, we’ve all whined about the 100% attendance rules, the sex-ratio, the internet speed and our mess food – yes, OUR mess food. However, right now, each of us would gladly take all these for a chance to re-live our two years here. Now. Now when we look back at the mental portraits of all those friends, all those hangouts, all those small incidents that make up life, all those (mis)adventures, all those special people – all so fresh in the eye it seems strange that we have to move on.
We are not saying goodbye to each other in the real sense of the word, because we aren’t really going anywhere. We’re leaving the most precious part of ourselves here: our memories in these walls on the hillock. And we’re taking the most precious part of us with us: our memories of the two years spent in IIM Indore.
Where we go, we mind of
How we be, we know naught;
But, together we shall stay
all thro’ this life we’ve sought.
For ’tis in our Hearts and in our
Dreams that we together swing away!
And so, to each other, two hundred and thirty eight times over (see, 100% attendance!), HERE’S TO THE CLASS OF 2010!
Santhosh Kanna,
Class of 2010
~ Editorial for the Yearbook 2010

March 1, 2009

Farewell PGP2

Filed under: I at IIM I,Top Draws — Santhosh @ 11:37 PM

This is the farewell article on behalf of PGP1 that I wrote for the 2nd yrs’ Yearbook.

——-x——-

‘Tis an oft-used line. The one about not knowing what we have until it’s flown. In our case, though, we did. Truly. Which makes it all the more harder to let go of a year of being together. It’s said the beginning is always difficult, and it was especially so for us thanks to jogs at unearthly hours and truly SAD classes. From such physically painful days and the mentally painful ones of Chunauti, through our Summers of 09 days and shared maggi, bikes and movies, with letting the batch decide thrown in somewhere along the way, we’ve all grown close and seen each other grow.

Thanks for being helpful whenever we’ve come to you, and in fact actually going out of your way to do so – so much in fact that at one point some of us had 6 different mentors each :). We just hope you continue to be this large-hearted, unsparing and noble of spirit forever. Especially since some of us will be interning in the same places as you’ll be drawing salaries from (Hint! Hint!).

There are some of you whom we’d like to have known better. And some we shouldn’t have known this well for the sake of our grades. What each one of you has done though, is to leave a mark in our minds and a legacy in our hearts to remember and carry forward. We certainly appreciate your intent and work in trying to improve the system and ensuring we as a batch didn’t make the same mistakes that you may have.

Finally, we do think that the bloody joke’s on us for thinking that you’ll all always be around – for a talk at any time of the day, for that ‘one more‘ game of cricket, for answering our cries of distress by sharing your assignments, and just for plain old worldly gyaan in front of the mess.

We are not saying goodbye to you guys in the real sense of the word, because you aren’t really going anywhere. You’re leaving the most precious part of yourselves here: our memories of you. And you’re taking the most precious part of us with you: your memories of the two years spent in IIM Indore.

Where you go, we mind of
How you be, we know naught;
But, together we shall stay
all thro’ this life we’ve sought.
For ’tis in our Hearts and in our
Dreams that we together swing away!

And so, for you all, two hundred and forty three times over from all of us in Batch 2010 (see, 100% attendance!), ALL THE BEST!

Cheers guys!

Santhosh Kanna,
On behalf of Batch of 2010
——-x——-

February 25, 2009

Session by BSF officers on strategies

Filed under: I at IIM I,Top Draws — Santhosh @ 4:28 PM

To solve a problem, you should enter inside it. Only by getting to the middle of it can you see what it is and solve it.

Looks like the usual management gyaan (or globe) that one’s subjected to in a B-school, doesn’t it? Yet, not one of us uttered a murmur. Not when the ‘problem’ was a fire set by terrorists to the gates of their hideout, from behind which they were firing automatic weapons, and getting to the inside of the said problem involved armoured ‘moving bunkers’.

The gentleman talking to us was a senior officer from the Border Security Force and the session on 13th Feb was a special class on strategies for some 20 of us PGP participants here at IIM Indore. Another dozen or so BSF officers were also part of the session which was centered around Operation Gazi Baba. Gazi Baba (original name Rana Tahin Nadeem aka Shahbaz Khan) was the late leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, the militant organization responsible for the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 and also implicated in the kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

They talked us through how the JeM was formed, what their operations were and what had transpired before this Operation. The operation itself involved ‘forced’ interrogation of ‘sources’, tracking the movements of his ‘associates’, Gazi Baba spending only a few hours each day at a particular hideout, reconnaissance, hidden rooms behind mirrors, trapdoors, jumps off terraces onto mattresses, evacuation of civilians, multilevel cordons and charge groups, and even a concealed infrared CCTV. About the actual details of the entire operation, for purposes of self-preservation, I’ll not repeat here. The videotaping of the session was asked to be stopped during this part and we’ve been asked to try and not talk about it. I don’t want to step out of my hostel room to find two jawans waiting for me, do I? 🙂 You can find a version of the events here though (you have to scroll down a bit).

They talked of how they strategize based on threats, constraints (time, manpower, narrow lanes where only bicycles can pass, civilians, etc in this case) weaknesses, logistics, and the lot. The success of the operation, according to another officer, was because of a focused intelligence grid, sustained interrogation, quick reaction, aggressive action, well knit cordons, and most important of all, a single command and control. Also interesting was how they take as few men on the actual charge as possible, simply because the fewer the men the lesser the chances of casualties.

Trust me, it was a little eerie to be sitting there in the darkened room, listening to words such as ‘G’ sources, civilian casualties, armoured bunkers, and of accepting one casualty per such operation. I can’t even bring myself to think about how a set of people set out on a mission, knowing that at least one of them will not make it back.

As they walked us through the powerpoint presentation (now here’s one area we MBA types are definitely better), with each point coming onto the slide with the sound of a gunshot, I suddenly realized there was now a whole new meaning to bullet points.

With the below Sanskrit quote as the background slide,

Agnih shehsam runah shesham shatruh shesham tathaiv cha punah punah pravardhet tasmaat shesham na kaaryet

another BSF officer explained how the BSF went ahead and shot down JeM’s first and second in line commanders also (Rashid Bhai and ), to leave JeM leaderless.
Agni (fire), Runa (loan), shatru (enemy), if [either] remain even in small trace[s] (shasham) [they] will grow again (punah punah pravardheta), so finish them completely (tatah shesham na karayet).

We were then shown a 11 minute video (supposedly specially made for Vajpayee, the then PM) of how the entire operation played out. They also showed us snaps of the actual hideout where the operation took place, the dead terrorists in all their gore and blood, and how they identified one of the dead as Gazi Baba (he looked like some next door uncle, as compared to the photos of him with the turban and beard). Just to remind us of how real life resembles reel life, there was a photo of a Delhi map on one of the walls with colored pins stuck on it to indicate God knows what. When they showed us photos of the weapons used by both sides, it was our turn to make their jaws drop by identifying most of them. Years of Max Payne and Counter Strike do serve some use every now and then, you know.

The other BSF officers – there were some 10-12 of them in all – also joined in for the Q&A session that followed. When someone asked about the Indo-Pak borders, we got a sense of what it must be like to stand guard at a nation’s borders, when the answers ranged from -50°C temperatures to 120 feet of snow. However, it was also while on this topic that we realized why exactly we as a nation are plagued by issues prennially. The BSF and the Indian Army jointly guard the Indo-Pak borders and I would like to think they do work it out between them on who does what and where. However, the BSF officers started blaming the Indian Army, whom they sarcastically refer to as the Big Brother, of being inefficient because of which the BSF also have to pay a price. Yes, there may be issues between the two services, and maybe the Indian Army are at fault, but there is a time and place to show the bad blood, and that is definitely not in a public forum of civilians.

For the expected question on what role the media plays in such operations, they spoke of appointing dedicated media interfacing personnel, common understandings and how they promise the media exclusive whole stories just to get them off their backs. They also spoke about how terrorism is an industry in Kashmir and how many more years may be needed for permanent peace. It was also eerily funny to hear them say how the Indian and Pakistani forces mutually decide to retreat from the borders for the peak of the winter and when the Indian forces come back they find Pakistan forces occupying Indian territory, claiming this is where they were previously also. Talk about neighbourly squabbles!

When someone asked about the porous Bangladesh border, the answers, as expected, were not simple and involved geographic, ethnic and economic issues. The many rivers, streams and tributaries in the region change course often over the year and there are large stretches of barren land which in spite of lighting, partial fencing, regular watchers and tactical shifts just cannot be monitored 24*7. They showed us photos of the Bangladesh border and it was a strange sight to see border markers (3 feet high pyramids, and called ‘pillars’) between houses and in the middle of cultivated land. I mean, one can wake up in Bangladesh and cross the street to his aunt’s in India for a cup of coffee. Also, it being the subcontinent, there were kids playing cricket with the border pillars as stumps. Now, who says India don’t host the Bangladesh cricket team often enough?

February 12, 2009

Sri Kama Sene and the (p)anty-social fundae

Filed under: My Cup of Socie-Tea,Top Draws — Santhosh @ 8:01 PM

You know, in the good old days, Valentine’s Day usually saw lace panties being gifted to wives, mistresses and girlfriends. But now, in these pub going, loose, and forward times, we’ve resorted to sending pink chaddis to 40-something males. Forget about how extreme right or center-left he is; first check how straight he is before sending him those chaddis. Now that Muthalik has decided to reciprocate all this love by sending sarees for each chaddi he receives, I just hope that he knows what he’s getting into. Women’s fashion is not exactly as simple of rocket science and he may well end up having to set up a new complaint cell – what color is this, crepes went out of fashion ages ago, the flowers in the border are just too large...

As for the SRS themselves, it’s like watching a TR movie – I’d actually be laughing myself silly at them were it not for their actions affecting so many in so direct a manner. If nothing else, the antics of the various Senas have provided enough fodder for our junta to twitter on. The irony is that their convoluted brains have come up with some warped logic whereby it’s perfectly OK for them to oppose Public Displays of Affection with Public Displays of Violence.

Taking a cue from the Ambani brothers, the various Hindutva factions in Karnataka have even entered into non-compete agreements:

  • Bajrang Dal opposes conversions (the work of which, according to the Constitution of India and the Fundamental Right to Freedom of Religion, should be against the law.)
  • Hindu Janajagrithi Samithi works against denigrating Hindu gods in any form.
  • Sri Ram Sene call themselves the custodians of Hindu culture.

Everyone has the right to have a quiet drink in a pub, and doing so is just the same as taking food, eating pizza or licking a cone in a restaurant, pizzeria or an ice cream parlour. Free world, service being provided, basic rights, independence, and all that. We shouldn’t even be talking about this – it’s a no-brainer. I just wish the junta in the various talk shows didn’t shortchange everyone by talking so indignantly of just the right to go to pubs or wear spaghetti tops. It’s a bit more than that – it’s about an individual’s right to decide what he/she wants to do with his/her own time (and life).

However, just a thought here. Blame it on a small-town upbringing, but I’d like to know how many of these twinkle-toed, sharp-tongued ladies (and young sirs) in their teens actually tell their parents they are going out for a drink. Supporting an open society and willing all those supposed philistines to be educated about the new world is puhfectly fine, but then like all things, it needs to start at home. Your parents are the old, doddering, dogmatists stuck in dinosaur-land for someone else, and if you feel so strongly about the whole open-minded thing, it’s your responsibility to sit and ‘educate’ them first. It’s highly hypocritical if you’re scared to talk about this with your own parents (and have to resort to “eating out” and “classmate’s notes”) and yet ask out loud for a more forward and understanding society.

On a side note, what’s with NDTV’s sudden overmuch of original ideas? First it was that mademoiselle Darkha Butt who came up with ‘India’s 9/11‘, and now it is Mayo Sharma with Mangalore’s Taliban. What next? India’s Monica Lewinsky?


As for the pink chaddi campaign itself, I personally don’t expect anything to come of it. Yes, it’s an absolutely brilliant, creative and novel way of making people sit up and take notice. However, I really can’t see anything practically substantive in the crusade, except for lunatics who stock chaddis in pink, and pub owners who’d be utterly delighted at the prospect of all these campaigners deciding to park themselves in their pubs and drink exhorbitant quantities of liquids and beverages (as per their own, um, constitution’s step 3). But as for any actual actions that may make a difference, all the campaign proclaims to do is:

What happens after Valentine’s Day?
After Valentine’s Day we should get some of our elected leaders to agree that beating up women is ummm… AGAINST INDIAN CULTURE.

We all know what happens with such proclamations (it’s called globe in MBA jargon). Note that I’m not against the campaign, all I’m saying is that just creating facebook communities and sending pink chaddis will do nothing more than create some temporal noise, and that’s the easy part for someone who has the finances and the faculties to visit pubs and access the net.

And as for Muthalik, if he isn’t busy giving guest talks on PR and advertising, something tells me he’s out there minting money by selling those pink chaddis himself.

November 3, 2008

Farewell Jumbo

Filed under: Sports,Top Draws — Santhosh @ 11:30 AM

It is said that the memory span of the average Indian cricket fan is three balls, six if it happens to be about Sachin. In Anil Kumble’s case, that may not be such a bad thing after all. A year back, the last ball he bowled in one-day cricket was a Jumbo rocket. Bermuda’s Malachi Jones stood stupefied – better batsmen have suffered worse – as the ball pitched in line, hurried inexorably on, and crashed into pad, trapping him plumb in front. Yesterday, the penultimate ball he bowled in Test cricket was also a quintessential Kumble special – it pitched on middle and leg, kicked up from a length from the rough, climbing past a bemused Hayden and a helmet-protected Dhoni had to fend it off his head. It made everyone forget the last few games, the worn shoulder, the tired fingers, the cut webbing, the relentless media scrutiny, the shocking wickets columns, the bite off the pitch evident by its absence.

His career can be divided into three parts – that wintry day in Manchester in 1990 to till his rotator cuff gave way in 2000, from 2001 to 2003-04 and from 2004 to 2008. Kumble spent 339 days in surgery, post-operative care, physiotherapy and rehabilitation. When he came back in 2001, he had lost his most dangerous weapon – his flipper. His reset shoulder just couldn’t generate the zip it once had, the ball didn’t grip as much, the wickets came slower. He still bowled accurately, still was as determined and willing, but he had turned from lethal and unplayable to merely threatening and respected. Between 2001 and 2004 he was in the wilderness. Bhajji was the spinner of choice for ODIs and Kumble played only when two spinners were required in a Test. And then he fought back, reinventing himself like not many before him have to set off on his most productive run yet. It started in Adelaide when Bhajji was injured and he got his break. Over the series, he once again became India’s premier spinner and with India’s batting starting to run up scores overseas also, he started clearing his CV of sporadic blemishes – wickets overseas, series wins, a Test Century even. Therein lies his USP – humble enough to accept change, determined enough to never give up, willing enough to reinvent himself.

A lot of my memories of cricket while growing up involve Kumble – he just seemed to always be bowling if India was. In the 90s, at a time when Kumble was sometimes the fastest bowler in the side, with Venkatesh Prasad at Mid On and Navjot Singh Sidhu at Cover to call as fielders, when our bowlers used to push the speed barrier only in getting back to their short run-ups, it was Kumble who so often kept us in the match. Back then, he was relentless, pinning the batsmen down with fast deliveries, working them over, drying up the runs, building the pressure, denying them the chance to attack for fear that the ball might skid or leap, that the temptation was a trap. He was accurate, relentless, and mean and hated giving away runs. His top-spinners bounced more than anybody else’s, his googlies spat off the rough, his flippers screamed through to the stumps when the bat was still coming down.

We could almost plot the batsman’s dismissal ourselves when Jumbo was setting them up. Four deliveries pitched up to draw him forward, with a top-spinner thrown in to keep Silly Point interested. The fifth would be the flipper – fast, straight, pitched on a length and skidding in, the batsman caught on his back foot, his mind willing his bat to come down faster. It seldom did.

He never caught the imagination of the world along the lines of Warne and Murali, something similar to the way we now feel about Ponting – good, but never to be spoken in the same breath as Sachin and Lara. He was the top wicket-taker in the 1996 World Cup, outperforming Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan in the subcontinent. He has claimed more LBW victims in Test history than anyone. He’s got wickets all over the world, including a tenner. And yet… Maybe it was because he didn’t burst on to the scene but rather slowly imposed himself on the game. Maybe it was because he debuted as just another spinner during an age when India had world-class exponents by the dozen. Maybe because his bowling didn’t have the natural beauty of a spinner like Mishra over the last week and Warnie for years, have. The ball was never thrown up, it never had that drift in the air towards the batsman’s legs to grip the surface and spit and turn past the batsman’s bat. He had his own methods and with the precision of a surgeon, set to work with his tools. Like he said, “The difference between the middle of the bat and the edge is one inch.”

We were with him when his 6 for 12 ran through the Windies in the midst of the torches that 100,000 Kolkatans held aloft at the Eden Gardens; when he and Srinath won us that Titan Cup match against Australia in their hometown, with their mothers screaming and cheering at the Chinnaswamy stadium; when he took all ten at the Kotla; when he had his arm in a sling and mentored Bhajji to 32 wickets in the epochal 2001 series; when he came out with a broken jaw and bowled 14 straight overs, appealing with his eyes to the umpires, before finally prising Lara out; we have been with him when he reinvented his bowling, and with the Fab Four set out on a golden period of overseas wins; we have been silently roaring with him every time he and More, Mongia and Dhoni have gone up; we have been jumping out of our seats every time the ball was edged just short of Short Leg or an inside edge just managed to keep the ball out; we have been with him right through the bespectacled days through the rotator cuffs and the broken jaws till yesterday’s split webbing (when, after eleven stitches and general anesthesia for half a day, he returned to take three more wickets).

I’m sad, yes. Very. Had a lump in my throat when Sachin collected his cap to hand it to the umpire one last time. But happy for him. Happy because of him. Happy for having witnessed what he was and what he did. Thanks Jumbo, for all those Sunday afternoons and whispered updates during class, for making us run home from school and keeping our mobiles switched on in college, for the wonderful memories of hope, triumph and inspiration, for showing us that it is neither talent nor predisposition but choice and will that matter more, for reminding us that it is important to fight even when hope seems lost, for showing us that aggression and attitude are not about sledges, glares or brave statements in the press, and yes, many thanks for having been a major part of our cricket lives!

May 28, 2008

Elysium…

Filed under: Fiction,Top Draws — Santhosh @ 8:32 PM

“Excuse Me, ‘scuse me!”, she muttered, as she brushed past more people. It was a beautiful winter day and the chill breeze made her shiver a little, a slight drizzle beginning to wet her shoulders. She tugged at her shawl, his shawl which she had kept, and felt the warm fabric against her skin. Dawn was just breaking and fireworks were lighting up the early morning sky on this Republic Day, as the cadets marched proudly in precision past her and the other spectators toward the podium where she knew the guest-of-honour would be waiting patiently. He always did.

Her mind wandered back to 7 years ago, to a day not very different, to a day in her first semester of college. In her mind’s eye, she could still see him, a fellow student with dreams she had first seen in class all those years ago. He was wearing khaki trousers and shirt, the lab uniform, the shirt with the top button open to reveal a black tee inside, a ready smile playing across his cheerful face as he walked into class with his friends.

A week later. It was the India-Pakistan World Cup match day. And India had just won. Professor Vasudevan had dismissed class early. Everyone in class was shouting. The group of boys who had bunked class to watch the match had just come in, and they added to the pandemonium. She was carefully trying to print a tattoo sticker of Dravid, her beloved Dravid, onto her wrist. She had just applied water and was carefully peeling away the paper when someone bumped her elbow, leaving Dravid without patches of his face. It was him. All she could do was glare as he waved his hand in apology, his lips still curled in a half grin, as the noisy group moved on.

It was the lunch break and she was taking her lunch in a corner. He came into the classroom and looked around, searching. And he seemed to find only one vacant seat among the many – the seat beside her. She had her bag on it, and he walked up to her and asked her if he could sit.
“No, its taken” she said.
“By whom?”
“My bag”, she replied with a withering look.
He moved the bag and sat.
“So do you always take your lunch here?”, he asked.
“Are you always this miserable, or is it just in front of me”.
“It must be you, for not having met you for 17 years of my life”.
She was getting irritated at this guy, who after spoiling her tattoo, was now acting smart.
“Please leave before I give you a piece of my mind”, she told him with barely controlled anger.
“Well, a piece would do for starters”
She didn’t remember the rest.
After some time, he got up, replaced her bag onto the seat with a smile, winked and left. She was so irritated she got up too, pushed off her lunch box, picked up the lid to close it – and found a single Dravid tattoo sticker.

Everyday he would come over, and sit right there, beside her. They seemed to get on much better as time passed. She found him to be a person of many facets. Her young, innocent heart found him enchanting as she got to know him more. Without speaking, he made her smile. Without moving, he made her wince. Without breathing, he made her pant.

She used to sing for the college orchestra and he used to drum his fingers on the desk as she sat by him practising her humming. She still remembered how his face shone when he tried to teach her to whistle. How restless he used to be, while she did the graphs for his record work. How smart he had looked in the white shirt she had forced him to wear. How mischievously his eyes glinted and how his face always seemed so full of life.

She couldn’t recall the exact moment when they decided to intertwine their lives. Neither proposed. They just knew. Destiny, she called it. He called it love. And both laughed at the way she had started on giving him a piece of her mind and ended up giving him her heart, she taking him in with those big eyes of hers.

It was a beautiful winter day and the chill breeze made her shiver a little, a slight drizzle beginning to wet her shoulders. She tugged at her shawl, his shawl which she had kept, and felt the warm fabric against her skin. Dawn was just breaking and fireworks were lighting up the early morning sky on this Republic Day, as the cadets finished their march and stood at attention facing the podium, the spectators standing up as one.

There he was, the impish half grin playing across his cheerful face, the entire college saluting him.
She couldn’t help thinking, “just like old times“!
She walked across to the podium and knelt down, the shawl dropping onto the grass, off one shoulder.
She didn’t cry.
She brought her hands together.
Time stood still.

There he was, in a framed photograph.

ps: inspired by an old post of Shravan’s

May 13, 2008

Hairy Tales, these.

Filed under: Mars and Venus,Top Draws — Santhosh @ 4:40 AM

Yesterday, three pretty girls were climbing the stairs just ahead of me (some detractors might claim that I was walking behind them). I had work in the Professional Couriers office and I believe the fair maidens were visiting the beauty parlour next door. They were chattering away on what they wanted to do with their hair and I was awestruck by the preciseness of their requirements – “A lateral snip … till here (indicating the exact projection) … a little blah-blah highlights … just this part here (once again with extremely precise indications)…” Wow! I said to myself, girls CAN be clear on what they want. But with respect to haircuts, as a guy, I’m always at a loss of words when I enter the barber’s. Let me elaborate.

The biggest problem with us guys is that we are never sure on what we exactly want but for a very approximate idea. Like for instance the time when I wanted to have a funk. So after having covered all my bases, including informing my lawyer in case my mom disowns me, I plonked myself in front of my barber.
“I want a funk – “
“What type?”
“What what type?”
Funk! What type of funk?”.
“Whaat?? They have types in funks? When did that happen?”
So I gave in to my usual “the usual”*.
* Have you ever seen a barber ask you what you mean by “the usual”? Even if it’s your first visit there?

Once in a while though, we know exactly what we want. It’s that thing so-and-so actor sported in so-and-so movie. But then, being the men that we are, we’re not going to be messing around with our izzat by revealing that we’re aware of any kind of ishtyle. So I put the “Innovation Matters” that my company asks of me into play by trying to describe what I think the cut is like and the result is disastrous more often than not. Like for instance the time when I wanted my hair to be cut like Josh Hartnett’s in Pearl Harbor, I ended up saying “Well… ummm… I want it to look ruffled… and a little windblown… but err, in place… and neat.. like err … well … you know what, just make it short”!

You can’t blame the barbers for not trying to help you though. They always have these colour posters of extremely happy looking guys in weird hairdos staring back at you from 2 walls (yeah two, not more, not less). As if to suggest, yeah be a man and pick me. But the problem is you are as sure as Ganguly tonking a left-arm spinner over deep midwicket that not one of those hairdos is going to look good on you (or should it be you who should look good in the hairdo? well, whatever)! Also, the places that I usually visit are called So-and-so Saloons. Saloon, mind you, not salon. There is an ‘o’ missing. Now, you could be audacious enough to ask me why I couldn’t just go to one of those fancy parlours where I can first check out a computerized me. But then, you know, a billion dollar head doesn’t need a 2 grand haircut to look good.

April 21, 2008

Why the IPL needs all the extra glitz it can attract!

Filed under: My Cup of Socie-Tea,Sports,Top Draws — Santhosh @ 2:24 AM

Now that the IPL has finally begun in all its hype and hoopla, everyone seems to be asking just the one question – why do we need all this glitz, glamour and sideshows for a cricket match. To understand this, one would first need to understand the Indian cricket fan. There are essentially two types :

One is the cricket sport fan.
The one who has a genuine love of cricket as a sport and is able to appreciate the fine nuances of the game. He understands the subtle changes in the spinner’s flight and angle according to the batsman and the field or the way a batsman changes his grip slightly to bring more of his bottom hand into play. To him, watching a cricket match is an experience, understanding the critical passages of play, riding the ebb and flow of the match and becoming a part of a most intricately constructed drama where he becomes one of them. For such a fan, even seemingly boring passages of play – low-scoring scraps, batsmen biding time by letting balls go by, a spinner bowling six maiden overs in a row – fascinate and fill his mind with action, adding to the drama slowly unfolding around him. Unfortunately, for such a fan, going to the cricket ground is not necessarily a requisite option. He wants to follow the game at the micro-level – close-ups of the batsman as he prepares to face, the change in grip as the bowler decides to go cross-seam – none of which can be done if he’s sitting near square-leg in a pathetic stadium and can’t even follow which way the ball is swinging, never mind the inaccessibility to tools for his own analysis (pitch-maps, replays, comparisons, etc).

The other is the cricket entertainment fan.
He looks at cricket as another means of entertainment, another Bollywood movie, with a Dhoni or a Yuvraj as the hero. For him cricket is about the story of the good guy winning against the bad guy, the hero who would do all the things that he wanted to, but couldn’t. And just the way the movie fan leaves the theater muttering his dissent if his hero couldn’t win in the end in one of those tragic-dramas, the same goes when his team doesn’t win and in which case we have effigy-burning and house-stoning. This fan wants fours and sixes and excitement and action and confrontations and shots of women in the crowd. He just wants to be entertained. This is the Indian Cricket Fan that the outside world gets to see – the one who builds temples for his idol but also throws bottles on fielders and burns effigies. This fan is not crazy about cricket – he’s crazy about Indian cricket, more specifically the international version, which is why India was the only country where domestic 20-20 was such a huge flop last June.

However, it is this second category of fans who make cricket such big business in India. Their blatant ignorance of the sport in question is entirely besides the point, because they are the ones who bring in the moolah by flocking to the grounds, paying millions for sweaty shirts worn by their heroes, and generating billions in revenues for the BCCI. This is why so much coverage of the game is hyperbolic, designed to keep viewers perpetually excited. This is also the reason most commentators are ex-cricketers, hired for being familiar to a celebrity-obsessed audience, and rarely for the insights they offer – why we are forced to hear a Rameez Raja’s “That was a fast ball. Make no mistake. The mistake was made by the batsman” or an Arun Lal’s “That ball was in the air for a while, but it didn’t quite reach the fielder”. The commentary is mostly rhetorical and the commentators are mere summarisers with a delivery like the Speaking Clock. It’s playing to the gallery that knows no shades of grey – just black and white – which is why even experienced retired cricketers, even taking their relative lack of common sense into account, judge a shot as splendid or terrible based on just the result.

So for the IPL to sustain, the cricket is not going to be enough. The category of fans who matter for the balance-sheets are not going to want to pay good money day in and day out for 3 hours where more than 50% of the players are cricketing nobodies from the Ranji wilderness. This is the reason why Lalit Modi and co feel there’s a need for firangi cheerleaders and Akshaye “I-act-only-in-multi-starrers” Kumar swinging down cables; why SRK feels it is fine to dance away in the crowd, how much ever patronising or contrived it may look; why we have gold coloured pads, orange helmets and Gavaskar commentating in ultra-speak mode.

So rather than asking why we need all this razzmatazz to be a part of cricket, we should look at IPL cricket as just a part of the packaging for the category of fans that matter. The IPL is for the masses, pure and simple, a 3 hr movie for the star-crazed fan, with generous doses of hype and masala and girls and action and high-velocity entertainment. The cliche of IPL being the marriage between Bollywood and Cricket suddenly makes sense – both are essentially based on and serve just one particular quality/need of the fan.

ps : if you’ve come till this, you belong to category 1 and I love you, but if you haven’t then better get your fat backside off to the Chinnaswamy stadium – Mallya’s got some Redskins with pom-poms for you.

March 10, 2008

Marriage is not a word – it’s a sentence.

Filed under: Mars and Venus,Musings,Top Draws — Santhosh @ 12:53 AM

A month back. A Sunday evening. Mobile buzzes.
Me : “Solra! Enna thideernu? Enga iruka?”
He : “Machan, nan onnu soluvaen, tension ayidadha!”
Me : “Solra, inna buildup ellam?”
He : “Kalyanam da. Nan. Idhu. Enaku. Adhu”
Me : “Suthama kaekalai da. “
He : “I mean, enaku da. Kalyanam*. Varra Sunday”
Me : “Ot*@, $#?^&!#^”

* Kalyanam – a form of masochism; also known as marriage.

And so, the floodgates open. Just like that. With that one nod of his head to his parents, he’s put an entire batch of guys at terminal risk of being poked in the ribs by old aunties and told “You’re next”! What makes Vijay’s marriage all the more impactful is that it doesn’t fall into any of the usual categories for an ‘early’ marriage: love marriage, lower strata of society, family emergency, long-term onsite, father into politics, etc. His is just a normal arranged marriage, which just happens to happen when he’s 24.

It’s never easy for a guy to bring about a mindset of getting married. I mean, one moment his only concern is on watching that borrowed dvd as many times as possible before returning it and the next moment he has to be managing budgets for all the things that his wife wants to buy that she didn’t get at her dad’s. He’s supposed to be this really mature guy who knows exactly the right things to say when his wife is crying (everyone says “I’ll take you shopping” works; does it really?), needs to be this all-in-all-alaguraja who can give suggestions on career guidance to the wife’s brother and assorted relatives. All this maturity and accumulation of knowledge and the change in mentality don’t happen overnight. There are no Bodhi trees or Schaum’s Easy Outline of Principles to being a great Husband around. Any guy will be scared, to put it bluntly. Scared of what he’s getting into, scared of the accountability for the actions of another soul who also happens to be perfectly illogical and irrational (apart from cute, perfect and not-so-fat, so chill!).

Something else also to be looked at is how men and women are conditioned. All through the long eventful history of mankind and apekind, the male has been brought up as this hunter-gatherer fella, the one with supposedly no cares, burdens or ties to weigh him down. And above everything, a guy always dreams of breaking free someday and soaring to travels and adventures; a marriage would effectively end his dreams on this front. Women on the other hand are literally groomed for the role, with choice phrases like “How will you live in your Pugundha Veedu?”, “Just wait till you get a mother-in- law”, “Learn this, learn that” being used liberally. So that by the time she finally marries, she’s rehearsed her role umpteen times with her parents, starting from her toy vessels and play-cooking when she was 3yrs old. Now how many times have you seen a 3 or 4 yr old boy playing with emotional compatibility and budget spreadsheets? I rest my case.
* ever wondered why the guy’s place is called a pugundha veedu for the girl?

It’s a hopelessly no-win situation. I mean, it’s almost like commentary on Ganguly and runouts :
~~ He’s run out – “Well, what did you expect from this immature jerk of a loser? Never really liked the look of him!”
~~ He runs the other guy out / the other guy gets run out – “The poor girl, he’s such an insensitive uncommunicative dork”.
~~ Ganguly manages to steal a brilliant quick single (diving full-length and all that) – “See! How nicely the wife has changed him into a responsible family man”.
~~ Nobody gets runout – “Ah! Now you know why arranged marriages work”.
Now replace Ganguly with the guy, the partner with the partner, and runouts with the wife crying (frequency of both should be roughly equal), and the comments are by the relatives.

So the next time the boyfriend says he’s not ready for marriage, don’t think he’s trying to ditch you, chances are he may really not be ready. And there’s no point in asking him how come his classmates married readily. Because they weren’t ready either, got forced in and that too because an arranged marriage also apportions a part of the accountability to parents and relatives.

A lot of people loved Salaam Namaste without ever realising the significance of Saif’s role – about an everyday guy who’s really crazy about this girl, really loves her and all that, but can’t bring himself to committing to marriage right then. And to be perfectly truthful, I think what Vijay’s done takes courage, not many from our own batch would have accepted such a phenomenal change in life at this point, and I’m definitely not one of them. In any case, if I marry now, I’ll be arrested for child marriage. I’m still emotionally under-age and immature, you see! Mommmyy, where is my G.I.Joe tanker???

February 4, 2008

Supey’s mommy-in-law thinks he’s a duffer!

Filed under: Comedy-Keemedy,Top Draws — Santhosh @ 4:01 AM

Do what I can, I just can’t seem to pull myself away from talking about super-heroes. Part reason is because they always make such compelling reading, and part reason is because my company thinks I’m a super-hero.

Now, an open question to the fairer gender (btw, isn’t this racism too?) :
What would you say if a Superman or a Spiderman came to marry any of you? The odds are you wouldn’t place your palms over your mouth and scream before running off into Daddy dearest’s arms. You wouldn’t even give a moment’s thought about “emotional compatibility or congenial virtues” and “YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES….” would be your resounding answer. And I don’t blame you. All those hunky muscles and husky voice to go with the “tender and innocent with morals and confusion over saving the world” thing. Who could resist?

If I were a brother or father of the girl that a super-hero is interested in, I would be thrilled too, in fact more than either of them. The economics work out really well. For one, I wouldn’t have to pay for their honeymoon flight tickets (come to think of it, I wouldn’t need to buy any flight tickets ever again). For another, he’d be a real help around the house. I would just need to lift the phone to my machan Superman and he’d fly over with fresh coffee beans from Brazil or the latest Harry Potter book straight from Bloomsbury. Drilling holes? Just ask good ol’ Supey to do that laser thing. Watering plants? Batman should have some device handy. Mosquitoes? Spidey could do with a snack!

Nice no? But what would the girl’s mother – the Indian mother-in-law – think? “So which college did you graduate from? IIT? NIT? Were you a topper in class? What’s your CGPA? Whaaaat? You didn’t graduate? And you dropped out of high school? Narayanaa, what will our relatives think?”. “Do you have a green-card? Or a H1B visa? Whaaatttt? You work as a paper-boy(Superman) / photographer(Spidey) / don’t work at all (Batman)??? Oh, these spoilt NRI boys… Narayanaa

Things quickly move from bad to worse if you think about the female superheroes (or is it superheroines? I plead ignorance here, before one of you feminists turns this post into a Solomon Paappayya pattimandram). Now, all you guys reading this post, imagine Wonder Woman in front of you with all bended knee asking for your hand (I know, I know, it’s the guy who’s got to propose. But since we’ve come this far on suppositions, we’ll take it a bit further and make the girl beg for the boy, shall we? It’s my blog after all!). Now, 10 times out of 10, any sane guy would accept the offer.

Apart from being free from all the tears and glycerine and pestering for Kancheevaram silk sarees, there would be a lot of other advantages to having her as a spouse. Firstly, you’ll just have to play up the gender supremacy thing and drop subtle hints of how Superman gets things from Brazil and Switzerland and off she’ll go flying to get you what you want. Economics and ease of things would once again work out here. Secondly she’ll be away half the time fighting crime and injustice and making the world a better place so that you can watch the cricket match in peace at home. Also, you wouldn’t need to get your lazy backside off the couch to accompany her to the street end – who would mug her? Aah, bliss! And besides, her agility would come in handy for a lot of other things, if you know what I mean, wink-wink.

So, in all a very enticing proposition, right? Now, let’s add the Indian mother-in-law into the equation! “Can you keep vaththa kozhambu? It’s my maamanaar‘s favourite. Can you sing the Purvikalyani?”. “Tsk tsk, what are you eating young lady? You need to put on weight. How will you bear a child and besides, what would Ambujam maami think of our family if she sees you this thin”. And so before you could say CatWoman, your superwoman would start looking like Namitha and would be cheering the syrupy-sweet-marumagal-with-sindhoor on against the evil-sisterInLaw-with-designer-bindi on the TV dappa.

Seriously. Think about all the stuff that parents look for in matrimonial sites and try them in our superheroes. You’ll be shocked to see that they could blast meteors with laser beams and fly you away to dizzying heights but would be a super-duper flop when it comes to impressing mommy dear. Amen!

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