Monday, May 30, 2005

Doggone Tired

A tiring weekend. Played out as a 3 day weekend. Despite not doing much on Sunday.

Friday night was all about an expedition through high waters, fallen trees and uprooted electric poles. We (Avi, Akshai and me) took almot 3 hours to travel a distance of 20 odd kms. Akshai, before joining us, had his own adventures - events that he wouldnt relish seeing published on a public domain. Typical scenes during the evening were:

Dhimant@1800: Chilli, i am on bannerghatta road. Guys get here fast, there is a huge jam.
Chilli@1845: Chakku, we just got off bannerghatta road and onto the ring road. Are you ahead of us?
Dhimant@1845: I am still on bannerghatta road!!!

Maga@1730: I shall catch an auto and get to vijaynagar from indranagar
Maga@1815: Chilli, no auto guy is agreeing to come to vijaynagar. What is the reason?
Chilli@1815: Er...I really have minimal knowledge on the internal machinations of the bangalore auto-drivers' union...

Despite these incidents, all of us (almost all of us) reached the marriage hall safely to attend the wedding reception of our friend Sudeep's sister. Turned out to be quite a mini-PESIT-reunion. From there around 8 of us headed to Java City, not out of any particular fondness for that place - atleast from my side - but because it is one of the few places that is open till 1AM. But this is a fact that seemed to be common knowledge as most of the crowd starting pouring in only after 12. We had our coffee/tea and moved out.

Speaking of coffee brings me to one of my biggest cribs about these places. Call me old-fashioned, but what these cafes purpotedly sell as coffee isnt really it. There is nothing to beat the taste of filter coffee made out of brewed decoction and served with a good lather. Even the worst Darshini makes better coffee than these people. What makes it worse is that I have to shell out 10 times the money that I would have normally paid for good coffee to drink bad coffee!
Or maybe I am being too critical. It could be just that after having been brought up on the taste of pure Iyengar coffee, my tongue chooses to reject the rest of the lot. Maybe the coffee in the Baristas, Coffee Days etc is actually very tasty and I am the one with the bad taste buds.

After just 4 hours of sleep on Friday night, I had to get up early on Saturday morning. Had to arrange a few things as my parents were leaving for Madras. And just when I was going to crash again, the Devil called up and expressed interest in watching a Playback performance. So I decided to accompany him as I had heard a lot about Playback from Dhimant, but never acually seen it. My frank opinion at the end of the performance - bad! I didnt like it one bit, and thats the truth. (Sorry Chakku!) This doesnt mean that the actors did a bad job generally. But that I am not exactly a fan of such. Maybe seeing another set of actors perform might change my opinion. Maybe not.

I have been criticised as being too critical - not just about this, but many other things. But I dont see whats wrong in that? If there is anything I like, there can be no person more passionate about it than me. Similarly, I tend to be more critical about something that I do not like. I am as effusive in my praises as I am while spewing vitriol. In my opinion, it is worse to be hypocritical than hypercritical.

Saturday night involved getting the right birthday gift for Pamsy before he treated us. And I think we did a pretty good job of it. Following the Devil's plan of "experimentation" Pamsy agreed to give his treat at a Japanese restaurant, Dahlia, and the food wasnt bad - though we vegetarians had to add a lot of chilli powder and salt to infuse some spice into the food. The treat was rounded off with some dessert at Cornerhouse, a place that holds a real funny incident as far as treats go.
Almost ages ago, Rajjo, Kiddo & me won a sports quiz and the prize was a Cornerhouse gift coupon worth 200 bucks. Not having been there before, we invited the entire gang for a "treat" at the place with our prize money. The 200 bucks covered just about the expenses for our team, while the rest of the gang had to pay for their ice-creams. I still remember Akshai going, "What sort of a treat is this!!!". :-)

Catching up on lost sleep was the main agenda of Sunday. In between these bouts of sopor, a few of us attended the engagement of an old school-friend of ours - "Tiger" Jagga. Thanks to Dhimant's urgent work, we had to skip lunch at the hall and instead have it at a Darshini!

The evening would have been a disaster as it looked to be heading towards my worst nightmare - dinner in solitude! This was mainly due to the Devil falling sick and being out of action for the day, Bloggard & Akshai getting some studying done, and Dhimant & Pramod having family engagements. But the day was saved by Avinash and we had a nice North Karnataka meal at a place close by. The talk centered a lot on our Infy days and the subsequent repercussions.
Some happy, some sad.

I crashed only after listening to the song "Kaalai Arumbi" (from the movie Kanaa Kandaen) a million times! What a lovely song!! And I am still listening to the song as I type this...


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Mr. Nice Guy

If you came up with a hierarchy for all the guys in the world, you would have the ordinary fella, the good guy, the “gem of a person”, the “one in a billion”, and then you would have him!

He is what the world expects all its humans to be, knowing very well that that would be the utopia people dream about and poets write about. But that unfortunately cannot happen. It is not a question of effort or desire, but a simple lack of ability. No one can match up to him. Period.

Once I got past the initial conversations with him that consisted of a lot of “thank you”s and “sorry”s, I realized what my mother had been expecting me to be. Frankly, a scary prospect!

Despite obstinately refusing to join our religion and stating, in his own words, “Soccer and music are my religions”, he could be a “god in his own right”. (Courtesy: co-god) And today he turns 26.

For all those still in the abyss of ignorance, it is none other than Pramod (aka Storyteller aka Pamsy).

Here’s wishing him a very happy birthday and looking forward to lavishing a huge treat on us. :)

Monday, May 23, 2005

A Week of Two Posts

Starting the weekend with a throat infection isn’t really a dream situation. But sadly that’s what happened. Of course, this didn’t hamper any of my planned activities for the 2 days.

Saturday began with a long conversation with my co-God (Akshai), and we came up with a lot of key decisions – information to which none of the mortals have access. We floated a few more theories, philosophies and shared the usual common sympathy for the doomed mortal race. Of course, by the end of the weekend another member of our gang was being lured towards our religion – you shall find out why and how as the post progresses.

The evening was a 3-people meeting at this lousy place (TGIF). Actually three isn’t exactly the right number – more like two and a quarter. Akin to how a submarine comes up at times to catch some air, so did Inder come up to join our conversations (albeit a few seconds), before drifting down towards his “short-story-writing-on-the-mobile-world”. This gave the Devil and me a lot of opportunity to talk about NBA, NBA and more NBA. Inder’s contributions to these talks were a short laugh, a grin, and…hmm…I guess that’s it. The attraction of our religion was already taking its effect on the Devil. At the most, just a push would have sufficed to tilt him towards us and away from the dark side. As things turned out, it was more like a shove that had him coming towards us (or almost).

(Sunday morning was my school re-union that I had been wishing about for a long time. That shall be described in more detail in the post below.)

On Sunday evening, we were joined by Dhimant as well. By this I mean he joined us at the table, but imitated Inder’s submarine act as far as the conversations went. The Devil, not wanting to be left out, started messaging me – and I was sitting right next to him. :) The mortals misused my name for a lot of their messages, but I just smiled along and pitied their folly – akin to Krishna forgiving Sishupala’s hundred sins.

I must say that I held my rage with remarkable assurance despite the absence of my co-God, but I guess I couldn’t attain total control. The deluge over the past 2 days is a clear sign from us for all the mortals – the END IS NEAR!! We gods can’t provide a more obvious hint than this. Shape up or not be shipped out (in our ark)!

It has just been learnt that the Devil has been rendered speechless by our onslaught, and, in all probability, you can expect a total change of heart from him. Though he definitely wouldn’t be able to complete the Trinity, we might decide to give him the position of a consultant or a prophet. Time will tell.


"Ring out the battle call of duty..."

March 1995. Kannada Paper 2 of X ICSE Exams. For some strange reason, thirst seemed to have laid its hands on almost all of us as we sat writing our last exam above the concert hall. Was it a weird grip of fear concerning our exams that left our throats parched? Or was it possibly because that was the last day for us as a student of Joseph’s School?

Zip 10 years into the future. And there I was in the same place on Sunday. My one and truly alma mater. It’s true that I’ve studied in schools and colleges on either side of the Joseph’s era, but those years 1988 to 1995 were something special. I still remember the first day when I walked in through those huge gates, staring at the plaque that proclaimed “Established 1858”, being completely overwhelmed by the bronze statue of St. Joseph, standing in the assembly and listening to the wise words of our Father Dennis Coelho, a person who, despite being the Principal, never gave that impression, a person whose doors were open at all times of the day.

A surprising 30 of us actually turned up for the re-union. All credit to Sunil Pichamuthu for managing to rope in so many guys, considering that we last saw each other in a non-cyber age, and computers were special equipment kept in our school lab which needed us to remove our shoes to gain entrance. The reunion was as expected and even more - a lot of people married, a lot looking completely different (including yours truly) and a few remaining the same (well almost!).

The one true celebrity of our batch – Darius - had come down from his workplace, and it was obvious that his affinity to talk a lot infected us all. After months of listening to his non-stop chatter on the radio, it was a different kind of experience to hear him “live” after 10 years. He seemed displeased to see me – his exact words were “You are a traitor! You are a traitor to the cause of all people born short…how could you leave me alone and go on like this?” :))

It was a nice feeling to not be the shortest guy in school, though it has happened 10 years too late. Not that the response was any different – “Sridhar?? Who is that? Hmm…oh Chilli!! Hi…blah blah”. Sadly, the guy (Khalid) who christened me such wasn’t there at the meet. But that is just me being over-greedy! A few months back I would have given anything to meet even 5 of my schoolmates, and here I am cribbing about the person who did not make it.

We spent about four hours in the school campus, talking about the teachers, the helpers, the brothers, the fathers, the thrashings, the escapades, etc. The lunch table conversations were on career, life, our most famous alumnus – Dravid, our “rotten” archrivals, etc.

The school building has changed a lot since our days (if this phrase doesn’t make me sound antiquated, I don’t know what will), but the spirit still lingers. It was an overwhelming experience. A moving experience.

Hope to meet the rest sometime soon.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Lows & Highs

Whatever happened to…

…poetic justice?
Two seasons back, the Detroit Pistons made it to the conference finals of the NBA and lost. It was a considerable achievement by a team that had been struggling in the playoffs the years before that – and this had been achieved under the astute stewardship of their coach, Rick Carlisle. But what followed next was a shocker! Rick gets sacked and in comes Larry Brown, who takes the Pistons to the NBA title. The conference finals was against the Pacers, who incidentally were being coached by ol’ Rick, and the first and only rule of Poetic Justice says “Thou shalt win the series and gain sweet…oh so sweet revenge!”. But nope!
If that was last season, a repeat occurs this year with the Pacers losing again to the Pistons. Shouldn’t there have been a victory to the Pacers for all they have gone through, or in particular shouldn’t Rick Carlisle get a chance to prove that Detroit made the wrong move (despite having made the right move). But nope…and that’s saddening.
In case you forget, I am actually a die-hard Pistons fan.
But I still feel bad for Rick.

Life aint fair one bit. :(

…fairy-tale endings?
Reggie Miller, one of the all-time great players of the NBA, Reggie, who would have been my favourite player but for my affection towards the Pistons, Reggie, the best 3-point shooter the world has seen, had gone through 18 years of the NBA without a single title to his name. This is/was his last season and all good things in the world should have helped him win that one elusive ring. But nope!
The Pistons beat the Pacers to seal Reggie’s final hopes once and for all. Sad!

Life aint fair one bit. :(

…joyful bus-rides?
If there is any good quality in me that I am remotely proud of, it has to be my adjustability to any kind of transportation. I can enjoy a languid train ride as much as a bumpy bus ride. I can enjoy navigating through the horrid Bangalore traffic on my bike as much as I would in a car.
Well, all that has gone for a toss. My bus-rides back from office everyday are so boring, painful, excruciating. As I board the bus, the funereal atmosphere overwhelms me. Each person seems to be dead to the world or stuck to his mobile, which is in fact the same thing in effect. The only sound you hear is that of the murmurings into the mobiles, and the occasional snore.
The ambience is not improved one bit by the almost non-existent interior lighting, which makes my attempts to read a book akin to Arjuna shooting arrows in the dark – minus the accuracy. With no one alive nearby to strike up a conversation I decide to fall into a serene, dreamless sleep. And that’s another problem.
It is too sound a sleep. In the past five days, I have missed my stop on 2 occassions! I get up groggy and disoriented near Rajjo’s old house and lug myself back home. No one nearby to wake me up, no one to keep me awake…aargh…what a difference from the earlier school bus-rides or the ones back from my old company (in the company of Avi & Kalkoti). Sad!

Life aint fair one bit. :(

This isn’t the kind of post I would have preferred to read (much less write) at the cusp of a 3-day weekend. So, let me try change the mood.

Monday is a holiday on account of Buddha Poornima. I guess it celebrates something related to the founder of Buddhism. We Gods (Akshai & me) haven’t finalized the date that would go down the ages as the day to celebrate the birth of our religion - Singularism. :)) Discussion is still on…

One of my favourite singers, Chinmayi, has started blogging. My sincere thanks to Kaps for directing me to her blog. She was the one who sang the song “Deivam thandha poove” in the movie Kannathil Muthamittaal, a movie that won Rahman his 4th national award. From the looks of it, her posts seem to be as clear and lucid as her heavenly voice.

I have my school (Joseph’s) reunion this Sunday. We guys would be meeting up after 10 years, and though a lot of things have changed since then, some still remain the same. For starters, my nickname. I was first called Chilli in 6th standard, and I am still Chilli to all my friends. Sometimes I wonder whether I would really like that to change.

And sometimes I also wonder whether I would be able to do a better job of steering my life than what inexorable fate is doing. Maybe yes. Maybe not. But let me end here. More rumination on this would plunge my post to Ayn-Randish levels…and that is an abyss I wish to avoid at all costs.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

“The end of an era”

Originally, the title I had thought up for this post was – “Bitter Irony”, but I decided to go along with The Devil’s recommendation. I shall come in time to the reason behind the titles.

The last 3 days have been tiring, very tiring, incredibly tiring! And I really didn’t do much, just rushed around campuses, sat for presentations, filled up forms and got officially inducted into my new company. (Am I the only guy who finds it weird that the noun-forms of both induce and induct is induction, just like how it is for deduction for deduce and deduct. If it’s just me, blame it on the stress!) Yesterday saw more than a typical FNU – Friday Night Unwinding – an acronym which I thought of a long time back, but never used it much because I wasn’t really unwinding much, given the fact that I just sat at home. But more on the FNU later and let me get back to the point about the titles.

I had applied for my broadband connection about 5 months back, amazingly pleased at my rare foresight of planning for the 3-month break between end of studies and work. The plans drawn out before a war look good and unbeatable until the war actual breaks out. After repeated calls to the BSNL office, I became convinced that I was never going to get my broadband. And had pretty much given up hope…when they actually came to my house yesterday and installed the thing!!! Two days after my holidays had ended. Ah…the bitter irony! The installation of the USB modem for the broadband means that the life of my Motorola modem that has served me so admirably, with not a hitch, for the past 8 years is over. As the Devil said, “It’s the end of an era!” :(

Back to the fnoo. We (Soldier, Akshai, Pramod, Devil, Inder & me) began with a game of bowling that was a very poor exhibition of our skills. The winning score of 118 by The Devil did no justice to any of our talents. To set the record straight, Devil has a highest score of 182, me a score of 181 in the same game and Inder in the high 170s. Probably the reason for this debacle was the inconvenient way in which the lanes have been built. I think the guys who were there at the alley would understand what I mean! :)

After the game, Pramod left under mysterious circumstances. How he managed to NOT get an auto from a busy place such as MG Road at 9 PM is beyond me. And this, after waiting for more than 15 minutes clouds the situation even further. All I can say is this – hope he succeeded in whatever the covert operation was. :)) The rest of us joined Pinto and Dhimant at an Italian restaurant called Sunny’s. The last time I had gone to a proper Italian restaurant was a long time back – to this place called Spiga’s – and the only thing that could have been blander than that fare is cotton!

The dinner was sponsored by Soldier, who is leaving us today to get back to Singapore and from there to his MBA in the USA. Staying for more than 2 hours in that place and not getting kicked out is a true testament of the patience of the hotel management. Even when the Devil was trying to get a last drink after all the lights in the place had been switched off, they kept their cool. The conversation revolved around many topics and, though a few were not the kind to be spoken in the vicinity of Gods, everyone had a great time – including the gods. Typical scenes during the dinner were:

Soldier: Wanting to recite his Amoeba jokes to us lot. Noting with a shrewd eye the chemistry that seemed to be brewing between the Devil and Inder and capturing the key moments.

Dhimant: Tried to keep pace with Akshai as far as PJs went. But his inherent “mugpotty” nature always introduced a bit of academia to all the jokes, which we were unable to decipher thanks to Ameya’s absence.

Pinto: Living to his undercover status image, he managed as low a profile as possible – a huge effort taking into account his size and conspicuous lack of trouser length. He also chipped in with the recommendations for the vegetarian fare – and I am real grateful for that.

Devil: Apart from the times when he wasn’t sharing something private with Inder, he enlightened us with names of movies that still haven’t made it to the IMDB. In fact, after the producer & director, only Pinto and Devil were aware of these movies. He and Soldier had an engrossing conversation, which would have made us feel at home – that is if our home had been in Singapore.

Inder: Smoked as many cigarettes as the number of words he spoke. Performed a miracle by going out to get a pack of cigarettes and returning safely without losing his way or taking the Anand Rao circle route.

Akshai: Constantly assessing the mortals with subtle tests of their character. Kept his cool and regaled us with jokes despite some unkind desecration by the drunker losers…oops, I mean mortals. Handled all questions on our religion with élan – particularly the one on drinking somapaana.

Chilli: As a god, I had the more docile of drinks, but was a bit more harsh in assessing the mortals – not that the results would be known until the Dissolution (pralaya). Just like the other god, was subjected to a lot of slander. More than anger, felt only pity for the ignorant ones. But I can wait…time control is just one of the many perks on being a god.

Overall, a wonderful dinner and one huge THANKS to the Soldier for that!
(I am glad that you didn’t come up with any new “Imagine if…” jokes)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

In what has to be my most consistent blogging phase, I sit down to pen my 4th post in as many days. I wonder whether this is a precursor indicating more active blogging in the subsequent weeks once I begin working or just the age-old “flame burning the brightest before dying out”.

Lets see how things pan out.

Things that I shall miss doing that I took for granted these past 3 months:
Ragging my friends as we wind up our Sunday night get-togethers about the impending Monday.
Mom’s breakfast, lunch and tea.
Waking up at 2 in the afternoon, which actually negates the breakfast portion of the previous line – I can’t remember when I last had an actual breakfast.

This list is getting too painful. I can’t continue further.

This post seems to resemble more a Rajneesh-style rather than mine (if, that is, I had any style to speak of).

Reminds me of the time when I fancied writing posts in the style of each member of our Gang. Well, one down, a few more to go.

Most probably, my new office would be a stone’s throw away from my old office. Of course, the thrower needs to have a powerful arm unlike me, an aim unlike Dhimant, and a sense of direction unlike Inder.

Wish me luck people for a lot of things obviously, but more importantly for this:
Me waking up at 5:30 everyday to catch a dreary bus at 7 in the morning.
Aarghh…this is the only thing that fills me with dread.
I need an extra dose of luck.

But lets see, as I said earlier, how things pan out.
After all, “It’s a long walk to Eden, so no point in sweating the small stuff”.

Monday, May 09, 2005

"Abhi dekho...choopistaanu"

A boring day. With no one at home, and all the guys at their workplaces there wasn’t much to do but idle around. I am reading The Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, and very impressed with the humour – makes one wonder what ever happened to such classic American humour. Interspersed with this reading were other activities such as getting all my documents ready for day after, getting my formal wear in order and a search in vain for my passport.

I just realized that the previous sentence makes me sound like a character out of a Robert Ludlum novel, the perennially disillusioned secret agent who either can’t or doesn’t want to remember the past, and is running away from something that is quick enough to scare him, but never fast enough to prevent him from cavorting with a bevy of babes. Back to my problem of the Missing Passport, all I managed to unearth out of my wardrobe was my Hero Honda passport. Any idea what is the procedure for obtaining a duplicate passport, legally?

The day was so boring that I would have never sat up to write this post. But a timely call from a friend who has been AWOL for quite some time helped me change my mood. The conversation with my fellow-god was mutually informative as it helped fill a lot of holes in our recent happenings.

I, of course, couldn’t bear the way he seemed to imply that our pasts were all tainted. I repeat, “When were we ever NOT career-oriented?”. After setting that right, the topic continued onto extravagant gifts, resulting in academic interests, “hotel-name” fixations of another friend of ours, and the “camcorder joke” philosophy.

Let me linger a moment longer on the “camcorder joke”. If it is used out of frustration, be prepared for either a “Oh! How nice of you?!” – which truly is a dampener of a response – or a “No way will that ever happen!!” – which might actually seem to indicate that your dreams are nearing fruition.

Crap! I am getting too cryptic. It could be the result of an alarming dip in my Hindu crossword performance today. Well, I still have the night to work on it and might still be able to salvage something.

Onto other news, the teams for the Super Series have been announced. A surprise inclusion from India is that of Irfan Pathan, who has had neither a spectacular overall career nor an outstanding season. Maybe once July comes, his name would be trimmed away from the final 15 or so.

Have been listening to the song “Vaadi Vaadi Vaadi” from Sachin for the last few hours and it rocks!! The gaana-paattu of the year has to be awarded to this song. The deep-meaning lyrics elevate the song to a higher level. :)))

Rap-u vandhaalum, Jazz-u vandhaalum
Kaaram koraiyaadhu indha paattu
Rock-u vandhaalum, Break-u vandhaalum
Shake aagadhu tamizh gaana paattu!

Kaelu kaelu idhu gaana paattu
Nee kaanaadha thathuvam sollum paattu.

See what I mean. I guess I am losing my mind...

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Final Weekend before Job 2

I am scheduled to start my second job in another 3 days. It doesn’t seem that it was just yesterday when I began typing out my mail to my ex-company’s batch on how I was going to miss them, on how great a time I had, etc. It was 2 years ago, and the 2 years since have gone by…well like 2 years. If there were some incidents that made life zip forward, there were a whole lot that had to be flogged all the way through the passing-gates. Thought not exactly weighed, I still had a few pangs in my heart as I began to spend this weekend.

And, to quote Dhimant, the weekend was a breeze. :) It was filled with the usual non-stop laughter (or BS as our dear Albert Pinto would like to say), rankings and ratings that I am proud to have hit rock bottom in, eating out at new places, and … oh yes, a good reason for not cutting my hair. :)

Thanks to the laziness of the other guys, squash didn’t turn out to be in the agenda on either of the days. I don’t claim to be an active guy, actually I am the anti-thesis of “active”, but the others just beat me at my own game (and I don’t mean squash). I remember when I used to play squash with a TT-racquet inside my house when I was in school. I used to pretend to be both Boris Becker and Pete Sampras. Despite my best intention to not bias any play against Sampras, it would be Boris who would always win. To say that pleased me is an understatement. But sadly, I can’t go to The Club and pay 100 bucks for a bit of role-playing mono-acting charade at this age.

Speaking of mono acting brings up the next event of the weekend. As we were heading to watch Kingdom of Heaven, Dhimant called us to watch a play titled “Khatijabhai of Karmali Terrace”. A slight change of route, and there we were – the four of us (Dhimant, Devil, Inder and myself) - along with a dentist friend of Dhimant’s and sitting in the auditorium watching a stunning performance by Jayita Bhatia as Khatija. If one bifurcates a play into performance and story, this one scores incredibly high in the former and very low in the latter. After 70 minutes of uninterrupted acting, and watching her slowly metamorphose from the regal daughter-in-law to the regal yet doddering grandmother, my opinion on theatre per se hasn’t improved, but I hold the actors in a much higher esteem.

The events just before and just after the play involved slandering of The Devil (of which I wasn’t a party to), vaporization of a week-old tiff, Inder’s mistaken identity blunder (which I have sworn to not reveal to non-Gang members), introspective-intrigued questions on why anyone reads our blogs, appropriateness of The Devil nick on himself, and the compliment on my hair from the dentist (Thank you ma’m! :)).

Following this was nice hot tea at Infinitea, and a good dinner amidst raucous pandemonium at Aura. By then, Pinto had joined us from his village and participated in our 3-way NBA discussion. Go Pistons (for my sake), Go Pacers (for The Devil’s sake) and Go Suns (for Pinto’s sake). Overall, a nice end to a nice evening.

Sunday was all about chilli and its manifestations at Annachi. A first-time experience with Chettinad food for the non-Tams (Soldier, Dhimant, Inder) in our Gang had them sweating through every pore and literally pleading with us to rescue them from the exquisite Annachi fare. Inder was the only one among them to come out unscathed. Personally, I loved the food and the ambience. Nice 80s Tamil movie instrumentals in the background and hot, spicy food on the table seemed to make a good combo.

To answer Inder’s question on the temporal position of rasam in a meal, I came up with this - “Rasam is an omnipresent culinary item”. :) You can have a cup of it as an appetiser, enjoy a nice mixture of rice and rasam amidst the meal, or finish off the proceedings with long draughts of steaming rasam. Hmmm…we need to go to Annachi more often.

Let me end this post with my take on friends:
At the end of the day, the place we go to, the things we do there, the happenings that we witness are mere trivialities – a noble charade to provide an opportunity to those people to earn their livelihood. What matters is the company of friends you are with. Even watching the proverbial paint dry can be an engrossing activity if you are among friends who mean a lot to you. Personal likes/dislikes, interests/disinterests fall by the wayside, they are shed away as a snake molts its skin. I guess I am blessed to be with so many such friends.

Ah…now isn’t that a nice Arab, eh?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Mahabharata

After seeing repeated mentions of The Mahabharata in my blog over the last month or so, you might be either totally bugged or intrigued. Well, this post would be a relief to people of either kind – as I have completed the book and am totally impressed!

The Mahabharata, with its innumerable characters, makes the task of character assessing and picking my favourite protagonist a very unenviable one. As I began reading the epic, the filter I used at the topmost level was one of “absolute righteousness”. I decided to go on a case-to-case basis for the subsequent levels.

Well, so much for that noble attempt! After having read the whole epic, I stand completely stunned. The only people who would even squeeze through this filter of righteousness are Vidura and Ekalavya – possibly because of the limited exposure that they are provided in the story.

Ekalavya is truly a great character. A dedicated student who willingly gives away his thumb as a token of respect. More than respect, that is the price he pays to be recognized. Ah “recognition” – this is a quality or aspect that another hero strives for throughout the story, and travels a much harder path to achieve it. More on him later though. But I definitely can’t proclaim Ekalavya as the character simply because of his miniscule role.

Vidura is just like the other elders from the Kuru family - doting on their grandsons, be it the Pandavas or the Kauravas, considerate to the people’s needs, etc. But the reason why he is the only person who could be termed truly virtuous is his reaction during the “Draupadi incident”. When all the elders sat quiet in the sabha, the venue of the Pandavas and Draupadi humiliation, Vidura spoke out against Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana. He tried to make them see reason, compassion, mercy, but to no avail.
(Another person who deserves a lot of credit is Vikharna, one of Duryodhana’s brothers. He is the only Kaurava with the gumption to defy his eldest brother and state that Draupadi was indeed a free woman, as Yudhishtira alone didn’t have the right to wager her. Unfortunately, his is just a cameo which does him a lot of credit, and further vilifies the other silent Kuru elders.)

Well, if there is one thing that stands out prominently in the Mahabharata, it is the fact that every person is tainted with adharma. Circumstances could make one leave the righteous path, or it could be just that person’s innate character. The second option is also called as fate’s doing, apparently a scenario where the person has no say in the way his life is moulded or veers away.

Hence, the only real option left to me was to factor in the taint, and then trying to determine my favourite character. The main contenders were:

Karna: Cursed from the day he was born. The hardships he encounters through the miserable sojourn called life are none of his own doing. Generous to a fault. Attached to a fault, and this is literally. Gives friendship the utmost importance. (a quality that I can relate to the most) What should have been a perfect life is marred by 2 incidents – breaking of Abhimanyu’s bowstring from the back, and a more serious crime of putting forth the suggestion of disrobing Draupadi.

Yudhishtira: If Karna had 2 huge blots in his life, Yudhishtira has just one – a tiny one at that. His lie to Drona that Ashwattama had indeed died. Technically, the lie would have been negated as he does mutter under his breath that it was the elephant. But the damage had been done. (Incidentally/coincidentally, the segment of the story where they decide that lying is the only way of killing Drona starts at page number 420 in the book. Nice touch, either way! :))
Personally, I do not consider this lie as a sin for the simple fact that Drona had fallen away from the path of dharma by that time. Deceit needs to be embraced if one has to get rid off the scum. But Yudhishtira’s stand of sticking to dharma when his wife was getting humiliated isn’t something that I could digest. Agreed that it depicts his focus on dharma and his resilience, characteristics which define his entire life. But I would have rather lived as a mere mortal indulging in petty adharma than letting the humiliation continue and gain an exalted status.

Krishna: Undoubtedly the enigmatic of the lot. If The Ramayana had made me not like the character of the earlier Avatara of Vishnu, this book compensates for that in huge measure. Krishna is an incredible character who doesn’t seem to indicate a penchant for sticking to absolute righteousness. Neither does he say so.
Comparatively, Rama seems to be a hypocrite with his publicly proclaimed stand of being always righteous and then covering his mistakes with frivolous arguments and reasoning.
Krishna’s brilliance, tact, anger, greatness, weaknesses are all brought forth with remarkable clarity in the book. The mystery of his frequent disappearances are so tantalizing that I definitely need to buy Ramesh Menon’s Blue God – obviously the entire life story of the Dark One.

Bheeshma: “The greatest man to have ever walked upon this earth” is how he is referred to in various instances. Renouncing his kingship and remaining a celibate throughout his life for the sake of his father’s happiness, and going to the extent of keeping his word even when faced with true love for Amba indicates his greatness. Frankly, the word “great” fails to express or encompass his true character.
I fault him on just one count, and this is not on account of doing something sinful. Rather it is more to do with Bheeshma NOT doing anything when Draupadi was being disrobed in the sabha. Those minutes of silence are inexplicable. Or maybe I am at fault. The greatness of this epic lies in these conundrums. And the inconsistency of human nature stands out in all those who walk through the Mahabharata.

But…oh yes…there has to be a but, eh? It means that I am going to attempt to justify the flaws of my favourite character. Karna faces countless insults on his status of “sutaputra”. But the two that would/should have hurt him the most are the ones by Bheema and Draupadi. On the day of the exhibition of the princes’ prowess, Karna makes his introduction and surpasses everyone, including Arjuna. Bheema’s taunts stating that Karna wasn’t a kshatriya and just a measly sutaputra, and hence had no right to even dream of contesting Arjuna shows the Pandava in poor light. Later, during Draupadi’s swayamvara, when Karna is confident of shooting down the fish and is about release the arrow, she insults him by saying that she wouldn’t marry a suta. When the entire epic is all about revenge, isn’t it but reasonable to expect that Karna would definitely get his own revenge, albeit minor triumphs. Thus came into being his two sins.

In his long quest for recognition, he encounters numerous obstacles, but still manages to get what his truly his at the very end. For his perseverance, and the sorrow he had to carry throughout his life I adore Karna. (yet another coincidence was the screening of the Shivaji Ganesan movie Karna on Raj TV on the very day I was reading about his death) If that isn’t sign enough, I do not know what is.

If you have stuck around till this, I admire your perserverance and a huge thanks for that!