Monday, June 26, 2006

Me, Michael Owen & Phir Hera Pheri : Memoirs of a painful day

What's the similarity between me & Michael Owen? Well, simple enough - both of us were unable to play football yesterday because of injuries obtained on the playing field. I have an injured foot, my right one to make it worse, while Owen's knee is injured since he plays at a somewhat higher level than I do. But now I can totally empathise with Owen. It does feel bad being unable to play football. Especially during the world cup. It is real tough on him. And he is going to be out for quite a while. However my fans needn't worry, I'll be back playing football very soon. But even I had quite a painful day yesterday, after all Owen didnt have to sit through a three hour torture called Phir Hera Pheri. The movie totally insults the original. It does have it's share of funny jokes, especially one liners, but a lack of pace, originality and some horrible music makes the movie a must-no-see.
It begins quite well, with the three heroes living a rich life. Some of the scenes in this part are quite funny. All is quite well till the interval, but after that all hell is let loose. Things get complicated to point of sheer boredom. All sorts of crazy people - 10 feet tall Nigerians, gangsters with speaking disorders and corrupt cops - get in on the act to triple the confusion. And then suddenly you also have to put up with a Himesh song whose music is as original as, well, the previous Himesh song in the movie. Then even a Gorilla gets in on the act. He keeps on chasing Johnny Lever around and after a while you can't make out who's who. The Gorilla is by far the most human of all the characters.
The climax of the movie takes place in a circus and it is one of the worst endings I've ever seen. It just goes on and on and on. People keep running after each other while you feel like running away from the theatre. Which you probably should have done, since the climax is followed by another painful track. Sitting through the movie was by far the most challenging thing I've done in the vacations. If you want to test your patience then go ahead, otherwise you can surely give it a miss.

PS: I heard that the movie was selected for the prestigious Oscar library. Expect a bombing of the library anytime soon.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A few realisations

It's been a month since my holidays began. And during the course of that month, I've realised a few things which I never knew before. These are not meant to be generalisations, they just happen to be true in my case. You may or may not agree, it doesn't matter. So here's the list:
1. Holidays are infinitely more fun than college days:
In fact, these two are incomparable. I get a great kick by just getting up every day and realising that I've got absolutely no need to study, nothing to attend & nothing that can't can't be done tomorrow. Realising this, I go back to sleep.
2. Nothing beats the joy of playing outdoor sports:
I didn't get much of a chance to play while I was in Pune. So I'm making up for it by playing a lot now. Cricket, Football, Basketball - you name it & I've played it. My schedule consists of swimming in the morning, playing cricket in the afternoon & football in the evening. And I've never felt better.
3. Playing football is a lot more fun than cricket:
This might sound strange coming from a cricket nut like me. It might be due to the Football Fever spread by the World Cup. But it is true. Especially when it's raining cats & dogs which gives you a chance to slide around in the mud - which was what I was doing yesterday. The ground was so slippery that it felt like we were on skates. And the soft mud allowed me to celebrate my winning goal with a full blooded slide, er, dive on the ground with my back towards the sky. By the time we were done playing, all of us were totally covered with mud. I couldnt make out the colour of my shirt. Even my face was smeared with mud so that I was almost unrecognisable. The sole of my shoes had so much mud sticking to it that they weighed almost twice their regular weight. And I had the taste of mud in my mouth for the entire while. After we were done playing, the ground was severely trampled upon. Even a herd of cattle couldn't have done such a thorough job. We had so much mud on us that amongst us, we might have unearthed a ton of mud. It was the dirtiest I've ever been in my life. It was also one of my most memorable moments on the sporting field.
No wonder so many countries play football. Football rules!!
4. I can't read more than 3 books simultaneously:
I've got 9 books right now, brought from various libraries, that I've to read during the holidays. But I just can't manage to read more than 3 at a time. That means that the others might have to wait. Maybe I'll read them in the next vacations. But I have to read them now, since I've started almost all of them & enjoyed the starting part.
5. The hardest part of watching movies on Television is staying awake through the advertisements.
6. I can watch football for hours at end. And all this while I thought it was only cricket.
7. You may make new friends wherever you go, but the sort of fun you have with your old schoolmates cannot be matched. This leads to the next point:
8. The schooldays are by far the best days of our lives:
That's because all that I've stated above is stuff which I used to do during my school days. I've only rediscovered these great joys now. In fact, I missed my school so much that I even went there and took a dozen or so pictures of the empty school building. Sigh, those were the days...

The payback

All of you must be having a friend(?) who is a real bore. Who keeps on talking, interminably, about subjects of which you have the least knowledge and no interest. Who keeps on telling you how great he is just because he did something that you never felt like doing. Who feels that whatever he says is right. Who comes for all treats but never gives one himself. Who annoys you totally. Whom you never want to be with, but have to be friendly with just for posterity. Well I dont know whether you have such a friend or not, but I do have such a friend. Let's call him X. This is the story of how we got one over him for a change.
X is an unbelievable bore. I've been with him since school & I don't remember a single moment when I've actually enjoyed his company. X never lends stuff to anybody but borrows from everybody. He helps no-one but expects everyone to help him. X has by far the worst taste in all aspects - music, clothes, bikes etc. Nobody likes X, nobody ever will. Not that he minds. He likes to be the jerk he is. I hope you get the idea.
Visiting X's house was always a daunting task. You never got anything more than a glass of water there. And his parents asked more questions than a CBI officer. A visit to his house was like a mission in Delta Force: you enter, you complete your objectives (borrowing notes, books etc), try to dodge the endless enemy bullets(questions asked by his parents) and then head for the extraction point - the door. In fact the door of his house is possibly one of my favourite places - nothing gives me more joy than coming out of it sane & alive.
But X makes it a point to visit your house, needlessly. You try to keep him out ("sorry dude, I was just leaving, you should have come earlier" etc) but somehow he always manages to come in. And once that happens, only God can save you. If you are watching TV, he changes the channel & tells you about this awesome documentary that he saw on National Geographic. If you are playing on your comp, he starts playing instead, finds that he cant play & hence says "this game is dumb" and forces you to load some other game. And you have to listen to all his orders because your parents think that he is the most well-behaved of your friends & they know that he is also someone who studies a lot. In short, he is a guy whom even Mahatma Gandhi would have felt like punching in the face.
But why am I dwelling on the painful past? Now I shall describe to you the hour of my victory. It's pretty much true, except for a few changes. Here it is:
I was , as usual, roaming around with two friends of mine - Kalpak & Avinash. Suddenly me & Kalpak both felt like peeing. And we didnt want to return home so soon. Both of us were at our wits end. But then I had a brainwave - I realised that X's house was close. I suggested that we should go there and take a leak. Both of them were, obviously, horrified by the idea (Kalpak: I'd rather die). But then I explained my hidden motive - the guy comes to our houses, does whatever he wants and walks away, while we never trouble him in his house. So the plan was to go to his house, take a leak and come out as soon as possible. We were going to take on the lion in his own den. We were aware of the risk involved. All three of us knew that we might not make it out of there alive. So we hugged each other, wished each other luck & thanked each other for always being there (thats what happens when you watch too many war movies). And then I rang the doorbell, knowing that nothing shall ever be the same again.
Here's the conversation that ensued :
X: Hi Aniket, when did you come to Nashik?
Me: Yesterday (it had already been a week since I was in Nashik)
Kalpak: Me too.
X: Thats great. How were your exams?
Kalpak: Forget it.
X: Why? (smiling)Very hard?
Kalpak: Just forget it.
Me: How are yours coming along? (why did I ever ask that?????)
X: Maths was easy, I attempted questions worth 90 but I'm not too sure of a few of the answers. A friend of mine said that the question on Differential Equations might have an error but another guy said that it was right and had to be solved by ....
Kalpak(interrupting): Yeah, yeah, got it. Whats your next paper, Applied Science?
X: Yeah. Actually I have completed reading 4 units - 2 of both Physics and Chemistry. I still have to revise them but I find it hard to...
Me(obviously interrupting): App Sci's always easy. Only a fool would find it hard. (This was the coup de grace. He never dared to speak a word about App Sci after that)
(At this point Avinash kicks Kalpak in the back to remind him of our mission objectives.)
X: Why dont we go down to the parking lot & chat?
Me: (Sensing that it's now or never) Hey X, I want to use your toilet.
X: What????
Me: Yeah. Need to take a leak. Do you mind?
X: Er, no. Go straight and take a left.
Kalpak: Me too.
X: What????
Kalpak: Yeah man. Have to. Otherwise....(What a threat!!)
X: Okay, just wait till Aniket comes out. Avinash, do you have to take a leak as well?
Avinash: Come on. Do you think we came here just for peeing?
X: (realising that this was true) Not at all. Just kidding.
(After that I used his toilet and came out,but the task was still only half done, we still had to face his parents)
X's mom: Hello Aniket, a long time since you last came here.
Me: ("Yeah, that explains why I'm so happy") Well, I've been busy.
X's mom: How were your exams?
Me: Fine.
X's mom: Do you find it possible to study at the hostel?
Me: ("No, I passed my first year just by fluke") Well, yeah.
X's mom: Aamcha X tar ghari ekdum changla abhyas karto.
Me: (too dumbstruck to reply)
(Kalpak comes back from the loo and seeing my predicament, heads for the door directly)
Me(taking the cue): Well aunty, I'd better leave.
X's mom: But you just got here.
Kalpak: Never mind aunty. We'll return later. (Yeah right)
(We then go down to the parking lot. I never thought that he had a hidden objective there.)
X(pointing towards a brand new black Activa): This is my new Activa.
(Here I realise that it's the same vehicle which I had barged into while parking my Kinetic)
X(waiting for a response, but on getting none): It's a great vehicle.
Me: Yeah, yeah. It's real smooth.
Kalpak: And powerful.
X: It's also VERY economical.
Me: hmmmm.
Kalpak(sensing a need to change the topic): You're damn lucky to be living at home while doing your engg studies.
X: Yeah. Nashik's a good place. How's Pune?
Me: Big.
X: I heard your syllabus is a bit different from ours.
Kalpak: It's not.
X: And your marking system?
Me: It's complicated.
Kalpak: Yeah too complicated. Can't explain now.
X: For how many more days are you here?
Me: Let's see.
Kalpak: Not too many.
Avinash: What's the time?
X: Nine.
Me: Oh no!! I had to be home by eight.
Kalpak: Me too.
Me: Gotta go man.
Avinash: I guess I'll leave too.
X: Why?
Avinash: I've to drop Aniket off at his house.
Me: Well, see you later. Bye!
(And by the time X realises that all three of us have our own vehicles, we're out of there alive, unscathed & without losing our minds)
Mission Accomplished.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Why all the fuss about gaming?

Believe it or not, yesterday was the first time I ever played LAN games in a game parlour. The gaming bug, which has deeply infected Puneites, was comparitively unknown in Nashik. Hence I never got a chance to try gaming during my stay in Nashik. I had lots of chances to make up for that during my stay at the hostel in Pune as most of my friends were total gaming addicts. However it never appealed much to me. But finally when my friends went to a game parlour & insisted that I join them just to see how the experience is, I just couldn't say no. The parlour we went to was a pretty cool place. All the computers had LCD screens, the ambience was nice & the chairs were really comfortable. And it had almost all the games, from FIFA 06 to NFS Most Wanted to GTA San Andreas. We played a few games of NFS MW to begin with & I thought 'Hey it's not that bad after all'. But then suddenly my friends decided that they'd had enough of NFS & loaded the one game that has captured the imagination of all gamers worldwide - Counter Strike. And all hell was let loose. There were 4 of us, that made two teams of two. Before the game started, we were good friends, but once it started we were sworn enemies. Battle cries filled the room. "Come on, what are you doing?", "Give me cover", "Dont drop the bomb", "Look behind you", "Shit, he got me" & many more unprintable ones. I've never seen my friends so totally engrossed in anything as they were in playing CS. Nothing could take their attention away from the game. They played with such intensity as if their lives depended upon the dumb game. I just hope that terrorists worldwide do not take their jobs as seriously as the terrorists in CS. I played with them for about an hour or so. And then I had had enough. I just quit the game and told my friends that we should leave. But it's amazing how CS not only grips the mind but also the ears - they just couldn't hear me !! So I decided to play FIFA 05 on my comp. And that too against the comp, as there was nobody on LAN whom I could play against. So that's what I ended up doing in a LAN games parlour - playing a two player game against the CPU. Imagine paying 20 bucks an hour for that. Soon the torture came to an end, not because of a lack of interest but because of a lack of cash. My friends couldn't believe that 3 hours were already over, they even checked their watches twice to be sure. And then they gave me an _expression that said, "Three hours, so soon? I never felt the time fly by". And all I could say was, "It was about bloody time you came out". And so we left the game parlour after three hours of extreme boredom for me & total fun for the others. And despite all this I could still not understand, why all this fuss about gaming?? What do you get out of it? The answer, it seems, shall always elude me. But all I can say that if anybody catches me playing CS in a game parlour again - they can shoot me. It will relieve me of the burden of playing the dumb game.

A lotus in the slush.

I've been reading 'The Fountainhead' for the last week or so & while doing so, what struck me the most was the impeccable integrity of the protagonist - Howard Roark. He is, to use Ayn Rand's own words, the noble soul par excellence, the man as man should be. In today's world such a person doesn't seem to exist. But as I was reading the book, my thoughts moved in the direction of the one person whom I've met & who comes closes to the description of Howard Roark. He's an old schoolmate of mine & we were pretty good friends for almost a year. His name is Shreyas Ware.
I was a student of St. Xaviers High School, Nashik till Std. VIII. Xaviers was a boy's school & I had a lot of innocent fun there. When I left Xaviers & joined Rangubai Junnare High School in Std. IX, I was still an innocent soul. I know that seems to be almost impossible, knowing how I am today but it is true. I was the sort of boy who'd never waste time anywhere outside home, who'd do everything that his teachers asked of him & never ask for reasons. But somehow all that changed when I shifted to Rangubai. Whereas most of the students in Xaviers were dignified & well-mannered it was the opposite in Rangubai. The majority there was rowdy, to say the least. Not that they weren't good but there was still the difference - in the way they behaved, the sort of language they used & the things they did. I was conscious of this difference from the very beginning but soon, unconsciously, I became one of them. I started using the same sort of vile language & behaving in the same rowdy way. And all this happened within the first six months of my joining the school. I thought that all this was natural, almost inevitable. But I was wrong. Because there was one person there who had been in the school for years but still was a pure, untouched soul. He was Shreyas.
Shreyas was the ideal student in school. He wasn't the class topper but he was studious nonetheless. He took his studies seriously & worked diligently at whatever task given to him. He was the guy who did his homework everyday, who completed all his assignments in time & did everything that people asked of him. But he was never proud of this, in fact vanity & boastfulness were unknown to him. He was also extremely helpful, as long as he felt what he was doing was right. We did a lot of crazy things in school but he never joined us then. But whenever we actually did something good, he became one of us. He had no enemies, in fact that during his entire school life nobody was ever even angry at him. He joined us whenever we played cricket during the weekends but not when we would sneak off to watch movies secretly. Whenever he felt we were doing something wrong, he would just frown. He never asked us not to do it but his disapproval was obvious. How I wished I had listened to him a bit more. Even the teachers liked him but he was never their pet, because he would never try to impress them with his knowledge. He would sit quietly during the lectures, listening intently to whatever the teacher taught, while we were busy passing comments. And what I respected in him the most was the fact that he never lost his cool & never ever used foul language. And in a school where everybody used at least 50-60 swear words everyday, that's saying a lot.
He was also a good chess player. In fact it was this hobby that brought us together. We would sit for hours together after school, playing chess. And the reason why he became such a good player was that he was always willing to learn. While the rest of us never listened much to each other due to our inflated egos, he listened to whatever anyone said & tried to learn as much as he could. This was the sole reason why his game went on improving while we were stuck at a mediocre level. In fact, in Std. XI he almost qualified for the district team. He came sixth after losing the 5th place playoff & the top 5 got selected. I don't know what happened to him the next year, but I'm pretty sure he must have qualified. He also had a very strong will. He had scored 83% in SSC but still took up commerce because he felt his interest lied there. Everybody he knew was against this - his teachers, friends, family, neighbours, everybody. But he stuck to his decision & took up commerce.
Shreyas got happiness from the small things in life. While we spent most most of our time lamenting on how unhappy our lives here, he obtained joy from small things like studies, playing chess, doing his chores, obeying whatever teachers told him & much more. In fact, for him every single day was for him a moment to be enjoyed. You may have all the big things in life, but to be really happy you need enjoy the small things. And Shreyas was a perfect example of that.
I don't know much of what happened to Shreyas later. I don't know whether he is till the same or not. Colleges have a tendency of destroying the innocence & integrity present in the souls of the students. A student like Shreyas in the BYK College of Commerce seems almost unimaginable. But then even in Rangubai, a student like him was unimaginable. And I'm pretty sure he's still the same. While all of us dived into the murky waters of Rangubai Junnare High School & became a part of the dirt, he rose from the same waters & became a lotus in the slush. A lotus in the slush.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Horror & Himesh

Finally, a few villagers from Bhalej, a small village in Anand district, have managed to do something which I have yearned for a long time - ban a Himesh song. These villagers have banned Himesh Reshammiya's "Jhalak Dikhlaja" from the movie Aksar, saying those who listen to it or sing it get possessed by the evil. It is believed that the evil follows you because the lyrics of the song have the words 'Aaja aaja' that invite the ghost. Till date five to six people have been infected by the "evil" in the song. Hence the ban on playing or even singing the song. Now why the hell didn't the evil strike Pune or Nashik instead?

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Looking back

Looking back over my previous entries, I realise that I've made only two posts in the month of May. Two is certainly a very small number considering the fact that this month might well prove to be of significance in the future & also considering the fact that I enjoyed it a lot. So, taking the risk of providing an outdated account, I narrate here some of the more enjoyable moments of a very interesting month:

May 3- May 13:
These 11 days were the most important of the entire semester as they were the dates of our exams. Somehow, after Std. XII, I'd never felt happy during the exams. Never felt like struggling a bit more, going the extra mile or waking the extra hour for the sake of scoring the extra mark. It was almost as if I'd lost interest in studies (and perhaps a few other things too). And the monotonous subjects ( Civil, App Sci-I, BT etc) didn't help much in improving the situation. I guess I just wasn't yet accustomed to living at the hostel. No wonder I performed disastrously in last semester's end sem exam. And then came the vacations which proved to be even more disastrous as I had an accident and had to spend almost a fortnight in bed, doing nothing all day. All this almost took the fun out of life.
The second semester came as a breath of fresh air. Beginning with a gala time at Mood I, the various activities & events during the sem ensured that I was always doing something. It kept me ticking & suddenly, for the first time, I felt at home in the college. Since then, each day in college was an event in itself, a moment to be savoured & to be enjoyed to the full. The dull inactivity of the previous sem was completely forgotten, like a bad dream that never took place. I had made very few friends in the first sem, in the second it seemed as if I made a new one every day. I had managed to regain control of my life & started to enjoy it once again. Soon the idle evenings spent at the hostel transformed to an endless saga of parties, movies, entertainment & loads of fun. I had enough reasons to be satisfied with my life again.
But somehow all this never transformed into success in the exams. If you think that the activities would've had an adverse affect on my studies, you're wrong. In fact the activities kept me in a happy state which generally results in a good performance in the exams. But that never happened. T1 came and went & my performance was ordinary. Then came the T2 when I decided to experiment by radically changing my entire time-table. I'd study throughout the night & sleep through the day. This meant that even though I appeared for each paper well prepared, I was in no mental state to write a good paper. And that was reflected by my pathetic T2 score. Life was a bed of roses with just one thorn in my flesh - my inablitity to do well in the exams.
Hence doing well in the end semester exams this time around was not just recommended, it was vital. Fortunately this realisation dawned upon me pretty soon & I prepared thoroughly for the exam. And finally it resulted in a performance which may not make many heads turn but was satisfying nonetheless. I did nothing spectacular but nor did I commit dumb mistakes. I didn't exactly reach heaven, but I surely avoided hell. And sometimes that's all you need. My faith in my own abilities was once again renewed, thanks to a friend who never doubted my ability. My interest in studies was refuelled, the fire within was re-ignited. It may not be a raging inferno but it was much more than a spark. Much more.
So at the end of my first year of engineering I can't say that I've achieved something spectacular in academics. But I managed to experience both the highs & the lows without losing my sense of perspective & my faith in myself. Now I know that I can make it through any difficulties that might arise, that no problem is unsolvable, no hurdle unsurpassable & no aim unattainable. And that none of these can have a permanent effect on me.

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

- from "If" by Rudyard Kipling, my favourite poem

Reading Shantaram

Writing 'Shantaram' was probably the greatest experience of Gregory David Roberts' life. Well, reading the 934 page long story was quite an experience for me. I started reading it sometime in April & finally managed to finish it in the last week of May. I kept reading it through my submissions, my Preparatory Leave & also throughout my exams. It was especially hard to read it during the exams. Whenever I'd pick up the book, my conscience would scream at me and ask me to put it down & read a textbook instead. But I read it nonetheless, maybe because I realised that I was learning much more from that book than from any textbook. And another reason why it took so much time was that the book was so thought-provoking that very often, after reading a few pages, I'd lay on my back & spend a lot of time thinking about what I had just read, trying to understand it completely. It had ceased to be just a book for me, it was a friend, a guide, a philosopher & a teacher - all rolled into 934 pages of text. Hence when I finally completed reading the book, I felt as if I had finally managed to reach the end of a long struggle. It felt like the end of a journey, the completion of a process, an achievement to be cherished. No other book I've ever read has had such a huge impact on me. And maybe no other book will ever have such an impact. The depth of this impact will only be seen in the future. You may wonder how possibly a book written by an Australian criminal, drug addict, alcoholic & chain smoker can inspire me so much. That can only be understood by reading the book. It may not have the same effect on you, but it's effect on me has surely been profound. And for that I'll always be indebted to Gregory David Roberts.

The Nagpur trip:

I left for Nagpur on the 26th of May along with most of my relatives, excluding my immediate family. We were going there for a family get-together. And if you felt that that would mean meeting a lot of distant relatives who hadn't seen you since you were a kid in diapers, you're wrong. Such get-togethers are an annual event in our family & having missed the last one, I was keen to be there for this one. And it proved to be the right decision after all.
The get-together lived up to it's name. I got together once again with my cousins & uncles whom I hadn't met for almost a year. We all had lots of fun together. We ate, played, travelled, partied, fought, danced, argued, discussed & slept together like one huge family. We shared our sorrows, our pains, our fears & all of our feelings with each other & came off much the better for it. It seemed to me that I knew about my family before the get-together, while after it I knew them. And all this while we had the maximum possible fun. Such fun that I had never experienced before. I found new friends in my aunts, uncles & especially my cousins. So strong were the bonds created that when we had to part after 5 days of togetherness, all of us had a tear in our eyes. We had all had the time of our lives & all of us sincerely looked forward to meeting again.
You may have noticed that I haven't written a word about Nagpur yet. Well, it's a good city with splendid roads. It's just that during those 5 days, the location never mattered. All that mattered was who I was with. And I was with MY family. Thats reason enough to be happy.

PS: The trip also happened to consist of a very funny Coffee-shop incident, probably the funniest thing to have happened to me in a long, long time. The details of this I shall publish later.

Home.....Home again:

Well my vacations had begun unofficially on the 10th & officially on the 19th of May but I hadn't been to Nashik since then. I'd enjoyed myself in Pune & had a blast in Nagpur. But there's no place such as home & hence I was constantly looking forward to coming home again. And that finally happened on the 2nd of June. Now I feel relieved to be home finally. No need to eat the hostel food again, no need to share your life with a hundred other people, no need for all the small talk, no need to make compromises. Being home gives me a chance to talk more with less people, rather than less with more. It's the only place where I can be myself & feel nothing about it. Where I can do nothing for days & still not feel guilty. Or do everything and still look forward to doing more. Where I can relax in the truest sense of the word. Where I can rediscover my old self again. Where I can sit back & relive my past life as if nothing had happened, as if I had never left this place, as if nothing had changed. And I can compare this life with my present life, which would be both the past & future, and see for myself what is better. Such liberal intertwining of all three tenses is impossible elsewhere. And also, I get to see a marvellous sunset every day. That's the icing on the cake.