A Wednesday

I started writing this at 1:00 am.

By the time you read this, I’m sure you will have seen/read about the absolute insanity of the last many hours that this city has been witness and victim too. It’s going on as I write this post…

Mumbai and indeed India’s worst ever terror attack they’re calling it. A series of shootouts and blasts at several locations in the city, a hostage situation currently on within the confines of the Trident (Oberoi) hotel, thick smoke billowing out of both hotels due to grenade blasts.

I’ve turned off the television because a) I couldn’t keep watching the same thing over and over again and b) I felt just a little bit disgusted at myself.

Disgust primarily at what is now (in)famously referred to as the Mumbaikar’s Resilient Spirit. Tomorrow this “incident” will come to an end and most people will go on with the lives. There will be solemn talk and appropriate tch-tching about the whole thing but then we’ll be done with it. Perhaps the only ones who will be traumatized about it, would be people who’ve lost a loved one in this entire affair.

I hate the fact that we just have to be resilient. Once in a way is understandable. But all the damn time?!? We’ve seen some terrible times – The riots, the ’93 blasts, the train blasts, the flooding that almost drowned the city. Special love it seems is being bestowed by the Gods** that dwell in our city.

Its 3 am now and its still on…

A not-so-recent resident of our city buzzes me on chat all upset. While I try to say comforting words and make all the right soothing noises, I realize just how incapable I am of understanding her (rightly justified) fears. Hoping honesty is the right way to go about it, I tell her I can’t help too much only because “Ab toh jaise aadat si ho gayi hai…”
As I said it I felt all of 2 feet tall. It’s pathetic that things like this have to become a habit. Bomb blasts, riots, shootouts, death arent't things one should get used to.

Since I am a gambling man, I bet someone will make a (hopefully good) movie on the events that have transpired tonight within 16 months. See, resilience...

Main bhi Scienticity hoon...

This was actually part of the above post but it didn’t quite fit so I thought I’d just make another post for this alone.

** Speaking of the Gods that dwell in the city, I suddenly remembered this one comedy & mimicry tape we used to listen to over and over again. Back in my college days, S had purchased some comedy cassette tapes by Johnny Lever. They were basically a recording of his stage shows.
I remember in particular this one sketch he did. It related to an incident which happened sometime in the late 70’s. There was a global fear about the impending crash of Skylab (a US space station).

Now the central character of this sketch essayed by Lever was a man called Gafoorbhai. As the name suggests, Gafoorbhai was a Bhai. Not only that, he was a psychic of sorts (no doubt helped by that fact that he was a charsi – that’s a dopehead for those of y’all stumped by the slang) whose visions were taken pretty seriously by people around him.
So around the time when the Skylab scare was running wild with fresh rumours everyday about where it would crash, it came to pass that Bombay could/would be its point of impact.

So when asked by one of his so-called followers whether Skylab would indeed crash in Bombay, Gafoorbhai without hesitation says a firm and resounding No.

GB says it might fall anywhere in the world but it will not fall in Bumbey (yup that is how he called it). “Meri baat sun na… main bhi Scienticity hoon… Eskeelab ho... kiski bhi lab ho... woh kahin pe bhi gir jaye, Bumbay mein nahi girega.”

Follower: “but O Wise One, how can you be so sure??”

Gafoorbhai confidently replies, “kyun ki Bumbey mein pehra hai” (because Bombay is under constant vigil)
And he goes onto explain, “See, on the southern side, in the middle of the sea, there is Haji Ali, towards the centre you have the divinity of Siddhivinayak and as you head towards the north there is the benevolent protection of Mother Mary. So with guardians like that, there is no way anything could ever happen to this city.”

To Gafoorbhai’s Divine TrinitySome help right now would be nice. Seriously.


Perception is Reality

WARNING!!! – This is a kinda poker centric post. Only meant to be read if you are a fan of the game or fully faltu.

For those of you who know me, you know of my great love for the game of poker. There are days (and nights) when I am positively obsessed with the game. I am constantly devouring bits of information and news about the game. In my head, I visualize the day when they legalize it here and that I will then become the face of the game here.
Let’s be clear – I don’t consider myself to be a great player. I would realistically put me in the decent-to-good bracket. A learning player if you will (although I think for anyone serious enough about the game, the learning never stops)

So this past weekend, I was sitting at S’s weekend getaway house situated on the outskirts of Pune. By the way, S is as or probably even more obsessed about the game than I am. And so over our glasses of Old Monk (with half water-half coke please, Bartender) we were discussing the game as we usually do on these trips. His insights on the game are something I look forward to listening to. Many areas of my game which I felt were weak have improved because of these discussions we’ve had. I look forward to the day when we’re doddering ole gents sitting on our rocking chairs and still tossing about those hands dealt… those flops hit… the bad beats taken and handed out… those invariable suckouts which just HAVE to happen on the river… while bad mouthing the younger punks who we played against...

Talk also drifted towards some personal stuff… some mine and some to do with people he’s close to. It’s not often that S will bring up topics of a personal nature coz he firmly believes in the Do-what-the-fuck-you-feel-like policy most days of the week.
But this was one of those evenings... The weather was just right. The drinks went down smooth and slow. And as we talked of these things that were directly or indirectly affecting our respective lives, I thought of just how much of the poker talk and its relevance was intertwined with life. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that one’s approach to a lot of the situations that life throws at you, mirror those one comes across on the green felt. Equally too, one's decisions and their outcomes in life, could be mirrored by the decisions you took while playing a hand in poker. Maybe I’m reading more into it than there actually is… perhaps seeing and making connections because I’m into the game so much.

But I have noticed this game has made me a little more aware of people. I am more receptive to the vibe that a person might exude. I put it down to the ability to “read”, that one must develop on the table – reading whether your opponent has got you beat or is trying to pull off an audacious bluff.
I have used a quote by Immanuel Kant in the title. It holds incredibly true at the poker table and so it seems in life as well. So one tries to be more emotionless on the poker table. They don’t call it poker face for nothing. This too has creeped somewhat into my general psyche. I now try and approach a situation with my head more than my heart – something, which in the past, I have been (and continue to be) guilty of with respect to a lot of things in my life be it work or personal stuff.

Like I said before, the learning never really stops. Just like poker is a series of hands, life ends up being a series of lessons. But like S says, there nothing quite like that feeling when you made the right call. It’s the biggest thrill in the world.

Sbhai I didn’t realize you were reading this blog so regularly. This post is as much for you as it is for me - For all those Dynamic Duo :) trips we've done to Pune... the sheer blessedness of getting away from manic Bombay even if for a couple of days... the weather... those teen patti sessions then... the p0ker marathons now... the great food in the past... the GF food these days lol... the Old Monk... the bitchin'... those glorious singing sessions... the New Year's parties... that house has a lot of wonderful memories.


Rendono fermata...

Sometime in early September... Atrium Lounge, Land's End...

The Madman and I are drinking our beers and he's making oral love to his cigar...

M (looking up, blowing a dense cloud of smoke): "Man its gonna suck not being able to come here as often from October onwards..."

B: "Why do you say that?"

M: "Oh you know... the smoking ban kicks in from Bapu's birthday..."

B (mentally miles away): "Hmmm... true..."

M: "Kya hua? Still thinking about her...?! How is that coming along?"

B: "Ehh... I'm thinking there's no point in moping about something you never even had an honest shot at right...?!"

M: "Hmmm... true..."

Fast forward to sometime last week. I came across something...

I really never had a shot...

So why do I still feel a twinge of something...?

Something that feels suspiciously like pain... Rendono fermata...


A child gives birth to a mother

Been a crazy 12 hours. I was supposed to be in Pune right now at S's place enjoying my dark rum with half water half Coke. Things have a way of getting seriously tossed up. What's that saying - Man proposes and God... gives him a swift kick in the nuts saying "Na uh!"

Was up late watching season 3 of 24 till about 3am. Couple of hours later, I get woken up and we her rush to the hospital. Formalities are completed and me and Mum with her sister keep watch. Hours pass... She is in pain... its increasing by the hour. The pains are racking her body at regular intervals... increasing in their frequency and intensity. I sit in the room for as long as I can. She's breathing heavily, raggedly... sometimes deep breaths... sometimes shallow ones. She wants some medication to ease her suffering... Mum and Aunt hold her hand telling her it'll all be over soon.

I can't take it anymore. I leave the room and walk to the area near the elevators. Never have I felt this helpless... this impotent as a man. I can wish all I want to help her out but this is her thing. There's nothing anyone else can do in this situation. There are no tears flowing but I can hear them in her voice.

They wheel her off an hour later...
Doctor - "It was all very smooth... barely took any time at all... Congratulations! It's a boy. 3.45 kilos. Completely normal delivery."

Yup I became an uncle today. And not just in that annoying-kid-on-the-road-yelling-out-Uncle kinda way but a real honest-to-goodness uncle Uncle!

Dozens of calls made and lots of sms-es were sent off in minutes. And a few minutes later we see the lil tyke being paraded for the family for just a few seconds before he's whisked off to get cleaned up. Man newborn babies look ugl...er... weird.

They wheel my sis back into the room. She looks totally bombed. But besides the obvious exhaustion she's holding up fine. Been an absolute trooper thru almost the whole thing.
And now I must gear up to play the part of the cool (but slightly naughty) uncle. Yeah the one that his Mum will tell him to stay away from when he's old enough :D

Welcome to the family, kid.



Saw Quantum of Solace over the weekend.
There have been pretty mixed reviews to the movie. A lot of it, I think, stems from the hangover of the Bond played by Pierce Brosnan. The cool, classy, wise-cracking, martini-swigging character that Brosnan epitomised thru the last decade or so might make this newer raw Bond seem almost Neanderthal-ish in comparison. I disagree with the negative reviews only because I think Craig’s Bond has been a breath of fresh air for a character, whose portrayal by Pierce Brosnan, had almost outlived its time.
Just to clear any doubts - I loved Pierce Brosnan’s 007. But by the last installment, Brosnan was looking his age. Not to mention some of the casting left a lot to be desired. Case in point – Halle Berry. I never really liked her and in Die Another Day I liked her even less. And Jonathan Pryce as the evil media baron… I mean… come on!

So what did I think of QoS? I liked it. Not loved it but liked it. Immediate reason for this is probably because I am a fan of the franchise. Reason #2 – Daniel Craig. Before Casino Royale had released, there was a lot of apprehension that Craig wouldn’t be able to live up to the character. I was one of the few amongst my mates who felt that this guy was gonna be the one to give the edge back to the Bond character.
He proved me right with Casino and again with Quantum. I think DC will definitely end up doing more movies than Brosnan (4) atleast. (FYI Sean Connery did 7 and Roger Moore 8)

You know QoS could have done a lot better had they Bolly-fied it a bit. Y'know maybe include a few song and dance sequences. Like its Indian counterpart - Guru. No no… not that “I-love-Dhirubhai” tribute by Mani Ratnam. Altho both movies had one common factor – the ever lovin’ Mithun “Look-at-my-Hips” Chakraborty.
I’m talking about that Goldfinger inspired 1989 masterpiece, which had Mithunda in & as "Guru" and Sridevi in all her gory costumed glory as the good girl gone bad. See the Bad Girl in action here. Rihanna, you ain’t got nothin’ on the Freedevi.
Additionally, for great costume ideas, see here.

I’ve littered this post with pictures of some of the cool stuff in the film. Except for Olga Kurylenko…. She’s smokin’ hot! What a body! What a face!!! *sigh*
Liked her in Hitman (not an Oscar winning performance to be sure) and I'm glad she got a chance to show off her acting chops a little bit in this one.

"I don’t think the dead care about vengeance..." - Commander James Bond, MI6


Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana

I have a confession - I'm a TV junkie.

Well perhaps not junkie in the traditional sense.... hmm I'm seeing serious contradictions in this here line.
No, when I say junkie, i mean being absolutely addicted to a few select shows. I don't just watch any crap that's played on the idiot box and we know there's a LOT of that on. I especially don't like those reality shows. You know the ones I'm talking about... Where you, the viewer (voyeur) is intimately privy to the goings on within a household etc. I don't mind the American Idol types so much coz that's more about the talent than the "emotion" aspect. Plus you get to see some seriously good performances.
But I completely detest shows like Big Boss, Survivor and such like. Kinda creeps me out coz I feel acutely uncomfortable after a few minutes. I guess the general public at large does possess some streak of peeping Tom-ism, given the success and ratings of these shows.

Actually most of the shows I watch are courtesy the Internet and several accommodating pirate friends. I been watching some seriously good shows over the past couple of days and just HAD to write about them. I am a big fan of strong character driven shows. If there's a few laughs in there, then all the better.
Here's a few shows that are an absolute must watch if you like (seriously) good entertainment:-

  • Boston Legal - Just got done watching 4 episodes back-to-back of this show before starting to write this post. The leads played by James Spader and William Shatner are effin' brilliant. Plots which range from dead serious to bust a rib laughing funny to mind boggling bizarre. Dialogues which are witty, crackling and sometimes so fast that its blink-and-a-miss. I haven't written too much about the show here but safe to say that it's some of the finest television you will ever get to watch - Guaranteed!

  • House M.D. - This show had run for a fairly long time on Indian television before I started to watch it. Hugh Laurie is magnificent as the cynical, arrogant know-it-all (which he almost always is), Dr. Gregory House in this medical drama. The USP for me is the sparkling dialogue not to mention the absolute sarcasm projected by House. You will also get to see occasionally Laurie's musical multi-instrumentality. He plays the piano, drums, guitar and the clarinet (He's also part of a group of TV stars who have formed a group called Band from TV who play a lot of gigs for charity)

  • Studio 60 from the Sunset Strip - Here's a show which not a lot of people were familiar with primarily because it got cancelled after just one season. It stars two of my favorite actors - Brad Whitford and Mathew Perry. Perry of course everyone knows (and loves) from F.R.I.E.N.D.S and Whitford had a primary role in the West Wing. Fantastic chemistry between these two and it only reconfirms my belief in Americans not knowing good entertainment even if it were to hit 'em between the eyes.

  • The Wire - I've briefly mentioned this show in an earlier post. I just got done with it yesterday and all I can say is Wow! I am not all that into cop dramas but this is probably the most grittiest show I have ever seen. Shot entirely in the city of Baltimore, the Wire looks at life in this city from the eyes of the cops, drug dealers, addicts and the media. One of the things while watching this show was the need for subtitles. The language and street language spoken in the first 2 seasons is virtually incomprehensible without some help. One of the things about the show is its virtually unknown cast. They almost all seem like regular people you might run into on a street in the US. Another unusual fact is the producers using real life cops and former convicts and felons to play characters on the show.

There are a lot of other shows which are favorites like Entourage, Californication, Weeds, Family Guy, Grey's Anatomy, Prison Break, 24, Heroes, How I met your Mother, Niptuck etc. And there are shows which I haven't had the opportunity to watch like Oz and The Sopranos.

If you have any inclination towards watching good television, do yourself a favour and watch some these.

Post title courtesy Groucho Marx


Getting away from it all

A lazy Saturday in progress... Woke up late, had a bit of breakfast. Then later headed with the Madman and the Banker to Hard Rock for lunch. I'm sitting now at the Madman's house writing this post on his Mac (bloody annoying to get used to, being a PC user my entire life) which I think I could get to like given enough time and well.... my own Mac.

I'm sitting on the steps of the entry to his house in front of this tiny lil garden posting while the Madman snores away contentedly inside his room.

The past few days have been an equal mix of dread and anticipation. Dread stemming from the fact that there is now only 2 weeks to go before I leave my company. The anticipation is a result of a trip I will be taking towards the end of the month. What started out as a week long trip to Koh Samui has blown up and become a South East Asia jaunt of sorts. I will be travelling for about 6 weeks and will back in Bombay only in the new year. Places on the list are Bangkok, Koh Samui, Singapore and KL. Trying to squeeze in either Vietnam or Cambodia as well although it doesn't look too promising.

The aim besides travelling is to catch up with family and friends (old and new) living in these places. Also to try and visit places of interest located near to the above cities mentioned. Last, but definitely not the least, on the agenda is to play a serious amount of poker. The Hold 'Em scene is thriving in Singapore and KL and it would be good to meet up and play with different players. I think my game's been stagnating off late and this might be a good way to refresh it.

It's the coming back after which is bringing back those anxiety attacks. The thought of job hunting (successfully) given the current bleak market scenario is a daunting one. But I'm not thinking too much about now coz that'll just succeed in ruining the upcoming vacation.

Where the hell is that Fairy Godmother when you need her?!?!