Thursday, February 21, 2013

Masterji, Yeh North - South Divide Ek Bilang Choti Kar Do!

So the other day I’m told by a well-meaning South Indian friend that Delhi is a cruel and shallow shithole, run by a bunch of the proverbial canines who are always on the lookout for a quick bite of Hot Dog, where thugs and molesters have a free hand, that too literally. And that’s only on a good day.
"That's enough!", I said to myself. It can’t be so bad, can it? If nobody else will try their hand at it, I’ll attempt to patch up this North-South divide. Despite the few pricks I’m likely to encounter along the way, as is the case in any such endeavour. After all, a few pricks are a given when you try to sew up the secular fabric of the country, eh?

Yes. Delhi’s image down South has reached an all-time low. And when we refer to Delhi, we refer to everything north of Bombay, and besides Bengal. With the recent movement of a younger population, and owing to their brash advertisement of where they hail from, Delhi has become the new Punjab. But up there, we probably still remain Madrasis.

They are likely to view us as a bunch of Sambar eating, dhoti wearing, mustache adjusting, BPO accent sporting, Rajnikant fans who have pickles with everything we eat, including chewing gum. While we view them as a bunch of humour-impaired, Fair & Lovely consuming, SUV-driving, Yo Yo Honey Singh style swearing snobs whose biggest accomplishments in life include speaking Hindi without a South Indian accent and making ‘un-fair’ comments on our complexions. De Taali! (Heard that? He said “Thali”. LOLz!)

Unfortunately, when people resort to blind stereotyping, they are usually 100% accurate. Or at least that’s what they’d like to believe. But then, just because we belong to different sides of the Vindhyas, it doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, right? Okay! Fraands if you insist, yaar. After all, we were always united by our irritation of one Cyril Radcliff’s inability to know where to draw a line, no? A fact we’ll remember as long as India and Pakistan play cricket!

History suggests that all this North-South pow-wow began when one Nanduri Ekadri Venkata Ramakrishna Reddy picked up a fight with another South Indian colleague in Amadalavalasa, because the victim never got his name right. (The fight was then referred to as NEVR Reddy Battery by a Times of Vindhya scribe).  Having a desire to live up to his proud family name, Mr. Reddy moved up North and called himself Ram. The change of name and postal address however would hardly help him escape the ignominy that was due to him, once he was labeled a Madrasi.

Many years have passed, and since then, Delhi has witnessed a lot of Southern influence. What with South Delhi, South Block, and even Southern Comfort whiskey. In an act of reciprocation, the North has found its way into the hearts of South Indians. What with Parota(what you call, Parantha), Pakora ( What you call Pakoda), Paneer Butter Masala( What you call Paneer Makhanwala) and the subsequent Delhi Belly( Call it what you like) becoming as much a part of the South Indian diet as Poori( What you call Poodi), Podi(Now you know why we call it Poori), Pickle (After having which, you'll only call for paani) and ulcers.
This kind of history cannot be disturbed over petty things like who has hotter summers and who has hotter tempers. Which is why I call upon you, my fellow South Indian friends to bring out your spiciest jar of Avakai Pickle to welcome our brethren from Bhagat Singh Marg, our chums from Chanakya Puri and our pals from Pitampura, and make them feel at home. After all, we all need someone to laugh at, don’t we?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy

Perhaps the most interesting piece of literature I've read on the cliched theme.

Not a red rose or a satin heart.I give you an onion.

It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears 
like a lover.It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Lethal.Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

- Carol Ann Duffy

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Get Going!

Get up. Get a cup of coffee. Get to the gym. Get back. Get to the shower. Get some breakfast. Get dressed. Get a rickshaw. Get to office.

Get working. Get a break. Get some thinking time. Get some time off. Get on FB. Get an idea for a status message. Get some Likes. Get another assignment out of the way. Get a few more on the work desk. Get a headache.

Get some more writing done. Get hungry. Get some lunch. Get a sugar craving. Get drowsy. Get briefing on another job. Get worked up. Get a game of Table Tennis.

Get impatient. Get distracted. Get a call from random insurance company. Get an opportunity to get out early. Get caught up with an "urgent" assignment.

Get done with work. Get out in time. Get stuck in traffic. Get a call from friends. Get to closest pub. Get chatting. Get a beer. Get to meet an interesting woman. Get to know she's with her boyfriend. Get one big KLPD. Get depressed. Get myself another beer. Get back home late.

Get ready for bed. Now I get thinking, "How do I get more out of life?" Maybe get real? Get a girl? Get serious? Get out of town more often? Naah! Let's not get carried away. Think about it when you get to that bridge. Get a book, and get reading. It's 2 am, get some sleep.

Now I get it! I think I first need to go get a life!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Grandmother’s Game

Ours is a country that’s full of crazy men and unhappy women. This is particularly true on the day of a cricket match involving the Indian Cricket team – when men conveniently forget and forego all their responsibilities to discuss the brilliance of Sachin’s leg spinner or Ajit Agarkar’s solid forward defence, while women either end up working overtime responding to countless requests of chai and pakoras, or are asked to sit quietly and watch this sacrosanct game. But for all the talk about cricket being a gentleman’s game, no experience came close to watching it in the company of my grandmother, whose love for the game could only be matched by her loyalty for any man who played for India.
Back in the early 90s, the Indian Cricket team was not as celebrated as their current counterparts. It was a team of paradoxes – a fast bowler opened the batting, a leg spinner was their fastest bowler and the oldest member was also the team’s best outfielder. The eventual result of the game never really mattered as long as Sachin was the highest scorer. Even if the highest individual score was a mere 31 out of the team’s overall score of 173 all out in 48.5 overs. 

But then my grandmother was the ever empathizing fan who kept insisting, “It’s not easy for a 17-year old boy to play with older men”, “ Do you know how difficult it is to go to an alien country and eat their food”, “We were never as tall and strong as those fair (skin-toned as opposed to natured) Australians”,  “Indians were never raised to do nothing else but play cricket like those dark West Indians”, or “At least, we will never cheat with bad umpiring and win like those bloody Pakistanis in Sharjah”. 

She’d also rationalise her fondness for the men in blue with several gems like “After all, he’s from Bombay”, “He looks so smart, he must surely be a Brahmin”, “Did you know his mother tongue is Konkani and not Marathi”, or the best one, “ I’ve heard he’s employed by Canara Bank, where I maintain my savings account.” Her patriotism was so fervent, that I never dared to admit that Wasim and Waqar were my favourite bowlers, lest I be disowned.

But in hindsight, that’s perhaps what turned me into a critic. My only agenda was to oppose everything that grandma would say during the course of the game. So if you were ever to follow the conversations of the Pai household during a game of cricket, you may be inclined to believe that India was at once the best and the worst team in the world. So a “See they will easily beat Pakistan today” would be followed by “What’s the point, they lose to them on Friday (Sharjah Cup Finals, for the uninitiated, was always contested on a Friday) anyway.” Likewise, “Poor Fellow! Srinath better take some rest. He has fitness problems” would get a “Useless fellows! They should all stop playing and sit at home. None of them are fit to play for the country” as a response.

Somehow, none of my taunts would shake her belief in Indian Cricket. I always imaged that as a cricket fan, Granny was like one of those doting mothers you encountered at school, who believed her son was god’s gift to the Mensa Society, and he’d stand first in class every time but didn’t because he was never a teacher’s pet.

But for all the debates, Grandma always knew that my heart was in the right place. And I’d secretly celebrate ever Indian victory, even if Sachin was out for a duck. And that it had nothing to do with her treating us to a pack of Ruffles (now called Lays) or a bar of Cadbury’s Break every time India won. May be that was her way of ensuring that I inherited her love for Cricket. So thank you Bapamma – watching cricket has never been the same without you.