Sach is his greatness

FYI: This is not a post on the 200* by the great man. For that, you should read Munna Mobile and Greatbong. They have put it better than I ever could. This is merely an answer to a question that was put to me yesterday. So here goes:

Having woken up early to watch the match (NY time zone is not exactly conducive to d/n games in India), I was ecstatic (albeit blighted by a headache) in college where I happened upon a classmate. A discussion on the match ensued. She remarked (or rather questioned), “I wish I could have watched Sachin cross that milestone. Why is my luck so bad?” (or something to that effect)

Courtesy: Cricinfo.com

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The precipice

“Hey man…can you come over in an hour?”
“Ya sure…what’s up?”
“Aa jana phir batata hoon.” (I’ll tell you when you get here.)
“Okay, see you in an hour.”
“Accha sun, quarter leke aana.” (Bring a quarter liter of whiskey)
“Sure…Royal Stag?”
“Abbe kanjoos, abhi to note chaapne laga hai…bring JD at least!” (Cheapo! You’re making good money now. At least bring a Jack Daniels.)
Forty five minutes later…
“Early as usual!”
“Well, quarter ghar mein padi thi (I had some whiskey at home)…and traffic was low…”
“So, you came via Panch Pakhadi?”
“Yeah, but with a few unorthodox detours on the bike, I managed to avoid traffic…now tell me”
“Arre…let me make a small one first…soda for you?”
“Make mine with Coke, by the way, go slow, I brought only one quarter…”
Arre mera to on the rocks hone wala hai (dude, mine’s gonna be on the rocks)…I took the liberty of ordering some Chicken biryani…”
“Is this discussion gonna be about your job or relationship?”
“Oddly enough, both. You see, I got a promotion…did you watch the match?”
“Congrats! Yeah I saw, in spite of Ponting’s century, Aussies lost…but unka to time aa gaya hai (but their time has come)…what is your new designation?”
“Associate Sales Head for Mumbai division; it means a lot more money and some real responsibilites for a change…by the way I ordered the biryani from that guy Khurshid in Talao pali...”
“That is amazing, so your career is finally taking off…Khurshid is ok…it is Rashid whose biryani is amazing…how does this affect your relationship though?”
“June 2006, third Sunday…I had called you and told you that she has given me a ultimatum…remember?”
“How you remember dates and days with such feminine accuracy I will never understand…but yeah I remember the ultimatum, and come on…you guys have been together for 4 years now and there seems to be no serious problem…other than your usual committophobia!”
“Why thank you, I seem to recall you siding with her even then. Anyway, do you remember how I had warded her off?”
“Yeah something about you not being in the place you need to be career-wise, and waiting for a promotion to some post…oh…so the time of reckoning hath arrived?”
“Exactly yaar, is promotion ne maa-behen ek kar di meri! (This promotion has screwed me over) I don’t know whether to be excited or not.”
“The way I see it, you love this post, what are you thinking about…take the promotion and don’t tell her anything…so you will be safe..”
“Nahi yaar…she is a part of the legal team which we had contracted for these two years…another pair pe kulhaadi (self-sabotage) from yours truly…she will definitely hear about this…I have to take the promotion and I have to commit to her now.”
“Or, of course, you can break it off…are you ready to do that?”
“No dude…everything is fine now…we meet often, and we are both saving money, and I definitely see marriage in the future for us, but not now…I am only 29 damn it!”
“Only 29! Half our graduating class has had their first progeny…forget that, what do your parents think?”
“Same old same old…they tell me to do whatever I want…but in reality they want to see me saddled and bridled right now.”
“Why don’t you look at commitment as empowering instead of imprisoning?”
“Why don’t you look for your testicles in your wife’s purse…commitment is empowering!
“Chubbe…chal repeat bana.” (Shut up…make me another drink.”
“Sure…the reason I called you is that I want you to take stock of my relationship and tell me what you see…”
“I see a smart, good-looking person wasting time with a good-for-nothing useless dickhead.”
“Oh come on! Help me out man…”
“Sorry yaar, I’d rather crack String theory than explain this shit to you…you claim to love this female, and yet you do not want to commit to her, is there someone else?”
“No…I haven’t looked at another girl all this time…well except Tanya, that sales rep we had hired last week…”
“Or Seema, the HDFC bank girl whose useless personal loan you almost took…”
“Yeah but…”
“Or Rekha, that hot neighbor of yours..”
“She’s married!”
“Like you care…or Romila that cute girl your girlfriend carpools with…”
Pagal hai kya (Are you nuts?), one wrong stare and she will destroy me…”
“What about Sameera, that tall wanna-be model you give occasional lifts to…”
” Well, we work in the same building…”
“Or Reena…aaah Reena..”
“Can we get back to the topic at hand?”
“How many times have I told you never interrupt me when I’m picturing Reena?”
“Sometimes I wonder how logically stunted I must be that I ask your advice!”
“Okay chill dude…look, the way I see it, you are being an ass…she loves you and by your own admission you love her…why not just take a few days’ break and think over what it is that is preventing you from making the ultimate committment, if there is a genuine answer, you might consider breaking up with her…or swallow your fear and go ahead because that is probably what you want deep down.”
“Just when I completely give up on you, you reach down into that abscess you call a heart and come up with something pretty pragmatic.”
“Well, I’m drunk enough to give a rat’s ass about your problems and sober enough to make sense!”
“Let’s stop here then…I am taking a week off and going to Kerala to meet my grandparents…who knows meeting elders or even the journey itself might lead to some quality introspection…”
“Promotion milte hee chutti le raha hai (taking time off right after getting a promotion)…employee of the month!”

Café speak

“A grande latte please, no cinnamon…”

“Boy! You’ve not changed a bit I see…”

“Hey, if old habits are allowed to die hard, I think coffee preferences deserve immortality”

“Double cappuccino, just a hint of cinnamon, less foam…”

“Wow…living on the wild side, I’ve never seen you order cinnamon…speaking of old spices I hate, there’s Sam…”

“Sam…surely you mean Sameer, don’t tell me he has Americanized his name too…he is just in his second semester…”

“I know, it is presumptuous of an international PhD student to become red, white & blue before he clears his comprehensives.”

“Ah! What the hell…I heard the NMR machine in his lab is a 600MHz! Is he using it now?”

“Not unless you count the new Taiwanese MS student being spread-eagled on it succumbing to his lecherous advances as research!”

“Well…chemistry manifests itself in weird ways!”

“That stab at humor was passé even for you”

“Hey…you should have ordered a decaf I guess…the last thing you need is more caffeine at your crabbiest best…I take it your animal protocol was turned down again?”

“I will never understand how a person who regularly endorses the slaughter of cows and pigs by sauntering into Burger King can cry like a baby if the protocol has a lower quantity of anesthesia than regarded as appropriate…for god’s sake I am researching pain management, how can I do that without causing the animals some pain…”

“Calm down, they are doing their job…we can’t have people being callous about animal handling in the name of research…so tell me do you get time to spend with your girlfriend at all?”

“Not really, between her trips to the polytechnic department for the gel filtrations and my constant bickering with the animal department and numerous protocol addenda…we manage to squeeze a phone call in every 3-4 days or so…”

“She lives three blocks away…her lab is three buildings away from yours…I think one or both of you might be consciously avoiding the other…”

“I need a refill…what about you?”

“Yeah…tell the waitress to repeat mine too…so I got lucky last night”

“God! I noticed that grin on your face ever since we sat down…I knew if I did not ask you, you would certainly rub in my face all the action you’ve been getting…so who is she?”

“Remember that cute ABCD biomed student of mine…well…she is not my student anymore, so I asked her out and she came in if you know what I mean”

“Your innuendoes never cease, do they?”

“Yeah whatever, while you spend your nights playing pocket-billiards mulling over doses of propofol, I am playing the game…did I mention I am up for an NIH grant?”

“F#$% you…all the fun and yet you get the laurels too…you cell culture waalahs get your own way on everything!”

“Well, not to sound too churlish, but animal research is like having a girl friend- lots of work and negotiation and not much scoring…cell culture is like my life…scoring all the time and no adjustment!”

“Hey…I have a lab meeting in half an hour…need to shave, shower and order pizza…”

“You are proving my point!”

“Same time, same place, next week?”

“Until then!”

“Bye bro…bye Sam (a little louder)”

“Bye…Hey Sam…guess who I banged last night…”

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy The Precipice

Weird events

Here is a list of weird things that happen or have happened in my life, which might overlap with some of the events in your lives too.

  • I went to the restroom in the college library that day to wash my hands and face as I was working tirelessly on this term paper (which means I was watching youtube and chatting while on invisible mode). I was scrupulously washing my hands and was done drying them when the urge for a constitutional came over me and I went into one of the booths. The other occupants of the restroom looked at me as though I was the poster boy for OCD who washes his hands before the act.
  • This happens to me too many times. I am waiting for someone, and I look at my watch for no reason really. The next moment, someone asks me the time, and I need to look again!
  • I have nice interesting conversations with pretty girls which peak with them telling me that my shoelaces are untied. The sad part then is that I never then find a low stump to rest my foot on whilst tying the lace (Murphy is my constant companion), so I need to go the full monty, bend all the way and tie them up, by which time any girl would excuse herself from the conversation.
  • Waking up early is that much easier when you have nothing to wake up for.
  • Dreams seem to become less Sooraj Barjatya and more Alfred Hitchcock every night. (That is a comfort, trust me)
  • Eating food has become one of the events to look forward to these days
  • An ex-roommate of mine once stared philosophically at a roll of toilet paper and said, “This is one of the added expenses in the USA, which we never had in India”
  • I saw this girl I knew while walking down the street. I did not know what magnitude of smile intensity would be considered appropriate. What if she gives me a small smile merely acknowledging my existence while I floor her with 32/32 teeth. She will consider me a creep. However, if I give her the dignified smile and she flashes the pearly gates, I look like a snob. Also, I lose any chance of another of those smiles. I took the conservative route, and gave a small nondescript smile. Would you believe it, she gave me one of the sweetest, broadest smiles ever, and now I feel like an idiot. (Damn that Murphy never takes a break!)
  • I felt very good one day. I had purchased a packet of bite sized peeled carrots. Great! Now I could guiltlessly munch on these during those long movies etc. Before I realized it, I was having those lovely red denizens of fitness Elysium with potato chips and mountain dew!
  • I went into this quaint pub near Kew gardens with a buddy, and ordered an Absolut vodka straight up. The bartender was impressed as she asked, “Straight up? No ice?” I said, “No ice!” and pondered that for one moment in my life, I actually looked macho. Then she shattered it with, “May I see your ID please?”
  • There are many more like these, but they probably make for duller reading than the above.

For tam bram eyes only

This post is merely my presentation of an article in The Times of India, 25th Aug 2001 by Vandana Parthasarthy. My comments are included in blue.

It is dedicated to blue-blooded tam-brahms everywhere!

“You graduated in literature, right?” asked my young cousin. “No, in economics.” I hastily clarified. “Economics honours,” I added for good measure. The question coming from anyone else would have been innocuous, but from my cousin who was a third year engineering student, it was almost offending. As a card carrying member of the tamilian brahmin community, or tam brams, as the endearment goes, i knew that in his world—and that included his parents, relatives, colony friends, project group, dorm mates—someone who graduated in literature obviously did so because he or she had a learning disability. the poor thing was a freak who couldn’t get admission into an engineering college or even a pitiful, but definitely more acceptable, science course. Or worse, such a specimen was a wasted wanton whose desire to do b.a. was an irresponsible, rebellious act, almost akin to joining a neo-nazi like cult group and living on the edge of civilised society.

This is so true. I couldn’t even imagine telling my parents that I wanted to write or study literature. In fact, economics – with its potential for income these days – might not be such a bad confession.

In any such conversation with a bonafide tam bram, I find myself fervently hoping, that despite falling under the horrifying category of b.a economics, with its connotations of statistics and analysis of numbers and trends, would redeem me a little in their maths-science obsessed eyes.

For a middle class tam bram family (and that means the whole lot of them for all tam brams qualify as middle class if you take outlook and behaviour as parameters), mathematics and science are not merely subjects in the school curriculum. they are a religion. and the dharma of every tam bram student is to master them and pave his way to the heavenly portal of an IIT, or at least to the ordinary portal of a local engineering college, which the family will eventually reconcile to, in the absence of the ‘real thing’.

I was steered to Science by my mother – acting no doubt in my best interest – who told me that she observed in me an inclination towards the sciences. That’s when I learned that I had an inclination towards the sciences.

The first time i seriously understood this was when I was in primary school and on one sunny day was gleefully reading out my final exam results to grandpa who was sitting on the porch and frowning in attention. “English: 90 percent, Hindi: 85 percent, social studies: 87 percent…” i prattled on. “How much in maths?” interrupted grandpa. “Maths: 97 percent,” I said grinning widely. “What happened to the remaining marks?” was his unexpected reaction. After which he asked me to fetch the question paper, spent the next two hours going through each problem and figured out where i could have lost the precious three marks. “Nothing less than a centum in maths next time.” he said finally.

‘Centum’ is a word unique to the tam bram world, that a child grows up listening to. It is a figure that even if sometimes elusive, is never lost sight of throughout the academic career. centum, maths, science, brilliant tutorials, engineering, iit, b.tech, computer science, usa, financial aid, I-20, student visa, MS, San Jose, California, Oracle, Microsoft, Intel. These words and names are like carefully arranged furniture in the mental landscape of a tam bram boy—and increasingly girl— below the age of 25. Care is taken not to clutter it with anything related to useless stuff like literature, history or art. Show me a tam bram boy who wants to be a fashion designer, vj, historian or air force pilot and I’ll show you something wrong in his blood line. For all such are heathen, a blemish on the fair face of the community. Till about 15 years ago, the only heathens were girls who did not sing.

Thankfully, nobody in my house said ‘centum’, but I was considered a reprobate for making silly mistakes in mathematics. Carrying a 15 from one page and turning it into 51 in the next was my family’s equivalent of sublime evil. And I can’t remember the anger when I once proved, after a lengthy trigonometric exercise spanning four pages, that LHS = LHS.

Formidable maamis from the neighborhood would drop in for a casual afternoon gossip session with grandmom and on espying any hapless young girls in the vicinity, would pounce on them with the dreaded entreaty, “oru paatu paadein.” (sing a song). A simple three word sentence, you would think, but in maamiland it is a deceptively camouflaged barometer of the girl’s cultural grooming and readiness for tam bram society (read marriage market) and her mother’s efforts in making her a fine tamilian lady. a tam bram girl’s singing talents always have to be on standby, as they could be called upon by anyone no matter what the time of day, nature of the occasion or profile of the audience, by simply uttering the three powerful words, “oru paatu paadein,” and woe betide the girl who in shameful ignorance, takes the words at face value, like I once did in the naivete of extreme youth. When the words were uttered by a visiting neighbour, I readily accepted and joyously broke into a popular Hindi film ditty. I had finished the second paragraph when i stopped to check audience response. My mother had a strained, embarrassed smile on her face, grandmom was scowling hard, an aunt hurriedly excused herself and went inside and the venerable neighbour looked so disturbed, I thought she was on the verge of a heart attack. “Well…That was nice, but don’t you sing any varnams or keerthanais?” she finally asked, after an awkward silence.

My mother hurriedly explained how in the culturally bereft north we were unable to locate a carnatic music teacher nearby…but hopefully by this summer she would manage to do something about it. that’s when I realised that the only music that was expected to pour out of your mellifluous throat where classical carnatic songs. If you didn’t know any, you simply shut up and ducked out of sight of visiting maamis. And if like me, you are a non-engineer-non-carnatic-trained loser of a tam bram, you should be drowning yourself in a drum full of idli batter for having wasted this lifetime. And all the best for the next one.

Thankfully, male children are spared the torture of forced Carnatic music, although we are expected to study and get a stable job, so that a sweet Tambram girl forced to learn Carnatic music would want to marry us.