Sunday, January 30, 2005

This is the end...

This week, I stepped on the toes of about 103 people. And I mean that literally.

The majority of this toe-stepping was done on the 25th, at the KK (or is that Kay Kay?) concert at IIT Madras. I tend to swing my arms about or kick out like a drowning man when I'm dancing. That's coz I'm drowning in the music. When I get going, I don't really know how to stop. And the experience of jumping out of my body at 5-second intervals and jerking my limbs till the joints are displaced keeps me on a high for hours afterwards. And when I'm in a good mood and a dancing mood, beware. Those lucky enough to have seen my 'Crow..crow..crow..' act in Ooty in 2003 will testify to this.

But I cannot be blamed for the toe-stepping. It's only to be expected when you have 10000 people crammed into an arena of capacity 4000. Add to this the fact that I had to keep safe distance from Kitty, who was swinging his injured arm (in a sling!) like a man possessed.

And it just gets worse when you have a rowdy, thirsty crowd charging at a lone, hapless Pepsi vendor. Carrying a drink for what seemed like a marathon distance, climbing over people bowed down by exhaustion or making out blissfully, fighting to create a path... it's like Survivor. A friend of mine got a whole lot of Pepsi down the back of his snow-white shirt. I suggested pouring some on the front to even the design. He asked me whether I'd like to have Pepsi designs on my pants, and that shut me up.

The next item on the agenda was the Main Quiz, which traditionally starts at about midnight. The dufuses who plan it normally schedule it for eight and start it at eleven. This time, they were clever enough to schedule it at eleven. But tradition must be adhered to. Starting even remotely on time would have been sacrilege. So it got off to a slow, calm, sedate start at about one in the morning. The best part of the quiz was the quizmaster (I shall not name him, except to hint that his name starts with 'S' and ends with 'atcho') who totally lost it. What occurred was probably a combination of many sleepless nights and the free flow of vodka during the quiz. (When vodka is the audience prize, you know you're having a good time.) Well, this guy staggered around for about 60% of the quiz, stumbling from place to place, barely upright. And when he got the mic in hand, his 'Passs!' and 'Hey you shut up!' delivered in the best traditions of cinematic drunkenness had me in splits.

Saarang was fun on the whole. I actually managed to win a little cash at the literary events, though I screwed up in the big events that mattered. I made new friends and re-bonded with existing ones. Learnt how to write haiku and how not to do... stuff. So that was that.

That evening saw me at the Odyssey Quiz, where we goofed up once again. It's painful, and at such occasions (even at the Saarang quizzes or playing TT at college) I find myself alternating between blinding rage and tearful frustration, trying to come to terms with repeated failures and disappointments, of ooh-just-misseds, i-told-you-sos and shit-screwed-up-so-badlys. Analysing myself, trying to decide whether to keep fighting or put it all down to my unsurmountable mediocrity and give up trying. Should I dream, should I hope, is there any point? Will I succeed, should I try? Homer Simpson, that shining light at the peak of human evolution, that role model for generations to come, once said, 'Trying is the first step towards failure.' Food for thought.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Every year. Without Fail.

The scene: the shoot of University Challenge, the quiz on BBC World.

(taran-ta-taran-ta-taran-ta-tarantaran-taran-ta-taran-ta-taran-taran-tararan-taran-ta-taran-tara! That's the theme music, by the way. The teams - ABC and XYZ)

Siddharth Basu: Welcome back. Here's the next starter for ten points. What event is certain to occur during the week that Saarang is conducted by IIT Madras?

(Arvind of ABC buzzes) And it's Arvind from ABC!

Arvind (full enthu, convinced he's got it): The Republic Day parade!

SB: I'm afraid that is incorrect, the event can in fact be cancelled in the event of a natural disaster or war. Does anyone in XYZ want to go for it?

(Prashanth of XYZ buzzes) And it's Prashanth from XYZ!

Prashanth: Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering, Sriperumbudur will conduct its internal exams.

Siddharth Basu: And you've got your team ten points!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Sarod and Saarang begin with 'S'

Sarod - a classical stringed instrument. Also a five letter word that is an anagram of 'roads'. That's all I knew about a sarod until last night. And the second point is not really of any use, knowledge-wise. Now I know that Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash (sons of maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan) play the sarod, and damn well at that.

Yup, I attended their concert at IIT last night. And it was mindblowing. The sheer beauty of the music and awesome skill of the performers held me enthralled for well over two hours. Two hours may not seem like a lot, but you can count the number of Hindustani concerts I've attended on the fingers of one hand where three fingers have been lost in a smelting accident.

The sarod itself looked pretty cool. Lots of tuning knobs and all that. (I'm sorry, I don't know any technical terms). And it shone at me from the distance of the stage, winking, as if to say, "Ha! You never knew I could create such music! Just watch! Or hear, to be more precise."

The concert started a little slowly. The first few pieces based on raag Kaanada (is that right?) were kinda mournfully slow. Not the sort of stuff that would fire up a listless crowd. In the first twenty minutes, I heard and saw several people 'packing' - a term which means 'giving up and leaving'. And just when it was beginning to get interesting, with a very nice piece involving the Ghatam, it began to rain. And in case you didn't know, it's an Open Air Theatre (OAT).

'Damn damn damn damn damn' is what I thought. Those were the precise words that flashed through my mind. Luckily the rain let up in about ten minutes, and the crowds surged back with loud roars and cheering. They came back on stage to massive applause and ear-splitting whistles, got settled, and gave me an experience of a lifetime.

The sarod itself is like a guitar in design and the way it's played, atleast from a layman's point of view. What really elevated the concert to heavenly heights were the accompaniments - Tabla and Ghatam. The performers (Sunder Das on Tabla and Umashankar on Ghatam) wove a stunning mesh of percussion delight. And both seemed to be having great fun on stage. A small note on each of them individually is in order, I think.

The Tabla guy was very good, especially in a piece where Amaan led him and he was supposed to copy Amaan's rhythm in a split second. Again, I don't now the term for that, but it was very very good. He was all concentration, and one could see he was completely immersed in his music. And when he successfully completed the piece, he gave a shy smile of pure pleasure and happiness that made me smile too.

The Ghatam guy was quite a character. I asked a friend why most Ghatam players are shaped like Ghatams themselves - big and round (though probably not hollow), and was told that's because they need to have meaty fingers to drum on the instrument, and a hell of a lot of stamina to last the concert. Well, the guy here was very round and funny. He kept shaking his head from side to side like a Chettiar Bommai. In addition, he kept dancing to the music (although he was seated) wriggling his arms, neck, shoulders and head in frenzied motions. He had a permanent pleased smile on his face (that said 'Look at me! I'm playing! Yay!), and seemed like a little kid playing with his favourite toy. And he played very very well. Especially a couple of solo pieces - very fast, with awesome variety of rhythm and pitch. He got the loudest applause at the end of the concert.

And when all four of them played together - heaven. Sheer listening pleasure. All in all a beautiful evening. A few hiccups - a delayed start (but hey, it's IIT), the rain delay and a fire in one of the stage lights. But a very very good beginning to Saarang 2005.

I'll be camping there atleast 10 hours a day over the next 5 days. Except for Monday, when our @$$^& college will conduct our $%&^ exams. Like every year.

Oh well, off to the Main Quiz prelims. See you there!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

On a Birthday Video...

This Sunday was Vishnu's birthday. And Prashanth and Srividya came up with this awesome idea of making him a birthday video, which was to be presented to him at a surprise birthday party.

I don't think I've ever had so much fun preparing for anyone's birthday.

We shot most of the video a week in advance. That included pieces on what we thought of Vishnu (his girlfriend's piece was incredibly sweet and moving), as well as Vishnuisms, stuff that is specific to Vishnu. Issues that were touched upon included his gentlemanly approach to buying applam, his shocking generosity to auto-drivers, his Brit turns of phrase (trundle along, dandy, twit...), his shagging and what it meant to his close friends, Oasis and so on.

Next came the editing. And that, in one word, simply rocked. OK, two words, so sue me. My house served as the editing studio, and I'm so proud of the final product.

We decided to come up with Frasier-like slides in between the different scenes, like 'Why Chennai auto drivers own mobiles' before the part on, obviously, auto-drivers. The process of deciding on sound effects was a long-drawn out one. We chose from hundreds of songs to find the best ones that would fit. A bit of Monty Python here, a clip art there, Elton John in between and Kelsey Grammer (Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs) bringing up the rear... superb. Lots of other artistes too.

The credits were fun - Gangotree for 'creative ambience', the Microsoft Corporation for 'sound effects', Hutch for 'cost-effective communication solutions' and many more.

The movie's not on The makers could really get arrested because it contains some very objectional language. We even gave it an 'A' certificate. Really. It's there right at the beginning.

The party itself was fun. I think we succeeded in scaring the hell out of Vishnu when we all yelled 'Surprise!', baritones mingling with altos and sopranos and whatever-else to result a truly blood-curdling sound.

But this blogpost is about the video, so I'll just stop. Here. Maybe more on the party and the CIA-like planning that went into it (calling all stations, they're turning into the road) later.

I loved the video, the love, care and thought that had gone into it's planning and the simple yet professional-ish-ism of its execution. I think Vishnu liked it. I'm glad.

I realise that all this won't matter an iota to a very large majority of those reading this blog. It isn't funny, it isn't thought-provoking, you probably can't relate to it, it's cloyingly personal. But it matters to me, because I loved the experience. It made me feel good and, frankly, worth something. And joking, working and laughing with the others in on this made me feel a renewed warmth, happiness and a desire to live. I felt more alive, less of a machine-like automaton going through the motions of life. I felt human, and glad to be human. Thanks, everybody.

To finish, here's a toast to Vishnu.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Important - Group Discussion

Hey, if you are interested in joining a group of us who plan to meet regularly to conduct GDs, contact me at or call me. Spammers will be tortured by being made to listen to "AC's kadi marathon volume 1", a 180 minute CD of my saddest PJs.

PHL rocks.

Monday, January 10, 2005


The name's Iyer. Therulundur Chandrasekar Arvind Iyer.

I just found out that's my official name. Or would have been had I been born 50 years earlier. For the uninitiated, the format is (Hometown Father You Iyer) for Iyers. For all the computer geeks, its [ Name -> Hometown Father You Iyer ], where all except Iyer are variables and Iyer is a terminal. (I Love TOC.)

So I would have been TCA Iyer. Or TCAI for short. Somehow, it just doesn't have the convenience, punch or zing AC has... Some people may have tired of four sylables (tee-see-ae-eye) and switched to two (tuck-eye), but that sounds like something you'd find sold at a railway station. In fact, it kinda sounds like a swear word. Plus, it doesn't lend itself that easily to puns like 'AC is cool' or 'AC is turned on!' And puns are a very very important part of my life.

And there are all the administrative hassles - I wouldn't be able to fill in my full name on any form, and the ID page of my passport would be crammed with letters. Non-Tamils might keep calling me Iyer as has happened to a friend of mine. Plus, there's far more scope for someone to mangle the spelling of my name. Things are bad enough as it is. Here are the top 3 most hated spellings:

#3. Arwind - yes, this has actually happened. Only once, thankfully. Just think of all the puns possible, starting with 'breaking wind'...
#2. Aravind - used 80% of the time when the person writing my name is Tamil. If you want me to punch you on the nose, you know what to do.
#1. Aravinth - first used by a mallu receptionist at a mallu doctor's place. Very very very irritating. Makes me feel highly suicidal or homicidal, depending on the situation.

My surname is usually spelt wrong too. Although my dad's name is Chandrasekar, my last name is spelt Chandrasekhar. Note the extra 'h'. (Or else...) That's the result of a careless passport officer slacking on his job. I got my passport when I was just a few months old, and now the spelling has stuck for life.

Coming back to TCAI, I really like the name although it's incredibly inconvenient. There's a certain style to it, a certain boom-pi-sa-sa (I make sounds when I run out of words). There's a certain something to it that makes it sound very distinguished, and I don't mean that in a casteist way at all. It's a cool name. In some way, deep down, it makes me feel more Tamil.

But stick to calling me AC.

(This blogpost is dedicated to Archana, who knows more than anyone else my love for my Tamil roots.)

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Random jottings

I was cleaning the mess that is my table a short while ago and I came across my 7th semester hall ticket. Now the University introduced this concept of having a candidate's digital photograph printed on the document so as to discourage cheating and impersonation. Unfortunately, the images were so dark and distorted that they kinda didn't serve the purpose they were intended for. Just take a look.

That is not what I look like in real life... I've been darkened, squeezed sideways and stretched lengthwise until i'm a kinda semi giraffe-y version of myself. Lousy buggers.

All this reminds me of the last day of my exams - 9th Dec. The exam hall/class was on the second floor of a building with wide, uninterrupted, sweeping, panoramic views through the two windows. One afforded a view of the national highway (my college is on NH4: Chennai - Bangalore) in the distance while the other opened out on the piece of land connecting the building with the nearest other building in the college. Now this other building is too far to throw a paper rocket to, probably even a stone.

So there we were, all ready to write the exam and be done with the three weeks of torture. The atmosphere was one of suppressed excitement and tension. Some people were beginning to sweat pretty freely, so a few windows were opened. And then along comes this pompous University official who tells us that all windows must be closed. And when some courageous chap asked him why, the reply was 'to avoid malpractices' (sic). Them and their bloody 'malpractices'. What did he think, Spiderman would climb up to the second floor and hand us 'bit'? Or people would rappel down from the roof to help us cheat? Dumb, so incredibly blindingly dumb and pointless... sigh...

That reminds me of this awesome cartoon called Sheep in the City that used to come on Cartoon Network ($#@%&*% CAS...). Apart from a whole lot of amazing characters (like army officers General Specific and Private Public) and crazy stories, there was this small segment called The Ranting Swede. Oh, that was superb. This Swede (or probably an Indian with a Swedish accent if the job was outsourced) would come on stage and curse, yell, abuse, crib and generally rant about a particular topic. It could be anything, from supermarket bags to traffic signals to moon missions. And it was incredibly hilarious. (sigh) Those were the days...

Is Swedish even a word? Or is it just Swede? Swedish sounds like sweet dish... sweet dish, neat fish, strong hashish, bom diddly diddly bom, quick fix, asterix, old tricks, bom diddly diddly bom.