Saturday, August 25, 2007

True story. I kid you not.

The story that follows is an absolutely true one. Though it may read like a one-man disaster movie script, it actually did happen to me over a 75 minute period of my life that's never coming back.

Here's the dope, in seven scenes...

Scene One: The day is done

Finally, for the first time this week, I was in a position to leave work for home relatively early. It being a Friday evening and me not having much of a social life to speak of, I made plans to go to a movie with a few friends.

For various reasons that I won't go into here, I didn't have a car available. A friend of mine kindly consented to drop me home, and pick me up an hour later so we could go to the movie. One hour - ample time to have a quick bath (yes, I realise this is surprising, but I do bathe more often that I used to a few months ago), rustle up some dinner and change into something hip and cool (yeah, I'm laughing too) for the night out. Also, I very badly needed to use the toilet.

Scene Two: What to do?

So I walked towards my flat, eagerly looking forward to getting home because a. I was tried and hungry, and b. the need to use the loo was rising at a rather uncomfortable rate. And that is when the first Cruel Joke occurred. I didn't have my keys.

None of my flatmates or other friends staying in the same complex were at home, so there I was locked out of home, alone and in need of a loo. I decided to take a rickshaw to the movie complex (in a mall, where else?), figuring that there just had to be a toilet there.

There are usually three or four rickshaws standing outside my building, as there is a steady flow of customers. On this occasion, I was dealt cruel Joke No. 2. Not a single rickshaw in sight, and none turned up for the next five minutes.

I needed a toilet really really bad. And had no easy way of getting to the multiplex. That was when it struck me that there was another mall nearby that I had never visited. And where there is a mall, there is bound to be a toilet. The mall was about five minutes' walk away. And so I set off.

Scene Three: This experience didn't lift me

The very entrance of the mall did not augur well for the success of my mission. It was cast in shadows thanks to low lighting, and the parking lot was deserted. The security guards outside looked up from their chai in surprise, shocked that someone was actually entering the mall.

Inside, it was like a ghost town. Te lights were on, and the air conditioning was on in full blast. But there were NO people whatsoever and ALL the shops were closed. It was a freakin' desert mall.

I saw some signs mentioning a food court, and went by previous experience in assuming it would be on the top floor (the 4th). The top floor turned out to be the corporate office that ran this 180000 square feet of retail space in complete disuse. Plush sofas and awesome air conditioning, but no visible sign of the loo. I took the lift to the 3rd floor. Halfway there, Cruel Joke No. 3 decided to chip in. The lights went out.

Power cuts are not a rare occurrence in Gurgaon. Nevertheless, complete darkness in an enclosed place is kinda freaky. To the credit of the mall authorities, the lights came back on in a few seconds. But the lift didn't budge.

Let me summarize the situation at this point in time. I'm hungry. I'm in danger of soiling my pants. And I'm stuck between the third and fourth floors of a desert mall. This was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments.

It took an agonizing and worst-case-scenario-thought-inducing thirty seconds for the lift to spring back to life and take me to the third floor. I staggered out to be greeted by a sign welcoming me to the Food Court.

The population of the food court was more than the rest of the mall put together. There were three men, of which one was a security guard. All three were lounging around and watching the India-England cricket match (which India won!) On enquiring (with clenched teeth and crossed legs) where one might find the nearest toilet, I was guided down a long and tortuously winding path to a little door with the word 'Men' on it. Woohoo!

Scene Four: I can't take this shit any more!

The toilet was reasonably clean. Good beginning. Given how life had been treating me until then, I checked that the water pipe near the commode was working; critical given that there wasn't any toilet paper. It was working. Thankful that things were taking a turn for the better, I got down to the long awaited business.

Several minutes of grunting and relieved sighs later, I had a smile of satisfaction across my face, and reached for the water. It was at this point that Cruel Joke No. 4 realised that it had been slacking in its duty to make my life a living hell and kicked in with maximum force. The water pipe did not work.

Now this crossed the line from irritating to just plain frustrating. The bloody thing had worked just five minutes earlier, but now was dry as... oh, I don't know, the very memory stresses me out so far as to ruin my capacity to come up with analogies.

Luckily, I had my trusty notebook (which I carry to work) at hand, and it had some trusty pages. So that was what I used. Not a pleasant experience.

The main taps in the loo were working, which was good. The soap dispenser was not empty, which was better. So I squeezed some onto my hands, which was when Cruel Joke No.5 joined the party. My hands started stinging.

I scrubbed them until the feeling subsided, and confronted the guard about it. His explanation? "Oh, Sir, no one comes here. We use the dispenser to store cleaning acid." #@$$%^@&!

So not only had I used high quality writing sheets as toilet paper, I had washed my hands with an undefined cleaning acid.

Life kinda sucked.

Scene Five: I need food to stay alive

One of my two initial problems - egestion/excretion and ingestion - had been addressed. But I was hungry going on starving. The food court had only one of six restaurants functioning, and the guy manning it (one of the aforementioned loungers) said that as they didn't expect any customers, they hadn't fired up their grills or whatever it is they do to set up a kitchen. The result? A waiting time of half an hour. At this point, my friend called up to tell me he'd pick me up in 10 minutes. I passed on the Food Court dinner idea, and decided to seek nourishment elsewhere.

Just outside the mall was a small home-run store. I bought myself a couple of fruit buns and a packet of juice. Very tasty indeed. I then crossed the street to an ice-cream vendor. I chose a cone ice-cream and realised 6 minutes and halfway back home later that that was not a very bright decision, because I now had a raging thirst thanks to the dry biscuit cone. Enter Cruel Joke No. 6 (admittedly not as astoundingly cruel as its peers) - the store was closed.

There was no one in sight, and there was nowhere within easy reach that I could get a mouthful of water. Swallowing as much saliva as I could, I trudged home consoling myself with the knowledge that my friend would be waiting to whisk me off to what ought to be an enjoyable movie and a capital way of putting the torture of the last hour or so out of mind.

Scene Six: The evening's final tricks

My friend wasn't there. Which didn't strike me something to be worried about. Given Gurgaon's traffic conditions, incorrect estimates of driving time are acceptable. What did get my goat (figuratively, of course; I don't rear livestock) was when he called up five minutes later to deliver Cruel Joke No. 7 - he was completely, utterly lost.

Not good news because the movie was starting in under half an hour and I hate missing any part of a movie and particularly the beginning.

It took 12 minutes and three frustrating calls ("Left, left, left! How the hell can it be on your right? Can't you see the signboards? Just come straight. No curves, no turns, straight! And yes, take the left turn. No the next one. Whaddya mean there's no left turn?" You get the drift.)... but he got here eventually.

"Hey, Kaka, I'm sorry man. Really sorry. You look angry, and you sounded pretty frustrated on the phone."
"Uh huh, you think so?"

Scene Seven: This Puppeteer ain't going to heaven

I don't know who pulls the strings of my life, which sadistic cosmic puppeteer controls the things that happen to me. But I hate him/her, and damn him/her straight to hell.

The only good achieved out of the harrowing experience is that I got a lot of material to write about. But I still hate the puppeteer. *(&^@*.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

This has been a productive week...

For two reasons. And no, I won't tell you both upfront. (Yes, it's a rather cheap tactic to keep you hooked with pseudo-suspense... but hey, what the heck.)

Number One

I watched Sivaji. Sivaji - The Boss. Finally. After all the hype and hysteria. After weeks of conversations with every new person I was introduced to that went more or less like this:
"So, Arvind, where're you from?"
"I'm from Chennai."
"Oh, you're a Tam, eh?"
"Have you watched Sivaji?"

My watching (or not watching) Sivaji became a proxy proof (or lack thereof) of my Tamizhness, and it seemed everyone and their uncle had watched the movie (including a European in my office!). Everyone except me.

Anyways, I watched it. And my God, Rajnikanth looks fantastically impossibly young. And in no avatar is he more astoundingly stylish than in his bald one. Right from the swishing of his coat to the tapping of his pate. Check these out (I apologize for putting up two heavy videos, but these are just too good to be missed!):

The movie itself was pretty standard. The usual man-takes-on-the-system stuff everyone's come to expect of the director, Shankar. A whole lot of jazz and unnecessary special effects, colours and dance sequences. I found the movie kind of slow in parts. And Rajni's comedy bits really weren't funny at all. All that pointless drivel about trying to make himself fair... (Yes, I get that he was cooking a snook at his own darkness. And yes, I know some people argue it is a brilliantly sharp insight into the psyche of the modern Indian male. Pointless drivel, all the same.) That said, Vivek totally rocks, even stealing the scene from Rajni on multiple occasions! And thankfully, it was slightly less about Rajni the superstar and a little more about Rajni the actor than is usual.

All in all, a fun one time watch. Or maybe two or three. Five if one is just watching the mottai Rajni parts.

Number Two

On the eve of India's 60th Independence Day, I learnt two new drinking games. Two really fun games.

I could describe them in detail (and possibly add some humour to this post!) but why reinvent the wheel when Wikipedia holds the patent? Sorry, that didn't come out as well as it sounded in my head. Anyways, check out the links below

Flip Cup
and Beer pong

And just in case you were hoping for some photos of me stone drunk... nah, not happening. :)


Friday, August 10, 2007


Memories slay me. Completely, totally. And try as I might, I can't block them or reconcile myself to the fact that they are just that, memories. I find myself succumbing ever so often to those memories. Of times when I was more secure, when life was less complicated and one had people who cared and who one cared about nearby, when I was in a better place literally and figuratively. We all move on, adapt, live life as we have to, but we always carry along memories of what was, what could have been, what one wishes could have been... and try to come to terms with the fact that the past, beautiful as it was, will never be back. For a while we let our minds drift back to those times, those faces. We allow ourselves to clutch at straws, consider improbable what-if scenarios, hope against hope. And then, once we calm down and learn to accept reality, we build mental barriers to carefully file away what was strictly in the past, and concentrate on the present and the future...

I thought I had accepted reality. I thought my defences were in place. But they are no match for the flood of memory. Closure, in so far as I had achieved it, has been shattered in an unsettlingly easy manner.

People, places, emotions, experiences. Some of them, I took for granted and never accorded the special status in my mind and heart they deserved. Others, I assumed naively would either be with me throughout my life, or could be dealt with easily when they ceased to be a part of my life. News flash, rude shock, slap in the face. All this while, I thought I was a guy of reasonable emotional stability, only to be reduced to a quivering mass of nothingness by a few mere words, a few images, a few short flashes of buried memories. A phone call out of the blue, a short meeting, an 'Online' status on GTalk, a jpg file dug up from the distant past, a sudden and unexpected Instant Message...

Some things, one thinks will be easy to let go of. Maybe. Over time, one expects they become a little manageable. But one brief glimpse is all it takes for the carefully built walls around a memory to collapse, leaving one weak and vulnerable and open an attack of nostalgia, love, remorse, hatred and all the surprisingly strong emotions one had thought were dead or buried for good.

All those cliches about the past are crap.

"Forgive and forget"? Crap.
"The past is gone, ne'er to return"? Crap.
"Out of sight, out of mind"? Crap.
"Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"? Crap.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Noodle Bar Bar

That's right. Not just Noodle Bar. Noodle Bar Bar. Which, for those of my readers who don't understand Hindi, translates to 'Noodle repeatedly.'

Momofuku Ando's grave ought to be a revered pligrimage spot. The Japanese voted instant noodles their greatest contribution to the world. Not Nintendo. Not Godzilla. Not cheap fuel efficient cars. Not robots that compose symphonies and/or play football and/or wash your underwear and/or transform into cheap fuel efficient cars. The humble instant noodle. They sure have their priorities right.

I've been having a lot of noodles of the last few weeks. Noodles of all manner and sort of brands and varieties. Maida noodles, wheat noodles, rice noodles. Top Ramen, Nestle Maggi, Unidentified Local Brand With Cheap Red Plastic Cover, Unidentified Local Brand With Cheap Blue Plastic Cover.

Before we proceed (this is, of course, under the monstrous assumption that you want to proceed), here's a tip: Noodles go best with lightly toasted brown bread and chilled apple juice. Having a pretty young thing to give you company is pretty cool as well.

Back to the core of the post.

It's fun. Once one admits to oneself that 20% of one's weekly dietary needs are expected to be met by noodles, one begins to experiment. There's only so much one can have of plain noodles. So, on the basis of extensive research and deep personal experience, here are the top 6 noodle based dishes I have concocted in the recent past, with detailed instructions on how to prepare them.

Chicken Mixed Veg Noodle Soup, aka One For The Soul:
Boil water. Add Mixed Veg soup (I find Knorr's slightly better than Maggi's). As soup becomes reasonably soupy, add a little more water. Add Noodles. Add chicken tastemaker (It's always part of the noodles pack. Except in the case of Unidentified Local Brand With Cheap Red Plastic Cover. @#$#$.). Stir until the consistency of the dish looks OK, or you can't bear the hunger any longer. Pour out into a bowl, and garnish with anything you like (I prefer Kissan mixed fruit jam. Really.) Voila!

Masala Tomato Noodle Stew, aka Pretentiousness Personified:
Almost the same. Except that you add Tomato soup and the standard veg masala tastemaker. Stir till it looks edible. Suggested garnishing: Oregano, carefully preserved from the previous night's Dominoes order. And, of course, jam. Lipsmacking.

Multicereal Noodle Extravaganza, aka Cereal Killer:
Ideal when cooking for a large number of people. Boil water. Add a piece/slab of standard maida-based Maggi noodles. Add a slab of Maggi Rice Noodles. Add a slab of Maggi Wheat Noodles. Add all the respective tastemakers. Stir well to ensure optimm mixing of the ingredients. Pour into a bowl, and garnish with that tangy sauce that's been lying in the fridge for months but doesn't belong to anyone in the house.

High Protein Egg Noodles, aka The Yolk's On You:
Boil water yada yada. End product, noodles. Run downstairs and buy egg bhurji (scrambled eggs) from the potti kadai outside the gate. Bring back said bhurji. Mix with noodles. Eat. Don't bother waiting to garnish it, else the bhurji will become cold and tasteless.

Rice Noodle Meal, aka Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai
A brilliant collaboration with our friends from across the border, China. (Yes, we DO have a border with countries other than Pakistan.) Shove MTR's Veg Pulao or Masala Rice into a microwave for 2 minutes. While that's on, boil water and add Maggi Chinese Flavour Thingy. Pour the rice into a large bowl. Pour the noodles into the same bowl. Mix the two with a vengeance and commitment that is almost, but not exactly, completely unlike the passion with which the Shiv Sena promotes Valentines' Day. Garnish with soy sauce and eat with chopsticks.

McNoodles, aka The Noodle That Almost Lived But Didn't Quite And Hence Won't Have a Multibillion Dollar Seven Book Series Based On It:
Boil water. Add the slab of noodles. Leave it to boil. Turn on the TV and spend 25 minutes laughing your rear end off at Everybody Loves Raymond. Return to the kitchen to find the dish burned. Throw it away and order a burger from McDonalds. Garnish with fries and coke.