Asura: Tale of the Vanquished Review

Good:

A completely fresh look at one of the oldest epics in the country. Good detailing of emotions from a first person POV. Everything about this book was good … except the writing itself.

Bad:

I should reduce another half star for some absolutely abysmal sentence phrasing. The editor doesn’t really seem to have bothered much about … well, editing the script.

Cover of Asura: Tale of the Vanquished

But a very, very good book in terms of the storyline and depiction of events. I’ve never viewed Ravana as anything more than a demon who was a Shiva worshipper and a master of arts as well as a great warrior. Somehow, his inner torments that were brought out in this book (using the first person POV) made him, in the end,  what the author clearly says in the synopsis – “the epitome of a human being”.

One thing I commend is the author’s use of an unknown character – unknown, in the sense that I’ve never heard of him playing any part in the epic in any version – Bhadra. Although he’s depicted as having an almost unbelievably cruel fate, his use as a character has been done to great advantage.

1) The character is used to fill in plot holes between this version and the original Ramayana. He figures into the overthrowing of Kubera by Ravana, in the finding of Sita by Janaka and in many other places. Most of these events are almost impossible to occur to the same person in one lifetime, but for the sake of fiction, I’m willing to overlook that part.

2) He is used to depict the plight of the poorest of the poor and their day to day troubles while the main character of the story, Ravana to depict the highest classes of society. Through a world view more analytical than you could imagine from a “low born Asura”, he shows a world where those in poverty are almost indifferent to who holds the reins. Their suffering is set against the backdrop of the political climate in each scene, which works beautifully to create the setting. While the aristocrats and the nobles side with the winner and ensure their positions, the downtrodden are swept along with the tide of pillaging and looting armies of rival kingdoms or police actions by their own country’s justice system. These poor peasants unite only under the yoke of Ravana during his final battle when they perceive a graver threat than usual to their way of living.

3) His interactions with Ravana are used brilliantly as well. Every time they interact, both viewpoints are shown in successive chapters. In particular, when Ravana rapes a woman whom Bhadra was seeing, some interesting insights into the injustice of a monarch system are shown. The inner thoughts of both Asuras are laid out bare for comparison. It was during these particular chapters that I wished the writer could have been better with his words. The richness in thought is just lost when the writing does not have the power to deliver them.

I dunno how correctly the atrocities committed by Brahmins were depicted in the book. But I’ll be fair here – we’ve heard of Ravana as being insanely cruel in our stories from childhood and I can give the author some slack for having the balls to portray things the other way around.

Ravana’s story, in my opinion, should be retold more often. Children should understand that history is not written only by the winners. You need a spectacularly good villain to make your hero seem all the better. And such a spectacular villain has his own story to tell.

Definitely, a favourite of mine for some time to come.

Rating: 4/5

The Tamil movement: a global perspective

Rapster:

Some things MUST be shared with others. Points to note – Auto drivers and points 6 and 7.

Originally posted on OK...TATA...HORN PLEASE:

Recently, this post has been circulating on my Facebook feed, and while I’m on the same side of the fence as the guy who wrote it, I found his post a little hostile. For decades, Indians have been debating the national language issue, and there’s hyper linguistic fervor on both ends. I’ve tried to approach it from a nuanced perspective, but I’m not going to kid myself into believing this will silence all critics.

Chennai won’t speak Hindi. Not entirely true, but it’s truer than saying that of Bangalore or Hyderabad or Bombay. All three cities belong to states which use languages other than Hindi and English for official and government purposes. Are we fanatics for doing so? Not really, but to address this question, we need to look outside our own borders, because humans are capable of looking at other people’s problems more objectively than their own.

First, some…

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Imagine, if you will.

In nearly 22 years, I can honestly say I have never totally stopped reading books for more than a week at a time (ever since I started, at least). When I did not have physical books, I had ebooks on my laptop. When I did not have my laptop, I had my iPod. When I did not have my iPod, I had my phone. Yes, I shifted books even though I was only half way through them but the advent of technology made sure I didn’t have to bother about keeping bookmarks with my virtual copies and could start where I left off. No, I do not have a Kindle. I do not find it cost effective over a full fledged tablet. Arguments to the contrary about the awesome e-ink technology can please find the under side of their buttocks and stick them there.

With books, there is always a phase when a genre prevails in your life. I won’t go so far as to say it defines what that phase of your life meant because frankly, I’m not even close to philosophical. But I will go so far as to say, they show a certain bent (bend?) of mind at that point in your life. I can clearly remember my own phases. I won’t bother trying to guess what they meant about my bent of mind. But here goes (in no particular order):

1) The Enid Blyton phase:

Everyone has gone through this phase – devouring books of the great author one after the other. It helps that at this stage, your parents are supportive of your extra curricular reading and will allow you to buy or rent books indiscriminately. Allegations of her being racist apart, Enid Blyton was my favourite author as a child. The simplicity of her stories and the rendition of things in black and white (absolutely no pun intended) kept me hooked. And I can honestly say, as someone who grew up reading almost all her books, I haven’t a single racist bone in my body.

2) The Hardy Boys phase:

This is one of those phases when you start loving detective novels. I was in fourth standard when I read Hardy Boys the first time and I didn’t understand most of it. It started making sense only in sixth but by then I had moved on to other books. I name this the Hardy Boys phase but it covers most detective novels I read as a child including the Famous Five, the Five Find-Outers and the Secret Seven. While the latter three were much easier to comprehend, I preferred them more for the image of England that Blyton portrayed. Sweating like a pig inside my room in Chennai, I could only dream and conjure up images of winter in the British isles and how I would’ve loved sitting through the winter just bundled up in a chair with hot chocolate (I still hadn’t had my first coffee sip back then).

3) The Harry Potter phase:

I needn’t elaborate. Every kid I know of my age has read the series and was waiting for the seventh installment as eagerly as I was back in twelfth (or was it eleventh? I forget).

4) The J.R.R phase:

This started for me somewhere around eleventh standard – about the time when I saw the three movies in a trilogy DVD box set my dad brought home. Frankly, I had never heard of the fantasy genre and I was trying my damnedest to understand the movie. But it moved all too fast and I’m not ashamed to admit it. So I resorted to the books with some mild interest. To say I was blown out of my mind would be an understatement. I was mesmerised. My love affair with fantasy fiction was clearly going to last long.

The one criticism everyone makes of JRR’s books is that they contain a little too much graphic information about little things. My friend keeps reminding me of one page in the middle of the Lord of the Rings series where Tolkien describes a leaf falling for one entire page. I am not sure if I was more intellectual (I’m an elitist bitch, as another friend keeps pointing out) or if the others never bothered, but that was the part about Tolkien that I loved. His well crafted descriptions of things that existed in an imaginary land were my most cherished passages in the books. I kept them earmarked with small pen markings in a library book (I defaced those with impunity back when I did rent them out). Unfortunately, my mom returned the book before I could note them down somewhere permanent and I just didn’t get back to it.

Most people know Tolkien for Lord of the Rings but as any Tolkien fan would tell you, his greatest work is Silmarillion. I got that book from some girl in my school in twelfth and it was as good as I expected. This led me on to discover other books like The Children of Turin, The Lost Tales volumes among others. Tolkien remains my favourite fantasy author to date.

5) The elitist phase:

As I previously said, my friend keeps pointing out that I’m an elitist bitch because I can’t stand people who don’t get joke references from famous works of fiction. I call this the elitist phase in tribute to her because most of the books I read are her recommendations. My elitist phase (which still continues) consists of high standard authors – people who’ve won the Man Booker or the Nebula award (science fiction phase comes later on) – like Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth, Hilary Mantel, William Dalrymple etc. While their works span from historical fiction (Amitav Ghosh) to actual history told in a fictional manner (Dalrymple), I admire all their works because they have the most important skill to keep a reader hooked – the masterful art of storytelling. I still haven’t picked up a Hilary Mantel but I’m sure I’ll love it as much as I love Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy (or a duology as it remains now). I will probably cover all the Man Booker candidates and winners in my life time because honestly, they are the Man Booker winners for a reason – they’re really good. Unlike the Academy Awards where I feel the best movie never wins the Oscar, I don’t have much complaint about the Booker. Of course, that could be because I see all the movies that release but I probably don’t read even 1% of all the books that release in a year.

6) The DNA phase:

Yeah yeah, it’s DNA’s b’day today. I know that as does half of the world, thanks to Google. My bench mate in class introduced me to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Combine bull shit with really awesome scientific thought experiments and you get somewhere close to what DNA achieved. Futurama may have better bull shit as a serial but DNA pioneered sci-fi bull shitting. With no seriousness to his 5 books, he brings out some *really* whacky concepts. Like the bistromathic drive (thank god for Google and their spelling corrections) where the ship is powered by a waiter taking orders inside a ship’s restaurant. And of course, the crux of the entire story – the infinite improbability drive which lets you travel space based on how improbable it was that you were in a particular place at a particular time. Very nice stuff.

People may wonder how I left out the Wodehouse phase. Honestly, I haven’t read much Wodehouse. Yes, I can hear you gasping. I will get down to it one of these days, I promise. It’s just that I find Wodehouse sarcasm so heavy (I have read a few books) that I need to concentrate on actually reading every single line instead of blithely skipping ahead with half-assed attention as I can do with even the best of books.

I’m also skipping out on the Sherlock Holmes/Hercule Poirot/Perry Mason phase because almost everyone has been through it. I’ve seen very few people who’ve either not seen the movies, the famous BBC series, the Elementary series or at least read the books. The magic is evident. I needn’t sit here and try to explain it.

The DNA phase introduced me to the world of science fiction but it was not until my bench mate told me about Isaac Asimov that I seriously started considering a genre I had classified until then (inside my head) as a minor spin off of classical literature with a wilder imagination. I’ve since then devoured all the science fiction I could find.

This whole post was more to talk about why science fiction is so awesome. The rest of it can just be considered preamble. Yep, that much more to go. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

As I said before, I started reading science fiction with DNA. It took me quite some time to read all 5 books (I was having some trouble adjusting that with studying). I stopped after that even though my friend kept pestering me to move on to Asimov. Sometime in the twelfth holidays, I made the jump. I downloaded the entire chronology and started reading them as ebooks. I cannot quantify as to whether it was the fact that I was reading ebooks or the fact that I was doing it in spurts (because my college days were going to start) but I never really appreciated it. Then, sometime in second year, I really read  the books (from the start) and found the magic that had been lurking before my eyes.

The premise of most science fiction (if not all) is a future where mankind has advanced to stages of near immortality or a stage where technology seems like magic. Some science fiction authors like Asimov deal with certain events that happen in this world set in the future. Some others, like Philip K. Dick talk more about how the technology has affected mankind. Still others, like Arthur Clarke create a suspense story in a world where we can never guess what could possibly happen but we still feel we must find out. Then there are others, like Frank Herbert (of Dune fame) who wrote in a similar fashion to Asimov but spanned his stories in a different arc altogether. Of all these stories – short ones or novellas – I’ve found nothing that comes close to “The Last Question” by Asimov. In fact, you can read it here after you finish the post. I won’t elaborate with spoilers, promise.

My greatest problem with famous science fiction authors – be it Asimov, Orson Card, Herbert or who-have-you is that I won’t start reading until I have the entire collection and I can assure myself that I’m going to do it in the right chronological order. I am a stickler in this sense. I’ve shifted from Asimov to Clarke to Frank/Brian Herbert just because I couldn’t find the next book chronologically, even though I had other books in the series. Although it’s an irritating OCD to deal with, I suggest most people do the same. The intermediary stories or prequels/sequels may never be as good as the first book to be published in a series but reading them in order always gives a better experience.

The part I like about sci-fi is that it is so wildly imaginative, so absolutely out of the box that I cannot guess what is going on. To a caffeine addled hyper active brain, that is very important. However much I try to arrange the sequence of events, I just do not have enough information to make a guess at how the story is going to end. This is especially true of the short stories by Philip K. Dick, which are absolutely nowhere close to reality (they were mostly written during and before the Cold War period) and have really out-worldish ideas.

The best science fiction, in my opinion though, are the ones which Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert write. They are truly epic series of novels/short stories which span many centuries and sometimes, even millenia. With shifting focus, they somehow propel you through something like 15-20 millenia and you enjoy the ride because it’s just that un-guessable. Be it the eternal struggle between man and artificial intelligence, or the galactic wars between alien races or the struggle of mankind trying to fit into a society where their every aspect of livelihood is affected by the advent of machines, the stories grip you at every stage – the start (because you don’t know anything about this new world), the middle (when the premise of that particular story becomes clear) and the end (there is just no way you can guess until the last page as to what’s going to happen).

My tryst with science fiction doesn’t end here though. I’ve watched movies (Terminator, Star Wars etc), cartoons/anime (Ghost in the Shell), shows (Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who etc) and what not to quench the thirst for the absolutely bizarre (I’ve carefully avoided use of this term before this point in the post). It just doesn’t seem to die. But I’m not perturbed. As the saying goes, I’m “cool cool cool”.

The Perfect Configuration – Mac on Ubuntu

Yes, long time since I posted blah blah.

This is a tech post. So no, nothing interesting for the casual reader. Move on.

The best part about Mac is the interface. There is no comparison with Windows (8, at least). Anyway, I thought I’d make a post on it – both as a manual to refer to later and as a tome to perfecting it after nearly 2 hours of tinkering.

This post will cover just the major mac interface components – the dock and the genie effect.

The Dock – Install Cairo dock from Ubuntu store.

The Genie Effect – Install compiz config editor (I don’t remember the package name etc so just Google it).

The settings:

Configure the dock to start on startup. This is per usual. Right click the dock and click configure and tinker in the settings.

Now, open the compiz editor. First enable wobbly windows (it’s a nice effect) if you want to. Read whatever dialog props and up and click the necessary button. Then, click Animations under Effects. Click the Minimise Animation tab. Click on the Zoom animation enabled by default, click Edit and change the effect to Magic Lamp (basically Genie). Tinker around a little with the timer (it’s in milliseconds) until you get the right effect you desire. Mine is set somewhere around 450 milliseconds. Now, the minimise and maximise animation is perfect. Problem is the wobbly windows interferes with both and creates some very undesirable effects (go ahead, try it). So, if you’ve enabled wobbly windows, there is one more step. Click the Wobbly Windows button (not the check box) inside compiz editor and uncheck Maximise Effect (right at the bottom).

That’s it. You’re done. Now, your Linux behaves more like a mac but is still awesome. Tinker around inside the Compiz editor if you want. There are some very interesting animations.

Personally, I enabled Wave under Focus Animations. Gives a nice sorta effect.

I’m thinking about making those mouse gestures work (apart from the double tap to right click though — I hate that) from Mac. Switching workspaces and displaying all windows and what-you-have. Should do it sometime soon.

Anyway, adios!

No rest for the wicked

Fore-inserted afterthought: While I was simply planning to write about the odd hours that I’ve been subject to in my B-school experience, the flow of writing led to me to rant continuously and make this whole post into a B-school rant as such.

Hah. Gotcha! I made that preamble before I even started writing the post. But enough trolling. Let me start my awesome discourse.

B-schools suck. There is no other easy way to put it. There is also no better way to put it. Although, I have been exposed to more cultural difference here than I have been anywhere in my entire life, I really don’t care much for it. Also, it has given me even greater insight into how stupid Amits really are and how people perceive the south. I wouldn’t say they are wrong as much as they are utterly, totally, completely ignorant of anything south of MP. But that’s them and it’s better not to change it or Twitter may become boring again (KRK, nee thala da).

There is a stark contrast when you come from engineering into MBA. Unless of course, you’ve studied in one of those unheard of colleges spread all over the north like the vultures that feast on a carcass till the bones are the only things left. That was actually a very clever analogy. I’m sure you appreciated it. Anyway, back to the point. I observe things a lot. And then I note it down in my blog. I don’t know why. Writing is a neurosis. I’ve been exposed to too much Tolkien and Vyasa. Also, I digress.

Anyway, my experience has been more unique than most MBA students. I have moved from a 10 day stint in one of the top 10 colleges in India to an year outside the country in a (literal) desert. Of course, I’m sitting in an AC with very fast internet but unless you give me a chance to travel back in time and take a photo with Schrodinger, I’d prefer being home. Home is where the filter coffee is, after all. All this, of course (again), is besides the point. I should really edit my thoughts when I write them down.

So, I’ve moved on. Back in India, the college was filled with these over enthusiastic bundles of energy. Any question in class, any comment from a teacher, any group activity had like a 1000 people to volunteer for it. It was so different from engineering where anyone hardly ever volunteered to work on something. I mean, there was enough brain damage just attending college in those days. My surprise of course, was short lived. I found a like minded group that partied hard, didn’t volunteer to take on more work and was, generally, my type. Except they talked. A lot.

The phrase “Man is a social animal” cannot be applied to Amits. Why? Because Aristotle definitely set reasonable bounds to how much talking a human needed to do in a day to satisfy his .. er, needs (for want of a better word). Amits transcend that limit .. and then they transcend it a little more .. and a little more. You get the point. They talk a lot.

In one of my crazier thought experiments, I tried surmising how it would be to let two Amits in the same room and leave them there for a fortnight. According to my back of the envelope calculations, the energy required for them to talk as much as they usually do would completely sap them of energy and leave them skeletons .. that will still keep talking. So I put in a few more variables. What if they had food supply and water and oxygen etc? Then I realised the room would become a nuclear reactor with the amount of energy they expel while talking. So I extended the thought experiment a little more .. What if we could somehow harness this energy? Would it satisfy the power requirements of India? Then … my download finished. I’d have been a very successful academician if this stupid internet didn’t exist.

But back to the point. The like minded Amits I found here are pretty awesome and I’m slowly growing to like their company. Although their ignorance of computers seems almost too bad to be true, I’ve found that there does exist such a thing. Even the cleverest Amit here couldn’t understand my point when I told him why Windows is better than Mac is almost every which way. So I’ve come to regard them as Indian version of Americans – they talk, eat and burp. And they use macs. They also party hard. So yes, there is something in common.

The worst part about MBA though, is the insane workload. I took the time to draw a graph and show how it progresses.

But I’d just make calluses on my finger tips if I started talking about it. Suffice it to say that in my entire 4 years of engineering, including the penultimate disaster of a semester, I did not have HALF as much work as I have in one week over here. Of course, if I was in EEE, that’d be a different thing entirely.

As the workload and the environment have taught me, living in AC really makes you forget the time .. even though you have windows. I have now done every single possible combination of routines that even a junkie would find mildly disturbing. Wake up at night and stay up till morning? Done. Stay awake for almost 48 hours continuously and then sleep for only 6? Done. Start hallucinating due to lack of sleep and still keep on working to meet deadlines? Done. The one thing that helped though was the AC. I could not have done even half this much work if I was back in India trudging around in that soul sucking heat.

I’m also fighting a personal war with my net administrator here who has taken it upon himself to block every single site of use inside the Academic block and torrents inside the hostel. Thankfully, oppressing authority is not a new thing and I have found quite a few workarounds of my own in a few minutes of web searching. Suffice it to say, as long as connection to the internet exists, freedom will as well.

There you have it. I’m far far away from home, I’m working my ass off in some course I do not foresee myself liking any time in the near future and I haven’t had thayir saadam with aavakai urgaa or filter coffee in 4 months. Oh well. Since I’ve joined the course, I might as well see it to its (bitter?) end. As a wise man once said, “Life is too short for regrets”.

The Dark Knight never rose

I am a very sadistic person and an inveterate troll. So, the tl;dr version of this article is at the very end :P . Also, this whole post is filled with spoilers and I’ve warned you so don’t blame me later.

So, after much anticipation, patience that may have made me tear my hair a little and a lot of planning, I made the absolutely impromptu decision to book the tickets an hour and a half before and rush to the theatre. Now, as most of my posts would show, I would have generally talked about the journey, the scenic skyline of Dubai, how God must teach these Arabs about austerity and so on. Fortunately for you, O reader who has not hit the tl;dr, I am going to go straight into the movie.

03 Fire Rises Poster

I was, to put it *very* succinctly, disappointed with TDKR. I expected a movie to top the Dark Knight but frankly, it never came close. Although it baited me with excitement for well over an year and almost made me happy at some point, it stopped well short of the true adrenaline rush that the second movie provided.

I have seen the dark knight .. well, innumerable times. I have dissected the movie with a laser edged knife and I find hardly any faults in the movie. The plot was absolutely stunning with connections beginning to fall into place from the absolute start of the movie. I found absolutely nothing of the sort in TDKR.

I generally dispose of logic when seeing superhero movies. But some of them, like Iron Man and Batman, make me more alert than usual where the logic is concerned. Most of the elements are within the confines of present day technology and there is hardly anything supernatural in these movies. It then disappoints me when these movies do not adhere much to logic and rely more on .. well, other things.

For instance, did the extremely paranoid Bruce Wayne not check the history of the supposed Talia al Ghul? For a person touted as one the smartest people on the planet (both in the movies and in the books), he would’ve definitely discovered her. Also, someone needs to find out if the maneuverability of a low altitude flying machine. I mean, full 360s with a downward thrusting rotor? I’m not an aerospace engineer but that somehow doesn’t fit.

Also, the character of Batman is given very little importance in second movie. The focus is more on the Joker. Although the acting was absolutely phenomenal, it was more about how the character was formed. The Joker was depicted as an absolute maniac having no singular goal of any sort and simply using ingenuity and cunning to make Gotham bleed while making us laugh with absolutely ill timed fatal humour (I’m one of those disturbed people who find it extremely funny, actually).

 

One of my favourite scenes from the movie

 

Bane, on the other hand, was a metallic-voiced masked man who wanted to fulfill his masters dream of “cleansing Gotham”, which in my opinion was very dubious to start with. The true reason for Bane’s mask (according to the original comics) is absolutely disposed of. I mean, the story becomes a complete load of .. er, turd based substrate when you take out the whole storyline with the chemical that makes Bane stronger when he chooses. I like sticking to reality as well, but seriously, you could make that just as real if Iron Man 3 is *seriously* going to feature the extremis program as the rumours suggest. Also, Bane had a very inferior entry in the movies as compared to the comics. Nolan should’ve just used the original comic story line. If he really wanted to portray a mindless villain, he should’ve used my all time favourite tome of stupidity – Solomon Grundy.

There was also slightly less logic in this movie than usual. There was no explanation as to how Bruce Wayne makes his way back *into* Gotham when the whole city is under siege. Also, as a friend rightly pointed out, how did 3000 policemen kept underground for 3 months have not one wrinkle on their clothes or beards the size of Dumbledore’s? But I can overlook such trivial things when watching a movie more involving about its characters. Like The Dark Knight.

Finally, the plot. The Dark Knight had an intricately woven plot. True to Nolan style, there were clues dropped in it from the absolute start (Ramirez’s mom in the hospital, anybody?). The planning was absolutely immaculate. The only reason Joker lost was because his own psychotic social experiment back fired on him. True to his unpredictable style, there was very little Batman could stop him from doing. Yes, the plot was completely logical but it missed that little bit of Nolan in it that would’ve truly made it exceptional. Also, the fusion bomb story is SOOOOO cliché, I’m scared my eyes will pop out if I roll them around enough times to emphasize my point. But it held together, so I’m not complaining much. Bane and Talia al Ghul’s planning was just as perfect except for the part which relied on Bruce Wayne making her the guardian of the reactor. Also, I’d have loved it if Ra’s al Ghul had really come alive thus vindicating the Lazarus pit plot line.

Also, I don’t know if it was the theatre sound system but the Hans Zimmer magic was nowhere to be seen except in a few scenes like the one where the whole Bane plot falls into place and all the bridges out of the city are burned. I felt the music was an absolutely integral part of what made The Dark Knight so exciting and its puzzling that Nolan decided to skip on it this time around.

All in all, I didn’t like TDKR as much as I had expected. Yes, I went with a very dispirited bunch of theatre goers. There was not one whistle for the entry of either Bane or Bruce Wayne or even the bloody Batman! That may have influenced me but it generally makes me more objective about the movie rather than emotional about it. So no, the influence was not negative. And yes, I still did not like the epic conclusion to what is presumably the best superhero trilogy to date.

tl;dr : I saw TDKR and while I found it OK, it was nowhere near The Dark Knight.

An Ode to the Heat

Titular disclaimer: This is NOT an ode! I just put that there to make at least the title look poetic. Yes, I’m very insecure about being incorrect.

I remember learning way back in 6th standard about longitudes and latitudes and how the sun’s rays make sure that most of India remains hot through the millennia. Of course, heat is a relative thing. A guy from Russia would find the Delhi winter relatively warm, if you get my drift. Of course, a Russian living in India only means that their spambot has been perfected and is safely tucked away and they can enjoy the money it generates.

I’ve lived for nearly 12 years in Chennai and I can honestly say I hate the weather. My excessive sweating is compounded by the almost 100% humidity near the beach. But many people have waxed lyrical (and quite eloquently) on the subject of the perennial heat in Chennai. Everyone now takes the heat to be commonplace and doesn’t bother either deriding the city or wasting their time worrying about such petty things as sweating excessively while there is hot filter coffee to be had *slurp*

All this, of course, is 20 days past in my case. I got admission into a college in Ghaziabad, near Delhi. Since my dad lives here, I thought I might as well come a little early. I was warned about the raw heat here but being a fellow from one of the most scorched cities in India, I threw caution to the wind. How much worse can it get? Now, to get a true gauge of my utter and complete stupidity, consider this – I lived in Delhi from 93-98. Even though I was a kid, my parents had a fair idea of what the Delhi summer was like and gave me fair warning. Heeding such advice, of course, is hardly worthy of a true buffoon like myself so I went ahead and opted to stay with my dad for a few days before I went to college. In retrospect, that was the worst part of my plan.

Now, the minute I arrived here, I understood the true meaning of what heat meant. Chennai, being near the beach does not have such extreme temperatures as Delhi does. This place is an absolute furnace, I assure you. The newspapers are shouting that this is the worst summer yet. You’d better believe it. Like any sensible person, I went ahead and sat in the AC for the 5 days before my college was supposed to start giving no heed to such psychological concepts as acclimatization and all that.

I’ll now describe how hot Ghaziabad is, metaphorically. Imagine taking a lake filled with lava and surrounded by brimstone. Now, further imagine you are in the middle of the lake on a small island with the lava licking at your feet and you holding a ring with some strange inscriptions on it while you get visions of an eye staring at you. Oh wait, cut that last part. Visual stimulus done? Now, imagine the effing heat where you’re standing. Yeah, you’re close to what I was feeling. For 10 whole days, I was mucking about in that insane heat with only a spare cooler for any comfort. Yes, I made friends and all that shit but seriously, the heat here is more of a deterrent to the entire cognitive process of a normal human being.

Of course, I’m back in the AC now. Cooling off all the heat and all yo *bling jewellery and nigga hand signs* . But most important of all, I’m home. Why is that important? Because now I can get my daily dose of filter coffee. All is well that ends well.

Strrrriiiiike 3 aaaaand you’re OUT!

Yes, I know abysmal spelling in the post title is very unlike me but I was just trying to emulate how the guys in Baseball usually shout this phrase out in cartoons.

<End of mandatory perfunctory sentence describing title>

Obviously, the title is connected to my hatred against sports. I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite some time but I got the boost needed to get me off my lazy ass when I stumbled upon this blog in which there was this post. Yeah, that dude has some serious talents where sarcasm is concerned. Go ahead, read that post first so you’ll know I didn’t copy his views but rather, echoed them in a different manner.

I’ve been on this planet for 21 years. I can tell you without any fear of being biased that men follow sports more ardently than women. This is for 2 reasons – a) It’s a mandated stereotype that masculinity and sports are connected in every which way, and b) Most men actually like watching sports. But there is a difference. Some people play sports and some people … simply watch them while bitching about how world class players can’t do things the said people (presumably) can go about doing routinely … blindfolded and with hands tied behind their backs.

The Chennai stereotype for a sports fan is a fat dude, most plausibly adept at quizzing, who can rant off about players from every team in Football, Cricket, F1, Basketball and what-not. He can tell you their statistics, past players from the team and their statistics, team/club statistics in the sport since the beginning of time, how bad/good a particular player is/was, rare events that happened in the sport etc. I have always played around with making a Fat Chennai Quizzer Dude meme.

Anyway, random bitching part, here is a comprehensive list of things I absolutely hate about commercial sports, stylised with numbered points for your viewing pleasure.

I am going to be addressing some random dude (obviously, Srinivasan) who is the Fat Chennai Quizzer Dude in question or just addressing people generally through the rest of the blog post.

1) They’re Commercial:

Dude, if you point out to me that money is the cornerstone of capitalism, I will bitchslap you from here to Valhalla in one backhanded motion that would shame Federer. Just because a nation is mad about something, you must make money from it, is it? No, more than that, it is the fact that such huge money goes into cricket that it is telecast all over the place and influences the younger and more naive generation. Hockey, our supposed *national* sport might as well not exist.

But more than the fact that such blatant commercialism exists, it is pissing off to see that my generation *wants* it to exist. Really? You want them to make obscene amounts of money while you sit at home and watch people playing against each other? I fail to see the logic behind this. But I fail to see the logic behind the whole *viewing sports* thing. They pit 2 sets of 11 people against each other, while making exorbitant amounts of money from stadium tickets, adverts, investors (and probably bookies), franchise material like T-Shirts, mugs etc. and by selling broadcasting rights. Meanwhile, you sit there watching these players fight it out and in doing so, helping this whole money chain move along. Imagine, just by sitting there, you are helping other people rake in more money than you’ll probably make in your entire lifetime.

2) You *see* them:

You do *not* play them. That was my point. I am not able to comprehend the euphoria you get from watching 11 dudes battle it out against each other for one ball to hit one place. I find it utterly stupid. I understand the whole point of sports. Be it football or cricket, you run around like mad and it is good exercise while you have fun.

I give concession to people who see chess games. Why? Because if you can sit through the longer version (not rapid fire that Anand just won), you are really engaging your brain. You’re probably an interested player if you’re watching the game in the first place. How do you benefit from seeing Football or Cricket? Do you try to imagine strategies that would help your team win? If you are a serious player, I can understand seeing some awesome footwork or batting on field and learning from it. But you’re a FCQD. You have probably never held a bat in your entire life. Remember that.

3) You are not the winner:

Somehow, you blithely ignore this fact. There is some sort of endorphin release when the team you support wins the game. Dude, unless you have put in too much money with your bookie or have a personal relative playing in the game whose change of fortunes will reflect yours, you shouldn’t care. I’ve seen football maniacs have a conversation like this:

Dude 1: Fuck you, I am a <random FC> fan. We are gonna win this season.

Dude 2: Dude, we are <random FC>. We own your ass every time.

Dude 1: That’s ok man. Wait and see this season. We have <random player>.

Dude 2: Macha, we have <random player>. Your <random player> can kiss my tushy.

Dr. Phil: What we see here is a very advanced form of delusional detachment. Both subjects (herewith referred to as “dude 1” and “dude 2”) are talking about sports teams as though they were a part of it or they had some stake/ownership of it. Bringing them back to reality may already be a lost cause but I suggest Lobotomy as a final recourse.

You are at home, far far far away from where the EPL or whatever is going on. You will, in NO way influence the players’ victory or defeat. No, that random gust of wind you blew will not travel all the way to the stadium and affect the ball so as to make it miss the target. No, there is no way. Do the math. Go ahead. I didn’t bother doing the math because I believe I cannot comprehend such small numbers as the answers might be.

On a side note – I shit you not when I say this but 2 gangs of juniors (of different ethnic groups .. hence supporting different teams in the IPL) actually got physical in an argument concerning superiority of the team they supported. Can you imagine that? About 20 people trying to knock sense into each other about how one set of 11 entirely, completely and totally unrelated people are better than another set of such 11 people. Seriously?

4) You are not Mr. Perfect:

Coming from me, that may be misconstrued as cynical but yes, it’s true. So the next time you have heated up debates about which sports team is better and about how some random captain should have made a better team line-up/formation/called up the better player, use your brain first.

You’re a fat dude sitting on a couch. That guy is a blood, sweat and tears hardened veteran who has played so many games that he is appearing on national TV and there are a bunch of advertisers ready to sponsor him for his awesomeness. Are you so fucking retarded that you think you’d have been better in his shoes? Bitch Please. Stop criticising him and try doing something more useful like … I dunno .. Go cure cancer or something.

The Beginning

Preamble

I’m not one for sentimental posts but there are times in one’s life when you realise that whatever you had taken for granted until yesterday will not be routine from the next day. I am, as countless others before me have been, in a state of transition. My college has ended and much as I hated the place, I got used to it. I am not a poet who can awe people with his command over the abstract or a great thinker who can inspire people to brood on the philosophical. On the other hand, I am a hobbyist writer who likes keeping a sarcastic edge to his writing (which I shall skip on this time). This is an ode of sorts to the people who made life bearable in an institution where neither logic nor lethargy were tolerated in the face of religion and idiocy (respectively, as I might add).

I came to Amrita on the 11th of July, 2008. That was almost 4 years ago. I have passed through 4 years of living in that hellhole with only my friends for tolerable company among other things. Rather than enumerate my own experiences (which shall be quite boring considering how sedentary I am), I shall simulate the experience of a generic Amrita student. I shall call him … hmm, let’s say Srinivasan.

Srinivasan and his parents had heard of Amrita. It was that religious college where pious little monks woke up students to do yoga, surya namaskarams and sandhyavandanams every day. Chances of him getting spoilt in that college were minimal. Now that his choices did not include IITs, NITs or BITS, he had to choose between this or Sastra if he wanted to remain in TN.

They visited the college and .. they were stunned. Wow. Such a beautifully kept college, such amazing weather, a backdrop of the western ghats and oh … LOOK! A peacock! This will be the perfect place for their son to study. Sastra was in the middle of a barren waste land hot enough to burn you through unless you walked around covered in ice. Ah well, let’s hope the counselling goes well.

A month later, Srinivasan had secured a place in the college. He heads into his first year and embraces a life … chock full of restrictions. No going out after 6 in the evening, no outside food, no loitering around campus, no walking with girls, no fancy phones, no MP3 players – Wtf did he land himself into? The food is marginally edible. The bathrooms are mostly clean. But come summer of the academic year, the whole place gets hotter than Kim Kardashian in a revealing swimsuit made of silk. The only respite? His friends. Life is a flurry of assignments and exams and more assignments with only the usual evening dinner banter or late night chats with friends helping him through life. Washing clothes went from being a daily affair to a weekly one to a monthly one and finally became a need-to-wear basis.

2 years have passed. It is his third year of college life. He has adjusted into the hostel as easily as getting into his filthy pair of shorts – without a grain of remorse, a speck of disgust or a tinge of sadness. He sets himself up within 2 days of arrival and starts going to class as usual. His class has become a second home. He knows everyone there and feels more comfortable with them than anyone else. Life is still full of assignments and tests. No need to mention the awful labs which keep getting progressively Godel-ian over the years. Add a little record writing and laptops full of movies (of every hue including violet, indigo, b…), days pass in a haze.

All too soon, it is the 4th year. The 7th semester is hectic enough to push him over the edge by the end of it. Also, placements have started. One set of formal clothes and shoes are always ready in his cupboard. He may have slacked the last 3 years but he needed a job once he got out. Numerous companies will come and go but at least he can be sure of a place in the mass recruiters. So everything is fine. The project work is in its most interesting stage – coding and meeting up with your project guide to show him your work while simultaneously getting screwed in the reviews.

The last semester is upon him. He has 4 months left to enjoy college to its maximum. Multiple trips with friends, classes that are hardly ever conducted. Last stage of project work has started. Multiple deca-page reports, small slideshows for every review, cramming up the whole project into the heads of the rest of the clueless group members, getting really screwed in the final review, attending the external review … and it was over. Done and dusted. The last day was here. Say your goodbye’s, pack your bags and away they all went, laughing and crying, heady and sad. It was more than likely that apart from a few close friends, they will never meet the others again. But separation still leaves a speck of dust in the eye.

Personally, for me, survival in that institute felt like an extended episode of “Man vs. Wild”. Compulsory uniforms in college (or at least, they tried imposing it on us), teachers who were mostly clueless about their subjects but prepared impeccable answer keys so they could screw you, formal dress codes, staying away from the wardens and their idiocies, no walking around with girls in the campus, staying away from one absolutely retarded senile orthodox narrow-minded bastard of a teacher, fighting with a backward, pious, fanatic administration for freedom to do such menial things as play western music, hold public debates with a freedom of speech, conduct dance shows with slightly more hip movement than Jayalalithaa’s dances of yore or even her dances today. The list goes on and on. We weren’t successful in fighting the administration for freedom to do these things in college or at least the freedom to go to other colleges and attend competitions. But neither the music people, nor the dance people nor the literary inclined ever gave up. Democracy may be a farce in that college but we were brought up outside and we knew what freedom was.

How awesome can awesome get if awesome could be more awesome?

My Class

We trudged through the melancholy of this ordeal the Indian education system calls Engineering. The numerous pranks, the threats to cut privates off if people don’t get food from home, the leg pulling, the numerous games of bangkok (because of which our progeny will never be the same), the crazy partying all night long, poker and much much more. Try as I might, imagining attending this college as a day scholar for 4 years gives me the jitters.

Time will come when I will probably start missing the hostel and a good internet connection would start seeming like a poor substitute for a bunch of close friends chatting for hours on end. Until then, we bid adieu to each other in hopes of meeting again and sparking that old magic while knowing inside that it’s over. Similar to a good movie with a beautiful ending, it leaves you happy and yet sad. But unlike the movie, you cannot replay this particular part of your life ever again :)