Monday, October 16, 2006

Something's Wrong With The World Today

Something’s wrong with the world today, I don’t know what it is – Aerosmith

I am a disillusioned man. I see the world around me and can’t help but think that something is wrong. It is more like an intuition, and I try to rationalize this thought. I chance to look upon an article that says- Many English students are incapable of speaking passable English needed for business communication. I look at it with shock- How can the place of birth of the universal language face such a problem? There is still something that is nagging inside me. And it is this. I am a Wodehouse fan, an ardent lover of his works and his literature. I consider him a master of the English language and the way he uses and manipulates the language is a sight to see and savour. I consider his work a piece of good English. I can quote a few more of my favourite authors, O.Henry, Saki H H Munro, all of whose work I would call “Good English”. Now I come to the fiction writers- Grisham, Archer and the like. I read these books with as much enthusiasm as the next guy, enjoy and relish these pop corn thrillers. But I would not classify these under the category of “Good English”. These books need to be just in grammatically-correct English. And they better be in simple English, the plot with the twists and turns are enough to keep the mind occupied, it doesn’t need the extra strain of trying to unravel intricate English.

Now that I have established a crude divide in the existing literature, I proceed to make my point. I personally feel that the number of people who relish books of the former category is declining at an alarming rate. And the current number is very few. I shall quote a controversial example at the risk of ruffling many a feather. The recent hype of the Harry Potter series is a very good example of the case in hand. I am a potter fan, and have read all the books. I also admit that I was impatient for the penultimate book to come out and read it within 3 days of its release. And yes, Harry Potter is good. But how good is it? Does it warrant the hype that surrounds it? Is it the greatest ever creation of our time? The sales statistics would have us believe so. I have a lot of complaints about the potter series though. Maybe I will write a blog on that too someday. And since I have ruffled a few feathers, let me ruffle a bit more by taking a dig at the other controversial best seller of today- the Da Vinci Code, another book the sales statistics will have us believe, the greatest ever creation of our time. I just sat back and thought, how difficult would it be to come up with a book like that? I somehow got the feeling that the book was nothing but a research paper, showing a contrary angle to popular belief. It was like watching a show on Christ on the Discovery Channel. And that written in the plainest of English, and with nothing different from existing fiction. Nothing new except the central concept. And the mania it created! Does this book warrant the hype it created. As can be expected, I have many complaints against this book too, actually more against the author than the book. But as usual, I am digressing. The point I am trying to make is that people are unable to appreciate subtlety, good humour, good English. And I consider this a direct fallout of the times we live in. In this fast paced world, no one has time to sit back and think about anything- it’s got to be at your face or u will give it the miss. The sufferer- the English language.

This, per say, is not what is troubling me the most. After all, I cannot be too vocal about the tastes of people. I may be the one with bad taste. But it is the direct consequence of this that is troubling me the most, as I am personally affected by it. The number of current day authors catering to the first category are so few – infact I am unable to name even a single current day author who writes books belonging to the first category. I don’t blame them. Sound business sense dictates that the authors write books that cater to the audience’s need and if that need be books of the latter category, then so be it. Hence we have the thriller writers who come by the handful, write a book or two after doing some research, make millions and go away. I ask out this question loud- Will there be another Wodehouse? Another Shakespeare? Another O.Henry? Another Saki? And my heart skips a beat as I realize the answer.

I sit back and ponder why this is so. I have already stated that the times we live in is one big reason why we enter this vicious circle. I wonder if there might be another reason. I sit and wonder if we have stopped progressing at all? In the literature field for example, we had our Shakespeare, our HG Wells a number of authors whose work can be considered literature. Can current day books be classified with those? Can we call the current day works, literature? I personally feel the answer is no. Hence I say that literature has not progressed, it has come to an abrupt end. And I wonder if this is the case with society in general? Have we, as a society, stopped on the path of progress? I come up with a field in which we have progressed by leaps and bounds- technology, a certain something of which I can talk of with some authority. I can vouch for the progress in this field, the current research going on in this field and say with a happy heart that we will continue to progress technologically. It gladdens my heart to think that society has not stopped progressing. And then comes the dark cloud- our life has become one dimensional. Other Arts are suffering- literature, music – progress in these fields have taken a back seat. This is amply reflected in the mindset today- Everybody wants to be an Engineer. Hence we need to give culture as much importance and preserve and more than just preserve, make culture much more active than it is.

I still sit and wonder if there may not be more reasons why we seem to have stopped progressing. And this thought strikes me. There is just too much history for a man to assimilate in his lifetime that by the time he has mastered the history, he is not in a position to make his own contributions! Since I am a bit acquainted with the field of science, I can say that there is so much to know- so many branches of science, so many discoveries, so many lines of thought. And by the time u learn all this; you have lost your ability to think individually! I am not saying that there should be no education- We need to give the mind the right direction; but not make all minds finally think the same. The current lack of innovation in most fields, I also attribute to the vast history that one is made to be proficient in, which destroys free individual thought.

I have come up with a few reasons to justify what I dare call a fact- In plain IIT lingo – The world is losing level da!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned.... But A Hungry IITian Comes Close Part II

Welcome Back!! Hope you have had refreshments to your heart and stomach's content! So where were we? Ah yes, the hero in the horizon! The small dot in the horizon grew larger as he drew nearer. His face became clearer and we could see traces of anxiety in his eyes. He had no idea what he was up against! He came towards us, all apologetic, murmuring numerous excuses and apologies. But our attention was fixed elsewhere- The bag with the pizzas. We all made a dive for it and with loud war cries, we opened the bag and took out our pizzas. But we were in for a rude shock. I am no authority on pizzas, but I do know that they are to be eaten hot. A steaming slice of pizza with delicious toppings and a touch of ketchup into your mouth and u taste heaven! This and fantasies along similar lines was what we were dreaming about while we were waiting. And here were excuses of pizzas which seemed directly out of deep freeze!(Actually not very suprising, considering the 2 and a half hours it spent in on a scooter instead of residing peacefully in our tummies... But u can hardly think on an empty stomach,can u?) And half the topping was gone.(Seemed like the chap had a pretty bumpy ride!) A cry of horror rent the air and the seething volcano that was us, erupted. Two and a half hours of waiting just for this?Sarcasm, curses and abuses were showered aplenty upon him as he repeatedly murmured apologies. And in situations like these, breeding tells. When lesser men would have gotten violent, it is with pride that we say that we never laid a finger on him. But I think we went so far as to actually claim that mess food would have been better! That must have hit him real hard for I think there was a tear or two in his eye-we cursed him that badly! Finally, after we had exhausted ourselves completely, we asked him for the bill. It was morbid curiousity, really- we had no intention of paying. And now comes the best part... The bill is TWICE the amount we had expected. (A note of explanation- Pizzamania had circulated a pamphlet with the menu and the prices. This was our guide as we placed our order. ) Now we were looking at two and a half hour late pizzas and a bill of double the amount! Talk about double trouble! We show the chap the pamphlet that was circulated(amidst numerous abuses of course, we IITians tend to be a bit lyrical and vocal when moved!) and demanded an explanation. And he gave one that rendered us speechless... "It is CHRISTMAS OFFER sir" he said. We were totally aghast! I mean, was this guy for real? The restaurant has doubled all the pizza prices for Christmas (Talk about commercialisation! This is daylight robbery!) and he claims that is an offer? Finally we recovered enough to tell him the difference between an offer and daylight robbery! By now we had exhausted all our reserves (and our repertoire of abuses) and had no energy left to argue. With an almost kindly pat on his back, we told him to take the stuff back, go back to the restaurant, and never show his face to us in the near future! The chap let out an audible sigh of relief as he quicly packed the pizzas back and disappeared before you could say "what-ho?" . I am sure he was thanking his stars that he got out of this place alive and in one piece. I mean, we were so hungry we would have turned cannibals and actually eaten him! Finally we had to go to the Dhabha Express in our campus (our usual haunt to escape mess food!) where yet another half an hour wait greeted us. Our hunger, by then, knew no bounds. Boy did we hog that day! And cursed, with our mouths full, the restaurant, the guy, the whole bloody idea and everything in general. And the ordeal was over. With a heavy heart(after all those fantasies, it was a bit of a let-down) but a full stomach, we made our way back to our hostel and back to our usual routine. Life throws up surprises every now and then, some nasty, like this. But we take it all in our stride and continue to live a calm, halcyon, unruffled, placid, peaceful existence.(It is just the GRE cramming getting to me! I beg your pardon!)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned... But a Hungry IITian comes real close! (Part 1 )

It was just another routine day. We were hungry, as usual. The mess food was inedible as usual. So we decide to order pizzas-not something new. Pizzaurant is the usual haunt of IITians who want to order pizza. But suddenly bitten by the experiment bug and seeing a unique,unusual almost impossible offer in Pizzamania (name changed) we decide to order from Pizzamania. For those with an eye for detail and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, the offer was - Buy a Large Pizza and get another one free!

It is ofcourse a known fact that the prices in Pizzamania are astronomical to say the least. But this offer made it seem as if it was well within the reach of an IITians purse, if not actually economical. To pickup the phone and place our order is easier done than said. Now came the agonising wait for the pizzas. It is an arduous task, waiting on an empty stomach. It is the thought of the palattal delight thats coming soon that keeps you going. You try to read the newspaper, you try to browse the net, you try to chat with friends, but your mind is always at the pizza. You look at the doorway with strained eyes waiting for some sign of the delivery-boy.

An hour and a half elapsed or so it seemed. But it was only 45 mins. Thinking abt the Domino's offer of free pizzas if delivered after half an hour, we wept. After the passing of remorse, we picked the phone and asked the status of the delivery. The manager, with a know-it-all air, said that the boy had left and may reach any moment. Any moment became many moments, painfully agonising, and still there was no signs of the boy. By now our hunger knew no bounds! Fed up with waiting, and not caring a damn for the money spent in calling, we started ringing the restaurant's lines! Twice more the manager said the same thing and then the manager had gone out on some urgent work! Undaunted by this minor obstacle, we continued blocking the telephone lines. Mad, hungry, madly hungry IITians desperately waiting for the pizzas! and then we get a call from some unknown number- Sir, where is this Alakananda Hostel, I am lost! A heavy groan and the choiciest abuse rent the air as we explained the route to him.

It was two hours past-real time and still no signs of this chap. We were at our wits end as to what to do when finally the hero appeared on the horizon, with a pizza bag slung on his back! That's the end of the first half. Exits to your right, ladies and gentlemen. The show will start again in 5 mins...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Ubiquitous "E"(Thats "House Fly" in Tamil)!

Scene : Sundaram Kaapi Kada ( Coffee Shop)

Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiir, 2 kaapi...
one nimit (minute)...

You take a seat in one of the tables... And that is when you first make aquaintance with the Ubiquitous E! You wave a hand and it pretends to fly away. Satisfied, you continue to wait for the kaapi. But you've got company!! Along with the Kaapi comes the E. You try your best to drive it away, to get rid of it! But it persists. Its retreats only to come back. It just cannot leave you alone. It returns to you, no matter what. Finally by sheer tenacity it wins you over... And so you make it your companion. You begin to live with it...

One fine day, you visit the shop to find it renovated... Its no longer the old Sundaram Kaapi Kada... you look around and wonder... No more wooden tables, no more kaapi spilt everywhere, no more paan spits, no more glass tumblers, no more gossipping...Things have changed... But you notice something else amiss... And suddenly realisation strikes you... The missing piece... You begin to realise that the ubiquitous E is missing!! And ironies of ironies, you are missing the e too!!

You go closer to inspect what the shop has turned into. And you see a sign saying :

"Sundaram Internet Cafe"

You step back and watch as two youngsters enter...

Hey dude, 2 hrs surfin man...
Just a minute sir...

You watch them as they slip in front of a computer terminal and open the browser... And that is where you first make aquaintance with the Ubiquitous E!!

e-mail
e-shopping
e-banking
e-books
e-matrimony
You name it, they've got it, albeit with an e!!

You throw your hands up in despair as you try to understand this new e... You try to turn your head away from it, only to see another e staring at you. You try to ignore it but it simply stares back at you. You want to get rid of it but you can't. Finally by its sheer ubiquity it wins you over... And so you make it your companion. You begin to live with it...

Nothing much has changed after all!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What is love?? Baby don’t hurt me…No more

People have accused me, and rightly so, of being too frivolous. I mean, look at my previous blog. So much hullabaloo over a hair do?? Moreover I think I owe Khatta, my agent and advertiser of my blogs, who gives it the publicity it so desperately needs, another of my poor creations. So here goes. I do not know how, (actually I do, but we will not go into that,) but lately there’s been a lot of talk in our wing about “love”. And since I am almost dry of any inspiration for a humorous blog and keeping in mind the fully justified accusation, I will now present my views on this much talked about subject.

I must confess I haven’t felt this divine feeling. Nor do I think I ever will. The reason for this is diverse. I do not believe in this concept. First let me take my love for my parents. I am indebted to them for giving me wonderful opportunities to make me the man I am. I would like to keep them happy always. My love towards any member of my family arises out of a sense of responsibility. Same goes for my love of humanity. I am responsible to the society and hence must love all humanity. The above statements are to show that I am not a disbeliever of love in general. But now I come to the love that is widely discussed, this whole falling in love thing. I cannot feel love for a particular stranger for I am in no way responsible to her.

Now love, I believe is a heady mixture of many things- desperation, awe, respect, infatuation, physical attraction and many more feelings. I have at some point of time felt one or more of these feelings. But then what? Maybe I must delude myself into thinking I am in love. I must start talking to her and spending time with her on a regular basis. I must make a few sacrifices. I must get to know her well and let her know me well. We discuss a plethora of topics and exchange our views and ideas on various issues. We enjoy each others company. We enjoy each others company so much that we begin to pine for the same? We have finally fallen in love? Maybe. But this leaves me with a huge problem. I know of plenty of candidates with whom I can “fall in love”. Why only her??

I personally feel that I could fall in love with almost anybody. And if asked to choose one, unfortunately India is against polygamy, I would probably pick one at random. And I would rather my parents did that than me! Now I am responsible for this stranger, as she is my wife. Now I will do the above mentioned falling in love stunt with her as she is “the chosen one” (Think Matrix). Hence I fall in love.

All said I guess the order really doesn’t matter, ie, Marry first and then fall in love or love first and then marry, but in the latter case the responsibility of your choice is upon you. And I would rather my parents take that responsibility. But all this may change in a moment’s notice. After all I still may fall in love at first sight!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A Hair Raising Experience

Three years in IIT and I have had my share of misfortunes. It all started with my joining the Electrical Engineering Department, casting aside lucrative prospects of Mechanical Engineering in IITB. Then I was forced to write a letter to my parents begging their forgiveness for talking in class. Then I was accused of helping my roommate in exams. I could go on and on about them but I don’t want to be a whiner. So I’ll just describe, in a few words, a harrowing(hairrowing?) experience I underwent very recently, hoping to gain some sympathy. Damn, I am a whiner.

So, this Sunday, I wake up and look in the mirror to find my hair growing all over the place, my moustache overgrown and my beard unkempt, making me look real country. I decide to go to the barber to remedy it. Mistake; big, mistake. I enter the shop and find it crowded. I find a few Filmfares lying around and busy myself with one of them. Soon I am lost in the world of Hrithik Roshans and Aishwarya Rais that I scarcely look at the finished products going out of the shop. Soon I was jerked from filmdom by the call of the barber. I take my place at the hot seat. The barber bends low and asks me, in a whisper, “Medium or Short?”

I confess I am no hair stylist myself. I presume that people in this hair-cutting profession are. I mean what better judges than them professionals to decide what looks good on me. When you visit, say a dentist, you don’t tell him what to do. You place yourself in his confidence and hope for the best. I was prepared to do the same. On the other hand, one does not wish to make a weekly visit to the barber. In fact, in the busy world we live in, barbers are a luxury. So I decide to go for the short. Another mistake; bigger mistake.

Without further ado the barber gets right down to business. Soon, I am lost in my thoughts, allowing the barber full freedom of my head. He twists it this way and that, and I bear it all with fortitude, believing that the barber knew what he was doing. Scissors snip away, razor blades swish past, leaving me in one shape and what I thought would be a pseud hair style. I wake up from my reverie and glance at the mirror and experience a rude shock. I see in the mirror a man with short hair, I must admit, but with hair sticking out at all angles, forming clusters of weird shapes, making me look more of an ass than what I looked before.

The worst part about this hair-cutting business is that there is no second chance. Whatever hair-cut you give your client is what he lives with till his next haircut. You cannot undo a wrong cut. Once hair goes, it takes time for it to grow back. Till then it is trauma for the client. It is my firm belief that these guys calling themselves barbers were gardeners once, used to sprucing up plants and bushes. Finding themselves between jobs, a rather nice way of saying unemployed, they must have decided to become barbers. After all, they must have reasoned, after bushes, how bad can human hair be. Alas, there are certain subtle differences which manifest themselves as you practice the trade. Not being an expert in this field, I cannot go into what exactly these subtle differences are, but suffice it is to say that they exist.

Shaking my head, which was prominently portraying a pathetic hair-cut, and cursing the administration for letting such a menace to the human society loose in the streets, I go out of those fateful portals. I reach my hostel and try to make my way discreetly to my room. The hair-cut does not escape the notice of my friends. They are quite vocal about it. Porcupine and bush were the most complimentary of their remarks about my hair-style. I become the laughing stock of my group. I try explaining things to them but they lend not a sympathetic ear.

If you see a guy with a weird hair-cut walking down the street, think twice before picking on him. It happened to me. It could happen to you. It could happen to anybody.