Sunday, April 30, 2006

Porn

Yesterday I was in the video library browsing through some DVDs when I spied two 18 years olds eagerly looking through a shelf that held a particular type of movies, porn, more specifically soft porn. This was the tame & acceptable & over-the-counter kind which get past the censor board. I grinned and shook my head, because I know I've been there in their shoes when I was their age, the anticipation would be killing them now.

Porn is a taboo subjects here in India & One hardly finds many blogs even writing about it and it sure isn't dinner time conversation. When queried by their girlfriends or wives most men my age would admit that they have seen porn sometime or the other in their lives but weren't 'really' into it. I've claimed that too. But truth be told, we men find porn fascinating, there is no wonder that most porn videos are directed at men. Most of us guys get through with this obsession between the healthy age group of 18-25 and move on with their lives but some just get stuck on porn for the rest of their lives. This was the case of my former housemate DM, now DM in the year 2000 was a respectable and upstanding citizen of about 33 years of age. He was known to be the sedate voice in any conversation. He was also widely travelled, well read and a great conversationalist. He also had the largest collection of porn I have ever seen and his appetite for the stuff bordered on insanity.

In our house there was a television in the living room which DM had also hooked up to his hifi system (another of his passions). The intriguing thing about our house was that no matter what time of the day or night you switched on the tv, there would be one of DM's porn video playing. One night I had watched a late night movie on HBO & gone to sleep at about 2 AM. I woke up at about 7 AM and walked over to the living room and switched on the TV to find one of DM's videos running. He found it quite natural to eat, talk & read with a porn video running in the background. Sometimes he combined his passion for porn & hifi systems and the effect was in a word, orgasmic. Before you misunderstand me, I meant the noise levels would reach a cresendo that it would feel that the entire apartment building was having an orgasm. Funny thing though, we never got a single word of complaint from our neighbours.

When DM moved to Australia, he left his considerable collection of illegal porn VCDs to half a dozen of his friends, each guy getting a shoe box full of the best CDs.


Porn is illegal in India, the very fact that almost all the guys and atleast some of the women, have seen porn sometime or the other in their lives is a testament to the considerable black market tht exists in this country. An economy which is supposed to be larger than the legal or the 'white' economy.

In college I remember our code for watching porn, which when translated in english roughly meant "The cow is gonna shit in V's house on friday", this meant that on friday V's house would be empty to watch porn. So about 25 odd guys would land up at V's house to watch one stupid video. (Ok, no animals were involved, despite what that wierd code suggests, it's that kinda stupidity that makes college life fun & crazy). Eventually porn started getting called cowshit, I believe it is still used in our old college even after a dozen years. It's amazing to have witnessed the start of a tradition!

Now, I've always wondered why we men are so fixated with porn. Apart from the normal reasons, I think there are other reasons too. Firstly it's popular because it's banned, the best way to sell a lot of something is to ban it. Secondly I think it also has something to do with the speed of a relationship in a porn video. Why would you not be fascinated if a relationship moves from a hello to sex in under a minute? No dates, no flowers, no birthday cards and certainly no wedding vows.

Then just as it begain everything ends on a proverbial high with a simple goodbye. No divorces, no alimony, no 'you deserve much better than me' kind of talks etc. It's all over & done with in under two hours, just in time to catch your favourite sport on TV.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

32 years and 1 day

Thats how old I am today. 32 and a day. Life has begun it's slow rot, whatever you eat goes straight to your ass, there is more vacant territory in your head than lush black hair. So it's safe to assume that if you aren't looking like Tom Selleck in Magnum PI, then early thirties is when life beguns to suck.

I was a simple & uncomplicated 31 till day the before yesterday and then BANG! Yesterday happened. I woke up at my sister's place in Bangalore, to some wierd noice which I later figured out was my brother in law, he was screaming the happy birthday song all the while playing a guitar (when i say 'playing', I mean the term loosely. You see he doesn't know how to play the guitar but this minor detail hasn't stopped him from 'playing' it at every given opportunity. He is a nice guy though and I get along with him well. So I don't really mind the fact that he is a bit of an airhead, why should I? After all i'm the asshole of the family and people don't seem to mind that).

After the song, I was greeted by the sight of lit candles, they had gotten me a cake!! A nice red one at that, with 'H py Birthday Rabi ' written in white, As my brother in law fixed the video camera, we waited in suspended animation for he doesn't like sudden movements when he is adjusting the moving camera. Then the cacaphony began, the guitar wailed, my brother in law yoddled both of these masking the beautiful singing voices of my sister and neice. The cake was cut and eaten with relish with the added (guilty) thrill of eating cake before brushing one's teeth.

The whole of yesterday I kept receiving a series of phone calls from folks wishing me well, ofcourse the first of whom was a cousin who works for an insurance company (he has been trying to sell me an insurance policy for a long time now). Now this was in sharp contrast with my 31st birthday when everyone plumb forgot. Last year, my parents were out of town so even the pat on the back kinda birthday greeting was missing. I had ended up spending the day getting more morose by the minute because no one called to wish. Most of that day I spent walking into rooms with a surprised look because I was half expecting a surprise party any minute . After about 14 hours of looking surprised I kinda figured out that there was no party and everyone had really forgotten. I ended up spending the evening back home with the dogs and a pizza was not exactly the best of experiences plus the dogs were more interested in the pizza. I was used to being in the thick of action on my birthdays and this was a shocker for me.

So I really wasn't looking forward to much yesterday when I reached office. Human Resources department sent me a birthday geeting which made me smile then frown when I read the bottom of the message that contained the words 'This is an automated message, Kindly do not reply to this ID' . I decided that this automated message wasn't going to dampen my mood. I guess in it's own quirky way HR tries it's best. I spent most of the day trying to get the month end transactions through and the nice thing about a nice day was that everything that can go wrong doesn't go wrong. I guess there is something to the 'think positive' crap that one reads in these self help books. I finished up with work early and caught the 5:15 PM flight to Chennai to get back home to a nice home cooked meal.

When I reached home I found my birthday gift from dad, my old motorbike sitting there gleaming like new. I had grown out of using that bike a few years ago and it had since then accumulated dust and rust due to neglect. Now it was waiting for me, like a dear old friend I had lost touch with. I just had to take a ride, so I did. The feeling of wind through my hair , the odour of hot tar from the hot road (something one gets used to on a hot summer evening) took me a few years back in time. I remembered the time when I had bought the bike, I can remember that day like it was yesterday, I remembered the feeling of true freedom, a feeling only you can get with your first bike. The hours I spent on that bike, the mad escapades, the hot dates, the close palls, the spills and the near spills. All those memories locked deep inside sprang out and started creating some splendid madness in my mind.

There was this curious feeling in my heart a feeling I had not known for a few months now, it was a feeling that I was at peace with the world around me and all was well. And dad had done it again in his own quiet way. What a great dood!

I know birthdays shouldn't be a great deal but reaching one every year somehow has been special for me even though it meant that I turned 32 (ugh!). I think it's a day which reaffirms the affection people have for you (even though they forgot you last year) and the affection you have for them. To me, yesterday was a special day, a day that taught me to live my life rather than to just exist.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

From the McCracken Archives

This post by Patti McCracken one of my favourite bloggers talks about immigration rules in some European countries have targetted muslim immigrants with some absurd requirements.

Quote "The Netherlands made headlines in recent weeks when it announced it would force applicants from Muslim countries to view videos of topless sunbathers and homosexual contact, to determine if they were ready to immigrate to the liberal Netherlands. And the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg wants to follow suit with its own video on gays and nudity, and already has composed a controversial questionnaire that has some leaders up in arms"

Now as much as someone has the rights to bathe in the nude or to indulge in homosexual contact, people have a right to be opposed to these things too. Now would Netherlands or Germany throw out all those who find this behavior offensive? I'm sure they'd have to start with a lot of grandmothers & grandfathers then (not to mention a million or two of conservative folks).

Sadly though the real issue is not of 'European Values' but of segregation in the immigration norms. Especially because people from a non-muslim background aren't subjected to such tests.

These immigration issues reminds me of an old story I was told as a kid. Once upon a time, there was a travelling community which wanted to settle down in a rich Indian kingdom. They sent a messenger to the Rajah (King) of the kingdom with their request to settle there. The Rajah's advisors told him not to allow these people since they were not known to them. The Rajah, thought over it, then he summoned for a vessel filled to the brim with milk. He told the messenger to take this to the leader of the travellers. The leader received this vessel of milk and he added some sugar to the milk, mixed it and sent it back.

The messenger delivered this sweetened milk to the Rajah. The Rajah drinks the milk from the vessel, smiles and tells the messenger that the travellers were free to stay in his kingdom. The people around were astonished and asked the Rajah the meaning of the all this. The Rajah said that I sent the vessel filled with milk to their leader to tell him that we already were filled to the capacity with people in this country. To which the leader of the travellers had replied by adding sugar and mixing the same, meaning that the travellers would become a part of the society and by this make the society even better. (I think this is a Birbal story, someone correct me if it isn't). I can't think of a better immigration test than this one or modern ones in this vein.

When communities, (whatever maybe their background, black or white, muslim or christian, european or asian) start building walls around themselves, they end up not just keeping others from coming in but also end up nurturing ignorance and ineptitude within their own. One needs to understand the differences that are part and parcel of each culture, respect that and give people the freedom to follow their beliefs. Having said this, petty beliefs should not get in the way of commonsense and in the way of doing the right thing. I guess it's time a lot of folks started shelving their apprehensions and start being good neighbours.

I think the we all could do with the good old fashioned Indian motto of 'Unity in Diversity'.

(Please do read the archives of Patti McCracken's blog, she is a gifted writer and a journalist living in Europe. Her blog, which is a terrific read, often feels like a walk through the real Europe without the rose tinted glasses).

Monday, April 24, 2006

Plane Speaking

Readers of this blog will know that I write a lot of airline/airport stories, well, I'll let you in on a secret, I am afraid of heights and am really afraid of flying. For a guy who hates flying, I fly almost 4 days a week, life is a funny thing huh? I actually prefer traveling by trains really, trains are more fun, plus they are in constant touch with terra firma, you can get off in every stop, walk on land and that is very reassuring.

I've never had a comfortable plane ride, How can one anyway? They stick you in a steel tube, strap you to a chair, put on some funeral music, tell ya what to do when the plane lands on water and then they have the gall to ask you to have a nice flight. Yeah right lady! Fat chance!

When they tell you about water evacuation during the safety demo, they usually are matter of factly about it, "If the flight has to land on water...", what the heck, it shouldn't have to land on water! That's not what it's for! Sea-Ships, Air-Planes! Get it?? You don't hear the Captain of a Ship saying "If the ship has to jump up in the air, parachutes can be found in your cabins", do you?

While checking in for a flight I am pretty insistent that I get an aisle seat somewhere close to the front of the plane. I don't quite know why I ask this really but it is strangely comforting not to sit on the window seat to be able to look out at the fast disappearing ground. Sitting next to the window one is magically drawn towards looking through it. It's more difficult if the flight is during daylight because you can see way too much and ohmygawdimgonnafrickingdie tough if the flight is during daylight AND there is turbulence. Coz you can see the ground as well as know that you are a few kilometers up in the sky and doing the boogie woogie while being strapped to a chair. At least in the dark you can pretend that it was just a bumpy road.

When you see me though, you really won't realize that I'm scared shitless, I have gotten pretty good at masking it. I can resist the urge to grab the armrest every time there is turbulence and I even don't go cross eyed if the plane banks to a side and you are suddenly staring at the ground through the window.

(Sidebar: The battery goes beep beep like the Roadrunner . I hope it doesn't go off while I type this, I really haven't saved this yet, I think I should, I know I should yet here I am typing away instead of saving)

Airline regulations are pretty strange, one isn't supposed to keep one's cellphone on when one is in the plane. The reason given is that that cellphones would affect the navigation of the flight, Yeah right, pull the other leg guys. Everyone knows what happens in a plane, most folks just keep their cellphones in the silent mode and hope they go undetected. I haven't seen a plane get lost because of this, have you? Wouldn't it be crazy if the plane landed in Bombay instead of landing at Delhi and the pilot comes storming outside the cockpit screaming "@##$$@ %&@ Now who used a cellphone in the plane, c'mon, admit it!!!"

I have heard this following conversation a few weeks ago in a Deccan Airways Flight seconds after it touched the ground and was making it's way to the 'de-planing' area (more on 'de-planing' later).

Cellphone rings in the row just ahead of mine.

Air Hostess rushes over to the passenger.

AH: Sir, you have to switch it off!! It affects the navigation of the flight!

Passenger (with a smirk): You mean the pilot can't find his way after he has landed the plane???

AH: huh.


Airliners have changed the way we travel but have in many ways introduced some really ugly terminologies in our lives. Deplaning is probably the worst, you get on the plane you get to go 'aboard' the plane, but when you are getting off, you are just deplaned. You'd expect a sack of potatoes or a bunch of sheep to be deplaned but surely not passengers. It's like all of a sudden the airline just lost their interest in you.

Another terminology that I can't quite figure out is 'hand baggage', is there any other part of the anatomy that's associated with baggage? A leg baggage? Or a neck baggage? Why not just say in-flight baggage? Or carry on baggage? (which is in fact used in certain parts of the world) I could talk about more interesting terminologies like cockpit & check-in but that's for another post.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Work vs. Life

I was reading about the graduates from top notch Business Schools like ISB & IIMs were getting paid close to $250,000 and I went WOW! This was for two reasons, firstly the amount of money seemed rather high, secondly for that amount of money (or for any amount for that matter), there was no class associated with the way the news came out. The fact that the schools themselves put out this information seems rather strange. Yes I know this is good publicity but what about that bright candidate who wants to take up teaching? Or the one that wants to go work for his/her government? These guys wouldn't really be getting this kind of money. It appears to me that these schools have narrowed down their success parameters to the amount of salary that their graduates got. Like I said earlier, no class whatosever.

I just thought about my life. I passed out of a business school eight years ago, with dreams of making it big. I wanted to get at the big bucks and I wanted to do it quick. I worked hard, feeling guilty every time I didn't reach a target or a deadline. This indeed is strange behavior for me, because when I grew up I was rather wild. I hardly had a good grade in school & I barely managed to make it through Engineering College. If ever there was a term that was the rank opposite of creme de la creme, it would have fitted me pretty well. B-School made me serious I think, to be honest, it also gave me a lot of self belief and I decided that if I did something, I wanted to be the best at it. I joined my first bank.

Later, when my kid sister decided to take up a teaching job, giving up a lucrative offer from a bank, I didn't quite understand her choice. I was even crass enough in thinking that she hadn't had the guts to take up a more challenging job.

Now with the passing of time, I look at my life, I have a job that keeps me occupied 7 days a week, 15 hours a day. I travel 4 days a week & the worst part is I love doing it and I'm getting to being half decent at what I'm doing too. Not that I love the hard work, I surely don't but I enjoy the challenge and the responsibility. Now, I simply don't know another way of living. My sister on the other hand, has a nice life, a job that she thrives in and a personal life that is very fullfilling, as usual, my kid sister has her own way of proving that she was spot on with her choices.

Over the last year or so there are moments of remorse that I have, moments when I wish that I had spent a bit of time to work on my personal life. Maybe I'd be married now, maybe I'd have kids. Maybe I'd have the time to be with dad during his day long check up or maybe the time to help mom pick up that new pair of glasses (both of those things I should have done, but just haven't had the time to do so the last one week). Maybe I'd have had the time to create something for the sake of creating, not coz it makes some revenue sense. But some of these things that I yearn to do scare me if it ever they turn into reality, especially when it comes to women, probably thats why I'm so good at screwing up my relationships. But hey, no complaints, I love my job, right?

Somehow work provides a cocoon for people like me, we think we are doing something earth shatteringly important and buzz around in our formal wear from one meeting to another, from one city to another, living month on month, year on year. I remember having a new years eve drink with a pal who works for a large MNC, this is a guy who is heading India for a division, he said wryly that he didn't know if that drink was to celebrate the successful completion of one year or to fortify him for the 50% increase in the target for the next year (which started the next day).

In reality most of our personal lives really don't amount to shit. It's like being the Darth Vader, you look cool in the black suit but heck you gotta breathe through a tin hat to survive.

I have a former colleague and a dear friend U. I spoke to her yesterday after 2 months or something and figured out that she is unwell and is bedridden. Now if ever there was someone so motivated to work and had extremely high energy levels it is she. After telling me what was wrong, she then proceeded to talk about work and she told me that life became too crazy with monthly sales incentives being announced. They firstly were too big to be ignored plus achieving top incentives also meant that you stayed ahead of the pack, which meant a lot for someone who strives to do atleast a bit more than the rest. I realised that one of the reasons she was there in that bed was coz of the stress in her work life. She's just 27.

Knowing her, I know she'd be on her feet in a couple of weeks and buzz around like the Energizer bunny she is. Hopefully, she wouldn't maintain the stress levels that she is used to, no one deserves that.

Now I don't make anywhere close to that $250,000 but I make good money, more than I had ever set to make and all I can say to those kids passing out is that sometimes you gotta think if all that money was really enough to sell your soul for. I'm not advocating that everyone do their own thing and go smell the daisies or whatever but what I'm saying is that never take a job more seriously than you should, the price that you pay just isn't worth it.

An attachment with a job or a career should never come in the way of human attachments, to repair the damage is a long and tough process and a some people like me have no clue where to begin.