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Dirtscapes

Read. Suffer. Try to Enjoy.

Mommy And The Middle Finger

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A while ago, I was watching a metal video at home, with the vocalist swearing, spitting, showing the audience his middle finger, body surfing, moshing, the works. Mom was watching it over my shoulder, and was on her usual righteous admonition trip –
“How can you watch this?”
“What IS he wearing?!”
“Is he high? I’m SURE he is.”
“Why do they swear so much? What do they gain by doing thus?”
“All this is very disturbing on a sub-conscious level…don’t watch it! Twisted perverted music. Frustrated creatures, all.”
“Do you understand a word of what he sings?”

I was doing the usual “Ho-hum”/”Yeah” to all of the above, when she let loose a corker.

“What does that mean when she shows the middle finger to everyone?”

My back muscles tensed, and I took a deep breath.

“Umm…I don’t know. Must be something…”

She turned me around, and confronted me, as only mothers can.

“Oh really now? You don’t know?”

(Blushing FURIOUSLY) “Yes…”

And so she cornered me with a little story, which went thus…

She teaches in an all-chick school. One day, a kid from the fifth standard (or ‘grade’ if you prefer) came bawling up to her like a character from a progressive, ‘Indian value-reinforcing’ serial. The convo was something like

Girl : “Miss, there’s this girl in my class who is doing like this like this (gesticulating, showing middle finger with both hands) to me”

Mom (NO IDEA what that action means) : “So?!”

Girl (crestfallen) : “But miss…she is doing like this like this (gesticulating again, slowly this time)”

Mom (clueless) : “So what?!!!”

Girl : “Please tell her not to do that way! Please punish her!”

Mom (exasperated) : “Don’t get affected by such things. I will scold her. Now go back to your class!”

Now my mother is quite a cat at extrapolating facts, and feeding people fluff. My memory goes back to that childhood day of mine, when I could not understand a couple of blurbs in ‘Urdu’ (came to know it was Arabic much much later), in ‘Tintin - The Land Of Black Gold’. With that primal childhood instinct, where you always believe ‘Mom WOULD know’, I went up to her, and asked her what the stuff meant. Without batting an eyelid, she proceeded to look at the panels just before, and the panels just after, and ‘read’ the meaning out to me.
“Woh dekho, udhar jaa raha hai Tintin” or some such.

I was SO impressed.

Me (beaming) : “Where did you learn this mummy?!”

Mom (beaming back) : “Shabbir uncle (our erstwhile neighbour) taught me Urdu…”

So you get how good she is at this stuff…(she still gets teary eyed (with laughter that is) whenever she thinks of how much I used to depend solely on her for ALL information, and how I am a bit too self-sufficient nowadays…)

But we digress, and as I was saying earlier, she thought that the obscene gesture was like “I’m gonna kick your a**” or something, and had made a mental note to take action against the aggressor likewise. Till as the fates would have it…

With all the tact and delicacy I could muster, I gave her an idea of what that particular gesture meant. The only time I had been more embarrassed was when she had caught me with a copy of that fine piece of literature called ‘Fantasy’, aimed specifically at the teen, pre-teen and hormonal-schoolboy-studying-in-all-male-school segments.

She was shell-shocked. Poor, poor 'aggressor'. Heard she had to go through her ‘parents called to school’ routine the next day.

Mom (fuming) : “Today’s kids…fifth standard!!!! By the way, how old were you when you came to know the meaning?”

Me (slinking gracefully out of sight) : “I think it was in the 8th or 9th…not too sure…”


posted by Tapan at 8:29 PM

The Vocal Cords Of The Cabbies Seldom Vibrate...But When They Do, They Vibrate REAL Fine

Thursday, March 23, 2006
Ever had an experience when after a hard day’s work, you head out home late at night, gleefully planning out your quiet cab trip back home (reimbursed – office expenses of course), only to have your hope of a quiet ride back home scuttled as badly as the hope of expecting good, intact roads in the sylvan surroundings of Andheri(East)? Because the cabbie wants to talk. With you. And himself. And how.

Have had the (mis)fortune of meeting three BIZARRE mofos thus… maybe it’s the traffic, maybe it’s ingesting all that lead and heavy metal particulate matter the whole day long, or maybe it’s just me. Read on…

Cabbie no. 1:
This guy was a verbal bitch-slap for me from the word go. The first witticism he unleashed as I parked my shapely behind on his cab’s shapeless backseat was
“Yeh VAT ne sab ka vaat lagaa diya hai!”
Me (sotto voce) : “WTF…?” (in caps lock if you please…)
That was just the hors d’oeuvre. He then went on yapping, head cocked back, and occasionally looking ahead at the road, till my ears bled. Literally.

Learnings:
  1. The reverse gear is the most powerful of all the gears in any vehicle. He knows this because he climbed up one whole section of the Western ghats driving in reverse, whereas three other drivers had failed to ascend it even in the fourth gear. Yes.
  2. Driving a cab is less stressful than working in IT. He knows, since he was a hardware technician once. To prove he wasn’t just breaking wind, he went to tell me about a problem he once had at a client’s place – “printer not working” – so he checked the LPT port, the data cables, the USB port, till he found out that somebody had unplugged it from the power supply. Heh Heh.
  3. He gave up fleecing customers at the airport because the only time he did it, justice was instant, and he got rammed by a truck. Never done it since.
  4. People give him a tip over and above the fare, because he is so well…honest. Needless to say, I double checked the fare before paying him.


Cabbie no. 2:

This guy was awesome.
His meter was half-cocked, so asked him pretty irritably whether he was open for business.
“Taxi aapki seva ka saadhan hai. Aap chaloge to hum bhi chalenge…”

Learnings:
  1. Yeh taxi meri maa hai. Roti deti hai, aasra deti hai, aur swabhimaan bhi. I have a very dirty feeling he is a closet Mithun bhakt.
  2. A ‘ladies’ customer once left back a bag with 55k cash, and two bearer cheques (Me : “Bearer matlab?” Him : “Matlab jispe naam aur amount nahi likha ho, sirruf sign ho…” Me : “Accha…”)
  3. This customer was very impressed, and her husband touched by his honesty, used to make this guy run errands for him, wherein he’d be given half a hundred rupee note, and a briefcase containing cash to be delivered someplace, and the other ‘party’ on receipt would verify this cryptograph, by comparing it with their half… (Honest. I’m NOT making this up. And I believe, neither was he…)
  4. His cab is a lucky charm, for people desperate to go to ‘foreign’. He guaranteed that I would go too. Within 15 days. Come to think of it, Andheri (East) sure looks SO ****ING international nowadays, it’s almost as good as being there.
Cabbie no. 3:

This guy was the spookiest by far. The first thing I heard was
“Mumbai nagari. Maya nagari.”
And then?
“Yahaan sab bharose pe hai. Mujhe kya malum aap kaise aadmi ho? Aur aapko kya malum main kaisa driver? Fir bhi hum haan bolke chal diye!!”
I knew this was gonna be real good. He took me on a whole trip down philosophy lane.

Learnings:

  1. Some really arcane Sanskrit shlokas lamenting the fall of mankind and goodness in general in this ‘Kalyug’.
  2. A woman’s only path to salvation is through her man. A man can do what the hell he wants, god will always forgive him. Even if he has an extra-marital fling or two. But women? No…that’s not in their ‘dharam’. She’ll be consigned to the flames of hell (or forced to go to SEEPZ from Andheri (yes…East) EVERY DAY), even if she entertains such thoughts. He gave me examples of Sati, Savitri and some others who have attained salvation through their husbands.
  3. A woman is inherently evil. She is always on the prowl, trying to gain control over your mind. And the best way to do that is through exchange of bodily fluids. Because, every drop of a certain bodily fluid that a man loses, makes him physically weak, if the flesh is weak, the mind is weak, if the mind is weak, then she wins. After this, he placed a trembling hand on my shoulder, and started to implore me to never do it. I feverishly grabbed whatever money I could find in my shirt pocket, and just pushed it in his hand, and got the hell out of there. It may have been extra, but God knows it was well worth it.

posted by Tapan at 12:20 AM

Systemspeak Three-Visited

Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Some more IT jargon de-mystified.

Stinker:
A particularly virulent, steaming, stinking mail-turd shot off usually by a user at the end of his tether thanks to your ‘coding’ and ‘analysis’. The degree of odour is directly proportional to the rank and file of the sender. If it’s a lowly menial, not a leaf stirs, and life goes on happily and stinkily(sic) in Eden. Rant all you want, we ain’t giving a damn here. But if it’s a fat cat, then all hell breaks loose…with a mad scramble for some air fresheners… Also used by bosses when they feel something is ‘just not right’ and people need a jolt of motivation…
Usage:
“Dekha kya? Kya stinker maarela hai…”

Gentle Reminder:
The first time I read this, I was stung to tears by the inherent irony here. How can a WRITTEN reminder be ‘gentle’?! Verbally speaking, yes it can. The tone and modulation of your voice, with a little tact/deference depending on whom you are speaking to thrown in, can be thought of as asking gently about a certain issue which has been (conveniently) forgotten about. But when written out in a mail, ‘gentle reminder’ stands out even more starkly. Do you concur?

Escalate:
As close as we can get to an actual Catch-22. When faced with a situation you don’t know how to tackle, there’s but one option. Just like Commissioner Gordon always calls Batman, you ‘escalate’. That is, play footsie with the problem in hand till it propagates to the next logical bunch of people, who in turn keep passing it on, till the issue gets miraculously resolved. On it’s own…most of the times too.
The Catch-22 thing is applicable to a fresher Support Slave. When faced with a production issue, what to do? Oh what to do? (Catch one and shake two – as a schoolmate of mine would have said… doesn’t make sense I know…but it’s fun to say it all the same. Try it sometime.)
If you sit on it, without acting, you don’t know what you will hatch – Medusa, Frankenstein, Incubus or worse still - an outage. But if you escalate a laughably simple problem, you run the risk of needing a LOT of soothing suppositories. As one of the earliest cynics has wryly commented –
“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Escalate.”

On A Very High Level:
This, my people, is the sole prerogative of the ‘bada log’. If you as a lowly developer happen to use this, you run the risk of being severely serenaded to eternal sleep. A BIG no-no there…you’re supposed to know. How can you not know?! Used by the elite when they are rushing into conference calls, after having hurriedly gone through the agenda/issue list. Serves as an effective barrier against a lot of ‘other-party’ angst, since you’re confessing you know a little, but not confessing you know jack either. Which is the absolute truth.
Usage:
"On a very high level, what I know is…"

POC:
Another one of those things which you’re supposed to know, and people actually act surprised when you don’t understand. Stands for ‘Proof Of Concept’. One of the most painful activities ever, considering how confidently you would have farted about something being possible earlier on to an audience of anyone from your boss, the client or your colleagues. Then when you foray through the actual code and try to implement what you claim, you realize that it’s time for a facial treatment – an egg-pack to be more precise. Be very scared of the POC. Very.

Take A Call:
When faced with a particularly sticky, ear-flaming, sweaty-in-spite-of-the-air-conditioning decision, you’re helpfully asked to ‘take a call’, since guess what…‘it’s your call’. Don’t say we didn’t warn you… (Heh Heh). Most excruciating, when you know you’re in for a fun time, either ways. But it was your call…
Another Catch-22 if I may…

Ro Raha Hai/Bhonk Raha Hai:
Not used for whom you think…these generally refer to program errors which need something – either a command line argument or a config or ini file on startup - not getting which they bawl like colicky babies or freshly-stoned dogs.
Usage:
“Dekh kaunse line pe ro raha hai?”

ASAP:
Everything in this busy world of ours has to be As Soon As Possible. People just love to use this, because it strokes their flaccid egos when they garnish emails with this magic word. You imagine a veritable bee-hive of activity as soon as the receiver gets your urgent missive. People falling over each other, furniture being upturned, burnt, office equipment getting trashed - a mini-stampede in fact, with harried drones each scrambling and vying to get going to carry out your ASAP activity…
Reality check?
“Yaaaawn… dekh be…aur ek ASAP aaya hai. ASAP.” (perfunctory disinterested laughter)
“Stinker maarne tak rukte hain…ASAP…bada aaya”

A proper victim of overuse this. Poor word. Sounds pretty impressive at first, but gradually loses its menace as you can see.

PS:
For those who came in late, more can be found here and here.

posted by Tapan at 1:55 AM

When Locusts Attack - The Wardat Movie Review

Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Fresh from the narrow escape from Dr. Shiva's clutches, Gunmaster-G9 took it easy for some time. But alas, as fate, the audience, and a new villain would have it, he was forced to come back from his bohemian lifestyle, and do what he does best. Save the world. From (a) Wardat(that's chaste Hindi for catastrophe).

This movie is not as flamboyant as Surakksha, but has its place in history as one of the few franchises that Bollywood can boast of. The opening sequences feature a whole load of people running helter skelter as if somebody was on the prowl, trying to make them watch Himesh Reshammiya's videos, with what suspiciously look like goat-turds (
lendi in Marathi) raining down everywhere you look. A couple of frames and some suspension of rationality later, you are informed that they are 'locusts'.

A secret agent (lets call him question mark) who ends every sentence with a (you guessed it) question mark, is bumped off by the baddies when he starts to secretly photograph the locusts and their whereabouts, leaving his sister, Dr. Pratibha (the delectable Kalpana Iyer) vowing revenge on the killer. Shakti (Shakti Kapoor) plays her paramour and the second level baddie, who tells her that G9 is responsible for question mark's gory (and bloodless, if I may add) death, at the hands of a Bruce Lee look-alike, complete with a mop top. G9 is thus 'marked for death', to use a Steven Seagal-ism.


G9 is then ferreted out from a night-club where he evidently dances part-time for a living, because there is no one else on the dance floor save his holy self and a bunch of painted, buxom chicks, prancing around to some pyschedelic, neuron-altering blastbeats by Bappida.

G9 delves deep into his entomological self, and discovers that the locust samples which question mark had sent to the agency earlier before croaking, were not normal locusts. He cross-references them with mounted specimens of all the locusts in the world, and in 5 minutes flat, announces his findings. The locusts all have micro-receivers implanted in them, which obey certain 'weblengths', which can control their directional movements, and urge them to wreak havoc. What is subtly implied that the bio-engineering is soadvanced, that these killer locusts look like ‘lendi’s from afar. A brilliant depiction of artificially intelligent camouflage, which has been unparalleled so far.

G9's philandering ways are very subtly put across in one scene, where his love interest (played by the bubbly Kajal Kiran) who asks him about his earlier flame (Ranjeeta from Surakksha).G9 just shrugs it off
"Sagaai hui thi... shaadi to nahi hui na?!"
No further explanations, no further justifications. Just that. Totally "Hai fida... to aa (fill in the rest)..nahi to (again, fill in the rest)". Never the one for sappy emotions, our boy G9.

Then it's time to get on the trail of the main guy. But first, Dr. Pratibha tries to seduce G9, gets G9 captured, G9 escapes, and then converts her onto his team. Whew. Then the whole gang set out into a jungle from whence came the locusts, and stumble upon the faux-egyptian-decor laden den of the Level-1 Baddie – Jumbola (another mad scientist). And yeah… read and say that again. Jumbola.

G9 is greeting by what looks like a gang of cabbies wearing fencing masks, with Samurai swords in hand. Very evil. In fact, the only more evil cabbies are the ones that can be found around both the Mumbai airports. He swats them aside and enters inside,stumbling upon a stunning presentation in progress by Shakti for a bunch of African dudes (who for some reason, keep grinning throughout).



Shakti is selling Jumbola's four point plan for total world annihilation :
1) A row of plastic-looking babies, with their brains wired
to a row of red zero-watt bulbs. They will grow up to be 'mental slaves', who will do your every bidding. (To the Wachowski brothers…boys, now we know…)
2) Genetically modified food-grains which will cripple future generations of children.
3) Magic 'drops' which give south Indian female extras Asterix-type strength.
4) And of course, the killer locusts.

G9 busts the party, and comes face to face with Jumbola, who offers him a job in his tangy Tamil baritone, garnished with laughter that sounds like a series of bass-guitar arpeggios.

G9's calm, calculated response?
"Nahi Jumbola, meri aur tumhari dosti kabhi nahi ho sakti, kyonki main ek insaan hoon. Aur tum? Haiwan!"

Now this guy has one of the most interesting visages I've ever seen. Kind of reminded me of a newbie who's boarded a Virar Fast, and dared to try and get down at Andheri, thus getting a make-over in the process.

Slight tangent for Non-Mumbaikars begins:
Virar is a Mumbai suburb which is serviced by 'fast' local trains majorly, which are the ultimate in travelling by comfort, if your idea of comfort is hanging on for life by your fingernails and pretty much nothing else. There are a couple of very pampered suburbs which are called Andheri and Borivli in between, which are serviced a tad better by 'slow' AND 'fast' locals (you get to hang on for life by your fingers AND toes). This leads to some brilliant, animal antagonism in a Virar local, if somebody wants toget down at either of the above stops.
Slight tangent for Non-Mumbaikars ends:

Jumbola as a villain must be commended for one point though – the socio-economic upliftment of the tribals who live in the jungle, alongside his den. This is evident from the sheer number of traditional Bollywood dress wearing tribals who are gainfully employed in his army, alongside uniformed men and the the cabbie-fencers mentioned above.

G9 does the song-dance-fight routine (no ninjas this time around, just Shakti), throws Jumbola to the locusts (no lions here... sorry), and high-tails it just before the whole lair explodes. The world would then breathe easy yet again, and you all know whom to thank.

Footnote
I used to think that this was the last G9 movie to come out, but then, the Internet does have its surprises. I came to know that there is one more to go... called Saahas/Sahhas. And so, the seeker must seek. All over again.

posted by Tapan at 9:49 PM

Entertainment...Secure - The Surakksha Movie Review

Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Circa 1979, a very important milestone in the history of Indian cinema was reached. Fed up with the firangee posturing of the so called 'Bond Movies', the team of Raveekant Nagaich and Ramesh Pant did some soul-searching, and came up with a brilliant concept, which provided a new sense of belonging and identity to our teeming millions who just couldn't come to terms with the swaggering, 'foreign' or dare I say it (gasp) colonial ways of Messrs Connery, Moore, Dalton et al. They gestated our own homegrown riposte, a cinematic middle finger to the western Bond in the form of Gunmaster-G9 (urf Gopi, ‘khoobsurat ladki jiski ek hi kamzori’) and who better to essay this role than the only hero that there is.


Surakksha. The two k's in the name add the requisite emphasis to this bold, defying venture.(I'm guessing Numerology didn't quite have as many delirious, 'dribbling from the sides of their mouths' fans back then...)

The opening song features a bevy of extraneous beauties, all doing a queen-bee routine, trying to get their hands, feet and ample tummies on G9, with Bappi Lahiri soulfully warbling "Mosumm (say that to rhyme with the Gujju pronounciation of Possum) hey gaane ka, gaane ka (note the poetic repetition here for emphasis...this is NOT because the lyricist was short of another word), bajaane ka...(something something) yeh jeebon, yeh dooniya saapna hey, deebane ka" in the background, with twinkletoes at his suavest, dapper best, hopping around town with them chicas, trying to paint it the deepest shade of magenta he had.

It is in this song that that otherworldly theme makes it's first appearance, with Annette (she's the lady who's sung the title song for 'Hello Inspector' - that Marathi serial) giving her windpipes ample exercise by going "Guuuuuuuunmasterrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Geeeeee Niiiiiiine",with some guttural death metal vocals going "Gunmaster!!! G9! G9! G9!" (you can actually 'hear' the exclamation marks when this guy goes at it, and the last 2 ‘G9!’’s sort of fade and wrestle with each other as they echo away). This theme is used evocatively throughout the movie, whenever there's some action (more about that later), with a very Tom Morello-esque guitar riff (with some wah-wah effects at times) sending the required chills down your hairlines.

For the trivia conscious (full of corn and very very nutritious again), this movie marked Tej Sapru’s debut. He plays a good guy (a colleague of G9) called Jackson (“Jakesunn” as Prabhuji calls him).

The first 15 minutes of the movie are frenzied, with some super kinetic, Guy Ritchie style editing kicking your ass so hard that it gets masochistically pleasurable. Miss it, and you better give up trying to understand the rest. The basic premise is set up here, with Suresh Oberoi as a pilot in a don’t-blink-and-still-miss-it cameo (this I suspect vies with the Ramus, Bholus, Nandus of “Ramu, Bholu, Nandu, baahar feko ise…arre kahaan mar gaye sab ke sab” fame, for the shortest ever role in Bollywood). Jackson (undercover of course) and Suresh hit upon a secret diamond mine thanks to a map. Suresh is bumped off, and Jackson is spirited away by Hiralal (Jeevan), who is the front-end for the back-end mysteriously called ‘SSO’.

Jackson’s child is played by one of the cutest kids this side of Baby Guddu, who gets a cadaver (purportedly Jackson’s) as a birthday gift. The way the kid emotes tugs at your heart (and your gut) strings. G9 later deduces that the cadaver was somebody else, surgically enhanced to look like “Jakesunn”, and he was still alive.


G9 then rescues “Jakesunn” from Hiralal’s horse-neigh-meets-yowling-cat laugh interspersed clutches, and cadges a trip to the SSO (which incidentally stands for ‘Shiv Shakti Organisation’) headquarters (which is underwater near Dock no 7 – Bhaucha Dhakka, Mumbai). It’s there that he comes fact to face with the malevolent Dr. Shiva (played by a guy only credited as ‘Balaje’), a frustrated scientist(?), (with a blue glove on his right hand – ostensibly metallic) who is hell bent upon destroying the world. He plans to do thus using an (hold your breath) ‘Atomic Generator’, and not your run of the mill Atom and Hydrogen bombs. Tchhah. G9 taunts him, counter argues with his philosophy (“Bhagwaan aadmi ki sabse badi kamzori hai” and “Mujhe gussa bilkul nahi aata” for starters) and marvels at a dead-man-brought-alive-by-the-bad-doctor zombie called ‘Django’ (who wears something suspiciously similar to Amitabh in ‘Saara Zamaana’ and the Linkin Park guitarist's headphones). G9 is then given a demo of the Shiv Shakti Kiran, which generates energy equivalent to 'one crore suns' in 7 seconds by concentrating sunlight through ‘diamonds’, and causes tidal waves and earthquakes which destroy picture perfect, cardboard cutout coastlines. G9’s anguish makes Dr. Shiva laugh in all 8 octaves. Raucous, but deeply heart-rending.

Dr Shiva calls in a whole pack of ‘foreigners’ to push his Death Ray, and in the process G9 is made to sing and dance for them, and made to fight for his life with a bunch of lethargic karatekas, and the fattest Ninja in a blood-red one piece suit ever (he probably wanted to become a sumo wrestler, but his parents forced him into becoming a Ninja, and hence he over-ate a little to overcome his frustration. Some smoke, some drink, some eat. We all have our ways...). Easy pickings for G9 of course.

G9 then does his stuff, and consequently, makes Dr Shiva start and then bash up his apparatus. G9 escapes, Dr Shiva and his whole army of prim and proper hostesses (dressed in spotless white, even their socks and shoes) and his men mostly perish when his evil condo implodes, and the world as we know it would be safe once again. Until the attack of the ‘Killer Locusts’ in 1981 of course, which would force G9 to return…

PS : Almost forgot…Ranjita plays G9’s love interest, and Jagdeep is his bumbling sidekick (‘Guru aa gaye, tambu ukhaadke’)

True to form, this movie was responsible for some really cool mass hysteria when it was released. Click here for more details.

posted by Tapan at 1:35 AM