Victim of changes

September 5, 2009

This post is dedicated to all those who stay in big cities, witnessing the enormous changes in their life styles, but still remain non-city slickers in their hearts.

I am neither a movie buff, nor do I own a TV (or more appropriately, I can’t afford it) and I am unaware of the cable TV bliss that the more fortunate ones enjoy. I belong to a generation that had a single TV channel at their dispense and it was called “Doordarshan”. That black & white Uptron TV (Of the “its on, its on, its Uptron” fame. The model name was Urvashi and it came with a shutter and a lock to be used frequently during our examination days) which made Master Haveli Ram a household name and Deepika Chikhalia a MP, (courtesy her Sita Mata role in Ramayan) remained the only source of information of the upcoming movies. Then there were couple of other sources like “Punjab Kesari” newspaper and magazines like “Mayapuri“, but those could be found only in the barber’s shop (nobody knew the word saloon) and were read by the curious customers based on a strict rotation policy 😉

Well, let me not digress and to say that I was dragged up to the theatre to see a movie last month would be an exaggeration. Not much persuasion was required as soon as I realized that it was a Gulzar-Vishal Bhardwaj combo flick. (Mind you, I am not writing the movie review here. The name wouldn’t have mattered much to me even if it would have been called Kuttey, Kameeney, whatever). Gulzar was reason enough for me to head to the theatre, but I am almost always reluctant to see a movie in a multiplex, for two reasons. First, the tickets are obscenely costly, and second (the more profound of the two) it doesn’t give me the liberty to whistle when the lights are turned off ;-). People here give me a disgusting look, if I do so.

Circa 1997. I am trying to kill time in the scorching heat in the by-lanes of Lajpat Nagar in Delhi. I was staying at a cousin’s place and forgot to collect the keys. Left with no option, I find a movie theatre somewhere near to the market. Luckily, the show timings are just 45 mins away and I get ample time to grab my lunch. Bun-samosa, half plate chowmein and a glass of “ganney ka ras” (sugarcane juice) costs me 14 Rs. I get inside the theatre premises and stand in a queue for the cheapest available ticket. It is the second running week for the movie “Betaabi” and there are hardly 10 of us in the queue. Neither Chandrachoor Singh nor Arshad Warsi could attract the janta and it was perhaps left on the leading ladies to show off some skin to somehow make it totter till the second week. The ticket is priced at Rs 15 and I get my seat in the second row from front. There isn’t a single female in the whole theatre. The guy sitting right to me, makes himself comfortable by keeping his stretched legs in the front chair. The other one, sitting towards my left, is already excited and has started spitting the juicy beetle leaves that he is chewing near to my feet. I make my guess, it could either be Rajdarbaar or Talab or even a Manikchand (all different brands of guthka) or it could be desi jarda or khaini with mysterious names like “Nevla” or “Kuber“.

The lights are turned off and Jackie Shroff emerges in one of the Red & White cigarette ads. “Sachchey log, sachcha anand” he says and a strange frenzy prevails, followed by countless number of whistles. I get excited as well and participate with utmost sincerety. After couple of advertisements, the movie starts and we all settle down. The movie seems insipid to me, but people are glued to their seats. During interval, the spitting guy breaks the ice and says a single sentence – “Bhai, filum to badhiya hai” (The movie is good). I seem puzzled but dare not ask him reasons for badhiya. He swallows the whole new packet of guthka again, but I fail to see the brand. I curse myself for my poor vision and move out to buy a 2 rupee popcorn. Post interval, enter Mayuri Kango (the leading lady in the second half) with her thunder thighs and the hall goes live again. This time it is not only the whistles trying to outplay each others decibel levels, but also the choicest expletives that come out naturally from a typical Indian male when he sees an irresistible babe. Arshad Warsi too gets his share of swears for being able to do a sensuous song sequence with the lady 😉


The movie ends in a typical Bollywood style happy ending and we all move out of the theatre, well contented with the paisa vasool feeling. Three hours, with food and entertainment had cost me just 31 Rupees.
Back to 2009. A Bangalore multiplex, movie ticket is priced at Rs 180, for the same front rows and the price of popcorn nearly gave me a stroke.

Image source: Internet


Summer of 69

May 24, 2009

One of my uncle shared his college days memories when he got back from examination hall and his elder brother asked this question:
Q: Exam kaisa hua? (How was the exam?)
A: Arey bhaiji, aata to sab kuch tha exam mein, bas pen hi nahin chala ( I knew all the answers, but the pen didn’t work)
Can you beat that?

Smells like teen spirit

April 26, 2009

This post has nothing to do with any of my low cost ‘hawai yatra‘ or my photography skills or about Oracle buying Sun. This is especially about one of the most literary readings that I’ve done in my adolescent days. Something, which still remains close to my heart. Yup, you’ve guessed it right, it is indeed one and the only one – Raj Comics. The profound impact of Raj comics still lingers fresh, when the Nagarajs and the Dhruvs were heroes of every teenager in the Hindi heartland. Well, cartoonist Pran with his chacha chowdhary comics had his share as well, but he soon lost his numero uno position to Raj comics as it targeted the ‘grown up’ guys. Here is the true sample of what I meant with the ‘grown up’ janta and the mass hysteria associated with it. I picked up this pic from one of the groups in orkut – “Raj comics hai mera janoon” (yes, it is janoon and not junoon) where all of us, the like minded buffs, share such great stuff and participate in the literary discussions.

raj comics

And the best part of these “thrill, horror and suspense” comics was the warning associated with it – “Kamjor dil waale is comics ko raat mein na padhein” ;-).

Stairway to heaven…

February 14, 2007

“Boy, I hadn’t had a skateboard in my hand for years. I didn’t feel funny, though. You could put a skateboard in my hand fifty years from now, in pitch dark, and I’d still know what it is.”
– J D Salinger in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’

True, indeed. To me, a skateboard was always an elusive alien thing in childhood. Leave aside touching it, I had never ever heard of a skateboard in those days. But, like any other child, being brought up in a typical non-metropolitan background, there were lots of things that I craved for and had an intense insatiable desire to fulfill the same.

Yes, this list was endless – Right from playing cards ( as per few elders, it could spoil a child ) to stainless steel blades or a pair of scissors ( cutting anything on the way was extremely exciting as it provided a satisfaction of being a skilled craftsman 🙂 ), a chocolate called “Fudgy” (not for its taste, but for the free He-Man stickers that came along with it) and things like catapult (considered dangerous for the reasons unknown to me or probably because of the fact that we once practiced our shooting skills on a beehive 😉 ), and millions of other things that could easily excite a non city slicker boy.

But, I too had my share of things that I proudly possessed. Starting from things like old torch batteries, colored marbles, matchbox covers, scented rubbers (I never knew they were called erasers, a word that I never heard of), pencil “cutters” (Pencil sharpener was too difficult to pronounce), a thousand fountain pens (most of which were useless with broken nibs), colored goggles (beautifully done with rubber-bands and red cellophane paper), broken magnets to pick “interesting” stuff from roadside, a cheap digital watch that never displayed correct time, a spider man dress (Believe me, it was better than what Toby Maguire wore in Spiderman I), an old magnifying glass (I used it proudly to demonstrate the effects of solar energy by burning newspapers, match sticks and people’s palms 😉 ), a vicks inhaler with a key-ring attached to it, an old disposable syringe that was mostly used to intimidate small kids and lots of other junkyard stuff like inflatable tires or just iron wheel rims on which I mastered all practical aspects of rotational physics in the scorching heat of June.

I still remember those days when I scrimped and saved money to buy a silver colored pistol and a small spring game that was a proud addition to my never ending unique collections. I got them from the famous “Jhandey ka mela”, an annual fair (where I puked after having a roller coaster ride in that ugly giant wheel) that takes place during Holi in Dehradun. I loved that fair where I won lots of “Wheel” washing cakes in the game of Hoopla. It gave me a great sense of achievement.

Though it looks like a phantasmagoria to me now, but it was indeed an ingenuous hedonism of childhood. It crept into my nerves and the sheer joy associated with those proud possessions made me the strongest contender for the happiest person on earth.

Nostalgia Part 2

October 14, 2006

The other day, I came across a community in orkut called “Pen Phirvaiya”, a community of interest to those people who like spinning pens between their fingers. I am not very sure if you are one of those lucky souls who have ever tried the same, but it gives extreme pleasure to all those, who have mastered this great act that is a perfect example for demonstrating Newton’s second law (Yes, it is f=ma). And not to boast of my own rotating skills though, I too feel privileged to be a member of the same class.

“Everyone has a right to be stupid. Some just abuse the privileges.” This is what my Physics teacher Mr. D N Sharma (popularly known as Dinu) used to quote. This was in context to the art of spinning pens that most of the guys had proudly inherited from their seniors. Though it defied no laws of theoretical physics, Dinu, a character with those grass cut spiky hair, unfortunately, was our class teacher and was always irritated to see guys displaying their spinning prowess inside the classroom.

It all started with the so-called “innovative acts” from one of our seniors and in due course of time, this great art of spinning was customarily passed on to us. I must admit though, initially it required hell lot of efforts, just to do the balancing acts. Sometimes, our mentors took special “sessions” near to the basketball court to teach us the finesse associated with this art, especially in terms of hand positioning and the amount of force being applied at a particular angle. And like a devoted pupil, we all listened and watched with complete dedication and practiced it with utmost sincerity. Boy! That was the only time in my life; I took my practical so seriously. We started with Reynolds 045 pen, experimented with few others, slowly graduated to Rotomac pen (of the Ravina Tandon’s “likhtey likhtey love ho jaaye” fame. God!! She looked gorgeous in that ad) till we discovered lightweight Stic pens that culminated our search for a perfect shaped pen. And then, it all started – the record-breaking feats (which was of much faster pace than even the Olympics) for maximum number of spins, without dropping the pen even once. I myself practiced it for several days for I dreamt of spinning it till eternity.

I still remember an exasperated Dinu, on a mission to stop this epidemic, carrying a long meter rule and hitting us on our knuckles whenever he saw us showcasing these skills. But for the poor soul, it turned out to be an exercise in futility. The harder he tried to stop it; more it got spread like dengue and malaria. And for us, it soon became an obsession, a style statement that was extremely gratifying. Later on, I could spin almost anything that was lateral in shape. It included long chalk pieces, dusters, keys, nail cutters, light weight pencil boxes and even vegetables like carrots 😉

We are never too old to learn something stupid. Isn’t it true? I wish I could learn much more, for people like me enjoy such activities to the core.

Nostalgia Part 1

October 14, 2006

Last month, I read an article in a popular travel magazine and I was completely smitten by the same. It was an entertaining anecdote by an Indian writer, who had traveled to the North Pole sometime during 1980s. She wrote about the Eskimos, their families, their lifestyles, and the much-talked igloos. Nostalgia gripped me at once and took me back to my school days when I was a geography student. My only exposure to the two of the most intriguing species in my geography books– The Eskimos and the pygmies, was confined only to our classroom. They always remained an enigma to poor students and I always compared them with the aliens – short and stout people, indulged in falconry and reindeer hunting. And now, after seeing the photograph of an Eskimo mother along with her child, I was left bewildered. They looked so human, just like us, and it took a while for me to digest this fact. If there were a prize for general knowledge, I could have bagged one for sure.

Keep your mouth shut and people will think you stupid;
Open it and you remove all doubts.
– Anonymous