Bit's and Part's

Holidays ’11 Travelogue: Day 1

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As a kid, I wanted to grow up to be an astronaut. The closest thing to that I can do now is flying in passenger planes. And in the last couple of years, ever since I started working, have been doing a lot of that. With ten trips in the last quarter, I can safely say that I am not the reason for the current crisis in the aviation industry.

And I have seen a lot of these modern contraptions called airports. Identified with codes like GHIAL, T3, IGI etc., these are curious places, and the people who inhabit them are curiouser. Besides the airlines and the security staff, there are folks of all sorts. And you can easily identify the sort by the phone they seem to be carrying. The corporate travelers, in their business suits always connected on their Blackberrys oblivious to their surroundings; the business class travelers, who look down upon the regular economy travelers, carrying equally snooty iPhones; the android carriers, as diverse as the handsets, ranging from douchebags in Ed Hardy’s to the pseudo hipsters with fedora’s and ironic mustaches. I don’t know where I fit in though, with a lowly Nokia C5, feeling as lucky in traveling on an aero plane as my phone is at calling itself a smartphone.

The red-eye Spicejet flight from Hyderabad to Delhi is a four-hour journey, on an Airbus A320. A dosa at the airport was the last reminder of south indian cuisine that I was willing to have for the next couple of weeks. Protip: When traveling on the low-fare carriers, request for the emergency exit window seats. The labourious safety instructions are worth the bother when you can stretch out your legs. And dear low cost carriers, what is up with not maintaining a healthy gender ratio in your flight attendant crew? On the count of sounding sexist, back in the day flying used to be easier on the eyes.

The trip to Delhi was largely uneventful, as I fell asleep before the plane took off and only woke up when the steward asked me to confirm that I was the owner of the sole unclaimed bag, on the overhead stowage space. And then we were deplaned. At terminal 1 of IGI, the outside temperature was 6 degrees, enough to freeze someone, prepared more for a 16, to the marrow. The flight had been delayed by a couple of hours for the fog to clear out in Varanasi. Enough to get some more food and browse some more stores and check out the folks languishing at the old terminal.

Finally, it was time to board the flight back home. I have been mostly the disadvantaged sorts when it comes to traveling companions. In all my years, I have only met people, while traveling, in other people’s tales. So I was pleasantly surprised when the co passenger for the onward journey was someone who I had been eye balling earlier, and all I hoped for was that I had been discrete with the eye balling. It turned out I had been, as she started a conversation. And pleasant it was. I learned about Germany, about the education system, and their differences from ours, and about Rajasthan, and how pretty it is, and about the best times to visit India, and how not seeing the Taj can be a regret that people can carry. You see where I am going with this? So all in all, I felt my luck turning for the better.

The journey, from Delhi to Varanasi, I is really a bit too short, I felt. By the time we had ascended and the flight stabilized, the captain announced the descent. Varanasi airport has, in the last few years, been modernized. The modernization has led to creation of new facilities, with aero bridges for deplaning. But the Airport authority in the city is a big fan of fresh air and exercise, so the aero bridges, for now, remain unused. The passengers were forced to walk a bit to collect the luggage and then walk into the loving arms of the taxi drivers, or to be hassled by loved ones; I may have gotten things a bit mixed there. Anyways, to cut a long story short, I was home:

View from my Balcony

Written by Rishi

December 18, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Posted in Travelogue

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Holidays ’11 Travelogue: Day 0

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The mission, if I chose to accept, seemed pretty straightforward. Leave office, eat dinner, watch a movie, sleep for a bit, and then catch a flight. But as per the stringent rules of the series, nothing is as simple as it seems. And it would involve a lot of running and jumping, and not always in the same order.

The team was handpicked, carefully chosen by what they brought to the table. The lone-wolf transporters, the cool analysts, the deadly agents and the comic relief. There were decisions to be made, logistics to be analyzed, gear to be prepped, but first, and more importantly, what was for dinner? So after many deliberations, and the inadvertent delays which felt longer than the delays to the Lokpal bill, we came to a decision.

By my calculations, we just had enough time to eat, pay the bill and reach the theatre. But we underestimated the reach of the consumerist corporates, as we faced our first roadblock, a sale. As we negotiated the tough terrain, between the seemingly low prices, and our even lower salaries, the clock ticked uninterrupted. Leaving the sole member of the team fulfilling our commitment to the 25% diversity clause, to deal with the world of corporate cards and charges, we rushed to the diner, hoping to make it in time for the start of the movie.

But it was not to be, as the whistle of the traffic police would stop us dead in tracks, not 500 meters from the cinemas. That was the final nail, confirming all my suspicions of large-scale pseudo government conspiracies to screw up with my life. And the movie was the only thing that night that didn’t disappoint. Tom Cruise maybe bat shit crazy in real life, but he was born to be a movie star and then some.

Returning home at 2, with a couple of hours to go before the flight, I decided to forego sleep, in order to read the day’s news again, check my twitter and Facebook feeds, only for the 50th time that day and watch a few lolcats. Also clothes needed ironing, bags needed packing and doors needed locking. All said and done, the airport made on what I thought, good time, I was to meet my old enemies, back to back, the deadly queue duos, at the check in and security.

If I may digress a bit, people keep pointing fingers at men having it easy all the time in this country, but hello, whats up with the queuing system in this country. When we strive for equality everywhere else, why not here too? I say end the discrimination, especially when the “gents” line stretched the length of the runaway and then some, and the “ladies” queue should have been ashamed to call itself a queue, instead it was more like the list of RSVP’s for Bappi Da’s latest rendition of “Chalte Chalte”.

I hopped, skipped and jumped angry passengers and security to somehow make it to the plane before it could fly away without me. Ethan Hunt be damned, catching a flight in India is all Jason Bourne, James Bond and the blue folks on those winged things from that one movie all rolled into one.

Written by Rishi

December 17, 2011 at 11:14 pm

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Violence and Us.

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“Mard ko Dard Nahi Hota” screams Amitabh Bachchan in one of his blockbusters from the 80’s, synthesizing the theme of the movie, for his audience, in one succinct line. He, who would become the voice of his generation through his successes in the angry young man persona; this angry young man would take up arms against the system, when the common man could not. It may have been one of the first instances of mass acceptance of violent dissent in a post-independence India, where even the freedom struggle had been largely non-violent. Although the character of that movement had been forged by the common decency and uncommon will of one man, it seemed to have become a way of life and expression for large parts of the populace. Also they may have had a certain naivety and optimism for a new beginning.

As the memories of those days eroded, so did people, slowly, lose faith in such a system of dissent. Our generations, twice and thrice removed, have only faint understanding and know of such times, the remnants of what was force-fed to us through a few text books. That hardly augurs well for beliefs in such remote and fantastical sounding tropes. This has largely led to more accessible forms of demonstrations that are not just violent in action, but largely violent and intolerant in their thought. We have become a culture of now, we are the instant rejoinders to others to change to what we think is the right way, and an expression of complete un-acceptance of all that we think is wrong. It’s a “either you are with us, or you are against us” society.

Saying that, we have to consider that in a post-liberalization India, our IT revolution can be considered the equivalent of an industrial revolution of the developed world, in that it increased the affluence and the breadth of the middle class, but also caused major inequities in the population. Indian socialism may have hurt, but it hurt everyone equally. The inequitable distribution, now, favoured the privileged few, causing deep-seated hurts which may only be heard when voices rose loud enough.

The other side to the coin is that the path to economic development through such revolutions, historically, has been marred by violence. Such economic development, which pulls a swath of the masses into the middle class, may not have a correlation to a broader development of culture, and I am using the term “culture” loosely here. There may be lag in the two, or the latter may never follow the former. That may result in growth of large-scale intolerance and violence, and may explain a lot of our present predicaments.

Another factor, that I think, has a major impact in the increase in acts of violence, especially which is gender based, is large-scale displacements of social norms. The slow erosion of the patriarchal control of society with more equitable opportunities for both genders to succeed, in recent years, has caused friction in parts which have been resistant to change. Greater assertion of gender identity has met with an increased aggression by people who are opposed to such change and afraid of loss of their perceived importance and power.

A lot of the changes are inevitable; these are ideas whose times have come. For people who are still resistant, and will resort to violence of one form or the other, for one reason or another, all I can do is quote another movie- “Get well soon, Mamu!”

Written by Rishi

December 11, 2011 at 9:41 am

Posted in Diatribe, Observations

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Blog changes.

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Written by Rishi

October 21, 2010 at 4:01 pm

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On the Beach.

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The moon bore colour blindness to the night,

and monochromatic waves broke against the beach,

In stiller waters they would shimmer and sway,

But closer to the shore, the sands lay under siege.


They crashed in a resounding thunder,

Intent on eroding the hardy rocks to a mush,

Strange but resonant felt the sounds,

And the fury signified much in a heady rush.


Far away I saw some streetlights illuminate,

A snaky swirly road obtruding the darkness,

And I saw stars peek through scattered clouds,

As distant as I felt from everything else.


I was still, caught in an enchanting spell,

Crabs, stray and curious, scampered along,

Swept by the wary tide, unafraid they fought,

Back into the sea where they belong.


A mild depression had formed around me,

And I would float and sink with every break,

Like a human floatsam in the murky waters,

Receding from me, leaving behind a dreck.


With my grasping breaths I would feel alive,

And see the growing brightness of the far sky,

Multitude colours shattered the horizons,

A sun was born again and the night glazed by.


It rose a phoenix scattering the moon ash,

All along the scuttlers would disappear.

Left behind I felt quaintly melancholic,

My moment had passed, had held it too dear.

Written by Rishi

October 19, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Cattle immunizations and other such miscellany: Part II.

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Continuing from the last post…

Ramsanpally was the name of the village where we were headed. There were exactly 0 relevant results for Ramsanpally on google. It wasn’t as if I didn’t want to visit someplace really remote, but it would have been nice to have it on the map at the very least. What if I got lost and had to find my way back? Thanks for nothing Sergey Brin.

The journey, though, started on a promising note. Early in the morning, the sunrays were just glancing across the horizon and the few clouds that populated the sky were lit with a warm red glow. The bus was half empty and the air rushing in, through the wide open windows, was pleasantly cool. From the conversations of the driver, I understood that the journey would take us about an hour and a half. Although we were running about half an hour behind schedule, we thought we would be able make it up on the road.

But someone surely had been really weak at basic mathematics. Forgetting to add the time it would take us, to travel half way in the opposite direction for picking up the vet school students, is just plain sad. That too when everyone, apart from me, was from the Tax practice. Doesn’t reflect well at all, I must say. In their defense though, they are anyway only “practicing” Tax (Haha).

As it was, we reached the place almost 3 hours behind schedule. By this time the Sun was almost at its zenith and it had gotten terribly hot and humid. The village was unlike anything I had been expecting based on my experiences in the north. It would hardly have been called a village over there, it was more like a smallish town. The roads were paved, and there was a drainage system of sorts, for a change. They had electricity, mobile phones and satellite television. Autos plied the main road. The village chaupal was where the camp had been organized, and it was a good ways off from where the bus had dropped us.

The good doctors of the Institute, who had wisely decided to forego our common transport with their students, had arrived promptly on time. We found them fuming across the mouth. Scared that they may have spent a little too much time with their patients and may have inadvertently caught the only prevalent animal disease I am aware of, I approached one of their students. I was made aware that my diagnosis had been really wide off the mark, and they were angered by our lack of general adherence to a schedule of any sorts. Well, I shrugged, was Indian Standard Time such a difficult concept to understand.

Anyhow, as the saying about the cloud goes, I found the silver lining to this mess. Apparently, in the time it had taken us to reach the village, the doctors had almost finished all the activities at the camp.  And the aspiring vets were more than happy to pick up what was remaining, leaving me to absolutely nothing, apart from heading to the bus to finish off the breakfast. It seemed to be a good idea at the time, to leave things to the professionals, while I concentrated on the food.

Once I had my fill, I realized that the other buses had also arrived at the village. They were filled to the brim and the people they were filled with seemed to have a lot more enthusiasm for the activities that were to follow. This made my job of finding my friends among the crowd easier. I just had to find the most downcast bunch among the smiley happy faces. Quickly I located them and filled them in on my misadventures. For some reason that I couldn’t fathom, they didn’t share my relief with the fact that I had hardly cast a hand in the veterinary camp. On the contrary, I felt as if they would be happier if I had really gotten kicked by a buffalo. I was just doing my bit for the community in asking them to join in with a helping hand. Guys, can’t we all agree to be selfless for a day, that and the whitewashing. What else could one ask?

Having made my presence felt, I headed back to the vet camp, to bid my adieu to any animals still awaiting medications and what not, and to tell them I couldn’t sadly oblige. By the way, let me take a little bit of a segue here to describe the immunization process. It may be the most amazing thing that sadly most of you will not ever see. The needle is really as big and as bad-ass as I had seen in innumerable Hindi movies from the 70’s. It isn’t something to be trifled with. And the injecting is done in two parts basically. First of all, we find the doctor doing what seems like his best impression at playing a game of dart’s, except it’s as if the dart board is really up close, the dart is the needle and the target is the beast’s behind. Once he hits the bull’s eye, or the bull’s behind to be more specific, which to the animals utter dismay would have been really difficult to miss, he takes the equally giant size plunger, and plunges the whole thing into the already waiting needle. This is done to the waiting line of few dozen more animals, who decide to take a collective shit at the awesomeness of the spectacle.

Think I have lost track of my objectives here, but animal science doesn’t seem to be completely devoid of interesting things. Anyways once I was done with the day’s amusement, I decided to trudge the sun beaten path back to the buses, where I was sure my friends awaited with bated breath to bring to them updates from the vet camp. The casual lack of indifference that I found was bit unnerving. I found them busy in different activities, none of which was remotely connected to whitewashing by far. Gradually, lending a hand here, and there, we progressed through the ranks. Helped clean up the tank, planted a few trees, rested, drank some of the lemonade which exhibited all qualities of lemon soup by then, rested a bit more, and then by chance I found a spot empty among the people who were doing the whitewashing (And before I hear a pip or a squeak here, I have photographic evidence to back it all up mate, so shove that dissent up to where the sun don’t ever shine).

Never one to shy from lending a hand, I rushed at the opportunity. Much to my dismay, they were almost done with the whitewashing and there wasn’t enough canvas left to really display for my art. Well an artist must never compromise and persevere in the most adverse of circumstances, and never ever forget to take credit by signing the damn thing. So I persevered, and painted what remained of the wall, and finally signed off with a flourishing R. I would have proceeded with an I and an S and so on and so forth, hadn’t I been reprimanded by the folks miffed by mastery of the brush. Jealous losers all.

Done with helping in all the activities planned for the day, the three musketeers and myself (which would make me D’artagnan) headed back to the village on a quest to find a clean drinking source of water. And there existed in the middle of nowhere, in an astoundingly small store, refrigerator. And we were united in our feeling of joy and wonderment with what our earliest forefathers must have felt on discovering fire. It was life itself. And even more surprisingly, it wasn’t broken. Filled to the brim with little packets of clean water and cold drinks, it was our one source of joy in the god forsaken heat. And believe me when I say this, a bottle of sprite has never tasted any sweeter.

And how can I forget to mention the amazing tractor ride that we had afterwards. The good will created by the dedicated few had expanded to include us misanthropes, and a tractor driver stopped by to give us a ride. With the three sitting around the driver, I chose to ride in the trailer. And what a ride it was, through the dust roads as fast as the tractor would go. It rattled and thumped over the bumps, the wind blowing one way and another, it felt as if no time had passed before we reached our destination.

There were some other middling activities later in the day which included having lunch under a shed, and my muffin getting stolen and found again. But nothing could match the adventures we had earlier. Soon it was time for us to call it a day and head back. Before leaving I decided to take a peek at what remained of my art, but the signature had by then gotten lost in midst of a sea of white. Painting it white on a white background may not have been the brightest of ideas. Disappointed I headed back to the bus, and tired due to all the helping I had done and all the difference I had made, I soon fell asleep, only to be woken once we were fully returned whence we came.

Written by Rishi

June 25, 2010 at 2:21 am

Cattle immunizations and other such miscellany: Part I.

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It's a Buffalo if you don't recognise it and are reading the alt text to find out.I should deal out an apology for my absence, or at the very least devote a few lines in explanation, but to hell with it. As if I ever had readers who really were waiting for something new. But in case you are here with nothing better to do on your hands, I hope this entertains you for a bit if nothing else.

I have been avoiding this post for a long time for fear of ridicule, but anything you put online, ever, is sure to be made fun of eventually. So if my other posts are going to be comic fodder in times to come, why not dabble in something that deserves the reaction. Its the nature of the beast, the internet. Which brings us to a beast of another kind which forms one half of the subject for today.

So this past Friday, as any corporate is wont to, my company also, large-hearted as it is, went out of its way to serve the community. Yay, cheers! On the way completing a few records and impacting a few lives, do refer to the myriad news releases available on the company site for more info, if you are so inclined. Yay again. And as is my wont, as a pretentious hipster d-bag, I went a bit further out of the way.

I decided I will go into the heart of India, to make a real difference in the lives of the few I do touch. I mean how can you make a difference by teaching someone something and that too for just a day? With my memory and attention span, my learnings hardly ever last beyond a week, what chance does an average 9 year old have? We need to get our hands dirty. For example, a solid coat of whitewash, that may outlast the winter, or the not-summers, as it should be called in Hyderabad. And if I was lucky it may even last a year, when I would definitely come back for another coat. Which would hence forth be celebrated as whitewash a school day.

What I have failed to mention here is that there were some selfish motives behind the act as well. I had sometimes fancied myself as a painter, I mean how hard could it be? If I was born during the renaissance and had known only a Raphael or a Da Vinci, then maybe I would have winced. But after post modernism and cubism and reductionism and a whole lot of such isms? Seen from the right perspective, anything can be art and almost anyone can be an artist. So the hidden artist in me, pined for expression and what bigger canvas could I provide him other than a huge wall.

So armed with such ambitions, I enrolled for a trip to the village. And dragged a few of the good folks I am usually able to convince for such things, kicking and screaming into my grand scheme. I was really not prepared for the cribbing though, and I thought it would stop once they realised what fun was in store for all of us.

As any Bond villain would  vouch, things seldom ever happen according to plan, or we would have had the Dr. No series of movies instead. Thus our group of volunteers was split into parts, each randomly assigned an activity in a different village. Luckily, I landed up with the bigger group from the split, but unluckily I was assigned to work at the Veterinary Camp. And poof went any thoughts I had of having fun that day.

Now don’t get me wrong, and I would never describe myself to have been brought up in a particularly urbane environment, but I don’t know shit about domesticated animals. I have found animals to be at their magnificent best in their natural surroundings. Hell I have spent a good few sleepless days trying to catch a glimpse of the most magnificent beast of them all. But I have always had a strange aversion to any of the domesticated kind, be it pets or something else. Its as if the fight has gone out of their eyes, and as masters we are certainly not worthy, but that is a topic for some other day.

What I do mean to imply is that I have never had the inclination to find out more about such things. As a friend of mine sympathized on finding out that it would be no different from going to the cow shed and getting a pail of milk. Well, I have never wanted to enter a cow shed and I am perfectly fine getting my milk from a packet, instead of trying to get the mechanics behind milking a cow right. And the buffalo, if nothing else, is competition to the wild hogs for the ugliest creature in the country crown.

Worse of all was the fact that I had to start two hours earlier than anyone else, owing to the fact that the stupid animals couldn’t stand to wait for the doctor coming in a bit late. It turned out to become one of the very few occasions in my life when I was up before the sun was. I traversed the way with a bunch of soon to be veterinarians, and shared  mildly amusing discussions. I still cannot understand how students of medicine can talk about stuff like rectal exams or bowel motions with a straight face. These guys were no exceptions. Far from it, infact, and much of it needs to be censored here in the name of good taste. Suffice to say part of their discussions dealt with which animal was more compliant to their intrusions, if I may call it that. And so as to not cause offense, I found myself, alternatively trying to stop my gag reflex or trying to stop myself from exploding into a laughing fit.

Readers, as the post has gotten long and unwieldy, I will continue my adventures in a separate post soon.

PS: Did I mention of the recent accident I found myself embroiled in, read the first hand experience on:

Written by Rishi

June 24, 2010 at 1:39 am

Posted in Observations

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Death and All His Friends.

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A scene after a bomb blast.I have been working long hours for the last few weeks; weekdays have melded into weekends, and days into nights. Even though I enjoy the work, it is mentally very tiring and makes even the smallest irritants stand out as significant. So when this past Monday, it was reported in a news paper that my workplace had received a credible terrorist threat, the management, quick to action, enhanced the already stringent security procedures, to pacify employees and clients.

Now the check in, which already took a few minutes of my time every morning, became a chore. And it was to be repeated every time one re-entered a building. Dog squads combed the floor in work hours trying to find misplaced explosives or hidden food in employee lockers. Floors were manned with security guards, who would request your id at every turn and then proceed to match the photo to face. I, for one, have lost a few pounds since I last weighed in, and the photo in the id is ages old. So, it takes a few seconds or more for the security personnel to match the two images. And they are just doing their jobs. But imagine that happening to you a dozen times a day, and not unlike me, you would also find yourself on the edge more oft then not.

See, I am not saying that the discomforts caused by such measures aren’t worth the price you pay for security. They are every bit so if they can deter or prevent something dastardly from happening. And security being intrusive or exasperating is mostly a non issue in a country where privacy is worth absolutely nothing. But it has led me to introspect a bit on terrorism and what it means to us.

I think that even with all the security measures in place, it would unlikely be able to prevent an act of terrorism if someone was so inclined. If you just take a look at the logistics involved, it seems a daunting task. If someone has decided that his or her life is worth nothing anymore and is ready to blow up everything around, there is precious little anyone can do. If the security measures seem daunting, they may just change the scene and find a softer target. The methods will be the same; the effects will be the same as well. Terrorism is a random vicious act. No one knows where and what will be the next target, because there are so many, and only so much can be made secure. It has become after a fashion, a fact of life. We are slowly getting desensitized to the heinous acts; a common man’s life just isn’t worth that much anymore. We can predict the next victims with as much certainty as the next road accident.

Then how should we react to such acts. What of the terrorists in our custody? Should we mete out as we receive? Or should we act in an even more barbaric manner, maybe bring out something from the good old middle ages, a guillotine, a public hanging, or something even worse? Maybe it would put fear in the hearts of would be transgressors? Maybe that would stop such atrocities? The recent verdict on Kasab brought out loud cheers; Even my barometer of Facebook statuses, was filled with congratulatory messages for the Indian justice system.

But should that be the response of a balanced civil society? Is it for us to decide who lives and who dies? And what does that makes us? Are we any better than those who seek to destroy us? Better still will it even deter a single person from picking up a suicide vest? They are anyhow prepared to give up their lives, how does it matter to them if it happens immediately or a few months down the line?

I will be straight here, I don’t believe modern terrorism is something that can be argued with, we cannot win hearts and minds, and we cannot win this fight because the battle is fought on uneven grounds. The best we can do is to try and prevent other acts from happening, and in the meanwhile bunker down, like England did in the Second World War against Germany. To hold our ground and see this phase through and in the meantime to sort out our domestic issues and imbalances as best possible, so as to not provide a fertile ground for new recruits. Terrorism has become homogenized into present day society, the security measures are a fact of life and so are the random acts of violence.

PS: I know a lot of you will have strongly differing opinions from mine and one of the objectives of my post was to raise as many points of view on the issue as possible. Please be forthcoming with your comments. But also know that I didn’t mean to be rude or insensitive to the victims of terrorism and I believe nobody can truly share their pain.

Written by Rishi

May 10, 2010 at 1:28 am

Posted in Diatribe, Topical

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The Death of An Album.

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The Sturdy Little Chugger!

I have fond memories of my Sony Walkman WM-FX195, it wasn’t the first portable music player that I had, but it was the sturdiest. It kept chugging along far longer than a device so small and flimsy was wont to. In fact, it was almost indestructible, as the floor of my house, after the myriad attempts at murdering it, would definitely vouch. It became integral to my formative music experiences. I finally moved on when digital music became pervasive and phone companies started combining mobiles and music players into decent devices.

It signified the end of reign of the good old cassette tape, which had been carrying the fire ever since the demise of records. Yes, CD’s were pervasive enough through the 90’s even in India, but were way too expensive for someone like me to afford. Even the cassette’s for a decent album felt expensive to me, so developing a fondness for CD’s would have been detrimental to the relationship that I shared with my Dad, which got anyhow strained every time I purchased a new tape. It was a struggle, I tell you.

The thing with cassette tapes was that you couldn’t jump tracks. Either you had to sit through while the song played completely or wait a while as you forwarded it and drain whatever little power the AA cells carried. I for one, was a stickler at squeezing as much life as possible from the little buggers, changing batteries only when AC/DC would start sounding like good old Rabindra Sangeet. But my laziness would make me listen through complete albums. Whether it was a song that I liked, or a song that I didn’t, it wouldn’t matter, I would usually just let it play itself out.

Thus armed with a Walkman and about half a dozen of handed down cassettes from my cousins, it was the beginning of my foray into music. I would play the same cassettes over and over again till I had to either clean the “head” of the player or the batteries died on me. At the time I didn’t know I was listening to stuff that was famous or brilliant or just popular, it was music, and it was new. That is how I got introduced to AC/DC’s Back in Black, Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten and U2 of course (Forgive me for my unabashed love of the band, but I am not going to  mislead you about it). Even then I had The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby and also Zooropa in the old big plastic cassette cover format.

As my bargaining skills, to get money out of my father, improved, my cassette collection burgeoned. It wasn’t as if my collection largely consisted of classics, in pre wikipedia and metacritic days, I hardly knew what people considered a classic really. I had albums from Ronan Keating and Robbie Williams in my collection, which now I know that the internet believes were real stinkers, along with gems from Radiohead and REM. But I hardly had the faculties to differentiate good music from bad. I heard anything that my budget would allow or that I could beg, borrow or steal from my cousins.

Hearing the album from the first song on a side to the last, and reversing and repeating the step, slowly made one realize the intent of the artist. Even the lesser songs sometimes held meaning in the context of an album. I am not saying that every album was made with such care, but sometimes they were and sometimes when they were made like that, something would click and it was that ephemeral connection that a listener could share with the music, would make the album special. And sometimes the reverse would happen, the songs would appear to be great, but the album would never rise to be greater than the sum of its parts.

U2 Achtung Baby

It was wonderful to discover music in such a way. To listen to songs in sequence, the way the artist had meant it to be. I would even now feel lost if I heard Achtung Baby or Automatic for the People out of sequence, because that is the way the connection was established in my head for those albums.

And the loss of an album would feel greater too. When The Bends became overplayed and the sound started wavering, or the spool of Reveal broke, it felt as if I had lost a dear friend.

Sometimes some albums required you to invest yourself, rather than be instantly friendly. Some songs are obtuse that ways, but some albums that contain a majority of such songs are even more difficult to like on first or the tenth listens. Such was the case for me with Zooropa, an under rated gem of an album. But such albums, eventually are longer lasting.

With the advent of digital music, slowly there occurred a shift in my listening habits. There was no longer a chance of overplaying a particular favourite song, or having the need to sit through a complete album to get to it. I gradually understood, that I needn’t hear the songs that I didn’t like from an album, I could also quickly compose a playlist of songs that I liked the most from various albums, and mix and merge, unlike the limited possibilities offered by a mix tape.

It was now songs which became the primary focus, rather than albums. Singles over LP’s, ignoring the time and energy the artists must have spent in getting the song sequence exactly right for what they intended from a particular album. I am not judging the new ways, but I do still sometimes feel nostalgia for the time when you would gradually grow familiar with complete albums rather than have an instant fix whenever, wherever available.

Written by Rishi

May 6, 2010 at 1:23 am

Posted in Observations

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A Bit of This and A Byte of That!

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This time last year, I was faced with a dilemma. I was given a choice between Hyderabad and Mumbai as my joininglocation after finishing up with my studies. To most people, it wasn’t a choice at all. Mumbai is the financial capital of the country, it is the city of dreams, a city teeming with opportunities, a place where people from all over the country merge together to build something new. But the Mumbai’s famed high cost of living and the difficulty of commuting to and from the workplace were weighing down on me.  The final decision although, was made based on which offices and which city would offer better long-term career prospects for an IT consultant.

So I landed up in Hyderabad, knowing little but what I heard from friends who themselves had just been kids when they had last been here. My most immediate contact was through William Dalrymple’s book, which I have to admit, I haven’t still read in full, and that book was about a city 200 years in the past. Or through the few references that I still remembered from old hindi movies, where the Hyderabadi character was played for laughs. All I could hope for was that parts of the city would be similar to Lucknow, a place I have always been fond of and parts similar to Delhi, which I am a little familiar with.

A new city is always difficult to get familiar to, but spending a year is usually enough to form some kind of an opinion on the character of the place. But Hyderabad has defied such classifications except for its self-evident dual nature. The cities of Secunderabad and Hyderabad, together commonly referred to as the twin cities, have been the cultural and administrative center of Andhra Pradesh. The dual nature has permeated into present day and has split the city along an unnatural divide. This seems to be the most significant present day trait of the place, as well.

The city, rather than, growing organically, seems to have split based on the desire of a few good men governing the state. The new shiny parts comprising the Hi-Tech city grew overnight willed by a mighty few and backed by big corporate moolah. This concrete jungle is as much a part of new India, as is Gurgaon or the multitudinous software parks blooming across the country. Even the locals were shocked to see its growth. Locals keep reminding me that I would have had to commute to my office through farm lands, just a decade back.

The glistening glass facades, the concrete high rises, the newly minted residential complexes all attest to the rapid rise of the hopes and dreams of the people, and the many empty buildings waiting to be occupied, to be decorated, to be completed are warnings as to how vapid those aspirations may be. The recent real estate bubble has taken the wind out of the sails of the construction industry, but the double-digit growth has been a fact, the industry is here to stay, and the people who have migrated have found a home.

But what of the people who have called this city a home for a millennia or more. That to me forms the tail of the picture, pun intended. What I would not give to live that culture, to have walked those streets like a local apprised of every nook and cranny, to have assimilated into the living, breathing entity that is old Hyderabad. That is the original, looking out at the shiny impostor, with hopes of one day benefiting from the new-found affluence of its usurper.

It is difficult for an outsider, especially who earns his livelihood from the IT industry at the heart of the new city, to ever become thus assimilated. We can only taste a part of the beauty or oddness of that archaic place but we are far too secure and far too distanced to be really ever affected by its motions. Even though the juxtaposition feels odd to someone like me, it may just be a fact of life for someone who has lived through the decade in Hyderabad.

PS: Now this may be a bit controversial, even after spending a year tasting local delicacies, my love of Awadhi cuisine is still greater, maybe its the distance in space and time that makes the heart grow fonder.

Written by Rishi

May 4, 2010 at 1:30 am

Posted in Observations

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