Archive for July, 2009

Seen on the street

July 21, 2009

The cultural khichdi in Calcutta is a bit spicier than I previously believed. Charming nonetheless.

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Tales from Rhinoland

July 13, 2009

Finally, my much- procrastinated article on Rhinoland is over. Personally, I never like writing about vacations, but I quite liked this place, and the experience was too memorable to be left unrecorded.

The very first thing I noticed about the place was that there were no Rhinos. Well, not for a while, at least. The trails in the jungle were a bit difficult to tread, and they really added to the whole experience. Every tree, bird, bush and blade of grass was spectacular, but it was the watering- holes that I liked most of all. You could almost see a motley herd of animals out there: elephants bathing with the aid of their built-in showers, storks drinking through their elegant ballerina- like necks, and the odd ugly rhino, disturbing the harmony of it all.

During the whole experience of taking in so very much of nature, I couldn’t stop myself from taking pictures. I am not really a photography nut (as evidenced by my average photography), but for the few days I spent there, I became one. In particular, I took to taking pictures of the many nameless wild flowers that filled up the place, mostly the ones that were withering. I’m not a flower person, but the image of a wild, nameless, withering flower- once beautiful, now in it’s twilight, struck me as almost poetic.

But the best bit was the Elephant. Looking at Rhinos and flowers and trees is pretty ordinary; it was the elephant ride that I’ll always remember. We sat on it quite precariously, and it took us deep into the jungle, easily ambling through territory which no car can tread. We saw the real bits of the jungle- all of its raw beauty, it’s birds and it’s beasts. And even it’s bugs. The mahout kept telling me about his many adventures with larger elephants, but I was more interested in this one. Lakshmi the elephant was forty years old, a mother of four. “Two of her sons are abroad”, said the mahout, with the slightest hint of pride. Lakshmi too, picked up her chin a little, seemingly proud of her children who had found a place for themselves in cages across the oceans.

Before I dismounted, the mahout told me that many people sell elephants, and a baby was worth about 8 lakh rupees today. I thought about that for a while. If I live in the jungle when I’m older, should I buy a Range Rover or an Elephant? For all of it’s impracticalities, the elephant will provide me with a higher ground clearance, so speed bumps on the road won’t be an issue any more. I think I’ll risk being compared to Rajesh Khanna in ‘Hathi Mere Sathi’.

These are a few of my (least) favorite things

July 9, 2009

The other day, while channel- surfing, I came across a movie called DOA. No, this is not some American hospital movie that features crying doctors with DOA= Dead On Arrival. Here, DOA stands for Dead Or Alive. It took me about 30 seconds into the movie to realize exactly what it was. It was a movie based on a video- game.

For those who are unaware of such films, most of them (especially those directed by a critic- punching German named Uwe Boll) are maajar flops. Most Uwe Boll flms, in fact, ended up in the IMDB worst 100 list. And DOA isn’t based on just any video game. The game that inspired the film belongs to a genre of games that some of us like to call chick- boxing. In case you didn’t get that, picture women in chuddies having catfights, except that they don’t slap each other and start crying.

I watched the entire movie, and was a bit disappointed. You see, it wasn’t quite as awful as I had hoped. Most of my friends would know that I take great pride in watching the worst films ever made. Among the worst that I saw in the last few years were Deshdrohi (that Bhojpuri movie), Love Story 2050 (that film with a Hrithik Roshan look alike fighting evil with fluorescent tubes that almost resemble light sabers), and Aap Ka Suroor (the less said the better).

However, the title of worst film ever watched by me goes to a movie that transcends everything mentioned above: one that is a cut below, in a league of its own, completely out of sight of every other film ever made. IMDB lists it as #26 on the list of worst movies ever, but I call it #1.

This film is Hobgoblins. I cannot begin to express how bad it was. The closest I can come to is this: have you ever seen a warthog? If you have, haven’t you noticed that these disgusting creatures are so incredibly ugly, that they almost seem beautiful. It was the same for me: the movie was so bad that I almost liked it.

The characters consisted of : Loserboy, the male lead (imagine that loser who plays lead in Transformers, times 10); Loserboy’s Cold Hearted bitchy girlfriend; Horny boy and his girlfriend Horny girl, whose only role was to make crude double entendres. And Idiot boy, whose girlfriend was Vamp girl (who looked villainous but not very womanly. She resembled Robert Plant in concert- leather pants and all).

But the worst bit of all was Loserboy’s car: it looked like a Chevrolet Camarro. And it was colored violet. Imagine that! No wonder everybody hated the movie. It wasn’t so bad, had it not been for the sacrilegious presentation of a violet muscle car.

Off late though, movies haven’t quite been down to that mark set 22 years ago by Hobgoblins: they just aren’t all that bad anymore. Fear not though, for the long awaited sequel to the great movie- Hobgoblins 2, is finally out! Their tagline warns potential movie watchers: ‘Don’t say we didn’t warn you!’. And the sequel has lived up to the original, with an IMDB rating of 2.4/10. This I have to watch. It might be the worst film ever.

On second thought, it can’t possibly be worse than that new Transformers movie.

Federer won… or did he?

July 7, 2009

Sure, he is the greatest player ever. But for me, Roddick was the real winner. Ahem… a bit of history, before I delve straight into my arguments about why Roddick won.

September/ October 2003: Andy Roddick, age 20, wins the US Open, and goes on to become one of the youngest ever Men’s World Number 1 players. Roddick, who was called the natural successor to Pete Sampras (mostly by Americans) due to his powerful grass court game, seemed destined for great things.

And why not? He had the most powerful serve and forehand in the game, and was an incredibly hard worker, which was evident from how fast his backhand and his net game was improving.

June/ July 2004: Roger Federer, now World number 1, faces off against Number 2 Andy Roddick in the final at Wimbledon. Roddick completely shatters the defending champion’s game in the first set, winning it. But it rained. And the game was stopped.

Federer returns from the rain break, revitalised. He moves into a higher gear, and destroys Roddick’s game in the next three sets. After losing, Roddick gives the crowd a display of sportsmanship and humour in equal measures, by joking about plans to crash the party at the Wimbledon Champion’s Ball, and to check out Maria Sharapova.

Over the next few years, Federer would go on to beat Roddick infinite times. Roddick’s ranking dropped, but never outside the top 10.

What I always loved most about watching any match between the two, was the fact that there was so much talent on offer, and such contrasting styles of play. People used to love Sampras, the serve and volleyer Vs. Agassi, the baseliner. But Federer vs. Roddick was beyond that- Federer, the artist, would use his racquet like a paintbrush; Roddick, the powerful Texan, would use his own like a sledgehammer. Unfortunately, the rivalry did not fulfil it’s promise- Federer was just too good. Or perhaps, he had become a bit of a mental block for Roddick.

Watching a good, hard- fought match between the two was wonderful, and despite what the scorebord might say, Roddick emerged the winner on the day. He finally succeeded in bringing Federer to his knees, after years of trying. What a match!

Transcontinental Thrash

July 3, 2009

I often feel quite jealous of Europeans, because they live in Europe and I don’t. And that just isn’t fair.

Before we jump into it, this post isn’t really all me moaning on and on about corruption in India or the educational system or anything of that sort.

This is about how Europe is just so full of countries, all conveniently located next to each other and well connected by road, so that you can just drive down on the weekend to Switzerland, or the south of France, or wherever. Which in India, is pretty difficult.

A drive down to Pakistan (if the Paki authorities would permit such a thing) would mean risking being shot at by terrorists; a drive down to Nepal would mean risking getting shot at by Maoists; Burma is under a military rule which makes it less attractive to go to, and China would mean having to cross way too many mountains.

So the only remaining option is Bhutan.  And I went there.

The first thing you notice is that the roads are all better. The Chinese built them, or so I hear. The second thing you notice is the number of dragons. Petrol pumps are painted with dragons, trucks have dragons rather than the traditional Indian ‘Buri nazar wale tera muh kala’, and so does every shop. The third thing you notice is how similar to India the place is. I paid a shopkeeper in Indian rupees, and he gave me my change in Bhutanese money.

My point about the whole thing is: there’s nothing like driving down to discover a place you’ve never been to, and it’s an experience that I do know a bit about.

Driving to Kutch a few years ago was a great experience: I know, on a map it looks just like a crappy desert, but it’s a wonderful place. Whenever I tell people that I saw wild asses in Kutch, they just laugh, wondering why anybody would want to see such a ridiculous sounding creature. But these beasts were powerful, almost majestic- a bit like zebras, except that they were ugly. What’s more, they were quick enough to keep up with a car.

Ultimately, I have to say that flying or even traveling by train is so much more dependent, less adventurous, less fun, and most importantly, it’s like looking a place up in the map rather than really knowing it.

For me, exploring Europe has always been a dream I’d love to fulfill, but not before the experience of sitting in a big 4×4 and driving across as much of South Asia as possible. That’s at the top of my ‘To Do’ list now.