Shelter from the Storm

The past week has been eventful bordering on miserable.

On Tuesday, me and Sarker decided to get buy a postpaid cellular connection. We took Gutri along so that we could give a billing address in Punjab and simplify matters.

Irony strikes again.

When Airtel called up Gutri’s house to verify the billing address, Gutri’s father told them on no account to give his son a cellphone. Naturally, the connection wasn’t activated.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaarggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Now that the primal scream is out of the way, here’s where things stand. After a whole week of trying to make Gutri’s parents get the idea through their skulls that me and Sarker will be making all the calls, paying all the bills, and have involved Gutri purely to simplify billing matters, we still don’t have an active cellular connection. Calling long distance from PCOs is exhausting our funds, and trying to explain matters to Airtel and Gutri’s family is exhausting our patience. In the words of the philosopher Whatshisname- Shit, yaar.

Wait, there’s more.

The weather was awful.

It wasn’t just that after a single day of sunshine, it returned to being chilly and overcast. Oh no. It wet the whole hog. Ir rained. Foul rain. Rain blattering down in great sheets, as if Rob McKenna was making a detour through Punjab. From Wednesday night to Saturday midnight, I’ve been forced to walk in soaked suede shoes. It’s a blessing I haven’t caught a cold.

Ah, but you want the icing on the cake? Or, perhaps more appropriately, the karela slices with the baingan? I was thrown out of my Compilers lab on Thursday.

And why? Simply because in the joy of discovering the reason why my program wasn’t running, I clapped my hands together in glee. Immediately the lab instructor, an ME student already famous for taang-adaofying, descended on me like the “Assyrian with his cohorts all gleaming in red and gold coming down upon like a wolf upon the sheep in the fold”.

I am the first person to agree that in the normal course of things, people are not so demonstrative about their joy at finding the last bug as to clap their hands together. Indeed, most of them aren’t even joyous about it. They just set about with a grim determination to find the last bug, and track it down without emotion. Silent, methodical, efficient, and yes, a little horrible.

All the same, to throw me out for the next three labs simply for clapping my hands, something I’ve been doing in labs for the past five years, is monstrous injustice. It’s all very well from people like the resident idiot and the verbal terrorist to go on about globalisation and imperialism, but have they ever considered the misery that ME students go about spreading? Bah.

And yet, it’s all good.

I’m home now. I am like a battered little boat that emerges through a storm and pulls into a safe berth in a sheltered harbour. Here, there is chocolate, and cheese, and homemade gaajar-gobi ka achaar, and German garlic.

Today I had a hot water shower after ten days. I used herbal soap and shampoo, and then I had a haircut and coconut oil head massage and shave.

In the words of the philosopher Droopy Dog- I’m happy.

The Body as a Temple

If bodies are temples, mine would be the sort that’s had no worshipers for a few centuries, is falling into disrepair, and needs large and concerted efforts to restore it to former magnificence.

My trousers no longer fit. Wait, that’s not accurate. At no point of time in the last four years have my trousers ever fit. But in the first three years of my bachelors this was because they were too loose. And you can blame that on lowest-cost hostel food cooked by a bunch of Nepalians.

Now, though, they’re too tight. Far too tight.

This is because for the past one year I have been eating out much more than I did before. Also, I’ve become addicted to Nutyumz- peanuts coated in fried besan flour, for the uninitiated. And eating like a pirzewinning pig during the winter vacations didn’t exactly help either. One night, after having a regular dinner- two paranthas, dal, sabzi of some sort, dahi, and gaajar ka halwa, I went on to eat half an 8 inch pizza, the better part of a calzone, and half a serving of cheese garlic bread. And that was just one night.

But mostly it’s due to eating dinners out with Gutri for the past semester. Gutri’s vegetarian, so I was constrained to order only vegetable dishes whenever I was going out with him. In the process, I became addicted to cream. Methi malai matar, jalfrezi sabzi, navratan korma, and all those other preparations that are considered incomplete in Patiala unless they’re floating in a sea of malai.

To exacarbate matters- if that’s the spelling I’m looking for- since third year I’ve been using rickshaws instead of walking. So, I haven’t even been burning up all that malai I’ve been taking in.

But enough is enough now. Now, I’ve start walking again. And I’m pleased to report that this past week my cargos don’t dig in the way they used to. There’s a way to go yet.

Besides the Battle of the Bulge, there’s another disturbing sign. One of the bristles in my upper lip region has turned white, in defiance of conventions, which states that your head goes gray first, and then your face follows.

Now, my head is as black and comely as it ever was. Unlike my brother’s, which is thinning as well as graying, but that’s another story. But I have this annoying little white bristle, scarcely noticeable from a distance, but which sticks out like a Lunar magnetic anomaly whenever I look in a mirror. Bah.

I blame this on passive smoking. No more hanging out in Trehan’s room from now on. Hopefuly it’ll turn out to be a freak, a stray incident.

I have a lab in half an hour. I must rush.

Those were my vacations and these are my plans

I’m suffering from a deranged sleep cycle. Couldn’t get to sleep until half past five this morning, after which I slept until ten to ten and missed my IT lab- again. Wonderful.

Sleep’s still trying to catch up with me, and I’m in no position to write on stuff I’d like to write on- relatives, rudeness, why Arundhati Roy is an idiot, my latest nostalgia attack, you know, that kind of stuff. So, to prevent writer’s block from building up, here’s a general update on what I’ve accomplished and what I plan to do.

Here’s the status report on my projects for the winter vacation:

  1. Study for the CAT and XAT: Accomplished. I’ve been studying quant, and I’ve raised my score in the practice tests by about six marks. As for the XAT, I gave it and the score should come through Any Day Now.
  2. Meet People: Partially accomplished. I did meet a lot of friends and relatives, but not all of them. On the other hand, I did have a fantastic New Year’s Eve with people I hadn’t met for over five years, so it’s almost all good.
  3. Movies: Unsuccessful. Did not watch Kill Bill. I did watch Munnabhai MBBS, though.
  4. Obtain driver’s license: Accomplished. I am now licensed to ki^H^Hdrive a light motor vehicle anywhere in India.
  5. Update Project Sonali: Abandoned. Out of sheer laziness. The new deadline is February 8. Features to be implemented- RSS feeds, email digests, drafts, and general bugfixes.
  6. Second Language: Unsuccessful. The only weekend course available is 7.3 kilorupees for a semester of German, and a semster is just not enough.
  7. Transcriptions: Unsuccessful. Everything I wanted to or could transcribe, Project Gutenberg already had. Phooey.

Now, here is the current situation of my life.

I have no job. My CGPA is not bad, but it’s not good either. Mediocre sums it up. My future therefore depends on my ability to successfully write my MBA entrance exams. The CAT is twenty seven days away, and who knows what might happen? Yes, my preparation is good. Yes, I can crack the CAT now. But yes, I am a pawn of fate.

There is one other avenue open to me- an adventurous, unconventional, and probably lunatic shot at off campus placement. Won’t go into details just yet.

So, here’s what I will do over the rest of the semester:

  • Really, really enjoy my courses. I have cool courses this semester. My CGPA isn’t going to rise spectacularly. So, I might as well study for the love of the course instead of for grades now.
  • Crack the CAT. Receive calls from IIM-A, B and C, as I resolved a year ago. Convert those calls. As long as there aren’t any excessively nasty surprises along the way, I can do it.
  • Read. My courseload is the lowest ever- I have a thirty hour week. In my free time, then, I should expolit Biblio and Project Gutenberg to the hilt. This semester, I start Shaespeare!
  • Learn to drive a motorcycle.
  • Stop being mean to ShrutiG.

That’s that. Let’s see how things work out.

Coffee Bars III

Horror of horrors! A Cafe Coffee Day has opened in Patiala!

I can imagine regular readers raising an eyebrow. Some might even raise two. Surely, they feel, after his earlier paeans to coffee bars, one would expect Aadisht to be pleased that there is now one in Patiala. Furthermore, a Cafe Coffee Day, which has managed to maintain quality, instead of a Barista which hasn’t; or a Qwiky’s, which never had it to begin with. Why, then, this sudden grouse?

Well, yes, I like coffee and coffee bars. I particularly like Cafe Coffee Day, especially since you can sit on wide sofas instead of the tiny wooden stools that are there at Barista. But, I just happen to like Patiala more. That means that I like it the way it is.

I enjoy the fact that the crazy denizens of Patiala, given time, would have come up with their own coffee bar, with a style (or lack thereof) its very own. Coffee served with banana shakes, or coffee flavoured lassi, or something even more bizarre. The point is, it would have been Patialvi, and the Patialvis would have fitted in with it.

But Cafe Coffee Day, for all its charms- including the free books you can take and read with your coffee, will not meld with Patiala. Let me rephrase that. I doubt very much that it will meld with Patiala.

What will happen instead is that hordes of sardars and puppies will descend on it in their LML Vespas and Hero Honda CBZs and yellow Santros. They’ll go inside and compare their mobile ringtones. Small sardar and sardarni children will run about and raise Cain. Quel horreur!

I sound like an elitist bastard in the above paragraph. After all, I think that the yellow Santro driving, ringtone exchanging, and small sardars are part of Patiala’s charm when they stay in Gopals Family Restaraunt. But why this sudden squeamishness the moment they enter a nationwide chain that is itself a replica of an American business model?

OK, there might be elitism at the subconscious level, but I can’t do anything about that. More than that, though, it’s the context of coffee bars, that I’ve already discussed in Coffee Bars II. Over the past four years I’ve grown to appreciate Patiala for its reckless and unabashed Punjabi nature. But just the same, over the past five years I’ve grown to appreciate coffee bars for being excellent places to hang out with friends old and new, discuss matters of import, and, well, yes, look at girls in tank tops. No doubt in an another five years I would come to enjoy the Punjabification of Cafe Coffee Day, too.

As things stand, though, I have only five months left here. So I’m staying an elitist bastard for now.

Huffin’ and Puffin’

My hard drive -the one with all my music and saved IM conversations and photos and stuff- has crashed. I’m not in grief, though; it’s happened so many times before that I’ve grown accustomed to it. I now know that I will be able to build by music collection back, and similarly the videos. Losing the photos is slightly more annoying, but I’m sure I can get those back too. No, I have taken this in my stride.

Almost.

Now that my cache of more than two thousand mp3s is inaccessible, the music I can listen to is limited to ninety songs that I took from Ishaan the night before the disk crashed. And- here’s the rub- nine of those ninety songs are ones that have been picturised on Shammi Kapoor. What this means is that with WinAmp on shuffle mode, every tenth song I listen to will be a Shammi Kapoor song.

That’s the theoretical ideal case. In reality, WinAmp’s shuffle is pseudorandom, not random. So it has a fondness for one particular song, which I am sure most of you will be familiar with. It goes like this:

(Percussion intro)
(Guitar Intro)
(Trumpet Intro)
(Mouth Organ Intro)

Kis!
Kis kis!
Kisko! Kisko!

Kisko Pyaar Karoon?
Kaise Pyaar Karoon?
Kisko Pyaar Karoon?
Kaise Pyaar Karoon?

Tu Bhi Hai! Yeh Bhi Hai! Woh Bhi Hai!

Haaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiii!

Let me get things straight. I’m not ranting here. I don’t dislike the song. I’m not sick of it. I love it. If WinAmp wants me to listen to Kisko Pyaar Karoon three times an hour, that’s fine with me. I whoop and holler and sing along. In my more daring moments, I get up and do the twist.

But that isn’t all. I am now so infected with the spirit of the Swinging Sixties that when I go out to get a haircut some time in the next two weeks, I will ask the barber to give me a Shammi Kapoor puff.

Opinions on the Shammi-cut’s suitability for me are sharply divided. Ma is horrified at the idea. Manasvini says it’ll suit me. Manav was opposed to the idea until I brought up the topic of his earlier invitation to Damini, after which point he was only too eager to agree to anything I said.

There is something to be said for the puff. It epitomises joie de vivre. It will bring out my exuberance, which has been latent lately. As a style statement, it’s cheaper and more easily available than flawlessly ironed trousers, a tightly rolled umbrella, a top hat, and spats. It might even attract members of the opposite sex.

On the other hand, the puff also has its disadvantages. It’s difficult to maintain. To pull it off, you require a certain measure of boyish good looks, and mine have been vanishing due to the combined depredations of professional education, an overzealous orthodontist, and the constant company of sardars. The puff is more dated than digital wristwatches, and there is always the terrible possibility that the only members of the opposite sex it will attract will be hockey players named Meena, Reena, Tina, or Leena.

To puff or not to puff, then, is a decision not to be taken lightly. You comments and advice would be welcome.

Time Out… Cut it Out!

The best Instant Messenger conversations take place after midnight, but that’s only when there’s actually someone to talk to. I don’t know what you do if you’re up at that time without food to eat or an improving book to read, but, me, personally, I start Google searching for names from the past.

Look what I found this week: www.sunnysingh.net

If you bother to click the link, you’ll find out that this is the website of an Indian-origin writer called Sunny Singh who’s doing her PhD at the University of Barcelona. It invites you to downlaod Sunny Singh wallpapers, buy books by Sunny Singh, and read the reviews of her books and plays.

What this website does not tell you is that for about half a year in the spring and summer of 1999, Sunny Singh was a substitute teacher in Modern School, Vasant Vihar- my old school. She is also the brother of Sidharth Singh, who… but we won’t go into that.

Many of my teachers have been eccentric; Sunny Singh’s distinctiveness lay in raising the bar for creative looniness. She wasn’t just loony by herself, she carried an aura of inasnity about with her that infected all in the classroom from the moment she entered and shouted “Time out… cut it out!”, which was how her classes would invariably start.

Let me clarify a point here- Sunny Singh was not my substitute English teacher. She was Ishaan and Balram and Madhav and kMac’s. But her classes were so interesting that I used to bunk mine to attend English with these blokes.

This came about in the following way. Sunny Singh set XI-A a writing composition- a paragraph on the most eccentric teacher who had ever taught them. At the time, XI-A didn’t know Sunny Singh all that well, or they would probably have written about her. As it happens, they all decided to write about Naomi’s dad, Mr. Satish Chandra. Naomi, embarassed, persuaded Sunny Singh to change the topic to the most eccentric student they knew.

That was where I came in. On Wednesday, Sunny Singh was submitted forty paragraphs, all on Aadisht Khanna. On Monday, Ishaan took me to the XI-A classroom to exhibit me as a sort of visual demonstration to accompany me to his paragraph- Aadisht Khanna, the walking talking android from Mars.

That class was very interesting.

It rapidly became a three way contest for attention between Ishaan (who was trying to show me off to the class), Sunny Singh (who was trying to get XI-A to appreciate an article written on exotic diets), and Balram (who was trying to exoticise his own diet by biting Zubin).

That, in fact, was actually one of the tamer classes.

In other classes, the diversions would include Balram giving Zubin menacing looks, Zubin squealing in terror: “Maaaaaaaaaaaaa’am! Balram’s looking at me!”, Vikram hitting Rishi on the head with his chunky stainless steel watch, and, of course, the note passing incident.

It all started with Rohan Manocha passing notes to Prakriti Shukla. I don’t remember what was actually written on the notes, but it was something Prakriti used to be quite offended by. She tolerated it for a day, two days, a week. And then she snapped. She passed Rohan Manocha a note back. And as her luck would have it, that note was intercepted by Sunny Singh.

Sunny Singh opened the note and read it out to the whole class. It read thus:

“You piece of shit, if you pass another one of those notes, I’ll shove it up your fat ass.”

The class never really recovered after that.

After that, I saw her on the last day before the summer vactions, when she extended us an open invitation to come and listen to her reading out the draft of her debut novel, Nani’s Book of Suicides, and then again, of all times, at MODEM, when she told me to calm down and not worry too much about things going wrong. Excellent advice, in retrospect.

And now, four years later, I find out about her on the Internet. It’s a funny old world.

Thanksgiving

This is cheesy, but the blogosphere is full of cheese as it is. So, for the new year, here’s what I’m thankful for- in no particular order.

  • I am thankful that I started talking to my batchmates again.
  • … that I went through with two very major projects this year- CAT preparation and the Mod Quiz- without losing interest or quitting.
  • … that my dad isn’t as tense about business as he was halfway through 2003.
  • … that the summer of 2003 was mild, the monsoon of 2003 was well behaved, and that the winter of 2003 wasn’t foggy.
  • … that Shiv and Kunal have been accepted to Stanford and Harvard, that Manasvini is likely getting a job, that Rukhein has got a job at Salomon Smith Barney, that Ishaan has got an internship where he will- as Bhaiyya puts it- build bigger and better mammaries, that Mridu, Mallika, and Rabani have great jobs, and that Baldy, Ishaan, Asim, Meenakshi and many other people- too numerous to mention- are enjoying their stay at college so much.
  • … for the Matrix movies.
  • … for the Theory of Computation and the existence of language.
  • … that I no longer feel a sense of deprivation when I see other people with girlfriends.
  • … that I made new friends this year.
  • … for the British sense of humour, British accents and British swear words.
  • … for comic books.
  • … for the Biblio membership plan.
  • … that Project Gutenberg gives me books for free.
  • … for good food, including methi malai matar, catfish and salmon, cornflakes with chocolate chip cookies, chocolate that is not American, and Nutyumz.
  • … that aadisht.net has such an awesome PageRank at Google.
  • … for dimples.
  • … for my new MP3 player, and for good music.
  • … that the Fillet on British swear words led to a cartoonist contacting me, which led to me supplying Punjabi swear words for a British comic strip.
  • … that Delhi is becoming so much better to live in, and that India nowadays is like what England must have been when the Industrial Revolution kicked off.
  • … that I can finally drive, and that my driver’s license allows me to buy my own cellular connection.
  • … that I got to spend New Year’s Eve with seniors I admire and respect, some of whom I was seeing after more than five years.
  • … that those same seniors seem not to have changed at all.
  • … that this list ends here.