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Monday, October 15, 2007

movie talk

Vidhu Vinod Chopra seems to have lost it. After all this Eklayva nonsense, he's just shooting his mouth off. And Sajid Khan hasn't taken kindly to some of his rants. Read Khan's 'open letter' to Chopra.

And going back, here's an interesting interviewChopra did with Tehelka back in June.

"Last rites of a pianful career," surmised a friend at the office.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Snippets cont'd ...

I was flying back to India after watching the two semi-finals of the 1999 cricket World Cup and the line for check-in at Heathrow was, as expected, full with plenty of Indians.

This particular line included a sizeable Punjabi contingent, ranging from crying infants to bow-legged grandparents. This distinguished family, joint and double-jointed (okay, bad pun), was clearly too overwhelming for the pretty young British lady behind the counter, evident by her flustered look at having to handle a dozen tickets at one time and struggling to understand the different accents.

I noticed quickly that each of those Punjabis, from toddler to aged, had a British passport. What seemed to compound the young lady’s hassles was the fact that the elderly, dressed in typical Indian attire, couldn’t speak great English despite being in the UK for a long time. I watched, amused and admired, by the way she handled the situation. After checking all the passports and tickets, she let them all pass and took a brief second to take a deep breath and collect herself.

As she looked up and saw me standing there, she put on her best smile and did the whole hi-how-are-we-today routine, extending her hand to take my passport and ticket. I could’ve been wrong, but her look suggested that she was relieved to see a white dude who looked like he was just heading over to India as a tourist.

But that evaporated into shock when I smiled back and handed her an Indian passport.

“Oh my…” was her reaction. “Now that’s a first!”

A dozen Punjabis, both naturalized and born Brits, chattering between themselves in boisterous Punjabi, followed by a white dude with an Indian passport. I think she’d seen it all that day.

She checked me through in about three seconds.

Friday, October 12, 2007

"India is great!"

It was the night India beat Pakistan to win the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa. After wrapping up my ball-by-ball duties I headed out with a friend to pick up something to drink on the way to a colleague’s house.

It was getting close to 10.30 and we were worried the liquor shops would be shutting. We found a place on some seedy back lane and stopped the office car. My friend goes up to the hole in the wall and quickly places the order. There were a few chaps standing around the counter and I stood on the pavement.

Suddenly an old man stumbled out and faced me. Oh great, I thought. He sizes me up and stepped forward.

“India is great!” he cheers, reeking of the good stuff. "India won match!"

I have no option but to agree with him, but his next line is classic, after looking at me somewhat pitifully and extending his hand to shake mine.

“America … America also good ... but India is great!”

My friend hears this and turns around and grins goofily. He’s seen me confronted by legends before, curious to know where I’m from.

“India is great,” I say. “Fantastic victory tonight.”

The man comes closer, stooping over, and raises a crooked finger in my face.

“India ... very good win … World Cup … twenty year … last time India won match … Kapil Dev captain … now Dhoni … best … India is best …”

I try my best not to disrespect what he’s saying but my friend has completely lost it behind the old drunk.

“Yes, Dhoni is great,” I offer.

My friend gets his change and signals that we get out of here as a gang of motorcyclists, waving the Indian flag and honking their horns, screech past us on the almost deserted street. But the old man won’t let me go. I finally turn my back and force myself into the office car even as the old man tries jogging behind it.

“India is great!” he cries out as we pull off.

Yes, India really is great.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Another snippet ...

I commuted from home to work and for a year in Bombay before moving to Bangalore. That included a five-minute walk to the station, a wait of anywhere between two and ten minutes for the fast train, an 18 to 30-minute travel thereafter, if all went well, and anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes in an auto rickshaw from my stop to the office.

As you can imagine, a white guy in a compartment of a local train will draw attention. I won't go into the gory details of what it was like on a packed evening, or the foul stuff I would hear from the obligatory loafers, but there were some funny incidents during that year of traveling on the Bombay trains.

I was coming home one evening, from Andheri to Bombay Central, and met a friendly sardarji. Now I’m totally used to being gawked at when I step – or leap, as often the case was – into a first-class compartment and this time was no different. Except that said paape, in designer jeans and snazzy white and black t-shirt and carrying a couple large shopping bags with salwar-kameezes and silk, was looking over quizzically at me. He was standing against the wall and I made my way past him and took a seat on one of the corner benches.

He watched for a few minutes and then sidled up and plunked himself down next to me. I’ve often cranked up the volume on my trusty iPod to avoid random conversation, and I attempted the same this time, looking out the paan-stained window.

“Hello, friend!”

I heard him, but didn’t acknowledge.

“Hello…” and a tap on the shoulder.

I nod.

“Which country?”

I put on my best annoyed face and remove my earphones, asking him to repeat the question. He does, all too eagerly, and I go with India.

He makes a face. “No, which country you from?”

Again, India, I say.

He’s not buying it. “Where do you live?”

“Bombay.”

Now he smiles. “Oh ho, but which country your family from?”

I tell him I was born in India and I work in Bombay.

“Very good, very good.”

I look back at suburban Bombay whizzing past. I can feel his eyes on me.

After a few minutes he chirps up again. “I’m from Canada.”

It sounds like Kan-e-daa. I smile.

“I am here on holiday.”

‘That’s nice,” I say. He’s not going to let me get away that easily.

“You from America?”

I decide to go wide. “No, I’m from France. But have lived in India for many years.”

“Oh good, good.” Pause. “I live in Canada.” Now he’s slipped seamlessly into an American accent.

I smile, again.

“I have business there. Been there 18 years.”

“Wow, that’s good.” All I want to do is listen to my music and try an unwind after a busy day. Now everyone sitting near us has tuned in. Some enthu-cutlets have leaned forward to hear what I have to say. I don’t want to be rude. Where is the next stop?

He looks at me and continues smiling, fascinated by this creature sitting next to him. Have I suddenly sprung antlers, I wonder?

“I live near Niagara Falls. You’ve been there?”

“Never heard of it.”

Now he’s stunned. But it works. Up he gets, grasping the sidebar and making his way near the exit. Within seconds the train reaches Dadar station and he alights.

A few people continue to stare, but its back to me and my iPod again.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Snippets from my life, part 1

Okay, so I hear there's some interest in these pages. Apologies for not regularly updating them. Been travelling for work and had other stuff to sort out.

I've had to answer a lot of questions recently, while covering games in Delhi, Bangalore and Cochin, as to where I'm actually from, how I came to India, how I learnt Hindi, yadda yadda yadda ... but the most interesting one I got was 'whats the funniest incident you've had in India?'

Now there have been many, too many to recall even at the ripe old age of 26, but I'll try and sort out a few classics. Today on the way to work I caught an auto inside the Manipal Hospital compound as always (you never know what sort of autowala youre going to have to deal with each day here in Bangalore) and the chap who acknowledged my wish to go to MG Road with some sort of grunt looked normal enough. Except his auto chugged along at about 15 kilometres an hour down Airport Road as the rest of the world, cyclists included, whizzed past. Now I had actually left the house earlier than I needed to, so at first I just cranked up the iPod and said chalo, lets not let this bother you.

After about five minutes though I said boss, can we please step on it a bit, to which he turns his head slightly and mumbles something about having just put in new "borings" and that he'd had trouble last evening at 7pm when the auto gave him trouble, and that he had to drive slowly to test the "borings" out and that he couldnt have more than two passengers at one time. I didnt really get all of it but just said okay, thats fine.

Two minutes later the inevitable, but with a twist. Not how or when did you learn to speak Hindi, but why do you speak Hindi?

Now I've answered this question in a few ways in the past - and I've had more fun answering where I'm from, because based on the person's intellectual level and probability of running into them you can really have go wild - but today I said I'd been in Bombay and picked it up there.

No reaction. "You speak Kannada as well?"

"No, I dont."

"You do one thing. You get this book, from the shop, which teaches you Hindi and Kannada. Get this book. It costs thirty rupees. Buy it from the shop. You will learn in one year. Excellent Kannada and Hindi."

"Uh huh."

"You buy this book today."

"Okay, I'll will."

A brief moment of silence. I'm itching to hit play on the iPod.

"What are your office hours?"

Again, I just keep it simple, not going into the different shifts we have. "I go at around 9.30."

"When do you come home?"

"7.30."

"Thats good. You read that book for two hours a day, every evening, and in six months you will speak very good Kanndada."

"I see."

And now, another common question asked by autowalas, I've learnt.

"Are you married?"

"No."

"Why?"

"Too early. There's time."

"How much time?"

"Two years."

A grunt. "And your brothers and sisters are married?"

"No." I dont bother to say my sister is just 21 and still in college.

"I've seen this with your type. Get someone, have fun, leave them and go to someone else. Why is this?"

"I have no idea." Whats my type anyways?

"No tell me, I've seen this plenty. Taking someone, having timepass, leaving them."

"I really dont know. Does it happen that much?"

"Yes, I've seen. Plenty. You should get married, have one person. Wife is life."

I start to chuckle but think better of it.

"You see .. whats your name by the way?"

"Jamie."

"Huh?"

"JAY-MEEE".

"Jimmy? Okay okay."

"So you see, Im married, I have one wife."

"Well, thats just great."

"I dont need to go running around anywhere. Im set. If you go elsewhere you can get AIDS and then life is screwed."

"Yes, totally."

Another pause as we come to a traffic light. "Where are you from?"

"America."

"Whats your jaat?"

"My jaat?"

Now he turns around and faces me. "Are you Muslim?"

"No..."

"Chinese?"

Now I cant hold back a laugh. I collect myself. I just say the first thing that comes to mind. "Christian."

"Okay."

I'm glad he approves. The light turns green and we purr along towards my office.

"You get that book, okay? Buy it today."

"Yes, I'll do that."

Another pause, for a few moments.

"Theres more of your type out in Yellahanka."

"I see."

"Yes, some 500 houses have been built out there. There's plenty of your type."

I nod and tell him to stop just ahead near the office gate. I pay him. He takes the money and puts it in his shirt pocket. Then he looks up.

"What did I tell you? Get that book."

And with that, he putters up the street.