Saints n Sinners

The church premises was unusually crowded this evening. But then I remembered its Thursday, the special day the patron saint of the church listens to matchmaking requests from the sinners. So lads from across the town and neighboring asylums travel to the church with handful of candles and garlands. I am not sure whether the garlands signify a wreathe on personal freedom or the candles represent the willingness to melt away under the asks and hypocrisies of paired life. Anyway the point is not to show marriage under bad light, but to think loud on this Tuesdays-for-saint-Walnut, Wednesdays-for-saint-Coconut business.

First it was the division of labor " Mr. Walnut has been declared a saint today, he will take over from St. Coconut the growing-hair-on-bald-heads department. Henceforth all hairy requests..." That is understandable, how many prayers are godly possible for the Trinity and mother Mary to handle a day, especially in these days when the sinners are choosy on ala carte orders, like the Kardashian butt, Katie Price boobies, Natalie Portman smile all fitted into a 1945 Marilyn Monroe chassis? So it makes super sense to assign St. George to handle the reptiles and horses, considering his knowledge in horse riding and dragon slaying. But experience is not the sole criteria here I suppose, as we are talking more about curing headaches and not coaching the football team. Knowing that Dispirin is for headache while Aspirin is good for hangovers is good enough for most of the situations. And what matters most I think is the magical powers, which you anyway get like an honorary Doctorate by virtue of sainthood.

So, while delegation makes sense in a world of increased purchasing power, population and demanding customers, I am still not convinced about the special-day concept. Imagine this note on the heaven's notice board "St.Walnut is busy playing pool at the club, with St. Jobless and St. Anabelle on Mondays,Tuesdays and Thursdays. So he will not be available for consultations on Belching-and-Burping these days. Sinners are requested to try St. Jinglebell in case of Emergencies". After all, all work and no play will make Walnut a dull saint.

Unlike here on Earth, looks like Saturday is not holiday out there in heaven, there are quite a lot of saints available for consultation that day. This is perhaps part of the sinner-friendly policy of the heavens... letting us submit the requests en-masse on one of the holidays. Why else is Sunday the holiestest day of all? Followers of Satan might argue that it is to keep us away from the television sets, which broadcast blasphemous shows like Mythbusters and Attenborough on Evolution. We all know that The Simpsons (after the Vatican declared that they are a catholic family), any David Blaine show (he is now an official member of the 'Super Best Friends' after he defeated Jesus in that episode of Southpark) and concerts by 'Lamb of God' are the only sensible programs on TV these days.

Whatever be the truth in the above argument, I personally feel Sunday services are 'stimulating' and hence have definitely contributed to the increase in population. (No, I am not talking about folks who take seriously the Pastor's argument 'more children more stability' and do the needful). Someone once told that grief and remorse are the perfect aphrodisiacs. If that is true, after an hour of rituals and sermon, which in English translates to how big a sinner you are, and a whole day ahead with nothing substantial to do, you can imagine what couples might get creative at. Hallelujah!

We should try arranging Sunday masses to the African mammals whose population is fast dwindling (somebody from NatGeo or Animal Planet pokes their camera right in, every time a couple gets in the mood, so how the hell will the population increase!) Religion seems to me a great alternative in increasing their population and getting the 'Endangered Species' out of the Red Book. But the challenge would be in finding out a suitable story to make them feel bad about. Stealing apples .. you kidding?

Coming back to the point, most of us eagerly wait for the Friday to go to St. Bologna's church and request the death of our boss under a garbage truck, even at the risk of getting stampeded to death by the crowd. Like wilder-beast migration across the Serengity, everyone from far and around flocks around St. Bologna on Fridays with a death wish on their lips. I see the logic now... someone will definitely be dead on the spot at the end of the mad rush, or definitely later due to injuries sustained during the process... and some Dany Sinner's wish will thus be granted. It is in fact much simpler logic in case of the Dudes and the Dames who come looking for partners.. where else do you get all of them at one place to pick and choose from! The discos are a distant second option I say!

So who ever came up with this Designated-Days concept wasn't after all a

Ask and ye shall receive.. for real !

The men folk have long been accused of their inability/reluctance in asking for directions even when they are lost in the middle of nowhere. Jesus Christ himself once said 'Ask and ye shall receive', after he got lost in Jerusalem. This phenomenon has been nicknamed Ego, Arrogance, Stupidity and Irreverence-to-Information by Huang Sang, Plato, Hippopotamus, Virginia Wolf, Victoria Beckham and the like. Though it is advisable to ask, asking is not enough at times, as a friend of mine recently found out.

Both of us wanted to go for this fusion concert organized by Indian Council for Cultural Relations(ICCR) at the Gallery of Modern Art in Bangalore. It was mentioned in the press release that passes had to be collected from ICCR in advance. Already having an experience without passes a week ago, I did not want to take chances this time. My friend agreed to do the honors as he had to go that side of the town to pick up a few things in the morning. So as suggested by his holiness the omnicient Sri Sri Google, he went in search of ICCR @ #1, 12th Main, vasanth Nagar. Fortunately he stopped his bike right in front of building#4, 12th main... not a bad start. The building next to #4 had an address board saying #3, but to his amazement the next building was #32. He could find #2, #5 and #7 but no #1, even after checking the name plates of a dozen other buildings. It was at this moment that he decided to go against the time-tested, evolution-nurtured instincts of his, and ask an elderly lady about building #1.

'I don't know about the building numbers, but what is that you are looking for', she asked.
'ICCR - Indian Council for Cultural Relations', he said.
'Ohhh ICCR.. you should have told me that. It is the third building from the other end', she said with a smile.

Thanking her for the tip he rode towards the said building. What the old lady said was true, ICCR used to be there, but not any more! The security guard for the building had no clue where they moved to. Unable to continue the search, my friend decided to let the old lady know about this before heading back home. She was shocked to hear that ICCR is no more there. She lived on the same street and was unable to accept the fact that things changed next block without her knowledge! But then she wasn't the 'giving-up' kinds. She insisted that my friend wait till the postman comes for his daily rounds, and find out from him what happened. She ordered one of her acquaintances for a chair and a cup of tea for my friend.

So in the next half an hour he got a quick download of her family history, a short lesson on pickling lemon and a lecture-demonstration on art forms of the pre-Rock era. Fortunately the postman came on time, just before my friend got a PhD on 'continuing erosion of value systems in modern society'. The postman announced to the lady's further disappointment that ICCR had shifted from there about an year back. She started apologizing profusely for giving the wrong and outdated information, but was glad that my friend stayed long enough to get the correct directions from the postman. My friend was happy too and he set out to collect the tickets finally. But the new location suggested by the postman was weirder than the first two. This place didn't even have a building.. just a few pits dug out for some construction and a pile of garbage!

As he stood there cursing his luck, the security guard from the nearby building came forward and expressed his desire to help. Fed up with all the help received so far, my friend just said ICCR.

'ICCR used to be here, now they have moved and the building has been demolished for reconstruction', said the guard. ICCR suddenly started sounding like a folk story, an urban legend which doesn't really exists. Everybody's heard about it, but nobody really knows where it is!
'Any idea where they have moved?', asked my eternally optimistic friend.
'They had a board somewhere here with the new address, let me see', he walked towards one of the pits, scolding the person in-charge of the site for not putting up the board outside.

From a pile of metal sheets and iron rods, he finally pulled out a board which read 'ICCR' on the top. Underneath the name it was written on a pasted piece of paper: 'We have moved to 1st Floor, 2nd Main, Palace Road'.
'First floor? But where the f**k is the building number', my friend almost shouted. All this time all he had was a building number, and now when he finally got other details the building number is missing. He had enough for one day!

So, without tickets, we decided to test our luck and walked into NGMA that evening. The whole place was deserted and the band 'Esperanto' was already on with their sound check. They had an interesting sound, a blend of Rudra Veena, Violin, Blues Harp, Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Tabala & Mridangam. As always the music did not disappoint. The acoustic guitarist also doubled up as the vocalist; wish he had stuck to his strings and not strained his chords. That was in fact the only pain point the whole evening. We were hardly 30 people in the 80 seater auditorium.. probably the others also searched around for ICCR and the tickets, but gave up.

Ask and ye shall receive, but only if you hang on long enough... and be prepared for a few surprises as well!

Or perhaps..

For the fourth consecutive day she was standing there. I was on my way back from work. She was at the exact same spot, by the traffic island, leaning on to the rails and staring at the setting sun. The same expressionless face, the same shabby clothes and perhaps the same set of flies for company. The long hair falling on to her face could not fully hide the bruises. She was mumbling something to that invisible friend of hers every time I saw her.

Should I thank HIM for putting her there instead of me?
Or should I be questioning HIS rationale in playing with human lives?
Or attribute all this to chance?
Or perhaps she was different once..... and it is just us?

Goa: A pictorial..

Goa is my favorite holiday destination... period. It has always amazed me with different views or alternate angles. This time when the Three Porkeaters (Jai, Rob & myself) set out for Goa we decided to skip the usual spots and instead search for tranquility in the less traversed corners. All of us had been to Goa a few times before and that helped a lot in not falling into the temptations of the 'usual' and 'most popular' locales. Though the sands of Anjuna were inviting enough we preferred to have a delicious lunch of fried fish and rice at a thatched restaurant overlooking the rocky beach. You can sit there for ages, sipping beer and relaxing on one of the recliners there, occasionally chatting up with interesting people around.

Have you ever heard of anyone who returned from Goa without getting one of those temporary tattoos done? We hadn't, and being the kind of folks who don't break traditions, decided to get ourselves tattooed as well. So after breakfast at the famous Britos we let the phoenixes, dragons & sea serpents take life on our arms. And what better way to dry the tattoos than a walk along the lovely grasslands near Little Vagator? They were green & inviting, dragging us away from the rush and noise to the hillocks standing guard along the sea.

The short walk turned into a long one, and then the winding pathway by the hillock took over the reins and we soon climbed a hill overlooking the sea. Standing by a cross at the highest point, it was just the three of us and miles and miles of enchanting ocean... solitude was heartening for once. The crowd along the beach looked much like preying crabs running back and forth the plankton washed ashore by the waves. We sat there an entire afternoon, till we 'discovered' a deserted beach on the other side of the hill. Then it was time for swim and sunbath, in our own, private beach!

The evenings are equally mesmerizing in Goa when the blueness of the ocean, the crimson of the setting sun and the soothing green of the lush fields fight each other for attention and supremacy. As we watch in awe, the fight slowly progresses towards its logical conclusion and the horizon puts on a brutal red hue. Twilight is like a guilty pleasure; in spite of the melancholy it is always a sight to cherish. And as the darkness falls over, like the terns and the gulls we too walked in a hurry, in search of a perch for the night.

But people don't let the nights die young at Goa. They live it up till the wee hours of the morning. As the last rays of natural light retreats, artificial ones take the place and the beaches once again become lively. You sit there watching the lights from the ships anchored in the sea, as they slowly light up the horizon with a silver lining. Night is when Goa unveils her real charm. A walk along the beach in the night is a fitting finale to the day, as the high tide, moon and the Feny conspire to take you higher; higher than the highest clouds!

By next morning we had been miraculously transported to Furtados at Sernabatim. Perhaps we checked in there the previous night after searching for that elusive beach shack at Benaulim and driving around the Leela Kempinski property at Cavelossim. By the time I figured out the story it was time to go out to the beach and help the fishermen pull out the day's catch. As we were found good in pulling the nets ashore, they commissioned us to push the catamaran as well to the shore. Pushing those 26 feet wooden boats over the sand isn't a joke. Good that we had those extra shots of Feny the night before.

Once we started the journey We had two things on our wish list - to go into the outer sea in a catamaran & to spend a night at one of the isolated islands off the coast. The island plans had been shelved the very first day as we learned from fishermen folks at Colva that nobody goes there anymore, as the islands are haunted. We knew it was futile to reason with beliefs and never spoke of the island trip after that. But at Sernabatim we met Savio, proprietor of CS Water Sports. Seeing our enthusiasm, he finally agreed to take us out to the sea on a boat. In another 30 minutes we were 5 kilometers from the shore and happily diving into the calm sea from the deck of the boat! I don't think one whole post can explain the thrill and fun of splashing around in the outer sea, with dolphins for company a few miles away!

Para-sailing was next on the menu.. an equally enjoyable experience as we got an aerial view of the picturesque coastal line. The story is never complete without mentioning the leisurely eleventeens we had at Cafe Lila, a fine eatery serving tasty cakes and beverages by the side of Baga river. The best moments for me was always breakfast time; the lazy feeling of watching the sea and the deserted beach from the comfort of a shack, as you bite into some ham and sausages. A big cup of coffee and a talkative restaurant owner comes free with the package as well!

You cannot help going back to Goa.. even if its the eleventy-oneth time. I know I will be back there soon!

Violins for peace..

2011 is already on a song. Its hardly a week into it and I have already attended a concert and has another three scheduled over the next one month or so! Don't think I can complain even in my worst nightmares. Apart from the Bryan Adams one in Feb, every other looks pretty offbeat and interesting as well. 'Violins for Peace' last Thursday wasn't any different either. It was this year's edition of the Lakshminarayana Global Music Festival(LGMF) featuring violinists and fiddlers from different parts of the world. LGMF is organised by Dr. L Subramaniam in the memory of his father and Guru Prof. Lakshminarayana.

I reached the venue just in time and wasn't surprised to see that the hall is packed and the organizers had ran out of passes. There were quite a few people waiting outside the entrance, including some very elderly folks. After some persuasion, the organizers finally allowed us to enter and occupy the floor. This seating arrangement was in fact much comfortable than the chairs, as I could stretch my legs and lean on to the wall. The only trouble was that I couldn't see one half of the stage for quite some time as there were people standing around blocking the view. But the experience was well worth the trouble!

- There was an old lady (must be in her eighties) sitting next to me, wearing a fine silk Saree, holding a walking stick in one hand and tapping enthusiastically to the tunes of the Russian gypsy music much like she did for the Carnatic classical songs. Though she gave me the looks initially when I sat beside her on the floor in my jeans and black T Shirt, she was all smiles by the end of the concert.

- The start attraction of the evening was the Russian gypsy band 'Loyko', who entertained the crowd with their fast fiddling and vocals. They could literally make the violins laugh as part of this comedy act they performed between songs.

- Ambi Subramaniam's violin recital of 'Varumo Sakhi' in raaga Keeravani was just brilliant.

- The Norwegian folk songs played by Benedicte, with the accompanied dancing reminded me of 'Pulluvan Paattu', an art form prevalent in Kerala , performed to appease the snake gods.

- There was this minister who was invited as chief guest, who made an ass of himself by announcing cash prizes for the artists every time he was invited on stage. For him this was yet another opportunity to show off or perhaps he was sure that they will never turn up in front of his office demanding the money!

- Something should be done about the people who occupy seats and leave after 10 minutes. These idiots come, buy tickets, parade outside the venue in their designer clothes and walk out by the time the artists are done with the tuning. If you are not really interested why waste a ticket dude?

- And I don't want to comment on those who wear sun glasses during an indoor concert at 7 in the evening.

- There were also performances by Grammy winner jazz violinist Mark O'Connor, classical violinist Catharina Chen and Algerian violinist Kheir Eddine M'Kachiche

- The grand finale was a composition by Dr. L Balasubramaniam, performed by 7 violinists with the accompaniment of a piano, acoustic guitar, tavil and mridangam.

- Outside the concert hall I found a shop selling 'Melody' toffees. As a kid this used to be my favorite toffee. (it still is). I bought enough to last a few months!

There is a fusion concert by Esperanto and an insane evening with The Prodigy on the cards this month. 2011 is rocking!

Resolutions & Delusions !

Its resolution time again. As I had successfully broken last year's resolutions they were nowhere to be found. Having lost the option of updating the list I wanted them to be actionable and measurable this year. So I decided not to have things like 'Contribute to world peace' and 'campaign for saving cockroaches' from the list. The idea of accountability is a result of the bad company I keep - the clients I interact during work, who root for objectivity and quantitative measurements.

The primary resolution for this year is to eat something other than Poori for breakfast. I have been eating poori every day for the past 6 months or so, except on Sundays and Public holidays when the shop is closed. This is in fact the only remaining link I have with discipline and consistency, after I stopped ritualistic whining a few years ago. But to hell with discipline, I have to get more creative with breakfast. How am I going to keep my eyes off the tasty pooris on display at the shop is the only challenge... probably I have to give standing orders for breakfast delivery at office.

I want to travel, travel more. I have been trekking the Himalayas once every year and now wants to do it twice this year and three times the next and so on progressively. Apart from the joy of crapping in the snow (and of course the mountains) there is also some strategic planning involved in this decision. I am sure they will kick me out of work when I request for five 15 days vacations few years from now, and that is exactly what I am planning to do. I have plans to quit 'work as I know it' and go farming in another 6-7 years. 'Got kicked out of office' is a more explainable excuse in such a situation... like 'cannot drive due to Ataxia' is a more acceptable explanation for not owning a vehicle than 'I do not need a vehicle'.

Mend those relationships broken a few years ago when I focused all my attention on this one individual. I thought the only road to Rome is via Afghanistan and had burned the other route maps. I am a late learner and it took me a while to realize not to make those your priority, for whom you are just an option! The learning was relatively quick considering the fact that I learned the virtues of brushing-teeth-twice-a-day almost after 28 years. That too after the doctor pulled out two of my molars for being 'beyond repair'. what to do, I am big on visual confirmations and convictions. I think all bridges can be repaired as long as there is water flowing underneath it.

Nothing more, nothing less.. its just a three point agenda. Now I only need to wait and see how soon I break these ones and they all end up as mere delusions.

On a different note, saw this posting on a cricket discussion forum - Got to disagree with Mathew Hayden when he said 'I have seen god, he bats at No: 4 for India'. for what has god done to be called Sachin ??. It is perhaps time for the master blaster to change his name to 'Ton'dulker!
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