Thursday, April 21, 2011

Of Panipuri and Politics

   You probably know what this post is all about, if not, read this, this, and this. Most of you, like me, must also have had panipuris at a roadside shop. Of all the times when you were stuffing yourselves silly with the tasty, super high calorie snack, did you ever stop and wonder where those hands serving you had been? Now, I sure hope that you haven't stopped eating panipuris just because of a video that was shown on television over and over again, zoomed in and zoomed out ad nauseum, pausing for time so that you could run to the loo, puke out your lunch, and be back in time to watch some more 'news'.
   The aftermath of all that coverage by 'news' channels resulted in quite a few upset stomachs, the same stomachs that had rarely, if ever, been upset after eating panipuris and bhels at much shadier locations. Later, in the presence of news cameras, quite a few vendors were manhandled, and their scope for having a dinner from their meager earnings destroyed. Evening snackers, definitely not suffering from a lack of choice, moved on to other options without a second thought, and satiated their hunger.
   Take a step back for a moment here, and look at it from a cynic's point of view. Panipuris have been in existence for at least a few centuries now, if not less. In all these years, I don't suppose the snack has been cooked in refined oil by people who have washed their hands with Dettol and then further sanitized them with Purell. Come to think of it, do you wash your hands  with soap after every visit to the loo? Since forever, roadside snacks have been prepared the way everyone knows they are. Nothing has changed for a long time, and nothing is going to change that, live with it.
   The sole reason that this was publicised so much is that the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena(MNS), starved for airtime, needed an issue to come to the limelight, and conveniently found it in the form of panipuri-wallahs; poor people who come from the cow belt to Bombay to earn a living. Now, I am in no way justifying the unhygienic behavior of the vendors, and I absolutely believe that just because something has been done in a certain way in the past is no reason to continue doing it in the future. Some things have to change, but this is not the way to do it. 
   The MNS workers who beat up the vendors should also go and check out how the Vada-Pao, indigeneous to Maharashtra, is made, if they are really that serious about hygiene. Oh, and while they are at it, they should check up on the dosa-wallahs too, they just might find something fishy in there, and then proceed to beat up the South Indians and try to send them back to 'where they came from', as their patriarch has done before. Sarcasm apart, they should sponsor and maintain public toilets, take care of the heaps of garbage in the cities and villages, and maybe look into their own leaders' homes to rid the world of filth. Political mileage is no justification for making people lose their livelihoods, and at times their lives. If these parties are really serious about bringing about change, they should take constructive steps towards it, and not randomly beat up people.
   Coming back to the title of this blog, the lesson should be clear by now: Don't mix your panipuris with politics.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Not Leaving XL

I don’t know what’s worse, leaving a place, or going to that place and finding it empty, devoid of anyone I know, of any activity whatsoever, of any music, or any light emanating from any of the windows.
Each time I go to the gym, I just look at the building adjacent to it, and there’s nobody there. No one poking fun at me from the Saint Thomas balcony for trying to lose weight, or anyone calling me to play badminton and my forgetting all about the gym and playing hours of badminton and turning up at the gym the next day with a sheepish grin. I turn up at the gym pretty regularly now, but there’s no sheepish grinning on my part, just a sad smile on looking at the gym noticeboard full of photographs of my batch mates working out. It’s mostly empty these days, just a few of the GMP regulars who come in the evening for an hour. I miss waiting for the treadmill to free up, for the right set of dumbbells to be let go of, for the right sized exercise ball to be there, for space to do my stretches.
I miss seeing anyone to say hi to every time I step out of my temporary office at the TMDC. I miss getting drunk enough for someone to lend me a shoulder and take me to my room. I know I won’t get as drunk as I did that night, when I was on my way back to my room from the wet night on JLT after 10 odd drinks, and suddenly hungry and tired, I sat down in front of Bishuda wondering whether I should go upstairs and get money from my room, because in my drunken state of mind, I didn’t want to take anything on debt from him, when suddenly somebody asked me, ‘Bhai bhookh lagi hai kya?’, I nodded, and someone was actually feeding me a paratha with their own hands. Yep, I don’t see this happening ever again.
I don’t see myself being woken up by frantic banging on my door in the middle of the night by someone who just wanted to say ‘Hi’. I don’t see myself being robbed of my bucket because the neighbor’s bucket was leaking. I don’t see myself opening the door every morning to see a poster on the door opposite mine which said, “Do not disturb, Hangover in progress.” I don’t think anyone will ever explain Economics to me again the way someone did by dancing while explaining the concepts to me, nor do I think I’ll have anyone borrowing my king-size mirror from my room to get a haircut. I don’t suppose anyone will ride my scooter almost into a gutter at full rev on the first gear, and I definitely don’t think anyone else will ever be game for tea at 3am.
All the crazy things I’ve experienced in these two years, each surpasses the other, and I don’t know what’s more painful; forgetting them or remembering them.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

To Afridi, With Love - Maheen Sadiq

Here's a very well written post by a Maheen Sadiq, a filmmaker at Maati TV, based out of Karachi. I just happened across this while browsing through someone's facebook profile.
This article is an absolute eye opener as it brings to light what a regular Pakistani thinks about India, a refreshing change from what we are subjected to in the form of government propaganda and supposed "peace" summits that invariably result in war within a few years, putting every effort down the drain. Do read the post, I hope it gives you some food for thought.

There’s a lot to be said about the cricket tournament, especially our match against India. And it has a lot more to do with Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Gul’s bad luck, and Sachin Tendulkar’s good fortune.

Cricket speaks to our nation in a way our government never has.

And Shahid Afridi addressed the nation in a way our president never has – unselfish, genuine, modest. So when Afridi apologized to Pakistan, millions listened and were humbled by the gesture. Our eyes filled with tears and our hearts with love and strange kind of sorrow. Shahid Afridi, you need not apologize to the nation. We are proud of you and our entire cricket team! You didn’t bring back the cup, but any excitement, any happiness, any hope that Pakistanis have felt in the past few months is because of your brilliance. We’ve been hearing a lot of “Pakistan needs something to celebrate,” but what Pakistanis really needed was something to look forward to, and the green team gave us that with the anticipation of each game played.

The funny thing about cricket is that it can unite the nation through a victory or a loss. It would have been wonderful to go out on the streets and celebrate with dhols, etc, as we did when we won the 20/20 Cricket World Cup in 2009. But even after our loss yesterday, the people of Pakistan, in their state of disbelief, came out and shared their sorrow. Misery loves company. Cars on streets, people driving around slowly, quietly, patiently. No honking, no cursing, no where to go, no where to escape. It was surreal. This only goes to show what cricket means to us and the massive void it fills for our nation.

Cricketers, you made us patriotic. You made us passionate. You made us proud.

And these precious adjectives are some that Pakistan rarely gets the chance to associate itself with.

So again, Afridi, your apology is appreciated but not needed. You conducted yourself with patience, grace and dignity, encouraging your own with a smile, and congratulating the opponents with an even bigger smile. You didn’t win the semi-finals, but you won our hearts. Thank you for showing the world we are not an aggressive nation. To Pakistan, I propose this: if there’s anyone who needs to apologize it’s us. So to Afridi and the team, I apologize for the pressure I put on you to win the World Cup. It comes from my own shortcomings. So lazy and so cowardly am I that I am incapable of creating for myself a reason to celebrate Pakistan. Since as far as I can remember, my patriotism has tenaciously clung to cricket. It is unfair. I know.

To those Pakistanis who thought this was a match between Hindus and Muslims, I’m glad India won. This was never a battle between nations, or a jehad against Hindus. It was a semi-final cricket match, and if a loss is what it took to be reminded of this then I’m glad we lost. Victory would have only made you gloat over something you had wrong all along anyway. However, if there was one thing I was relieved to discover it was that we don’t hate India. We may hate America, but we don’t hate India. No burning of the Indian flag, no bitter remarks, no threatening reaction. Phew! Just healthy competition and a pure love for the game. So we don’t hate India. In fact, we hate Zardari. What pleased me even more were the numerous text messages and facebook statuses I came across that poked fun at Zardari. My personal favourite is, “ We congratulate India on winning the semi-finals. As a good-will gesture, India can keep Pakistan’s prime minister. And if it wins the finals, we will give our president too.”

Ahhh, Zardari jokes. They never get old. He’s our scapegoat now. It’s his fault we lost. Somehow. That being said, think. It’s time we stop asking of our cricketers something we should have been asking of ourselves. Or our government. Lets find ourselves a reason to be patriotic and celebrate Pakistan, and let cricket be a sport, not an identity. If we all just took a little responsibility, maybe our beloved team can finally approach the pitch as cricketers, not as soldiers entering the battlefield. We owe it to them.

Welcome back, boys!

Read it? Liked it? Rewired something in your head? Do comment.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I guess I've done enough of that over the past two months, during my internship, while organizing the Bangalore XLRI Alumni Meet, getting my car repaired, and on many other occasions. Not any more though.
So, here it is. My blog-post on FRAX-ing, or Free Riding At XL is a phenomenon that is observed throughout the known universe. Birds have been known to lay their eggs in other birds' nests, leaving the upbringing of their offspring to the hapless victim. People have been known to litter streets leaving the cleanup to the Municipal Corporations.("It's their job, you know!") Rich parents' children have been known to screw up their lives and leave a mess behind for their parents to clean up. ("It's all their fault! They weren't there when we needed them!")
ENOUGH, already. Stop being such whining little bitches. Stop blaming everyone else but yourselves. The world is in such bad shape and all America and Europe can think of are 'austerity measures' ?! I mean, gimme a break here! The goras have FRAXed on their duty to the planet and each other for a long long time now, they have pandered to the wills of corporations, ignoring the rest of the world, the bloody planet even. And now they talk about austerity measures? On the people who have NO hand in their misery? Had the buggers not FRAXed earlier, had they had the balls to stand up and say a stern NO to being corrupted by power and money, things would have been slightly better today.
Now, I know what you will say, and my answer to that is yes, I too have FRAXed. On innumerable occasions I have not been fair to the work that I had to do. I have bad grades to show for it. I have paid for it. But that is the good part. I think it is best that we pay for our mistakes as early as possible. Unfortunately, a lot of our mistakes are paid for in the long run. In the form of our careers, our friends, our spouses, even our lives. What do we do then? Repent?
Are there many options left open to us at that point? Well, there are, and the sad part is that we must choose between two bad ones. I hope it never comes down to that for any of you. So make your choices wisely. Nah, I'm not preaching, just trying to get those gray cells working... Cheers!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mile Sur Mera Tumhara…

“Can you please…” “This place is…”, we spoke out together. Gitanjali Express, boarded at Nagpur, at 8:16pm on the 14th of July 2008, barely a minute after getting into the train. I was on my way back to Jamshedpur, had quit my job after getting bored with it, and she was visiting her relatives in Calcutta. I had already taken my place on the berth and she rushed in with three pieces of luggage on the head of a coolie trailing behind her.
                “I’m sorry, ma’am, but this is my seat”, I said.
                “Please let me sit here for a bit until the TTE comes, I’ll just get my ticket confirmed from him”, she replied and asked the coolie to put her luggage under the seat. The TTE never came to my coupe that night, and with great difficulty, I convinced her to sleep on my berth as I pretended to not be sleepy and went to the doorway of the coach, intending to spend the night by the small seat near the door with my iPod.
                She came to where I was sitting at about 5:00am, and asked me my name. “Abhishek Joshi”, I said, “What’s yours?”, She told me her name. And we spoke with each other into the dawn, asking each other about our respective families, our education, our interests, and then moved on to some heavier stuff, philosophy, love. I was deeply enamored by her eyes. They weren’t exactly brown, they were a shade darker, but they were beautifully shaped. Mrignayani, I’d have said.
                She said that she was perturbed by what was going on in the world, war, environmental destruction, greed. I said that that would always be there, that we humans were hardwired to behave the way we do, and she looked into my eyes and said that it shouldn’t have to be that way.
                And that was it, that earnest look on her face, that innocence in her eyes, maybe she hadn’t seen that much of the world. She wasn’t the cynic that I had become, she was still untouched by the pain that life brings upon the less fortunate. But I knew that she had every reason to be the cynic that I had become so easily. She had lost her parents to the infamous Purushottam-Kalindi train accident a decade ago. Her education had been set back a year as she couldn’t take up her classes at school since she was in shock for 6 months. And yet she had recovered. She had not become a cynic. She still believed that the world was a fair place. That people are intrinsically good. I had read about something of the sort somewhere, hadn’t quite believed it. And here was this beautiful creature of God who was telling me that there is still hope, that there is no reason good enough for us all to give up on ourselves.
                And I knew at that moment that she was the one. Our elders often wonder at how our generation chooses and discards partners so easily, and I agree with them completely. But I connected with her on a completely different level. It wasn’t visceral. It was very much something else. I couldn’t put my finger on it, and she later told me that she couldn’t exactly say what it was either. But that there was something that just connected.
                We stood at that doorway all day that day, never feeling tired. Holding hands. And then holding each other after a while. It was as if the whole world had disappeared all of a sudden. There was only her for me. And only me for her. I don’t know how it happened. My mother would surely have disapproved of my choosing someone for myself that I had only met a few hours earlier. If she had a mother, I’m sure she would have disagreed too.
                The train reached Tatanagar railway station, and I had to get off the train. We exchanged numbers and promised we’d meet again. As she waved goodbye, my Mom asked me, “Who’s that?”. “Somebody”, I replied. And then for a week I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. Did I want to carry on my father’s business, or did I want to do an MBA? I chose the latter, came to XLRI a few months later. I never forgot about her, but I never met her, too. Life just got too busy. We did keep in touch with each other on the phone though.
                The first two semesters passed by in a blur, and we barely spoke. Come the third term, I decided to call her up one evening. “Hello…””I missed you so…” we again spoke together. It was unmistakable. Each time we had spoken, we had done so together. When her voice and mine came out together, it was like music. “Mile sur mera tumhara, toh sur bane hamara…” the song goes. And I know this for a fact, that when some things are meant to be, there is no stopping them from happening. And it’s also true that when you meet the woman of your dreams, you can actually hear the music playing in the background, everything else just goes blank, and there’s only her.
                So, there are no two ways about it, I will meet her again after my summer internship. I will find out if we’re truly meant to be. I don’t really know right now. I have only met her once, but when I do meet her again, I will know for sure. I will know whether the chemistry is really there or whether I was just first time lucky. I know that I’d be right about her if we speak again together. Because when “Mile sur mera tumhara…”, things will really be alright again.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Leaving XLRI, Lovin' XLRI

So it's that time of the year again. As February ends, so does the XLRI stay of the batch of 2008-10. I have seen the batch of 2007-09 pass out of college too, I was here in 2008-09, you see, having quit my job, chilling at home. And I had a few good friends in the batch of '09. They were ALL teary eyed on their last days on campus. Clusters of students standing around campus would randomly merge into group hugs. Honestly, I never really understood any of that back then.
But I did know that there is something called the XL culture. Something that would not be seen in most other colleges. The last weekend was a whirlwind of activity on campus, as the famed XL-IIMC sports meet took place. I swear to God, never has 200 people cursing their hearts out sounded so melodious to my ears. And I think that in the midst of that din, of drums being beaten, players being sledged, IIM-C students being insulted to our hearts' content, ladies screaming their lungs out in expletives, I realized the true meaning of XL culture.
It's not about the pay packages that we get, nor about the awesome campus we have, or the brilliant professors and peers, or the beautiful city of Jamshedpur that we live in. It's not about the night-outs, or the sleeping in classes, or DCP, or ACP. It's about love. Yes, that's right. Love. I thought that all that talk about people being in love with a place and a people was nonsense, until I came to XLRI. We were too busy with the *ahem* introductions during the first term, the Summers in the second term, but come the third term, we saw our seniors being placed. All at one go, in record time. And there in we saw the tenacity that undergoing the rigours of studying at XL brings to people. They were all relaxed and confident throughout the process, seeing their friends get placed before them, companies handing out shortlists randomly, job losses and what not. That strength, I now believe, comes from love. The love that we have for our friends and for our alma mater. See? That's where XL culture comes from: Love.
In 2011, as we leave the college, I cannot say what our state will be. But I can say this: We will leave, happy, sad, and in tears. I love you, XLRI.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Good Night, Sweet Dreams"

I call her up late at night today,
later than usual.
She is sleeping,
I imagine how beautiful she must look,
as she sleeps.
She picks up the phone,
says "What took you so long?"
"I had no money in my cell", I say,
"We can't talk for long".
"It's okay, I had a long day, we'll talk tomorrow"
She says that she'll call me up tomorrow at night.
I wait with bated breath as she whispers
those magical words.
"Good night, sweet dreams."
And I know she really means it.