Saturday, April 3, 2010


It was my very first guitar class in February this year and my teacher walked in, dazzled us with a couple of minutes of freestyling on the fretboard and got going with the compulsory "To start off, tell me why you want to learn the guitar" session. My answer was a rather unimaginative and plain Jane "I love the sound of the guitar!" (Straight out of the 'Cliched Answer 101') but the guy who sat next to me and who now is much more higher on the guitar learning curve (It figures...) came up with "I want to perfectly play the slow lead section of Led Zep's 'Stairway to Heaven' at least once in my life!" My teacher was suitably impressed with his focus and so was I, and I got thinking.

What would be the one song that I'd learn to play if there were only that one song that I could learn? After much soul searching, leaving the divine creations of the likes of U2, Dire Straits and other classic rock favourites behind, I settled for what on the face seems to be an extremely crude song - "BC Sutta" by the Pakistani band Zeest. There were a lot of college band-ish songs which followed that classic, using coarser swear words, more intellectual lyrics, finer musical arrangements etc and gained immense popularity on the hostel MP3 lists but to me they were horrible, just playing on the sensationalism gained by an overdose of swear words yet somehow lacking in depth and class if I may say so.

The strums of "BC Sutta" have that essential rawness that is in complete sync with its bare-to-bones perfect lyrics, perfect because the lyricist knew exactly where the intensity of the song picked up and where exactly the swear words needed to be used & where not. The heart and soul of the song are right where a rock song's should be, in a very rough and tough place. A few girls from my college recorded a version of the very same song, a version which got frequent play on some boy's hostel PCs who were moronic enough to be taken aback by the fact that girls can swear too. What next? Surprise at the fact that girls breathe too? Some of us guys need to grow up or at least wake up to find that is the 21st century... really!

But that said, girls singing that song sounded so pathetic that it became even more evident why this was really a guy's song. A fair counterpoint to girls singing "BC Sutta" would be to imagine (Oh dear Devil, forgive me for this blasphemy) Metallica singing Shania Twain's "That don't be impress me much". Ha! Now you get the idea! True, that women can do everything that men can but just like some men who find dressing like a drag queen irresistible and are deservedly laughed at, so too should we laugh at women who try something ridiculous and unnecessary like this. Women's lib hopefully has bigger battles to fight than to beat men at their evolution enhanced crudeness, which is something they eventually may be able to but to what end?

The need and craving for a cigarette at the moment when it is most inaccessible, the relief when the first drag hits home, the sense of brotherhood that prevails as smoke fills the hostel room while the lone ciggie does the rounds and the essential ruggedness of being a member of the male species - all put together in 4 minutes 18 seconds in this gem of a song. Ideal scenario - a single room maybe 10 years down the line at Boy's Hostel No. 5 (Chatrawaas No. 5) of REC(NIT??) Kurukshetra, the mattress folded over so as to avoid the Royal Stag spilling onto it, all buddies resting on whatever little real estate they can find in between strewn clothes, fluttering newspapers and similar clutter, guitar in my hands, cigarettes in our lips, smoke clouding the roof of the room and everyone going "Doston mein baithaa, main sutta pi rahaa..." Ah yes! Heaven!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My name is not Khan

[The image above is quite apt for my angry tirade to follow :P. Thanks to the guys for reading my mind and capturing it in this image even before I could read it myself!]

Just before the Knight Riders' match with Kings XI Punjab at Mohali, I wandered into the Reebok showroom at the South City mall in Kolkata. A sudden desire to possess an 'original' purple team jersey of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) had seized me, fostered by a vague hunch that this was the key to help boost my struggling team's fortunes. I stared at the long row of the team T-shirts on display looking for at least one T-shirt which did not have “12 KHAN” emblazoned across it and there were none! Muttering aloud and rather indiscreetly, I asked a sales guy to get me one without Khan written on it (I'll be explaining why very soon) and wonder of wonders, there was actually one piece which did not have any name written on it, just that one single piece in the huge showroom. Then just as I was about to buy it, I found that the only T-shirt in the house which did not have Khan written on it also had a big giant tear in the stitching below the right armpit. Mission KKR Team Jersey was called off right then & there and I watched the match a broken man. KKR did win that match though but my grievances of that moment are still worth venting out here.

If you leave aside the content of his sub-standard movies – most of his movies are (Personal opinion of course. He is indeed the King of Bollywood as far as popularity goes, no questions asked), Shah Rukh Khan seems to be a very good guy in real life. Being an exceptionally gifted speaker, exemplary non-controversial family man and honest income tax payer are three characteristics more than enough to place him on a pedestal which everyone else (both common and 'filmi' men) should aspire to. Success is a breeding house for big egos and very very few saintly over-achievers manage to avoid that fate. Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) is obviously not one of those few and no one can deny that he has been successful, immensely successful, starting his film career, sprinting all the way from the bottom to the very top. An unhealthy amount of megalomania in a man of such immense popularity is very forgivable and to his credit he does try to tone it down by referring to himself as a “performing monkey”, “just another entertainer”, “really really lucky” in his interviews once in a while. All in all definitely a man who commands huge respect, flawed like every other human being though he may be. But this was all about what works in his favour. Here is what doesn't!

Sports is not a scripted story. There are no retakes, there is no flattering camera angle to make a 45 year old face look picture perfect, there is no editing room where the inglorious parts of the story can be quietly snipped away, there is no well contrived happy ending worked into the plot even though you may have trained day in and day out for the past 45 years for that one moment out on the field in front of millions of pairs of eyes, some supportive, most just eager to witness it fall all apart and then pass their cruel judgements. Yes, there are “miles to go” and “promises to keep” for the Kolkata Knight Riders (Horrors of horrors, SRK quoting Robert Frost in the recent KKR ads on TV, my sentiments on which would be the content of a completely separate long long post), but no one knows it better than the captain of SRK's team, the same man on whose head rested the responsibility of a nation's cricket team once and now in charge of a city's cricketing aspirations. The same man who retains his stubbornness in the face of adversity, both his gift and his curse, as his reflexes struggle out on the batting crease and frequently fail to match the strength of his mind & the same man who stands in the background as SRK hogs the billboard ads of the KKR team as if he is somehow the guiding light to all the batsmen, bowlers and fielders in his team. In doing so, SRK makes a mockery of everything a sportsperson represents.

People watch any sport team or individual for the unique display of mental and physical co-ordination unsurpassed in real intensity and dedication by anything else, let alone a Bollywood movie. They tune in to watch stories of unsung heroes rising to their brief but brilliant moment of glory; to see legends display their mythological prowess & legends fail to live up to their claim to fame; wayward genius flash an occasional hint of what could have been; teams come together as one in an all mighty push for glory & teams fall apart in shell shocked disarray when that final outstretched leg or that sweeping swing of the bat determines who won a date with fickle Lady Luck. All this effort by sports-persons who surrender their entire lives to training and extreme discipline, all for that big stage and victory that they know can be granted to only one player or team while the others languish in pain. To have that kind of courage and a will to succeed is what inspires us, the ordinary to go on with the bits and pieces of our remarkably stress free (relatively speaking) ordinary lives.

We are talking real high stakes blood, guts and glory here, not painted-on versions here and about the minimum respect that any professional sports-person deserves. Yes, I will wear a KKR T-shirt which says “Abdulla”...“Mortaza”... “Dinda”... “Sharma”... “Agarkar”... “Bond”... “Matthews”... “Hussey”...“Gayle”... “McCullum”... “Ganguly” etc at a moment's notice because in the end they are the team that is putting themselves out there on the ground, whatever might be the outcome, subjecting themselves to the cheers or to the booes. But my name is not Khan and I'll never ever wear a team T-shirt which sports SRK's name no matter what heightened illusions he might harbour about his role in an actual professional cricketing team.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Old fashioned

If I could have added long Elvis style sideburns to my blog, I would have but since hasn't introduced that feature yet I must be content with fiddling around with some of the default templates which are available. Why after nearly 4 years of reasonably simple existence with a green and white spiral notebook look did my blog feel the need for this makeover, you might ask. Well, in keeping with my post before this one, I was starting to feel a lot more behind the times, even much more than I usually am.

People seem to do the most wonderful things with their blogs. Beautifully colour co-ordinated, strikingly symbolic images stuck onto a carefully selected section of the page, 'Comments' replaced by descriptions like 'Stones chucked into the pool' (The thought pool I assume) and wonderfully evocative names like 'Karmic Soliloquy' - all came together in a cause to make me conscious of the Neanderthal like bareness of my blog. That a handful of them had equally wonderful writing to accompany the visual spectacle of their blogs turned the screw a couple of notches more into my thick caveman hide compelling me to act.

Aesthetic sense is something I have always been hopeless at. Back in the times when we used to write with ink pens at school, I used to compound issues of my squiggly handwriting with my even weirder unique grip on the pen which would ensure that after I finished one line and moved to the next the earlier one would be smudged by my grotesquely twisted hand as I moved forward. The end result was that the white sheet would be half blue in colour by the time I got to the end. Thanks to the keyboard and Google's variety of fonts at least I am saved the trouble of explaining what those blue splashes on the page instead of words meant. I did my best on my blog's new look with the few minutes that I had to spare for this kind of uninteresting activity and indeed that was all the time I was willing to spare.

Being old-fashioned and hard-nosed isn't half as bad in some aspects. When I switch on TV and see Bollywood actors (Guys that is!) flounce about on screen promoting the virtues of spending 1 minute daily in front of the mirror with XYZ beauty cream, I choke back a wave of manly disgust and then laugh like there's no tomorrow. Being crude lends its fair share of hilarious enjoyment even though the laughs might be from the dark confines of a cave hidden away in the forest named "Lack of sophistication". All the same, I think I'll leave the sophistication to the likes of Karan Johar, Shahid Kapoor and SRK!