Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hard copy

Last weekend, I went down to my local cyber cafe to have some of the digital pictures I had taken on my Himachal trip at the end of January this year printed out. Ram Singh (of Kasol 'bhoot' bungalow fame) had requested me to send him a photo that we took of him, his grandson and his dog when we had left his place on the 27th of January, and as usual I had slacked off on this until now. I had his address, all I needed was to make the effort to take the print. Handing over the pen-drive to the cyber-cafe's owner, I watched him go to work on his system and within a minute, I had a clear, crisp photograph in my hands. Both Ram Singh and his grandson are prominently visible (see pic above), so they were definitely not ghosts! I was relieved (OK, just kidding about this part) but some other thoughts were on my mind.

The photograph in its physical form felt weird, a blast from the past, when people actually had almirahs full of albums which were flipped through with great enthusiasm by us when we were kids. Albums filled with smiling people, familiar and unfamiliar, in this world or the one beyond; faraway landscapes; totally different looking vistas of a well frequented place from a different era - stories surrounding them enthusiastically being retold for the 100th time with the same practiced set of actions, yet always listened to with a put-on sense of wonder. Now all the space all our recent memories take up are a little laptop the size of one wedding album, and the sharing need not be done in a single, hot, crowded room with the constant threat of kids spilling over to the floor from the overcrowded bed thanks to the blazing fast postman we call the Internet.

Times have changed drastically over the past 10 years and in the age of virtual 'everything' (and I mean EVERY-damn-THING), will people ever miss what it felt like to be talking about their experiences face to face - about that wonderful trip through the forest or that crazy wedding that almost everyone in the known universe attended? Will the people of the future lose out on the feel of leafing through the pages of carefully selected images laughing and pointing fingers, thumb marks all over the place on the more popular pages to be replaced by the plastic feel of keyboard typed comments and the clickety-click of the mouse as they scroll way more photos that anyone really wanted to see? Yes, they will and even more sadly never even realize what they missed out on. For better (at least for our rapidly diminishing trees and over-strained planet) or for worse (At the risk of being labelled an old fogey), the transition is inevitable but still if given a choice between them, I'd pick a hard copy and all its associated mustiness... any day.

India 2: Germany 0

Yesterday riding back to work after running a lunchtime errand through one of the hopelessly identical roads of Salt Lake, I saw something like the above picture zoom up in the rear view mirror of my Bajaj Pulsar. Many a time in the past 2 years on my drive up Route 24N to Boston, I had had a similar sighting of a powerful Beemer, or a Porsche or an exotic Merc while I was doodling away on the same road with my trusty Toyota Corolla. A mere hint from them that they were looking to pass me and I'd slink off to the right of the road showing respect and giving room where it was due. But that was Boston in well-to-do capitalist Massachusetts, and this was Calcutta, the heartland of stagnating Communism! More used to the sight of a rusty yellow Amby cab falling away into the distance in my rear view, I was shaken and stirred. For someone who knows their cars spotting a BMW 6-series convertible (650i to be precise) on a Calcutta road is somewhat like spotting Katrina Kaif shopping at my local fish market. Hell! I hadn't seen one of these beauties in even the 1.5 years of driving down America's freeways. Just when my moony eyes were regaining focus, the peaceful aura of the moment was shattered... into a thousand painful shards all thanks to the incredible boorishness of the idiot who was driving that beautiful machine.

He accelerated the car to within a couple of inches of my Pulsar's tail light and started honking the horn like crazy. There are a lot of things I can tolerate in this world but overbearing bullies are not on the lucky list. That the car deserved a better, saner, classier driver went without saying and in the few seconds that it took me to move my motorcycle out of his way, I had made up my mind. In a crowded city like Calcutta, even in 'planned' areas like Salt Lake, there is one challenge you should not be throwing out and that is of a point A to point B race with a motorcycle unless of course you are riding a motorcycle too. And if your two wheeled rival be a Pulsar 180 or one of its bigger brothers, then the game is as good as lost. Cycle rickshaws, potholes, randomly located semi-filled or over-filled manhole covers, swerving buses will all form an obstacle course that only a motorized two wheeler can negotiate with ease while everyone else must gnash their teeth and wait for the crowds to clear up. The race was on and on my Pulsar's home turf, in the madness and chaos of a Calcutta road.

This the BMW driver seemed to have realized from the moment he overtook me and he made a desperate dash to leave me trailing. On a road with unpredictable traffic and an even more unpredictable surface, he could only go so fast. Just as foolish as I'd have seemed if I had showed up honking behind a BMW on the German Autobahn riding my Pulsar 180, a similar wave of stupidity might have engulfed my competitor's brain when he decided to give my Pulsar a good dose of his horn on yesterday's warm Salt Lake afternoon. I was easily keeping up with him making full use of my home ground advantage and giving him his own back in terms of honks (with the incredibly loud factory fitted horns that the Pulsars come with), hovering just a few inches behind his multi-lakh rear bumper and the few quiet sections of the road where he tried to gain on me by accelerating hard were handled without breaking a sweat by my trusty two wheeled powerhouse (I mean by Indian mobike standards... of course). The guy was getting really mean by now cutting me off rather dangerously whenever I tried to overtake him. It seemed like very soon I was to be famous for being a victim of another BMW hit-and-run case. He knew and I knew that he was only delaying the inevitable, but misplaced pride at being at the wheels of a BMW kept him going.

Then I found an ally in the form of another Pulsar, this one carrying three guys and subjected to the same shock-and-awe tactics by my rival in his mad rush to get away from me. Except that, like me, they too were not shocked-and-awed and joined me in my bumper to bumper pursuit of the amazing car with its no-longer-amused driver. Now there were two Pulsars on the BMW's tail, honking away and pushing ahead for right of way.

Being rich and driving a BMW doesn't add an iota of courage to the person concerned - is what I confirmed yesterday. A chicken remains a chicken. Within a minute of being pressured by two Indian bikes, the German car braked hard to a standstill on the right of the road at a cut in the road divider and began indicating that he was turning right. His game was up and he turned tail going back in the opposite direction. By this time, both the mobikes had zoomed past him, and I exchanged an approving farewell nod with my BMW afflicted Pulsar teammates, a mutual salute for tackling fire with fire and for not bowing down to that bit of exploitative and extraordinary rudeness. At full time, the scores read Bajaj Pulsar 2: BMW 650i 1, or better still, India 2: Germany 0!
[Do not be foolish enough to consider everything stated above as an incentive to speed. Drive and ride safe. Reach home. Alive. With all limbs in their respective places. Let others on the road do so too. Please.]
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Keep the faith

If I were a practical and smart guy, I'd quietly take a few steps back and fade into the jeering crowds at round about this time. Step back from the sharp jibes and ridicule that is the sour reward for not introducing some sort of a reality check into a long cherished dream (OK, maybe not that long... a dream 2 years old) and a punch on the nose for foolish blind support. Yes, the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) are on a losing streak (yet again...) and I am once again taking their defeats a bit too personally. Yes, I am not practical and smart. Here's why.

A dream isn't a dream if it does not border on the improbable. If success were pre-guaranteed, it wouldn't be a dream at all but just a yawn inducing plan. At the centre of this dream falling apart drama lies a brave young-at-heart cricketer looking for a final glorious hurrah to end his cricketing days and it is evident that he is trying his utmost, the terrible results notwithstanding. As you might know Sourav Ganguly is not my favourite cricketer (that title being reserved for two gentlemen whose names can be shortened to SRT and BCL), but on Monday when he walked out to open the innings against the Mumbai Indians, I had to doff my hat to his "Bring it on" attitude. With his extremely limited range of shots, at a time when everyone was hollering at him to hide himself down the order considering his acute lack of form, to instead push himself to the top was a testimony to this man's extreme self-belief and to the only way Ganguly knows how to play his cricket - taking the challenges head on. True, it did not work out well that night but finding the spunk to even try that plan out and then that freakily awesome catch which he took to dismiss Saurabh Tiwary were nothing but extraordinary. A lot of other little luck factors went totally against his team as in the past 3 games of this season, putting the Knights in the lowly position that they are in. Personally though, I do find a lot of things of a positive nature in KKR's IPL season this year but I don't blame critics for not noticing them as they are not that evident... yet.

No, I am not finding excuses or preparing my resignation letter in advance. Taking the fate of KKR personally is in many ways similar to taking the fate of India as a country seriously. Nothing makes my blood boil quicker than when an Indian says "What is good about this country? Nothing like XYZ (insert an appropriate developed nation name in there) is ever possible here." Sometimes the statement is actually true but that still doesn't stop the steam from blowing out of my ears. Rife with problems like extremism (Muslim, Hindu, Maoists - the list is endless), corruption, casteism, regionalism, over-population, vote-bank politics, it has always seemed destined for disaster over the past 63 odd years. At the mindbendingly same time, it has always seem poised for success and brimming over with tremendous potential too with its healthy mix of successful democracy implementation, unparalleled levels of tolerance despite the mind boggling cultural differences and a poise & grace that only a wise ancient land can possess. KKR is a fresh spring chicken as compared to the magic promise that India has held to the world for all these years, but my appeal to Indians as a whole and KKR fans in particular is quite simple and similar. Fate has a role to play in all that we do (sometimes very minor, sometimes very major) but do not ever abandon your team/country for what is just the flavour of the season. Our time will come. Keep the faith.