There are times I am bewildered by each mile I have travelled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as is all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination. This space is my take on the world.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Nightfix

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Recently I found myself walking up and down a section of the one road that circles Car Nicobar trying to find some beer. You know, busy day out in the sun, stifling humidity so a nice cold beer should fix it. Well, alcohol is unavailable on the island. The bloody puritanical administration does not want to corrupt the Nicobarese tribals who are anyway getting smashed on toddy, fermented drink made from the sap of the coconut palm. Little does the government realise that they've already ordered away the traditional culture.

But in one of the 10 shops on the island, I came across Beck's non-alcoholic beer. After much pondering and "hmmm...ing" and under the debilitating burden of the realisation that no walking and talking would find me a beer, I settled for Becks. Remarkably, Beck's non-alcoholic "ale" tastes just like beer. Not like gourmet ale but exactly like a usual six pack of whatever beer that you might find in the store. So one gets tricked into thinking and knowing that you're drinking something that tastes exactly like beer but its not. It's not, but it is, is not. Pull your hair out or enjoy the moment, standing in the balcony, sipping a charlatan "beer" and trying to find music in the loud drone of the coast gaurd helicopter on night patrol.

The beer having slaked my thirst and after having psyched myself into thinking that I was indeed drinking beer, I turned the can around only to find all the instructions were in Arabic. So, this trickster is probably made for Islamic countries, where alcohol is not legally permitted. I'm sure Beck's is tapping into a massive market but after providing temporary relief ( I actually had 5 more over the course of the next 4 days), it did leave me feeling a bit duped. But as they say, if you dont have the real stuff, the closest to it must do. Close? Not really but a dressed up as such definitely. Damn! this is getting unnerving. Run, run, run....

Thursday, June 29, 2006

$@&! The Police




The most bizarre thing happened to me this morning.

My workplace is a 10 minute walk from home but I took the car. As I exited the neighbourhood onto the straigth stretch to work, an Police car whizzed by only just about missing me. It wasnt a patrol vehicle but one of those transport vehicles reserved for officers. Ahead it ran two red lights, narrowly missing a scooterist with a little girl riding pillion and a few cars until I chased it down to the main intersection, where the car had stopped only because of traffic. I rolled down my window and asked the driver why was he driving like a madman and how could he so easily jump lights thus imperiling the lives of people and that too in a Police car. The driver muttered something and waived me off saying that it was none of my business and i had no right to demand an answer from him. Strange I thought. Ofcourse, it was my business since at first, he had narrowly missed my car and I wasnt just going to sit there as he displayed his murderous driving ability on the road. I just gave him a dirty look.
The senior officer sitting in the front seat next to the driver, suddenly put his head out of the window, pointed his finger at me and barked in Hindi, "Listen, you fool- just get on with it. Who are you? You're driving your car aren't you? So just stick to that and piss off." All this with his finger in my face. This really got me going. I'd spoken to these assholes very politely, not wanting to get into a confrontation and this insolent fool on a power trip was getting aggressive for no reason. Thankfully the light turned green, and it was time to move on but I wanted to have the last word and shouted across "You're sitting in a Police car, have some shame." He glared back, "You shameless asshole!"

This longish anecdote isnt about me or the fucking IPS officer and his poodle, the driver, but a sketch of where we stand as individuals and society, if that really means anything that is. We've become islands. No one can talk to anyone unless you're complimenting or applauding them. Criticism has become unfathomable because we've become so intolerant and after all who are you to comment on them, even if their actions are inimical to society. Citizenship has come to mean and limited to acquiring a passport, a drivers license or other documents- so you can "legally" pillage the state at will while the latter tries its level best to mete out worse treatment to you. We've become one of the two evils, which one is lesser- you decide.

Indian media and we can't get enough of the rise of India. You read the Economic Times, and it's as if we're living in a utopian state. India this and India that. It's fantastic and makes me really proud. The country is chugging along like a well oiled machine. 9.3% growth in the last quarter, agricultural, service and manufacturing sectors booming but moral sector plummeting. Who cares? Does it even matter. I guess not, since the growth rate doesnt take into account thuggery, shallowness and impunity. And by the looks of it, we're happy with it. We're happy being islands, increasingly wealthy islands, distancing ourselves from our own responsibilites as citizens- raising our voices when the matter has the potential to affects us personally but prefunctarily condoning wrongdoing because it might not affect us right then or simply because of the traditional Indian passivity- So many people break rules, how many people will you call out? or You aren't perfect so what right do you have to tell the other? Unfortunately, we've become so inured to the failings of a creaky system, imposed from the top and perpetuated by our own inaction.

Sure, in view of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010, surely the infrastructure will be spruced up- new stadia, roads, hotels, cleaner and greener city and all the works because we are surely great at hospitality but will our own character change? Or, will we just keep ambling around like zombies? Will the garbage keep lying around creating a stink and becoming a health hazard, or are we going to act and get the municipality to do what they should be doing in the first place.

The police officer is a cop yes, but he is also you and me.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Summer's here, time for a swim

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"Zizou, Zizou, Zizou"

One of the greatest footballers to have ever graced the turf, Zinedanie Zidane played his last game for Real Madrid on May 7. You can read a brillantly written write-up on his last game for Real Madrid here. His swansong will be the World Cup in Germany, which starts in exactly a month from today and where the French team will definitely be an emotional favorite to win. Above is a compilation of his wonderous bag of tricks, that have mesmerized football fans the world over for the last 8 years. More importantly, his heart of gold and humble nature have won the respect of opposition players, coaches and fans, the latter being a brutal lot. People find the nastiest of things to say about the most genuine and well meaning human beings, but "Zizou" has been above and beyond it all.

I never had the opportunity to watch him play, even though I spent an entire 6 months in Madrid in 2002. The real buzz at that time was the impending arrival of Ronaldo at Real Madrid. Zidane had been bought by the extravagant football club in the previous season I think and he'd gone about his work in typical Zidane manner- playing efficiently, making crowds roar in approval at his tricks and keeping away from the limelight and an intrusive Spanish press. It was almost as if in spite of his credentials and being at the richest club in football, he didn't exist. But he did, in every roar of approval which left the mouth of Real Madrid supporter when Zizou touched the ball and in every look of awe and jealousy on the face of the rival fans.

An anecodte- My host family in Madrid were fanatical supporters of Athletico Madrid, city rivals to Real Madrid and the team of the working class while Real finds most of its support in the elite and business class. The two teams hate each other with a passion and brawls and arson is a regular occurence when rival supporters get together in the moshpit. Much like Boca Juniors vs. River Plate in Argentina. When Athletico played, all of us would sit glued to the TV set and even the little girl Claudia, then all of 2 years old, would hum along to the Athletico hymn which would be played in the stadium at the beginning of the match. Every move of Athletico was applauded and real time opinion and analysis was delivered sitting in the house. But when, Real played Athletico and Zidane opened his dizzying bag of tricks, the father in the house would say to me in a didactic manner, "Look at the man, he's got them in a trance. Their feet are in cement and he's left them to watch him play around with the ball." Every touch was gold. Zizou was "El Mago," (The Magician), he was "El Dios," (The God).

A lot has been written about his humble origins, as a son of Algerian immigrants growing up in Marsellis, a bustling city of hardknocks. I have seen a few interviews of his and he never forgets to mention the contribution and sacrifices of his parents during his growing up years. His family and upbringing have contributed significantly to his humble and altruistic nature. During the last leg of his illustrious career, he regularly gets asked about his plans for the future and a recurring theme has been his intention to start special programmes for children- broadly aimed at providing children the safety net and support so they can dare to dream and persist to achieve.

When any big name exists a stage, it is perhaps easy to wax eloquent on them. And as always, other stalwarts or superstars emerge, new arrivals are extolled and obituaries are written. Us humans, in possession of awfully fickle memories and burdened by a self-imposed marketing machinery which creates superstars one day and drops them the next, forget the greatness of being and move on. This too will happen with Zidane. For the moment however, let us all applaud the alchemist.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

WE Pitstop: Q'BA

WE Pitstop (Wandering Elephant Pitstop) is a new section where I will give my impressions of the restaurants, pubs, clubs- joints visited by me. I'm not an expert, nearly not good enough to write wasteful columns in the newspaper, but like this blog, this will be MY take.

Q'BA
Location: E 42/43, Cannaught Place (inner circle), New Delhi-110001, India
For reservations call: 011-51512888
Lunch: Noon- 3pm, Dinner: 7pm- Midnight, Lounge: Open Noon to Midnight

Went to Q'BA tonight. Some of my friends have been talking about it so my girlfriend and I decided to pay a visit. The joint's received a lot of good press- well spread out, a good bar menu and a terrace area for cuddling and just enjoying the late night breeze. Lot of potted plants have been put out and there is also a creeper on the wall, which gives a very fresh and alive feel to the terrace. Although, the views arent great but just being out in the open, away from cigarette smoke and noise while still being able to hear the music in the background is quite a nice and calming feeling.

Mauve, puprple and black ofcourse predominate and I have to admit I was quite impressed by the decor- lots of mirrors and the place has a clean look. Not the usual hodge-podge and kitch interiors. The staff is friendly, the lady who waited on us was fantastic-she had a lovely smile and she even managed to get us onto the bar whilst a private party was going on there. Big points for that.

As one would expect, the drinks were expensive. We split a "Highway to Hell" amongst us. For the toddlers, this drink is a shake of Gin, Tequila, Rum, Vodka and Blue Curacao. Explosive to say the least and that too in a tall glass. I'm somehow a big fan of the quart of Old Monk rum and drinking at home, so splurging on a cocktail at a bar is an aberration but something I can manage every now and then. Did not order any food but took a look at the menu and on offer was the usual Italian and Continental fare with some Thai thrown in to keep one interested. Just that I probably ate better Thai food 2 months ago in Thailand, at 1/10th of the price.

Q'BA recently hosted the Kingfisher Model Contest, or something of that sort even if it was called differently. One of those ridiculous Page 3 type events which no one really cares about but wants to be seen it. But after having visited Q'BA I can definitely vouch for the place. Won't say classy because that word does not exist in the lexicon of a Delhi-ite but it's got a good vibe. The DJ played a mix of good beats with some lame ass Delhi music but it left me humming and bopping.

Moral of the story: Q'BA has an energy. It's nice and spacious and gives you the option to dine in quiet or having a rocking time at the bar next to the dancefloor. Good lounge space and not dingy or shady. Worth a dekko. Worth a spend.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Choose your ODB


ODB= Ol' Dirty Bastard

The Wandering Elephant is providing its readers (who are you? Never heard from you!) a unique opportunity to pick their very own ODB. The internet is up to the brim with all kinds of face offs, mostly to do with beautiful face, round and tight ass, full breasts, curvaceous body and a lot more that I can't possibly mention here. But, how about your very own ODB!! So, here we go...may the best ODB win.
Suspect 1
This man is ODB in name for he is Ol' Dirty Bastard of the Wu-Tang Clan. Born Russell Tyrone Jones and known to be one of the most eccentric personalities in hip-hop, ODB died in November 2004. He was 35. Peace be on him.
ODB was recognizable with his garbled and nonsensical style of singing. He half rapped and half sang. He also fathered about a dozen children from different companions. After having lost out to less singer-more empresario P Diddy at an Awards Ceremony, ODB stormed onto stage shouting exam "Wu-Tang are for the children!" With a half a dozen progenies, he surely was for the children!!
Now, I have never been a Wu-Tang fan but I do remember seeing this dude on a few videos but with teeth like that and known more for his rap sheet than rapping, he's most definitely an ODB.
Suspect 2
76 year old granpa Philip Winikoff is surely not ODB in name but finds a deserving place here after having been charged with sexually assaulting two women in Miami, Florida. Reason- he went around a Florida neighbourhood claiming to be a doctor and offering free breast exams. Two women accepted the offer and the rest as they say is history...
According to reports, one woman grew suspicious after the ol' wanker asked her to remove all her clothes and began conducting a purported genital without wearing rubber gloves!
This ODB definitely had a well thought out plan, have to give him props for that. But what a moron!! The 76 year old shuttle driver for a auto dealership now is a definite "Viejo Verde"

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Indian cricket: Humpty Dumpty sitting on The Wall

When I started this blog, I promised myself that I would never post on Indian cricket simply because there is just so much information and so many views floating all over the place. After all, there's so much more happening around me and beyond, to witness, absorb and write about. But being an Indian and an avid supporter of the national team, I can't escape cricket. You can take me away from cricket but you can't take cricket away from me. The sport is there in my blood, though I dont play it well enough. The sport is a part and parcel of my life, all over the newspapers, the TV, the internet and all over the street. Run as hard as you can and as far as you can, you could perhaps outrun it but not outlast it.

However today, I break that promise and write on Indian cricket after watching in absolute disgust the spineless capitulation of the Indian cricket team at the hands of a surprisingly effervescent and combative English team. In the days to come, as is the wont of Indian media and cricket followers alike, a lot of webspace and page-space is going to go into analysing and dissecting the performance (or non-performance) of the Indian team. But amidst all this over-analysis and chest beating the one thing that once again will be forgotten albeit after token mention will be the gutless-ness of the Indian performance and that too, yet again.

Did I expect India to win? Frankly, no. Did I expect them to draw the game? No. What I wanted and was looking forward to was Indian batsmen showing some real attitude and fighting spirit that one would associate with sportspersons playing for their country at the international level. Is that too much to expect? Anyway, I found none. India quit today. We have the greast number of superstars in the team and time and time again, the Indian batting order is termed as the best in the world. But when did it actually fire or compete when the chips were down and in a war of attrition? For every two examples you'll throw at me from the distant past I can hit back at you with twice as many examples from the recent past when the team has disgraced itself and the millions who follow them and waste plenty of money and time on them. Indians for whatever reason are drunk on past glories and find solace in them. In the ultra-competitive world we live in and especially that of a sport (or a circus) like cricket, you're only good as your last performance. And putting up a such a show as the team has today, asks for the greatest shellacking of all time.

But this will never come. A few months ago, former Indian cricketer and eloquent commentator said after yet another horrid capitualtion by India against Pakistan in the Karachi Test match, and I para phrase him here, "... My real fear is that India might do very well in the upcoming one-dayers and all the inadequacies of the Test team might be forgotten..." Soon enough the one day series will come by and a youthful and powerful Indian one day team will probably get the better of a quizically poor English one day team. All that ails Indian cricket will be forgotten and the cricket team will get drunk on adulation and new heroes will be anointed by the media and the public. Such is the nature of the game and so fickle is the public's memory. Including mine.

Team India carries the hopes of a nation on the move, one bubbling with energy and potential. Once upon a time, the team used to be dominated by players from the metros but today it is full of players from small towns and yet unheard of towns and villages. This and the youthfulness, aggro, effervescence, freshness, style and combativeness of players coming from different religions, regions and socio-economic backgrounds mirrors the advances of the much talked about Indian economy. These players represent the new India, one that all of us are a part off and very much proud off. But amidst this deserved praise, hype, spin and hyperbole could we please know where are the guts? Where are the guts so this team cannot just win when the game is nicely set up but create a game by clenching its teeth and getting its hands dirty? Where is that India? Where is that new India?

Test cricket is great. You stay glued to the TV following your team and building up hope of a last day gritty performance and you get roundly get slapped in the face, for expecting just that. A gritty performance.