Saturday, 31 July 2010


I entered this phase of my life as a sceptic - a disbeliever. I came prejudiced, constantly and repeatedly attempting to poison my mind with the words - "I shan't yield to temptation". Today, I stand a changed man. A believer. A sinner.

For these six weeks have given me some very memorable moments, ones I will cherish for a long, long time to come. I entered SLB wondering why they recruit people from the 'creamy layer' to perform tasks which any blundering idiot can also, with suitable training... Today I know that it isn't about the job as much as about the culture it brings about. Just like Roorkee, godforsaken that it is, has been able to develop its own quaint, unique culture, so has Schlumberger. And this, most disturbingly, has endeared it to me.

I recall those initial days when we underwent examinations which tested our safety training and safe operating practice knowledge. One particular exam required a minimum of 90% to pass and I can proudly say today, that it is the only test until today which I have failed. Four times in a row. Each of these times, there was this question which repeatedly occurred - "What is the last step after tool maintenance & check-up". I repeatedly dismissed a certain option the first few times, laughing my head off when I saw it pop up on the screen. I finally passed the test when I realized that it was, in fact, the correct answer - "Paint it blue".

These few weeks have seen me become a nomad, an epicurean, a spoilt brat, a romantic... I have come to enjoy a certain facet of life which I never knew I could - one involving the world of malls, movies, million-dollar houses, and more city. Somehow, I've also had the time to fall in love with any language which can make beautiful poetry - Urdu being the latest in this list...

I came to Mumbai happy that I was closer to Roorkee. Now, I wish I had more time here - Roorkee can wait. My blood seems to have turned a little blue and I know I have changed. I wonder if it is correct. Nevertheless, I find it exceedingly hard to separate myself from this experience. And I try to find solace in words:

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

Monday, 26 July 2010

What's Your Dream?

There is this little kid next door, only three years old and clever as hell. He's an overly exuberant kid whose restlessness knows no bounds. It is as though he finds it imperative to do more than whatever he is doing at that moment. Albeit exceedingly fast, and sometimes reckless, I realized that he can hardly keep up with the speed at which his processing centre functions!

And hence, he performs like most machines we have studied about - lagging the stimulus by quite a bit. Strangely though, today I discovered that he wasn't much unlike me! It was an alarming discovery.

Some days back, I had asked the kid what he wanted to do when he grew up; a question I take immense pleasure in asking because of the fact that I used to respond 'An Engine Driver'. He promptly answered, "A Neurosurgeon!"

I was impressed. I was amazed at the nonchalance of it all. He had his life planned out at such a tender age, and I swore to myself that day that if ever I'd meet him as a neurosurgeon some decades from now, I'd eat my hat.

Yesterday, I found myself smiling once more as I stood there observing the way he lay underneath his tricycle studying the moving parts therein. What happened next was unexpected as my flatmate found it prudent to walk up to the kid and ask him the same question - "Child, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

The answer came out just as fast as it had the last time - "An Astrophysicist!" I smiled to myself, as my flatmate appreciated the vocabulary of the three-year old.

Today, I approached that kid once more, this time quite deliberately. I only wanted to know if he'd fall back on any of his previous choices. He was playing with a fancy spinning-top. I asked him the question - "Kid, what will you be when you grow up?"

The answer was unleashed - "The president." He continued fiddling with his toy. He never once looked up at me. I was so happy that I'd have bought the kid a lollypop! But then, he asked me a question next; one I was quite unprepared for. It came out of the blue:

"Bhaiyya, what do you want to be?"

I stood there silently. I looked around as the walls seemed to close in. I whispered to him, "I don't know." And I took the elevator for the ground floor. I'm afraid of seeing the child again.

Monday, 19 July 2010

A Train Story

Waking up to new company has been a phenomena I have increasingly got used to owing to the immense variety of people I've been rendezvousing over the past fortnight. But even this sort of experience would have counted zilch if I hadn't remembered the happenings of the night prior. And Cafe Leopold.

Having got up in a room whose co-occupant was a certain Tiger, for the second time in my life, and being a few rooms away from the Blob, wasn't as disturbing an experience as the one prior but the headache was a lot worse. For people unfamiliar with the happenings of 'Wake Up : Episode #1', a brief summary would say that I had to un-'lock' my belt and scrape toothpaste off my face. But I also remembered that morning, that it was the first time I had got drunk on Beer. Haddu, Chatu, Chirag and Monkey were the other champions of the Colaba night.

But as dark secrets often do, this story too will let the night fade into the same darkness which enveloped the majestic Gateway that night. But the barley hangover won't be forgotten that easily, for waking up will a heavy head and a topsy turvy world isn't all that hard when you are in familiar environs. But when you realize that you have to traverse half a Mumbai to reach the far-off haven...

And thus I took the trusted local and went to the extent of affording myself the agony of having to change trains in the process - to reach my Navi-Mumbai home. Desperately yearning for that liberating coffee which so often is the antidote to many a headache, the protagonist of this tale crawled through the empty midmorning train and found himself a seat.

A few stations later, I arrived at a hamlet called 'Mankhurd' - one not many would notice if it hadn't been for a drizzle like none other I have ever witnessed. The rain seemed to be falling upwards. As the train gradually pulled out of the station, the rain started getting heavier and the drops larger. The small tenements gave way to a plush green; there was a green of every shade starting out deep and getting lighter with distance before finally fading into the grey-purple hills on the horizon. The cumulous formations seemed to have descended from the heavens, teasing my outstretched palm as I reached for the grey firmament. As the train burst through the greenery at immense pace, I found myself reaching out for the open doorway.

It was then that I saw the clear blue bay hurtling towards me through heaven's cataract. The Mumbai - Vashi bay is a beautiful sight on most days and nights. But this sight was one few are permitted. Plush green, faraway hills, a magical sea, an overbearing grey sky... And the land on the other end of the bridge bathed in golden sunlight unaffected by dampness. I leaned out of the compartment and the first few drops struck my forehead. No longer was there pain. It was pure bliss.

Monday, 12 July 2010


Superheroes are a part of a child's life.

And it was no different for this kid who had grown up watching his boyhood wonder doing everything he does, with panache. There was class stamped over every single move he made, every punch he landed, every feint, every counter... He stood for everything the child had always dreamt of - righteousness, power, speed, agility, dexterity, skill, magic, courage. His hero had once vanquished every demon who had dared to face up to him. And no one was more overjoyed than the little boy who went absolutely crazy celebrating the victory as his very own!

Soon, the neighbourhood chimed in... And the lad had a bunch of cronies who would all share his mirthful delight each time his hero claimed another victim. The lad grew up watching his hero; his hero grew in stature with every blow he landed. The boys would laugh when their fighter would say one of his oft repeated punchlines; they would shed tears whenever their master got hurt, as though their tears could heal the maestro and rejuvenate him! And thus developed a community of devotees who could pledge anything for their king.

Then, one day, the ruler of the land declared a competition - a gauntlet. Their hero, like all others who entered the contest, would face a series of challenges... And one man would emerge champion! How these kids rejoiced for they knew that now, children from far and wide could watch their champion win... It was a victory for these kids.

And then the championship began! Strangely, their hero had changed his ways... The lad had bought the best tickets available to watch the virtuoso performance which they all expected. But then, he was disappointed at the first hurdle... There was no magic; his hero lacked the sting - the venom! The great man won however, though he stumbled like he never had before... Hopeful like children are, he booked the best seats again for the next challenge. Uncharacteristically, the master stumbled again. This time, there was no speed... It was like he had forgotten his own game! He was slow at the dodge; he was almost cut to size by a relative minnow! Nevertheless, he got through the stage... The children, still draped in his colours, waved his flag. The boisterousness in their celebration was lacking though, as passersby noted.

And so it went on... Their hero had reached the grandest stage, scraping through each level with more difficulty than the preceding one. It was then that the boy realized that all that he always saw in his champion - the speed, the agility, the courage, the magic - they were all gone! He had given up everything that he had symbolized, and was closer than ever to legendary fame! But, the boy and his friends arrived at the grand finale dutifully, as they always did - draped in his colours, but more as neutrals than real fans! They hoped the superhero would redeem himself with one final gambit.

It never came. Their hero won. The boy ran out of the stadium screaming like many other fans, who were themselves drunk with joy, with tears streaming down his cheeks... His champion had vanquished his final demon. But these weren't tears of joy... He threw down his 'fan' scarf. And sat down quietly in a corner, trying to digest the fact that such a loser had actually won!

Friday, 9 July 2010

The Problem with Football Fans...

I am not an expert on football and these few paragraphs can be forgiven as being written by a mature n00b who is just getting to know his way around the beautiful game. And since it is a fact that I have followed Joga Bonito closely for but the last year and half, I shall not profess to know much more than you, which in all probability I do not. But I shall also take this as a chance to be vocal about my abhorrence for all other people who have grown into football pundits overnight!

I had never given much thought to the lines I first came across on Murty's blog - "Opinions are like feet. Everyone has a couple and usually they stink." During this time of the year, the odour is particularly putrid and rotten. This is the time of the year you hear the - "How can you watch this World Cup dude? There is no Brazil or Argentina..." And then the chums chiming in - "There's no Messi! How is this a football World Cup?" And then, it get's worse. If the football were made of ferromagnetic material, then Messi's feet are two magnets; this doesn't necessarily mean these magnets did anything great in RSA! So it makes me want to puke when someone shrieks - "OoooOOoh! Messi... Whatta player... What a shot!!" - when the little master has barely touched the ball.

These are men and women who snigger at you when you shout at the top of your voice, exulting when a goal is scored... Or when you curse the ref harshly and desperately throw up your right arm as though the referee, on seeing you from inside the TV, will dish out a few Yellow cards! On the other hand, I find people trying desperately to learn Mesut Oezil's spelling in German (with the umlaute) by rote only so that they can make a witty comment about him at a lunch conversation the next day! I don't mind it that much really; if only they managed to keep it at this much wit. But then they soon start correcting you. Wrongly. Fernando Torres invites more and more insult as days pass, while it is quite clear that even the great David Villa cannot play in that central striker's position profitably for Spain; he needs to drift in from that left-side. I shall refrain from saying more as it will be an act of egoistic hypocrisy.

And it isn't because of profound soccer knowledge or detailed statistical analysis that I make yet another prediction, but because I feel that I can do most of what an Octopus can. And since I'm riding on a wave of luck, I shall make as bold as to say that Spain will win this World Cup, in spite of making the task a million times harder than it ought to have been for them. And to all those out there who have never watched a game and yet shoot your mouth, "Shut up."

P.S. Yes, Holland deserves to be in the Finals.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Warning Storys

A traveller will travel. And if you place this wanderer in a city like Mumbai, he will wander. There is no dearth of places to visit - be it relics of medieval history, shopping malls, restaurants for every budget, bars, cineplexes, beaches... And the wanderer is all the more astounded by the variety the city offers if he hails partly or wholly from a semi-urban background - like 'R-men' do.

However the city poses one major obstacle in his path. His unquenchable wanderlust is brought to a screeching halt by the daunting task of having to traverse enormous distances to reach his final destination, or worse - having to travel short distances for long intervals of time. The latter experience is one every Mumbaikar will be familiar with - Travelling a couple of kilometres in an hour! Why we don't walk, I don't know... But that's probably because there is no space left to walk.

Nevertheless, these difficulties are minified by the awesome train system - which leaves the traveller astounded as to how an arrival time like 21:39 can be maintained! But travelling in trains is as difficult as it is brilliant. While you experience the real Mumbai life, you also end up with your bag strapped in front of your chest, with one hand in your pocket performing the duty of wallet-sentry and your head at an acute angle to the horizontal so that you can catch sufficient breath. But in the end, it is usually worth it.

After travelling to Jughead's in Powai to catch the Oranje win and returning by the midnight train, I decided that two consecutive days of such travel will be highly hazardous to health. And life. So, I could only sigh in relief when they said we'd be watching "I Hate Luv StorYs" at a screen nearby. After all the advertisements and being part of the naive junta, the prospect of watching the Sonam Kapoor and Imran Khan show excited me almost as much as the fact that I'd be back in time to watch Germany versus Argentina.

There were signs. First of all, the people I was supposed to go with left without us. Then, one autorickshaw guy after another refused to take us to the mall. We finally got one at the same time the movie started. It was raining and we were getting soaked too. Stubbornly ignoring all these forebodings and omens, we went. Once inside the mall, we behaved much like rats would once you drop them into a large box. We ran. We ran in all directions. Getting split up in the crowds was no longer a bother as each of us wanted our money's worth. So, when four of us found ourselves inside Hall#3, we didn't bother about the others, for a while. But when two minutes passed and then five, and when we still didn't understand any dialogue in the movie and since there was still no sign of both Sonam and Imran, we started worrying. Just about then, I asked Pulkit, "Dude, is this the movie? Are you sure?"

And then we left the Marathi film which we were trying to follow; we entered the real thing - an oxy-moronic flick which starts off with copycat HIMYM scenes and proceeds to copy the entire series. Only later, after the interval, do the HIMYM references and shameless lifts end; but there ends the movie too - turning insipid from plain empty. I took respite in the fact that I didn't spend more money on a larger popcorn-combo! I'm sure that Marathi flick was better.

This post is a warning.

P.S. I feel bad for Ms. Larissa.