Saturday, November 21, 2009

Of oddities and strangeness

This appeared in The South Asian Times on November 21st.

Lately I feel like I'm the chosen one. Life seems to be luring me with a variety of odd situations. Or maybe I'm looking out for them. Or simply being fussy. Either way, if I don't take them personally, they definitely seem to be on the funnier side.

As a hopeful up-and-coming photographer, I expect my online ad to yield some serious and some not-so-serious inquiries but no amount imagination would have prepped me for this one. A character who I presumed to be a frail old little lady warned me about her unusual request before starting her email but it didn't quite register in my head. Her dog had apparently bit a puppy and someone tipped her off saying the pup had recovered and was out and about having a good time. Our poor old lady of course preferred to stop paying for the extended treatment for the pup and thought of a brilliant idea. That of hiring a pro photographer with a telephoto lens who could do some detective work, catch the puppy on his evening strolls, yank out her zoom lens and take close up shots of the healed wound. All of this without the pup's owner getting any hints. If I wasn't living in a perennial time crisis, I'd have never passed on what I'd call a once in a lifetime opportunity of being a detective plus photographer, all at once.

On my way to pick up a friend, I took a wrong turn and landed up at the beach. It was a gorgeous day. As I was soaking the balmy air in on the Santa Monica Pier, I suddenly got surrounded by a small group of people carrying around literature, who just wanted a few minutes of my time. Having inherited a weakness for not being able to say no to people, I meekly agreed. Next thing I know, I get bombarded with questions about what my religion stands for vs. what a certain other religion had to offer. My day dreaming about catching some waves on a water scooter promptly gets ruined by profound questions that I couldn't furnish answers to. Seeing a weak target in front of them, their attack intensified and I had no option but to consider distracting them with a red kite in the air and running away. It’s not what ultimately happened but I was left with a subtle warning about where people land up if they don’t go that route and the answer isn’t heaven.

I was chilling with my family in San Francisco recently on a deceivingly hot afternoon. On the very crowded Pier 39, we sat to watch a stand up routine with some bland pretzels and coffee. As I was washing my hands in the women's bathroom later on, I noticed a young boy and a young girl walking towards the bathroom. Odd or not, I decided to stick around to gauge what the deal was. For a few moments, they locked themselves in one of the stalls; then boldly came out holding something that positively looked fishy… a.k.a. drugs. Before I could even decide if I wanted to tip off the cops or ignore, they ignored me and walked off.

Weird situations, although by their very nature aren't so welcoming, aren't so bad either. I'm changing my opinion about them actually. For one, they spice up life a little bit and balance it out. And more importantly, it gives you material for stories and keeps friends and family entertained. So next time you feel strangeness is luring you, go ahead, indulge. It'll definitely come in handy when you decide to write a memoir someday.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The ‘What’s Your Raashee’ model

This appeared in The South Asian Times on November 14th.

I've been completely out of the 'gossip news' circuit for a while now. No it isn't deliberate. It's more of a situational issue, one that I plan to correct before it's too late and I have morphed for good. In the meantime, thank god for well informed friends, one of who informed me this morning that Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty (actually corporate queen Shilpa Shetty better suits her these days considering the one-new-enterprise-a-month mission that she is on) is all set to tie the knot with London boy Raj Kundra. Another one falls pray to a married man, I concurred instantaneously. How many more actresses will follow suit and become another statistic I wondered. At least all of my favorites were going that route. Shabana Azmi, Hema Malini, Shridevi, Raveena Tandon, Karishma Kapoor; they all did it. Kareena is going down that path and now it's Shilpa! Where on earth have all the single, rich and handsome young men vanished?

It is not unusual for movies to be trend setters in India and often times awake a generation. Rang De Basanti was one of the esteemed ones. I wonder if 'What's Your Raashee' will meet similar fate. I will give it 2 stars one day when I'm feeling generous but the point is its old candy in a new wrapper. May be that's what the new generation can try out. It sounds absolutely insane but get this. If you are a nubile (I love that word, don't you?) woman or a just-about-eligible ('most eligible bachelor' is an illusion) man who's made mental peace with the notion of being married and wants to dive into it but is very very single, what is it gonna take? You'll dig out a potential partner from somewhere, date him/her for a few weeks, try to judge the hell out of him/her and countless evenings combined with way too much money later, you realize it wasn't meant to be. So optimistically you try it again. And again. And again. Ultimately it's mommy to the rescue.

With the ultra busy routines our generation is compelled to follow, what with the busy work schedules, evening MBA classes, near perfect gym routines and never enough time to hang out with pals, where is the time for poorly thought out and prolongated experiments? So unless you're a PhD who simply gets a kick out of experiments, here's the master plan. One week, meeting up with 12 potential partners (12 plus minus 5 is just fine!) and then a week to analyze. You know why it might work? Here's the logic. It's the difference between looking at one flavor of ice cream in isolation versus looking at a temptingly laid out gelato counter with a dozen flavors and then comparing them side by side. By the time you're on your third tasting, you will know what you don't like for sure. Few more careful observations and tastes and you might begin to realize what you do like. And by the time you're on your last, voila, you know the answer! Instead of that, if you try one flavor every 2 months, good luck remembering your likes and dislikes. Ultimately it’s the same process, only squeezed into a much shorter time frame. Plus it might give your buddies some fodder for entertainment. Two birds, one stone.

Don't buy my theory? Try it! If it doesn’t work, I’ll help you draft a mean letter to Ashutosh Gowarikar.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A different pace/a new face

This appeared in The South Asian Times on Saturday.

Life is a journey and u-turns are a part of any journey. Or so I'm telling myself ever since a u-turn hit me like the apple did to Newton. Sure enough, it's led to discoveries. My own discoveries.

Life perhaps decided to be fair to me and let me be one personality type for the most of it. Three decades later, blink and I'm a new person. Looking back, I realize that my primary goal in life was to have fun amidst other trivial goals that are on everyone's wish lists such as a great career, a great family and a good life in general. More socializing than I could endure, more friends than I could handle, more parties than I could attend, more lazing around than was good for my system, more random and disconnected-from-each-other aspirations than time would permit; an excess of it all. The anticipation of the new within the known was exciting while it lasted.

With the new me that I'm getting to know, so far a few aspects have surfaced. It's not like I prefer the tedium of routine or that I've become an introverted detailist or that I've sworn off people around me. Nothing that extreme thankfully. God no. The changes seem to be more subtle. Like a little less of everything random and focusing on things that could prove to be meaningful in my world. From the ping-pong ball that I used to be, bouncing at the slightest touch, I seemed to have turned into one at the bowling alley which requires a little thought, strategizing and introspection. Is it called killing my spirit? Does that make me non-spontaneous, uptight and boring? I'm not sure. But 'being selective' is my new mantra. Just like my grandfather's hearing ability. No there was no disability there. He just chose to hear what he wanted and discard the rest.

Shakespeare famously identified ‘seven ages of man’ so I guess it’s about time I move into my second, considering I do not remember my childhood all that well. Interestingly or sadly, depending on one’s perspective, the personality type that I always ran away from is what I’ve now become. I don’t want to fight it because I seem to like it. It’s easy, gratifying and doable. And it’s fun in its own way too.

I know I’m not alone in experiencing this. Perhaps this is why the 30th birthday is known as ‘the big three o’. It has unforeseen changes in store for you. Good changes. Changes that expand your horizon, that make you think before doing things recklessly, that make you forgive and forget trivial issues and that make you worldly and wise. It’s an adjustment and takes you a couple years to even realize all that.

So if you’re about to celebrate your 30th, dance the night away or do what you do best. It may not last forever. Hire a photographer for the big event so you can remind yourself of how you were although it might take some convincing later on. Peace out.