Friday, February 24, 2006

Mera Amar, Tera Amar

But before we delve into the life of 'Lardbucket'... (did you know that the man has no guts, really! Half his guts were removed because of some weight-loss shit)
ToI would have splashed an image of Dubyaman on the front page anyway, but then again no other Indian media house got an interview with (purportedly) the most powerful man in the world. Quite a coup and the telly channels will be running around with their tails between their legs. Love it! At the end of the day, whether you hate the man (which many of you do) or love him (few of you) or are indifferent like me - because I believe the economic policies forwarded by John Kerry were detrimental to India's interests, so despite everything it was a good thing for India that Dumb-ya won. But then again, Bush-man is responsible (in a way) for $70 oil and half the world hating Americans. Anyway, beginning that argument over here would be facile.
Now back to the defender of the UP Rajputs - Amar Singh. One friend's father, a UP Rajput once told me how proud he was of Amar Singh, because Amar Singh had given the Rajput his own back. The argument puzzled me because the Samajwadi Party was always Yadav-centric, but anyway. Amar Singh was one of Delhi's two big party animals - the other being Rajeev Shukla - who incidentally Amar holds responsible for the tapes. Now, what is Amar Singh so bloody scared of? Is he scared that the entire world will discover that he was nothing more than a very high-class pimp? I wonder what his cut was? Now what is even more surprising is that Amar Singh had kids through IVF and that too not because his wife had any problems - so we had a rather unique case the Impotent Important Pimp.
Now as Amar Singh's erstwhile 'close friend' Vir Sanghvi never fails to point out, after the new dispensation came to power in Delhi, Amar Singh disappeared from the Delhi circuit. Maybe the powers that were in the Congress had their own means of organising 'entertainment' - don't believe for one second that they are any holier than thou, at least one veshthi comes off at alarming speed every night and another made a lot of foreign trips so that he could get 'bang bang'. Or maybe, it was Rajeev Shukla's turn in the spotlight. How many fat men can the power circuit handle at one time? At the same time, Subroto Roy, Amar Singh's close friend also did the complete disappearing act - the story goes that the one with the veshthi gave our friend some problems.
Even bureaucrats realising that Mrs G was out to get the SP as the Congress aims for a comeback in UP started ignoring Amar Singh. He couldn't even play Mr Fix-It anymore. And this happens. Now what was Amar Singh 'alledgedly' talking about - dirty talk with some of Bollywood's sultriest actresses (ugh!), transferring bureaucrats and fixing a case in the Allahabad HC (the last of which he was really scared about). Amar Singh is trying to use his 'special' relationship with Harkishen Singh Surjeet as a 'Get out of Jail' card by playing the 'secularism' bogey, but its unlikely that he'll get Prakash Karat backing him, given the mans hatred of such characters.
So what happens next? I have no clue, but it'll be fun. My advice to Amar Singh, take up that house in Amby Valley that your friend has given you and lie low for a few months. And if the Samajwadi Party wants to avoid being decimated by the Congressi media, it might be advisable for the SP to call snap polls in UP. The smiles in the BJP camp must be getting wider and wider, because the Congress isn't still A-OK in UP, the BJP might just pull off some more seats, either that or UP is destined to become India's next Bihar. And talking about Bihar, I think Nitish Kumar is doing a great job, in controlling the flow of stories out of the state.
And just a small bit of information to everybody, Government security agencies tap each and every phone call and text message you make in India. Thats right, each and every call. So next time you talk to your pimp/drug dealer/gun runner please know that Big Brother (Sister?) is listening to your every word. OK, so only if you use certain key words does the system get alerted, but everyday in those bunch of buildings behind Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium every call is recorded and stored for over a month. Detective Agency my ass!
PS : I might (might - being the operative word) just make a run down to Goa for the weekend (I've got a Ford Fiesta for a test drive) so I'll see ya people the other side of the weekend.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


"Which schhol/college did you go to?" I don't get asked that question that much nowadays, after all a few years of working would have taken all the knowledge imparted over twenty years and squeezed it all out, leaving nothing but a blank shell. But sometimes, when you go for a meeting, sometimes for lack of anything to ask someone I end up throwing that question. You never know what sort of answer can result. Because even though you might remember nothing from what Mrs Bhandari taught you in Geography in Class 8-D, or what Ashish Roy taught you in the times he did teach anything, all that mattered is that you got a 'stamp'. A 'thappa' of recognition that you went to 'this' college or 'this' school. And by god, it matters.
In the last couple of weeks I met two extremely influential ladies in the world of Indian business and discovered that they had grown up in Delhi. OK, so it was just logical to ask, which school they went to, and I discovered that both of them went to the school that was 'across the hedge'. Before you ask what this confusing bit of code means, it is a term that people from the school I went to - St.Columba's (pronounced as Shah Rukh Khan points out repeatedly - Colum-BAAZ and not Colum-BUS) use for the girls who studied next door at Convent of Jesus and Mary (CJM). The moment I discovered that, or they discovered that I was from the 'other school' made life a lot easier, they somehow seemed to trust me more and talk more - it was as if 'Theek hai, yeh baccha theek school mein gaya tha!' I didn't complain.
On a sidenote, the school is named after a 6th century Irish saint and not the explorer who got lost as many people assume. And yes, Ireland did have some more saints other than St.Paddy. St.Columba is known for a lot of things, but he is most importantly the patron saint of calligraphy and the man who spread Christianity in Scotland.
Now, even though SCS produced a distinguished list of alumni (SRK, being the most famous currently, it also includes Deepak Chopra and Vivek Paul and several others), CJM has one alumnus who has a claim to fame that no other Delhi school has - it has a Nobel Laureate. Heck, even my other school (the one I did the first three years of formal schooling in) La Martiniere, Calcutta can't claim that. Aung Sang Suu-Kyi might be locked up by a despotic administration that is being mollycoddled by the Indian government, even though it allows the Chinese to establish a base in the Bay of Bengal. In fact, India's stand on Burma is quite depressing, but then again, India's foreign policy has never been anything to write home about - given that it is still driven by 1970's geopolitics.
But back to the topic I was talking about. Even though advertising one's blue-blooded educational qualifications might sound decidedly snobby, it somehow always helps break the ice in case you find something in common. Heck, meetings that were supposed to last half an hour have gone on till dinner sometimes. One person I met, a person generally regarded as one of Indian advertising most creative talents, knew my father from college and the next thing I knew we were talking about the (sadly erstwhile) pot plantation behind Muk East and so on and so forth.
Somehow, I've discovered that people seem to open up more when they know that you're one of them or like them or know where you're coming from. Even if you know jackshit about either the person or the industry they work in, but if both of you can relate to school or college that helps. Either that, or yopu discover that the both of you love U2 or Japanese Anime, thats happened too. However, sharing an educational institute, or studying in one bordering yours makes people feel comfortable at a level that I have rarely seen elsewhere.
In a way, I'm thankful I have the 'thappa' I do, I'ld be half the person I am without it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Giving the bird!

On Sunday afternoon while I was packing to come back to the city of sweat, I was talking to a person, we'll just call 'A' over here. 'A' is a top editor with one of the dailies, and I just happened to be watching BBC going nuts that Bird Flu had been discovered in Western Europe. The following conversation ensued. I mentioned to A how it was strange that the H5N1 virus seemed to have skipped India altogether, I mean one day you hear that birds are dying in South-East Asia and the next they're dying in Turkey.
Draw a straight line from Vietnam to Turkey (Western Turkey to be precise) and one very large land-mass appears in the middle - its called India. Now another thing, the Beeb's anchors and reporters were carrying on about how the virus is spread by migratory birds. Heck, I just thought one thing pretty fast - Bharatpur. India, could not possibly NOT have the H5N1 virus, and I scented a cover-up. A, however wasn't so sure. After all, a few years previously, the Delhi media had gone all out (EchTee in particular) trying to scream out that SARS was spreading like wildfire across India. Even Sushma Swaraj, the then health minister, bought into the stories of doom and gloom. Heck, since I had recently returned from Shanghai at that point of time, people even thought that I had the virus. Then a week later, the WHO came and said "Stupid Indian media, nobody in your country had SARS. There was no need to start the panic." However, with the birds I thought differently. Local health officials in India have a bad habit of covering up disease outbreaks. For example, people in cities - that includes people in the medai's ivory towers, have little or no clue about the spread of Japanese Encephalitis in Eastern UP and Bihar. Of course, it doesn't help when the Union Health minister is all hung up on Rajnikant's smoking habits. Fair enough, I understood A's argument against creating panic, but of course, when the outbreak was discovered, that didn't stop the papers from giving us 8-column 80-point headlines talking to terrible doom and gloom. And of course, you had the telly channels going bonkers, but its gotta be said, I agree more or less with what the spy has said, the telly channels were far more restarined in their coverage than the papers (and a couple in particular), however I still would rather watch VH1 All-Access.
Yaar, mera argument simple tha - migratory birds carry bird flu, India has lots of migratory birds, therefore, by simple deductive logic, there is a high probability that the H5N1 virus has come to India. Nope, the media was more interested in the 'possibility' that Bollywood's 'Star Son' would marry its most beautiful (and fast moving) actress. That said, the rather low-key coverage (relatively) given to Mohammed Yaqood Qureshi, an idiotic UP minister who has promised Rs 51 crore to anyone who does something not nice to the Danish cartoonist, was bewildering. Now, I don't doubt for a minute, that Mr Qureshi is responsible for most educated Muslims in India banging their heads on whatever surface they can find and I also don't believe that this character has even seen the cartoons. And fair enough, as I've said before the cartoons were distasteful - however, as The Religious Policeman points out again and again, it was quite strange (and I buy his reason) that they surfaced so many months after they were first printed.
But, he is still a minister in a (corrupt) state government and should be held responsible for his words. However, I don't doubt for an instant, that if a Praveen Togadia or even a minister in Narendra Modi's government had made a similar statement, calling for the head of say, the guys who are using the likeness of Ma Durga on Southern Comfort bottles (which as a Bong is particularly distasteful), I'm pretty sure that UndieTV and Rajdeep TV would have been all over them in a jiffy and talking of Hindu extremism and shit-shat.
Just my two cents and I just so agree with Jeremy Clarkson's column on bores this week, the man is a genius.
I usually don't make too many late edits anymore, but Amit's post reminds me of asomething that 'A' was telling me on Sunday about a ToI reporter getting arrested because it seems that there are corporators in Bombay who are as stupid and politically incorrect as our friend Qureshi. Of course, people were called and the reporter is out on bail, but why are sections of a particular community going all out to stoke communal fires. Corporators like these are as bad as rapid SS types who want V-Day banned because they don't get any. If the Maharashtra government (though dealing with the aforementioned bird-flu crisis, strange that Maharashtra seems to going from one crisis to the next) had any balls they would put this clown behind bars.
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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Low-cost, high-fear?

Originally uploaded by The Big K.
I'm on a quick Delhi-run, because my friend of the last god knows how many years, Sharma is getting married. And even though I booked my tickets late, I got a great deal on Air Deccan. My ticket came for Rs 2221, including taxes, but I got 10 per cent cash-back on my credit card, making it even cheaper. Just to add a point of comparison, a II-tier ticket on the Bombay-Central to Nizammudin Rajdhani costs Rs 2240.
Even though, low-cost air travel is great, I mean I can travel around for a third of the fare that Jet used to charge, there are times I wonder if things aren't happening too fast. On the flight the other day, just before we were about to take off, a passenger kept on using the 'call' button. When the air-hostesses came, he insisted that the wing was falling apart. Actually, the flaps were in take-off position, but this dude was going nuts, he wanted to get off the plane. I'm not trying to be a snob or anything, but this was weird. I guess the safety announcement at the start should also state that the noises you hear before take-off and landing are the landing gear, flaps and engines powering-up. In fact, Air Deccan actually had a problem of people whacking life-jackets, and now they had to put the theft-alert systems on those systems.
But what was scary, at least from the perspective of someone who has flown a fair bit was the flying. Because of a shortage of Commander's in India, expats are flying for all these low-costs. And some of these guys are totally beserk. I have flown out of Bombay enough times, but never had I experienced a take-off quite so violent. The guy, something -manov (seemed Russian or Ukrainian) just went nearly vertical as if he was still on a MiG fighter.
And I'm not the only person who has suffered from mad low-cost flying tales. Another friend swore off low-costs because during one approach on Air Deccan into Delhi the pilot pointed the plane straight towards the ground. A third acquaintance, who flew SpiceJet, and this is a person who holds Gold and Platinum level Frequent-Flyer cards was so shaken up by the experience that he has sworn off kanjoosi. In fact with both Indian Airlines and Jet Airways offering bargain basement prices (as low as Rs 2700 with taxes) even two-three days before the flight (as low as Rs 3500 before taxes) both through their website and MakeMyTrip, I don't see why I should fly on an airline that charges me Rs 12 for water. But then again, even if I save Rs 500, its money that can be spent on something else, and its only for two hours. But, then again, if they keep scaring the beejezus out of me every time I fly, I might just pay that Rs 500-1000 more for an airline I feel safer on. And the water is for free.
However, I've said this before and I'll say it again, sometimes these low fares puzzle me a lot. I wonder how the hell they can be sustained. With Indigo airlines starting up later this year with fares even lower than that of Deccan, things can only get more economically unsustainable, especially if jet-fuel prices and pilot salaries keep going through the roof. However, cheapness is always a good thing for consumers, now someone should do a 'How it Works' special on aircraft on one of the news channels - it would be more watchable than the random shit they usually do.
On another note, to readers of this blog who told me about something about a magazine - no that ain't me. And now for some nice fun links.
This was an article that caught my eye.
This blog is by Ren&Stimpy's creator, John Krifcalusi, which is a very interesting read!
The news and the link has spread all over the world by now, but I though that I would also add a link to the Israeli Anti-Semetic Cartoon contest, which is a great idea.
This is a damn neat photoblog, best food photography I've seen in a bit
Kumi Machida's ink paintings, damn neat and sometimes disturbing.
In the 1950's Americans were warned what to do if an A-Bomb falls - nice comic.
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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Wappy Bhalenthine's Dhay!

You know how it feels when everyone around is making grand plans to have random sex and you suddenly realise that you ain't getting any. Now, because we've fallen into this entire marketing trap of believing that some old Christian dude died for 'Lurve' we must celebrate it. Of course, most people like me, which would be a collection of balding people of size (actually my hair is better than it has been in years and I've been losing weight of late, yea!) join the Shiv Sena and then go and protest 'Western customs', simply because they ain't getting any. Of course, with that party in disarray and the rebel leader famous for his torrid affair with a (now married) Bollywood starlet, this year the SS has been rather silent. Or maybe thats because several SS chaps got trashed last year by lovelorn couples.
Now, how will I celebrate Valentine's Day, I can't go out alone tonight, because y'know going out to bars, even if they're quiet, full of horny people is a very bad idea. I'm not particularly keen to watch some random movie, so I might read a book. No wait, I can't read a book by an Indian author, because all Indian authors (OK, almost all) can't write about sex, at all. If I really wanted to read about the Indian male fantasies I would buy one of those el cheapo things from Churchgate. Even M&B sex (well, there was this guy in school who read M&B so.... I just read the interesting bits - I swear) is better than most of the tripe Indian authors put out. Look at Tarun Tejpal's Alchemy of Desire, I mean with a title inspired by GGM you expected great passion - instead you got niether Alchemy nor Desire.
So, I'll hit the desi blogistan, but here writers are kinda prudish, other than talking about random desires or outright lies - its quite weird. But maybe thats because most people in India don't know blogs exist as yet (which is why Internet Explorer 7 with its built-in RSS reader might allow blogs to explode in 2006, I know I love Firefox and will probably be using Version by the time IE7 comes out, but heck you have to give MS the fact its MS). But the US is a different kettle of fish altogether. The blogistan, like the interweb is full of sex - imagery, text, whatever. Call me a pervert if you want to, but I love reading good sex writing - I'm not implying anything here - but the primal act can be described beautifully like the way GGM writes about it. Or you could write about sex the way Indians do.
So as a Happy Valentines Day gift to my readers, who usually number a bit higher than Codey's 24 a day, I give you posts, links et al, to great sex (writing, pictures, drawings, whatever). All this is arty-farty, and not brutally pornographic, unless you froth at the mouth (like Saudi religious police or the SS). Here goes....

(And by the way, not all of these should be opened in office, those are marked NSFW)

Eugene Vardanyan Photography - this guy takes some great pictures and is a master of Photoshop! (NSFW)
Straight Lines! (SFW)
The trailer for the 1974 movie - Deadly Weapons - they are what you think they are!
Fleshbot's Horny Valentines Day gift guide. Hmmm.... (Well, not exactly NSFW)
The Science of Love (MSNBC site for gods sake!)
How to be a Dominant Diva! Um, I discovered this today, so heck....

Blogs - from Sugasm #21
Her first time - and its not what you think it is!
Is Pussy a naughty word?
Private Appearance

From Nerve (SFW - Most of it at least)
Your week in Sex
Sex Advice from Chocolatiers
Miss Information
This is how it happened (Fiction)
The Miss Prisoner Pageant - Yes, really!

And here are a couple of blogs I read fairly regularly through my Bloglines feeds.
Urban Gypsy
Pussy Talk
Rare Erotica
Complicetes Feminines
One Life, Take Two
and of course, Viviane's Sex Carnival

By now, if you don't think I'm weird, I'm rather impressed. Hope you enjoyed the links, and have a great V-Day.

Friday, February 10, 2006


When was the last time you had an "uh-oh!" moment. By that I mean, when was the last time you realised that you were about to head into a very strange realm of reality where everything around you was about to implode/explode/collapse. And sadly, sometimes like Michael J Smith, the pilot on the Challenger Shuttle, you might not survive that "uh-oh" moment.
But, lets clearly define the moment before we carry on - such a moment is not when you walk in on some guy making out/fingering/having kinky sex with the woman you think you love. No thats a "What the fuck was I thinking?" sort of moment. An "uh-oh" moment is not when you decide to make a complete asshole of yourself on national television, thats a "Let me make a complete asshole of myself on national television" moment. An "uh-oh" moment is always a point of time when circumstances beyond your physical or mental control start spiralling into a situation from which you cannot run away, but you also know that you don't run away you won't survive the event unscathed. At the very least you will be scarred for life, because your synapses will decide to play back an image which you desperately try to forget. Like the time my swimming trunks slipped off in the Dalhousie Institute swimming pool. Even though I was just eight years old then, I can't forget that time, because I just can't. You can't consign your "uh-ho" moments, even if you survive them with no physical damage under the carpet of your head.
OK, if you still don't get what I'm talking about, lets make it even simpler. I've had a couple of "uh-oh" moments with my friend Bobby the Rockstar aka Bobstar. Now, ideally you should not sit in a car with Bobstar unless your life depended on it. No lets make that clearer - even if your life depended on it you shouldn't sit with Bobstar in a car when he's driving. So, on one of my trips to Manali, we were sitting in Bobstar's cars and he was driving, and we didn't have a choice, because he was the only one of us who owned a big, fancy car those days. And then outside Sonepat we had a classic "uh-oh" moment. Because no matter what Bobstar did, we were fgoing to have an accident - you see what I mean - you can't escape from the situation. Jumping out of a car travelling at some obscene speed is not a reccomended idea. But then again, the realisation that you're going to smash into the back of a Tata isn't a great idea also. But, then you have to thank the NHAI which hadn't repaired the central verge thanks its bereaucratic laziness and Bobstar's incredible Michelin Pilots on his Honda City (the Bobmobile) that nothing rather dramatic happened to us. But you get the point that I'm trying to make.
Incidentally, Bobstar in a another demonstration of his dramatic driving skills recently managed to flip over his brandish-new Toyota Corolla almost killing Rodu in the process. The things that listening to Van Halen too loud can make you do!
So you, dear reader (who most probably came here looking for something like this) now get the point that I'm trying to make. We all have these "uh-oh" moments in our lives, and ultimately we're responsible for setting ourselves up for the moment, but when it comes we have no control in trying to trying to correct the stall, because you're in what pilots call a 'flat spin' and recovery is near impossible. Most of time the ejection seat works, but sometimes you perish.
The reason for such a confusing beginning is what happened to me last night. There was a corporate event being organised by the publication I work for, and like all corporate events, after you flirt with the girls from marketing/TV channels (or not, in my case) they are quite dull. Sure, you have to network and spread your visiting card around as if it was a veneral disease, but these things are awfully boring. And while killing yourself is a fad in Bombay nowadays, I only wanted to get out and grab something that could take me back to my beloved VH1 where I could watch VH1 Skin - hey it means what it says.
But no, things never go according to way you plan. Never ever do things simply melt away. No, because someone has a nasty sense of humour up there. So, Bossman, as bored as his colleagues comes up and asks me if we should skip the joint, after all it is Bandra and all. Even though I try to explain that most of the bars are being shut down by a Nazi-inspired police force, he insists that we (Bossman, me, Boss the third, Bombay Boss and four more colleagues) break out. So we decide to go to Seijo, but thats closed for a private party, so we headed two minutes down Waterfield Road to Zenzi, which is a really fun place as well.
Now, I must mention one point over here, we were already quite high. I had been drinking a nice Chilean Chardonnay, and many of the others were also drinking wine at the office event. Now, I don't usually count drinks, but I guess I had drunk five or six glasses by the time we hit Zenzi. Bossman decides that we'll stick with wine and he ordered this very nice Californian brand called Papio - I loved their labels. OK, the Chardonnay was a bit on the fruitier side, but heck this stuff got its job done, because some people just lost it, and I knew that I was headed into an "uh-ho" moment and I couldn't do anything about it. And to make matters worse, I was getting progressively drunk. The conversation slipped towards religion - and if you're like me you know that religious discussions and alcohol don't mix. At all. Anecdotes about how Saudi's charter jumbos to circle above the country so they can all enter the mile-high club enmasse began to be told, and then of course we moved on to the cartoons. This blog post by a Saudi national on the issue is hilarious, in fact his blog is a contrarian and educated view of the entire episode, great blog!
Suddenly, I hear a statement "All ****** are bastards" while talking of a minority community. Now, I'm not being moral policeman here, I'm also guilty of calling minorities and different ethinicities by extremely politically incorrect terminologies. But in private, not in a bar, especially not at the volume. OK, so the wine was getting to someone, and I knew that that now I was neck-deep in Quicksand, who cares if it was Waterfield Road or not, I was sinking fast.
The only way out, other than ordering the fabulous Calimari was to break my Beer ban - the wine was over and even Bossman (who was caught in-between humour and horror, as wine opened up recesses in his colleagues minds that he had never seen before) knew that one should only stiff office for so much and had ordered us off the wine. Y'see I was doubly screwed because I sat in-between my bosses.
Anyway, things kinda progressed off the scale, with people get stuck onto one issue for several minutes and arguing over the same point again and again. It was surprising that voices hadn't been raised to levels I would expect in such a heated 'shop' discussion. Now was the time to give me a Smith&Wesson so that I could put a bullet between my ears. Thank god for the fact that I was drunk. Thankfully, the Zenzi folks wanted everybody to leave (and the place had amazing eyecandy, absolutely stunning eyecandy) and we walked out around one-fifteen at night, I managed to slip away without saying the goodbyes I should have and into an auto and back home.
However, all said and done, while it was an "uh-oh" moment, it wasn't as disasterous as it could have been, maybe some minds were dullened by the wine, God knows. However, it was entertaining, hey if you gotta go down, you should go down laughing your guts out (unless the woman in questions smells like really, really rotten fish - OK PJ, so sue me).
Would I do it again, you're damn right I will. In a bloody heartbeat. I live for "uh-oh" moments, they are the only things that make life worth living. Travelling in Bobstars car when he is driving, on the other hand is another question altogether.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The things you discover...

When you play around with Google Analytics. I've been using Google's stunning website statistics thingjammy for over three months now, thanks to a post I read on it by Codey. And thank god I registered when I did, because a couple of days after that, Google shut down new registrations of analytics because they got snowed in by applicants. I have been using the free Statcounter service for some time now, and its still around, but analytics kicks ass, because it doesn't have any weird limits on data (100 users or no service).
For example, I've discovered, that discounting my IP address range, I get a 80:20 approx split between Firefox and Internet Explorer. I've been using Firefox for quite some time, and I love its features, the search box, the tabbed browsing. Its a nice browser. But there are too many versions floating around at the same time, of the 660-odd people who came to this blog using Firefox the spread was over 15 versions - there were two dominant versions - 1.0.7 and 1.5, but over a quarter of the users used outdated (That is discounting the 5% of users who used the latest iteration of the browser). Thats just in the last month. IE users numbering four times as many had just five versions between them and 96% plus used version 6.0, while I love Firefox and I know that IE is buggy, constant upgrades can leave a large number of users vulnerable to attack, because Firefox does have flaws. My auto-upgrade whatever you call it is on, so the browser automatically corrects itself, but despite living in a world of customisation, there is something to be said for standardisation.
But one advantage of Statcounter is the already linked searches, unlike analytics where you have to Control-C, Control-K (Firefox's search box) and Control-V and Enter to find out where your page comes in and in doing that you discover some gems - but you sometimes wonder what the hell is floating around the interweb. I got particularly curious when a person (multiple hits from a similar range of IP adresses) came to this blog using this search. Did I miss something some time? Sure, I knew of one one (fairly well loaded) southern news anchor who was less than discreet with a mobile phone camera, but this if true would be like Whoa! I've got to call folks at Undie TV, I knew that Archana doubles up as an orgy house, but taking the camera out of the studio? Hmmm....
Moving on....
Yesterday, I watched an interesting movie, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and I couldn't sleep for three hours after that and when I woke up I was drenched in sweat. But maybe that was because my fan wasn't working. However, it was a great horror movie. Or was it a great courtroom drama? I dunno, not as mind-fucking as Revolver though. But then again, Guy Ritchie is nuts, after all he married Madonna.
However, I don't know if I'm sweating because giving up cigarettes is making me do it. A distinct lack of dopamine and maybe even serotonin in my head has been weirding me out quite a lot. Sleeping has been difficult, which is weird for me because I've never had any sleep disorders. Maybe its the massive reduction of carbohydrates from my diet - heck I've virtually reneged potatoes. I've not been the same old, same old of late, and I've even begun to lose weight. I really think I'm losing the plot slowly but surely.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Amby Valley/cartoons

If you have been noticing the last page of the ToI lately you'll notice that on the last page for the entire week a series of adverts have been running, with all sorts of washed-up (and some famous) celebs talking about this wonderful place (methinks that they've done some sort of swap deal, because ToI's back page ain't that cheap). They make it sound like paradise on earth, well the place is Amby Valley, Subroto Roy's (of Sahara fame) insane development off Lonavala. Now as usual, I'll narrate a story involving me and Amby Valley. No it doesn't involve any mad sex.
The first time I went to Amby Valley, I had recently joined EchTee and my boss generally wanted to send me to Bombay. Never one to say no to a trip to Bombay, especially one which included the weekend, I went along. There was some 'Vintage Car' rally happening from Bombay to Amby Valley. I was the least interested in the vintage car rally, because I don't get off on seeing cars from the 1920's and 1930's, I'll take an updated classic like the Lamborghini Miura that the Italian company showed off at Detroit this year.
Anyway back to the story, after flagging off from Flora Fountain, we headed off in a much more modern car to Amby Valley. After spending the few hours through the city to make the highway, we eventually reached Lonavala, and then began the long climb to Amby Valley. The place is a huge 5000-acre place in the middle of the Sahyadri hills. On the approach to the place you realise that Sahara dude has even built an airport capable to landing a 737 over there. Pity that he sold his airline to someone else recently.
Anyway, we enter the place and suddenly you find yourself in a surreal make believe world. There are two giant gates through which you enter. We were then taken on a tour of the place, their website has some pictures. First we were taken to a two-bedroom Swiss chalet. Keep in mind this is India. In summer. In 30-degree heat. The chalet was supposedly made out of foreign granite and wood from Scandanavia. Very nice it was, it even had a jacuzzi. Its cost a mere Rs 3.5 crore (then - this was 2002 mind you). Then, we were taken to the 'Houses on stilts', three bedroom homes with wooden everything (fancy Nordic wood again, or was it Canadian?) and all wired up with some very fancy security system and lots of display screens and speakers. Unlike the chalet, this would be the apartment of choice (the stone required for the chalet didn't suit the environment - no shit Sherlock!), and there were even one and two bedroom units, prices started at Rs 2.5 crore then, going upto Rs 5 crore for the top of the line apartment. Thankfully, you could do up your own aprtment in coulours less weird than the colours in the demo units we saw. There was also a 5-bedroom independent bunglow, which I think sold for Rs 10 crore, or something like that. You can buy a private bunglow in Lonavala for less, but then again, you don't get an airport to fly into.
Then, we were shown the 'nightclub'. Modeled on the Titanic, it had plastic icebergs and athe bow of a ship outside. Sahara had trained their bartender to make some godawful cocktail named after Leo and Kate. Godawful acting, godawful cocktail, kinda made sense. There were also two lakes at Amby Valley, the Sahara group had put plastic sheeting on the bottom of the lakes so as to prevent the water seeping into the ground (!?!), and had even got swans for the lakes. There were elaborate flower gardens, and the entire place had this very strange, surreal feel to it.
By then I was bored, Amby Valley seemed like a large expanse, Sahara even planned to build a resort over there and a theme-park, but that was being worked on. Blah, blah, blah. I wanted to get back to Bombay, it was a Saturday and I wanted to go out party, and even though we were offered the opportunity to stay in the 'chalet', I decided to take my chances with getting wasted in the city.
However, that was not going to be my only time at Amby Valley. Two years later, I was there again. The Indian Cricket Team was each given a 'seven-star' apartment (the three bedroom unit) at Amby Valley for reaching the WC Final in South Africa. Where Ricky Ponting kinda killed us. We were taken there to hobnob and ask the cricketers questions - I'm not a sports reporter, but the chance to hobnob with the cricket team was something I couldn't pass up. After flying to Bombay (Air Sahara obviously and an awful flight, though I did manage to get the phone number of one of the air-hostesses) we were put up in the old Centaur Hotel, now owned by Sahara, and as awful as ever. The next morning we were bussed into Amby Valley, an irritating classmate from college who is a cricket reporter was around and he ensured that I got wasted. In the bus. By the time I got to Amby Valley, I must've had at least half a bottle of Old Monk. I was worried that when I approach Sachin, I'ld throw up all over him.
Anyway, another time, another guided tour with another ghati Sahara employee. I don't want to sound too snobbish, but you have to call a spade, a spade right? So I call a ghati, a ghati. Now, we were taken to the other side, I really didn't want to see the now Rs 7.5 crore three-bedroom unit on stilts and the private helipad or the airport in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to see the 'theme park', because if the nightclub (now un-Titanicified, instead of that it had glowing plastic rocks all over the place!) is so weird, then the 'theme park' could only be weirder.
And, sometimes my gut feeling is bang-on. Our friend had dammed a river, creating an artificial lake, upon which he planned to do two things - the first was to move a tribal village from the North-East here. Don't ask me the logic, I'm not the person behind this. And the second was the 'Pirate Ship' that he planned in the middle of the 'lake' with real pirates and cannons and what not. Now, I like pirate ships, especially if they have Kiera Knightley on board, but by god, I saw what they had planned, I prayed to god that lightning strike the architect down.
Eventually we saw the cricketers (I managed to speak to some of them, I didn't let my professional ethics slip and run behind for autographs, but I saw the entire team. They played better cricket those days), some random B-grade actresses from Bollywood, noticed a lot of air-hostesses, and also the great man Sahara Shri himself. Those were the days for the man, when the government didn't investigate him, and he could throw Rs 300 crore wedding parties (which I attended, but thats another story) for his sons.
Coming back, I wonder why the Sahara Group is promoting Amby Valley that much. If you live in Bombay, you'll notice a hoarding on the Western Express Highway at Bandra saying 'watch this space', well the space is for Amby Valley. Maybe they've realsed that they can mint money during the current realty boom, given that people are buying property for stupid sums of money, they might even sell those chalet-type thingies for good money.
Well, all I do know is that I can't afford it, and even if I could, the place seemed too weird for me to ever want to live there. sad to say, but I'm a city sort of person. That said, a collaegue who covered a Golf tournament there once, did add that the course over there is very good. Not that this would make Amby Valley any less surreal, but that said, it is less surreal than Sahara Shahar in Lucknow, which is in a different realm altogether.
(pics from
On another note, I have been following with interest the protests across the world by Muslims who are objecting to the images printed by the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten (and honestly, the lack of large-scale protests in India has been quite surprising though the Indian media in a moment of sudden responsibility didn't print the images or even show them and hasn't tried to stoke up a situation). While I'm a votary for freedom of speech and all that, I've seen the cartoons on this page (which a great historical archive of pictures of the Prophet through the ages - including Islamic art from the 1600's - be warned it is a heavy page - but tehn again you won't see these cartoons in India) and frankly many of the original cartoons and cartoons printed in reaction to the original are in very bad taste. Unfortunately the West, with its notions of superiority cannot quite understand other religions, I mean you don't make fun of other religions because you treat your religion with a degree of irreverence. The cartoons are upsetting and I can even understand why some people are protesting, heck I understand why people protest when they put Shiva's image on a pair of chappals. Religion is something that goes quite deep out here, and imposing different moral and social values on people is not a good way to make friends - especially when you do already have a rather infalmmed situation in Iraq.
OK, so now that we've dealt with serious stuff, this is a nice site to go for brainless enjoyment.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Interesting survey.

I'm usually a sceptic of most surveys, especially random sex surveys conducted by the national newsmagazines - I mean they were so ridiculous, it wasn't funny. But now, BBC World has conducted a survey nearly 40,000 people across 33 countries on how they view other countries and India's role in the world is seen as tepid. I mean, here we are in debating whether India should be a huge nuclear hipocrite, like the Permanent Five and vote against Iran at the IAEA, and then the survey goes that the Iranians really like us. Sweet! And of course, America like France has a bad habit of snapping Ambassador's who can't quite get to grips with the fact that India has better functioning democracy than they do. I mean please someone, the reason people don't vote in the US is because they way they choose their leader is majorly screwed-up. First past the post works, even if it brings the Evil Commies into positions of power.
Anyway, back to the survey, I'm trying to figure out why Filipina's hate India - 57% of Filipina's think India has a negative influence on the world. But what did we ever do to the Philippines, other than maybe learn a bit from their politicians on how to be grossly corrupt, and go on show-buying sprees (I believe there is a senior lady politician/dictator in Nad-land who has a show collection that would put Imelda Marcos to shame, and of course, there is the former BJP firebrand who has among the world's finest collection of Barbie dolls). But still, I racked my brains trying to figure out why they hate us, and then it struck me. You see the Filipina's want to be a global power in the BPO business, but when it comes to BPO, there is only one choice India. After all, it does make sense coming here than going to some small archipelago, even though it was ruled by the US for some time. Hey, they hate us, so I can be nasty too!
Even though that is a very childish explanation, and it still doesn't make sense. India is a lot of things, but I've never thought of it as a 'hateful' sort of place.
But, really until today I only thought that some rabid Pakistani's hated India - I mean being defeated in three wars (OK, 1947-48 is debatable but we kicked ass in 1965 and 1971) is a justified reason for hating your neighbour, however illegal movements of 'Old Monk' across the border might have toned down that hate. But we obviously did something to the Philippines sometime for them to hate us so. Any plausible explanations?
Oh and on another note, everybody's favourite management institute has started taking out large adverts again, and I couldn't help but notice how the salaries of their highest placements have come down! I mean, the economy is booming and I thought that average starting salaries - even if you were going to end up making calls selling credit cards to people, calling them on their mobiles when they just happen to be on roaming (I got at least one of these everyday while I was in Delhi, not just credit cards, Reliance Info and Airtel also called urging me to switch operator and given Hutch/Orange's extremely poor coverage in parts of Bandra/Khar and downtown, I was considering). But back to the point, the tag-line is the same, numbers are bandied about without evidence - in fact a friend even pointed out that some companies have done the disappearing act in adverts from last week to this week. So despite the cartoons and the articles, it seems that the man without the plan is back to his oily old ways. After all, somebody has to pay for the Cayenne! Kinda like the latest Titan advert where they treat an MBA degree with the dose of irreverence that it needs - and also pointing out that anything and everything can be acquired. On another note, talking about shady B-School's, Rashmi Bansal pointed out to me that the Allahabad HC has upheld AICTE's decision to strip the Amity Business School of its official recognition.
And Adage has an interesting article on Oprah Winfrey's takedown of another fraud. I wonder if we had an Oprah in India, if she would have done a takedown on the Ponytail for the 'tall' claims.