Getting the feel of the old homeland.

I like Bangalore. It’s one huge polluted traffic jam from one end to the other, and in the monsoon it’s one huge polluted traffic jam sitting in between six inches and six feet of water, but I still like it. It’d something to do with the sense of comfort that comes from knowing a place well, but it’s more than just that. It’s home, I think, and that counts for something in the end – possibly a lot.

The most immediate difference I felt, the moment I got off the plane, was the feeling of relaxation. I don’t have a sense of personal danger here the way I do in London; I don’t have to constantly analyse every person walking towards me, avoid every group of teenagers just in case, keep an eye out for potential threats and be paranoid about security cameras and potential terrorism. I can just relax, go where I want with what I want, and the worst that will happen to me is that my pocket will be picked. I know this is skewed by having been mugged in London, and not having been mugged in Bangalore, but that sense of constant tension just isn’t in the air. I do appreciate that.

I am looking forward to going home; to have that sense of belonging again, to see people I’ve known all my life, to pick up old threads. Simple things are the most missed, I think – the smell of the monsoon rain, the chaos and confusion of Gandhi Bazaar, waking up early in the morning to the sound of peacocks and the promise of a hot idli. Ah well. Roll on October.

Adrak

What crack-brained idiot dreamed up this one?

Can I say in advance that recent political developments in India have generally left me appalled? From the BJP’s victory in Karnataka (oh, for shame! Why couldn’t we have had Krishna again?) to the central government’s crackdown on Tibetan protesters and the lack of pressure on Burma following the cyclone, my boundless sense of optimism and faith in the human spirit has been somewhat dented. I still cling to a naive belief that somewhere, somehow, democracy will bring something valuable to the table; throw up a worthwhile politician or two who can take a stance on things. Come to think of it, we already have someone like that in Manmohan Singh. Unfortunately, he’s so hobbled by having to pander to the Left’s ill-conceived populism, combined with their apparent inability to see facts or engage in reasoned debate that his hands are tied. I don’t envy him his job, I can tell you.

I still retain something of that belief in the sense of democracy, even when I read the endless articles about the Yadavs and Mayawati dedicating statues to herself, or the MNS frothing at the mouth about north Indians.

However, the magnificent stupidity of this idea has me baffled, and makes me question (for a moment) the faith I had. Plans for a statue of Shivaji off the coast of Mumbai. $25 million on a ruddy statue? Honestly, that’s the most idiotic, hare-brained, ludicrous thing I’ve heard in a lifetime of hearing about idiotic patriotic projects. Rs. 1 billion, ten crores. That’s a lot of money that could go towards so many, so very many other worthwhile things.

Please. The problem with democracy, I fear, is that people get the leaders they elect, who then ensure re-election by schemes like this. The question that always confuses me is this: Why does this strategy work? Why do people apparently want a memorial like this before they want roads, education or health care? I am horrified that anyone should think this necessary, and that it should have support. It’s completely irrational, and there’s apparently nothing that can be done about it.

A strangely sensual encounter

She walked into the room and closed the door behind her, as I sat in the chair, slightly uneasy in the warm atmosphere, the fan lazily spiralling overhead. There was no one else in the room, and she looked at me, reaching behind her to flick the switch, plunging the room into near-darkness. The only light came from the panel on the far wall, muted, faint. She moved closer, touching my face, lifting my head up. She moved closer still, her face so close to mine that I could feel the heat of her cheeks as they nearly brushed against my own. I could smell the faint, clean fragrance of her hair, almost hidden by the stronger yet still subtle perfume she wore. She looked deep into my eyes, holding my gaze for minutes on end and as I looked back, I could see the lines of her face in the faint glow from the wall; her hair a delicate sweep along her cheek and throat. I had the strange feeling as I looked at her that I wasn’t looking into her eyes but rather into mine, through her. There were strange patterns, traceries of interlocking lines, a feeling of infinite depth in the darkness.

“Your retinas look very healthy”, she said. “However, there appears to have been a change in the prescription of your right eye from -5.5 to -5.0 diopters, and the angle of your astigmatism has shifted by almost 90 degrees. You’re going to have to get a new pair of glasses. Any questions?”

No, you moron, that’s wrong!

If Red Ken gets a third term as Mayor of London, I’ve done my part. He wasn’t my first choice, mind you, but since the election is really going to come down to second choices anyway, I felt I had the luxury of making a point by setting up the Green candidate as my first choice. I know she’s doesn’t have a chance in hell, and I’m not sure I would actually want to see her as Mayor without a lot of clarification on where the funding for her policy planks is going to come from, but sometimes making a statement is good.

I think a Green mayor with some hard-headed guidance on policy and finance would be a good thing, but so would Ken with a Green Assembly putting some pressure on him, which is what I’ve tried to get. But I digress.

As I was walking out of the polling station, having duly deposited my green sheet, my pink sheet and my cream sheet, I happened to be walking along the street behind two boys who, as it will be seen, turned out to be dimwitted trolls. One of them turned to the other one and expressed this noble sentiment:

“So, like, there’s no point in voting, innit. I mean, those guys have it all set up, innit. Voting’s not going to change that, innit.”

I would like to remind those of my readers who do not reside in the East End that “innit” in the context of this peculiar dialect is, strangely, not a question but a statement. I find this odd, but that’s the way it is, innit.

Anyhow. The entire point, you utter cretin, is to try and make a change. If you feel that people are fat cats setting themselves up for a cushy lifestyle, get out there, vote, and change it. Sitting around making moralistic statements to your mates is the best way to guarantee that what you’re so certain of. Dimwit.

Some things are too beautiful not to post

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver

Mr. Bhogle, it’s not “deja view”

I’m listening to cricket commentary streaming over the internet (India vs Australia, Brisbane), and in three minutes Harsha Bhogle has used the phrase “deja view” four times. Newsflash, Mr. B – it’s “deja vu”. No viewing of anything. At all.

Mind you, he’s nowhere near as annoying as Navjyot Singh Sidhu, what with his “If my aunty had been a man she would have been my uncle” and suchlike gems, but sometimes Harsha does get a little bit on my nerves. Just a teensy bit, for a moment, but then I forgive him.

I still remember with great fondness listening to radio commentary of a match while going home on a bus from Wynad to Bangalore, during which the commentator came up with this truly memorable phrase: “Tendulkar’s knock was thunderful and wonderful but not blunderful.” The fact that I can remember it after about 8 years is testimony to its unique, ineffable beauty.

The best Tube announcement ever

Ladies and Gentlemen, would you please not lean against the doors?

Ladies and gentlemen, would you please not lean against the doors?

Ladies and gentlemen, may I ask you to refrain from leaning against the doors as this activates the brakes on the train?

Ladies and gentlemen, please refrain from…

OH FOR FU……

*silence , train stops*

Ladies and gentlemen, may I ask you once again not to lean on the doors, as this activates the brakes on the train?

The whole carriage broke out into laughter the instant he said “Oh, for FU…”, followed by the sound of a suspicious smothering of all noise from the loudspeakers, followed by a composed return to voice a few seconds later. I could just see him in my mind’s eye, swearing at the brakes, then coughing delicately, straightening his tie and continuing to make his standard announcement.

Good start to the morning; there’s nothing like a little laughter to enliven a very early day. St. Paul’s was sparkling in the sunshine, too. Very pretty.

Electronic music genres, and musical guilty pleasures

Let me make an admission. I like electronic music. Granted, I have to be in the right mood to listen to it, and various bits of it make my head hurt if I’m not in said mood, but it’s an occasional guilty pleasure – in between all that Mozart, Nikhil Banerjee and Simon & Garfunkel.

Now Wikipedia has (are you surprised? I’m not) an extensive list of electronic music genres which, if my counting skills have not been impaired, weighs in at 188 items. Now call me an uneducated Philistine, if you like, but I refuse to believe that there are actually people who can distinguish between these styles. Not when some of them rejoice in names that are as similar as Breakbeat Hardcore and Breakcore. Do you really think people can make out what’s Freeform Hardcore, what is Industrial Hardcore and what is Hardcore Techno? Is there actually a difference between Dark House, Dark Electro, Dark Wave, Darkcore and Darkstep? Let me tell you, I am sceptical. I think every time someone came along with something vaguely different, he (and I’m not being sexist here; electronic music is dominated by men) had to give it a new, preferably cool-sounding name in order to point out that while the rest of the competition was at 116 bpm, he was at 117, yeah, baby! Thus such beautiful and essentially idiotic names as Turntablism, Indietronica, Neurofunk and Bubblegum Trance. If you don’t believe that those are actual names, just go check that list. It’s all about image and hence incredibly pretentious and pointless. So I’m a cynic about the names. I still listen to some of the music, though. I have a particular fondness for Progressive Trance. But not just any old Progressive, man. Some of that stuff is like, so 2005. Not for me. I like Progressive Downbeat Re-retro Uplifting Technocubic Metrofunk, thanks.

While I’m admitting to musical guilty pleasure, I might as well make a passing reference to a Eurodance synthpop technobilly/glam band called The Cartoons, which I discovered through while exploring music under the aegis of Kael. (For those too afraid to click on that link, they take novelty vintage rock-and-roll songs and overlay them with a dance track.) I know, I know. They’re terrible and their music is the auditory equivalent of a terrible, glutinous, nauseating, eye-poppingly sweet synthetic chocolate cake. But sometimes all you want, all you deeply, secretly crave is a terrible, glutinous, nauseating, eye-poppingly sweet synthetic chocolate cake. It’s a terrible burden to bear, but somehow I grit my teeth (ever tried to grit your teeth when they’re glued together? It’s a fine art, I can tell you) and survive. Let me, however, give you a sample of their lyrics, so you can also participate in the goodness:

Ooo eee,ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla, bang bang
Repeat 8x

I told the witch doctor
I was in love with you
I told the witch doctor
I was in love with you
And then the witch doctor
He told me what to do

He told me

Chorus:
Ooo eee,ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla, bang bang
Ooo eee ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla bang bang…
Ooo eee ,ooo ah ah ting tang

And then there’s this bit of genius:

Well she’s my hot potato
She’s my home dictator
Got her own sweet flavour
And she ought to know

She’s my girly Bono
She’s my Yoko Ono
She goes ‘Oh no no no’
But I love her so

Now I suspect the last line of the first verse there was something a tad more risque, but it seems to have been toned down, for which I am very glad. It’s bad enough having to deal with idiotic lyrics without having them offend moral sensibilities at the same time.

Well, there you have it. The Cartoons, ladies and gentlemen – long may their synthetic sweetness reign, to bring guilty pleasures to one and all.

The experiment is rumbled, phase 2

The QM circle has opened up quite dramatically – all through that one contact with Stuart; the friends of my friends are my friends, apparently.

The real irony, of course, is that he just decided to do this on a whim; if he’d done it a few days earlier, I wouldn’t have been there and none of this would have happened. Clearly coincidence in timing is going to be a large part of this exercise.

Funnily enough, though, today I was found by Bulbul, and I have no idea how. It must have been a random search again, with purely coincidental timing, although I do plan to investigate this soon.