Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Rime of The Nirmal Baba Bhakt

Most Respected Nirmal Baba,
Accept my koti koti pranaam.
You’re a soul so divine, so pure,
The savior of our janata so aam.

The wrinkles of experience on your face,
The grayness of wisdom in your hair,
Bless us through the words of godliness,
That generously from your lips appear.

But unlike my Bham-Bhole Shambu,
You don’t put your third eye on display.
Is it hidden under your clothing,
Or preserved in your Colaba duplex?

Behold the kripa of the third eye,
That provides solutions from its hidden abode.
To questions that no other prayers could answer,
With a perspective unmatched by Adobe.

My friend was a poor eighth pass,
A divorcee, job-less and insane.
In return for a meager ten percent,
Baba promised to eradicate his pain.

Babaji, mujhko chain nahin,
Kaise main roti khaun?
Na pakaane wali ghar pe,
Na koi paisa jo kama ke laaun.

Tum pehante rubber ki chappal,
Kabhi pehne kya sports shoes?
Kaise hogi kripa tum par Lakshmi ki,
Agar bane rahe kanjoos?

He ran to a Lakshmi mandir,
And searched for the perfect pair,
That would change his life forever.
Oh behold, a Nike Air!

To escape any suspicious eye,
He darted with the shoes on his feet.
He scuttled for his life on NH8,
In Dilli ki badhti heat.

A Mercedes he did run into,
That almost gave him a kiss.
But he fell on the highway open armed,
Though he was saved by two inches’ miss.

By Golly, driver bhaiya,
Yeh kya kar diya aapne aaj!
Isse le chalo jaldi se hospital,
And throw some money for his ilaaj.

Three thousands he was paid in cash,
And a bottle of Glucose at Apollo,
That he drank through his mouth,
Quenched his thirst, and walked away solo.

He wrote a cheque of Rupees two hundred
To Baba’s PNB Savings Account.
As part payment for the instant income,
That in excitement he could hardly count.

He strolled down the streets of Pahar Ganj,
A meal at Sam’s CafĂ© he wished to devour.
With twenty-eight hundred in his pocket,
He could eat as much as his tongue would savour.

A firang with thighs so white,
Puffed smoke on his face so brown.
She flashed a tattoo inked on her belly,
In her beauty our friend did drown.

The words that she said with a smile,
Went above his balding head.
But from the table that served falafel,
To the neighboring room they tread.

Love sweet like lemony ganna juice,
They both made the following night.
Her piercings, total of twenty-four,
Did clang on the armor of our knight.

To the Qutb Minar he pointed high,
And later straight to the India Gate,
During the Metro trip that they made next day,
Which they marked as their first real date.

“Nirmal Baba, oh Baba!” he cried aloud,
With joy dripping from his eyes.
Not just had he found his doosra prem,
But a job opportunity in disguise.

“I marry you, my kaju barfi.
I earn from guide work here.
Then I fly you to country of your choice,
My pockets full; don’t fear.”

Then before he retired for the night,
And practiced making babies with the babe,
He ran to the PNB branch nearby,
And wrote a cheque from the money in his jaeb.

A cheque of hundred he honestly deposited,
Keeping the promise of full ten percent,
That the Baba had to receive as guru-dakshina,
Calculated to the last earned cent.

The night that followed was fulfilling,
He got massages from fingers of white skin.
And he lay in bed till twelve noon,
When he opened his eyes to the sin.

Uski sister, uski mother, uski holy cow!
She take my money! She pimp! She tout!”
And he jogged on the streets in his VIP,
That the lady had left without.

Our hero couldn’t find himself another client,
No one was ready to pay for a tour.
The Delhi sun shone bright on his head,
And left him crying like a man so poor.

To the Nirmal Darbar he rushed next day,
Oh Baba, kripa mein hai rukaavat.
Mere sapnon mein phir se lagi aag,
Main toh kar dunga aaj bagaavat!

“I paid in cheque full ten percent,
And not a fifth, or a quarter or a half!
Then why have my wishes been taken back,
Main maangu aaj tumse insaaf.

Kya TV pe ghoshna na tumne kabhi dekhi?
Main na leta cheque na Promissory Note.
I want payment, beta, of full ten percent,
Either by DD ya Gandhi wale note.

And all praised the Baba in Nirmal Darbar,
For his word that has always been kept.
Our hero was guilty of breaking his promise.
So, no one cared when he sat there and wept.

To you, my friend, I must tell.
My Baba is so just and fair.
He gives solutions to all your problems,
Don’t you cry alone in despair.

He’ll ask you to write with a Parker pen,
If you’re flunking your CA exams.
He’ll command you to eat samose,
To cure your wife of the terrible spasms.

His third eye has a simple solution,
For any problem that you wish to share.
Only a payment in cash or by Demand Draft,
From your income is what you need to spare.

P.S. To know the real deal about Nirmal Baba, click here

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Monday, May 21, 2012

The Roohafza Social Revolution

Satyamev Jayate, the TV show hosted by Aamir Khan is just about 2 episodes down. I haven’t seen the show, but of whatever I’ve learnt from the facebook status updates on a Sunday afternoon, it seems to be hitting off pretty well with the audiences. It actually has the perfect ingredients to be a popular Indian television show viz. diced pieces of drama and emotion fried in a cup of self pity with a garnish of Bollywood on top. But it’s unfair how I at least have a choice of sauces to select for my pasta. Satyamev fails to show that kind of generosity. It just puts all of the above in a pan of patriotism and social change, and shoves it in my face.

No matter how closely you’ve all watched Masterchef for the past three years (and felt proud to have started watching something on “Star World” finally) there is an important ingredient you have failed to notice. And what follows will make you realize that Matt, Gary and George are not the best cooks that you’ve known. Baba Ramdev, Anna Hazare and Aamir Khan are! If you’re a 47 year old fun-deprived house wife reading this blog just so that you could gather the courage to send me an email after seeing my blog header that made you feel funny in your salwar, just forgive me for not taking good old Sanjeev Kapoor’s name, here.

The three cooks that I talk about have the ingredients that rank higher than turmeric powder for us Indians. They're called… *drumroll*… patriotism and social change.

Where do you think Baba Ramdev’s famous “yog-halwa” gets its taste from? How does Anna Hazare’s “Ann-Shann Milk Shake” get that beautiful Old Delhi flavor? How did the little dhaniya like garnish of a Bollywood star develop the flavor for his “Satyamev-Jayate Laddoo”? The ingredients, my friend, are *gives you the cue to say it in unison*… patriotism and social change.

For the past three years, these are the only things that the media has been feeding us on. They’re doing it ‘cuz they know patriotism sells more than the McAloo Tikki at Mc Donald’s, and that’s all we Indians wish to drool on. We’ll hog on the truck full of Dal Bharati that they offer, burp out loud on social networking websites, and then just forget it all after a fart, leaving people holding their noses and doing nothing about it again.

It’s time for the summer heat to hit the national capital. And I believe your love for Tang will resurrect from the dead, making you run for it to the grocery store. I remember asking my mum to get Tang from the market instead of Roohafza, as a young kid. There is a certain class about Tang and Nestle Iced Tea which Roohafza will never be able to match. If given a choice, assuming no special preference for any flavor, guests will be served the fruit flavored Kraft product in place of Roohafza. The latter is just meant to be distributed freely to the commoners at every Gurpurab celebration.

I talk Indian and I say I’m proud of it. But isn’t it hypocritical how I’m not proud of a flavor that was developed in my own country a hundred and six years back? The flavor that the previous three generations have welcomed in the household with open arms is something that stands uninvited in an urban supermarket. We fancy the orange running down our tastebuds, but not a flavor that includes not only your favorite orange but a dozen other fruits and flowers. It’s ok, you know. It’s ok to have your orange and not like it mixed with extracts from a dozen other flowers and fruits. But it’s unfair to look down upon a beautiful recipe which has seen India survive the partition, and still manages to keep its production machines running not just in India, but also in present day Pakistan and Bangladesh.

So it just seemed like I was trying to make a strong point, but steered the monologue in a direction that suggests the financial inability of Hamdard Dawakhana to renew Juhi Chawla’s advertising contract. But it’s funny how we let go off the bigger issues because we’re too educated to get involved with them, and other issues that point towards our judgmental and status-conscious behavior are too petty for us to even consider. We show our solidarity for social issues by tweeting about them. We can’t do anything else because we aren’t uneducated enough to kill the new born daughters in our family. So yes, we get into our daily routine of using the F-word to describe all the injustice around us, spitting at the thought of the deeds of the “uneducated”. But in the process, we forget how even the swearing, the bitterness and the anger that our educated behavior leads to is something that needs to be eradicated. We haven’t contributed to a bigger change, but neither have we made an effort to improve the little things that need to be addressed on an individual level.

We’re Indians and proud of it. Let’s also be individuals worthy of being proud of ourselves by making those little efforts to improve all the shortcomings in our holy selves that we believe are too inconsequential. Let's stop using cuss words for once. Let's not skip that red light. Let's include physical exercise into our daily routine. Let's eat healthy.

Btw, do you know the name of the official national sweet of India? It’s the Jalebi.

Roohafza, anyone?

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

That '90s Show

We just have one TV in our house. It’s been kept over a trolley, bought for the same purpose, in my parents’ bedroom. It’s the same TV that my nani gave as one of the wedding gifts to my newly wedded parents back in 1989. Dowry sounds like a bad word. So yes, it was a wedding gift. My dad didn’t ask for a TV, so don’t call it dowry. Or I guess it still is “dahej ka TV”. Well, nevermind.

It’s a grey TV with a convex screen. In simpler words, it’s not as flat as the rotis that your mum makes. The dahej ka TV has been with us for almost 23 years now. It still is in perfect working condition. Originally, it had only 15 channels, but later we got some machinery upgraded and it now shows up to 90 channels. The brand name that shines a little above its chin is Bush. And call it a coincidence if you wish to, but no one cares about this name in the world anymore. Out of sight; out of mind.

A month back, my dad suggested that we buy a new TV, complete with a home theatre system, et al. Considering the time that all of us spend at the office every day, I knew that it wasn’t really the need for a better TV that brought the idea into his head, but a feeling of not having felt Punjabi enough in front of guests in the past few months.

We don’t really watch TV. I don’t think people find the time to watch TV these days. I rather find something entertaining to watch or read on the internet than waste time clicking buttons on a plastic case that induced fascination among people back in the 1990’s.

So yes, I believe TV’s have become a thing of the past. The 1990’s can be called the Golden Age of television, when the TV brought together family members to spend time with each other during dinner every night. The decade of the 1990’s brought a whole new meaning to cable television in India. With Zee TV, Star Plus, Sony, Cartoon Network and Star Movies being the most watched channels after Doordarshan, cable television had become a very integral part of our lives.

We all remember the great dancers, writers, poets, singers and other entertainers who we have just heard about and not seen in real life. It’ll be unfair to not remember the shows that defined the Golden Age of television and entertained our families through at least an eighth of our lives. No matter how undeserving a few of the following names may sound to you, don’t forget that even Om Shanti Om bagged a couple of Filmfares in the year of its release.

The Most Memorable Hindi Sitcom: Hum Paanch

Ashok Saraf as Anand Mathur and his 5 daughters would visit us every week with half an hour of incessant recorded laughs played in the background. Anand’s first wife, played by the hung-on-a-photo-frame Priya Tendulkar, would pass wisecracks like googlies through the twenty-one minutes of an episode’s recording. We all still remember the way Sweety would break into a bollywood number every time that the door bell rang, and her ambition of becoming a Miss India and marrying Shahrukh Khan.

I agree that Hum Paanch was one of the lamest sitcoms I have ever made myself sit through (assuming SAB TV to be inexistent till date), but it was the first show that actually brought recognition to Balaji Telefilms and made me go, “Arrey yeh toh Hum Paanch wala logo hai” when an episode of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi ended a decade later.

I’m sure my friend Vidya Balan would be in agreement with me on calling the show one of the most memorable series of 1990’s television. Of what I remember, she got her break in the industry with her role as Radhika, the deaf daughter of Anand Mathur.

Hum Paanch ko no less than paanch mein se paanch.

The Most Memorable English Sitcom: Small Wonder

The 1990’s wasn’t really the time for English shows to enter the Indian industry. I remember episodes of Dennis the Menace, The Three Stooges and Bewitched being aired on Sony way back in 1995, but none of them were any kind of competition to Small Wonder. Vicki, Jamie and Harriet were friends whom I used to love meeting every evening when dadi would give me a glass of milk. I know it sounds cheesy, but there was never a show more dearly to me than Small Wonder. The show made us all try to stick an electric plug up our armpits on seeing how Vicki would plug the vacuum cleaner or the electric iron to it. We don’t just remember the show for Harriet’s annoying love for Jamie and Vicki’s robot voice, but also for at least one kiss that Mr. & Mrs. Lawson would share in each episode.

Star Plus tried to bring the magic back with Karishma ka Karishma in the mid-2000’s, but like I said, nothing beats the television industry of the 1990’s.

The Most Memorable Cartoon Show: Duck Tales

Cartoon Network came to India and became a hit with the kids in the 1990’s. Hannah-Barbera have given the world some of the most loved cartoon characters, but the uniqueness of Disney has always remained unmatched. Duck Tales and Talespin were two cartoon shows that used to air on Doordarshan for the whole country to enjoy. Its access wasn’t limited to just the urban elite with a cable connection in their house. It was heartwarming to see how Donald Duck’s presence was multiplied and to-the-power-ofied by the show. Huey, Dewey, Louie, Uncle Scrooge, Launchpad McQuack, the Beagle Boys and the Lucky Coin are still fresh in all of our memories. The show would make us smile like Uncle Scrooge during his swimming sessions in his “teh-khaana”.

Baloo, Ked, Madam Mahalingam, Louis and Pantar used to look equally adorable in front of Higher for Hire’s yellow air-plane, but Duck Tales scores a point higher. Blame it on our love for ducks. Quack.

The Most Memorable Superhero: Shaktimaan

Pandit Gangadhar Vidyadhar Mayadhar Omkarnath Shastri’s geeky glasses and buck teeth personality would turn into a middle-aged, black dyed hair, Punjabi looking, non-dubbed hindi speaking superhero, Shaktimaan, in just two seconds of imitating the earth go around its axis.

Mukesh Khanna’s on-screen romance with Kittu Gidwani, Dr. Jackal’s behenji looking assistant and Tamraj Kilvish’s pointy nose were not enough that the show started a small post-episode session called “Chhoti Chhoti Magar Moti Baatein” to haunt our dreams till eternity. “Sorry Shaktimaan” became the most spoken phrase all around the country.

Considering the number of children who jumped off their balconies, the number who would be seen wearing Shaktimaan costumes and riding bicycles in my colony, and the number who fell into the habit of suffixing “Shaktimaan” after every “sorry”, I’m sure there were instances of fathers in our country being addressed as Shaktimaan instead of the Indian favorite “Papa”.

The Most Memorable Reality Show: Close-Up Antakshari

The 1990’s was the era of originality. We, as Indians, were proud of the games that we played. I still remember playing Pitthu with my cousins during the summer vacations. We were so proud that we chose to take one such game to television and call it not just Antakshari, but “Close-Up Antakshari”.

A decade before fakes like KBC, Indian Idol and Bigg Boss brought families to spend time together in front of the idiot box at night; Close-Up Antakshari did the same in style. Anu Kapoor with his ever-changing co-hosts brought to us a show that was devoid of tears, beeps, unnecessary drama, and a hunger for soaring TRP’s. The Deewane, Parwaane and Mastaane would make every member of the family sing along.

For setting an ideal example for reality television that was sadly not followed by the reality shows of the 2000’s, Close-Up Antakshari will always be remembered fondly.

The Most Memorable VJ: Vishal

“Dear Vishal Bhaiya” was how every kid who wrote to Disney Hour addressed his letters. That explains how immensely Vishal was loved by children across the sub-continent. In an age when we didn’t know of production houses and TV show rights, all we knew was that Vishal brought us our favorite cartoon shows to watch every evening between 6p.m. to 7p.m. on Zee TV. Having not hit puberty, we didn’t care for all the Ruby Bhatias and Mallaika Aroras who VJ’ed on Mtv and Channel V.

Even though his on-screen presence these days is limited to being a sidekick to Shahid Kapur, it’s commendable how he still looks the same as he looked some fifteen odd years back.

The Most Memorable Show on Nickelodeon: Legends of the Hidden Temple

Nickelodeon brought a whole new level of kids’ entertainment via television to India. Shows like Kenan and Kel, All That, Hey Arnold, Global Guts and many more exposed the Indian children to the level of adventure and comedy that was, um, I’m sorry to admit, far superior to what the Indian production houses produced and shoved in our faces. I’m talking about the time when we weren’t introduced to Full House, Seinfeld and Friends by our elder siblings. Let’s not even count the latter three in the list of 90’s TV shows. We’ve watched them on our laptops, haven’t we?

So, among all the awesome shows on Nick, the one that stood out was Legends of the Hidden Temple. The talking Olmec, the Temple Guards (“Mandir ke pehredaar” for all those like me who watched it in Hindi), the Mayan-like set, swanky team names and mouth guards were way beyond what we call awesome.

The Red Jaguars, Purple Parrots, Silver Snakes, Orange Iguanas, Blue Barracudas and the Green Monkeys battled it out to collect semi circular gold coins which eventually won one of the teams an entry into the Temple. I remember cheering for the teams from my drawing room, and shouting out instructions on how to assemble the monkey god’s statue to unlock a door.

There are so many more shows, a mention of which would require another post in itself.

We’ve all evolved from the time of television entertainment to smart-phone connectivity. It’s not a bad age to live in though. ‘Cuz I’m sure how in another one decade or even less, we’ll have an article mentioning the Golden Age of smart-phone that will mention names like Angry Birds, Cut The Rope and Temple Run. Isn’t technology such a Jalebi?

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