the life of namesake

I often frequent the public library. Before anyone thinks of me as an avid reader let me come out clean that I go there with the sole purpose of renting out the movie dvds. Public libraries do have a limited collection of movies, mostly Hollywood movies and few Indian and other international movies as well. So, I find these libraries a good source to catch up on titles which I missed when they released in theater or Redbox.

So, on one such occasion, there I was standing with my held tilted to the right like a tower with its roof knocked off. If you are wondering why - the dvds are arranged in the shelf vertically and the titles written lengthwise on the edge - hence the stretched head to read them. 
It’s just a trivial detail, let’s move on…

I was standing in the middle of the aisle glancing through the list of English movies and did not notice the person who was standing behind me trying to check out the movies. As soon as I saw him, I excused myself for blocking him and moved 2 steps aside so that we could as well check out the dvds.

“Find anything good here?” he asked.

Let me tell you all something – I am all for chitchatting with strangers even if it’s a library and silence is golden. I am not one who would walk away from anyone who initiates a conversation. Well, most of the days that’s true, but not that day. Not because of the fact that he was shabbily dressed and looked tired/drunk/sleep deprived, but just because I was in a hurry to get back home and was not in a mood to give him my one word review of the movies stacked there.
“No”. I kept my reply as short as possible (if he was looking at me, I would have shaken my head and avoided the verbal reply).

I recently saw this Indian movie, it was really good”. He might have figured that I was from India and just assumed that I was there to check out only the Hindi movie dvds.

“Here we go, another American who is smitten by Slumdog Millionaire and things that how we do things in India” I thought to myself.

While I was having this mental argument whether to just ignore what he said and just leave it as a closed end sentence or educate him that (1) it’s not how things are in India and (2) it’s not an Indian movie, he continued.

“It was about this Indian guy. His father named him after a Russian guy or so and he names his son a weird name. And the guy who acted as the son is the Kumar from Harold and Kumars (Referring to Kal Penn). You know which one I am talking about?”

I immediately recognized the movie he was talking about. I was pleasantly surprised - he was not talking about Slumdog and impressed – by his taste of movies.
“It is The Namesake, I haven’t seen it” I lied to him as I didn't want to set myself up for a conversation.

““Yessss, that’s the one. Very nice movie. That Indian actor was really good in it”. I understood he was referring to Irfan Khan, but I decided to keep mum.

No response from my end was not a deterrent for him and he was in a mood to give a synopsis of that movie “The son hates the name his father gave. So they end up fighting and he leaves the house….”
He continued “……so, he goes away in this ship which had a lot of zoo animals and then there was a storm and the whole ship sinks. And this guy ends up in a small boat with himself, a monkey and a tiger”.

I believe the readers have realized what happened here. That guy ended up combining the stories of Namesake and Life of Pi!!. What he was telling with at most confidence about a movie he saw “recently” and was “really good” was actually two movies.

I didn't know how to react. I went through a myriad of emotions hearing this - I was befuddled, amused, charmed - all at the same time. I played along and nodded by head as if to be in compliance with what he was saying totally agreeing with the fantastic story arc.

On the way back, I was chuckling all by myself and decided to tell this to my wife as soon as I reached home. I was certain this would make an excellent anecdote to tell my friends and family at the next get-together and laugh about the story and the story teller. But as I thought about it on the way back home, what I thought was absurdity actually started making a bit sense to me. If you think about it the way that guy narrated it, doesn’t it make complete sense? With a little tweak her and there, The Namesake would make a good prequel to Life of Pi. Matter of fact, both these movies even had the same lead actor in them!

I ended up narrating this incident to all my near and dear and every time I do, it makes me wonder if that person I met was just confused or a man of great vision who is yet to realize his greatness.


two foot one mouth

I have no reservations about confessing that I suffer from verbal diarrhea. I tend to talk A LOT especially when the crowd is familiar to me. However, I am not one who just blabbers for the heck of it. As my wife puts it, when I listen to someone, most of the times my mind is framing what I am going to say next. Thanks to that, and my innate nature to not offend anyone, there are not many occasions where I have had my foot in my mouth.

But I am afraid off late I have been losing my 'charm' for twice within a week, I ended up blurting out stuffs which not just put my foot, but my whole leg in my mouth.

We were at a baby shower of one of our close acquaintances. Alone with our close circle of friends there were many others as well, most of them I have met before at one place or the other.

I met this fellow Malayali couple whom I knew from previous get-togethers; but with whom I have not chatted much to details. So, like how all “warming up to a person” conversations would go, amongst many other things, he was inquiring about my undergraduate college and I told him about the college.

“It’s in a town called Kothamangalam”, I told for his benefit since he had told me previously that he grew up and studied outside of Kerala.

Of course I know Kothamangalam, that’s where Sreesanth is from, right?” He asked.

Now for those who do not know who S. Sreesanth is - just google his name. Even better, just search in YouTube and you will find the most entertaining videos available. Thanks to his antics (which I am annoyed with) and the match fixing allegations (which I do not believe), he was quite famous (or notorious) to all who follow cricket in India.

“Yeah, that’s correct…. and I am sorry about that”, I said with a sarcastic grin and a mouth full of food.

I was waiting for laughter or a chuckle from them, but all I got was a weak smile and an awkward silence for couple of seconds.

I noticed the husband and wife exchange glances and I had a bad feeling about it. And as I feared, the guy told embarrassed “Actually, he is a relative of ours”

It was at that exact moment I realized the flavor of my feet in my mouth. Thousands of Keralites in Texas and I find the one person who is related to him – perfect!

“Oops, well, then I am sorry about that” I tried to apologize.

“No no , it’s alright, I have been told worse things about him by many of my other friends”, now he was also trying to apologize to have put me in an awkward situation.

So for the next few minutes we were apologizing to each other.

“He is from his side of family. Don’t worry, actually even I think he is annoying”, the wife tried to pacify me.

“So, how are you both actually related?”, I asked so as to gauge the extent of damage caused and to decide if I should be avoiding for the rest if the day or the rest of the life.

“Well, not direct, my brother is married to his sister in law’s family” he said.

I had a sigh of relief – good; I can continue talking to him “Actually I don’t think he has actually fixed any games. Though I hate his antics on the field, I think he is a hot headed guy to fix a game and keep quiet about it”.
Side note: I truly believe that way too. I strongly think that Sreesanth has been framed in this whole match fixing saga since he is an easy target. Given how much he makes a fool of himself on the field, it wouldn't be hard to make people believe that he would do something this stupid, right?. But my argument is, despite of all his shenanigans, his passion for the game is evident and a person like that would not betray a game he loves.

“I have heard he has always been an annoying fellow”, the wife said.  “But yeah, he always has been dramatic to have done something like this”.

I was a relieved man and I thought it’s better to end this conversation before I goof up anything. So, I apologized again to them and move away get another plate of food.

Given how small the world has become thanks for migration and technology, the odds of meeting people related to people whom you have strong opinion about are quite high. It was a good reminder to study the audience before performing.

 Now the second incident was…..okay I am not going to detail it since it pretty much started off and proceeded the same way. However, this time managed to redeem myself as I cleverly diverted the offended person’s attention by narrating the above incident about confessing my recent proclivity of shooting myself in the foot and thus distracting the whole crowd. Crisis well averted.


the longest pee

As most of you might be aware that US has various time zones and there is a 'ritual' called daylight savings - twice a year we need to reset our clocks - one hour ahead in Spring and one hours back in fall ("Spring Forward and Fall Back"). And this resetting the clock has been standardized to happen at 2 am on Saturdays just so that it will cause minimum inconvenience to the public. So, in March (which is Spring in US), when the clock strikes 2 am, we adjust it to 3 am and likewise in November, when it hits 2 am we change it back to 1 am. So depending on if its Spring or Fall, you get one hour less sleep and one hour extra sleep respectively. And since it’s on a Saturday night, no one really whines or rejoices about the amount of sleep they got.

Also, the smartphones and laptops automatically adjust the time on that specific date thus making the transition smooth by the time you wake up in the morning. Except for the momentary shock of seeing your wall clock show a different time than you cellphone, life would go on normally as if the adjusted time is the normal time.

Early this year, I had gotten into this habit of drinking water before going to bed and have been getting up in the middle of sleep to relieve myself on many days. Though it could be viewed as something which disrupts the sleep, the way I saw it was, I was  getting a chance to wake up and go back to sleep again (the best feeling ever!).

It so happened that the day of the daylight saving as well, I got up in the middle of the sleep to pee. And like a habit, I checked my cellphone to check the time having no orientation about what day it was. It was close to 2 am. I kept my phone down and went to the rest room to do the needful. As I got back, I checked my phone again to catch up on the emails and Whatsapp messages which my friends and family from the other side of the world have been sending which have been chiming throughout the night. It was like a sudden bolt when I noticed the time was 3 am!!. I knew for sure that went to pee it was about 2 am as my estimation of how long more I will get to sleep is based on the time I woke up.

I was completely alert by then and my mind was trying to process what was going on and whether I really had an one hour long urination and if so why don’t I remember that and more importantly, what’s wrong with me. It took only a few seconds for me to figure out what date it was and what had happened, but a scared mind is a fast processing mind which considers many possibilities and scenarios.

In short, I laid awake for the next ½ hr laughing all by myself at the absurdity of the all incident as I had never expected to lose sleep over (pun intended!) the daylight saving. Not only did I lose 1 hr of my sleep, but also the next ½ hour on what could be technically the longest pee of my life.

Disclaimer: It’s an expanded version of a Facebook status I posted a while back. Just goes to show how much of circumlocutory path I often take to explain simple things.


much ado about nothing

There was a time, during my bachelor days (both marital as well as academic) when I was really fond of wrist watches. In fact, I think I have been wearing watches since I had to wear one for my 10th grade examination to keep track of the time during those long 3 hour exams, where the key to answering all the questions was to ration the time allotted to each question.

Thanks to my relatives in US, my father and grandfather, we had quite a few wrist watches at home, which gave me the luxury of wearing a different types and makes of watches. Mind you, it was during the pre-smartphone, pre-internet era where, to know the time, one had to either look up on the wall (not the Facebook kind, but the one with bricks and cement) if you are at home, or ask a fellow being wearing a watch, if you are on the road; or wear one yourself. So, for me, it was a necessity, just like my wallet or footwear.

It was only after coming to US, I was exposed to this high speed internet and almost entirely digital based work culture. Add to that the advent of mobile and smartphone technologies. With my almost-always-infront-of-computer-that-soon-it-will-be-called-addiction to internet & computer and constant companionship with mobile phone, I never had the need for a wrist watch. To know the time all I had to do was look at the right corner of the screen in front of me or reach to my pocket for my cellphone. The wall clocks were vanishing from the households and the wrist watches were coming redundant.

So, as I was saying, within a short span of coming to US, I gave up the habit of wearing wrist watch. Even though I had one with me, I never wore it on a daily basis anymore. I would wear only during interviews or formal meetings. Rest of the time, it would be inside the dresser drawer. And during one of my vacations about 7 years back, I left it back home (My mom still asks me, if I need a new watch from home, despite the fact that I have stopped wearing watches for almost a decade - that is how much the image of me wearing a watch is ingrained in my parents’ mind).

Sorry for the lengthy nostalgic intro about watch. This is just a meandering intro to a trivial thing occurred recently. Please excuse me as I am just warming up to blogging after a long hiatus.

When I got engaged few years back, I was gifted a beautiful watch my by FIL. It was as dial watch with silver color metallic strap. Though I loved it and I wore it during my engagement and for the first few days back in the US, soon it made its way back into the drawer in its original box. It was only recently that I noticed one of my friends wearing a new sporty watch. I just thought about the other watches I have seen him wear before and that’s when that it dawned upon me that even I could wear my watch as an accessory, especially when I have this nice, formal one.

So, one fine day morning, about a month back, I took out my watch and start using it. I was surprised that the watch was still running on time even after 3 years. 

It was only after I started wearing I noticed how much a wrist watch gets noticed as I started getting compliments from my colleagues on how nice my watch was. I decided I would make conscious effort to check time on my wrist and change my habit of reaching for my phone.

I was just getting used to that thing on my wrist and then exactly after 10 days later, the watch died on me! Yes, that watch - which ran like an atomic clock for 3 years, which made me changes my 8 year old habit, which made me all nostalgic about watches and how they were getting obsolete and how much I have gotten detached to it – died on me in mere 10 days!

I know it might be just a matter of changing the battery, but still I felt betrayed by the watches. Like a carefully plotted revenge drama, the wrist watches had its revenge. I had ignored it for almost a decade, and it waited patiently. And when it got a chance, it made me fall in love with it again and then did a hara-kiri on me to make me yearn for a watch and left me with the feeling of an incomplete left wrist.


the ship which once sailed high

Titanic has been re-released in 3D recently after almost a decade and half. My better half has been excited about seeing it ever since we saw the trailer of it some months back. However I tried I am not able to even pretend the same level of enthusiasm on watching that movie again albeit in 3D. Trust me, I don’t have anything against that movie; infact it used to be my favorite movie during my Pre-US days. Over the course of time it has sort of waned down.

This information might amuse those who know me well now - as a kid and teenager; I hardly used to watch any English movies. I was not a great fan of English movies then. My reasoning was simple - I didn’t not understand any shit those people were rolling out of their tongue. In the pre-vcd, pre-internet era, it was hard for me to get hold of English movies which would help my comprehension of language with appropriate subtitles. Hence the count of English movies I had seen was only a handful. I could pretty much count them by hand and almost recollect them all. And notable amongst them were Jurassic park and Titanic (Baby's day out, Home Alone 1, Speed 1 & 2, Anaconda, Godzilla etc making taking up most of the remaining).

Thus from the limited exposure I had, my favorite English movie was Titanic. Blame it on my hormones, I liked it not just for the grandeur, but also for the delicate love story between Jack and Rose it depicted. I loved it so much so that we asked our dad to get a Video cassette of the movie from Dubai (with the clear understanding and awareness that the censorship in the middle east is quite strict and I won't get to see seeing any 'drawing' (the verb) and will have to settle for 'drawing' the noun). That is how much I liked it.

So, when I landed in the land of Hollywood in the middle of the 21st century, I was still searching to find Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil movies online, still reclusive to watch English ones. During the initial weeks in my college, I had the opportunity to attend a social gathering event at a church near our college. So, here I was sitting in a round table eating lunch with couple of my fellow desis from college and some White Americans. So, they were asking us the usual questions about India and how different does it feel to be in US blah blah blah and the conversation leered towards movies. They were curious if we get to see English movies in India or listen to English songs. While a friend of mine was answering their questions how he and others see many English movies and are fans of English songs,  I was maintained a facial expression as if I agree with everything my buddy was telling and it’s ridiculous to even think that there is a possibility that people in India might not have seen English movies.

And then one of the young ladies we were asked which was our favorite English movies. My buddies had difficult time picking a movie unlike me – I was certain of my answer. I told “Titanic’. I was not hoping to get “aww” from any one, but at least I was expecting someone at the table to say “that’s my favorite too” or “I love that movie”. Instead what I got was a repulsive “Really?, you like that movie?” …that too from girls in their 20s who were the demography that that movie targeted. I was amused by their remark, not because it was embarrassed me a bit, but because I could find no reason as to why they felt so. I just assumed that they were one of those rare girls who didn’t like it. 

To cut the story short, I remained oblivious to the vast treasure that is Hollywood movies till for good 1.5 years in US. And then, over the course of years how I turned into a huge English movies fan - who obsessively and religiously watched English movies and turned into someone who has a strong database about English movies and is also a connoisseur of movies - is a story for another day.

After having watched many classics, landmark and cult movies, now when I look back at Titanic, I see the sentiment behind those girls’ remark. For all the visual spectacle Titanic was when it came out, in the core of it, it was just a melodrama - one which was highly manipulative and a bit overrated. I still think it’s a good movie – just a good one, not a great one. But it was a landmark movie when it came out.

So, when my wife was all ecstatic seeing the trailer of Titanic in 3D again, and how she was drooling at the prospect of getting to watch it on big screen for the first time in her life, I cannot but think how I would have reacted had it happened when I was new in US, like she is now. My taste and preference of movies have changed - neither do I consider Titanic to be my favorite film, nor the prospect of seeing a ship sink excruciatingly slowly over 2 hrs in 3D excites me. I don’t think this movie even features any longer in my top 10 English movies of all time, but whenever I read or see anything related to the movie Titanic, I cannot but think about that phase of my life and my naivety or innocence – a time when I used to like a movie for its face value and not how over analyze the various aspects of it before deciding whether I liked it or not.


slaves of our image

A while back I was reading some article on Bollywood actor Dharmendra. One of the remarks made by a well respected Director said that “ He was  quite a talented actor, but ended up being a slave of his image. That’s exactly what I also felt, not about Dharmendra; but about another superstar from the Indian movie industry – Rajnikanth.  Based on some of his early year’s movies, I found him to be quite a good actor well in control of his histrionics skills. Over the years; thanks to the slew of superhero movies, he became more of a super human capable of making moves and kicks humanly impossible. Now a days, even if he tries to do a normal character, his fans would reject it outright. He has become the character he played on screen that it becomes him.

This made me wonder-  aren’t we all; albeit in a smaller scale, in one way or another, slave to our images? - Doesn't our action/behavior influenced to some extend by what other perceive of us? Don’t you behave or dress a certain way because the people around you expect you to be so? Don’t you think at times “Let’s not do it….thats not what my parents/friends expect to be on my nature”

 I, for one, can definitely vouch for that. I have had instances when people have remarked that it was so unlike of me,  even though they don’t necessarily know  me in and out to know what is ‘likely’ or ‘unlikely’ of me. I have had a friend who once remarked that he has never seen me angry and was surprised when I lost my temper. Even though he would have known that, like all normal human beings, I too have change in moods , yet it was a bit hard for him to accept it.

Likewise, there have been instances when my friends couldn’t believe that I could wear a particular shirts/pants which I have never worn before. Not that I cannot; but they couldn’t picture me in such an attire.

And I too, on many occasions, think what others might think about me before doing something. Like, I think hard about posting some photos or comments in Facebook wondering what others might think about me- not that I would not do it or have not done it – just reluctant because I am uncertain as to how that would affect others impression about me…or how it would affect my image.

I believe the same mentality is what stops some celebrities from acting like a common man – not that they don’t behave so; but are not expected to be found so.

(I know I don’t make a strong case here – my validation points are quite feeble- blame it on the writer’s block I have been having or rustiness of not having blogged in almost a year. Trust me I make a more solid case point on this subject verbally in person)


bulb above the head

Have you ever felt like a genius and stupid at the same time? I mean, you have an "eureka" moment all of a sudden and a minute later once your euphoria has calmed you feel stupid. I know, one Mr. Archimedes would have felt after the real eureka moment when he looked back and realized how embarrassing it was to run naked. Not to the same scale but till I do get my moments of contrasting emotions.

I usually have a light dinner during weekdays. One - a heavy stomach makes it hard for me to sleep early two - spares me the pain of cooking proper dinner. So I either have some fruits or bread or milk and biscuit. Before I get any sympathetic sighs for my bachelorhood, let me say I have no regrets. (I rather cry when I have to eat cereal in the morning, so if anyone needs to sympathize with me, let that be the one to take it). I used to have steamed vegetables for lunch on some days and over the course of time, I started cooking for my lunch so that I can have proper food once a day. Moreover it was a pain to buy raw vegetables, cut them into pieces and steam them and all. And I didn't want to buy sliced vegetables since it was not 'value for money'.

So, few weeks back, I was with a friend of mine (a fellow bachelor) and casually, just as a conversation piece, I asked what he usually does for dinner and I was told he has steamed veggies and chicken usually. As I gave a "cool" remark and that was it.

A week later I was in my bed at night trying to fall sleep and suddenly I felt hungry. I already have my milk n cookie dinner so somehow my thoughts drifted to the conversation I had with the friend and there it was "voila"! I could have steamed vegetables for dinner!! It just opened up a whole new source of food and adds variety to my diet!

The very next second I felt fridge has been stacked with many packs of frozen vegetables which I use to cook my lunch as use it in my noodles from the very beginning. It was always there and it never occurred to me to steam them and eat! Since I always need them to cook, I always have it handy in my freezer. And here I was struggling on many nights wondering what to eat and settling for something just enough to satisfy my appetite or something which will not make me hungry again at the middle of the night.

Now I know what they mean by "Buddha got enlightenment" or whatever Newton or Archimedes felt! It’s the bulb above your head turning on, that’s all it is! And it took more than 3 years for that bulb to start glowing for me.