Tuesday, October 27, 2009


This is all about The Radio and the art of listening and reacting to it!

Recently one of my friends gave me a ride. Whenever I get a ride I sit very peacefully without making too much fuss. Since I hate driving, by corollary I love rides. Back in BITS-Pilani I had sat at the corner of streets leading from the classrooms to the hostels, trying to hitch a ride behind any one's bicycle. Needless to say, those kind hearted souls who attempted to give me "dubs" (short for doubles) on their bikes, ended up with a flat tire or an in stable Center of Gravity! In that respect, I respect cars more. These things are designed for me. Cars know that some people can't possibly balance their bodies between a stick and a pair of thin tires.

Anyhow, my peace was broken when I suddenly heard hindi advertisements emanating from his car sound system. I sat up. Did the new hindi CDs come along with embedded ads? I paused to air my question.
I found out that the rather eclectic CD I thought was being played wasn't a CD at all. It was a radio channel. It was my first brush with hindi radio station in bay area. Have the desi's now successfully besieged the radio tower?

Before long, I started listening to it myself. I couldn't help it. The other channels aired English muzik which most of the time sounded to me like this, "Boom boom, blah blooh, O Baby, blooh blah, boom boom..". Of course my listening skills weren't exceptional and when words were uttered mixed with background noise, I became semi-deaf.
To make matters worse, two years ago I had been gifted with a hindi music CD from my friend. After hearing it endlessly for a couple of weeks, I found that the CD had made it's permanent residence in my car sound system. No matter how many times I pressed the "Eject" button, it just wouldn't budge. After ignoring this breech of tenant rights for a year I decided to visit the mechanic.

The mechanic, instead of fixing the problem, got into philosophy.
"Why do you need to hear CDs? Radios have been invented already you know..."
I made a face of disbelief.
He assumed I really didn't know about the existence of radios.
"You seem to be a very violent creature - why did you jam your CD in? If you didn't like the songs, you didn't have to play it."
If my CD did not like coming out of it's closet, it wasn't my fault. Some people require more help than others in revealing themselves. It was useless trying to make him understand that I was Gandhiji's non-violent disciple and hadn't resorted to jamming.

I left the shop with my CD happily lodged in the track- just like before.
Radio now became my best alternative.

1170 AM was the one I tuned into. The different shows had hosts asking, beseeching, cajoling callers to dial their number. The songs were lively - a blend of god-forgotten-era and yet-to-be-released hits. I enjoyed driving to the tunes of these. I even hummed them to myself. It helped me distract from the honks and the yells from fellow drivers.
I decided to call in one day.
The topic under discussion was, "Would you prefer an arranged marriage or a Love marriage?"
When they received my call and after I had finished the usual reveal-my-name-and-be-welcomed protocol, I said,
" I wish to be married - who cares if it's arranged or love? Just get me married!"
My call got unceremoniously disconnected.
I called the next day.
The topic was, "We go to the doctor only when we are in a terrible shape, do you agree?"
Incidentally I was driving that day to keep my regular doctor's appointment.
When I called them up, I said,
"I totally agree- in fact I am driving at break neck speed to reach my doctor's office!"
Instead of showing sympathy, the host broke down into peels of laughter. His theory had been validated. He thanked me and cut me off before I could say the next line which began with, "Why in heaven's name are you laughing at me....?"

I called again.
The topic this time was, "Who is the most special person in your life and give three reasons why".
After I uttered my name in style and put on my awesome bong-hindi accent, I said,
"The most special person in my life is ME! I am my most favorite person! Even though God has pumped unmeasurable goodness-es in me, for the benefit of the show, I will just list three!
Awesome, AweSOME, and AWESOME!" I waited for a response. There was a pause, a blip and then an irrelevant song started playing.
For some reason since then, my calls never get picked. I seemed to have been placed in their mysterious-phone-spam list. All the hosts have been served with an alert and their system of warning seem to be working perfectly.

But I am not going to give up. I gotta be heard. If no hosts will listen then I will have to do the inevitable - start my own radio show and talk all about myself! Good luck to the listeners!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Amricaaan Courthouse!

I have been to Amricaan court.

When I was growing up, my parents had embedded me with one of their historical, science-less superstition - NEVER EVER wander around a court! The farther you can stay away from that red and brown colored building the less annoying your life will be. As a child, I swallowed the information without chewing it thoroughly and it caused a stomach upset. Which means, I ended up questioning this belief.

It began in the winter of last year. My car and me were cruising down El Camino Real. There is nothing real about this road. This road has been named thus because it used to be the favorite means of transport for erstwhile Mexican royalty. According to some of my Indian friends it's named because most of the real "kamina-s" live on the sidelines of this road. The name and it's origin is still under massive debate.
I was just about cruising past El Camino and Pomeroy intersection, ogling at a random call that erupted on my Iphone screen when a sound, whirring and disturbing emanated from my vicinity. I have been a communications student - I have learnt the techniques of filtering out white background noise. This one seemed to have high frequency peaks and no matter how much I tried ignoring it, it became more persistent. I glanced around my different car mirrors. The rear- view mirror showed a pair of flashing red and blue lights. My heart stopped - my steering wheel wavered...before I knew it I had stopped right in the middle of the lane. The cop car stopped behind me.

A handsome cop swaggered by my window. I had already rolled it down and sat there petrified. He blinked at me and asked, "Are you alright ma'am?"
I nodded. Words didn't escape my lips.
"What I am confused about is this - why would you run through a red light, when I was in the car right beside you in the adjacent lane? I don't get"
Genuine confusion - I must admit. I figured it out in my fast paced brain. I had not seen this ominous cop and his scary cop car beside me. I had been busy staring at my Iphone. Now I wasn't sure whether I should assist in clearing his muddle or act equally fuddled. I decided to act.
He stared at me for a few more minutes expecting something. I stared right back - as if English was phoren language!
He started again.
"Ma'am could you pull over to the curb please? I don't want you getting hit - we care!"
It touched me. I went ahead and did what I do best - try to pull over. My pulling over skills weren't great and the cop didn't pursue the matter further.
"Your license and registration please"
Dammit! I thought I had the sliver of chance where I could wiggle away from this caring cop without a ticket. There was no way out. But I did try.
"It was yellow".
"What was yellow?"
"The red light was yellow."
"Please hand over your license and registration RIGHT NOW!"
I gave in.
He left me with a yellow looking slip of paper. Two weeks later the ticket arrived. A humongous 410$ were charged against my name. The only way out or in was to see the mighty judge. I decided to make my first American Court appearance.

None of my friends wanted to buy into the theory of me trying to contradict the ticket. They were more inclined in giving me ideas about how to look so moppy soppy that the judge is moved enough to slash my ticket price in half. They had fabulous dressing tips as well.

On the appointed day, right on time I arrived. The traffic court was in Homestead. The session was being convened in one of their underground chambers. A thorough security check followed every new admission. I looked sad but dressed well. Maybe if I looked good the Judge would be more prone to pity me?

In my head I had visions of the court scenes I had seen in Bollywood movies. A old looking Judge, a few villainous witnesses and our mighty yet downcast hero standing woefully at the brown cage-like box. I wondered where I will stand. I rehearsed my woebegone speech a couple of times in my head and then I made my entrance.

The court room was definitely non-bollywood style. It was American. Lack luster people sat around in wooden chairs, lackadaisically. The court was already full. I had expected to have private audience with the Judge but that wasn't going to be. Everyone was privy to everyone else's plight.
I sat down with tripedition. A police officer was busy rattling off different rules. I listened intently. 'How and where and how soon can one deposit the ticket money' was what was being announced. I realized me and money were soon to be parted.

A young looking man stepped in. Everyone stood up in attendance. He was the judge. "Your Honor" was extremely soft spoken and very patient. In fact he went on to say that he knew America was in recession and he would do everything he could to help people who couldn't pay. My heart soared.

Names were called off one after another and people stepped in. Some said "No Contest" and some said "Not guilty".

When I stepped up and the Judge asked me what I chose to plead, I said,
"Good afternoon. I choose to plead No Contest" No contest is equivalent to "I am guilty" but it just makes you sound better in your ears.
He asked me whether I would like to go to traffic school. I said yes.
He was done. He asked me to pay 220$ at the court deposit center. I realized my speech would go un-listened. I started abruptly.
"Your Honor, could you kindly consider reducing my ticket because it is my first violation and I really didn't mean it?"
He looked at me and explained the math. 220$ was lesser than 410$. Hence he had already done what I requested.

220$ less I stepped out into fresh air. Two months later traffic school was done. The memories of the court were behind me. Telling my parents that I was going to drag myself to court hadn't gone very well. They had been sure I was in insurmountable heap of mess. No amount of "I am a free resident", "I have rights", "Courts aren't scary"- seem to pacify their nerves.
When I came out of court, I realized that I didn't want to get back there again. I wondered what my cop was up to. Did his confusion finally end? Who knows...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


No I don't have grey hair and I don't intend to have them anytime later either.
I am talking of my IPhone - my one and only I-object.
The story begins in 2007, end September. I had just celebrated my two year relationship with my Motorola Flip Phone and in my thrifty mind, I was planning two more anniversaries. Before I knew it, tragedy pooped my party plans. My flip phone showed it's flip side. The video disppeared. I was rendered blind. I couldn't see whom I dialed. To make matters worse, the audio followed the video - mutely. Now I couldn't hear what the person had to say. Given my indomitable spirits, I worked with my phone to make the relationship last longer. I used speakers for listening and praying for dialing. It lasted a week. My friends gave up on me and hence I decided to part ways with my flip phone.
At that point in time when I was debating upon cheap phone options, Iphone had been launched at a discounted price of 399$. For those who have a sharp memory would remember that the initial price of Iphone was 599$. To all my friends, who wanted to play with the Iphone and didn't want to get it themselves, it was an "amazing deal". They pushed and pummeled me until I screechingly halted at the AT&T store. According to unanimous public opinion, getting the Iphone would be a decisive step towards acquiring the "cool babe" look that I never had. How a phone could overhaul my persona was never reasoned upon.
Holding the black luminescent box in my hands, I felt "cool". Flaunting something "touchy" as the Iphone would indeed make others take note of the phone, first and me, next! All those years of sitting and twiddling thumbs on the sidelines were going to end. As the Iphone acquired celebrity status, so would I , 'coz it's my-phone!
I bought it.
First two months, were pure stardom. Even my manager came by to take a look. I could stop people mid-work and click their photos for my contacts. No one minded- in fact colleagues posed. Friends who never called , started paying me a visit. The world was a wonderful place to dwell.

It's 2009 now. Iphone 3G-S has made an appearance and at this astonishing 199$ price.
As I sit and sigh with my Iphone 2G, others around me flaunt their superior speeds and spectacular Apps.

To top my woes, my Iphone suddenly showed creepy grey lines spreading across it's touchy screen. I was flabbergasted! I didn't think my phone had aged so quickly. Why, wasn't it just two years ago that it was born? Was two years such a long time in Iphone years? Even if I had been a little careless with it, might have bumped it about surfaces but that's just showing my "tough love!"
It all fell to deaf ears. I ran to the Apple Store and grabbed a genius at the "Genius Bar".

The genius, being the prodigy he is, took one look at the phone and uttered his prognosis.
" These are grey lines, probably dead pixels - I have seen them before. I don't know how they arise, how they spread and how to fix them."
That was indeed enlightening!
I stared at him for something more.
" Your phone is aged, there is no repair for this. We can give you the same Iphone 2G for 199$ but I would tell you to do nothing. This is your chance to be faithful to your phone. So what if it's ugly now, is your love only screen-deep?"
I thought about it. My love was screen deep but my love wasn't nutty. I wasn't going to spend 199$ to fix an old phone that functions even if it looks shitty.

I left the store- enriched and smiling. My phone looked back at me - I guess he wouldn't forgive me for all those bumps and scratches but haven't I just redeemed myself in his I-es?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Leaky Life!

My roof leaks.
I have grown up hearing stories of leaking roofs. My father used to live in one of the famous small towns/villages of West Bengal. As a young boy, his family wasn't exact the kingly sort. The house was huge but the maintenance was poor. I recall him telling me tales of how during the seasonal Bengali thunderstorm, "Kalboishakhi", his siblings and him took refuge under their gigantic bed. The imagery of this scene mesmerized me. Can the bed suddenly turn into a roof, when the real roof cowered under the storm? Maybe beds are meant to have dual purposes, and only my dad and his siblings were the discoverers of this amazing benefit!
My mother stayed in Calcutta when she was young. They lived in a humongous collection of flats. Obviously the renter did very little for the upkeep of his building. As soon as the downpour of the monsoons started, the leaky roofs emerged from their hibernation. Leaking relentlessly they made my mom miserable. As a child, I remember her telling me, that she used to run into any non-leaky neighbor's apartment. Leakiness symbolized discomfort and refuge for me.

It is unbelievable that I am facing what my parents faced five decades ago.
Just yesterday, as I was sitting peacefully in my cubicle, minding my own Outlook inbox, my colleague from the cube-behind, came up to me. Without much prologue, she asked, " Is your roof leaking?"
I looked up. Right at that very instant, a gigantic drop left the ceiling and bounced on my nose. She was right. The rain outside had found it's way to touch me. Despite all my attempts at sitting tight on my chair, the Rain God had decided on his own that I shouldn't be missing out on all the fun he was generating.
The drop that hit me had got mixed with rust of the conduits it had taken for it's journey. The drop was dirty.
I stood up. I realized that the dampness I had been feeling right on top of my head was not residual from my shower in the morning.
A few more colleagues joined in the celebrations.
"Go home", "File a bug on the roof", "Recycle the water - go green", "That's funny" - were some of the comments I was left with, along with rolls of laughter.
One of my colleagues couldn't stop guffawing. He finally stopped to say, "I hope you know I didn't mean to laugh!".
I stared at him hard - full of understanding. "Yeah right!".
Out of his supreme sense of guilt, he helped me tape a paper cup to the ceiling. The cup seemed to do a good job in holding the dirty rain drops. He left me with his parting comments, " So now all you have to do is watch out for the overflowing cup. Be sure to scoot right before the cup topples on your head."

I sat down with tripedition. I couldn't determine whether my situation just got better or worse. I decided to take matters in my wet hands. I called up Facilities.
They came by in raincoats. Took one look at the situation and moved my monitors away. My blue colored recycle bucket was placed right where my head used to be. I was told I was the 15th leak in the building and apparently I couldn't jump the line to be fixed. My leaky life had to be endured.

I have settled down in my new position. I watch the bucket filling up now, in addition to minding my Outlook Inbox. Colleagues smile and commiserate. Facilities have marked my emails as spam. My dreams of getting a free cubicle upgrade have already been shattered.

I wonder whether I would ever be able to tell stories about this "working" leak to my children?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Dancing Dhamaka

I am a born dancer. Ever since I could wiggle, I jiggled. My chubby arms and small plump body moved about to the tunes of Bollywood mushiness. My mommy stared in disbelief and awe. (More awe I hope) I was pronounced a dancer. My dad grunted through the ordeal. Seeing me jiggle, my sister joined me. Obviously my moves were far superior and she soon decided to let me be the laughing stock of the colony - alone.
School happened. Dancing periods were included. I was all charged up. To the tunes of slow paced Rabindrasangeet my classmates swayed their bodies. I joined them. My swaying had to stop abruptly. My dance teacher realized very soon that my swaying had no rhythm. Beats were ignored, meaning of the music was lost and limbs knew not where they flew.
We used to have a four-year mega event called Spectrum. Auditions were held simultaneously in fields while my dance instructor oversaw from the first floor window. Inevitably my name was announced , on the microphone, distinct and audible, before I was pulled out of the dancing melee. Of course the embarrassment was supreme but my acute wisdom made me realize that my dance teacher was yet to reach that level of higher consciousness to appreciate my dance form. Sigh!
BITS,Pilani happened. In my first year I tried to edge my way once into the fashionable dance club auditions. They gave me a chance to perform. As the seniors looked on, I thumped my feet, flayed my arms, twisted my torso, bobbed my head and then boom! The music stopped. Apparently that was enough to reach an unanimous decision. The next thing I knew I was out of the door, the stage, the dance clubbers.
If you have read my posts previously, you would be familiar with my indomitable spirit. I never gave up. In my last year "Dance Workshop" happened. It was touted as a workshop for people who had two left feet. Obviously I was far superior. I was sure I would waltz my way in amongst the dance-gawky crowd. I was wrong. When names of the selected were put up on every hostel, my name was missing. I wasn't going to be stopped by a mere list. I edged my way in by meeting with student instructor of the workshop, expressing my desire to be allowed to "learn the awesome moves of the beautiful instructor" and coupled with the emotional sadness of it being my penultimate undergrad year. The melodrama worked. I was in.
Needless to say I was awesome. On the final day of the performance, I danced waltz, charleston, tango, twist and a random Sholay number. The stage bore reverberating testimony to my heavy thumping feet. When I looked at the videos I realized I was superlatively fat.
In UCLA and in bay area the dancing was limited to some Garba and Dandia.
Just last week, I got the golden opportunity to perform on stage in Campbell Theatre. I joined the Diwali Dhamaka celebrations of IITians. They had organized a dance-drama competition between the seven IITs and I participated from IIT-Guwahati. It was destiny. In helping my friend locate the place of practice, I found myself moving to the sound of music again. The choreographer was extremely patient. I could jiggle, wiggle, to my heart's content! They allowed me to be in one song - the famous "Dhan tanaa" from "Kaminey". I told the world about my dance status. The stage rocked as I went one step ahead to better the moves. My friends and my colleagues found me dancing on my chair, on streets, in my bathroom - I was obsessed with practising the steps. Music wasn't even necessary. My friends were subjected to watching me move , music-less ! Well their trauma ended in a week.
My awesome performance is was put up on you-tube. I saw myself on stage. I even had one line dialog!!! I felt like a movie star!
Well I am going to continue to butt into dances, edge into performances and finally one-day conquer the stage!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Windshield Woes

A common knowledge is "Sun rises in the east". Another such universally accepted truth is "Cars are not my cup of beverage". However I have been able to coexist with my car peacefully. We have a mutual understanding. I get it serviced as and when I remember and he on the other hand endures the pains and doesn't give up on me. Life has been sailing thus for the past two years now. I have started to grow fond of him and once in a while I even do the oil changes on time!
Last week, while I was driving calmly on CA 237, on my way to work, as merrily as I could, something hit the car. The sound it made wasn't joyous. I took my eyes off the road, and looked around to find the result of the thud. I found it.
Hiding out of the driver's side, my windshield had been chipped. The damage size was less than a dime. The heartbreak was priceless.
In general I don't like the way cars function. Why can't you buy one and forget it? Why can't it run miles after miles endlessly, without cribbing or complaining? Why isn't gas enough for it to feel contended? Why are servicing, oil changes, tire changes and timing belt fixing necessary? And if you forget to do one of them, why does these beasts give up on you at the most inopportune moments? Mystery I tell you.
Anyhow, the great deal finder that I am, I found a way to get it fixed or repaired. All Star Glass on El Camino Real. I scheduled my visit. I could get the damage fixed under 40$! I found that a cheap deal considering it was my car.
On the appointed hour I arrived, me and my bruised car. I was upbeat. In under 20 minutes the world was about to become a better place.
The first hint of premonition hit me when they made me sign some obscure PDA documents. Even if I didn't know what PDA meant, what it said was thus, "We can break your windshield while we repair. After breaking it during repairs, you might want to get it replaced. While replacing your windshield we can break it again. None of the above will be our fault. You will pay the price for our ineptitude. Please sign and date below before we touch your car. Kindly enjoy the great 40$ repair service we are about to provide you."
I signed.
As I sat watching the mechanic working on my car, my spirits lifted ever so slightly. The resin, the glue, the glass was looking better. The crack had disappeared to about 80%. I was about to stop the man and shake his hands when he shook the heavy instrument in his hands first. The shaking hit my windshield. Like an earthquake spreading from it's epicenter, cracks crawled out on the surface. Like a spider it sat there mocking. I stood stunned.
Something broke me out of my reverie.
"Oops the windshield broke."
The repetition of the truth didn't make the disbelief reduce. I stared at the mechanic hard.
"Why don't you come inside and see how we take off 40$ from the price of a new windshield , eh? A new one would be only 230$. Come inside and take advantage of this great deal.Come quick!"
I must admit the business plan was amazing. If the windshield breaks while repairing, you manage to make at least 200$ more than if you just repair it!
Needless to say, I bowed to their ineptitude and cleverness and drove off with my cracking windshield. I spent a few moments mourning my windshield woes and then got it repaired at the next best deal I located. This time I made sure I went to a place that didn't ask me to sign any documents.

As the dying wish of my last windshield, I posted yelp and google reviews for All Star Glass , El Camino real, narrating the autobiography of my windshield. This post is a tribute to his soul. May he rest in peace!