November 23, 2011

Kolaviral Marketing-u

Unless you have managed to cocoon yourself from the inescapable presence of social media, you would have certainly not missed Kolaveri. No. it ain’t the name of a pornstar all set to join a reality show. That is Karen ..Nor is it the name of some sort of a hurricane, referring to Katrina by the way. But its impact has been much more than the 2 put together. Technically speaking, it’s a song. No.. A soup song.  No! A flop song.. what the hell! So damn confused..just as confused as multitudes of people out there who were caught tapping their feet to a song they had no f*****g clue about. So what exactly is this Kolaveri phenomenon which has suddenly taken the entire country by storm? And what is it that makes everybody around hum it? So much that ignorance would be for once a crime , a severe crime! (Now still if you are a criminal, undo your sin by clicking here

There is a lot more to Kolaveri than the simple fact that it’s been composed by a skilled debutante, written & sung by a debutante who discovered a new skill in the process, for a film directed by another debutante, who incidentally happens to be the latter’s wife! Er..not so simple eh?..Dhanush, fresh from winning the National Award for Best ‘Actor’ could have just gone on with his usual business by acting in delightful roles.But what made him take this plunge into a field in which even the Udit Narayans and Ilayarajas have failed to stand the test of time? Well, the answer to that is Nothing! Exactly. Nothing! The point is, Dhanush never intended to do it..It just happened. 20 mins of joblessness, coupled with the right mix of mood & mischief and a tinge of nonsense..(Umm..a tinge? Not exactly..)  and there you have it! arguably the most explosive audio track in the Indian online history. 

Contrast that with the amount of pain & heartbreaks Ranbir, Rahman & Imtiaz Ali had to go through for Rockstar and we can’t help but feel sorry for those poor chaps. “Toote hue dil se hi sangeet nikalta hai ” it seems! Rubbish. Here’s a guy whose mind-u & heart-u were in perfect shape-u and yet dished out a bigger hit-u! And as I sit in the same state of joblessness as Dhanush did, I just can’t help but frame my own theories behind this Kolaveri magic. You can call it the curiosity of a marketing enthusiast in exploring a bit of viral marketing. But I don’t wanna embarrass myself by sounding academic amidst this Kolaveri hysteria –

1)      More than anything what strikes a chord instantly with the masses is its simplicity. Simple lyrics, simple song, simple artiste, and a simple video. You don’t have to be from the Bombay Scottish or the Stephen’s or La Martiniere to decipher that it’s about a white-u skin-u girl-u with a black-u heart-u..It’s a kinda song you wouldn’t mind giving a life performance of in public. Be it the crowded locals of Mumbai or the sticky traffic of Chennai or the sophisticated congestion of Delhi metro, given a surface to beat and a spectator to treat, you just won’t mind being a Dhanush for a change. Perhaps it’s got to do with the earthy charm of the man. Not one guy here in Delhi believed me when I said he is a superstar in Tamil Nadu. But the song changed everything! Of course..they had got tired of their heroes too..Who wants to adore a ‘king’ who begs from pillar to post selling a 150 crore product which ain’t worth 50 paise? Change was in the air and Dhanush struck..and how!

2)     Did you notice the 2 heavyweights of Tamil Cinema in the song? Am talking about Kamal Hassan & Rajinikanth of course. I have deliberately put Kamal’s name first, not to offend any Rajini fans, but for the simple reason that his contribution to the popularity of the video is far greater! WELL OF COURSE (Now Dhoni fans, plz control urselves..).Rajini’s daughter directed the video..his son-in-law wrote the song & sang the song..but so what?! Its Kamal who takes the cake. Don’t believe me? If you are man enough (My female fans & friends can ignore this line), am sure your eye balls would have popped out like Jim Carrey’s Mask at the drop dead gorgeous daughter of Kamal Hassan in the video.  It was as though the Greek Goddess of Beauty (whatever Her name is ) Herself descended upon the earth..The truth is, I would have anyway seen the video 20 times. But because of Sruthi Hassan, I saw it 200 times! Extrapolate this to an entire population of desperate young men like me in a 1.2 billion heavy country. Well. That explains the unprecedented Youtube views doesn’t it? ;-)

3)      National integration – The song came at a time when the country was at its most divided self. At the helm is an 80 year old honest puppet fed up of his own dishonest party’s constant bickering with an opportunist opposition. Down south is a liquor baron trying to protect his fleet of flights and busty babes from going bust. Intersperse that with a modern Gandhian who is too old to know the difference between lieutenant and left-tenant..And to top it all, a time when the single biggest unifying factor in this country nicknamed God has decided to teach his billion fans some brutal lessons on patience in the form of his 100th ton. The nation couldn’t have been more battered & bruised. 

I     It is at this crucial juncture that Dhanush’s masterstroke delivers big time! In a divided country at a divided time, the entire nation was unanimous in praise for this song..A folk song in essence, fused with English lyrics, spiced with a Tamil ‘accent-u’ carrying a universal feel not only managed to delight his own fans in Tamil Nadu but also caught the fancy of everybody from Gandhinagar to Guwahati & Kashmir to Kanyakumari! This is a country which has the largest youth population in the whole world. Imagine 700 million youngsters gyrating to the beats of the same vibration..feel the thump? The thump of a united country marching ahead for glory! Rabindranath Tagore would be weeping in his grave thinking-“Kahaan Jana Gana Mana..aur kahaan Glass-u Scotch-u Holy cow-u!”  

At the time of writing, #Kolaveri is the top trend on Twitter. The number of views has gone way past a million and the Facebook shares, even more! It’s the first ‘Tamil’ song being played out across all the radio stations in the country. And I won’t be surprised to see it feature in the Oxford dictionary either. I’m no crystal ball gazer to predict the fate of the film. After all, It may not be Kolaveri sexy..oops..i mean so very sexy! :p But the song certainly serves as a lesson for the film marketers who take up expensive below the line marketing strategies and brand tie-ups and thus dig a grave for themselves.

20 mins of creativity is all it takes to sell yourself in a film world. So why waste crores in doing just that? Ultimately, It took the one headed Ram just just one arrow from a stretched 'Dhanush' to undo a 10 headed Ra.One (pun intended). And that’s precisely the sort of stuff Dhanush has achieved. He has set an entire nation crooning & rolling..on a scale which is hitherto unmatched..yes..not even by his much more famous father-in-law! ‘3’ cheers to Kolaveri! J

June 25, 2011

10 reasons why 'X Men : First Class' is second best.

Only 2 days ago, I happened to watch one of the most gorgeous Hollywood summer blockbusters in a suburban multiplex here in Mumbai. Devoid of all the trappings of a typical commercial potboiler and minus the gimmicky reputation that most superhero flicks come with, X Men : First Class indeed stood upto its name. Spectacular performances from a young cast woven into a tightly written script which never loses pace, X Men : First Class proved to be a huge relief for movie freaks like me who have been yearning for ‘that one great film’ this year. Be it Michael Fassbender’s charismatic portrayal of the evil Magneto in the making. (He did steal the show and how!) or James McAvoy’s infusion of  charm and grace into the noble Mr.X or the fantastic chemistry between the 2, the film kept escalating from one level to another with each passing second. Setting the film against the backdrop of the Cold War Era tensions between the US and USSR proved to be a masterstroke! Blending history with histrionics is something that’s rarely been experimented in the superhero film genre till date and Director Matthew Vaughn deserves full marks for rebooting a franchise which was on the wane despite the towering presence of Hugh Jackman. And needless to say, audiences went ballistic in their response to the film. For girls, James McAvoy became the new Robert Pattinson while for guys, Michael Fassbender became the poster-boy. Critics went gaga courtesy what I like to call an ‘aesthetic orgasm’ largely due to the pace of the film and its sheer intelligence. As an avid follower of film reviews, I am used to puns and hyperboles in equal measure. You can trust them, you can thrash them. But sometimes you can’t tolerate them. Specially when they cross a line. And that’s precisely what one of them did by labeling X Men : First Class as “the greatest superhero film of all time.” Words which I believe call for legal action. Sheer blasphemy I say for the title of the greatest comic-book adaptation is reserved for one and only one film. X Men : First Class may be first rate, wildly intelligent, well written etc etc. but unfortunately it comes only second to the greatest superhero film of all time - “The Dark Knight”.

Just  a week away from joining a prestigious B School, you can call this my first case study. Though I do not intend to be even remotely connected to films, emotionally I do! Here are 10 reasons why X Men : First Class is simply no match to The Dark Knight : 

1) Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger as Joker

Look at those 2 words. Stare at them, say it aloud and tell me you didn’t feel a pinch of awe ! Coz you are looking at the name of the man who proved to be the greatest USP of The Dark Knight (TDK). His nerve cracking performance as the vicious psychopathic mass murderer aka The Joker was a blinder to say the least. What Heath did to TDK is simply beyond the realms of human imagination or capability. For a man who prior to the film was little known outside America.  known only to purists for he had the balls to do a homosexual role in the often ridiculed and despised yet critically acclaimed Brokeback Mountain, he became a global hero. Though he met with a tragic death, he had made his greatest contribution to cinema by giving a performance worth dying for. Pages and pages of theses can be written about him, but even the most expert eulogist will struggle for words to describe the man’s achievement. Sadly, despite a brilliant show by Michael Fassbender(the best in X Men), he doesn’t even manage to make 1% of Heath’s impact.

2) Heavyweights

Director Matthew Vaughn may deserve a pat on his back for coming up with a delicious film despite having a set of amateur young actors. But let’s face it. It’s easier to lead a bunch of novice than a bunch of wise. The Dark Knight had a huge risk of falling prey to the “Too many cooks spoil the broth” syndrome. However the film never falters. When Joker was away, the likes of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart and Christian Bale held sway. Their towering presence just added to the impact left by Joker.

3) Superhero?

One of the positives of the film is thanks to what I would like to term an unfair advantage – Of all the comic book characters, Batman is perhaps the only one without any sort of inborn/built-in superpowers. Batman thrives on technology. And in an age powered and driven by technology , nothing is more pleasing to eyes than seeing innovation being used to protect a city. There is a sense of practicality or feasibility in whatever Batman does making the plot more and more believable and thus establishing a strong connect with the audience.  

4) Dialogues

If Shakespeare was alive, he would have been proud reading the screenplay of TDK. Some of the dialogues in the film can qualify for proverbs. Though X Men : First Class can boast of some real good ones as well. (“Killing was never an option” , “Let’s just say I’m a Frankenstein’s monster and I’m looking for my creator.” or “If you’re using half your concentration to look normal,then you are paying only half attention to whatever else you are doing.” etc. etc.),  they don’t come so frequently as in TDK. TDK throws them at you one after another at a breathtaking frequency – “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain” , “I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve”, “We were decent men at indecent time”, “Whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you stranger” etc. 

5) Being Human

Another highlight of TDK was the remarkable climax scene, where the civilians of Gotham City display a great level of courage and spirit by proving the Joker wrong. In an industry where superhero films are so condescending to the civilians, this came as a wave of fresh air. Civilians are treated as mere spectators or victims to the show put up by the superheros and supervillains. And it gets no different in X Men where they are all at the mercy of mutants. However for the first time, TDK handed over the reins of saving an entire city to neither of the two protagonists but instead to the common masses. Ingenious!

6) Chemistry of Contrast

Batman & Joker in The Dark Knight

Professor X & Magneto in X Men: First Class

Chemistry between Prof X and Magneto is perhaps the most sizzling aspect of X Men First Class. How 2 thick friends go onto become bitter foes provides enough fodder for a fairy tale narration which the West simply loves. Quite evident in their literature and cinema. And it would be really unfair on the director to disregard the beautiful way in which he explores the 2 characters and emotionally invests us in them. Great no doubt. But the point is. Chemistry between 2 lovers, 2 friends, 2 relatives is quite heard of. but what about the one between 2 completely contrasting entities? That’s what TDK manages to do. Though Batman despises Joker and the Joker loves the Batman, they can’t do away with each other. Strangely, they are connected. They wouldn’t kill each other. As Joker himself tells Batman in the film,”You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you coz you are so much fun!”. TDK redefined chemistry and thus outdid everybody.

7) Trendsetter

With all due credit to the team of X Men, you can’t cloud the fact that the whole idea of rebooting a superhero franchise so intelligently started with the Batman films. Slowly people started taking these films more seriously rather than stuffing them with mindless gravity defying stunts. It’s only when DC Comics came up with The Dark Knight that Marvel was spurred to respond with X Men : First Class.

8) Benchmark for action

The truck flipping scene in TDK

Action is an indispensable part of every superhero film. And even the silliest films in Hollywood score on the action part. Both X Men and TDK do a great favor to themselves by focusing on the script more than stunts and 3D. However when you compare the 2, TDK scores a point over the other. Though X Men can boast of some fabulous sequences, none can match the originality of the most famous action scene in TDK. The famous truck flipping scene in TDK has become a legend in itself. And so has the explosion at the Gotham City Hospital. It set new benchmarks for action in Hollywood cinema. With minimal use of CGI, the days of conventional fights were back in Hollywood.

9) On your toes

A sense of anticipation pervades through the entire 2 and a half hours of running time in TDK. Right from the 1st scene, there is this eerie feeling that something terrible is about to happen. As Joker wreaks havoc after havoc in Gotham, the plot simply gets unpredictable. Though X Men starts brilliantly on that front, towards the second half, it becomes more predictable.

10) The Real Knight

Christopher Nolan

In all the above talk, I didn’t mention one name. The man behind it all. The genius who crafted this gem of a film, the brain, heart and soul of the project – CHRISTOPHER NOLAN. Arguably the most popular director today. Would we have known Ledger at all had Nolan not written the character so wonderfully? Every film of his comes with a huge expectation and instead of cowering under the burden, he keeps getting better with every film. His Dark Knight set a wonderful trend which has been loyally followed by Matthew Vaughn. And thus giving us one more man to look forward to as he announces the sequel to X Men : First Class.

I loved X Men : First Class. It may be truly first class but it comes only a distant second to The Dark Knight.

April 29, 2011

Rendezvous with Renjith : Episode 1

Hello,good evening,wanakkam,namashkaar!…Welcome to the 1st Episode of 'Rendezvous with Renjith' where we will get to meet some interesting personalities and unravel their mysteries and secrets. Now before I introduce our first guest on the show,let me give you a brief introduction about him..He arrived on the public spotlight with a bang. His first appearance on the television was during the just concluded Cricket World Cup and the impact was so huge that even the Indian Cricket Team’s position on the popularity index was threatened.He is smart as Einstein;cool as cucumber. An envy of men’s eyes and cynosure of women’s, he is strong as Hercules,swift as light and flexible as a rubber band. He is not just dextrous. But also ambidextrous and Unlike the rest  of his talkative race,his actions speak louder than words. In fact,he doesn’t talk at all!  But only until now.. 

As most of you would’ve guessed by now, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome on the show none other than the incredible,inimitable and indefatigable SUPER-ZOOZOO!!!! ( Music booming at the background : TaTaDaTa…TaTaDaTa..ta..da..da..da!)

(The guest zooms into the studio in his famous get up and he latches on to the seat infront of me waving at the audience.)

Me : (with excitement reaching a tipping point) Hello SUPER-ZOOZOO. I cannot explain how thrilled we are to have you on this show. You have been the sensation of the summer. You are everywhere. Billboards, Televisions, Newspapers, Internet. How does it feel to be the Toast of the Nation? Has the adulation sunk in yet?

SUPERZOOZOO (SZ) : (clears his throat triggering a thunder in the skies..The moment is here.. We are gonna hear the Legend himself talking!) Hello everybody. Well well well! What can I say? Am just humbled.  Totally. Never expected this sort of a reception. All I have to say is thank you very much for your love….You guys are great. Really.. I love India.(triggering a massive round of applause)

Me : Certainly,we love you too. Now.. with your 2 month stint in India,you must have realized that we Indians are a very curious lot. And one question which continues to intrigue every Indian is..Who exactly is this SUPER-ZOOZOO? What’s is it that sets you apart from other zoozoos?  Since we still haven’t been able to decode your language, we haven’t got our answers yet.

SZ  :  Hmmm. Quite understandable. I am one of the only 2 people in my planet who can speak English. In fact,I can speak each and every language spoken  in this entire universe. But first things first. We hail from a planet called Zoobi Doobi which is far far away from earth in a different galaxy altogether. The language we speak is Zoobeidan. There are millions of zoozoos there who live their lives just like you Indians do.  Even we value the family system,moral values. Even we feel the power of love. Even we have fights with our neighbors like you. We are just as normal as you. But 1 big difference is,we don’t have to bribe anybody like you have to!

Me : Ha ha. You do have a good sense of humor. But you still didn’t answer my question. Who is this  superzoo? You have been an enigma to every listener,every viewer and every reader. Please tell us the secret that distinguishes you from others.

SZ : Like I mentioned earlier,I am one of the only 2 super-zoozoos who have been entrusted the entire responsibility of protecting every soul in Zoobi Doobi . Just like a human,every zoozoo has 2 parents. But the reason why I am different from them is, I don’t have 2 parents. I have 4..I was born out of a confluence between Eil,Fuay,Azl and Werd which are the Zubeidan equivalents of Earth,Fire,Wind and Water.  Eil gave me the morality and will power. Fuay lended me the strength and passion. I inherited my speed and skill from Azl. And Werd passed on His Highness’s flexibility and purity to me.

Me : Woooooow! That’s just great. By the way, you keep saying there are 2 super-zoozoos. Who is the other? Your twin brother?

SZ : No. He is my alter-ego.

Me : (Gulping. Just discovered that this was a 2 in 1 package!)  So how exactly did you manage to reach our planet? And that too India!

SZ : Well. It was Arun Sarin you know..The former CEO of Vodafone..It was his sincere efforts to bring 3G to India that truly won my heart. I was born with an in built passion sensor. It helps me detect the slightest seed of passion that germinates in every nook and corner of this universe. Every year Zoobi Doobi gets countless signals from your planet to be a part of their ventures.and guess what. Most of them are from Hollywood!
There was this guy. Umm..what’s his name?...mmm..Steven Spielberg I guess. He invited me to play the lead in his film some 30 years ago. But we Zoozoos hate to be in the limelight. We are quiet workers. And hard workers. We do not enjoy fame and money. So I immediately diverted those signals to another planet. And that is how Extra Terrestrial was made. There were calls from NASA too. But they were so weak that I just ignored them. I always wondered why Hollywood never took over NASA. They could have saved a lot of taxpayer’s money spent in mere attempts to establish a contact with my space buddies. But that’s none of my business.
And now back to Arun Sarin. It was his vision and mission to bring 3G to India . He dreamt about it day in and day out. So at first, I sent some of the zoozoos as a part of a cultural exchange programme(one way exchange I would say) and Arun was quite impressed them and featured them in the 2g ads. And then one day, I saw this light flickering brightly on my mental computer originating from Arun’s mind. And that’s when I thought I will offer to help. They were in search of a Brand Ambassador who would symbolize FASTER,SMARTER and BETTER. So I willingly stepped in and did them all for free. It was a challenge to compete wit SRK’s superhero trailers for the audience’s attention. But going by the response, looks like sense has prevailed and the verdict is out on who is stronger. Poor guy. He did try hard. But at the end of the day, he ain’t my alter-ego ;-)  It’s sad that Arun had to step down soon after that and make way for a new guy. But his legacy continues.

Me : Bravo! U certainly are a marvel. Now coming to all the exploits you do on screen. How do you do it? Do you follow a strict routine? How does your day start?

SZ : First of all I sleep only for an hour. Not because I need it. But because, I can’t let my mental PC get overheated. Then I sit and meditate. In which Werd(Water ) himself cleanses me physically,psychologically and spiritually.(so that takes care of my bath). Followed by a light breakfast of hot sunrays. Sometimes I miss the native food. So I fly back to Zoobi Doobi,have that and come back in a minute. Then, I follow it with a rigorous work out. Push ups on my index finger bein just one of them. I am trying to improve myself..pushups with body absolutely in no contact with ground is my goal. Then I revise my flying lessons by circling the earth. I try not  pushing myself hard. I just jog at 280000 kms per sec. Then I just meet up with other visiting zoozoos, help them out of their troubles,then ads..and so on..

Me : That’s a very rigorous schedule. So have you ever felt threatened by anybody? Specially Superman, Batman and all..They are quite powerful as well.

SZ : Threatened and me? I am least bothered. My job is to protect the needy. I just try doing my job. In fact I can never be like Superman and Batman. And I don’t wish to. Never quite appreciated their fashion sense actually. I firmly believe that not wearing an underwear is better than wearing an underwear outside.

Me : Then who is your favourite superhero?

SZ: My alter-ego.

Me : And favourite actor?

SZ : Rajinikanth. He is such a brilliant actor. I get so emotional watching his movies. Everything that he does reminds me of me..a true Legend(gets emotional and sheds a tear.. which he wipes away with the flick of his finger…just like Rajini sir!)

Me : Ooooh..Thats so sweet.. So what are your future plans? How long will your stay in India continue?

SZ : I will be out of here soon. As soon as I feel I have realized Arun’s dream completely, I will be back to Zoobi Doobi with my compatriots. I think in a few more months, Vodafone 3G will become the market leader in this country. And if that happens, I will be really glad and it will be a job well done.

Me : So any message you would like to extend to our dear viewers?

SZ : Well thank you Indians once again. You have been great guests. I will like to keep coming here again and again. I was here for the premier of Robot last year. But I came in disguise. In fact I make sure I attend all films of Rajini sir. Hmmm.. Now that the secret is out, am sure all you cunning Indians will be waiting for me for his next release! He he he…And kids watching this programme ,I want to warn you. “The acts and stunts done by me are thoroughly personal and professional. Please do not imitate at home. You all are superheroes in your own right. Be good sons and daughters and make the country proud.”

Me: Thank you soooooo much SuperZoozoo for being on this show. It was so kind of you to finally open 
your mouth. Honestly,we all thought you were dumb, as in ,mute. But you are really a superstar and we wish you and everbody in Zoobi Doobi a great life. (Music starts playing at the background : Zoobi Doobo..Zoobi Doobi..Pam Pa Ra..)

SZ : (Smiling widely at the song and blushing at the same time)Thank you very much. It was a pleaure talking to you too Renjith.

Next moment, He has whizzed out of the studio in his trademark speed with his cape fluttering behind. Phew! Undoubtedly,one of the most amazing personalities I have met. I was simply flattened by his mere presence.  And needless to say,the next day,I found myself in a Vodafone outlet to buy a new sim!

(Note : If you happen to be the Vodafone CEO by any chance, you owe me a fortune for the free publicity I just gave you! )

April 24, 2011

Calm Sutra

                                     Yes! You said it right. But heard it wrong! ;-) This is a story..A story which doesn’t begin with Once upon a time..a story about a rivalry.. RIVALRY- who doesn’t enjoy it? Call me a sadist or whatever.But  I just salivate at the prospect of fighting with somebody. If not physically,at least verbally! Rivalry..If  being a part of it is not bitter enough,being a mere witness to it(which is actually the safer thing to do) can be worse. The worst is when it provokes some uncalled for statements questioning  your masculinity(if you are a man of course!). Every walk of life involves rivalries. And literally so! And I will never forget that old man who gave me one of the most nightmarish yet exhilarating experiences of my life a few years ago.
                                     It was a cool breezy December evening. I am not a regular when it comes to evening walks. But on that day,I don’t how the dormant  Keats in me sprung to life and I wanted to step out of my house and soak everything that the seductive Miss Weather had in store for me. And so I did. Reached the most happening(in every sense of the word) Jogger’s Track(which turns into Walker’s Track or more precisely a Watcher’s Track in the evenings) in my locality. Tuned into my Ipod and started walkin. What a feeling it was..
                                   .Held against the bosom of the lovely weather,I felt like walking in a different  galaxy altogether..where I was the only one..completely at peace with myself..the soft music driving every slow step of mine..there was no gravity..Notebooks,assignments,lab journals were floating in the space like asteroids… till a bustling comet came and smashed the shit out of them into pieces..The shameless inquisitor in me did wonder for a moment if that was Haley’s..coz it would have been a once in a lifetime moment I would have missed . But I was more than happy at the sight of those disgusting asteroids being smashed into pebbles into the limitless depths of space..I managed to grab a chuckle. Had the mortals in my ex galaxy seen me laugh to myself, they would have certainly thought I was crazy..But as if I cared! I was a free bird now..flying far away..What a feeling that was..No travails of the mundane honking breaking news…no homework… total peace..
                                   But I don’t know why human nature has been designed so..Coz though I hate it,I strongly believe,when Man reaches the pinnacle of confidence,he comes face to face with complacence. Here I was -  on the brink of salvation… moments away from reaching the elite club of Mahaviras and Gautam Buddhas..this was the moment..this was THE moment..Come on Renjith! Come on! Almost there..Almost.. and what  happened next was totally inexplicable!
                                  I had topped enough history classes in my childhood to know what Buddha looks like..alright!  let me be humbler..I had enough faith in Maharashtra State Board History Textbooks to know how Siddhartha - The Enlightened Son of King Shuddhodana and Queen Mahamaya (see! I told you I had topped my history class!)looks like.But just when I thought I had seen Buddha,the sense of elation which I had so laboriously rehearsed for, just failed to materialize! May be it’is a thing about these rehearsals that your final performance can never match them. But guess what! I saw myself staring at the sneering face of a buddha.. MARK THE ARTICLE FRIENDS… it was ‘A’ buddha (i.e an old man in Hindi)..
                                  Now though this buddha didn’t look remotely similar to The Buddha, his mere sight had the power to turn my world upside down! I was jolted back to reality and what a painful journey that was..Freefall from the spiritual honeymoon,greeted by all those pebbles coagulating back to the asteroids,each one disdainfully showing me an upright middle finger on the way..and thud! There I was..jolted back to the same old earth..If that wasn’t disheartening in itself,the old man was still there staring at me! And giving me that sneer.. 
                                   He was round about in his fifties, and possibly diabetic..which is the case with most of the people walkin aimlessly there. (oh sorry! controlling sugar was a genuine aim ryt?. How could I be so rude! ). He was bald but certainly not beautiful. And just when I was wondering why I had not walked past him yet,I realized he was walkin alongwith me,parallel to me! I wanted to ask him What the f*** his problem was but don’t know why,  at least for once I wanted to be patriotic on a non Indo-Pak cricket match day by “treating elders with respect and courtesy” (Wish I could tweak our national pledge a little by adding an ‘only when neccessary’ to it..But it was too late..)
                                   So the words did come out, but in the most horrible translation ever,”Hello uncle.Good evening.” I was digesting the shock of hearing the words that had just came out of my mouth when pat came the reply,”Good evening son. I couldn’t help but notice. My legs seem to be faster than yours at this age.” I was like,”Sorry?” to which he said,”Yeah. Your generation is so slow both in mind and in the legs” I wanted to scream my vocabulary out at him. But I resisted for the same reasons of ‘…courtesy and respect…’ Instead, in the most non recorded  Oscar worthy moment of polite pretence, I said, “I most appreciate your opinion uncle. But with due respects,we use IPod and u lived in the age of transistors.” To which he quipped, ”But Steve Jobs is just as old as me.”! 
                                  Maaaaan! This was not happening..I couldn’t take this. I could have well walked off wishing him Good Bye. But something inside me held me back. What was it? It was the same sense of rivalry I mentioned at the start of the post. So I decided to continue walking, matching his pace…what?! Nooooo! It was he who was matching my pace for Heaven’s sake! He kept having that same sneer smile on his if he knew everything. Of course he had lived 40 more years than me..But I was a history topper myself! I knew perhaps more than him what had happened in those 40 years!(though frankly,my history textbook never taught me what happened between 1947 and my birth year) So I thought of bringin up the blockbuster sensation of our generation into the conversation- SACHIN TENDULKAR.
                                 I held my chest high and said,”We have Sachin Tendulkar! (Beat that!)”  And started my PhD thesis on all his records with special emphasis on his number of Test centuries and Test runs (b’coz I was so sure he would bring up Sunil Gavaskar)..Thats when he quipped,”If only that kid could win us a World Cup.”  
                                 Now I don’t know if this is the case with every diehard Sachin fan. But my blood suddenly boiled at that moment..rushing to my knuckles. I wanted to knock that fella down! But I restrained (I think I was a saint in my previous birth.)If only I knew that the World Cup moment was just a few years away, I would have…..(peace..). I was just recovering from that moment,when the old man shot back again,”So you still didn’t tell me why you have such slow legs.” I was just thinking what exactly he was getting to..So just to confirm,I increased my pace a little and started walking..And lo! Even the buddha started walking hurriedly to catch up with me. 
                                 So! my intuition was right. This oldie wanted to race with me! I started laughing coming to terms with the silliness of the situation. A Walking Race with a 55 year old diabetic fellow! “This was ridiculous! “ - was my first reaction which turned into - “This is gonna be a cakewalk!” - which further became- ”Hang on! What if I lose?” .
                                The sense of pride I took in my sensibility had crystallized into fear of failure which made me scan him once from head to toe. He was wearing Nike shoes. And I was in my Bata slippers. Man! The fear was getting to me now. But I decide to conceal it under my skin and gave him a nod of tacit approval marking our starting point. And thus,we started walking! This was gonna be the first walking race on earth were the participants weren’t catwalking!
                                For a man of his age,he seemed to be quite fast! Maybe the the dig I took at aimlessness early on was gonna backfire on me. But still I kept walking. Both of us neck to neck. He seemed to be enjoying himself. And a determined me also sported a mask of the same enjoyment . He didn’t utter a word during the race. I admired his professionalism for a second only to remind myself that he was my opponent in this race. Things were going fine till the halfway mark when a moment of concentration lapse ruined my race.
                               Halfway through the race, I saw the gorgeous looking classmate of mine - Senorita on whom I had a heavy crush. She was there that day looking the most beautiful she had ever looked. I cursed God for the situation He had put me in. On any other day,I would have happily sat at the edge of the Watcher’s Track and stared at her, savouring her angelic beauty bit by bit..But today I was destined to beat this buddha on this Walker’s Track. 
                               My heart went to Senorita- but my mind and legs were pulling me to the old man!  When I came back to reality, I realized I had been standing there all the while and the oldie had taken a huge lead. He was walkin at the same pace. The ghosts of the Hare n Tortoise story came to haunt me. With the fear of failure gaining more and more momentum, I quickened my pace to the extent of almost running. But I couldn’t betray the sense of professionalism the old man had shown. I walked faster than I had ever walked in my life.
                               He was nearing the end point and I was nearing him. And a familiar feeling came back to me. This was the moment…this was THE moment…Come on Renjith! Come on! So much was at stake..Sachin vs Gavaskar, IPod vs Transistor, Steve Jobs vs Zuckerberg. I couldn’t let my Generation down! And the gap started getting narrower..I was sweating…panting…breathing heavily..palpitating..but more importantly, I was closing in…..and… and…..Hurrrraay! I did it! The sense of elation which narrowly escaped me at the doorstep of salvation had overcome me. I was destined for this. I had done it.  For Sachin Tendulkar…For my IPod..For Zuckerberg..For Senorita… and more importantly, For Myself!
                             But then, I had to show my middle finger to this old man! Bloody..takin on me eh? How dare he! But I couldn’t find him anywhere nearby..Damn.. Must have escaped I thought. Cursed myself for appreciating his professionalism. I looked around, and there he was! Sitting on the bench with an old lady talking..acting as though nothing had happened in this world. I went to him unaware of how unethical it looked to the outside world to see a young boy intruding on an old couple’s privacy.
                             But I didn’t care what others thought and went to him and said,”So! Now what do you have to say about my legs?!” A couple of young girls around me heard that as I had said it quite loudly. And like most of their species,started giggling instantly! Well can’t blame them though. If I was them,would have done the same too. The question did sound gross. But I didn’t budge,”Tell me man! What were you blabbing so much about?” The old man looked at me incredulously.
                            Either he was a great actor himself or he was out of his mind. But looking at the commotion, people surrounded us. The old lady sitting beside him looked startled at all the attention. This was certainly not what she had planned for. Then a middle aged man came in to be the judge of the matter and politely asked me to tell what happened. I went through everything focusing on the slightest detail(I am a Tolkien fan u see!). and then it was the old man's turn.
                         On being asked for his side of story, he said,” I come here every evening with my wife and sit on this bench. I haven’t talked to this young boy at all. I jus saw him walking and just smiled at him.He didn’t seem to like it that much and he turned his head around and continue to walk.I thought he was upset with something. What is it young man?” Now... this was not happening to me!..This was a huge practical joke he was playing on me! I was thinking what to say next when me eyes caught something…something alarming…and even today,I so vividly remember staring at that for an eternity…
                         It was his footwear!  He was wearing a pair of Hawaii chappals!!! Where were the Nike shoes?? And then to my utter horror, I realized what had transpired in the last 30 minutes. And the moment that realization hit me..harder than my friends’ birthday bumps, I fell on his feet  infront of everybody and apologized to him and his dear wife who was still comatose with shock! I hugged that old man and said, “Thank You uncle..Thank you very much”..and people dispersed ..of course, I could hear vague murmurs of people questioning the very sensibility I used to boast of.
                       But as I started walking back home, I thanked God…Gautam Buddha in particular!  for giving me the ultimate salvation. The buddha whom I had cursed all the while was Gautam Buddha Himself and everything that followed the first smile of that old man sitting with his wife was just a figment of my imagination planted by God to make me realize one thing…”I was just fighting with myself. There is no such thing as rivalry. Battle is always fought within. If one can beat the inner demons within oneself, nothing can stop him. ”  and thus I returned, filled with a sense of inner calm which continues to help me stay balanced even today. 

PS : I am not a Buddhist  and I am quite happy with my legs. ;-)

April 18, 2011

Born at 22..

                                             1989 - India was at the cusp of a major economic and political transition. Bollywood had witnessed the debut of the first of a League of Khans who wouldd go on to displace the likes of Anil Kapoors and Jackie Shroffs at the top of the tree. A liitle boy of 16 from the bylanes of Mumbai who would later be addressed as God had been introduced to the world of cricket. There were no Set Max and Star Dish TV and Tata Sky either..Doordarshan was the Big Daddy enthralling the viewers not with Munni and Sheela..but with Draupadi and Sita! 
                                             In the midst of all this, an event largely went unnoticed. Perhaps in a nation of 800 million people back then, it hardly mattered. But when I stepped out of my mother's womb, I was too tiny to realize what I had achieved. May be because I suffered from a rare case of 'Hypermodesty' (Rmbr the famous child birth complication wch made headlines back in 1989??Yeah! That was me!)... Now at 22, When i wind the clock back to that day,I feel so proud of myself. I was the gem that my parents had so eagerly waited for. Its such an overwhelming feeling that for once, Sachin Tendulkars and Aamir Khans could wait..and all that mattered was me! I was the boy of the moment! No matter what,My parents will always remember the year 1989 for the birth of their child! :) And this is a feeling that every parent in this world shares including yours. 
                                             The reason why I look back to that day is not because am a little short on self worth today.Neither is it because am fed up of my life. Its just that growing up was so much fun till now but from now on, it is gonna be such a pain. As my graduation days are coming to an end, alarming voices (or noise i daresay) approach my ears..i can hear the clamour of a hungry competitive world outside closing in on me.. like a monster. No more 'dates' only more buddies and barbies..only Bosses and Bacchas (i dare not say Biwis!)...Finally gonna lay my hands on the first button of my shirt..and yeah! derz gonna be a tie too! The very thought stuffs the oxygen out of me! Less of "dudes n gals"..more of "ladies and gentlemen!" Man! Sounds so damn boring...
                                             But the truth is unless u re a Benjamin Button or something, you are born young and die old. The gem of a baby that you were in the lively comforts of cradle will rot into a a shapeless flintstone within the lifeless confines of a coffin..or even worse, into ashes in an urn..It's a fact of life and is certainly not within our control. But what certainly is within our grasp is the ability to restrict this to the physical aspect alone..Let your body decay..let ur hair turn grey..let your teeth dissapear,let ur bones break..let ur backs bend..but never let ur 'mind' outgrow ur body..Retain the kid in you al your life...Live every moment of life as though it is a picnic! Take every step of your life as your first step and the result will be magical!
                                           Today as i write my first blog,i feel so excited,..d same excitement i felt when i stood first in my 1st standard,the same enthusiasm with which i cut my birthday cakes and the same energy with which i played with my childhood friends. Though am well out of my mom's womb and lying on a bed as big as 10 cradles put together , I still feel like a baby waiting to start a new phase of my life..I took birth 22 years ago. but i guess hereon,I ll feel better saying,"I was born at 22!" :)