Saturday, April 14, 2012

Warming Up

At around 8.30 pm today, after longer than an elephant can remember, inspiration FINALLY struck my bamboozled head. The timing couldn't be better, because it's a sure-fire sign that I won't submit 4000 words of crap as my research project.

So this is a master's dissertation sort of thingy part of my journalism course at Express Institute of Media Studies. I'm looking at continental food in the capital city's backpacker capital Paharganj. I couldn't have landed a dreamier story. Only thing is, a lot has already been written about the place which could have put me off but it's made my job easier because I know now what I can't do. It does limit the field a bit but opens up the window for originality and quirkiness, which is going to be the selling point of the piece. The carrot on the stick here is the one in a million chance for the story to appear in The Indian Express. But irrespective of that, it's gotta be amazing.

I couldn't think of a better way to warm up because the deadline is tomorrow. Words are flowing in my head. I'm out. Here we go.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

All the wrong choices

It'd be easy to declare that Spurs are in a crisis. A lot of fans would want to hear that and believe it. After today's defeat to Norwich, you could sell a Spurs fan anything that says 'We're doomed.' Except that we're not. Today's game just showed that when Ledley King has the rare horrible outing, we've got no chance. The exact opposite of why the team doesn't lose when he's on top of his game which is almost all of the time.

And that's got me worried a little, because I've never seen Ledley perform badly. I've gotten too used to his invincibilty. Today he looked tired and nervous up against Grant Holt when he's bossed around better strikers than him. He should have been taken off at half time for the sake of the team. If you ask me, he shouldn't have started the game at all. Redknapp shouldn't have messed with the Gallas-Kaboul partnership just when it was beginning to look good. But I don't believe Ledley's career is finished. He's just had one bad game. It's just too bad our best defender this season, Younes Kaboul, had to go off injured, hope it's nothing too bad and he returns at the weekend.

I'd like to remind Kyle Walker that he's a defender and should be concerned with mopping up his flank and leave the running around and trickery to Aaron Lennon (bless him), our best player on the field today. I blame Walker for the second goal, for backing off Ryan Bennett and allowing him to shoot when he should have been dispossed instantly. Walker kept putting in unncessary tackles near the panalty box, giving Norwich chances to rattle our aleady nevry defending.

On to midfield. Good to see Sandro on the bench where he belongs. Hopefully, he won't come anywhere near the starting XI until he sorts himself out. Somehow, I thought Redknapp underestimated Norwich slightly by opting for Jake Livermore when he had Niko Kranjcar at his disposal. I don't want to take anything away from Livermore's defence-splitting pass that led to Defoe's goal but he didn't seem to able to do much else.

Only Luka Modric knows the answer to what happened to the Luka Modric of last season. To be fair, he's working harder than ever but it's the absence of creativity that has fans tearing their hair out. But flair isn't the only thing he's missing the past two games. He's been making simple errors, misplacing passes, both short ones and his signature cross-field ones. Not something you'd expect from Modric. Whatever it is, I hope he shakes it off.

It was infuriating to watch Gareth Bale casually prod the ball goalwards after good work from Modric and Lennon when he what he should have done was to pick his spot an power it in. To be fair, he wasn't terrible, he came the closest to winning us the match. His near-misses were agonising. But I can sense just a little cockiness creeping into his game. He still can't defend to save his life but what really got to me today was that he just wouldn't track back to help out the floundering defence.

What we lacked today was inspiration, as was the case at Sunderland on Saturday. We can't seem to do anything else when the opposition won't allow us to play our swash-buckling game. The effort to think up an alternative is clearly lacking. I won't question the commitment of Walker, Modric and Bale but would like to know what's going on inside their heads.

I love Harry Redknapp but I can't understand his choices at times. To begin with, what is Loius Saha doing in the starting lineup and topscorer Jermiane Defore on the bench? The man's finally found his scoring form and you respond to that by playing him only when you don't have a choice? Saha hasn't done anything to deserve to start ahead of Defoe. Which brings me to Giovanni dos Santos.

Just what he did to fall foul of Redknapp nobody knows. Redknapp must come clean on dos Santos because he'll neither play him nor let him leave. To top it all, dos Santos is expected to digest this load to shit, “You have a future at the club.” He has as much a future at Tottenham as Wolves do in the Premier League this season. You know the answer to that. He's proved his quality whenever he's started and doesn't deserve to be a spectator. Daniel Levy and Redknapp have got to let him leave without trying to make money off of him. But there's as much chance of that happening as there is of Mario Balotelli signing up for behaviour-correction therapy. You can answer that one too. I'll never forgive Redknapp for wasting dos Santos and wrecking his career.

Ditto Niko Kranjcar. He's another man I feel very sorry for. He's shown to be capable of playing almost anywhere in midfield and should have been the automatic replacement for Tom Huddlestone. Kranjcar is unlucky that Parker, Modric, Livermore and Sandro (sigh) have pushed him out. But like dos Santos, he should be allowed to move to another club and revive his career. It would be criminal if he loses his place in the Croatia squad for Euro 2012.

There's got to be a summer exodus starting with those two. I wouldn't be surprised if Defoe hands in a transfer request too, seeing how he's been treated this season even after he brought a touch of respectability to the scoreline against Manchester United last month. I just can't understand what the three of them need to do to prove that they can perform better and score more than the nutters occupying their places. And since answers aren't forthcoming, they should be released. Time is also up for Hurelho Gomes, Sebastian Bassong and sadly, Jermaine Jenas seeing as they're never going to start again. Let them go and start from scratch, you've left yourself no other option.

It's also important to hold on to Modric and Bale for witbhout them, we're going to back to being nobodies. Maybe they just need convincing that Spurs won't ever again flatter to decieve. Winning the FA Cup would be a good way to do that. This is the best chance we've got since Pompey (rightly languishing in the middle of nowhere) stole it from us three seasons ago.

Saha must go and so must Adebayor, if retaining him means smashing out wage structure, he's not bigger than the club and certainly not sensational. Can't have him disappear during the big games. This is the best time to bring in the Academy boys. One of Redknapp's major successes has been grooming young players and Walker, Livermore and Danny Rose (to a lesser extent) have flourished in the senior team. Time to open the door wider and let in Andros Townsend, Harry Kane and Steven Caulker. I'm sure Redknapp would love to be remembered as the man who revived the Academy. The end of speculation on his own future would also help. We need to know if he's seriously considering the national call-up.

If we want to get something out of this season we'll have to do it the hard way now. Arsenal are not going to slip up and that coupled with our own self-destruction means that third place is going rapidly out of reach. Even better, Chelsea and Newcastle have closed in on us which means we'll have to hang on to Champions League football by the skin of our teeth.

In better news, we're on the right side of the excruciaitngly slow process of realising our potential. A third straight season in fourth or fith place is the kind of consistency we've missed sorely. A stable manager and consistent finishes around that part of the table will take us on the slow climb to the top. Until then, COME ON YOU SPURS!

And yeah, this week, SPURS ARE ON THEIR WAY TO WEMBLEY, so watch out Chelsea and give us everything you got. GLORY GLORY TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR! 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Football wrecks the night

Just watched Spurs lose at Everton. Nikica Jelavic scored for the Merseysiders but for the first time in weeks, Tottenham fought. Sure, they've lost their third consecutive game now and are in real danger of losing third place but I'm proud of them.
They showed hunger today, they threw everything at the Blues but it wasn't enough. But I think the hunger is back. I could only catch the last twenty minutes but I finally saw the desperation and the urgency to claw back into the contest, something they did all last year during the unbeaten streak. I have a feeling they've finally rediscovered it and if it's taken three losses on the trot for that to return, I don't care. This loss will hurt more last week against United because Everton was a winnable game. I just hope this fires them up and ends the bad run.
Sure, we shouldn't be losing to Everton, all due respect to David Moyes, but this is Tottenham's lowest point this season. I got faith. The madness will return.
I doubt I'll be able to sleep for a couple of hours now. I've got three stories to write but right I'm too excited to work on them. I'm in no mood to write even though the deadlines are hours away. Somethings (everything) just take a backseat to football. I'm also a sore loser and will stay this way until tomorrow at least. The match has also put me off of reading this week's Times Crest and the march edition of The Caravan, and they've both got brilliant stories as usual.
Yep, no point trying to work. I'm not worked up because they've lost but because it was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO CLOSEEEEEEEEE. Could have and should have won it in the end. On the bright side, this was one the of most exciting games I've watched in a while. But no, the deadlines will have to wait. I'll curse myself for doing this tomorrow evening while racing against the clock, but right now I couldn't care less. Slogging tonight would be disrespecting the club. COME ON YOU SPURS!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

They're not good for your sanity

The Kings of Leon have the ability to inspire sadness. If you give their discography a good listen you'll find very few outright happy songs. Caleb Anthony's songwriting remains focused on the demons in his head and what he's going to do about them.

It's amazing how he's been able to do that consistently over four albums. For me, Come Around Sundown is their best so far. Let's go track by track. 

Avoid 'The Face' and 'The End' if you're down in the dumps, they'll take you to depths you didn't imagine possible and mess with your head. But that's what makes them so beautiful, the way they fester melancholy till you're engulfed by it. The degree to which they take the pain will have you bawling, Caleb's singing is relentless, his voice merciless. Listen to them back to back, and you'll go from being glum to distraught faster than a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport goes from 0-100. I still can't wrap my head around the potential these two songs have to meddle with emotions and yet I'm drawn to them even more at the end of a forgettable day.

'Pyro' is a queer song, neither here nor there. After listening to it for the 78888885474747th time today I still don't know what to make of it. All I know (and care) is that when it's blaring in my ears, I can close my eyes, hum along and feel my feet leave the ground. For its 4 minute 10 second duration, it's just me and the song. Nothing else, nobody else, no matter if I'm in the middle of a crowded bus or navigating Paharganj's Main Bazaar where it's advisable to always watch where you're walking. Let's just call it 'The Zone'. Watch the video, and you'll know what I'm talking about.

Ordinarily, I'd have to be slightly loopy and a little depressed to be writing this, but it requires exactly the opposite state of mind to think of each song independently. Detachment is difficult once you're hooked.

'Mi Amigo' – the underdog in the pack, it's easy to let it slip by unnoticed, sandwiched as it is between 'Birthday' and 'Pickup Truck'. I can see myself singing this while getting some sun in middle of the island drawn on the album's cover. It's lazy and lulls you into believing friendship is black and white. All those grey areas float past invisibly as you take the song at face value.

'Celebration' is a dark dark piece of work. The tone is ironic, I think The Kings meant to tease fans by naming it so. Instead it's 'Radioactive' that takes over those duties. Listen to the Choir Remix - a dozen kids and a professional choir in the chorus turn an ordinary song into a booming anthem.

I don't recommend Closer (presets remix). This version just takes away all the menace that really makes it stand out in 'Only By The Night'. In the remix, they've inexplicably managed to do away with the eerie baseline that is the soundtrack of my darkest nightmares.

Caleb is at his brooding best with 'Pickup Truck'. The title tells you nothing. By the end, I swear you'll hate to be so emotional and never intend to get physical. It's Raw Remorse and you can almost see Caleb writhing on the ground begging forgiveness and punishing himself.

'Mary' is the star of the album, perfect when your throat is in good enough shape for a bit of screaming sing-along. Cheesy as it, you'll never want to make her cry.

I'm not such a big fan of 'The Immortals' and 'Beach Side', either they'll take time to grow on me or they just don't match up to the rest of the album.

The big positives are the following three tracks – 'No Money', 'Birthday' and 'Pony Up'. They're a hip-shaking, head-bobbing threesome and contain lyrical gems such as 'I got no money but I want you so' and 'We're gonna come together, we're gonna celebrate, we're gonna gather round like it's your birthday.' 'Pony Up' makes me want to dance. Never thought I'd say it, but there you go. That's how good it is.

Almost forgot about 'Back Down South', I'll never get enough of it. It's got a homecoming feeling to it. It's the perfect tune to listen to on a rainy day when you're surrounded by steaming food. There's brotherhood, camaraderie and reunion packed into every second. So it's apt for the brothers to perform this song for family and close friends in the video -

This isn't meant to be a review, not just because it's way too late, but also because I'm not a music critic. This is a tribute and a recommendation. It's a come-on-and-give-the-Kings-of-Leon a listen. 

It's also a weight off my chest. It's taken this long to step back a bit and write about what makes the Kings such great company for misery. I'm nowhere close to establishing that yet but understanding and breaking down Come Around Sundown was a good way to start. I'll have a go at the next album in a few days. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why I don't want to be a Sub and the Airport Diaries

I'm being told I'm good at desk work, that I should consider a career as a sub-editor. I like reporting. But today I'm going to explain what really puts me off working on the desk. I don't want to work a night-shift and it has everything to do with the time I served surveying passengers at Bombay's international airport between July and November 2010 and a few months last year.
My Maa works for the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI for dummies, thrill-seekers and acronym-loving Americans), the government's official stats-keeper. So the Ministry of Tourism tasked them with surveying foreigners, NRIs flying out of India and locals. The idea behind this was to gain valuable feedback from large-hearted travellers who didn't mind nosy surveyors to tell the ministry how it could improve and upgrade existing tourism infrastructure.
Noble idea I thought. And it is.
Lousy execution though. In Bombay at least. So my Maa's office needed kids to spend a few hours at the airport every day and talk to as many people as possible. Easy way to earn a quick buck you'd think. Wrong. I resisted. All summer. It was good money too. And a fairly simple job. You have separate questionnaires for foreigners and Indians. All you had to do was persuade tired fliers to spend 15 minutes answering about 30 questions. The target was about 20 questionnaires a day and Rs. 100 a pop. I don't need to tell you that's some very good money every month-end. only you'd have to put up receiving your earnings some five months late because the nutters heading ISI at Kolkata took that long to move their snail-ish limbs and write out a few cheques.
As far as I was concerned, I wasn't going to spend my summer loping around the airport breathing its artificial air and going round in circles staring at duty-free chocolate and fancy clothing like some cash-rich yuppie. Oh and it was the graveyard shift, 11 pm to 6 am. I'm used to sleeping between those hours, or at least playing fifa. Anything that cuts into those two activities was and remains a strict no-no. Plus, I spent the summer fighting to save SNIFF and the academic year helping out with Aahan. And, it was the final year of college. None of those arguments worked. Mothers have a better victory percentage than Barcelona will ever manage.
So I joined a rag-tag bunch of boys that included Malad's finest and few nobodies who headed to their coaching classes from the airport every morning. If you don't see room for mischief, you're not alone. I didn't either. Not at first. But it wasn't long before they told me how they worked. They checked into the departure terminal at around 10.30 pm, the official in-time and an hour before the rain swept me in. Then they'd roam around a bit, walking from one end of the terminal to the other is quite some exercise for middle-aged and those who seriously consider walking strenuous. Sure, there was a lot of eye-candy. So the first hour was spent checking out the goods at the stores and ones on two legs. I couldn't find a cruder or more sexist way to say this, but I can't think of any other way to describe how they ogled at white women like they could scarcely believe their eyes.
After this tiresome excursion, they would retreat to the comfort of the sleeping lounge at the far end of the terminal to catch up on their forty winks/wanks.
On my second day there, the self-appointed leader of the pack said to me, “Form bhar ley phir thodi der so jaate hain” (Fill up the forms and get some sleep). Fairly simple words. It was an invitation. To be one of them. To join the wolf-pack. To be a part of a scam. No thanks sucker.
I've got a diary of the whole thing because I wrote down most of everything I did there so I could curse my Maa about it one day. But I guess reading about it years from now will probably make it seem a lot better. Unfortunately the notebook is in Bombay and I won't be going anywhere near it till at least August. I've wanted to write about this for a long time but I kept putting it off for a long time. But I promise to publish word-for-word everything I noted down.
I hated the job because it was pointless and screwed up my digestion. That's pretty much why I'll never be a deskie or work a night-shift anywhere. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cockroach Number 4

The inevitable has happened. Good-fucking-lord. The matchbox warmly welcomes Cockroach Number 4. It was bound to happen, a matter of when rather than if even though I kept delooding myself. The landlady won't be happy until she stuffs as many cockroaches into the matchbox as she can. Like that ekkssperiment where you stuff cockroaches inside a jar and screw the lid on tight. I think we know how that one ends.

So we introduce ourselves as 'journalists almost'. Me because I'm a few months away from landing a job and him because he's taking a break from the Outlook to re-think his career. What a nutcase. If I were him I wouldn't be too happy to have as a roommate a kiddo scribe when I'm trying to run away from the tribe for a bit.

Scribe or not, for me he's competition. And I hate competition here. For my slot in the bathroom every morning and my spot on the clothesline. We got a problem if his out-time each morning clashes with mine. As for the clothesline, I owe those reeds. In this place, it pays to mark your presence there, not only does it mark your territory but it also indicates that you really prefer your clothes clean.

I don't remember his name. Sandeep or something. See, I don't give a shit. He sings a lot, probably the next Kishore Kumar in his head. But then, show me one Indian who doesn't think the same and I'll show you an Indian with no ambition. Either that, or an Indian who doesn't give a shit about Kishore Kumar. I can live with that. Right now, he's snoring away that cockroach is and he's made himself at home in our matchbox.

Why cockroach? It's because the critter scurries about real fast without giving itself time to acknowledge or get used to its pathetic surroundings. Just as well that it doesn't, add that to the weight of the world and you got yourself a mess in your head. It's a quality I admire right now. I don't mind being a cockroach, only without the feelers. Those creep me out. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

That Boy

This is Abhishek Rao, Abhi to those who know him best. He's my youngest brother and boy I've shared all my life with.
He's the brainier of us two, even though it takes a little while to show. He's going to turn 20 in thirteen days and this first time I won't be around to celebrate it, or at least be present for that ritualistic cake-cutting that passes for a celebration in our family. Which also reminds me I've never given him anything close to a decent birthday present. Make do with this little man, till I photoshop something.
He's a bit of a wuss, but I realise now that it's a bit of a good thing and I should have been one too. Instead I neglected him for a long long time, like two strangers living in the same house but barely speaking to each other. That's the story of a lost childhood. Of an asshole of an older brother who was too busy being idealistic and angry at the world while the younger quietly missed his daddy and came out with his head sorted out. Whatever outsiders say, not that I care, he's got his head in the right place that boy.
It's not easy being the younger brother of an asshole, I didn't make childhood a fun time for him and teenage was worse. The hand-me-downs only added to it. Even worse when we attended the same school and asshole hogged all the limelight while he had to put up with being called, 'Aah, you're Srinath's younger brother, aren't you?' by brainless old women who were in the wrong job.
There's no way I can make up for all this and there's no point. Because we're past the apology stage. He's moved on and expects me to do the same, so there's no point dragging a shit-load of guilt around, no matter how human it makes you feel at the end of the day.
I love him not for forgiving me like no one else will for as long as I live (that would be just too selfish) but for not letting me get away with it. We could have drifted apart you know. All he did was stand by the side and make me realise I'd been a dickhead for seven-fucking years, maybe more.
But he never let go completely, he always tried and all I did was go further away. Faith, that's what it's all about.
He hasn't had a lot of moments of glory. Yet. But that's because I know life's saving up something big for him. He's due something huge. The last time I checked being a late bloomer wasn't a crime, although our mother and grandparents think otherwise, but they'll come around. So what if he flunked the second year of his automobile engineering course? Not the end of the world. I love him to bits even though I've spent a lot of my life pushing him away.
The good thing the family got out me moving to Delhi for a year is that the two of us have gotten closer. Bloody impossible I would have thought. In fact I'd lay greater odds on Spurs winning the league. But there you go. I can't wait to be home, can't wait to start afresh.
The other positive is that he's finally grown up, he's the man of the house and no one can dislodge him. He's starting to become reliable and a lesser pain in the ass at home. It had to happen, there was little choice but he's doing good.
I'm proud of him, really am.
I don't intend to get any sappier, I'm sure this far into this he's already shaking his head and thinking, 'yeh toh saala dilli mein pagal ho gaya, that or he's homesick'.
I got news for you boy, neither.
This is the culmination of a process you put into place years ago. Whereby you cured me of my stupidity and get your own back. Mummy's right, always has been. I'm very selfish and you, you that always got the jhaad and got branded the irresponsible kid, you've always been the glue of the Rao family. But you'll always be a pipsqueak that I took by the hand and shoved in the back of our Fiat when neither of us wore glasses and had hair to brag about. We should definitely buy a Fiat when the time comes.
I'll be a good uncle to your kids. 13 days to go!