Sunday, 20 September 2015

GRRM's birthday

When the Slacker first heard of this man's labour of love (or hate - I'm inclined to think hate) from a cousin, he was intrigued but hesitant. Much as he loved fantasy, to commit to a series that ran into as many pages as the five books so far written of A Song of Ice and Fire comprise was a daunting task.

But then came the TV series and so good was it (the first season indisputably so) that the books were taken up for reading. Then followed sleepless nights of 'just one more chapter' that ended when dawn broke, then followed red-eyed, drowsy office meetings where the Slacker thought how wonderful it would be if he had the Valyrian great sword Ice and could lop off a few heads, then followed bus journeys where the Slacker wished he could just ride a dragon over traffic, then followed sitting at the wheel of the Slacker's pride and joy, his Tata Nano - wishing he could set the Unsullied on the two-wheeler driving population of Mumbai that seemed determined to die under his wheels. 

For ASOIAF is a monumental work, with details so intricate that the co-incidences are more wonderful than the design, where every line has the potential for sub-text, where an impotent wish of Sansa's in the first book is realised by Jon Snow in the fifth, where reality, fantasy, brutality and hope culminate in a stew that's so delicious it can be eaten (or re-read) often, and each time a new flavour found.

So thank you, George. But do remember, time is passing, have a lot of loose ends to tie up.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The dying flame

Courts, governments and the bureaucracy are stuffed with people like us. They do not develop a higher IQ or reach a higher plan of intelligence because they occupy that position. Socially, they are shaped by the same influences we grew up with.

And look around you. Don't you have the nosy Uncle who wants to know who you're dating? The meddlesome neighbour who comments on what you wear? The irritating cousin who has an opinion on your career choice? The 'friend' who disapproves your eating habits?

I have known all of the above. Especially the last - a chap who ordered 'Tomato onion uthappa, don't put onion in it, and don't put onion on the sambar either."

We didn't care, we wanted the world to let us be, to wear what we liked, to love who we liked and eat, drink and make merry. We laughed at their quirks and brushed them off, thinking they lived in the past, even the young ones among them. The future was ours, the future was liberal, and hey - wasn't it more fun to have a kebab at a shady joint in Mahim with that inappropriately-dressed girl who really *got* you, than to worry about those people?

Well, something happened while we weren't looking. They earned money, because they followed the norms of the world as it existed, not as we thought it ought to be. They became top-ranking bureaucrats, they became judges, they got close to, or became, the political leadership of the country.

And now we wonder that they want to dictate to us what we eat, who we see and what we wear (among other things)?

Did we not try hard enough? Did we fail somewhere? Or is this just how it is - the worst of humanity destined to lord over the rest because it appeals to the darkness within?

I guess it is - they won the War a long time ago. The battles that have followed have only been meaningless skirmishes in a theatre where the end is already scripted.

Unless there is some way to tear up the script. Burn it. Write a better ending.

Maybe you can, gentle reader.

I suppose I should try too.

For I am a writer, and writers write.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Percy - Ana Chronicles - XIII: ISP's, the Porn Ban, and Vegas



“Finally you’re here.”

“Blame my ISP. Most pathetic broadband connection ever.”


“No, silly. No Comcast in India. MTNL, it’s called. Government-run crappy-service-providing ISP.”

“MTNL? What’s that stand for?”

“Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Limited. Don’t ask what it means now, that’s not even relevant.”

“So they give bad speed? Is that why you couldn’t get into a call?”

“It’s not the speed so much as the drops. The connection goes on a walkabout every two minutes.”

“Isn’t there any other service provider you can go to?”

“Well, most of Mumbai is connected through their local cable guy. That’s like the Cable Guy from the Jim Carrey movie, only with deep connections to the local mafia.”

If you thought he was scary you should see our cable guy

“Fascinating. Well, why don’t you have a connection from the local mafia?”

“I did, a long time ago. It was overpriced, and connected by a series of long LAN cables. He had put up a hub on the terrace of our building, and every so often, it would bust and have to be re-set. Or some rival Mafioso would physically sever his lines and then there would be connection for days together. When MTNL first came around, it was actually a slight improvement.”

“And now it’s different?”

“I don’t know. But of late, those who live in other parts of the city are apparently very pleased with their cable guy, underworld connections notwithstanding.”

“So why don’t you switch back, then?”

“Ana, it was one of the first things I tried to get behind when I got back here. Mostly so I could stay in touch with you, of course.”

“Of course.”

“So I asked my neighbours for the Cable Guy’s number.”

“And…? They didn’t have it?”

“Oh they did, all right. But he was dead.”

“He was what?”

“Dead. Bucket-kicker. Pushing daisies. Communing with Allah. Or whatever.”

“Oooh his mafia connections coming home to roost! A hit?”

“Heart attack, is what I was told. So anyway, my neighbour told me to hang on a few days and then call one of his minions. The chap had died just the previous day and while his son would inherit his empire of cables and antennae, it was best to hold off while the mourning period was in progress.”

“Sounds fair enough. So did you try again?”

“Yep, I got the number of the guy who comes to collect the dues. Called him four times. No response.”

“Didn’t he call back?”

“He did, only when he did, I had a dentist’s pincer-cleaver-pointy thing poking into my throat and couldn’t take the call.”

Dios mio, I imagine it would have been awkward if you tried.”

“So then I called him again, and some woman picked up and said he wasn’t there.”

“Probably his mistress.”

“Sounded more like a mother. Anyway I tried again the next day, and the woman told me, most irritably, that he had gone to his village.”

“And when will he be back?”

“She cut the phone, rather as though it were a particularly tasty piece of contraband beef.”

“Is there nothing else you can do?”

“I looked up the name of the cable company online and found their landline number.”

“Well that must have worked. Why didn’t you think of it before? Silly Percy!”

“Tsk tsk, hear me out, Ana. I called and told them my address and said I wanted an Internet connection. The guy on the line said his company didn’t service my area.”


“I said of course he did, and told him the name of the chap I’d got the number from.”

“I assume that didn’t help either?”

“Nope, he said ‘doesn’t so-and-so live in the low-income-housing near the bus depot?’ so I said no and asked him if he knew who serviced my locality and he said he had no clue and hung up, as though the phone were a high-cost slab of mutton.”


“Yes, Ana?”

“Do you live in low-income-housing near the bus depot?”

“No, I do not.”

“’Coz there’s nothing wrong if you do. I will love you just the same.”

“Ana, I do not live in low-income-housing near the bus depot or railway station or airport or anywhere else. Well, not yet, anyway.”

“Ok. Also, are you hungry?”

“Yes, no breakfast yet. Why?”

“Just guessing. Maybe the food references – and you have a hungry look about you.”

“Well, you’re looking practically edible and I haven’t had breakfast.”

“Let me make my muy feo face. There!”

“Still beautiful.”

“Anyway, since cable guy isn’t coming through, we are thankful to MTNL for giving us today, aren’t we?”

“Very. And to the Government for not banning Google hangouts. Yet.”

“Are they likely to ban Google hangouts?”

“Why not? They found they could ban a bunch of other sites, so why not this? After all, if it lets me talk to you, it could let other people talk to their friends and relatives in corrupt liberal societies, and that never leads to anything good, does it?”

“I suppose it doesn’t.”

“Absolutely not.”

“So what have they banned?”

“Pornography, theoretically to address the child pornography menace.”

“But Percy, you can’t address the child porn menace by banning regular porn sites. In any case, the underage stuff is in the deep web, not on websites…”

“You seem strangely well-informed on the subject.”

“One of the jobs I tried out for last year was in the child abuse helpline. As in, anti-child abuse.”

“Yes, I got that you meant anti-…”

“I thought you’d think Colombians promote abusing children, like India promotes objectification of women.”

“I don’t…and India does no such thing.”

“What was that song in the movie we saw together…Lovely? It had those lyrics that made no sense – I became lovely reading your name or something.”

“Oh ok, yes, some Hindi movies tend to promote a certain viewpoint that may not be representative of…why are you taking off your top?”

“Well, you don’t have access to porn, as you just said, and I thought…”

“Uh, yes well, we can discuss this later. It’s morning and Mom could pop into the room any time!”

Hola mama!

“She’s not here right now, Ana.”

“Oh ok. What about La Hermana? You have a very beautiful sister, yes?”

“She doesn’t venture into my room.”

“Ok, ok. Fine. So - what have you been doing? How’s Bombay?”

“Warm. There’s a drought this year. Not nearly enough rain.”

“Like California.”

“Worse. How’s Vegas? Where are you put up?”

Excalibur. I’m sharing a room with an Italian girl. She’s nice, you must have seen the picture of us together I put up.”

It's real. It's medieval. And it has a McDonalds.

“There’s a picture of a bunch of you posing outside the Mirage.”
if it's hot, fiery and explodes every thirty minutes, it must be the Mirage.

“Yes, yes, Lisa is the one in the red bikini.”

“I shall…examine the photo closely later.”

“Yes, with porn being banned and all, I suppose you will.”

“What. No, that’s not what I…ugh.”

“I, on the other hand, have no such issues. I met a gorgeous guy, his name is Thadmore.”

“Thadmore? You’re going out with a guy named Thadmore? Emilio was more acceptable than Thadmore!”

“Don’t say things about Thaddy’s name. He’s amazing! I will send you a photo. There!”

“He’s still named Thadmore - is that Barstow in the background?”

“Ok, is true. I can’t bring myself to say his name when we are in bed. So I just say yours instead. And yes, it's Barstow."

“Ah…er…of all the questions this brings up in my mind, the one I am going to ask is – doesn’t Thadmore mind?”

“He thinks it’s Spanish for ‘dear’.”

“Isn’t that ‘amado’?”

“He doesn’t know.”

“Why don’t you leave him and come here for a while? We can travel, it’s the season for Valley of Flowers in North India, and Ranathambhor safari’s and Kerala a bit later…”

“I would. I really would. But I’ve got engagements lined up for the rest of the year. And it’s gold over love, you know no matter what the song says.”

“The Dire Straits song?”

“Yes, the Dire Straits song. Not all life-relevant songs are written by that crazy cat lady.”

“That could be considered offensive, but she’d just Shake it off.”

“Ok, I’ll get going then. Have to do a meet-and-greet at Planet Hollywood.”

Everyone's a star! Provided you have the $$$$

“You mean a smooch-and-mooch.”

“More mooching, less smooching, hopefully.”

“Say hello to Zoey from the Pleasure Pit.”

 "I will."

"And Lenka, too."

“Oh, you remember Lenka, do you?"

"Of course I remember Lenka. Didn't she inspire you to dance with her?"

"Ah, good times. I hope she's still there. Now bye, mi hermosa.”

“Have fun, mi bella.”

“When next?”

“When MTNL permits.”

“Glory be to the Lords of MTNL, then.”

“Glory be.”

*Dios mio: My God!
*Muy feo: Very ugly
*Hola Mama: Hello, mother!
*La Hermana: Sister
*Amado: Dear / Darling
*Mi hermosa: My lovely
*Mi bella: My beauty