Sunday, March 29, 2009

Shiny, blinky people.

The desire to adorn oneself with jewellery I thought was just a feminine fixation. Until I looked at it from a different perspective. Perhaps the man-jewellery may not be made of shiny gold or sparkling diamonds but it’s no less blinky or flashy or for that matter any less expensive. Just take a look at the Bluetooth contraption hanging from his right ear. (and here I was thinking that hanging adornments on the right ear was a sign of certain things not having gone ‘straight’ during the manufacture of the man). I remember the thick round loop of an earring which itself created a larger loop on my grandma’s ears. I used to stare at my grandma and think how weird fashion was a hundred years back. I’m sure it wouldn’t be until their grandsons of these dongle sporting metrosexuals point it out to them that those sporting the electronic earrings would realize how stupid they really look.

Perhaps every generation had its own body embellishments. Have you ever wondered what exactly the word “thevaaram” in the usage “kuli and thevaaram” means? I understand its all those prayers that they do, all dressed up and made up to get to the way the likes of chanthu, othenan and aromal of ancient mallu folklore used to do to get to they way they looked. Imagine the hours they would have had to spend in front of the mirror grooming your face, and not to speak of the hair to get your head chopped off on a sword fighting rink. I guess its history goes even beyond that. I can just imaging little Julius Caesar walking out of the bathroom in a ‘thorthu’ (a sort of loin cloth used as a towel)  and his mother running after him with an olive wreath and warning him that he if he doesn’t wear the wreath he can forget about going out to the coliseum to play cart racing with his buddies. Or the primordial Mr.Homo Erectus being yelled at by the missus not to forget his designer snake skin scarf when he goes out hunting mastodons.

But really the things that men wear these days have me bewildered. Someone please tell me what’s the point carrying your mobile in a leather pouch attached to the belt when u could much much more easily keep it a few inches away in the trouser pocket. Or is it that they just couldn’t wait for all the crocs and snakes to be killed for the leather, that they decided that they might aid that process of extinction in their own little way.

And these days if a school teacher asks a student what a watch is used for and he replies – “to know the time”, I’m sure the whole class will burst out laughing. Same is the case with mobile phones. Frankly if it’s just to keep in touch, a five hundred rupee reliance instrument would do the job.

This is a tribute to those creative minds in the fashion world around the globe who time and again convinces a whole generation of apparently intelligent and smart set of young minds that to wear a blinking electronic earring is what constitutes fashion or that a three kilogram watch which supposedly would work fine even under five hundred meters of water (rest assured the wearer wouldn’t even expose it to the shower in his bathroom, let alone five hundred meters of water) is the ultimate macho symbol. I believe their acts of mass brain washing is no less an accomplishment than what the likes of Osama or Muthalik has done convincing their followers of what religion, culture and ethics is and should be all about. And then, ‘we’, the knowledgeable middleclass of the educated world call those of the creed of Osama and Muthalik as uneducated and misguided. 

Disclaimer: I am one of those ardent believers of contemporary fashion. My dad calls me a "brand baby". But i guess in this time and age when people like Maneka Gandhi whose heart used to bleed when a stray dogs tail was so much as even stepped upon, endorses the cutting of arms of men, I guess i can speak for or against anything and everything in this world, regardless of where my beliefs lie.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Flight of a Mallu Butterfly.

Flight of a Mallu Butterfly.


I was walking down linkin road in Bandra, Mumbai the other day and realized a certain anomaly of nature. The cutest (C’mon I’m just being reticent here, guys you know by cute I mean HOT) girls all seemed to be with the ugliest guys. No I’m not kidding they seem to have put genuine effort to pick out the ugliest guy they could get their hands on. But then again reaching those levels of hideousness is beyond god’s handiwork so the person seemed to have gone to great extends in getting to those heights. I mean it’s not easy suffering all that perspiration from not taking baths for weeks on end. Or suffering the taunts of your buddies when you were trying to grow that hair long and were going through that phase when it’s not short enough to look normal or long enough to tie it into a pony, ala this guy in “Rock On” (Not the one with the frog in his throat). And oh the pain as the quack, who might as well have been a roadside cobbler in his previous life drilled holes for piercings on his ears, eyebrows, lips and any other protruding part of his body.


And if anybody was starting to scorn me for having called a fellow human being “ugly”, well I assure you those of this breed would only take it as a precious compliment. These were guys who put in genuine effort to look the way they were, much like the way we did going through our engineering or medicine degrees. C’mon guys admit it, the final prize that you had in mind wasn’t that medical degree or that IT job was it. It was the babes that you would finally land in life that you had in mind. Well somebody should have just told us of this sure shot method - just do your best looking ugly.


Maybe it’s just Bandra. I’ve heard this is where all fashion originates in India. High Fashion Designers, who dream about making it big in Milan, Paris and New York, walk this street discreetly glancing at the latest stuff when they run out of ideas for their next big show. If you want to put a mirror to the face of Mumbai this is the place. I once saw two girls fighting over who saw a fake Prada handbag first. One of them could pass for a supermodel, the other too a supermodel but more like that pic of Gitanjali Nagpal that splashed across the newspaper front pages a few years back. The irony of the situation was that neither of them knew that Prada was a designer brand, nor did the guy who was selling it. And for me Prada just seemed nice as it was that damn sexy SUV from the Toyota stable.


I belong to a generation of pure bred mallu males, who seem to have gone through the transformative college days without knowing what was going around in the world of fashion. Not that we didn’t tune in dedicatedly to FTV (that’s Fashion TV for the uninitiated if there are any) mind you. But for some reason we failed to spot the fashion in what was shown. Trapped in a cocoon of Coconuts and Communism, we were led to believe that fashion meant a mop of hair, shiny and dripping with oodles of coconut oil or long and messy much like Karl Marx’s was what fashion made.


And as butterflies when we did get out into the wide messy world around, but outside the time warp that is Kerala we were caught unaware. Some caught up with the fervor of a sailor who was out at sea for years. Or lets mallu-ize it – of a gulf returnee after months on an isolated oilfield coming back to his wife in Kerala. That wide majority who missed the bus found themselves suddenly caught out and unable to catch up. They were left wondering when was it exactly that they got left behind. A little clue: Think of the buses stoned during hartals, or the days lost in hangovers from the previous nights binge.


Me, lucky that I am, during my days in Bangalore was in a position to closely observe one such journey of a mallu brother in his attempts to reach the pinnacles of ugliness that I was talking about, transform from a curly haired, cute as Kunjacko, mallu idol to a straight haired Chinese looking whacko, whom no god fearing, rosary reciting mallu housewife would wish for her daughter.


But it’s a strange world isn’t it. It so turned out that what so many housewives from across this blessed country wanted for their daughters was sadly not what their daughters themselves wanted. This mallu converted to Chinese butterfly took the first flight out of fashion anachronism, to land in the laps of so many such daughters. J

Friday, March 13, 2009

Stuck in the middle…

I want to talk about two people I know of; one a very close friend and another a rather distant one. What’s common between the two is that they both got married at quiet an early age. Both managed to trap the woman of their choice in their nuptial webs and seems extremely happy today.

But there perhaps ends the similarity.

This close friend let’s just call him ‘A’, used to be my roommate a few years back in Bangalore. And the other buddy, well now that ‘A’ is already taken, let’s call him ‘B’, I met him during my stay in Delhi some years back.

This particular post is about two different paths these two men took towards a common goal and ended up achieving it.

At different points, at different places, completely unaware of each other, their common link in this mortal world being little old me, these two men, fell in love with two different women. Both claim it to have been love at first sight. Both are today married to those women.

It was winter in Delhi. Rain hung in the air and the streets behind the University were particularly dark that evening. B had his CAT (Common Admission Test to the IIMs) in another week. I had my b school placements starting in a few days. Christine was my classmate and it was through her that I met B around a year back. I took to him, his flair, his comedies, his style of living. Mostly it was his simplicity that I liked. He didn’t know what it meant to hold his tongue. If anything was on his mind it was on his tongue too.

Every time we felt like we needed a break from the sheer pseudo professionalism and pretences of the b school campus, me and Christine would rush to B’s place. The Delhi University area is a virtual beehive. It’s buzzing with activity. The crowds at the food stands, the book shops, the bus stand, the metro station all merge to form one spirited cacophony, and the biting cold of Delhi never quite able to shut it down.

In Delhi during the winters the sugarcane stands give way to chai shops, jalebi walas, omelette and momo stands. B had the habit of having six glasses of chai in a day on an average. That day the atmosphere practically yelled out asking for you to have some piping hot masala chai. And when B stood up from his bed and stretched his arms, Christine and I almost simultaneously suggested that we go out and have some chai and pakodas.

The three of us were sharing pakodas from a single plate when I noticed at the next pani puri stand stood a group of girls. Not wanting to attract Christine’s attention I motioned to B with a quick lifting of my eyebrows and a fleeting of the eyes in the particular direction, that something over there merited his attention. And he did get what I was pointing at. But B wasn’t ever the one to be discreet about anything. Least of all girls. He immediately poured out his contribution that those girls were from ‘Miranda House’ and that one girl in the group goes to his coaching class and swore that she had a crush on him for sure and went on about how he was the star of his coaching class. Well something really ticked Christine off and she started confronting him, saying that he’s just a ‘fattoo’ who should  actually go up to the girl and ask her out, instead of cooking up stupid imaginary stories. The sher-e-Punjab that B was could never back out from this challenge.

The happenings from then on, is something I remember very clearly as these discrete actions and reactions.

B walked up to this particular girl in the group and started talking something to her ….


She gives B a queer look, much like those deserved for crazy retards and stray dogs…


He takes out his wallet and shows something to the girl….

The girls starts shaking her head…

He turns around and points his left arm towards me and Christine….

The girl’s again shaking her head in disapproval…..

(At this point we were sure that he was going to earn a nice tight slap in his face.

And then to our extreme surprise…)


The girl starts laughing her heart out.


B just stood smiling his cute smile, one hand on his head, the other on his hip and then turned and came back running to us.

Christine pounded B with a barrage of questions, her voice raised to an extreme high shrill and barely understandable as about a hundred questions were shot in a space of few seconds.

Me, I was struggling to keep my eyeballs from popping out of their sockets.

He wouldn’t say a word about what he talked to the girl until we were back in the room and then he opened up. He had walked up to the girl and immediately opened up his wallet and showed the picture of a small boy and asked her if she had seen him anywhere. Then said that the boy was mine and Christine’s child and had gone missing. At which point the girl was shaking her head to say that she had never seen him. That’s when B came to his elements and said that, “Dekhegi kaise, yeh to meri bachpan ki photo hai, cute hoon na mein”. Which roughly translates as “How in the world would you see him, this is my photo as a child, ain’t I cute?”. I roared with laughter but Christine just stood glaring at him for some time, before she too burst out laughing.

 “A” was with me in Bangalore. We joined Infosys Bangalore in the July training batch. Fresh out of college, first time away from home, dreams were many, hopes were high. No wonder the summer heat which to me felt worse than what I was used to in Kerala, didn’t even seem to bother A as we were sitting on the park bench at 12 in the noon. Whosoever said that Bangalore is cool year round must have been binge drinking in one of its pubs the previous night, I thought. In half an hour we needed to be inside the computer lab in time for the afternoon attendance. I was in no mood to skip my lunch having already skipped the breakfast because I was late reaching the campus in the morning.

Pushing me down to the park bench A started talking hesitantly. “Err, Vinu, you are friends with Anjali aren’t you?”. I said “not really, she sits a couple of seats next to me in the lab. Do you know where you get mallu food in the campus?”. A’s face seemed to drop for a moment but again lit up. “Vinu, my man do me a favour will you. Err I was thinking of what to speak to Anjali. I think I’m in love with her. No no not the kind of that you talked about yesterday night when you were drinking. I think this is of the other kind. Pure”. I was ready to throw up, but good thing my stomach was empty. He continued, “Vinu, I have written down a couple of topics that I am going to speak to Anjali and there are two jokes I downloaded from the internet yesterday too. You’re a funny man aren’t you, please help me with the delivery of these jokes”. I couldn’t believe what he was talking. Actually preparing for a conversation with a girl and practicing lines for that, how can people be so stupid? But really on a bit of paper was something which looked like a script of a small play, word by word dialogues of what A was planning to speak to Anjali that day. He was the butt of our jokes during several drinking sessions during the Infosys training days. But then at the end of the four month training Anjali was to the utmost amazement of me and my booze buddies, going steady with A.

B was a natural, while A worked at it. Both got to their goals. But this goes out to the vast majority of men who are stuck in the middle, calling out to get their acts together.