Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Scottish photoblog

Weekdays being what they are, I did not have any time at all to get down to penning a blog. But since my weekend begins on Friday and I don't plan to get up before 12 tomorrow in any case, I spent hours toiling over my first photo blog on The Blog of Small Things

This photoblog takes the reader/viewer through the whole of my last Saturday, which was - to put it very mildly - a great day!

So, please do scroll down and look through the images I have painstakingly compiled, and maybe read the corny captions that I've penned.

(Of course you can leave, but you won't, will you? Huh huh?)

Till then, comment allez vous monseuirs et mesdames. (Pleeease!)
Motoring down the A-720 towards a little place in the middle of nowhere called North Berwick. The beginning of one of the greatest days I’ve had in recent times. Posted by Picasa
At North Berwick, right next to a mouldy old ruin that you have to pay three pounds to see. Fiscal prudence and common sense prevailed, and we decided to climb a beautiful (and free) hill instead. Posted by Picasa
Zonka (I’m sorry but I really can’t spell his name right L ), Arnav and Rohit standing next to the wall that separated us from a very picturesque beach (and an even more picturesque girl). Posted by Picasa
Steven from Germany, flanked by an incredibly handsome young man from India…er…Oops, wrong photo. Posted by Picasa
Spending a Saturday morning walking down the long, beautiful and easy road to Perdition, when we should have unraveling the mysteries of TCP/IP or some other such unpleasant creature. Posted by Picasa
Scotland is so incredibly beautiful that I can’t think of anything derogatory to say about this photo. Posted by Picasa
A typically unfit CS student after a breathless climb of fifty feet. Posted by Picasa
John from Germany and Eva from China Posted by Picasa
‘Er…where are we?’

‘Hmmm…that’s a very good question…’

‘Will we ever get back home?’

‘Not if we wait for those two (ref last pic) to catch up.’ Posted by Picasa

At the Seabird café, trying to chill out while not thinking of the horrendously expensive hot chocolate (and the horrendously ferocious Doberman at the next table who was eyeing me most unpleasantly) Posted by Picasa

Arnav likes the birds! Sometimes even the ones that actually fly… Posted by Picasa
It wasn’t all over at North Berwick. Back at Edinburgh, Die Deutschen in meiner Wohnung waren genug freundlich, eine Partei an ihrem Haus zu organisieren. Danke schol Stephan, Florian und John. (Try using babelfish to figure that bit out, Auslanders ;) )

N.B: You see here an unscrupulous young man who looks eerily like the author of this blog cheating at poker. Also in the frame are Parag and another chap whose name I don’t know. Posted by Picasa
Balaji and Shehzad. N.B: No, Shehzad’s not drunk, he’s ‘like that only’! Posted by Picasa
Kalpesh bin Laden – who came out of the closet just about when Osama stepped into one, (I mean the terrorist hide-out kind-of closet, you perverts!), George (of the Jungle), and Shehzad Posted by Picasa
Balaji, the most eligible Indian bachelor in the University of Edinburgh. He knows to dance the Salsa, Cha Cha Cha, Swing and a few hundred other dance forms. All he needs now is a girl who’ll actually dance with him.;) Posted by Picasa
Extremely dangerous creature. Statutory Warning: Could be easily mistaken for that thing in The Exorcist, the alien in E.T or George W Bush. Posted by Picasa

Damn! I told the **** that my right profile was glamourous! (Or was it my left?) From (L) to ( R), that’s Meisze from Malaysia and moi. Posted by Picasa
The extremely uncouth individual who was our host for the evening. An equally uncouth individual in the background adds to the vulgar garishness of the picture. (Somehow that hand looks very familiar! :-P ) Posted by Picasa

Everybody loves Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Jordan. Not some terribly jealous people who walk around trying to ruin pictures in which they feature, though. Posted by Picasa

It happened to Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana! It happen to Tom Cruise and Shah Rukh Khan! Oh, the trials and tribulations of being famous and handsome (and incredibly modest)! Posted by Picasa

The Erasmus Mundus class of 2007. The guy with the funky, Dil Chahta Hai-style facial growth is our professor, supervisor, God and Mwbangwa (For those who came in late, that’s Swahili for He-Whom-We-Must-Worship-and-Prostrate-Before-If-We-Don’t-Want -Our-Grades-To-Stink-Worse-Than-Our-Shit). As for me, I’m (mercifully) in the shadows towards the end of the table.

And so, That's all, folks!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A week and I know not where it went!

It has been almost a whole week since I stepped into the land of the Scots. And, if I were to put it mildly and try to understate it a bit, I think I would just use the word fabulous.

The past week was what is called orientation by the brass hats, and funtime by most students.

Edinburgh is a gloriously multicultural city, and my flat seems to reflect this multiculturatism to a T. I stay with another Indian, a Pakistani, a Jordanian, a Nigerian, an Englishman, and three Chinese. And that’s quite a lot – even if I am yet to speak to the Chinese, mainly because my Chinese doesn’t pass muster.;-)

Apart from the usual free pizza lunches and orientation programmes that are the hallmark of orientation weeks everywhere, the Students’ Association at Edinburgh offers a LOT more in the form of free parties. The international student centre is what is usually at the forefront of these parties, and provide the free drinks. And usually ensure there is a good attendance of hot chicks from the continent. Phew!!

Another interesting bit I noticed over this past one week was how much people knew about India. And more interestingly, how little I knew about India.

I reproduce below snatches of a conversation I had with a Polish girl –

‘Hey, so you’re Indian! Wow, I’m really interested in India’

‘So am I’, said I, rather wittily, for one always tries to impress with the Warrier charm, ‘, though that’s probably because I’m Indian. But I’m interested in Poland too.’

‘Ah Poland is a small place – India is beautiful. Are you Hindu or muslim?’

That was an easy one. I answered it with a smile playing on my lips.

But it was not over. She continued with an even trickier one,

‘Are you shivite or vaishnavite?’

When one tries to strike a conversation with a girl, one prefers to talk of lots of things. But my religious affliation is not often among my favourite topics. Though nonplussed, I hummed and hawed non-committaly about believing in monotheism.

‘Oh wow! Have you been to Vaishno Devi?’

It was then that another Austrian chap who, also, unfortunately seemed to know a little too much about India stepped in.

‘Have you seen the widows of Varanasi?’

I knew this one! I answered with aplomb, ‘Oh! That was the story of that movie called Water. A bunch of simians from the Bajrang Dal burnt the sets down – so didn’t watch it. Did you read the script?’

The two of them looked at each other.

‘Uh…there are real widows in Varanasi’

‘There are widows everywhere. And they are often as real as you or me.’

‘No, I mean, there are widows who are prostitutes.’

I thought of talking of the parts of India I knew and said, ‘Shah Rukh Khan’s cool’

The polish girl waved it off, ‘Ahh bollywood is good, but I want to know if you speak Sanskrit!’

This was my chance. I’d sweep her off her feet with a rendition of a few choice words in Sanskrit. Even if I couldn’t remember them, I could make something up.

‘Aham Vaanar: asti – that means, I am pleased to meet you!’

‘No you just told me about your ancestry. Tvam Vanaar: aevam kukkur: asti’

‘Er…what exactly are you studying here?’, I asked, desperate to change the topic.

‘Oh, I’m doing my B.A. in Sanskrit. I wanted to study at JNU, but they didn’t give me an admit’

…… Next time, I don't pretend to be an Indian intellectual, but reveal myself for the boor I am!

P.S: I've also been awarded a Laboratory Demonstrator position to teach First Years with water in the brain how to program. Maybe it's an all-girl class!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Felis Collegica

Blimey, I leave to the land of the limeys in the wee hours of tomorrow. By the evening, I should have moved home and hearth to Edinburgh, Scotland. But because of all the activities concomitant with arriving at a new place, I may not be able to post anything for a few days. Till then, I put forth to the general populace a story I had written a long while back. It's not the kind I usually write, but (for all those people who appreciate Gandhi's machiavellian machinations) Gandhi features here (though not prominently).)

The heat was stifling. The boredom - even worse.

The lecturer droned on, unfazed neither by the heat nor by the plaintive pleas of the students. I chewed my pen meditatively as I shifted my gaze from the blackboard to the window. There was nothing spectacular about the window in the least.

As I stared at the window, thinking deep, dark thoughts, I suddenly noticed a cat, who was clearly into adventure sports, jump on to the window sill from the corridor, clearing the chasm between the two with aplomb.

I watched it, as I could think of nothing better to do. And besides, the cat appeared to me as one capable of performing far more interesting feats than the lecturer could ever hope to.

The cat was sunning itself on the window sill. But this cat did not seem to have that arrogant, holier-than-thou expression that is the hallmark of cats around the world. This cat looked every bit a personable, suave, young cat. The kind with which it would be a pleasure to chat idly on world affairs.

The cat’s expression almost looked sympathetic. I began to wonder if it actually felt sorry for us humans, who - by virtue of being higher up on the evolutionary ladder - had to sit in confined classrooms and suffer from boredom, claustrophobia and god knows what else.

A couple of minutes later, the cat sprang into action. It jumped off the window sill and began running towards the lectern and across the lecturer’s legs. The whole class was stunned. The lecturer dropped the piece of chalk she had been using as her chief instrument of mass torture and began to scream.

Her scream spurred us natives into action as well. Half of them, led by the backbenchers, began to egg the cat on, cheering and clapping.

‘Go CAT!!!’, screamed somebody, making himself heard over the din.

The first bench squatters, on the other hand, saw this as a golden opportunity to squirm their way further into the lecturer’s good books. Around five of them rushed to the lecturer’s aid and began chasing the cat around the class.

The cat ran over desks and benches displaying a degree of athleticism that would have put Marion Jones to shame until it reached the window sill, where it stopped, turned its head and stared for a moment at its supporters in the last bench. Then it jumped out of view.

The lecturer regained her equanimity and smiled sheepishly at the class. With some difficulty, she managed to utter a few broken words about how the ‘damn cat’ had made her forget what she was talking about.

‘I’ll deal with the rest of it tomorrow, class….,’ she said brusquely and rushed out of the class looking highly embarrassed.

A huge sigh of relief ran through the entire class. Everybody began to look for the cat who had by then been proclaimed a hero.

There was no need for a prolonged hunt. As soon as the lecturer left, the cat came back onto the window sill to receive his dues. The whole class (including the first benchers who had displayed strong anti-cat sentiments a few minutes ago) rushed to where the cat had positioned himself.

Everybody began fawning over him – some squealing ‘cho chweeeeeet’ (which the cat didn’t seem to particularly like) and some more practical chaps offering him rotis purloined from somebody else’s lunch box (which the cat seemed to appreciate).

When the question of naming him arose, requests by certain frivolous wastrels to name him after our principal were ignored. (As one chap aptly put it – ‘for a spider, maybe; for a boa constrictor, definitely; but for a hero like this, NO WAY!!’)

After prolonged deliberation, the whole class decided to refer to him simply as Cat.

From that day on, Cat became an integral part of our class. He held durbar at the window sill every recess where he graciously accepted food from his loyal subjects and allowed a select few to stroke his fur.

He was a ubiquitous presence at every lecture, staring at the lecturer from his window sill as blankly as we did. Whenever he felt that a lecture was going on for too long or that it was just too plain boring, he would do something to attract attention. That was the sign for all of us to begin shouting, screaming and generally wreaking havoc until the lecturer gave up attempting to take class.

Most lecturers tolerated Cat. Some of them even liked him, in spite of the fact that he instigated more than half the disturbances in class. But my electronics lecturer - the woman whom Cat had scared half to death the day he made his first appearance – positively detested him. From the look on Cat’s highly expressive face, we knew that the hatred was most definitely mutual.

Another day a few months later, another terribly tortuous electronics lecture. The electronics lecturer was attempting to do us to death by lecturing to us three hours in a row. All of us were either asleep or in a deep stupor.

Placing my head on the desk in despair, I looked at my philosopher and guide, Cat. Cat seemed to have a greatly resentful expression on his face.

As I kept staring at him, I unexpectedly noticed that his lips were moving. I strained to catch what he was saying.

‘Do not despair for I am here…’, said Cat, softly.

I was awestruck. I turned towards my bench-mate to draw his attention towards Cat’s sudden loquaciousness! But he was too fast asleep to take any notice.

I turned to the cat and begged,


‘I have made the choice. I think the time has come…’

Cat looked and sounded like a feline version of the Oracle, what with cryptic statements and prophecies on choices.

Before I could ask him to quantify his argument, he had left for places unknown with a swish of his tail.

A few minutes later, a glint of metal caught my eye. I turned in the direction of the glint. What I saw left me dumbstruck. Cat had decided to go in for the final solution.

The glint of metal that I caught was from the scope of the sniper rifle that Cat was fondly cradling in his paws, perched on the window sill of the class opposite ours. Cat seemed to have powerful friends in rather unlikely places.

I continued to watch in silent admiration as he methodically loaded cartridges into the rifle, inspected the sight and clicked the safety catch off. He gazed upwards in the direction of the great feline goddess up in the sky for a few seconds, and took aim. This cat was a pro, I thought. He’s even better than those two sniper dudes in America, I whispered to myself, as he pointed the rifle in the direction of our lecturer.

Nobody in the class was looking at Cat. Even a convention of druggies would have been more observant than my classmates when Cat placed his paw on the trigger.

But I did not notice the principal. I should have. I did not see him until he was almost directly behind Cat. The principal, realizing Cat’s malevolent intentions, attempted to grab the gun from Cat’s paws. In the ensuing struggle, Cat accidentally fired the rifle. Exactly when the rifle was pointing right at me…

I prepared myself for the death that stared me in the face. I could see the path traced by the bullet with great clarity, rather like those bullets in the Matrix.

But I wasn’t the One. Though I attempted Neo-esque moves to avoid the bullet, I couldn’t do it the way Neo could. The bullet struck me on the temple. I did not feel it going into my brain, shattering it into tiny pieces.

All I could feel was terrible, piercing pain. All I could hear, apart from the monotonous drone of the lecturer, was the raspy voice of a classmate of mine popularly known as Gandhi.

‘Dai…Stop staring at the cat! You’ve been looking at it with a glazed expression on your eyes for ten minutes! Are you stoned?!’

‘Er…did you by any chance fire at me…I mean…’

‘Yeah, I did snap a rubber band. Hit you right on the temple too…’, he said, grinning grotesquely.

‘Erhhh…ok…guess I just fell asleep for a few minutes, y’know…’, I said, and turned towards the teacher. My eyes passed by the window, where Cat was perched.

Did Cat just smile at me then...?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Junkie and the Teddy Bear - Part III

This bit winds to a logical(?) conclusion the saga that began two episodes ago.

It was with a fair amount of trepidation that I rang the bell to her place.

Lakshmi opened the door with an almost unnaturally bright smile. Just as I switched on that charming smile of mine that has most women go weak-kneed, she switched hers off abruptly.

‘Oh its you… wait here! I have some work inside.’

Before I could say anything; hell, before I could wipe that increasingly ridiculous grin off my face, she’d gone inside, leaving behind nothing but the wafting stench of cheap perfume.

A few minutes later, as I stood waiting for her at the door, she swept past me with an imperious wave of her hand and began walking down the stairs.

I realized this was the cue for me to follow her.

Experience has taught me that a capricious chap up there in the sky creates two kinds of people – the first, who are nature’s doormats, and the second, who wipe their feet, faces and other bodily orifices with nature’s doormats. I am one of the former, without a shadow of doubt. And therefore, I walked behind her docilely.

The day was evidently something special. We picked another equally malodourous female who was overdosed on perfume on the way to the theatre.

It was then that it struck me that I didn’t know which movie we were going for?

‘Er…Lakshmi…’, I spoke cautiously.

She turned to me, slightly piqued for having interrupted an earth-shaking discussion on the merits of bubblegum-pink corsets or some other equally uninteresting creature.


‘Er, what movie are we going to watch?’

‘Boys!, of course. It is such a cool movie, no?’

‘No…er…I mean, yes, it is…’

I was shocked and disgusted. I had had the misfortune of attending the press preview for the movie, and did not want to watch it again. Ah, Kismet, I muttered to myself, looking heavenward.

Cut to: The Theatre

It was at the parking lot that I remembered the nasty looking bear that I’d unearthed from a corner of Amma Fancy Stores the day before.

After I parked the car, I noisily searched through my bag, trying to find where the ugly bastard had hidden himself.

The filthy little teddy bear looked back at me. It was then that it dawned upon me that the bear’s countenance bore an uncanny resemblance to 50 cent’s.

‘Happy Birthday, Lakshmi. You can call him 50 cent bear, if you so wish.’, I said, brightly.

She looked at me blankly, ’50 send aa? What are you saying?’

‘Oh nothing… a token of my gratitude, affection and all that kind of jazz. Er… I mean, a happy birthday gift.’, ended I, rather lamely, sounding like a 4th standard kid out of a cheap Hindi movie.

I thought of singing Happy birthday out loud, or telling her that I’d sacrificed yesterday’s drug fix to get her this, but thought the better of it.

‘Oh, thanks’, she said shortly.

In a few minutes we were at the ticket counter, where a few others, including Gandhi, himself awaited our arrival. It was then that Lakshmi spoke.

‘I’m thirsty.’, she grunted.

It was then that Machiavellian blighter, the biggest pestilence to inflict India since the Bengal famine, spoke up.

‘Dai, Siddhu… go get us some Mirindas da. We’re thirsty’, said Gandhi.

I looked at him incredulously.

I gave him a scathing look and asked him, ‘Do I look like a big brown pot marked ‘Kudineer Thanni’ (Drinking Water) with Jayalalitha’s picture on it? Go get your own Mirinda.’

A few minutes later, I walked alone towards the refreshment stand to get the six Mirindas requested for.

As I distributed the Mirindas around, Lakshmi turned to me.

‘Aeey, really sweet of you, wokay? Now give me forty rupees.’

I looked at her, surprised.


‘Dai, ticket charge, da…’

‘Bu..but, your treat..’, I muttered, a man in a daze.

‘Aeey, you know how costly tickets are these days. And a birthday is so expensive –‘, and went on to detail a whole list of (frivolous) things she had had to gift herself on her birthday.

Cut to: Inside the Theatre

Boys, to a man of refined tastes and sensibilities, is an unbearable movie. And therefore, being a man of refined tastes and sensibilities, I considered it my responsibility to jeer and boo loudly around 20 minutes into the movie.

‘Shhhh….’, said Gandhi, a nasty glint in his eyes.

‘Fuck you da, bastard!’, I said, a little too loudly.

‘Hey, we are with girls. Please conduct yourself with more propriety, and behave less like a boor, and more like… Er… just don’t be yourself, that’ll do.’

This from a bloke who had danced more vigorously than the auto drivers in the front row at a screening of Baba.

I was about to bamboozle him with a stinging rebuke when Lakshmi brusquely asked me to shut up. I shut up.

At the end of the day, I had decided that I would have to end this charade the next day.

The next day came, as surely as the one before it had.

I walked towards Lakshmi in the Computer Lab. After a few minutes spent searching for a voice that had gone A.W.O.L, I spoke -

‘Er…Lakshmi I do not intend to burn my yellow t-shirt... or cut my toe nails.’

Not the strong stuff that curls the blood and curdles the hair –or even the other way around. And not exactly what I intended to say, either.

‘What?’, said she, rather surprised.

‘I mean, I’m not on drugs.’

She looked at me with a puzzled expression on her face, ‘Yeah, I know. I speak to you now, no? So your lovesick heart doesn’t need dope anymore. You already told me so.’, and turned away.

‘N…no, I never was on dope. I don’t like you. We were pulling a prank on you.’

‘What? Are you stoned now?’, asked she, incredulously.

‘No… I mean, yes. I mean, no I am not crazy about you… Ask Gandhi. He was involved in the plan from the very outset’, and pointed to Gandhi who sat nearby, smirking.

Now, this would be fun, I thought to myself. Gandhi’s silver tongued oratory would teach Lakshmi what was what! Never again would she try to get a chappie to burn his beloved yellow t-shirt. Or clean his toe-nails.

‘What plan? See, Lakshmi. This poor old fruit was head over heels in love with you.

‘I tried telling him several times that with a brain like Salman Khan’s and looks like a B-grade Hindi film villain’s, he didn’t stand a chance. Oh but he wouldn’t listen. He started doing drugs. He was pining for you.

Then I got him to speak to you. But you, very obviously, gave him the raspberry and sent him away with a flea in his ear.’

‘Yeah, that’s what I did. I told him not to darken my doorstep ever again. But these persistent pests, you know.So I thought, seri, Iyyoo paavam…’, said Lakshmi.

I watched thunderstruck

‘Anyway, the point is – Siddhu, don’t try to cover your tracks up by pretending not to be in love with her. Hell, wasn’t I with you when you spent 350 bucks on that really cute teddy bear who looked just like Dr. Dre…I mean, Winnie the Pooh?’, said Gandhi viciously.

I was at a loss for words. All my mind could focus on was the little voice which kept yelling, ‘Machiavelli strikes again…’

And again…

I could barely hear in the background Gandhi assuring Lakshmi that I wouldn’t bother her again, and that yeah, he agreed completely with her on how all ‘em desperate bastards were the same.


‘Tis the year 2005. The year 2006 inches closer.

I walk through the portals of the old institution one last time to collect a few certificates.

A couple of juniors I know smirk as I pass by them.

I hear one of them whisper to another, ‘This guy was crazy about some chick, and actually got her lots of gifts worth over a thousand bucks. But didn’t work out for him, poor fellow…’

I desperately tried to ignore an impulse to punch both the bastards and walked away. Besides, they were bigger than me…

‘Tis the year 2015. The year 2016 inches closer.

I walk through the portals of the old institution yet again, to attend a reunion of the class of 2005. I look much the same – ugly as sin – except for a few inches around the waist.

Gandhi walks up to me with the rest of the ingrates who populated my room that fateful night.

‘Dai, Siddhu! Machcha, still remember how you went so crazy over that Lakshmi chick that you stole five thousand bucks from your dad’s wallet to treat her at the Park?’