Sunday, June 15, 2008

My wandering mind and all

1. power outage baby
Years ago, the power went out in San Francisco for a long time. Nine months later, there was a certain increase in birthrate. If you were born nine months after a power outage, you are a power outage baby.
e.g. Thomas is a power outage baby.

The last coupla days we had a major power outage. It prevented me from finishing a longish dissection of Chetan Bhagat. It also reminded me of this phrase from urban dictionary. That in turn reminded me of a term of endearment we frequently used in college. Which, euphemistically translated, would read like, "born out of a burst prophylactic." Amazing how the human mind works, huh?

Like I said, I was in the middle of a diatribe on 3 mistakes, a shallow novel for shallow people like me. When the pointlessness of the exercise hit me, I was too far gone. So I thought I'd post that anyway. However, there were other, more significant matters gnawing at my mind in the meanwhile. Namely, what makes Savitha Bhabhi such a rage?

No, I don't think the site targets the minds of young Indians and is more harmful than many other mainstream porn sites, like some enraged people think. I don't even believe the site will appeal particularly strongly to the teenager of today. What it appeals to, greatly, is the fifteen-year-old in all of us greying and about-to-grey Indian male. Those who grew up not on electronic media, but on those thin books in yellow covers, hidden inside textbooks. Though the visuals seem to heavily borrow from mainstream adult entertainment of today. Didn't see much of reverse cowgirl and DP (links NSFW) in those good old yellow-cover days, eh? That way, it embodies the best of both worlds. Plus the serialised strip format. Always keeping interest alive for tomorrow's page. Yeah, that's the secret of her success. By the way, the page would do better to add an age verification thing at the start, for that's the standard procedure for attracting underage viewers.

Speaking of their standard procedure, I'm reminded of the many many BAD places I've gone to on the net. Which in turn, brings us to the crux of this post, an anecdote on what may come off going to those places. This was an incident involving a colleague, one Rajesh Kumar (name changed).

This was in the year 2000 or 2001, way before India had seen broadband. Our Rajesh had recently acquired a dial-up connection at home. One night, after the family had gone to sleep, Rajesh got a little naughty and adventurous. It is difficult to ascertain exactly where he started (it was all so long ago) but desibaba, a great site of those days, would be a good guess. One click, however, led to another, and presently, old Rajesh was in the land of bliss.

Exactly what triggered the onslaught would yet again be difficult to guess, cause by then, Rajesh was clicking away with gay abandon, but it must've been a loose click on some entirely wrong button, and all hell broke loose at once. Cascading windows started to open on Rajesh's desktop. All pointing to very nasty places, with lurid graphics and stuff.

At first Rajesh tried his best to close the windows as they opened. But, this was clearly a battle of unequals. If Rajesh had been blessed with three pairs of hands with half a dozen mice in them, he could still give those windows a run for their money, but such was not the case. So the windows kept cascading @300/min and Rajesh' eyes were popping out.

I know you will jump up and ask why didn't he invoke ctrl-alt-del. The answer to which is i) Dear Rajesh was a technically challenged person, (he still is) and ii) he had lost his nerve at that point in time. By the time he got around to try and shutdown the pc, it had stopped responding completely.

Rajesh then, had no option but to cut the power. In fact, so shaken was he, he yanked off the power chord from its socket as well, for good measure. He then went to the kitchen and drank two tall glasses of water. The house was quiet, everybody sound asleep. Rajesh took deep breaths. Twenty of them. He gathered himself. Only then did he sneak back to the pc and boot it.

But this evil malware, it had him by his balls by that time. It had a bulit-in dialer (we later gathered from his narration) which sat cosily inside startup and connected as soon as the OS loaded. The windows came roaring back again! Much credit to his ready wit, Rajesh knew what to do this time. He pulled out the telephone line from the modem. He said, "Take that, bastard!" and waited.

I guess today nobody uses IE anymore, but there's a feature with IE which used to be very handy in those days of slow speed dial-up. It allowed you to view full pages offline. Somebody must have turned on the feature on Rajesh' computer, and it was not him, for it was clearly beyond his ken (again, something we figured out later from his account). That feature now told heavily on rajesh' already pounding heart. For even with the modem disconnected, his screen was rapidly getting splashed with those lurid windows. Rajesh held his head in his hands and stared at impending doom. A sweat broke out at the back of his neck. It was the end of January.

Rajesh looked towards the bed where his six-year-old son was sleeping. Like other geeks of his generation, the brat would start the pc first thing in the morning and engage in Mortal Combat.
Morning was but six hours away. What's Rajesh gonna do?

Myriad Mistakes

People say that the 3 mistakes Chetan Bhagat has made in his life are the three novellas he's written. On my part, I think that these people are jealous and unkind, to the point of being rude. I don't wholly subscribe to their school of opinion. For starters, as financially viable ventures, they have all handsomely paid off. In the process, he's also making India read like never before (this, a gem of a coinage by m/s Penguin India, instantly puts him on the same kind of a pedestal as a certain Dr. Radhakrishnan, a Gokhale or a Vidyasagar.) Yessir, In his life, Mr. Bhagat has done good, despite all the jealousy, and he's merrily dedicated his book to "My Country, which called me back." He's still keeping his day job, through when does he make time to visit office in between all the book promotion tours and reading sessions is anybody's guess. In short, his life so far reads like an utterly improbable balancing act, brilliantly pulled.

So, what gives?

You know, it's difficult to put a finger to it. Unfortunately there's no better way to put it than say that it just doesn't feel right. It's like watching Arnold do a drag show time and again. It's obvious Mr. Bhagat has Bollywood aspirations. All he wants to play to is his college student readership. All he wants to write for is a mainstream Indie film. He even drops names of his Bolly friends in Acknowledgements. There's nothing essentially wrong with that. One only wishes that with his kind of education and his capacity for lucid prose in an undergrad vocab (a rare trait in an MBA, who has been trained to jargonise and obfuscate.. but I digress), he should try and scratch the surface a little, put up a little classier act, and kind of do an Sabrina Dhawan instead of a Vijay Krishna Acharya, if that's the allegory I want. But there, that's his one undoing. He seems fixated on kitsch.

Let's look at Chetan's other strength. He has the ability to structure a compounded story with multiple characters woven around real life surroundings and sometimes, incidents. His first born, mostly autobiographical, had hit home with its freshness and cadence. His second, just to cash on his debut success, was born out of second hard research and third hand influences, noticeably of Hollywood flicks. The effect showed. You can't produce a halfway decent novel out of some idea that struck you upon watching Bruce Almighty. Perversely, this again sold. So, by the time of his third release, Mr.Bhagat had developed some very annoying habits. Even though much of his storytelling is still in the autobiographical mode, he will needlessly start and end his story in first person, encounter a protagonist, and try to stitch it all into his real life. Every story will also have a happy ending, fuck probability and likelihood. Every story will have a drawn out climax which reads like more a screenplay than a book. (In fact, this time around, the finale, y'know, the felling of Kans mama with a cricket ball, was so graphic, it evoked visions of an Ekta Kapoor serial. It cried for that same zoom in, zoom out, pan right, pan left, then go negative and back to color...treatment.) To make things worse, now and then, in between workaday storytelling, he will throw in some profundity which is the written equivalent of a ceetee bajao piece of dialogue. Sample this :

A very good friend is a dangerous category with Indian girls. From here you can either make fast progress. Or, if you play it wrong, you go down to the lowest category invented by Indian women ever..the rakhi brother.

In my humble opinion, this time around, Chetan had bargained with too big a landscape to go with his inane storyline. If there is one part of India which has seen the most action during the last decade, it is Gujarat. If he had to keep in frame that time, and those events, he should not have dealt in such shallow sentiments.
Two: by the time he was shaping up for Godhra, the whole ruse of his plot had fallen into a predictability trap. Which is not a good thing for a novel which has a purported USP of pace, twists, and turns.
And three, if he is writing about a child cricket prodigy and his abilities, he has to be a little convincing in his cricket commentary. I mean, "the medium pace ball rose high on the bounce and smash! another six," or, " Ali spun as if in a dance and connected-six!" just don't cut it.

Source and Source