Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Obituary

Ashish B. Gorde
1965 - 2025


Ashish B. Gorde, lead singer of the rock group "The Blue Vomit" died at his home in Anchorage, Alaska after suffering a dislocation in his larynx. The exact details of his demise were not available but it was rumoured that he was in the process of reaching the highest possible octave while rehearsing a somersault for his upcoming concert in London's Wembley Stadium.

His death marks the end of an era and it is doubtful whether any other performer will ever match his uniqueness in a long, long time. He will certainly be missed by millions of adoring fans worldwide who plan to hum a single D flat note at midnight GMT on Friday in his honour. This tribute is, of course, inspired by Ashish's monumental smash hit, "Tickle My D Tonight, Baby".

His singular achievement has been in turning 'off-key and off-beat singing' into a respectable musical genre. He singlehandedly broke the stranglehold of notation conservatives and brought a level of democracy to music that was almost revolutionary.

It was through his efforts alone that a completely free-form of singing devoid of rigid structures became wildly popular and galvanised millions of musically untrained people to take up singing as a full-time career.

"If it wasn't for Ashish Gorde's noble example I wouldn't have taken up singing because, since childhood, music lessons terrified me and gave me nightmares. He showed me that my love for singing need not be held ransom to the tyranny of quavers and I will be forever indebted to him for setting me free from such hangups," said Screech Owl, lead singer of the Ashish Gorde tribute band "Rhubarb Goes Burp".

His influence was not only limited to the recording industry but spread across stage, television and cinema as well. "Craps”, a Broadway musical based on his life has been a huge hit and is responsible for reviving the fortunes of musical theatre. The film version of the play was a box office hit across the world and was dubbed in many languages. Recently, he was involved in developing a TV game-show, "Smash the Classics" in which participants had to match their wits and skills in mangling well-known classics.

It would come as a surprise to most of his fans that Ashish Gorde began his public life as a writer and photographer but it was the success of his musical career that set him on the path of fame and fortune. Although he constantly expressed regret that he never managed to finish writing his novels and achieve his potential as a writer, nevertheless, it was music that comforted him and gave him release from his sense of frustration.

"It is, undoubtedly, true that it was his failure to be a writer of note that gave him the freedom to experiment with music and create this unique genre that will, forever, be associated with him," remarked his close friend Michael O'Reilly, music critic at the Rolling Stones magazine.

He is survived by his eleven ex-wives, twenty-two concubines and thirty-three children. His lawyers, on the other hand, are inconsolable by the impact of his death.

This obituary was part of a writing exercise on Shakespeare and Company, the writing forum on www.ryze.com

Monday, August 15, 2005

Independent observations

There are no plastic tricolours here. No public holiday. And if I step out of the compound, there is no hint whatsoever that a billion strong people are celebrating their independence day. The newspapers are carrying special supplements that talk about a shining India that's good for investors and expatriate Indians. As usual banks and real estate companies are talking big and are doing their darndest best to capture some customers. But I have seen so many such supplements in my life that a sense of deja vu creeps in whenever I see it. Why can't they focus on some other angle? How about some hard facts on socio-economic disparities, the dangers of fascist political parties or the impact of malls on the corner-store? Oh well, that would be too much to expect from these PR supplements and I'd be better off not raising my expectation levels.

The seven o' clock news is going to inform me that the King, the Prime Minister and the Crown Prince have sent cables of good wishes to the Indian leadership on account of the country's independence day. And then, tonight, the Embassy will host their reception and all the beautiful people in Bahrain will be present in their glory. The lucky few will get their photographs splashed in tomorrow's newspaper while others will have made sure that they are properly 'covered' in next month's 'Bahrain This Month'. I know who will be there and am quite certain they'll be hovering close to the cameras with their glasses in hand.

I won't be there because I have stayed away from most of the Indian clubs and associations. Too much of politics and too much of showbusiness. I find it hard to handle these personality issues disguised as social causes. And even harder to see, 'uncle' characters behaving like little children. Alright. I know I am being very bitchy but I am only nostalgic, that's all.

I prefer the old times. The days when 26th January and 15th August meant a special showing of a Hindi movie in Awal Cinema preceded by an entertainment show by Sushil Bhatia and company. This was in the mid-seventies when it was rare to see the latest movies on screen, and Sushil Bhatia's gang were our only source of Bollywood songs. I remember chickening out of the 'Yadoon ki Baraat' group song because I didn't want to sing with the other kids. Not that I wanted to do a solo but just didn't want to do it, that's all.

Now those days are gone. And instead of this family-like atmosphere that once pervaded the national day celebrations now we have these pompous events that are excrutiatingly embarassing. Maybe it's because there have been major changes in the people. Maybe there are just far too many Indians and it's difficult to bring back the old atmosphere. Maybe I'm still an expat with his head stuck in the past. Maybe just maybe...

In anycase, some traditions do not change. And Bahrain TV will be showing a short documentary on India, and, as usual, I'll be missing it. Somehow they always choose the wrong time to show it and since it's going to be another supplement type of documentary I know I wont be missing much. Why can't Bahrain TV do something good for a change and show 'Mangal Pandey' instead? Now that will save me a trip to the cineplex, and make me sing praises to Bahrain TV.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Hyper-emaciated malls

I have a theory about poorly paid workers at the mall. They just don't care about you. All this big management talk on customer service and customer is king is a load of baloney, as far as they are concerned.

They look at you with their sunken eyes and emaciated demeanour and only tolerate your presence because you are there. They can't ignore you and so they'll humour you with some response. But if you probe deeper, you'll see that their heart is not in it. They rather be elsewhere or if they had to be there it better be on a higher wage or at the same wage as some of the other privileged staff. They know it can never be and so they just smile back at you in that 'screw you' kind of look.

Why am I saying all this?

I was at the mall yesterday and went to this huge hypermarket to get a new TV and DVD player for my brother. He is on vacation and wanted to surprise his wife with a new entertainment system and asked me to make a purchase. After a series of disappointments in some of Manama's shops I decided the hypermarket would be the best place to go if I had to save my limbs from severe aches.

Well, it has been sometime since I visited this hypermarket (please note I haven't uttered the name of this silly establishment as yet) and my experience in all my previous visits had been fairly satisfying. Many of my friends have told me that things are not the same anymore at this place and that service has been going downhill. Well, considering the fact that most shop attendants in Manama don't seem enthusiastic about seeing any customers made me shake my head and wonder, how different can this hypermarket be anyway?

If yesterday's experience is any yardstick, it can be very different. The service was pathetic. The attendants just didn't seem to care, they moved around the hypermarket as if they were taking a walk and not as if they were working. I asked one attendant for some information about a TV model and he asked me to wait as he goes and asks his boss or someone. So I waited and waited and waited for almost half an hour, and then I ask another man about the whereabouts of this attendant. I was told that he has gone for lunch and that he'd be back soon. This 'soon' became another long wait of roughly 20 minutes and I called another 'staff' who was walking about, and he told me to wait. I lost my patience and told him that I was pissed off with their service and that I can't just wait endlessly till they get their acts together.

Maybe it was the tone of my voice, the choice of words or just my exasperation but it did have an effect. This man quickly went to a counter and explained my situation to a man with a red tie. He looked like someone who was well paid because he was smiling and made some effort to 'assure' me that what happened to me was an unusual phenomenon. To give the man his credit, he did answer my questions and did a much better job in helping me arrive at some purchasing decisions.

But the situation bothered me. It wasn't just the bad service that I received from the attendants that was worrisome but I could clearly see that there were two types of workers in this establishment. The better paid had this happy glow on their face while the others looked tired, exhaused, emaciated, fatigued, and unrewarded. This poor treatment seemed to have an impact on their performance and was affecting the service levels at the hypermarket.

I am not an economist and so I don't understand the subtleties of the budgeting process. However, based on my observation of this hypermarket and other commercial and non-commercial establishments, I've noticed that poorly paid workers do not seem to make good business sense. They have low motivation, they dont like to work hard because they dont feel it's worth it and are ready to flee at the next best offer. And yet, so many organisations seem to think it makes perfectly good sense to cut wages or even hire workers on lower wages... am I missing something here?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

To be a man :)

What makes a true man?

Some would say ‘strength of character’, others would talk about ‘the ability to be decisive’ while still others might quote that old proverb, ‘clothing maketh a man’.

Well, if you ask me, I think, they’ve got it all mixed up. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not discounting any of the above-mentioned points. There is a time and place for each of them and, yes, they do contribute in some ways in making a man. But they don’t clinch the deal, if you know what I mean.

What really lies at the heart of making a man a man or, in other words, the stuff that separates the men from the boys is… a razor.

Now you might ask how on earth did I arrive at such a conclusion? What’s a silly razor got to do with something as earthshakingly significant as being a man?

Well, everything.

A razor comes into a man’s life at that crucial period when he ceases to be a child. A razor shaves off the rough edges and in the process prevents him from looking like a caveman. In other words, a razor helps a man to cut a fine figure and bring a touch of finesse to his sense of grooming and personal style.

Now you may ask – and you’d be justified in asking – is the importance of a razor related only to the externals? And if so, aren’t we focusing too much on style and less on substance? Would this be downplaying a whole range of character issues that are central to being a man?

Not at all.

It all depends upon that simple little word called purpose. The purpose behind using a razor is all that matters. If this purpose stems from a desire to enhance character related issues and bring together style and substance, then, it makes perfect sense. Then, the razor actually becomes a tool to make a man a man.

To understand what I am trying to say, consider for a moment, a lighter. There are many who will tell you that the only purpose for a lighter is to be a tool for smoking cigarettes. But those with a keener insight will recognise that a lighter can also enlighten one’s path and be a handy substitute to a matchbox.

And so just like a razor, a lighter, too, has its usefulness only when its purpose is spelt out as clearly as possible. And we all know that one of the most essential prerequisites for a true man is to have clarity of purpose for one’s life. A decisive and purposeful man dispels the fog of uncertainty and confusion and becomes what he was born to be – a man.

This is a simple lesson we learn from a razor and one that we need to remember as often as we can. Sharply defined goals are what a true man needs, and there is no better tool than a pen to jot down those goals so that they are never forgotten.

A man without a pen, they say, is handicapped. Only a pen can help him write down his thoughts, ideas, opinions and, most importantly, his goals These goals will, then, shape his life and motives and character. But most importantly, it will help him to live longer through the words he writes and the goals that he actualised.

After all, a man who learns the secret to live forever will have learned what it is to be a true man. And if you want to know the secret, take a closer look at a razor and the answers will be clearer.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

In her own world


Last year, I was travelling from Hyderabad to Calcutta by train and the journey lasted nearly 32 hours. To cut a long story short, I survived. However, what I enjoyed the most about the trip was the opportunity to take so many photographs and to see for myself the rich diversity of India unfold right before my very eyes.

This particular photograph was taken early in the morning as the train halted at a station in Orissa state. It stopped for quite some time and I used the opportunity to buy some newspapers and biscuits and amble around. And then, suddenly, while I was still standing at the door of the train, I noticed this woman taking a walk and I was so taken in by the sight that I grabbed my camera and shot the scene.

I was so glad that the zoom lens came in very handy and was able to capture this moment in a stranger's life.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Three Little Pigs - the wolf's perspective.

All I needed was pork but all I got was a fable in which I was made a prime villain. Terribly unfair. I could even call it 'unjust' but I am not sure who'd actually believe me. Or even care.

After all, who bothers about wolves anyway? We are not cute and domesticated like the way dogs are, and neither are we known for our gentleness and kindness. Or, at least, that's the general consensus.

However, let me remind you that we are the gentlest creatures on God's earth and, given a chance, we can be as docile and cuddlesome as those dogs that inhabit human homes.

Our biggest problem is that we are huge. Unmanageably huge. And we have a big mouth, really big. A chihuahua can easily sneak into our mouth when we open it wide. And our teeth are like pens that humans use for writing their thoughts and whatever. Now there are dogs that are bigger than us but for some reason, we are discriminated against because we are born and raised in the wild. It seems our wild background has given us a fierce quality that inspires instant revulsion.

So you see, one glance in our direction doesn't exactly make humans go 'ooooh' and 'aaaah'. Instead, they get the vilest thoughts imaginable in the entire animal kingdom.

It's a pity because if these humans try a little harder, they'd discover that we aren't that bad at all. Like all good creatures, we just follow our instincts and do not mean to cause harm to anyone. Humans, for example, should be the least bit worried from us because we find them highly unappetising -- unless, ofcourse, a sumo wrestler is for dinner but that's only when we are highly desperate. But by and large, we prefer non-human herbivores as our preferred snack. Pigs, for instance, can be highly succulent and hugely delicious if our teeth ever manages to sink into their flesh.

Now I know that humans eat pig and have dedicated farms where they rear these fat creatures for consumption. And yet... now this is something that I cannot understand... the day I went out for a walk and saw three little pigs that I wanted to eat I suddenly became a bad guy.

I can handle being called a villain because it adds a certain aura to one's personality and lends a dangerous edge that some female wolves find highly irresistible. So you see, I can take that kind of dishonour and won't feel the least bit offended by the insult.

However, what irks me most is that the entire situation was triviliased and I was made to look like a fool. Look... I was just hungry, alright. I saw food in the form of three little pigs and I did what any full blooded wolf would do. I followed my nose and pursued my prey. Anything wrong in that?

Now how would I know that these three pigs were 'blessed' with construction skills. Have you ever seen pigs making houses out of straw, sticks and bricks? And have you ever heard a pig remarking, "By the hair of my chinny chin chin, I wont let you come in" after you've knocked the door and asked to be let in. Who talks like that?

Now ok... the first two pigs were easy peasy. I huffed and puffed and blew their houses made of straw and sticks, and finished eating those pigs in a gulp. Alright, not exactly a gulp but you know what I mean.

However, the last pig was a smart ass character. He knew I'd get an asthmatic attack after trying to huff and puff and blow his brick house down, and still he yelled out and told me that his house was made of light cardboard. I had to take medication after all that blowing and, you know, asthma treatment is not even covered in my insurance.

On top of all that, I tried to be friends with him and thought let bygones be bygones and let me enjoy some turnips with him. I figured that a little turnip hunt will help us in our bonding and bolster our friendship. But no, the pig had to be a little competitive and he went and got the turnips all by himself. He repeated the same action when I asked him if we could get some apples together or even go to the fair.

He even had the audacity of rolling in a barrel and hurting me in the process. How should I know this little twerp will be inside a barrel? When I saw this thing rolling towards me, it scared the living daylights out of me. Remember, for all my fierce exterior I'm quite a softy inside.

At last, I thought I should enter his house through the chimney because he wouldn't let me in through the door. I was worried that the barrel might have caused him some pain and so I brought some wolf ointment for him. But what should happen when I land through the chimney? I fall straight into a pot full of boiling water...!!!

The fable says that the splash marked my end but, if truth be told, it wasn't. I jumped straight out of the pot and ran home as fast as I could. I had to be hospitalised for a month or two and had to take another two months of treatment. Finally, I got myself a lawyer and sued the little pig for harassment, bodily injury, humiliation, defamation. And yes, I'm pleased to tell you that there is justice in this world and, today, as an out of court settlement, I'm living in that brick house and the pig has become my valet.