Monday, November 14, 2011

Bollywood for Dummies

No this is not a book which will provide a helicopter view of the Hindi film industry to a new born. The title is rather my lament on the condition of the same industry, which has assumed that its patrons are a huge mass of frustrated people whose only escape in life is a precious Bollywood jamboree. A look at Facebook comments on recent movies reveals words such as ‘full timepass’, ‘worth watching once’, ‘leave your brains outside and enjoy’ and other profound reflections. Super intelligent social ‘observers’ are of the view that the average Indian movie-goer is some or all of the following – harassed at office, hard pressed for time, lacking entertainment options, combating urban chaos, using up all his intelligence in 9-6 work – in other words, waiting for deliverance from Salman Khan and his bunch of johnnies who have turned mediocrity into an asset. Another smart ass reviewer, after watching Dabangg had remarked that North Indians always secretly wanted their own Rajnikanth, and with Salman they have now got one. Claiming to speak for the whole of India is a habit amongst many Indians.

If one were to ignore the works of a handful of film makers such as Amir Khan and Anurag Kashyap, Bollywood is still largely a big star driven enterprise where the male lead is bigger than everything else, including the movie. Take a budget bigger than a mid cap company, rope in the latest hot property male lead, hammer the audience with covert and overt promotions for 12 months and success is guaranteed. With global reach and high ticket prices, even an average movie can break even in the first week of its release, which incidentally is the new shelf life. Such is the curiosity created by relentless publicity that people will watch the movie simply to understand what the hype is all about and end up contributing to the success. Success in cinema is now more about marketing muscle and less about characters, narrative and performance. Indians have got so used to gloating over the soft power of Bollywood that they have stopped noticing how un-Indian Bollywood is really becoming.

Amidst such gloom I saw the latest Pakistani hot property ‘Bol’ with envy and awe. Let me put aside the envy bit first. Bol is the kind of cinema that Indians stopped making long ago as if certain problems had disappeared from the country. It is the exact opposite of the escapism that we Indians allegedly seek in our miserable lives. However, what makes the movie great is not that it is about ordinary people, but the way their story is told. There is not a single scene in the movie that feels out of place or unnecessary. The events are so craftily linked together to convey multiple messages, it is actually incredible. It was difficult for me to decide which aspect of the story is hitting me the most - Prejudice against girl child, biased attitude towards eunuchs, soft corner for religious people, stifled aspirations, punishing your family for your mistakes, making multiple mistakes to cover up one, disdain towards a certain class of people, hypocrisy in turning towards the same people for help, I could go on. But for some instances of theatrical acting, I would have called this movie a masterpiece. Despite its Pakistani label, Bol is a story which happens every day in some part of India and every one of those characters could easily be spotted here. We have somehow wiped them off our creative landscape and robbed ourselves of a chance of making some great cinema.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Theorems, Axioms, Postulates, Corollaries, Hypotheses and Beliefs

These are entirely my creation and any sense of déjà vu is simply because they are true.

1.    Your computer screen will hang up when you are doing personal work and your boss walks up behind you
2.    Your boss reaches office on time the day you are late
3.    An indecent mail forward will pop up when you are presenting spreadsheets on a projector
·         Corollary: The likelihood of getting an obscene mail increases in direct proportion to the number of people in the conference room
4.    Your computer will crash the day you delete the backup data on the USB drive to make space for new movies
5.    The only sex scene in an alien invasion movie comes when your mom walks into the room
·         Corollary: You will grab the wrong remote in an attempt to switch channels
6.    The probability of an unscheduled medical checkup is directly proportional to the cigarette and alcohol consumption during the previous day
7.    The price of the hot selling electronic gadget will fall after your buy it
8.    There will be a salary revision in the company after your resignation
·         Corollary: There will be a freeze on salary revision in the company that you join
9.    The review meeting will get cancelled on the day you are best prepared to handle the questions.
10. ‘Indian fast bowler’ is an oxymoron
11. The probability of something being ‘leaked’ by Wikileaks is directly proportional to its existing universal acceptance
12. There is no correlation between crude oil prices and petrol prices
·         Hypothesis: Petrol prices will always rise
13. Definition of Stagflation: An economic condition where food price increase is accompanied by reduction in the portion served.
·         Hypothesis: By 2013 Dominos Pizza will be a plain round piece of bread for which toppings and cheese need to be ordered at extra cost
14. Definition of Economic Crisis: Default state of the world economy interrupted by short periods of growth
15. A ‘one way’ road is always the wrong way when you are in a hurry
16. 92% of all Chartered Accountants will mention their qualification in their wedding invitation
·         Corollary: 8% of Chartered Accountants are not married
17. The ‘wedding’ in ‘The Big Fat Indian Wedding’ is a verb, not a noun
18. New programs keep up with the processor speed
·         Corollary: Computers will never get faster
19. The likelihood of finding life on another planet is inversely proportional to the ability to reach it
20. No matter what you do, you will never have an updated version of Adobe Acrobat

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Defeat is an opportunity

There is a certain pleasure I am deriving from our cricket team’s thrashing in England. After a 4-0 whitewash in the test series and a loss in the only T20 rubber, we have now lost the second ODI (the first one was washed out). I am eagerly looking forward to a repeat of the test scoreline so that hardcore fans are given no opportunity to come out of their bomb shelters. You might think I am exaggerating, but I can swear upon my left thumb impression that it will take just one victory, especially if it comes in the last fixture, for the likes of Ravi Shastri to say “At least the Indians finished on a winning note”.

The series that started as ‘Battle of Britain’ has turned into Dhoni’s Waterloo. Battle weary Indians, not satisfied with the victory in World War 10, marched on to loot and plunder in the IPL, then went to subjugate the Pirates of the Caribbean, a spent force. After the sun soaked carnival in West Indies, England looked a hostile place, their players eager to halt the Indian juggernaut and stake their claim to the throne. For the English the long Natwest series was a ‘Not Waste’ opportunity at home turf, a chance to avenge previous massacres at the hands of spin wizards on Indian soil. Fatigue, fitness, form, foul play, freezing conditions and fast pitches are some of the F-words that are being employed by pundits to explain the fiasco in England. If only Freddie Flintoff had been a part of the team, the alliteration would have been richer.

The series also exposed that slavery is alive, and rewarding. Ravi Shastri, whose comments are as original as a page coming out of the photocopier, and Sunil Gavaskar, India’s last defence against white supremacists, proudly declared themselves to be lackeys of the Empire (BCCI). Their job, they explained, was to protect Indian interests, should there be any signs of resurgence of the old powers.

It may be too soon to start celebrating the temporary reversal in India’s cricketing fortunes and start focusing on other activities that qualify as sports elsewhere in the world. Our newly appointed Sports Minister is so deeply disturbed by the debacle in England that he wants to regulate the mighty Empire. India’s response to everything is regulation, which is easy as opposed to vision and planning, which is impossible. Mr. Sports Minister is oblivious to the fact that sports infrastructure built at enormous cost for the Commonwealth Games in his home city is rotting away, far from the reach of sports enthusiasts, or anyone for that matter. Of course, his audacious efforts are being thwarted by his tribesmen who have great stakes in the affair. For once regulation is a dirty word among politicians.

In what could be a ray of hope, Airtel has withdrawn as sponsor for the T20 Champions League on account of expected poor viewership. It is instead now the title sponsor for Formula One’s latest franchise, the Buddha Circuit in Delhi’s backyard Noida. Personally I prefer physical games and contact sports, not car racing, but the October edition of Formula One in India should be a welcome addition to India’s sports calendar which is woefully short of entries. I pray for some more sponsorship money coming the way of Chennai Open, India’s flagship tennis tournament. Indian business houses, many of whom are exceedingly rich can easily support hefty prize money for the tournament and lure higher ranked players. Unfortunately the ‘love of sports’ for most of them translates into buying IPL franchises. It is time to bury Indian cricket for some time and release the money bags and bandwidth for other sports. Defeat is an opportunity.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lokpal : After the dust has settled

The Anna Hazare led campaign against corruption has generated a remarkably erudite debate in the blogosphere and it does not require you to be an astute observer to see that a section of people are so appalled by the overwhelming support for the movement that they are considering this as an opportunity to classify themselves as the true liberals and the only people with intelligence and independent thought. Those lamenting the subversion of the supremacy of Parliament and Constitution by those who understand little of the Lokpal Bill are themselves no scholars of law making process. All they know is that there is some Constitution and Parliament and it supposedly has all the arsenal to prevent corruption. Apparently these people have never heard of something called ‘conflict of interest’. Those who run the Parliament will never pass a law to have their own ass kicked.

The movement has been variously tagged as Hindu, RSS backed, upper caste, elitist, NRI sponsored, to anti-minority, anti-backward caste, and even communal. These divisive tags have come from predictable quarters – Congress venom mouth Manish Tiwary, Syed Ahmed Bukhari – the Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, ‘social reformer’ Swami Agnivesh, conscience-of-the-nation Arundhati Roy and random dalit leaders born with a hatred for upper caste Hindus and fed on a generous diet of Communist propaganda. Why did a movement, which was essentially born out of frustration with corruption, attract such criticism?
India’s economic growth over the last decade and a half has attracted a motley mix of detractors, ranging from genetically anti-capitalist thinkers to angst ridden inheritors of wealth who view the upwardly mobile, emerging breed of young Indians with disdain. Somewhere in between lie the intellectuals, writers and journalists who earn their livelihood and awards by feeding the western media with horror stories from the ‘real India’. So when television broadcasts a huge mass of people, their eyes quickly focus on those who in their opinion are surely the wrong kind of Indians – young, aspirational if not already successful, upper caste, beneficiaries of expensive higher education, dwellers of high rise apartments built upon land usurped from poor farmers, unapologetic about being Hindus and last but not the least, the ‘Face Booking’ types. Adjectives came thick and fast from government stooges as if someone had conducted a census of their religion and caste. My belief is that anyone who wasn't wearing a skull cap was branded a Hindu and anyone appearing urbane, educated, English speaking was branded an upper caste yuppie oblivious to the real problems of India, whose world starts and ends with the social network. Clearly, the khadi wearing, jhola hanging super brains have nothing but contempt for these crowds and as a result for anything that they are supporting.

Another blogger summed it up very well when he said that the generation currently in their thirties believed at one time that they were on the threshold of belonging to a country which has managed to break free from the shackles of protectionism, conservatism and lethargy as a way of life. The ‘Hindu rate of growth’ was behind them and a new world around the corner. Except that the corrupt babus and politicians decided that they wanted a piece of the action and took a disproportionately large piece. Yes, these Indians were definitely wealthier and owned better cars, but had to drive on roads which were getting increasingly congested and broken. They could buy air conditioners but not a power plant. They could eat in an exotic restaurant but found it difficult to get a cooking gas connection. They hoped that massive departmental stores would reduce prices, but 2% saving brought by economies of scale meant nothing in the face of 10% inflation. Personal wealth has been accompanied by administrative bankruptcy and the contrast has been frustrating. It has been even more painful for those who cannot take refuge in creature comforts – the urban poor. Life in crumbling, expensive urban India is not easy. It is an aspect of India’s growth that gets obfuscated when poverty is almost always defined in terms of its rural dimension.

The conspicuous support by NRIs and overseas Indians (and for some reason all of them are bracketed as rich right wing Hindu fascists) was also targeted, and they were conveniently designated as sponsors of the movement as if Ms Roy and her friends had just concluded an audit of the ‘financing’ of the movement, if such a thing ever existed. The reasons for which NRIs are targeted are not very different from what I have described in the previous paragraph. They also carry the additional sin of ‘escaping’ from India for a better life and yet having the gall to believe that they have a right to support anything happening in their home land. It also hurts the ‘liberals’ that Indians integrate better in their adopted land, do not oppose Western imperialism in Arab lands and are therefore complicit in the cause and hence anti-Muslim. Such derivations can be conveniently applied in local movements to augment the anti-minority perception being generated by bhajans and chants of Vande Mataram or Bharat Mata ki jai. The detractors are too clever not to seize such opportunities.

While I principally believe that religious symbols should not be encouraged in such movements, the communalization of them is almost entirely a political phenomenon, which the ‘liberals’ instead of opposing, have firmly cemented in their pursuit of majority bashing. The way the concept of secularism has taken root in India, it has come to mean equal representation for all religions, rather than dismissing religion as a basis for any act of politics or governance. We pat ourselves on the back that all religions were represented during the Lokpal movement in some form or the other, but do not try to understand why some religious groups had to come forth and make their allegiance public. It is partly because of the comments of detractors and the resulting concern that such comments would paint the entire community as being opposed to the movement and hence traitors. The most visible case was that of Imam Bukhari appealing to Muslims to distance themselves from the movement, without offering any plausible explanation except the usual ‘RSS backing’ rhetoric. Muslim clerics were quick to disown Bukhari’s appeal. Such contradictions within the minority community are a result of years of tussle between those who have been trying to create definitions of patriotism and those who claim to be protecting minority interests, both for their own political gains.

Ingenious Congress leaders did their best to portray the movement as heavily upper caste dominated and eager Dalit leaders took the bait. Fears of upper caste Hindus overturning the ‘protection’ accorded to Dalits (read the legislation that allows reservations in government jobs for backward classes) were voiced. It is interesting how a legislation which can at best be termed as positive discrimination in favour of backward classes is thought of by many as a ‘protection’ tool against the tyrannical upper castes waiting in the flanks to deliver comeuppance. To the untrained eye the difference may be too subtle, but trust the Congress to see an opportunity in anything and everything. Reservations in government jobs hurt the upper castes. It was a double whammy for poor among them who were virtually shut out of government jobs unless they were born with the brain of an Einstein or the never give up spirit of an entrepreneur. Despite this, India moved on and put reservations behind it. It was not act of virtuosity on part of the upper castes. The private sector had become the biggest employment generator, with better career prospects, money, foreign travel and free from the stigma that even an honest bureaucrat has to shoulder. Reservations stopped mattering for educated upper caste Hindus. They did not need government jobs any longer. And it is for this reason that the fear of Dalits losing their ‘protection’ to future agitation by upper castes sound so contrived, hollow and typically ‘I will say anything to cover my ass’ Congress like.

There is over simplification on both sides of the movement, but more so on the 'I don't support Anna' camp. I read with amusement certain people deriding the movement because of presence of characters such as Sambhavana Seth and models with 'I am Anna' painted on their bare back. As far as I know, participation in the movement was not 'by invitation only' and did not prescribe a dress code or intellectual ability as a qualification. There is significance in numbers, as that is what grabs attention to a cause. Mass participation in any movement such as this will represent the demographic of that region. If Hindus form 80% of India’s population then logic says that an overwhelming number of participants will be Hindus. This does not make it an anti-minority movement. If morons, eve teasers and attention grabbers exist in society, in all likelihood you will find them in the movement too. It does not make the movement dumb, lecherous or sensationalistic. On a separate and contrary note, I faintly remember an article I read during my childhood (which was a long time back) in India Today magazine that many old people who were arsonists, shop lifters and generally trouble makers during their youth call themselves freedom fighters now as they had been thrown into jail by the British, albeit for reasons that had nothing to do with the freedom struggle. Such people often exploited the rallies organized by genuine freedom fighters to ransack shops and indulge in looting. The point is that people in a massive gathering will invariably reflect the mix of society

I am not so whole heartedly inimical to the reservations of those who oppose the civil society’s version of Lokpal Bill. I agree with the observation that the media threw its entire might behind the movement and the absence of debate was stark. This is not a healthy sign for a mature society. I for one, was eager to know how the civil society’s version of the bill was different from the government’s version (email forwards notwithstanding). I genuinely wanted to hear an intelligent discussion on that aspect since till date I don’t know what the real differences are, apart from one liners you hear and read everywhere that “Prime Minister and lower bureaucracy should be within the ambit of the Lokpal”. I would have loved to be convinced that the version which was being supported by such massive crowds was indeed the better version. I would have loved to hear the government’s concerns, I would have loved to hear how this bill will be more effective than the measures we already have in place. I would have loved to hear about the difficulties involved in its implementation. But somewhere the media decided that the intent rather than content was what mattered. It was as if someone said “Enough. We are going with Anna. No discussions.” Discussions did take place, where opponents were vastly outnumbered by proponents. Owners of media houses and anchors, mostly upper caste Hindus, apparently did not take kindly to their lot being branded anti this and anti that and all that you have already read in this piece.

I agree to concerns that nothing is being said about corruption in the corporate world. It is easy to say that bribe is given because bribe is asked for. Of course the wheels of business do move on rails greased by bribes, but it is also true that huge manipulations are proactively engineered by corporate houses to get a big contract or have a policy in their favour. The bill only aims to punish government officials and politicians and assumes that law in its current form will take care of the other forms of culprits.

I agree that corruption cannot be entirely eliminated by the Lokpal. But it is a step in a certain direction. It is better than sitting with our hands folded and hoping that the villain will have a change of heart like in some Bollywood movie.

I agree that corruption is not the only problem in India. Caste based discrimination and anti minority attitude is not entirely absent. Our women are still not safe. But what is the point in creating a pecking order for taking up issues? One person decided to take up cudgels against corruption and people found a rallying point. That other issues are not being taken up equally seriously is indeed sad and a reflection on society, but does it mean that we should not take up any issue? Is corruption not a disease, the elimination of which can root out many other problems? If money is really spent the way it should be on infrastructure, healthcare, education, better security, food distribution, and hundred other things, will it not lead to better job creation, reduction of gap between rich and poor? Will all this not reduce social tensions and frustrations that manifest itself in many other forms? Lokpal bill is not a magic wand, but why let go of something that is showing light at the end of a tunnel? If nothing changes at the end of it all, at least there will be a satisfaction that we tried. And for the detractors there will be a smug smile on the face. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Hina mania

Indian media is increasingly beginning to get on my nerves. I call it Indian media and not ‘our media’ because these guys don’t represent me and I have no sense of ownership about their actions. This process of disowning did not happen overnight but the trigger is very recent - The much covered visit of Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar (for brevity’s sake I’ll address her as HRK). My irritation began with headlines that read ‘HRK has Delhi sweating’, ‘Delhi drools over model like minister’, followed by a detailed description of her accessories. To their credit the newspapers-turned-tabloids were partly correct. Delhi was indeed sweating, but out of heat and humidity, rapes & molestation cases, road rage killings and traffic jams. After exhausting themselves over such chaos in daily life, perhaps the only people who have sweat and drool left inside them for anything else are the Indian paparazzi and ‘journalists’.

I have no problem with them sweating and drooling over anything, but I just wish they would keep their stinking liquid discharge to themselves and not implicate the entire country. We, and I confidently speak for most Indians, were not standing on our heads over a pretty minister and her fashion sense. The middle class did not come out of depression and the poor did not come out of poverty during the meeting of the two foreign ministers and they couldn’t care less if HRK looked like a model or if SM Krishna, her Indian counterpart did not. Times of India, the most shrill of the English language journalistic lot stamped and sealed its idiocy by defending its hyperactive coverage the next day. As per TOI, such frenzied reportage is common in western media and we are doing not doing anything new. Quite remarkable. Since we cannot learn from the high quality journalism of some of the better western publications, we might as well adopt the trash of the lesser ones. Any stupidity is kosher as long as the white man also does it.  

If I have to use just one word to describe the condition of mainstream Indian journalism today, that word would be ‘excess’. Excess channels, excess money through advertisements and excess reporters. Any graduate who can wield a pen today considers himself a game changer in this great Indian tamasha (and the vast Indian population keeps them coming). Satellite television and easy money have given senior media persons a sense of power and arrogance which percolates down to the ranks. Journalists love to dish it out to others but are incredibly thin skinned when given back. So when HRK lashed out at journalists for turning the diplomatic meeting into a media circus, reaction was swift, suddenly she was not so beautiful, and the focus was on her credentials – ‘rich’, ‘feudal’, ‘landed’ and ‘powerful’, ‘club owner’.

Spare a thought for the young HRK, who must be wondering what she can do to have focus shifted to what she delivers as a minister (and she has a long way to go). Conservative advisors would recommend getting rid of the expensive brands and presenting a more daughter-of-the-soil image. This would be a pity and mercifully HRK realizes this, for as recently as yesterday she has said that she is not going to be apologetic about the way she presents herself. It is not a crime to look good and frankly it’s nobody’s business how much her handbag and sunglasses cost.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

They are smarter than you

It is no secret that every time you fill up forms and give out your contact details, you are providing employment to a whole industry centered around invading your privacy. My current status as a 30-something single person fetches me a sizeable load of matrimony ads in my mailbox. I wish they would at least change the photographs every now and then. A particular lady named Sonia Sharma (24, Hindu Brahmin, as her profile says) has been trying to marry me for the last 3 years and while I have been struggling to hold on to my hair, she has defied all laws of nature and continues to remain 24.

The second category of mails I receive in generous doses is for Viagra, which surprises and agonizes some of my married friends who believe such mails should be coming to them instead. I disagree and describe to them visuals of a person sitting in a back office, holding a recently filled up bank form, selecting from drop down menus:
Sex - Male
Age - Above 30
Physical Appearance - Apalling
Current Marital Status - Single
Overall Marital Status - Never Married
Salary - Barely Paid
Average Phone Bill - below Rs. 200
Favorite channel - Nickleodeon
Hobbies - Going on long drives in a car without back seat.

Clicks on “Analyze”.

Result: “Subject suffers from low self esteem and possible dysfunction of one or more vital organs. Recommended: Viagra”
My friends breathe easy. Now the absence of Viagra ads in their mailboxes makes them happy.

Junk mail is less bothersome than the latest menace- SMSes urging you to buy property. Now unlike the Viagra guys these are a bunch of people who don’t seem to have done any homework at all or they would know that I am in absolutely no position to do what they say because: 1) I have no money and 2) No need. Nonetheless, these messages come with some innovative warnings- “Ignore now, regret later” and “Be quick or be sorry”. It’s only a matter of time before I get messages that read something like this…“Beta khareed le nahin to baja denge”. This is not an exaggeration. When pesky calls asking you to take personal loans were rampant, I actually had one caller scolding me “aap ki problem kya hai? I am saying check ready hai, no verification required. Phir bhi aap loan lete hi nahin hain”. Believe me, it was scarier than getting scolded on Rakhi ka Insaaf.

But taking the cake these days is my mobile service provider. Their over-zealous system now forewarns me that my bill has been generated. This is followed by a message that my bill will be dispatched on a certain date. On dispatch I am promptly made aware that yes it has been dispatched using Excellent Courier Services. So the next day I am perplexed to get another message saying that due to some error the courier was not sent. The cycle is repeated. I finally get the bill. Amidst all this, I have no way of telling them that I received a soft copy of the bill on the day I got the first message. I decide to be eco friendly and check on the “Don’t send me hard copies of bill” option on their website. Now I have stopped getting soft copies as well. But the best part is yet to come. In a trend which is reminiscent of Homer Simpson telling the bank that he does a favor by repaying his loan, my mobile service provider has a sweet sounding lady thanking me profusely each time she calls to remind me that my bill is nearing due date and I oblige by saying that I have done the needful. Her happiness at receiving this information is so genuine that I almost feel guilty about making her wait till the last day. Hmm, maybe this is a tactic employed to make me pay my bill early. Now what would have made them believe I am someone to be influenced rather easily? I go through the bank form I had filled up recently. Something, something must be there. I must find it!!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A day well spent

Armed with my April paycheck I headed for my favorite bookstore, which sells more DVDs and chocolates than books. The feeling on arrival was a usual mix of excitement, confusion and disappointment. Excitement at the sheer variety of stuff that can be bought (potentially), confusion over what mix of stuff to spend your hard earned money on and disappointment that prices have not fallen by 80%. As I navigated through the store I noticed a new section named ‘Kamasutra’. Hungrily I made progress towards it when questions popped up in my mind. Do I want to be seen in this section? What if my boss sees me here? Why is no one to be found in this section? I scanned the bookstore for potential threats, trying hard not to appear like a shoplifter in the CCTV. Having ensured that the coast is clear, in a flash I took a U turn at the shelf on my left to enter this erotic section, only to be greeted by an over eager staff member wearing a ‘May I help you' cap.

‘May I help you Sir?’
‘Sure. I am looking for a book titled ‘7 ways to satisfy your woman’

No I didn’t actually say that. Imagine admitting to a stranger that you are lacking in that department. Never. I politely told him to search for a book titled ‘365 positions of love making – Spice up your daily sex life’. Confident that such a book did not exist, I dispatched him from my vicinity and proceeded to conduct a quick inspection of the deal available here. My attention was snared by a gigantic coffee table book bearing a done to death Khajuraho photograph on the cover.

‘Sex in ancient India’, the title screamed. I wondered what sort of place would keep this book. With two hands and some effort I opened the cover to find a note by the editor.

‘India is the land of sex. Blah blah blah. Ancient Romans learnt about orgies from Indians. Blah blah blah. The spice trade was spicy in many other ways. Blah blah blah. Lets usher in a sexual revolution. Blah blah blah. Indians are the sexiest people on earth. Period.

Despite the new found confidence in my sexual abilities as an Indian, I decided not to proceed with the remaining pages as I noticed an angry looking middle aged lady heading towards me.

‘Do you have the original Kamasutra?’ said the middle aged lady, still looking angry.
‘Er ma’am, actually you should check with the staff over there’, I gestured with a horizontal thumb towards the poor bloke who was still trying to complete the mission I had sent him on.
‘Oh Sorry’, she said with her expression of anger changing to that of embarrassment.

‘Hmm. The Original Kamasutra’, I said to myself. When you have an entire section called Kamasutra, patrons are bound to come up with such questions. I moved on. Most of the books were written or edited by people with names that were anything but Indian. Some had photographs of white men with Indian looking women in various stages of love making. The effects of the inspirational editorial in the gigantic coffee table book were beginning to wear off. The non Indian man had caught up fast. I felt defeated and moved on the neighboring section where I would feel more in control. Comics. En route to this less threatening section, I bumped into the over eager helper who was now looking triumphant.

‘Sir. I found this book’

(Hmm. Close enough. Maybe they accounted for Sundays and Public holidays)

‘Why don’t they just sell the DVD instead?’ I asked.
‘Excuse me Sir?’
‘Well, this is pretty close to what I was looking for. Why don’t you keep it on that shelf over there and I will grab it when I am done with other stuff’

The comics section was adjacent and devoid of children who were to be found mainly in the video games section. The usual stuff. Batman and other assorted American superheroes who didn’t interest me. Tintin and Asterix which I had read 10 times over. I was happy to see the book store had finally acknowledged that Calvin and Hobbes and Dilbert are not children’s comics. They now commanded a separate shelf. I made my first purchase of the day. Calvin and Hobbes Anniversary Book.

I turned right to enter the Yoga section. There were more photos of Shilpa Shetty and Bipasha Basu here than in Times of India. Baba Ramdev had been consigned to the bottom shelf. Power Yoga. Yoga in 10 minutes. Tantric Yoga. Self Realization through Yoga. Yoga – A Synthesis of Psychology and Metaphysics. Yoga for a better sex life. The Yoga section blended into the spirituality section which seemed to be getting bigger in every visit. I generally avoid this section as it emits a certain radiation that jams my thought process.

If there is one section that beats the shit out of Spirituality section in terms of CAGR (Confounding Abnormal Growth Rate), it is ‘Indian Fiction’. Depending on what sort of Indian you are, it can either inspire you to write a book (if that stuff can be published, so can mine) or choose another profession (is there space for one more?). Indians are writing with a vengeance. I randomly scan some back covers. Hmm, a story about a failed marriage. Another one about a small town guy bedding a rich city girl. Office romance. Engineering romance. Dental romance. Neighborhood romance. Romance in public transport. Frustrated MBAs. BPO stories. Another one about a failed marriage.

After completing my ritual walk around the store, I arrived at the section where I enjoy tremendous respect from the staff. The Playstation 3 games. For the humungous amount of written wisdom on sale in this gigantic store, what I really come for is to check out the latest PS3 releases. The staff here know very well that it is men in their thirties such as me who shell out the real cash on these expensive games and not those kiddos who have to promise one full year of doing homework to their parents to land one title. I pick up Resident Evil 5, Little Big Planet 2 and God of War 3. Feeling on top of the world, I finally head to the ‘World Movies’ section where the attractive intellectual type of women are to be found. I have never bought anything here, though I put on an appearance of being extremely interested. I have never observed anyone picking anything either, so maybe they are all trying to act interested and impress me.  On the way to the billing counter I pick up some chocolates and a magazine carrying a cover story on a sex racket. A day well spent!