20 February, 2009

The cable guy

My father often speaks with our cable company. The conversation which I get to hear usually runs like this:
"What boss, it has been 4 days since xyz was released in the cinemas and you still have not shown it on cable? (silence) tell me this, do I have to go to the cinema to watch this now? or wait for the DVD release? (silence)And make sure the print is good. Like Tata sky", including the last bit to remind him that he remains a fickle customer and knows about competition arriving now in India.
I am always surprised by cable television in India. There are about 120 channels which I get, including about 30 regional ones. Almost all of them are junk, but then I can get this junk for about $4 a month, compared to about $50 in the UK.
And yes, the movie which is asked for, is featured, especially if it is a new one. I do think that this is completely legal, but I am not sure. Increasingly, these cablewallahs are also getting more tech savvy. This one in Gurgaon has an interface where he shows the program for the next day. He also plays background music and shows movie trailers between two movies. Quite a far cry from about ten years ago when a cablewallah uncle went to prison for a day or so. He was playing a movie, which was recorded on top of an adult movie. So when the movie finished, the tape went on to play a full fledged adult movie at 3pm in the afternoon. Prime time for senior citizens (unhappy), school boys (very happy, jumped at the mute button), school girls (shocked) and school mothers (tearful). I am not sure how many people complained, but many did.

(Why does it feel like today is someone's birthday? Ok so thanks to facebook and orkut i have a list of 200 people, let me check.hmm)

12 February, 2009


Sharat was a friend of mine from Netarhat. Netarhat is a residential school located in the Chotanagpur plateau about 100 miles from Ranchi. After finishing my schooling in 1967, I went to the Engineering college in Sindri (BIT, Sindri) to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering. It was a five year course and as was quite usual in those days, the course took just under 6 years to get over. I was interviewed and accepted by the Tata Engineering and Locomotive company (TELCO, now known at Tata motors) and moved to Jamshedpur in 1972. 
My parents were based in Chhapra, which is about 50 miles from Patna across the Ganges. The bridge across the Ganga at Patna had not been built. To go to Chhapra from Sindri and Jamshedpur, one had to reach Patna by train, cross the Ganga by steamer at one of the ghats and then take a bus to Chapra. Every year, a significant part of the outgoing batch from Netarhat school would move to Patna. They would either study at the Patna Science College or at the Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH). Because of this, I had a number of friends in Patna. I made it a habit to stop at Patna for a few hours on my way to Chhapra and back. I got married in February 1978. My wife's family was based in Patna. Because of this, my links with my friends who were in Patna continued as we stayed for a part of the holidays each year in Patna. 
Sharat wanted to become a doctor. He moved to Patna after being accepted by PMCH into their MBBS program. He came from an illustrious family of Patna. His sister was married to Dr. C.P. Thakur, who was one of the most renowned doctors in Patna and a gold medallist of his batch from medical college. Sharat was a good looking young man and had a pleasing personality. His family was well established in Patna and he lived with his sister and brother-in-law on Fraser road which was quite close to the station.
Every trip home from Sindri or Jamshedpur involved meeting Sharat. I would write a letter to him to let him know of the date on which I would be crossing Patna. He would wait at home for me. He had an old scooter which would be used at the occasion. He used to ride it at about 20 kmph, which was slow for a scooter, even in those days. We would have sandwiches, then go to another one for tea and then top it up with Paan from another place. The three shops never changed and were not particularly close to each other. However, they formed part of my itinerary during every trip due to Sharat. We would go to the college hostels to meet friends. I would then get dropped off at the station. At times, he would not be able to be at home because of his classes. On such days, I would make my way to the college hostels and meet my friends before heading to the station. Sharat would unfailingly meet me at the station a few minutes before the train left. He would have a Paan for me. 
My son was born in July 1979 at the Patna Medical College & Hospital. There were not many good doctors in Bihar at that time. Every city had a few established doctors, but it was rare that such a doctor was also a good doctor. I always asked my doctor friends to refer me to a doctor. It was like using insider knowledge in the stock market. By this time, Sharat was a doctor and was working at Dr. C.P.Thakur's clinic. He wanted to study further as well. I was advised by  Sharat and a few other of my friends to ensure that my wife and child spent as little time as possible at PMCH. They warned of possible infections at the hospital. Sharat also advised me to meet Dr. Jaiswal. We left the hospital less than 24 hours after my son's birth. On our way back from the hospital, we went and met Dr. Jaiswal. He checked both of them and prescribed two shots of a gamma globulin injection for my newborn son. He also gave one to me and asked me to get the second one done after a month. Sharat offered to give the second injection. My wife and her parents were going to have a small get-together so that our friends and family could come and see the new born baby. Sharat offered to get the injection on that day itself. 
Sharat did not turn up for the party. It was unexpected and also mildly irritating. I got someone else to give the injection. I waited for him to show up for a few days. After that, I made my way to his house. 
Sharat had been missing for about a week. He had left a letter telling his family not to look for him and that he would not ever come back. Till this day, he hasn't. 
I still wonder what made him take such a step. None of our school friends who knew him then were aware of any reason why he would take such a step. He was a good person and people liked having him around. He was a doctor and would have led a comfortable life. 
Dr. Jaiswal remained my son's physician till we moved to Delhi.

This story was narrated to me by my father on the eve of his birthday. I realised that I did not know too much about my father as a person. The other thing worth remembering about his birthday this year was that four people forgot about it till 10am in the morning - my mother, my sister, yours truly and my father.
The last thing I wanted to mention here is that I have added a Suggestions box on the side. You can either leave suggestions about future posts or vote on someone else's suggestions. Have a look at the section labeled "Tell me" in the right bar

01 February, 2009

TV lows

After watching TV in the UK for a few years - big brother, x factor, fear factor et al, I had honestly believed I had seen it all. However, a chance encounter with something called "Roadies" on MTV changed all that for me.
I know very little about the roadies - there are two teams and they play different games and there are eliminations and a 'winner' emerges in the end. I am not sure what the winner is supposed to be good at, but he is an MTV Roadie and he gets a lot of money and usually also gets invited to take part in Big Boss, which is India's version of 'Celebrity Big Brother'. One of the essential qualifications for appearing on Big Boss is that this lot were able to block out 90 days from their calendar without batting an eyelid.
I am not sure what career options are available to Big Boss winners.
So, there I was gorging, on lots of chicken tikka and roomali roti at RG's house, where we were all treated to all the roadies getting very excited about someone getting kicked out, a slanging match between two girls (one of them was wearing very large and very dark glasses indoors) and then the game. The game was as follows - all of these early 20 somethings were let loose with Pushkar animal fair in the backdrop, with the glorious task of collecting animal dung. That was the task - collecting shit with bare hands. The dung was divided into two categories - fresh and not-so-fresh, with the fresh variety getting a higher weightage in the final score.
I am not really sure why I am disgusted - quite a few things rush to my mind, but I I will let it be for now.
With the realisation that I had hit a new TV record which would be hard to better, I resumed dividing my attention with RG, SS and Chicken Tikka.
The universe had other plans.
Roadies returned, with its infinite capacity to surprise, with a bang!
This time around, the two teams were participating in a quiz. The questions were to be answered by the girls of each team and correct answers would get them points. In case of an incorrect answer, one of the boys of the team would get hit by a paddle on the balls.
Apologies, but this had to said as there is no other way of saying it.
Oh yes, the quiz questions were about translating words from English into Hindi and vice versa. As you can imagine, there were a lot of wrong answers and lots of bats and balls being connected.
So yes, I know that I have seen all that there is to see on TV. (As long as I dont watch roadies again).
I feel bad when I see such television. I feel worse because I could see that this program is very popular (every commercial break had about 5 minutes of advertising). I will not get into comparing how things earlier, but I think that a few such data points can help us extrapolate where things are headed -
- where TV is headed
- where public acceptance levels are headed
- where education levels might be headed
All we know has been taught to us - from teachers, parents and friends. Of course we read, but then it is our peers and soceity which decides what are the first few things we read, or even that we start to read. Media plays an ever increasing role. Reading and discourse probably leads to opinion and action and so on.
What if an entire generation of teachers, friends and parents are brainless, wont the succeeding generations lose out on a lot and would have to reinvent the educational and cultural wheel? I like to think that such things have happened before - for example, the ruin of the various south american civilisations (I guess we dont even know how long it will be before we understand their abilities completely) and their replacement by the Europeans.(Funny how the Europeans called labeled all these civilisations as barbarians. The sense of humour of this universe knows no end.)

Drastic change of topic -
I also got to see "Luck by chance". I liked it. It is a good movie.
Since SS has threatened dire consequences for talking about it on the blog before she gets to see it, I will just say that a murder mystery of such finesse is very rare to come by.
Also, for all of you who read my blog, please wish me luck. There is something up for which I need all your wishes.