Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Of shagmobiles and pointless wheeled crap

The car, or self-propelled carriage, is a relatively recent invention. But it has inspired more people than can be accounted for, it has changed the way the world travels, it has widened the common man's horizon, it has been art and beauty and technical brilliance. But, for something which at the end of the day still has only four bloody wheels and is used mostly to get about, we have plenty of variety. Take the engines for example. You could use petrol, or diesel, or even bio fuel, distilled from leftover cooking fat or made from plants. You could put the engine in the front, in the middle, or at the back. You could even turn it through ninety degrees. You could have 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12 or even 16 cylinders. And so on...
It could have 2-wheel drive, front or rear, or all wheel drive. It can have an automatic or a manual transmission, or even the arcade style flappy paddles.
You could put the steering wheel on the left, or on the right.
You could do so much with your car.
What then, seems to be the problem?
The problem is, we have too many 'big' cars. I mean who needs big saloons? Or huge SUVs with a gazillion horsepower? I have never understood the point of a Cayenne GTS, and probably never will. Don't even get me started on the X6. And before you even answer my question why BMW built it - "because they can" - and I'm sure there are plenty of idiots out there to whom this rotten piece of engineering debauchery appeals - let me say that it is worthless.
Thankfully, they cost a helluva lotta moolah, and so that helps, somewhat, in keeping their numbers low. But what about the big saloons?
Why do we have Honda Accords, Hyundai Sonatas, Toyota Camrys, Mercedes E Classes, BMW 5 Series', Audi A6s and so on? Why? 'Coz some genius thought that well, there might be people out there for whom an A4, 3 Series, Civic or Corolla was not good enough, but for whom an S Class, an A8 or Lexus LS was a bit much. Really? Don't get me wrong, you need a boot. And yes, if you're a big shot, you want a nice big and comfy saloon to be chauffeured around in.
I think the product planners - the engineers-turned-accountants - need to go back to their roots. Infinite differentiation and a bit of stickering and platform sharing will only get you thus far. And that's before I even start with the Germans and their hideous obsession with quantifying every 'new' generation of their cars in percentage terms. I quote: "The new Audi A4 has 13 % more torsional rigidity." Wow! Did you just say 13 % ?! Hmmm...no wonder the older car was such rubbish around corners. "The new engines use more precisely controlled injection and valve timing for a 7 % increase in fuel economy and 3 % lower emissions." So, if the bloody car gave me 6kpl, 7 % better fuel economy would mean 0.42 kpl more. That really goes a long way in lightening my fuel bills and saving the planet.
But wait, I have a plan. I think all car makers should sign a pledge. No more technical redundancy. Keep it good, keep it simple, and instead focus on really improving the 'Car of Tomorrow'. Think about it. The time and energy invested in retooling a new plant; the obsolescence of older dies and fixtures in a manufacturing unit; the added complexity of wiring all the add-on electricals; and the stock-pile of outdated cars which are then flogged for huge discounts, losing the company and the retailers a chunk of money anyway. In the end, it's mostly a generic look which is propagated from one 'generation' to the next.
And then we have the pointlessness of certain designs - today's crash safety requirements mean most cars come with chunky A-pillars. Do we have data to collate how many accidents happen at junctions and roundabouts because of obscured vision? Can we prove, either way, then that these A-pillars proved beneficial?
Point is, there are only two types of cars which make any sense at all - compacts, and sports cars. You don't need more than an i10 or a Spark or an Alto for the bulk of your urban existence. You'll save time, consume less fuel, help the environment, cause less crammage on the streets and not seem like a cad the next time you pull up to a traffic light in your superfluous Accord.
For the weekends when you want to 'go for a drive', pull out your sports car. Buy yourself a shagmobile. A car which you will love, lust after, and cherish. Something with silly horsepower, a bright colour, and handling which truly makes your penis tingle.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Me, metrosexual

"Do you exfoliate?" she asked me.


"Do you use a scrub?" she enquired exasperatedly.

A scrub?

"Never mind." She sighed, the long whistling sigh.

I was getting the look. You know the one; it mixes maternal disapproval with boredom and a sense of 'why am I with this idiot'.

"You should use a scrub once every two days," she explained. "It removes the dead skin giving your face a fresh glow," she further elaborated.

Ah, so, I replied. But why do I need to? I'm sure it comes off when I shave anyway, I reasoned.

"Do you shave your forehead?" she retorted.

Realising that it was a pointless discussion, she turned back to the shelf marked 'care products'.

I made for the cold storage.

"No bacon. You're getting fat," she called over her shoulder.

This from a woman who calls me Fatty anyway…

I'd be damned if I was going to give up bacon and use a scrub to exfoliate.

Anyway, it's been years since that incident, but it serves to highlight one major point: I am not one given to 'taking care of myself'.

I eat too much, drink quite a bit, enjoy my cigarettes… but I have a bath twice a day. But I've started to use 'products'. It's not that I capitulated or anything, but women in general like a well-groomed man. And as a perfectly heterosexual man, if I needed to exfoliate to keep my woman happy, I damned well would.

Over time, I started to use shave foam and shampoo. Actually, it was the shampoo which started it all off. Said girlfriend at the time was appalled to discover one measly bar of soap in my bathroom. I used the same bar to bathe, wash my hair, and shave.

So it was that a bottle of shampoo found its way to my bathroom, followed by a can of shaving gel. Having a girlfriend who stayed over often meant that there was no escape. Shampoo and gel levels were monitored.

When I un-did my helmet, I realised it smelled flowery.

To be fair, I nicked myself less when I shaved.

But I couldn't get my head around the exfoliating.

Once, before lunch, she handed me a vegetable peeler and some carrots and cucumbers. I couldn't resist. "Honey, I exfoliated the veggies," I exclaimed gleefully, while admiring my handiwork. I nearly got stabbed!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Bungalow Days

“O Shantaben….paani ochhoo vapro,” yodelled Tanay as he splashed out of the bathroom, leaving a dripping trail on his way to his room.
“Toh amhe nahiyye ke nai?” Shantaben screamed back from the servant’s quarters downstairs.
Vijyant meanwhile was preening in front of the little mirror, hair slickly combed back, as he proceeded to dab a sulphur-based medicated cream upon his pimply countenance.
“Ganja wait for me!” yelled Tanay again as he hurried to get ready lest he miss his lift to college on Vijyant’s (Ganja’s) bike. But Vijyant was almost out the front door.
Vijyant was the proud owner of a Hero Honda CBZ, the coolest bike back in the day. At the time, he was the only one with wheels in that bachelor pad, something he was immensely proud of, though he tried hard never to show it. Today though, he wasn’t going to wait for Tanay. Someone was surely waiting for a lift from the girl’s hostel to the hospital.
Barely had Tanay got one shoe on, when the CBZ was kicked into life. As Vijyant accelerated shakily up the slope, Tanay cursed under his breath. “Ketlo haraami chhe!” he told me with utter vehemence.
I looked on benignly from my newspaper. I had no college to go to. I had flunked out. I was a year down, or YD as they called it. The year was 2002, and we’d just moved into our bungalow.
The fourth character in this piece had just surfaced after all this commotion, and emerged into the sunlight on the terrace. “Madon, doodh puru thayu,” Persy informed me. Translation: ‘Bastard, you drank all of it.’ No I didn’t. It boiled over.
Persy was, and probably still is, one of those people who you never really knew. Some days, he was up with the rooster and off on a morning jaunt. Often, he slept till noon. Today though, he intended to sleep till noon. And the love ballad of Ganja and Gujju had put paid to that.
I returned leisurely to my paper.
Those days provided plenty of time for reflection. Life was strange. Yet simple.
I had been the only engineering student in the entire hostel of Bharati Vidyapeeth, or BVP.
One particularly lazy Sunday afternoon, over the excruciatingly stingy portion of chicken in my non-veg lunch, I observed the crowd around me. Most of them were living away from home for the first time. 18-year old boys would cry over the phone to their mothers. A lot of them walked scared, with shifty eyes that never rose from their toes. There was, however, one noisy one. His name was Tanay. Do you know the difference between a practical joker and a prankster? A practical joker engineers a situation to cause inconvenience to somebody; by contrast, a prankster is more of an opportunist. And nobody was a bigger opportunist than Tanay.
That day, an unfortunate soul found his pants around his ankles as he stood in the lunch line. It was a Sikh student, who’d washed his hair and left it open. Post bath, he was in the hostel for the Sunday feast, and now all of a sudden, he had a plate half-filled with food and no pants on. Worse, he probably hadn’t worn any underwear, for there stood Tanay guffawing and pointing to said victim’s crotch: “chootya ni polly jo!”
Till today, that incident sums up the boy.
Anyway, he walked up to me some days later and we got talking and then he introduced me to Persy who in turn introduced me to Vijyant and the rest as they say is history.
We searched high and low for a place to rent after we moved out of the hostel, settling on a derelict bungalow which hadn’t seen a lick of paint in probably a decade. Better still, it was supposed to be haunted. Over the next four years, 35/A Sai Krupa society became a sanatorium for madness.
There were barbeques, fights, all-night movie sessions, birthday parties, make out sessions and some voyeurism thrown in for good measure. Parents visited now and then. Floors were swept. Porn was carefully stashed. Ashtrays were hidden. Bottles were given to the raddiwallah.
We furnished it as we went along. So we got the fridge and electric stove. Then we got the big boombox and speakers from one of the peths. Essentials like beds and cupboards were rattly iron items purchased from second-hand bazaars.
“Bungalow people” as we came to be known, we had the coolest pad in all of BVP-dom.
It was those days when cell phones cost the earth.
I lived off 3500 rupees, inclusive of rent and food and all the debauchery I could get up to in that paltry sum. But we still partied. We still got drunk.
And then we sweated in the summer because we didn’t have money to pay the electricity bill. But then we’d sleep on the terrace, gazing at the stars as we drifted off…
We’d make movie plans 15 minutes before the film started, and race to catch it in time.
We’d stay in on Sundays and read.
We’d have eating competitions at Ashok dining hall.
Then cell rates became cheaper. We had free night calling. And free sms. Friends would sms from the front door: “darwaza khol” because at some level it was funny.
We’d prance on the terrace during the first rain, and haul out the eternally lazy Ganja and dump him in the rain.
We had a dog, Raul, who ate and drank everything we did. His name was even on the front door. When he mounted a Pomeranian in the neighbourhood, Ganja had to live with the joke that he was the only virgin in the bungalow.
We rode out to Mahabaleshwar and Mulshi and Lonavla and Matheran and Alibaug on countless weekends. We took Raul on the bike with us.
We chased chappals which floated away in a stream.
We crashed our motorcycles and cursed our friends as they cleaned our wounds.
We’d talk about movies and books and sometimes just sit and argue about almost nothing for hours. Tempers would flare. Sometimes, we almost came to blows. But we laughed. And of course it was everybody’s turn to get ragged.
Then life happened.
We graduated, and moved out.
Today, it’s all action plans and career moves and family time and finding the right woman.
Our parents have aged.
Our siblings have married.
We watch what we eat.
We curse less.
We’ve ‘grown up’. Damn.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Do you know the hallmark of a second-rater?

"Do you know the hallmark of a second-rater? Its resentment of another man’s achievement. Those touchy mediocrities who sit trembling lest someone’s work prove greater than their own – they have no inkling of the loneliness that comes when you reach the top. The loneliness for an equal – for a man to respect and an achievement to admire. They bare their teeth at you from out of their rat holes, thinking that you take pleasure in letting your brilliance dim them – while you’d give a year of your life to see a flicker of talent anywhere among them. They envy achievement, and their dream of greatness is a world where men have become their acknowledged inferiors. They don’t know that that dream is the infallible proof of mediocrity, because that sort of world is what the man of achievement would not be able to bear. They have no way of knowing what he feels when surrounded by inferiors – hatred? No, not hatred, but boredom – the terrible hopeless, draining, paralysing boredom. Of what account are praise and adulation from men whom you don’t respect? Have you ever felt he longing for someone you could admire? For something, not to look down at, but up to?"