Every once in a long long while , along come some unforgettable cultural icons. They stretch the limits of what we think is possible , change our perspective towards life in particular and reality in general , overwhelm us and leave us drained and panting with their awesomeness. You are left with no choice , but to surrender all your senses to the phenomenon that is the icon , suspend all thought , and in general allow yourself to be overpowered by the experience. Mithun Chakaraborthy in Gunda is one such icon. Rajnikanth yet another. Us South Indians , ofcourse , will argue that , Rajnikanth is in a totally different league altogether and that , the two cannot really be compared or even that their names cannot be uttered in the same breath. I would not want to take this argument further , because it is said that , in a typcial room there are around 3056 items , using which Rajnikanth can kill you , including the room itself , and frankly am a little scared and dont want to die. And I can already hear Mithun Chakraborthy yelling at me and that too scares me. So suffice to say that , I have been overwhelmed by both these icons , other arguments notwithstanding.
But this post is not about these icons. The biggest mistake Rahul Dravid made , was to play in the same period as Sachin Tendulkar did. Sometimes , a bigger icon can outshine the smaller ones . If these said smaller icons , were born in another period , then they would have been big icons in their own right. So this post ,is dedicated to bring these smaller icons to light. Specifically , to bring any such deeds as they might have done , which deserve jawdropping awe to light. And in watching some of these , if you catch yourself ,thinking -“Woww..even Rajni couldnt do that.” , dont panic. It is natural. Too long have icons like Rajnikanth occupied our collective imagination. So ladies and gentlemen , we present to you -“The Captain”.
Watch this one:-
Yes , that what I am talking about. Apart from the general rule that , heroes should be old and plump and heroines young and plumper , there are certain other ,more stringent rules , before we bestow the status of a cultural phenomenon on someone. They are:-
1) A general defiance for the laws of physics , because , well …fuck physics.
2) An ability to stretch , challenge , distort , change and demolish your perceptions of the fabric that is reality , because , well ..fuck reality too.
Also observe , in the video that , The Captain , not only emerges unhurt , he also manages to hurt ,another man with the same bullet. And that is ofcourse another quality that we want in our Cultural Icons. Old fashioned , simple and sweet-efficiency. “Hey the bullet does not hurt me …so why waste it …lets kill that bastard , standing there with it. I dont even need to move. I will just look at him . And the bullet will travel in the desired direction. ” Yes , bullets are afraid of the captain too. Ofcourse , if it is between the captain and Rajni , Rajni would anyday take precedence, but as I said , we are not talking about Rajni here.
So that brings us to the next rule:-
3) If a bullet does not hurt you , make sure it hurts someone. Efficiency , is not only a desired but a necessary quality, because , well….fuck bullets.
Observe the confused , expression of the policeman in the end. That brings us to our next rule.
4) Mere mortals should not understand what you are upto , because , well….fuck mere mortals.
I am a South Indian , and specifically from the state of Andhra Pradesh . And for a long while , I had bemoaned the lack of such icons , from my state. At one point in time , I was afraid , I would die , without seeing the emergence of atleast one such icon , from my state. Not any more . Ladies and Gentlemen , presenting to you – Balakrishna .
Did you see that..did you see that.? Now let us see , how many of the rules , that we discussed earlier , did this deed of his satisfy.
1) Defiance for the laws of physics and fucking physics – check
2) Distortion of perceptions about reality – check
3) Efficiency – ofcourse check. He did not do any hard labor , to move that train , he just politely asked it to move back. Ofcourse , some might say that pointing your index finger , is not exactly polite , but then , well…fuck trains.
4) Mere mortals not understanding you – did you not see how flabbergasted Sonali Bendre was?
Also observe , that he is very devout. And God is on his side. Now some might say , this is cheating. I mean you cant invoke God and get stuff done , and be called a cultural icon. Well , allow me to humbly submit that just because , The Captain was not seen to be praying in the bullet scene , does not mean that , he was not actually doing it. May be he was secretly. So I think Balakrishna deserves extra credit for his humility. So this brings us to the next rule.
5) Invoke God whenever you can – it helps , particularly when you need to push tonnes of metal out of the way.
I had in fact , for a long time suspected that , he was just pretending to invoke God . I mean I was pretty much sure , that he was God. And then , I watched this video , and realized , he has a long long way to go , before being called God.
God already walks this earth . Presenting the Captain again..
He meant to say , God not Narasimha.
And I am scared of even mentioning the checklist now.
When I die , I don’t want to be burnt. I once , burnt my fingers and didn’t like it. So I assume , being burnt wouldn’t be a very pleasant experience. I would rather be buried , you know , in some nice quiet corner of an out of the way graveyard , a little away from the others. But not too far away of course – graveyards are scary places after all , you wouldn’t want to wander away all by yourself . But yeah , I would want to keep some distance from the others , you know , privacy is important and just because one is dead , I don’t see any reason why one shouldn’t still exercise it. And perhaps the epitaph on my tomb could read , “He wanted to be left alone – you might as well.” And I hope people respect what is written on the epitaph and leave me the hell alone.
I am a private person. I like my space. I do not have an overwhelming urge to make friends . And even with the few I make , I would expect to have my space respected. I like to have thoughts , that are entirely mine and I don’t want to be an open book. I guess , I am the type , who likes to have secrets , not because of anything else , but just because he can. But then , such an attitude towards life , can easily be interpreted as indicative of a hostile and anti social tendency. And I have been called that many times. Growing up in a joint family , I have heard it many times , from my cousins. But somehow , this need for privacy has always prevailed over censure of any kind. Perhaps for me , its like an anchor , you know , some thing that gives me a sense of control over my life. And , censure or no censure , I would be loath to give it up.
The problem with people , in my opinion , is that there are too many of them. Just look around you , they seem to be everywhere. And the bigger problem is , most of them like to make their presence felt. And felt strongly at that. It is almost like , they fear , that they would fade out of existence otherwise. And it can get very annoying. Have you ever wanted to settle down quietly with a book , in that long train journey , only to have a pesky elderly gentleman , interested in the details of your life? Or a noisy family , sharing the compartment with you , who insists on offering you their food , and in return expect you to tolerate their anecdotes of a cousin in the US? Or a neighbor perhaps , who insists on helping you , and to your horror , you realize that in return ,you are expected to tolerate their annoying kids? That’s what I am talking about. And what makes it all the more irritating is the fact that most of these people are very well meaning.
By now , you must have realized that I am not a very people person. I am a manager , by profession , yes , but a reluctant one at that. And people annoy me easily , particularly , people who try to get too friendly too fast. There are various gradations in the level of annoyance that is caused by people. But in my book , the following would be the most annoying, in that order:-
1) Neighbors- in general
2) Neighbors with kids , between the ages of 3 and 10
3) Neighbors who try to get too friendly
4) Neighbors with kids between the ages of 3 and 10 , who try to get too friendly.
The last category , let me tell you , from unfortunate experience , is the worst of all. Intolerable beyond belief. . It is like the worst combination you could think of ever. Is the rat poison ready? Yes …Okay shake it up with some cyanide just to be sure…. You know , something like that..
Now there is nothing wrong with kids , they are nice , they are cute – under certain conditions. You know , like , from a distance , in photographs , when not crying , when not trying to scribble on your favorite novel , when not hungry , when not thirsty , when not in need of having to go , when not upto mischief – the list goes on. When anybody says , “I just looove ..kids “ , I am always tempted to ask , “specify your conditions.” Because I find it impossible to love kids unconditionally. And it becomes worse , when these kids belong to your neighbor. Allow me to illustrate.
There were these neighbors I had once. A couple with kids. Nice people. They were from MP. And it so happened that the lady did not know the local language and knew how to speak only Hindi. Me and my mom spoke Hindi , and this unfortunately , was taken as a sign by her that we should be friends forever. And so it all started. The couple started coming over to our place , started inviting us over to theirs , soon my mom and the lady were swapping recipes and exchanging dishes and in general being good neighbors and irritating the hell out of me. It was not so bad when my mother was around.. My mother lives with me only for small periods of time and rest of the time she is traveling. And so it became worse , when my mother was not around. The nice lady insisted that she would cook for me , and that I should eat at their place and so on. Now all this was fine , still tolerable. It wouldn’t have been such a bad deal , if it were not for their kid who was thrown in as part of the deal.
Yes , they had a kid. Yes , he was between the ages of 3 and 10. And yes , he was the cute but annoying kind. You know , the type you just can’t stand after like the first 5 minutes. He was loud , he was mischievous . Now one might say , isn’t that what is to be expected from a kid so young? Yes , but allow me to submit that , there is nothing more irritating in the world than other people’s kids being annoying at your expense. Trouble is, you cant do anything about it. If it were your kid , you could have done something. Now with the neighbor’s kid , yelling at him , is totally out. That wouldn’t be considered very polite. And in these situations , the parents take offence . It’s almost like you have yelled at them. And if yelling is out , the more extreme forms of physical punishment , are automatically out , otherwise , I would have loved to spank once in a while. And hence , all you can do is politely grin and bear. And that’s exactly what is taken advantage of.
Remember , your only chance of survival , are by acting distant and aloof , not with the kids but with the neighbors themselves. But in this case , that of course , was out. Before I even knew it , I was calling the lady Bhabhi , and the kid was calling me Chachu. And that , my friends , is a line never to be crossed. Once , these imaginary relationships are forged , once the kid starts calling you chachu or bhaiyya , you are trapped. You are obliged to be nice to him. You are expected to smile indulgently , when he annoys you . You are just back from work , and would like nothing more than sitting in front of the TV and laze ? And the kid comes barging in. How you wish you could yell at him , and send him back. Oh no , that not possible anymore . As bhabhi would say , “Ohhh , chotu likes you so much , he always waits for you to come back from office” , you are expected to smile , and at least for the sake of politeness , tousle his hair a little . You want to settle down , with that book of yours , on a Sunday , that you have been meaning to read for a while? How will you , fulfill your wish , when the kid is running all over the house , shouting , pestering you , asking to be taken out , and trying to grab your book from your hands. And hell , he is not even your own kid
And then bhabhi would come in , you look hopefully at her , expecting to be relieved of this ordeal. But no , she would merely say ,”Hope he is not bothering you , he likes you sooo much” . You smile , and say nothing , expecting that , she would understand and whisk the kid away. But then , to your horror , she walks off , and then you realize to your horror , that she is enjoying her Sunday at the expense of yours. And so you resignedly try to resume reading , while trying to save your book from the kid’s clutches.
And so it continues , eternal punishment , for being polite.
And that is why I keep saying , broken condoms are to be feared.
I hate haggling. I really do. I find it rather draining. And also that it complicates matters , in what otherwise would have been a very simple transaction. And as I invariably find myself baffled when faced with complexity of any kind , I try to avoid haggling at any costs.
However , I have found that , there are many people who love haggling. And they can haggle and do haggle everywhere . It is almost like an addiction. They seem to get a high out of it. The entire process of negotiation , going back and forth , trying to get the upper hand , gaining ground , strategically retreating at times , – you know , this entire process seems to have an appeal for so many people. And no I am not talking about people , who want to pay a fair price , for the wares they just bought. I am talking about an entirely different kind of species here.
These specimen ,they haggle for the sake of haggling. For them shopping and haggling are two inseparable processes. One is incomplete without the other. Be it shopping at the grocery store round the corner , or a shopping mall , haggling would be there. In fact , am sure of them embark on the process of shopping , just for the pure fun of indulging in a bit of haggling. I mean , there are places you haggle and places you don’t. There are some places , where you walk in , pick up stuff , ask for the price ,pay and get out. You don’t start haggling there. For instance , you don’t walk into Pizza Hut and say, “ Is large Pepperoni Pizza pe , kuch kum ho sakta hai kya?” . It just doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t work that way. But not for these specimens. If they could have , they would have indulged in it even here .”Yaar , isi daam main , pizza ke saath , garlic bread bhi daal de naa. Yaar..kya yaar…itna bhi nahi de sakte?” And when refused , they act all righteously indignant , as though they are being denied their rightful claim.
“I know how much the bread and the meat and the vegetables cost ok. Bevakoof samjha hai kya. You guys make so much profit , aur itna rote ho , thoda garlic bread dene ke lliye.”
I have always wondered why. I mean , what is it that drives people like this to haggle. I have had the opportunity , to observe , a few of these specimens up close , and also the misfortune of having to shop with them. And apart from loving haggling for it’s own sake , they also very strongly believe that , if you don’t haggle , you are losing out , being taken for a ride by the shop keeper. In other words , it is smart to haggle , dumb not to. And the more you haggle , the more of a smart shopper you are. And not haggling , is akin to bending over and handing your posterior over to the shopkeeper. Now , I have no idea whether this is true or not. But in my quest and in my desire , to keep things simple , I am perfectly willing to bend over , if it means no haggling. “No jell-o , you say , no problem , just use the oil and get it done with.”, I would say. And would protest strongly only , when a dry run is mentioned. So strong is my disinclination to haggling.
And the experience of shopping with such specimens, is well, an experience. That is the only way I can put it. It has an entire rainbow of emotions associated with it. Fun , embarrassment , relief , anger , greed , a sense of victory , a sense of futility and sometimes an aversion to life in general and a revulsion for that person in particular. Let me explain.
There is this gentleman, who I am acquainted with. A perfectly nice gentleman, in fact a wonderfully decent human being. When I had moved to the city that I am currently in ,around an year back , he was my neighbor. Very friendly and helpful. Helped me settle down and stuff. Unfortunately , he belonged to that species. He was the dreaded specimen. He was a haggler. And a haggler , of the worst kind. He had a wife , who was in awe of his haggling skills. (And also two kids , who though were cute , were also annoying , but I digress). Now my mother , was very impressed with this guy. Why not? He could talk very intelligently about , how much tadka had to go in daal , or what proportions of salt and pepper , had to be used , in that particular curry. He tried to interest me in these things , but I once bluntly told him , that I couldn’t even brew a decent coffee , and I did not even care enough to learn. Anyways , this combined with the haggling skills , was enough to impress my mother. And when , we had to buy furniture for the house , he insisted on helping us shop and my mother was more than happy to accept. And I not knowing , him to be a specimen , innocently agreed.
We walk into a furniture showroom. This showroom is part of a national chain of showrooms , a trusted brand , reputed to sell good quality wares. The staff is friendly and polite and helpful. We see a sofa set we like, and ask for the price.
“How much is this?” ,. I ask .
“25 K , sir”, the guy replies.
“Why 25 K “ , the haggler asks. He has a smile on his face.
That guy is stumped. He doesn’t know what to say. He must have been thinking , what does he mean , why 25K? Does he want to know how we arrive at prices? Does he want that entire calculation of margins and stuff?
“Well sir ….”, he mumbles , “quality and brand ..” , his voice trails away.
“Don’t tell me all this ,” , the haggler cuts in brusquely , “I know brand and all. This wont be 25K. Tell me how much will you give it for.”
“Well sir , there is a discount of 10% ,” , the guy says weakly.
The haggler laughs out loud. And there so much derision in this laughter , that any self respecting person , would have wanted to go home and cry himself into a puddle. I myself felt sorry for the shop guy.
“Don’t bullshit me “, the haggler says , “Give it to me for 15k”
It was my turn to be shocked. 25K was what was quoted. This guy was asking it for 15K. Shittt…how can anyone to do that , I thought.
I was so embarrassed , I developed a sudden interest in the carpet , and resolutely kept staring at it. I could feel the glances , of the shop guy , mutely asking for help , but I refused to look up. I just couldn’t find it within me , to do that .
“Actually , it will be only 12k , but since , you are branded and all , I am asking for 15K” , the haggler generously peppers insult on injury now.
At this , the shop guy smiled and called for his senior. I was terrified. I was sure , they were all going to stand around us in a circle , and start laughing at us. “Get out of here “, my brain screamed.
Thankfully , nothing of that sort happened. The junior guy merely explained the situation to the senior guy and the senior guy took over from there.
“No sir,” , he said firmly , “not possible” .
“I can get it for lesser outside.”, the haggler was threatening.
“Fine sir , “, the guy said.
“Now , now , how can you treat valuable customers like this . Tell me how much you will give to me for.” , the haggler.
“23K sir “, the guy.
“Why 23K ?”, haggler with a smile. And it all started over again. It went on and on , until finally I had to step in. The deal was stuck at 22,500. Clearly , it was victory for the store , and the haggler was not happy.
The bill was drawn , and logistics of delivery were being discussed.
“Sir , the delivery charges are Rs. 500 “, the shop guy said looking only at me , and refusing to look at the haggler.
“Why 500?”, the haggler said with a smile.
I jumped out of their glass frontage , shattering the glass , and ran and ran and ran.