Must Be Famous

There is a new moniker I’ve earned from my frequent Facebook about the crazy people I meet on a practically daily basis. I’ve shared once before about a Romeo and Juliet cab ride, so this is an episode 2 to the ongoing hilarity that is shared cab land.

Yesterday, I had the misfortune to be stuck in a cab with a driver who knew very little about the city’s roads. He was following the navigation on the dashboard, and therefore came to a standstill near a pickup. The following conversation ensued:

Driver calls the passenger: “Sir, where are you? I am at the pickup point.”

Customer evidently asks for a landmark; not an unreasonable request.

Driver, ignoring a huge bank, a large shopping complex, a few branded restaurants, and much more, says: “Sahara airconditioner repair. I am on the opposite side.”

In sheer amazement, I turn to look for this repair shop, only to see a tiny tin shack with a flimsy board, without a door, on the opposite side. This is what he chose as a landmark?

Surprisingly, the customer was not familiar with this tiny, blink-and-miss tin shack. Shocking, I know.

Then the customer says something, which I can’t hear, to which the driver says:

“No sir, I don’t know the plot number.”

The two clearly deserve each other.

Epilogue: The driver tsk-tsk’ed at a passerby, who came up to his door. He then handed the phone to the passerby, who took it bemusedly, and said: “Who is on the other line?”

The driver then said that it was a passenger who was lost. That’s right folks, the PASSENGER was lost, not the driver.

Moron magnet, someone called me. Of course.

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Drinking Habits

I sometimes wonder where I get my idiotic sense of humour from, but then I remember some of the things my mother says to me (and some of the things my father has done) and I am no longer surprised. Case in point:

I was chatting with mom about a container of soup I have ordered for lunch, but can’t finish. She suggests I bring it home, to which I demurred, because the container is of the flimsy plastic variety, and there are good chances that it will spill. To which my brilliant mother says:

“Why will it spill? Are you drunk?”

Right. 3 reasons why this is crazy:

  1. I am a teetotaller; a fact she knows very well, being one herself.
  2. It is the middle of the afternoon.
  3. I am at WORK. In an OFFICE. With OTHER people.

Yep.

Movie Review: Outsourced

Coming from the land of the perennially outraged, I was prepared to be extremely open-minded about this movie. And so I was, so perhaps my review is more balanced that it perhaps deserves.

Story: Todd Anderson works in the call centre for an American company, churning out American gimmicky products, for the American public, in America. The stuff is made in China though, and, to cut costs, his department is being outsourced. To where? India.

If the injury of losing his job wasn’t bad enough, the indignity of having to train his replacement and the team is also heaped on his plate. His manager inveigles him with the threat of losing stock options in a bad economy.

So Todd flies to India.

Review: The movie was very funny, but very superficially. I did laugh at the Indian accent turning ‘Todd’ to ‘Toad’. I laughed at the cow in the office. The half-finished office. I laughed when he did a Salman Khan dance too.

Jolly good! *head wobble*

But it is a glaring example of poverty porn. The guy lands in Mumbai, the commercial capital of the country, and see only shacks and shanties lining the road. He gets down to catch a ferry near the Gateway of India, which happens to be cheek by jowl with Taj and Oberoi. All three edifices are kept out of the frame, possibly to reinforce the rundown-ness of this mosquito-infested, cow-ridden country. It is sad, because right now I am typing this post on a MacBook Air, seated under a Daikin airconditioner, in a glitzy office, in Mumbai. [Let’s ignore the fact that I am meant to be working.] And the impression people have of India is that it is a bunch of yokels, chasing after cows.

Story: There is a story. That’s about the extent to which it is gotten right. The rest is a mad mix of romance, comedy, and drama. And not in a good way. There are no surprises, everything is a trope, and everything is exaggerated. Case in point: a guy wants to put up pictures of his family in his cubicle, so he wallpapers every conceivable surface at his disposal with the photographs. Unless he has a 1000 family members, this is unnecessary and excessive.

Characters: One-dimensional, nonsensical, and stereotypical.

Acting: Awful, hammy performances.

What I liked: It was funny in parts. But that’s because of the afore-mentioned open-minded approach, and my idiotic sense of humour.

What I disliked: Everything.

Rating:

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The Second Biggest Challenge

There are a number of things that trip up my progress with the whole weight loss gig. First, it is my lack of resolution and staying power. I have staying power for a lot of things, unless they are wholly in my control. Then, I tend to take the easy way out. With my new combat fitness class, I am going to be shelling out a substantial sum, and that will goad me into being regular.

But this post isn’t about how I battle my lack of resolution, but the second biggest demon: embarrassment.

In this wonderful class, with an amazing coach, and a fantastic trainer, I am in the worst shape. [I kinda love this sentence, with all the superlatives. hehe.] I am the fattest, not the oldest (but those guys are fitter), and the one with the least ability. And therein lies the rub.

It would be awesome to go into something like this with some sort of pre-existing ability. Like I did with my French classes in Goa. I had already been through levels of French in Pune, and I found the course a breeze. It enabled me to stop feeling nervous and to really grasp the nuances of language that has escaped me the first time. That sort of leg up can make it for me. And it is a tremendous confidence boost, although I wasn’t in competition with anyone else.

Right now, I’ve been to two fitness classes. And it is a struggle not to want to collapse into a heap because everyone else is [literally] running laps around me. In short, I feel utterly humiliated and embarrassed.

Stupidly though, and I know this because I have a functioning brain, all this is purely in my head. Not by a word or glance have any of the others, least of all the trainer, betrayed disgust or disdain for my lack of ability.

So I tell myself, everyone has to start somewhere. Everyone had a first day once. At least I am here trying to get to the next day, the next month, the next year: the next level.

I cannot also myself to be discouraged with lack of immediate progress, because that’s not how physiology works. I have to focus on doing one more rep, being a little less breathless, kicking a little bit higher, and tweaking my form a little more each time. That is going to be enough, but I have to keep telling myself that.

Ultimately, I want to enjoy this process. And focusing on the result isn’t going to get me there any faster or happier, which is more important.

Falling Down and Getting Up Again

Before I started writing this post, I peeked at the page where I am documenting my so-called journey of weight loss. [This post will be indexed there too, so it is kind of meta that I am linking to the container page from within the post. Sorry. I need to geek out slightly.]

Anyway, so I looked at the posts on that page, and I can see fairly clearly that I have gotten absolutely nowhere. I am still as fat as before, if not more. But I haven’t started writing this to whine, but to talk about how I have decided (anew) to change that. The millionth time’s a charm?

So, last year, before quitting my full-time job, I looked up places that taught martial arts. Specifically mixed martial arts. I am not only terribly unfit, but also an unfortunate target of a lot of unwanted male attention. I thought it might me feel a bit more secure to be able to kick ass.

However, due to circumstances, I didn’t join at the time. I saved the number in Keep, and never mustered up the courage to call, nor to tell my family about this new desire. [Because my mum would have been very enthusiastic, and perhaps pushed me to join sooner.]

Last month, I bit the bullet and called the number, terrified of lord knows what. The man didn’t answer, and I heaved a sigh of relief and figured it wasn’t meant to be.

Only. He called back.

Um.

Ok.

Breathe.

Be normal.

Speak to him, you idiot.

I asked him a few questions, and he was unsurprisingly an easy person to talk to. [No matter how many normal people I speak to, I always imagine them as ogres in my mind before speaking to them.]

I laid out all my caveats. I’m 33. I’m very overweight. I have gout. I have a mostly sedentary lifestyle. I don’t know whether I was subconsciously asking him to reject my candidature. He did no such thing. He said that anyone could take the class, and they would progress as per their individual capability and speed. He had an excellent suggestion: come to a class and see what it is like. I was out of excuses.

The next morning, I legged it to the class. I was there for less than 5 minutes, because that’s how quickly I was sold on the idea. I said that I would need a couple of weeks to settle in with a new project that was coming up, and after that I would join the class.

My first class was on Tuesday. It was intense. I couldn’t do all the reps that the trainer instructed, but I tried. My body is out of shape and doesn’t not respond well yet to orders to move it so vigorously. But I tried.

Wednesday, my body was groaning and aching, and my muscles felt fit to burst with agony. I was hobbling around like an ancient crone. I alternated between relishing the stress on my muscles, knowing that it was good for me, and being scared about continuing.

I was still undecided this morning. But I decided to take it step by step: get out of bed; shower and change; get to the class; and then see whether I am able to cope.

I wasn’t able to cope, but I tried once again. Again, I couldn’t do the reps. But I’m going back on Saturday.

Series Review: Bitten

I have to admit that I am a sucker for supernatural series, books, and movies, which is probably evident from the number of them I have reviewed thus far.

Bitten is another in a long list of series that I have started, and instantly regretted. But because I possess an unrelentingly completionist character flaw, I couldn’t stop.

Premise: Elena Michaels is the only female werewolf in the world. She belongs to the American Pack, but has chosen to distance herself from the violence that seems to be part and parcel of that world. Part of her decision stems from a similar need to distance herself from Clayton Danvers, her ex-fiancé. However, when the alpha, Jeremy Danvers, calls due to a situation, she heeds his call to go back. Season 1 focuses on her trying to keep her new life and old from intermingling. The subsequent two seasons have other overarching storylines, but would involve spoilers even for a bare outline.

Review: Bitten is not a great show. It had a solid premise, and I believe it was based on a series of best-selling books. The trouble with adaptations, even though series are more suited to long-form storytelling like books as compared to movies, is that they lose some of the instinctive sense that the original author possesses. Case in point is Game of Thrones. Anyway, I digress.

Theme: The show is an unrelenting drama. And when I say unrelenting, I mean that the drama is ceaseless. There are very few notes of humour leavening the heaviness, and those are few and far between. In fact, I only saw those in the first season, because as members of the Pack started to get killed off, none of the characters retained a modicum of happiness in the avalanche of their grief, desire for revenge, and constant issues.

While there is nothing wrong with dramas, the viewer tires of so much seriousness. Also, some of the issues are not developed convincingly, thus making them hard to support emotionally. By the time I reached the end of the show, there was a strong sense of “Get over yourselves!”.

The tone was disappointing by overall it was possible to overlook. What was utterly ridiculous was a lack of background development. The potential was glaringly there, but not used at all. The wolves’ mythology wasn’t explored, until the second season, and it was a blink-and-miss moment.

Characters: Unrelatable, flat, and one-dimensional characters. No doubt the actors were good, but they had very little to work with. The only person with a seemingly faceted personality is Clayton Danvers, but it is the barest flicker. Elena Michaels is whiny, damaged, and constantly sighing and complaining. Jeremy Danvers is strong and authoritative. Nick Sorrentino is fun and charming, and later also a little damaged. Logan is supportive, till he has problems, then he becomes the ultimate whiner.

Acting: I imagine the actors are good, but due to the paucity of material, they probably couldn’t do much.

What I liked: The premise is interesting. I also like the foreshadowing in some bits. It was very subtly done and natural, and I only caught it because I am an obsessive dissector of stories and dialogues.

What I disliked: The character development, story development, the lack of tone, the unresolved issues, and so on.

Rating: ✩✩

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When Bollywood and Cab Companies Collide

The result is a fantastic explosion of hilarity and background music.

So, for my new consultancy project, I have decided to eschew the tribulations of Mumbai train system, and opt instead for a shared cab ride.

The cab company and I have a long fractious history together, because I routinely complained about their terrible service. Guess I have to eat humble pie now, because their share service has just about saved my goat.

But, occasionally the Gods reward me with a hilarious commute experience that takes the sting out of having to spend 1.5 hours cooped up in a car. (An airconditioned car, so really the sting is more of a gentle brush. I am not an ingrate.)

So. I call for a cab, and get into a smallish hatchback. The airconditioner is at full blast, the radio is playing loudly (not painfully loudly though), and another rider is in the front seat. I was a little surprised by this, because I was the second rider, and she would’ve had the whole backseat to herself before I came in. This conundrum was solved presently though.

The music, as I mentioned earlier, was playing quite loudly. The driver, props to him, turned around to ask me whether the music was too loud. I said no mainly because it was playing 90s Bollywood songs, and they are my guilty pleasure. He then asked whether the airconditioner was comfortably set, and when I replied in the affirmative, he nodded in satisfaction and proceeded to move along.

As we reached the end of the lane, I suggested he take a U-turn back to the highway. However his phone navigation was saying something else entirely. And he says: “Google toh yahan dikha raha hai. Google toh galat nahi bolega!” [Google is showing us a different route. Google wouldn’t be wrong!]

I tried once more, and shrugged. Fair enough, he was pleasant enough and he has a right to go in the direction he feels is best.

Of course, the “route” turns out to be a dead-end alley, with a bustling population of people milling about. I say “people” loosely to include cows, chickens, the odd goat, and a few pigeons for good measure. There were small houses, almost shanties, on either side and presumably the inhabitants’ vehicles parked outside those, adding another layer in this already congested lane.

The other rider was talking the whole time to the driver, because I had subsided after my initial goodnatured suggestion to pick a different route. She laughed, and said he would end up knocking something down. To which he replied, also goodnaturedly: “Chammaat kha lunga. At least traffic se bacch jayenge. For that, chammaat khaane ke liye tayaar hu!” [I’ll get smacked. At least we’ll be saved from the traffic. For that, I’m ready to get smacked.]

By this time, I realised two things: one, the girl was flirting with the cab driver, and once I got a better look at him I realised the second thing. He was young, rather goodlooking, well groomed, and clearly not of the menial labour pool of drivers. That also explained his evident soft skills, of asking whether I was comfortable, because I usually get grunts from cab drivers. And dude was funny. Intentionally so.

So we drove down the steadily narrowing alley, all three of us laughing at the absurdity of it all. Before long, we realised that the alley didn’t have another exit. So we looked for a place to turn the car around. And we found a clearing, but our hero thought it wasn’t wide enough. So we powered on. Of course that was a major mistake. If the alley was narrow before, it was suffocating at this point. We were now stopped because a little further, and someone’s porch would have been knocked down.

Worth considerably more than just the one chammaat methinks.

Anyway, a plethora of people poured out of their homes, in order to investigate our appearance. Our driver speedily gained several helpers, in order to reverse the car (in a considerably smaller space, mind you!) without materially damaging anything. This process took a good 20 minutes, by which time I was in pain from trying to suppress my laughter. Thankfully, no one was paying me any attention, as he concentrated on moving the car, and his cheerleader in the front seat, well, cheered him on.

Once out of the alley, we moved to the highway. We all noticeably relaxed, and the girl began to sing along to the songs on the radio. I have to hand it to Juliet, she sang like a bird. Her voice was clear and high, and damn could she belt out a few songs! Fortuitously, the songs were romantic ones.

She started chatting with him as well. That’s when I, the unwilling but highly amused third wheel, learned that he had an MBA, used to work in an office but decided to take a break, and this was his own car. Juliet was fairly impressed with this streak of entrepreneurship, as evidenced by the change in the register of her voice.

The rest of the ride was uneventful, but their conversation was listing on the side of her being mildly attracted to him, and him slowly freezing in response. To be fair to her, she wasn’t being vulgar, just flirty. But he wanted none of it.

How sad. I’d already thought of what to get them for a wedding present.