Sunday, 28 October 2012

An Ode to Old Monk

A winter night in Delhi without a peg or two of our most beloved dark rum is like sleeping naked in snow. Even summers are incomplete for a few without having some Old Monk with chilled water and a lot of ice cubes popped in. But suffering from the myth that rum is supposed to be had in winters only, the real season begins when the air conditioners are switched off in Delhi households. And that time is NOW.

The single malt of rums; is what I personally like to refer to Old Monk as. Talking about whiskey, you’ve got your desi stuff (8 PM, Bagpiper), you’ve got the better desi stuff (RS, RC), then you’ve got the entry level scotch (Teacher’s, etc), obviously the slightly higher level ones (JW, Chivas), and well there’s always the Glens and the single malts of whiskeys. There’s a lot of variety, which is good, but then it also leads to a lot of confusion.

From what I’ve heard, the desi whiskeys that we have here in India are nothing but flavoured/coloured rums. I personally despise anything that’s not scotch. The standard whiskeys here taste weirdly plastic and give you a bad hangover. Scotch, is something I still can’t afford to have on a regular basis, which is fine by me. I have my Old Monk.

Old Monk is as cheap as the entry level whiskey and as smooth as single malt. If you get used to it, there’s nothing like it. It’s safe, it keeps you warm, it helps you deal with your daily frustrations, it’s there when you want to celebrate, it’ll help you get that random chick, it’s not too LS that makes you looks like a chindi neither is it too upmarket to make you look like a snob. It’s just perfect, right where it is. It fits in wherever you are, be it at Jama Masjid while you’re having ‘bade ke kabab’ or at Hyatt for Dum Pukht. Old Monk bridges that divide between rich and poor, classy and desi, Hindu and Muslim, circumcised and Christians, fat and obese, cricket and football, and my left testicle and your right moob.

It can be had with water, it can be had with cola, it can be had with a girl and it can also be had as a shot with the standard salt and lime. It can be had with friends while you’re playing cards at home this Diwali, it can be had with the guy you want to slap who beat you at poker on Diwali the night before, it will be needed while you’re masturbating on the terrace while checking out your neighbour trying out her new sweater and it will be there for you when you’re left beat up by the side of the road in Manali when you’ve had too much to smoke and you just ended up with the wrong bunch of firangis.

I got a little carried away there probably because I’m on my 4th peg of Old Monk. Winter is coming. I have an excuse to drink legally at home on a daily basis. I need this to keep me warm. It doesn’t look too cool when you balls are the size of a peanut because of the low temperature of Delhi. You need to Monk to keep ‘em balls warm. And ladies, there ain’t a hotter woman than the one who can drink the Monk like and man!

So here’s to Old Monk. The healer, the saint, the fighter, the quaint; the modern, the master, the warden’s party blaster.

Cheers to each and everyone who drinks and enjoys Old Monk. Give me a shout out if you want a free drink. Maya Bar is always open and the Old Monk never runs out. Ahoy mates, this journey has just begun. HIC!

PS – This is not an ode. See, I fooled you. Better go have that peg of Old Monk right away I say. 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Of Megadeth, Delhi Safari, Anniversaries and More

Did you see a guy running around half naked when Megadeth was playing? Did you also notice that same guy do a ‘Hips don’t lie’ when Mustaine was ripping the solo on one of his song’s? That was me. Unless there was another guy belly dancing to Symphony of Destruction.

Did you also get a chance to see this beautiful animated film called Delhi Safari which released this Friday? And did you, by any chance, wait till the end credits rolled and notice the 4th name on the left of the Animators’ list? That too was me. No ifs and buts here.

It’s been quite an eventful last few days. Although why you might be interested in reading about how ‘kewl’ my life is beyond me. I went to the NH7 Weekender. Day 1 was a breeze when I was alone and sober and taking pictures. Day 2 on the other hand was a crazy affair when I was with my girl and a bunch of other friends from work. Don’t remember much of Megadeth but I’ve been told I wanted to rape a man for some reason.

Life moved on and in came the biggest week of my life. Delhi Safari released on the 19th of October. The moment, for which I’d been waiting for over 10 years, finally occurred. I worked on an animation feature which released on the big screen and I had my name in the credits. I kid you not but my eyes went moist with joy.

On the same day I celebrated my parents’ 30th anniversary with my close ones and had good food along with some smooth alcohol. Yes, we’re Jains like that; we booze and eat meat, especially when the whole world is fasting. Another milestone of the day was my 1 year anniversary in Delhi. Probably the busiest, happiest, craziest, year I’ve ever spent in Delhi. It’s been one roller coaster ride and PLEASE KILL ME FOR USING THE MOST CLICHED LINE EVER.

Since this post is more of a personal update and a post to maintain the regularity on the blog, I’ll ask for your leave and quickly conclude this. Stay tuned, I’ll continue with my regular, and hopefully interesting stuff, soon enough.

Things are only about to get better.
Let’s do this thing together.
Stay with me, enjoy the ride.
Sleep well, have a good night.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Durga Ma Ki Jai

I can feel it in my fingers. I feel it in my toes. Okay, maybe not the toes but I do feel Durga Puja all around me. From Chitaranjan Park to Model Town, Mayur Vihar to Pashchim Vihar, pandals are being set up, boards are being put up, and there's this sense of excitement in the air. This 'pre-buzz' phase of the oncoming festive season is the perfect build-up ever. Period.

There's a change in the air, it's much cooler now. People are falling ill, including me, but not complaining as they all know it's thanks to the change in weather. A change that is good and most welcome by any Delhiite, who, by the time it's October is quite sick and tired of the heat and is really looking forward to the chilly weather that accompanies the 3 months of November, December and January.

Having lived in a Bengali society aptly named 'Anand Lok' as a kid I've had the best times of my life during this very period where Durga Ma and Kali Ma become more important that our actual Ma. The kids, especially, are the ones most looking forward to those 5 days of merriment that ensue from Panchami to Navami (hope I got that right). Starting with Anand Mela, it goes on to 3 days of cultural festivals in which a number of those very kids participate in and make their parents proud other than just having fun themselves. The slightly elder ones have a reason to stay out till late and enjoy beers in parks and whatever terraces they find open. The uncles and aunties get to dress fine and meet up with their peers over scotch and gossip after each gala night of plays, dances and music shows. Durga Puja really does cater to everyone.

Diwali might be a bigger festival for Hindus but the only problem is that Diwali is, at max, a 2 day event. Whereas Durga Puja, including the preparations, feels like it lasts for a month. And that's where Durga Puja takes the cake when it comes to enjoyment. People around you are generally happy. Uncles don't complain when they see you smoke a cigarette. Aunties are more than happy to see a drunk you dancing after the Dhanuchi performance, and the ladies adore the attention they get during Dandiya. The kids, on the other hand, enjoy every little thing about this time. Be it a quiz competition, painting competition, 'lemon-on-spoon race', musical chairs, magic shows and what not, it's as if the kids are in Disneyland for those few days.

Tambola (Bingo) at night is an experience they never forget and chilling at the pandal till midnight gives them a feeling that they've finally grown up. This is the time when kids actually hit puberty and not when they get their first hair down there. All this happens without a hint of religion being forced down on anyone. Apart from the morning and evening aarti, there's hardly anything that would make you feel that anyone's trying to promote their own religious propaganda and promoting anything in the name of God. In fact, a lot of good comes out of it too, like the daily bhog in the afternoon where, in the olden days, people used to actually sit down on tables with the whole colony and eat together. And all the kids would proudly serve everyone before they had a bite themselves. Things might've changed now, with the buffet system and all, but the essence still remains.

Durga Ma is probably the most fun Goddess of all time. The only competition she has is Ganpati, who, again, is a cute looking God who probably loves to have fun. I might not believe in any religion in particular but that does not stop me from enjoying Durga Puja one bit. Also, I'm not a Bengali, and that's the beauty of it, really.

So here's a big shout out to Durga Puja and all the happy times that are about to come. Brace yourselves, Bengali's are going to wake up from their slumber and get in action for this annual event.

Bolo Durga Ma Ki Jai!

PS - All image credit to Surabhi Chowdhury.

What Work-Life Balance?

“Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
When I come home cold and tired
It's good to warm my bones beside the fire”

I’m pretty sure Pink Floyd weren’t talking about any Tomar, Dinesh or Harish coming back home after a hard day’s work at their office. But Tomar, Dinesh, and Harish, on the other hand, were definitely humming this song whilst coming back home from yet another hard day at work.

Welcome to ‘Work-Life Balance 101’.

Child, if you think you have a life, think again. If you’re the average Jai, which I’m pretty sure you are, you most definitely don’t have a life. What you have is an illusion that you like calling ‘life’ which consists of a job that you pretend to like in front of your friends, a thrashing weekend where you hide your tears behind that peg of Old Monk, a family you hardly get to talk to and Facebook/Twitter to prove to the world that this illusion really exists.

Shoot me if I’ve been wrong so far.

Okay, so tell me, you spend about 10-11 hours a day at work, about an hour or two in travel, a couple maybe to get ready before work and freshen up after it, and at the very least an average of 6 hours of sleep on a daily basis. That sums up to about 20 hours a day which you spend AT work or getting TO work or simply sleeping. What have you left to live your so called ‘life’? A measly 4 hours a day which you, in all likelihood, spend drinking or eating or even working again, just so that you could enjoy this ‘life’ a little more. I’m really sorry to break this for you, but no, that is not how ‘life’ is supposed to be.

But alas, there’s no set definition of how this life’s supposed to be lived.

“Oh I work my ass off during the week but I ensure I have a blast over the weekend!” is like saying “Oh I really hate my wife but I really dig her when I get to have sex with her!” This is not working out boss, sorry! Just like your wife is not a piece of meat why do you treat your life like a bitch? It’s not supped to be raped with excess cribbing over the week and an abundance of alcohol over the weekend. There’s only so much one can pretend enjoying life. What we’re headed towards is total disaster where we’re bitter about every little thing in life and things are as fake as that smile on your face.

Have you ever really stopped in life and just stood still to take a deep breath and think about life itself? Have you ever really felt that exhilarating pleasure of pure bliss which you once felt as a kid when rolling down on a slanted garden? Do you really think you’re doing something worthwhile which, forget the world, you feel good about? Do you think you’ll be remembered once you die? Forget that, you won’t be remembered once you leave the party.

All this might be sounding too idealistic, I know, but it’s worth a thought I’d say. We can’t go all extreme and feel and breathe ‘life’ in every breath of ours. Getting stuck in this crappy illusion of a life that we’ve created for ourselves is not good either. A little more honesty, with our own selves, would help us a great big deal.

I’m afraid if I continue on the same thought I’d continue giving more gyaan and that’d just repel the whatever little views I’m going to get on this blog post.

Take this as a rant, take this as a chant
Either way, there’s one thing that you can’t
Claim that you enjoy drinking booze in gallons
Tell me, oh child, where’s the work-life balance?

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Ab Dilli Door Nahi

“So... We’ve done some really good work here, we’re getting in more clients and hopefully more projects. We’ll still stick to our philosophy and do good work only since we do not want to compromise to us. The whole idea to form this studio was to do quality work in India which was, quite frankly, missing. But... Sadly the current situation of the studio does not look great... Uhmm... Means... We’ll have to take some drastic steps... We’ll have to let some of our employees go...”

This uncomfortable and a much difficult speech by the owner of the animation studio where I worked still echoes in my head like it just happened last week. The memory is so vivid that I remember that ‘Black Friday’ down to the last detail. We’d all decided that we’d wear black that Friday when the ‘firing’ was supposed to happen. And it did, it went down pretty bad.

Prior to that we’d all been pretty chill about it since we had become quite used to delayed and reduced salaries. Some of my colleagues had to sell off their belongings to make ends meet, married people especially, but it was still easier for us young bachelors for we could still manage to live and have fun in spite of a couple of thousands worth of deduction from our pay. We all did it, we all continued to work because we felt that it was all still worth the effort we were putting in, worth all the difficulties we were facing, be it delays in home loan instalments or thinking twice before going out to drink. We were working on something big. We were working on something we could call ours. We were working on Delhi Safari.

I worked with Krayon Pictures in Pune for about 2.5 years. A memorable 2.5 years to say the least. Considering it was my first job and all, it truly was an experience of a lifetime. I never went to college, but I don’t think I missed it either. Working at an animation studio in Pune, the education hub of the country, was no less than going to Stephen’s or Xavier’s or Christ. The work culture was truly something that is not only hard but impossible to find anywhere else. The people were nothing less than amazing and I would be lying if I said I didn’t make any friends for life there. In spite of all that was going on in my personal life there was still this one thing that kept me going, the fact that I was working in arguably the biggest and the best animation film this country had ever seen.

What started off as a dream back in school, when I used to go watch animation films with my mother and wait for the end credits where we’d both point out Indian names in the list and feel happy about it, I knew I had to get my name up there someday for her to see and feel proud of. The journey to get there was quite long and had its share of ups and downs, but it looks like I’m finally there, in all probability I’ll get to see my name in that list. So what if it’s not a Pixar or a Dreamworks film, Krayon Pictures’ Delhi Safari is not less than the Madagascar of India. On the 19th of October, I shall stand proud, with my mother, at a cinema near me and watch the fruit of all the effort and the sleepless nights we all put in to create this piece of art which was initially to be named ‘Ab Dilli Door Nahi’. Hence the title.

Now do I truly understand the phrase of the term Ab Dilli Door Nahi. As I sit here at my home in Delhi, miles away from where all the magic happened, I’m getting impatient just counting the days. I might not be working in the so called ‘animation industry’ anymore but I still feel there is that animator in me somewhere, just sleeping for a while. For all practical purposes I will not get back to animation, I’m currently quite happily employed as a writer in my hometown, but in my dear Justin Bieber’s words “Never say never. Just be gay.” Okay, maybe he did not say the second bit but that’s what the subtext is of all of his songs.

So ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and children of all ages. Get ready to witness the magic on October 19, 2012 when Delhi Safari releases at a cinema near you. On that auspicious day, 5 years after its journey started, what will come to fruit is the years of effort of over 200 animators’ sweat and blood. On that very day I complete my 1 year in Delhi after leaving Bengaluru and with it the animation industry. But the best part of it all is that on October 19, 2012 my parents celebrate their 30th anniversary. I don’t think I could’ve given a better gift to my mother.

So here’s to Delhi Safari and everyone who worked on it and everyone who’s going to watch it and for all your good wishes. And here’s to ma, this one’s for you. Cheers!

This is where the magic started.