Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Wahe Guru and the Emmy Awards..

Ever since Puja married into a Sikh household, the sardarji joke has taken a bit of a backseat in the family. But this one, narrated by a sardar (like all good sardarji jokes), bears repeating.

A teacher asks her class how lizards could possibly walk `upside down’, ie how did they manage to scamper across ceilings without ever falling off. She asked them to find out the answer, and come up with it the next day.

This sardar kid goes home, and asks his dad. “Daarji, chipkali ulta kis trah chaldi ae?”

Papa sardar thinks long and hard. Then shakes his head ruefully.

“Puttar, ae ta Wahe Guru di mehar ae!”

By the will or the `blessings’ of the Wahe Guru! Indeed!!

Much the same sentiment washed over me as I watched the 66th Emmy Awards show this morning. I had skipped my morning Sub Area routine to watch this, since we (Puja and me) follow most of the shows in contention.

What an utter waste of time! I might as well have seen last year’s show. Or the year before that. Or even the year before that. The same faces, carrying away the same awards. 


For the fourth year in a row, I kid you not, Jim Parsons wins the `Best Actor in a Comedy’  Award for playing the nerd Sheldon Cooper in `Big Bang Theory’. Four consecutive years, are you serious? In a scathing indictment of the system, British Comedian and fellow nominee Ricky Gervais, went on to read out his own acceptance speech as well!

`Modern Family’, a moderately funny sitcom, wins the Best Comedy series for the third year running, leaving the entire cast of `Orange is the New Black’ flatfooted.   

The drama category is no better. While `Breaking Bad’ was excellent, it cannot be the best in all categories endlessly. Bryan Cranston at the cost of Mathew McConaughey or Woody Harrelson or Kevin Spacey? Paul Aaron at the cost of Peter Dinklage or Jon Voight? Anna Gunn yet again, and no Maggie Smith??

While I faithfully watch American soaps as they are aired, thanks to Torrentz, I have never ceased to be amazed at the brazenness (read sheer stupidty) of the American creative mind. 


A simpleton called Peter Parker is bitten by a `radioactive’ spider (seriously?) and lo and behold, he can now scale vertical walls, and phweet phweet, in a jiffy toss out webbing from his palm, on which he can then swing from skyscraper to skyscraper in, where else, New York City!

A distant planet Krypton is all set to explode, so its ruler, the majestic Jor-El (played by Marlon Brando, no less) sends his toddler in a space capsule to planet Earth, where, hey presto, the kid finds he has super powers, while what’s left of Krypton is packed into a bottle!

Bruce Banner, a socially withdrawn and emotionally reserved physicist, physically transforms into a large green humanoid that possesses near limitless superhuman strength and great invulnerability, attributes that grow more potent the angrier he becomes! I kid you not!

Watch `The Avengers', which has these `super heroes' along with a guy who wields a huge hammer, and the delectable Scarlet Johanson as something or the other. Or the `Fantastic Four' which was ludicrous save for the eye candy that Jessica Alba provides.

Or take the `Wolverine' series. Mutants, seriously? And Hugh Jackman, what on earth were you thinking??

I’m not even going into the zombies, werewolf’s and vampires domain – The Walking Dead made me want to puke in the first episode itself! So I ask, in all humbleness, and with nary a trace of snark – Are all Americans developmentally challenged?

Back to the Emmys. Sid, if you ask me why the pathetic `Veep’ won Julia Louis-Dreyfuss her third consecutive Emmy over Edie Falcao or Melissa McCarthy or Taylor Schilling, I will only be able to say

“Puttar, ae ta Wahe Gure di mehar ae!”

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Goddamn You, Robin Williams!

In an eerily prescient scene from the movie `The Angriest Man in Brooklyn’, a dying Robin Williams informs his son that his tombstone would read 1951-2014. “Forget the years”, he tells him, “they’re just numbers. What matters is that dash in between – that was my life!”

So ok, Robin, let’s focus on that dash. Your life. You were born on 21st July, 1951. Just 18 days before me.

In the 70’s, when I was slogging away as a young Army officer, you were well on your way to riches and fame. `Mork and Mindy’, as forgettable a sitcom as ever graced the airwaves, made you a household name as that dorky man from outer space.

Maybe there’s a jinx to playing an alien in your first major role. Remember your classmate from New York City’s Julliard School, who also did that in 1978 (the same year you played Mork)? How he too, met with a tragic end? His name? Christopher Reeve, and the character he played was that alien from Krypton, we all know as Superman!

Fame in Hollywood is almost always accompanied by alcohol and drugs. So while I sipped Rum and coke in Army messes, you were snorting cocaine, and guzzling alcohol like there was no tomorrow. But OD deaths from substance abuse have an expiry date that is somewhere in the late 20’s. So once you passed 27, that famous fatal end-point for suicidal rock idols, there should have been a sense of achievement. Like reaching the next level of a video game. Sadly, that didn't happen in your case..

For all the zany characters you played, it was the serious roles that got you real acclaim. Three Best Actor Nominations – the eccentric DJ in `Good Morning, Vietnam’ (1987), the iconoclastic English teacher in `Dead Poets’ Society’ (1989) and another DJ nearly driven to suicide in `The Fisher King’ (1991). You finally got the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1997 for the teacher who played mentor to Matt Damon in `Good Will Hunting’.

You had it all. Fame, fortune, family. You reportedly adored Susan Schneider, your (third) wife. Your two sons and one daughter worshipped you. Movie goers around the world, while they detected the ache in your comic panache and the sad sweetness at your core, simply adored you! Didn’t you know that? And was that never going to be enough?  At what precise moment in your life did you decide to put that belt around your neck even as Susan slept in the next room?

Have you been able to read your daughter Zelda’s tribute to you? “My family”, she says “has always been private about our time spent together. It was our way of keeping one thing that was ours, with a man we shared with the entire world. But now that’s gone, and I feel stripped bare..”

Is that the legacy you wanted to leave behind? Heartbroken children who will forever bear both the stigma of your suicide, as well as the colossal guilt complex they will always carry - that perhaps they failed you somehow, perhaps they should have been there..

Goddamn you, Robin Williams – none of them, none of us who loved you so much deserved this!


Thursday, 7 August 2014

63, Going On 18...

Another year of `borrowed time’ slips by.

Sid is off, honeymooning in Ladakh. Puja, as only she can, is doing her masti in San Francisco. So the 63rd is bound to be low key. A few hits, some misses. C’est la vie!

Last year's cake from Marriot
Last year it was a cheesecake from Marriot. This time around, a much more modest walnut cake from the Maitri store next to the Command Canteen gets top billing. An aside to the kids - see that much is the difference you guys make to my life! Message in there somewhere? GOOD!!

Of course we’re closer to the end of the journey than the beginning, but new discoveries continue to be made. New people continue to enter your life, to enrich it.

The measure of one’s success in life is not the wealth or real estate one accumulates, but the number of lives one touches.  Take a bow, `Mitti Pao’! When I started this blog three years back, I thought I’d have a captive audience of just Puja and Siddharth. Maybe their spouses too, out of deference. But it has pleasantly surprised me.

Not only has it managed to renew old friendships, it has also made me some delightful new ones. As we grow older, we need to cherish the old and embrace the new, inhibitions be damned! What is life apart from a crateful of memories?

All in all, the fact that `Mitti Pao!’ has reached out to so many is heartwarming. When someone say they actually look forward to the next post, I must be doing something right!

At 62, last year..
The kids have lives of their own. The fact that one has given them wings is satisfaction enough. That they soar the skies is enough to warm the cockles of the heart, even if the empty nest rankles.

Be grateful for the relatively good health you enjoy. Mortality is ok, accepted in its inevitability, but what scares the daylights out of me is morbidity!

Minor hiccups are, of course, part and parcel of life. Was getting a double root canal done on the eve of my birthday. Ouch! The aim is to fit yet another bridge to span a missing molar. I have more bridges on my teeth than there are across the Hudson River in New York. My autobiography could well be titled `A Bridge Too Far’. 

I try to talk the dentist out of it. No value for money, I tell him, how long will it last? A lifetime guarantee, he assures me. True, I sigh in resignation, but just how much life is left, my friend?

In the end, one must try and live by William Ernest Henley’s motivating `Invictus’ code..

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.