Sunday, June 12, 2005

Just another revolution around the sun- Its my Birthday Blog

June 9 is supposed to be a special day for me
Astronomically speaking, I complete another revolution around the sun. Demographically speaking, it’s another year after I added myself to the 1 billion odd population of the country. Philosophically speaking, it’s been another year of my existence; with me still trying to figure out the meaning of it all.

Yes; it’s my Birthday today.

Just that my Birthdays are no more happy, joyful occasions to look forward to. Instead, they are painful annual reminders of my still having done nothing worthwhile. Of having done nothing significant for the posterity to remember me by.Of having done nothing that will even merit a trivia question in my honor.

I remember long ago I desperately wanted to enter the “Youngest person to…” list of something. ...

I started thinking in terms of amazing feats ....At the age of 13; I learned that a 12 year old had become the youngest person to swim the English Channel.He mercilessly pushed the record out of my reach even before I perceived the English Channel as a swimmable one. Not that I had a chance; to this day I have not swum more than 50 metres at a single stretch (huff puff). But still; it sounds like quite a record to have.

I lowered my sights and thought I’l'll pine for the something in the “Youngest Indian to……” list. At least all those Slovenians, Zulus and Albanians could not compete with me here. As for the English Channel, a 13 yr old Indian kid had already swum it pushing that record out of my reach too. So I kissed the English Channel dreams goodbye and decided to focus on some other more achievable nearby records.

Ruled out all sporting records as all “Youngest” sports debuts/records have been by teenage kids. I watched Raphael Nadal win the French Open last Sunday. Both of us play left handed and are June born. But alas !!!There ends the similarity. Almost 9 years younger he has already made his mark in this world. I had never thought I'll see a day when all the Grand Slam champs are younger to me and half the Indian Cricket team were not born when I started going to school! Even worse is gymnastics where Chinese &Russian kids just out of their diapers perform those masochistic contortions. So no chance there either ...

I briefly considered becoming the youngest to climb the Everest but right away reasoned that some Sherpa kid would have got bored of the view from his window and strayed up to the top of Everest on a bored Sunday afternoon quite unknowingly pushing the “Youngest ever to climb Everest” record out of my reach.

I decided to forget records, as endurance has never been my strong point. I thought about being something less phyiscally demanding as becoming the Youngest Millionaire. But then Guinness Book told me that Shirley Temple had become millionairess before the age of 10. Ever an optimist; I thought of becoming the Youngest Billionaire but learned that Michael Dell was worth a couple of billion dollars (that he earned himself, not his Papa's handouts !!) by his mid twenties. And that time my bank account had never really crossed a 4-figure mark even in rupee terms!

Guess I’m just cribbing without considering my gifts. Guess I’m just on the way to becoming a grumpy old man. Maybe I’m destined to be in the “Oldest Person to …” lists. Maybe I should be a bit more patient. Maybe I’ve to wait just some 75 years. Maybe i'll find my own niche. And be able to stop wallowing in my mediocrity. And someday I'll start look forward to birthdays like I used to long ago....

After all I’m still just in my late twenties..

Btw I share birthday with Johnny Depp, Michael J Fox, Robert Mc Namara ( World Bank President and the first guy to score a perfect 800/800 score in GMAT) and the most famous of all Donald Duck (one of the few cartoon characters actually to have an official Birthday) !!! That figures, eh??. Anyway as a dear blogger friend wisecracked; I’m in august company though my birthday is in June. .

I’ll wake up tomorrow with that miserable feeling that “Damn!!! I’ m older” .(cough cough..) Maybe this will be my last bachelor birthday. Having regretted all I have done and regretting even more all I have not done. I will be just lying there thinking about it all. And then there will be wishes from parents, maybe a few messages and calls from friends who have not forgotten (not too many remember such things these days). And there will be my little nephew and niece lisping a “ Happy Birthday” song over the phone. Should make my day considerably better....

After all; as they say; growing older is not so bad when you consider the alternatives ;-))

Final Episode of Motorcycle Diaries: Zen and the art of Motorcycle Disposal (Whew!!)

The second bike was still left unsold. All our attempts to sell it were failing miserably despite using all Philip Kotler fundas….

Then we did something a bit out of the box. We had befriended a salesman at the showroom. Jinx asked him if he could divert a buyer at the Showroom to buy our bike at a discount. We dangled a carrot of Rs 2000 out of the deal for him. He was our only hope now.

Days became weeks and there was no update from him. He was not answering his mobile & when we called him at the showroom they regularly gave the message that he was on leave.

Then one evening I met him on a Dadar station platform............

I let him have it! How he could be so irresponsible? Why had he not contacted us for long? He listened impassively to my tirade for a few minutes and then informed me ” I lost my job…Thanks to you!!!” He spat out the last part with a lot of venom....

I was the one on the defensive now “What??? I’m sorry man. What happened?”

It turned out that he had tried to do as we told. He tried to divert a buyer to our bike and the company found it out. They sacked him! Because of us. And our bikes.I was mumbling an apology when his train came. “I was getting Rs 4,000 per month. Now I don’t have any income to support my family” he let me know to add to my misery before he pushed through the sea of humanity and got a foothold on the train.

I stood there on the platform stunned as the train sped away. Another jobless man to add to the millions in Mumbai was no big news. But this one was jobless because of us in a really twisted way. The win was a dream for us. It had turned into someone else’s nightmare.I called up Jinx. He too was feeling real guilty…

This was the last straw. All this was already taking a toll on our work. Frequent visits to the showroom were becoming a pain and our rapport with our bosses was beginning to strain. We were now frustrated to the extent that we were asking every well-built guy we met whether he would like to buy a Bullet.

We decided to get it over with. So we called up a guy named Hamid who had called us earlier after our first ad and quoted a price that was about 25,000 less than actual. We had laughed at him then but now had no option. We told him that we are ready to deal at the price he quoted.He seemed to understand our predicament and very shrewdly quoted a price, which was even ridiculously lesser. A brand new Enfield at Rs 42,000 was virtually a steal for him. We still agreed meekly, not having an option.

Jinx was a married man and stayed with his parents. He was busy with stuff at home that weekend. I was handling this deal alone..

I met Hamid as decided at his shop in Jogeshwari. From his rather polished English on the phone I had expected a rather well to do businessman in a luxury goods store. But when after half an hour of search I located him, ther he was……………an unimpressive, slightly funny-looking man in a grimy checked shirt in a little cubicle sized sanitary ware shop.

Earlier he had claimed to be a Bullet aficionado and had told us how he wanted to add the bike to his collection. But as it turned out now he was not buying this for himself. He had another client and he was just the middleman.

He arrived in sometime. A 6’4” giant Sardarji on an ancient Bajaj scooter which seemed to disappear under him. I pitied the scooter the way you feel sympathy towards a old skinny horse carrying a giant knight in full body armor.

Introductions were through. The Sardarji owned Timber mill in Kurla. Looking at the scooter I felt that I was doing some public service by selling him the bike.

Hamid told us to proceed to the showroom. “On that thing??” I asked incredulously? Did not have an option. So I gingerly perched myself on the couple of inches gap left on the scooter-seat behind the Sardarji and so we carried on like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza on the same horse.

On the way the Sardarji asked me about the deal. He asked me how much I was getting for the bike. Quite honestly I said “ Rs 42,000”. He revealed that he was paying Rs 48,000!! I was outraged. Hamid was taking a cool Rs 6,000 without even lifting a finger. This was more of a rip-off than we had thought.Once at the showroom I called up Jinx. We decided that this was not an acceptable deal. Sardarji now came up with a counter-offer not involving Hamid. We really did not want to deal with Hamid’s client directly either as it wouldn’t look good. No deal was done in all the confusion.

Hamid called up now and I informed him that we would like to re-think and that we should get atleast Rs 44,000.

Jinx had got some other buyer in the meanwhile and we were getting a much better deal there. The new guy went and saw the bike at the showroom. We hoped this deal might work out.

The next day was a Monday; a busy afternoon at office, I received a call on my office number. It was Hamid. He had somehow found out about the new client. For the next 10 minutes he screamed and ranted over the telephone. He was a far cry from the polished businessman image he presented earlier. He threatened us with dire consequences if he did not sell him the bike. He told me that he would ensure that the bike would not ever get sold to anyone else. It was not about the deal but his honor. I held fort. Asked him to call up later and that we would settle only for a better deal. Being in office I was conscious of my surroundings and I had thought spoke at a low voice. But at the end of the call colleagues came over and asked me what the ruckus was about!!

The next morning another beautiful dream was prematurely paused when I was woken by a call from George, the mallu Bullet showroom manager. He seemed quite disturbed. Right away he asked me to sell the bike to Hamid and even think of looking for any other buyer. I was intrigued and asked him what was troubling him. And George told me the behind the scenes story...

Hamid was much bigger than we thought. He was just a funny looking man in a cubicle-sized shop…… but one with enough links with the Mumbai underworld!!!!! And he had managed to call up someone who talked to George’s bosses in the company who in turn told George in no uncertain terms that the bike had to be sold to Hamid.

Simple! Straight off a Ram Gopal Verma gangster flick.

And we were no heroes. Not Sunny Deol & Anil Kapoor taking on the might of the unknown nether world which till now existed in movies. Neither of us wanted to think about the possibility of ending up as a bullet riddled body a la Satya. And all that for winning 2 Bikes in a Quiz.I was contemplating the newspaper headline the next day “An eye for an eye; Bullets for a Bullet”; “Bullet riddled bodies found at Bullet Showroom” or how about ”Bullet owners Bullet Riddled”. Or even “Hot shot executives shot dead”

Rather unpleasant thought, eh???

So when Hamid called up again; we simply said yes to whatever he asked for. Sardarji came on his rickety scooter once again. We went over to the showroom and the deal was signed. We shook hands while George looked on with some relief. Afterwards we went to Hamid’s shop who now heartily welcomed us and offered us soft drinks & snacks. The Sardarji handed us the money in his presence. All of us were smiling- We, the Sardarji, Hamid and Gandhiji (from the Rs 500 notes). Perfect Kodak Moment.

During the conversation Hamid asked us again how exactly we had won the bikes. “We won at the Business Quiz” I said. “Business Quiz???He asked...................Par aap logon ko tho Business ke bare mein kuch aate hi nahin!!!” He laughed loudly at his own joke.

That is how we left him. A funny looking man in a grimy shirt in a cubicle-sized shop….

Epilogue: We split the money and Jinx’s ordeal was over. I still had to sell my Pinnacle Saporiti furniture set. Could not think of keeping it in my bachelor pad. Would look like a BMW parked in a Dharavi slum, right?. And I couldn’t accept my roomie’s plan of converting our flat into a lounge bar and pub ;-))

After another month’s struggles; another newspaper ad; a lot of talking to architects, engineers, interior decorators, furniture shop owners , calling up friends and rich relatives, just anyone who could afford the set. Even followed a lead about a colleague’s ex-girlfriend’s dad who he said was primarily into gold smuggling and stayed in a duplex Sea facing Bandra Apt!!! (who says crime doesnt pay?)


Anyway the final buyer was quite a nice guy. A newly married automobile showroom manager who handed me the money without any hassle and dropped me home in his Pajero. The money was just about 50% of the actual prize of the set but I was willing for even less then. Of the entire prize value of nearly 1.5 lakhs; I finally raised just more than half the amount.

What did I do with the money? Well, apart from Rs 15,000 which I kept for myself, I sent the rest home to parents. My sis’ wedding was happening the next month and they could use it for expenses.

Quizzes…they happen every year…… ;-))

Motorcycle Diaries: Zen and the art of Motorcycle Disposal (Episode II)

Please read my last post “Motorcycle Diaries: Zen and the art of Motorcycle Disposal (Episode I) “ before continuing further........................

The bikes were to be picked up from the showroom in Thane (a Mumbai suburb) .We could get them agree to keep those for some time ; then sell them to whomever and they could pick it up from there.....

Going to the bike showroom took half a day and cost 150 bucks both ways. 2 Local Trains, 1 AutoRide to the back of the beyond & repeat for return!! Obviously we did not want to visit there too many times. So we embarked on the Bike Disposal Venture with even heighted remarkable enthusiasm

Jinx and I were both Marketing grads. So we thought we ‘ll use some of those Mktg skills for this venture. We started with Positioning & Segmentation.....

First question ..Who can be our customer??

Profile of a Bullet rider :About 6 Ft tall ; macho (At least thinks he's macho) , totally crazy about bikes; actually loves maintaining the bike, (not like me who pushes the bike to the mechanic to have the spark plug cleaned and )

Age: Does not matter (not above 75 maybe)

Economic Status: Well, no clue. Maybe right from a local Dharavi daada to some rich stud Bandra boy

When i thought 6 footer; the first one who came to my mind was my cousin in the Naval Base in Lonavla! Bingo. Sub Lt. P. 6 Foot and Bike crazy.. Possible bakra.

Called him up ; He was all excited on the news of my winning the bike ; but he already had a relic Enfield handed over generations and could not think of disposing with it should the wrath of his ancestors fall upon him. It gave him unmeasurable pleasure to take it apart and put it back again. He had developed his muscles pushing the contraption down through the streets of Cochin and up the valleys of Lonavla!!

Then I thought further. There will be more like him where he is from. Yeah the Naval Base. I can always find a buyer there of the same profile!!

Also something i saw previous January 26th told me that there are not enough bikes with the Defense forces (check below link).
http://pib.nic.in/archieve/phtgalry/pgyr2002/pg012002/pg26jan2002/26012002i.html

Next day my cousin put a note in the Base Officers Mess Notice board on two Motorbikes for Sale. He assured me that these bikes will go in just 2 days and the Navy officers will be fighting between themselves to buy these.

I was happily imagining 2 smart “ White Attired; medals n all” Navy officers riding off to the sunset on our bikes;with me and Jinx standing on the side in a smart salute (with our pocket full of cash)

Days passed and then a week; Jinx started getting jittery…"Yaar yeh cousin tera call kuch kiyaa kya??" " He said he’ll call yaar" I said. After a long while ; my cousin called and told me there’s a slight problem "The Navy Cadets who weregetting promoted to officers will be getting their allowances after 3 months only. Lot of them will be picking up bikes (its a sort of a coming of age ritual for them; but all these .........only after 3 months. Alas !!

Enough of Patriotism. Let us get practical.. We decided to put an ad in Times of India. Spent some money on it. My coffers were near empty nowadays. Technically I was a Lakhpati with a total worth 1.5 lakhs about, not yet Bill Gates but getting there in a few light years). But somehow my bank account always displayed a four digit number. All I had was 2 envelopes; one telling me that Enfield is supposed to give me a bike; and the other telling me that Pinnacle Saporiti was to give me a Designer Furniture set !!

After some deliberation , me and Jinx decided to give both our cell numbers in the TOI ad.

I had worked till 3 am the day before the ad came on TOI. At about 6:45 in the morning I was in the middle of some dream where a girl who had taken my autograph after the quiz had turned into that pretty girl in HR. She had taken my phone no: And she was calling me…My mobile was ringing , ringing……………..I picked the phone and said hello in my most deep romantic sexy voice………………

A most harsh Gujju sounding male voice jolted me out of my reverie "Baaas, Aaj Times of India mein ek Bullet bechne ke liye ad dekhaa thaa. Uske bare mein poonchne kaa tha!!!"

Everything came back to me slowly "Huh, kaun??"

"Mein Hites bhai". He replied

I proceeded to tell him all about the Bullet and how were giving it for 8,000 less than the MRP. (This 8,000 figure we had reached upon after a lot of debate and after referring to Philip Kotler’s ideas on the 4 P’s of Marketing!!Bata pricing) remember paying 39.99 for a Bata Chappal) We kept the price at 59,000. Not quite 60,000 but amost there. Sounds like a good bargain to the buyer).

He asked where I had got the bike from so I proudly told him how I had won it in a quiz.

" Quijjj??, Yeh quijjj kya hota hai bhai?". He asked

"Boss, jaise yeh Kaun Banega Crorepati aata thaa na TV pe?? Vaisa hai quiz jeeta ek" I explained very patiently

A whole new respect came into his voice "Arre waah , aap CROREPATI jeet gaye?

"Nahi Boss, KBC nahi thaa. Waisa ek doosra quiz" I try explain

"Tho aap Bacchan saab se mile?? Kya bole woh??" He was still excited. He was talking to a crorepati who had actually shook hands with Mr Bachhan

I was fighting not to lose my cool " Nahin boss; KBC nahin thaa; Bacchan saab bhi nahin thaa. Bolaa naa yaar yeh Doosra Quiz thaa"

Our man was extremely disappointed by this turn of events." Aaap pehle bolte hai ki Crorepati jeeta ; phir bolta hai Bacchan saab se nahin milaa; yeh kyaa baat hui??"

I think we hung up by mutual consent…

This was just a tip of the iceberg. I had just managed to start off my dream from where I had stopped (alas there’s no pause button for dreams)) when the next call came. Calls just started pouring in thereafter; My roomie took his pillow n bed and wandered off into the other room.. I had to ignore his uncharitable comments on my family tree..

By the 17th caller i had been fielding various enquiries. I had flicked a Bullet brochure from the Showroom and was using it to talk about the Bhp and other features very knowledgebly ...

" I’m Saldhana" The caller was definitely in the sweet 60s ;"I’m an old bugger, heheheheh"
“Heheheh“ I replied in like just to get the rapport going……….
"I read about the bikes…." At last an English speaker

I repeated the same spiel on the bikes, price negotiable etc.That triggered a long story on his own bike.Then i said we won it in a Quiz. That triggered a long story about how his nephew Stanley used to be a champion in Quizzing. I listened patiently.He asked where I was from. When i mentioned Cochin that triggered a long story about his own Kerala trip. Somewhere after 25 minutes I gingerly asked him if he would like to come and see the bike at the showroom...

"The Bikes??, aaww no! as I said I’m an old bugger, I cant ride any bikes anymore. I had just called when I read about the bikes as I like Bullets. Good bikes, arent they?"………….

I silently cursed Jinx for answering that last question in the quiz. The 3rd prize had been a TV . We could be happily surfing channels sitting on our comfy couches this time

We figured that it was going to take us some time to sell the bikes. We had to buy time. So we went to the Bullet Showroom to negotiate. I pushed Jinx in front to speak to the Manager in Marathi; like everywhere else in Mumbai.But as we entered the room I saw that the manager with a thick bushy moustache who ushered us into his cabin was speaking on the phone in a rather familiar lingua franca. You gessed it right ; jezzt zimble yeveryday Malayalam!!!

“Leave this to me Jinx” I winked. I conducted the entire ensuing conversation in our dear old native tongue while Jinx sat like he was watching a ping-pong match with Chinese subtitles. Just after I had managed to locate a distant aundee of his who was a classmate of an ungle of mine in the gelf; I quickly changed the topic and asked for some time to sell the bikes as we had not found a buyer. He agreed reluctantly to keep the bikes in the showroom itself when I assured him that it would not be longer than 3 weeks

We put a second ad in the TOI with the prices slashed a further Rs. 5,000 !!

Around 25 calls on the first day. Around 10 on the second ; a couple of calls on the third and none on the fourth day.

From the 5th day Jinx and me started the reverse process of calling up everyone who had called us up for an enquiry. After every couple of hours we used to compare notes and reported responses such as

“I want to buy the bike; but my wife wants to buy a new Washing Machine instead”

“I want to buy the bike; but my daughter wants to buy a new TV instead”

" I want to buy the bike; but I want to get married first”

(Alas , It’s a vicious cycle..)

Slowly we were losing hope of ever being able to sell the bikes when one morning I got a call from someone who introduced himself to be a Sindhi Businessman based in Hong Kong. He said that he was interested in buying a bike and can pay the money down payment.

I was overjoyed and fixed a time of visiting the showroom that weekend. Once in office I rushed to see Jinx and with evident elation reported that my bike is sold. Jinx sported a similar grin on his face as he said that he also had found a buyer. Both bikes getting sold the same day !!!!!!We did a more enthusiastic high-five than when we had won the quiz !!

Then Jinx asked me who the buyer was

“ Some Sindhi Businessman from HONG KONG; I said proudly.

“Hey cool, man even my buyer is a Sindhi businessman from HONG KONG!! ” says Jinx

Buzzzzz....." Wait a sec “ It was our quizzer instincts that had buzzed this time.

“What was his name??” Jinx asked

“Some name like “Manmani” or something yaar” I said.

“Manmani”??? ……………or was it “Pamnani” ; Jinx asked with a slight decrease in enthusiasm & a marked increase in concern

“Yeah Pamnani”………I knew it.

It was the same guy who called both of us... It was not both the bikes but just one bike, which will be sold. Still one buyer is better than none

But the question now is whose bike as he had called both of us!! Like good quizzer buddies we made the pact right then…we’ll sell each bike and split the booty each time

On the fixed day I reached Thane after receiving thorough body massage in the Mumbai Local Trains. Met Jinx at Thane station and then we went over to the showroom.

We waited for the Businessman from Hong Kong to arrive……I had brought my camera along and we clicked snaps of each of us sitting on the Royal Enfield Thunderbird at the showroom. Had brought my dark sunglasses along and I felt I looked like Arnold in Terminator 2; though Jinx did not agree.

“Hasta la Vista Baby” I said in a real Austrian accent and Jinx thought maybe I had a point. Mebbe he did not want me to repeat to reinforce the point..

Well as things went later ; the more appropriate Arnold line was “I’ll be Back” (again and again and again)

The businessman arrived finally. An Esteem braked in front of the showroom and out stepped 2 guys. I was expecting a 6 ‘ 2’’ well built businessman with gold chains around his neck and gold watch on his wrist. But our buyer turned out to be hardly 5 ft tall businessman with gold chains around his neck and gold watch on his wrist. Even Jinx and me were towering above him…

There were no problems with the deal but for the fact that he wanted to buy a Thunderbird instead of an Electra and pay the difference. Though there was a minor confusion; after it all cleared the company allowed him that.

Our man wanted a test drive now and I was getting concerned.

Afterall, when this guy looked like a mahout on an elephant when he sat on the bike. The very existence of the second guy seemed for feeding our buyer’s ego. Our man sat on the bike; posed hero-like.

The chamcha was appreciative “ Waah!! Saab aap tho hero lag rahe hai” The guy beamed with pleasure. Jinx and me also agreed he looked like a filmstar. We did not specify which one coz we feared that the deal might be off if we did...

The chamcha was feeding us stories about how the saab can drive any motorbike and how he sets the streets ablaze with his Harley Davidson in Hongkong. We did look suitably impressed and resisted comments like whether the bike had 2 extra side wheels coz his feet would not reach the ground.

The man came back from his test drive and was happy with the bike. The deal was signed and everyone were all smiles. Now was the moment of truth. Our man whispered something to the chamcha and he went to the car and came back with paper packet. Out came some bundles of 500 rupee notes. Hadn’t seen so many of those for quite some time so I toyed with the idea of Xeroxing one for nostalgia sake.

He handed over the money to us and I did a quick check if it were all really Indian currency notes. Gandhiji smiled reassuringly on each of the notes told us that all was fine. We bid good bye to the duo as they sped away on their car. They were taking delivery later on a more auspicious day. We did not care; we had the money!!

We went over to the nearby restaurant and had Paav Bhaji with extra paav to celebrate!

(A minor success but a major boost to our efforts. Was it the end of our travails or was it just the beginning?? Dont go anywhere!!..the final episode is on its way.)

(Episode 1) Motorcycle Diaries: Zen and the art of Motorcycle Disposal

Oct 24, 2002

Six Questions to go and we were still at the sixth place….......

The Corporate Quiz was an annual event held at this North Indian City. A Basketball stadium full of people! Unheard of for a quiz. Either they market it well or this is the only entertainment in the city. 3 B-School teams and 3 Corporates fighting it out in the final after 4 rounds. Started with 165 teams and finally . Big prizes at stake...

Last Buzzer Round!! Jinx (my quiz partner) did not even keep his fingers on the buzzer. In fact he was not even talking to me after a Dumb C round setback (yeah, the quiz had other rounds too) that cost us heavy. “Yeh quiz tho gaya, How could you screw up that Philips punchline ?“He was livid We were a big name team from Mumbai; but now losing to some not so famous teams; save two. Dreaded going to office the next day.....Same old cubicle, same boss, and absolutely nothing to look forward to.

The last round questions were on the buzzer…10 for a right ; negative 10 for a wrong one. Brand Related Questions. But not “strictly” as we found out soon

"Who has a house in Bangalore by the name Arzoo?" Arzoo-as-in-Arzoo.com??? I buzz." Sabeer Bhatia! . We score. " Next one- If u see a person named Sherry in a cricket dressing room…." (Easy Full toss! There’s only one Sherry I know.......Our own Shakespeare Sidhu" " I buzz again –"Navjyot Singh Sidhu." ..Got it!! Slightly better now; we are at fifth now. TOI team were the current leaders by miles. They had scored heavily on the gimmick rounds. IIM L were at number two playing safe in the last round like most others. I took advantage of this and answered the next two

All eyes in the packed Basketball Stadium the venue were now just on us. Just 2 more questions to go and we the team who were lying sixth had answered all the past 4 on the buzzer.. We are fourth now. Talk about high-drama.

I’m like a man possessed now…adrenalin pumping. ..Its like you are swinging at everything in the slog overs of a match and somehow everything is connecting in the middle of the bat !!

Then the quizmaster starts this weird question " Bengal Indore Jaipur; Orissa, Oudh Rajasthan.... What "brand" name do you get from this?? "

My little grey cells tingle Poirot-like -----A jingle, a product marketed in those areas? No! Oudh it cant be; and half the names are states and others cities. Seems it is a deliberate attempt to get some acronym right; ..Acronym??!! Yes, that’s it.. (All this data processing was in about 3 seconds I guess ;-))

I grabbed the pen and scribbled B-I-J-O-… and buzzed.Audience hasn’t quite figured what the question was about. They looked stunned when I buzzed. Jinx is staring at me as if I’ve gone nuts. I take the microphone and say " Bijoor- That’s your name, sir!"

Harish Bijoor the quiz master looked especially happy. (Heights, some plug .Quiz master's name as a brand !!! ) Audience gave us a thunderous applause! We were third now ; just 5 points behind IIM L who were at second now and looking like Ganguly facing a Glenn McGrath Delivery

C'mon man, I try get Jinxx pumped up too..Last Question- Fingers on the buzzer "The new Videocon Logo has 2 E’s which signifies something, what??". Jinxx springs into action this time ..Buzzzzz "Energy to Electronics" ! We get it !!! 6 out of 6 last qs on the buzzer with all other teams looking on. Unbelievable ! We do High Fives !!

We don’t win but end up Runners Up pipping the IIM team; quite a comeback

"We get the Bikes right??" Suddenly that thought hits Jinxx. Yeah!!!!!!. We win an Enfield Electra Bullet each!! Cool !! The winners get a laptop each…

There is then a lone wolf round where each guy in the top 2 teams (total 4) undergoes a Mastermind Style Rapid fire round. I beat Jinx & the TOI guysto top this and win the Brand Mahaguru title & a Furniture Set from Pinnacle Saporiti worth Rs 80,000 !!

Not bad earnings for an evening's work, eh??? Smug thought!

Prize distribution was elaborate. Hell lot of prizes. Big Red Turbans tied on our heads and we were carried around the stadium around the stadium in a Camel Cart.

Some Girls, Mgmt Students asked for my autograph!!! A few wanted to stand with me and pose for a photo (Mom/Dad what a pity you weren’t here).

My first brush with celebrityhood !! Page 3 , here i come !! (Actually Page 3 of a local Hindi paper had my snap the next day; trophy aloft; and looking like a contradiction of cultures- Red turban & black Rockband TShirt!!Bina mooch ke sardar )

Reality struck after we were back in the Hotel- We have the bikes but can we use them???

Jinx had never graduated beyond his tricycle in his childhood and though he knows even the year in which Harley Davidson set up shop in Milwaukee; cannot for his life actually ride even a TVS moped!!

My line of thought was different. My KB 125 which often ran out of Petrol (well, a bike does not start by optimism alone) had to be pushed to the nearest Petrol pump with my own bare hands. But pushing an Enfield?? Alas, I’ll have to first spend some money on a Bull worker and the Autobiography of Arnold Schwarznegger first!

We made the decision !! We had to sell both our bikes …. The officials told us that we could not exchange it for money. Sponsors wont like it…

And thus started the Saga of the unsold Bullets - Alternatively titled Zen and the art of Motorcycle Disposal

( Did Flaash and Jinxx manage to sell off the Bullets?? Did they regret ever winning these prizes? Wot are the characters they met & negotiated with in this effort? To get answers to these please Dont Miss my next post “Motorcycle Diaries- Zen and the art of Motorcycle Disposal (Episode 2)“)

WAIT WITH BATED BREATH....



(Hope to have this episode 2 up by this weekend, all depends on BESCOM)

.........btw my replies to all ur comments on B'lore roads blog is put up in the comments section..Plz check it out

Cheers

One for the Road - Driving and Surviving in Bangalore

Driving in Bangalore is like working on a Six Sigma process. There are a million opportunities for a defect; in this case a process defect being defined as “getting a dent in your car”. A day with less than 3.4 scratches, dents or bent bumpers means that your driving for the day is Six Sigma qualified.

Every time you brake; you brace for impact from behind, invariably there is a car, auto or a bike just a few millimeters behind the rear bumper ready to crash into you. I pity those cars with “body color bumpers” ; they will have to be repainted after every hit. Mine has a “Scratch” color bumper so that it absorbs as many scratches as it likes. I tried to get a Scratch Color car but they don’t sell them here. So I had to do with a scratch color bumper

Every car owner blames any dent on the ubiquitious “Other Driver”. The “Other driver” is one who brakes too early or never brake on time. He either makes a turn without an indicator or tries zipping past cheekily on a bike through your left when you have your left indicator on and slowly turning left- just begging to be knocked down.

According to “been-here-for-a-long-time” Bangaloreans everything can be blamed on the Software engineers. Nothing was the same again afterwards..…After the Software Revolution almost overnight the population doubled; quadrupled and had the city bursting at the seams. All Software Engineers went on onsite trips and bought cars & flats with the money they saved. They had survived on just Puliyogre rice in US/UK/Canada for an year to save money for the entire duration of their onsite trip.

However the government was not in a mood to let them drive happily ever after in their new flashy cars. They called emergency meetings and made the decision to dig up all the roads…Also they decided to build “Semi-fly-overs” thru out the city. These were specially designed to narrow down the existing roads and make them so congested that not even a “fly can go over” to the other side. People initially thought these are like fly-overs in other cities ;but later on came to know these are meant to be “Semi-fly-overs” which is supposed to be like a speed breaker (speeding is if you go above 20 kmph) and never will be like those on which vehicles actually ply on..

Talking about flies; how can you forget mosquitoes; another remarkable phenomenon hereabouts…. Around the time Infosys was thinking of ESOPs; Mosquitoes learned that Bangalore was a good place for a “byte”. And the rest is history. According to stats, currently there are around 2767 mosquitoes per software engineer in Bangalore. Mosquitoes have a gala time with these “soft” targets

Meanwhile holes in ozone layer induced global warming and the air conditioned city now had air conditioning only in the offices of software co: s. The honchos of the software companies had met and hatched a conspiracy. They wrote a program to increase the atmospheric temperatures in the city so that the offices became pleasant havens for software engineers who now preferred working 15 hrs instead of 9. And dreading their hot n sweaty mosquito infested homes and the rush hours to get there….



Btw let me tell you; as such we Bangaloreans are not different species from anyone else. But well there is one distinguishing factor.

For eg: Mumbaiites work hard during the week; and in the weekend; go around town sporting T-shirts of brands such as Adidas, Nike, Reebok etc. ….

Bangaloreans too work hard during the week, but go out on weekends sporting t-shirts, jackets, caps, socks, bags & underwear (mebbe) of brands such as Infosys, Wipro or whichever software company we work for................





Back to the topic of driving… Well not so long ago I was one of the “overtake-only-thru-the left” bikers I mentioned earlier but then I managed to become a car owner. In my own foreign trips, though I did not survive on Puliyodiri rice I saved a lot of money by having just one Beer a day and in the end of my sojourn I had saved enough to own just one li’l not-so-new Santro. Still I look at my car and I wistfully remember all those drinks I did not have.

Back in Bangalore I did a Cost-Benefit analysis of using the car vis-à-vis the bike. Well btw my KB 125 bike is unique. Unlike other bikes where the mileage is calculated in Km per liter; this gr8 breakthrough’ of motorcycling; the mileage is calculated in liters to go one Km!!! This can probably be attributed to the fact that my knowledge of Zen and that of Motorcycle Maintenance are quite comparable. Anyway in the final tally, mileage-wise the car won hands-down. So due to economical reasons I chose the car

Another important reason I choose the car for my daily commute is the Bangalore Bus Drivers..

Well, their mundane existence of just driving passengers back n forth bored these guys to no extent. Then one of them saw Tiger Woods on TV and devised a game called BMTC-Golf . The rules are similar to ordinary Golf . However in this case each Bus Driver uses his bus instead of a Golf Club. All he has to do is to aim right, swing (the steering) and whack !!Knock a two-wheeler driver to a convenient pot-hole of a suitable size. Jumping a red light and knocking down a 2 wheeler carries extra points and brings down your handicap.As playing BMTC-Golf with a car is as difficult as a “hole in one” i feel a wee bit more comfortable in a car.

Btw the golf courses for this extremely popular sport are designated by the very creative names they have been given. For eg: There’s an 80-feet road; where 80 feet is the average radius of a pothole & similarly there are some 100 feet roads. Each driver compares his tally for the day with the others and the winner buys booze for everyone before everyone starts work the next day...



BPO Qualis drivers have seen the immense entertainment potential for this sport and are fast catching up. They have their own mini versions of the same game which they’re perfecting. They even flaunt their talent on the back of their vehicles like Golf players “How is my driving, call 988XXXXX”. I reckon not too many are talented in other Golf shots like “Putting”, “Teeing” or “Chipping” because I’ve never seen any BPO Qualis driver ask “How is my Putting?” on their back windows



With such varied species around; Bangalore roads are a reflection of life itself. Like in life there are no road signs when u require it and you have to guess by the number of vehicles going into a particular road or open your inner eye and see whether it will lead you to MG road. And in this One-way city if miss a turn, you have to orbit the city like a dogged satellite to get near the same point.

None has to keep reminding you “ There are no Second Chances in Life”



(Mail me at flaashgordon@indiatimes.com)

Living With those wierdos II

It was a struggle to get into the College hostel…..but the bigger struggle was to actually live there. The first part was because many were lured by the cheapest accommodation possible & the dreaded Mumbai local trains need not be a part of your routine. Moreover this was just across the street from the institute that in an emergency your schedule can be

8:45 am : Wake up; Already (f#$^ its 8: frigging 45; daaamnn!!) .

8:50 am : Brush teeth ; Hope against hope there’s water at the wash basin. The sadistic authorities had a real fetish for saving water and shut out taps by that time

8:55 am : Hope one of the 2 functional loos for 16 people are empty but the one drum of water (again for bathing, brushing, washing for 16 people) is not empty.

8:57 am: If nothing worked some opted for the “washbasin bath” (also called Dumbo bath after one of the main exponents of this style) where u plaster your hair with water and carefully comb it backwards – classmates would assume u’ve had ur bath.

9:00 am: Change and rush to class. The %#ing lecture has started; will have breakfast during the break (mebbe at 10:30) .

9:05 am: Just a wee bit late, but looking fresh n smart n glowing despite the few days old stubble; the wannabe corporate warrior walks into the class ; ready to take business world by storm



Each room had 4 occupants each. Each room had a fair bit of superstition associated with it. My bong friend B had got a hostel room in the first year itself and had booked Room 308 for the second year. The lure was that all 4 previous occupants of this room (our seniors in MBA) had got placed in the first day itself. And so I moved into the lucky Room 308; with B ; SSS the financial wizkid from Chennai & R-a Puneite Tam who seldom used to be in the room.

Our hostel was a common one for us MBA guys, Engg Collge guys, Degree students & students of Buddhist studies. Occasionally after an extended daaru session involving vodka, u reach the hostel & see the apparition of a shaven headed monk in purple robes right in front of u; it didnt mean that u had a drink too much…it meant that u have reached the right hostel!

U say Mumbai, u say Men's hostel ; one would automatically associate it with wild fun, booze, dope & cigarettes. But alas!! this one was different. The quirkiest thing here was a 9 PM prayer where a crony of the warden recites some indecipherable Sanskrit phrases which the rest repeats . This understandably not being the most exciting of activities vis-a-vis the diversions Mumbai could offer at the same time; was made compulsory by the warden Worse was a 11pm deadline; the grill was closed at that time. when u consider that this was the city which never slept; was an absolutely atrocious rule. But rules are rules & hence meant to be broken or worked around. Will come to that later... .



Our room was Self sufficient: We had a Music System, a bike (my faithful steed KB125 ) and the best of all- a Mobile Phone !! Remember this was a couple of years before Ambani told everyone to "Kar lo Duniya mutti mein" (he meant his own mutti prob but i guess it worked) and everyone right from the Vadapav wallah to the Auto driver started brandishing better models with Saathiyaa ring tones

The ownership of the mobile was contentious. My friend Bong bought it with the money his rich uncle had sent him from Sweden. We shared and bought the SIM but it was in my name as Bong never had a valid ID Proof which ws required for the purchase. The official users were 3 of us- Bong, me and SSS. Official here, means "billpaying". I'm talking of a time when mobile calls outgoing were 4 bucks and so were incoming. There were at least 15 in the floor who had given this no: as the c/o no: to their parents. And thus Bong acquired call center skills much before the BPO revolution; speaking to various parents n friends of the hostellers in various mother tongues …..

And so it was a major occasion when the Itemized Mobile Bill came. Out came the calculators and each of us had to identify the numbers in the list and own up for those. Home numbers of us 3 official users were easy -3 Cs for our Mobile Bills-Chennai, Calcutta, Cochin. But trouble was with the neutral ones….

Remember that oft repeated Court scene in a Hindi movie where the lawyer asks the defendent " 14 OCTOBER KI RAAT 9 BAJE TUM KAHAN THHEY??"

Similar questions used to come very handy in settling disputes on who was responsible for a particular long duration call with an obscene amount against it. Each of us used to display amazing memories of each other’s schedules in this matter. For eg: "That day; after we returned from Cost Acc class your cousin from Andheri had called and you talked for half an hour? That number on the bill starts with 63 ; ie Andheri number; we have cost accounting class on Wednesdays; see the date ; its Wednesday…so (triumphantly) it's ur call !! After all the calls were owned up for & accounted for ; we had to share the burden for calls for which we couldn’t figure out the perpetrator and each person’s share was calculated. The finance whiz (ICWAI Qualified) then added tax on the bill as per the latest budget (i could never figure out this part) and voila the bill is ready..

The right to keep the mobile generally was not a contentious issue unless we were at the interval of a movie and had stepped out to the foyer. At such an occasion the right to brandish the mobile was the divine right of Bong. He would stand under the spotlight (or whatever available light) lovingly flick it open (he had insisted on a Samsung flick open model after he saw Tom Cruise flick one open in MI2) ; pretend to check (non-existent) missed calls & messages (again non-existent) ; make an imaginary call making sure he’s the cynosure of all eyes.

All our hostel room doors had a rectangular glass window. This was for the warden to peek in to every room and see if the occupants are up to well... some mischief. As people did not particularly enjoy satisfying the voyeuristic instincts of the warden or others on the floor; all these were covered by an equally rectangular piece of newspaper. Though we were fined Rs 100/- each after a surprise inspection on the room doors, we thought it was a small price to pay for privacy.

(Of course, the comparison is with the celebrities such as the Beckhams who have to install high walls with electronic cameras, burglar alarms, disguises, alternate hairdos, decoys and alternate identities to maintain their privacy.)



(To be continued)