All For A Bottle of Wine

After a long day of long deliberation, long discussion and longer cups of coffee, a lot of shopping which left me feeling guilty and compromised, and having missed the Fireflimageies festival (Wikipedia and an older review), we decided we could hold more discussions with a bottle of wine. And thus, we walked into a shop on MG Road, and in a fateful moment, we decided to go for Cabernet-Shiraz from the vineyards of Grover, very near Bangalore. In fact, it was the geographical proximity that clinched the deal for Grover, blessed be his wine!

Once at home, the setting had to be perfect, and nothing better than Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring to see some cool and calm action. Now, the setting was perfect, and after biting a few nibbles, we were ready for the celebration.

Drumrolls… the wine bottle was opened, and Murphy couldn’t desert me just like every other time, and he came in the form of a cork. Sula‘s are better — the bottles don’t have cork, but now we were stuck at home at 11 in the night, with a bottle of wine but no cork-opener. And no Swiss Army knife. And two guys really really desperate to have the wine. Not a pretty sight.

Never learnt to accept defeat, did we? All our engineering prowess had to come to use now. The cork would be subjected to a number of implements over the next hour without respite, until it yielded to our superior knowledge of stress, tension and torque. The first up was the common fork, spotless and stainless, benign usually, but a mighty force in the hands of a master. The fork was sharply thrust into the cork, and as we flexed our biceps in applying the torque, there was a loud clank and we thought the cork had popped.

But no, the cork was stronger than we expected, and it was the fork that had clanked. Far stronger than expected — it was smartly using all the vacuum inside the bottle to bolster its position, and putting up a seemingly winning fight. We almost accepted defeat, but suddenly, we were reminded of our machine tools class, and all the filing and minute working of the lathe we had practiced. A frantic search started in the house — something sharp and long.

And thus, a lot of search found us our next weapon for our next battle. A small pair of scissors, innocuous but intense, and after a few rounds of sharpening it on the granite (like a true expert!), we again thrust it into the cork. The cork seemed to open it mouth, and engulfed the scissor’s blade. A whale gulping down the missiles we fired at it. And we would have none of it. More throwing of pots and pans around, cleaning up our messy kitchen, moving heaven and earth, and we found the knife we had gotten free with our stove-lighter.

Not a Rampuri, but baleful and unrelenting, the knife was the perfect tool for our fresh attack. The bottle was held tight with both hands and the knife thrust in it. After it refused to go in further, it was hammered in further with all the pots and pans we had cleaned up. The knife was turned, and yes(!), the cork unscrewed as well. Success is tasty, and wine is tempting, and we continued with the attack. The cork started giving in finally, but brittle as it was, it broke, and we had to cut parts of it off, and repeat the process. Finally, as it seemed to be succumbing, we upped the effort, and in one giant pop something happened.

Wine was all over us. The glass of the bottle had broken off from the side, and some of the wine had spilled all over the kitchen. Thankfully, damage had been limited to the wine bottle, and not to our hands or the kitchen. But yes, we had won! We had finally prevailed over the corky and cranky enemy. Wine was ours to be had.

And what better way to celebrate than a bottle of Wine. Cheers!




Sometimes, a picture speaks a thousand words, isn’t it?

Life of a Pawn

एक मोहरे का सफ़र

जब वो कम उम्र ही था
उसने ये जान लिया था की अगर जीना है
बड़ी चालाकी से जीना होगा
आँख की आखि़री हद तक है बिसाते-हस्ती
और वो मामूली सा इक मोहरा है
एक इक खा़ना बहुत सोच के चलना होगा
बाज़ी आसन नहीं थी उसकी
दूर तक चारों तरफ़ फैले थे
निहायत सफ़्फा़क
सख़्त बेरहम
बहुत ही चालाक
अपने क़्ब्ज़े में लिए
पूरी बिसात
उसके हिस्से में फ़क़्त मात लिए

वो जिधर जाता
उसे मिलता था
हर नया खा़ना नई घात लिए
वो मगर बचता रहा
चलता रहा
एक घर
दूसरा घर
तीसरा घर
पास आया कभी औरों के
कभी दूर हुआ
वो मगर बचता रहा
चलता रहा
गो की मामूली सा मोहरा था मगर जीत गया
यूं वो इक रोज़ बड़ा मोहरा बना
अब वो महफूज़ है एक खाने में
इतना महफूज़ कि दुश्मन तो अलग
दोस्त भी पास नहीं आ सकते

उसके इक हाथ में है जीत उसकी
दूसरे हाथ में तनहाई है |

Brilliantly written by Javed Akhtar. Check the original (there’s some help for tougher words as well).

Sir Edmund Hillary

While I have never known more than him than his record, the news of his death got splashed across broadsheets everywhere and I must confess I was quite intrigued why he was so great as to command half of the front page in many of our newspapers. I then went on to look at his obituaries at some of the newspapers and I was quite inspired. Sample this (from The Hindu):

Success did not breed arrogance. At a time when hierarchies of race and class defined the relationship between sahib and sherpa — few mountaineering accounts even bothered to name the Nepali porters who were critical to their success — Sir Edmund saw fellow climbers as equals. “I held out my hand,” he recorded famously of the moment he stood at the summit of Everest with Tenzing, “and in silence we shook in good Anglo-Saxon fashion. But this was not enough for Tenzing, and impulsively he threw his arm around my shoulders and we thumped each other on the back in mutual congratulations.” Until his comrade’s death in 1986, Sir Edmund refused to settle the debate on who first set foot on the summit of Everest.

Most successful people we hear about today would hardly ever be humble enough to give the same status and respect to a helper. Apart from that, Sir Hillary spent quite a bit of the latter part of his life working for the welfare of the sherpa community in Nepal. No wonder they look upon him as a “second father” and are mourning his death as much as his homeland (source). In fact, for quite sometime after scaling the tallest peak in the world, he officially mentioned his occupation as a “beekeeper” (his father’s business). Not only was he the first person to scale the Everest as well as both the Poles, he was also the President of the NZ Peace Corps. I also found this story very inspiring (source: NYT):

In 1979, Sir Edmund was to have been commentator on an Air New Zealand sightseeing flight over the Antarctic but had to withdraw because of a schedule conflict. His friend and fellow mountaineer Peter Mulgrew took his place. The plane crashed on Mount Erebus, a volcano on Ross Island in McMurdo Sound, and all 257 aboard were killed. Sir Edmund married June Mulgrew, his friend’s widow, in 1989. Besides Lady June, Sir Edmund is survived by his daughter, Sarah, his son, Peter, and six grandchildren.

Sir Edmund surely was a man who lived life on his own terms, he never held a full job (except serving as NZ’s India Ambassador for sometime), and the best part was that he dreamt, and he made his dreams come true:

“The whole world around us lay spread out like a giant relief map,” he told one interviewer. “I am a lucky man. I have had a dream and it has come true, and that is not a thing that happens often to men.”

Aside: Wanna see some confidence and attitude in action? Check out this video:

Monkey Man and Other Stories

It was nearing the evening, almost dusk, when I found Chirag and Parag, first standard kids in my neighbourhood, fighting it out in the streets. Muddy shirt and all, it reminded me of the kid in Taare Zameen Par. Of course, it seemed odd to find such good friends fighting it out as it was Maratha Warriors versus Bangalore Hi-fliers (too much of TV I know!). On enquiring, I was told the reason was Chirag called Parag a Monkey. A violent protest followed.

Had that been the story, it would have been natural and logical. However, it wasn’t the case. It was a burly 32 year old (with a pipin’ hot chick) fighting almost over a lolly-pop. I would have empathized had monkey-kind complained on being equated with a monkey with 2 extra lives, but then that’s not how the world works, doesn’t it? The killer of the day, of course, occurred during the post-match ceremony, when my maid came in. She stared at us, stared at the TV, found Symonds talking into the microphone and shouted MONKEY. We kept laughing our guts out for the next 15 minutes.

Of course, in another part of the story, the umpires decided to show who was the boss. I think Steve Bucknor had by this time decided that he’d watched too many men wearing colours winning, making money, singing with Asha, and applying hair gels while sitting out. Until he could make out between morning and evening, who needs a camera? Who needs technology? All ye engineers, sitting in Bangalore, and monkey-tapping (yes!) on your keyboards, take a leave, go visit the pubs, since we need no stump-cameras, we don’t need no snick-o-meter, it’s just another brick taken from the wall, as the rest of the world watches comfortably dumb.

And then, the Aussie umpire (whose name I didn’t bother checking) Benson decided to take help from the fifth umpire (the fourth empire, oops estate, being counted out) Ricky Ponting. Aussies have such a good reputation after all, right? They walk out as soon as realize that they are rightfully out, they never appeal for false catches, and they of course, never use words as kind as Monkey. When Ponting signalled with his one finger, what I couldn’t make out was if he was saying OUT or that one more packet would get deposited in the umpire’s account just like for all the others? We will never find out.

The course of the day could hardly have been altered if these 5 decisions had been justfully given. India is partly to blame for not taking the game to the Aussie camp, not going in for the Aussie ki Taisi, as the fourth empire’s been so wanting to, but giving into the Kangaroos in a game they play only too well. While all the decisions were going their way, they resorted to monkey-tactics to take the attention away. You’d expect the Indians to be seething in anger, resenting the misfortune that came their way even after the gritty knock by Kumble but he has to report to the match-referee because a Kangaroo was called a Monkey, and took offence.

These stories don’t make any difference — the game has been decided, Ricky Ponting’s team has won 16 in a trot (will they complain on being called a horse?), and all of us will soon forget all this, switch our channels, watch some vote-and-make-your-team-win contest and give a damn about talent, grit and determination. In the end, it doesn’t even matter.

Aside: Visit and see the surprise!

Always with You

I was amazed by this site. This site recites the stories of people from derived deprived (Thanks PS!) parts of the country (villages, poorer sections of the cities) and how they are changing under the influence of technology, and with help from philanthropy in some cases. I was completely amazed by the first story, that of Sarita, who has been able to get advanced education thanks to Abraham George. Her English was as fluent as top notch convent schools in the country!

In the words of the creators:

Always With You is a collaboration between Interactive Filmmaking and Microsoft Research India. It is an exploration of the impact of rapid growth in economy and technology in India, through the voices of those whose voices frequently go unheard.

Do have a look.

Carnage and Children

Once again, we find ourselves in the midst of a bloody week. As though the carnage in Calcutta was not enough, we now find that Uttar Pradesh is now engulfed in the terrorists (f)ire.

What is saddest is that the perpetrators are fiendish, they show no sympathy to even children. One of the victims in Varanasi is 11-year old Sanjeev Kumar. The Calcutta riots happened in the middle of the School district around the time that primary school gets over. My own sister was stuck in her school and there was complete chaos around (thankfully, that was not in the center of the riot-hit area). The place where the riots had sparked, the Park Circus 7-point crossing, is a stone’s throw from my own school. I was left wondering what the condition must have been — 10 year olds stuck in the middle of the destruction having the faintest idea about what is going on. [Read this story from The Telegraph on 22 Nov about how the students suffered.]

The UP violence is being (proudly?) claimed by a “new” terrorist organization called the Indian Mujahideen. I wonder what holy war involves killing innocent children. What’s worse, this leads to the seeds of hatred being sown among children. My sister mentioned that she was chatting with a few others, when a good friend of her from the minority community (having not even heard anything) mistakenly thought they were talking about her “religion”. So much for 10 year olds being introduced to communal riots.

May God make them humane.

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