Sunday, September 19, 2010

A chicken and egg thing, really

God is said to be a Trinity; God, the Holy Ghost, and lastly, the Son. Together, they created man, woman, vegetation and homosexuals, and animals. I know what you’re thinking, but no, my problem this week is animals. Or rather, being told not to eat them.

When the Dalai Lama, extended family to The Trinity, says something, it unfailingly makes it to the dailies. He is expected to be spiritually enlightened, and an icon of something called worldly sense.

Last Sunday, he woke up and found himself disgruntled with the concept of caged chicken. In that inconsequential report in the Mirror, the Dalai Lama expressed his concern over the cruelty to caged chicken and hens, and said that we must not eat them – Great idea! – Or their eggs. Oh shucks!

Google and its counterparts have no reports on the lifespan of chicken, and that’s justified. But as in my ideal world, chicken could live, perhaps, for five years, indulging in procreation, laying eggs casually, a spot of ring wrestling around tea-time, a round of gossip just around sunset, some more procreation for the indulgent, and then deep slumber until everyone in the vicinity is awake and arguing. And then back to egg-dropping and other such tasks.

That way, being fed on eggs-on-toast, we’d be protein rich, and hence strong, and chicken would live heartily, being cooked only post natural death, keeping the Dalai Lama and his friends happy.

But cut the eggs out, and we’re left with a load of absolutely useless birds. Birds that, embarrassingly, can't fly. No, not even to save their lives. No self respecting nation in the world has a chicken for its National Bird. And no dyed in the wool wildlife expert would be overheard at the local pub, reeling away tales of ‘fascinating chicken I encountered’, or indulging in some ‘showing of scars’. It would be hideous if you did, and your sex life would be wrapped in a dull, brown envelope and thrown into the big, black sea.

Coming to the introspective bit, I really, really believe that The Trinity did go terribly wrong. And I also believe that I know exactly what must have happened. The Trinity was not an undisputed heavyweight happy family. They had Satan to contend with. Now like in all the big bad Hollywood flicks, the bad guy (Satan, let’s suppose) led a pack of other doofus’. And then there were the ‘other’ gangs. Neither here, nor there, but with little demands of their own.

So they had it; a board meeting. They squabbled, complained about how bad the tea was, shared tasteless anecdotes, and at 5 o’clock, went back out to create more senseless things, in their Toyota Pick-ups.

This is how we’ve ended up with snakes, lizards, cats, termites and jackals. God, trust nothing good to ever come out of Democracy.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Showroom Dummies

Ferraris are red, Lamborghinis are orange, sex is worth the wait, and jeans are blue. It cannot be another way.

Jeans can be black, as proven by a pair I bought a while ago, but they’re a bit dive bar-ish, and hence, an obvious misfit on my large-ish legs. But essentially, jeans are blue.

With time, however, I have come to terms with the omnipresent difference in ‘taste’. So while I frown at Justin Bible, or so I suppose his name is, I know a dozen odd girls who are willing to give him all their money and beauty products.

Continuing, all birds are ridiculous, gold is hateful, and astrology is the science of telling lies. It is ridiculous, to ‘know, plan and be prepared’ for strange consequences in the offing, by chalking out arrows on an unfathomable galactic route map.

Yet, I have noted that prediction, by the way of astrology or not, is a natural instinct. It was pointed out to me a few days ago, that my natural instincts have failed me consistently, and that I am an assumptive, opinionated asshole. I’d said Germany would march home with the FIFA ’10 World Cup, but they lost out in a match which was the equivalent of brown bread. Dull, and utterly tasteless.

Mercedes GP is but a speck in the F1 circus. Chitrangada Singh is far from appearing naked on a Filmfare cover. Jitesh Pilaai is still alive, and both, the Nano and the Beat are selling in good numbers. Mobile network service providers are not yet bleeding jail-birds, and the use of laptops (and the internet) across the country, is still legal.

But here, the issue is more about common sense, than it is about ethics, or preferences. We live in an ethically dumbfounded country. We say ‘x’ is ethical, and ‘y’ is not. And then sustain a market where x, y, and even z are sold freely. Ethics, by nature, are solely dependent on the ethical framework used to determine it. Common sense, by that standard, is far less complicated.

Walk into a medical store, and you wouldn’t walk out with a bottle of cough syrup unless you produced a prescription, or held the store on gunpoint. But buying alcohol is far simpler. You simply hand over the money to the store-keeper, and return home to drown in your joy or sorrow, whichever applicable.

I’m not rising to the defence of the 490 students recently detained in a party in Pune. No, I couldn’t care less about them. They were at fault, even if of a lesser magnitude than they were projected to be, and they’re a waste of my afternoon.

But the dubiousness with which the entire issue was handled gets to me. A 21 year old can vote, marry and reproduce. But a pint of beer makes him/her a criminal. That’s like saying you can have a Ferrari, but you can’t run it on all eight cylinders. If you do so, you are irresponsible, and deserve to have your face peeled off with a bulldozer.

A vote is the individual’s aspiration to freedom and independence, no strings attached. But if the same vote then counters his aspirations, and lands him in detention, that’s flawed, alright.

We call ourselves ‘The Largest Democracy in the World’, and we’re about to commence our 64th year of independence. But being the largest hardly makes us the best. I mean, Paul the Octopus has six more legs than Usain Bolt, but that’s not going to make it the Fastest Man in the World, right?

Friday, July 16, 2010

T20 still no match for good old cleavage

If I were to manufacture, say, biscuits, life wouldn’t have been much different. I’d have someone bake them, someone to deliver them to a shop, and someone, of course, to eat them. Then there would be that unexplainable need to advertise my product, and I’d have gone through an entire brochure of celebrities, frowning.

Unless, of course, if Chitrangada Singh volunteered. Imagine a completely undressed Chitrangada Singh, finishing off with some frantic lovemaking, then reaching out to the bedside table for a pack of biscuits, asking you to buy them at the earliest. Of course you’d buy them. If you didn’t, the product’s sales would drop. If sales drop, advertisement budgets would go down drastically. Inevitably, the clip would be pulled off air. And life would be boring again.

But if the captain of a cricket team suggested a certain brand of biscuits, would you really bother? You’ve hardly aspired to arrange for dinner with him, and neither are you very fond of the craters on his face.

Yet, somehow, MS Dhoni, captain of the Indian cricket team, signed an advertising contract, or something of the sort, worth an unbelievable Rs.210Cr. Why? I have often jumped to conclusions in the past, so this time I’m going to try my hand at deduction.

Men, with their ego shirts and self-esteem trousers, certainly don’t seem to give two hoots about what MSD eats. Score a ton, win matches, and we’re fine thank you. So men, certainly, are not the target audience in mind for MSD’s adverts. Children, perhaps? Well, yes, they are more vulnerable in this case. But I know that children too are not the target audience. You see, children will buy Pepsi regardless of who promotes it. Yes, there maybe some banter about the (stupidly long) advertisement, but that’s small talk. If the ad suggests drinking Pepsi will give you MSD’s batting skills, you would have also, by now, developed Preity Zinta’s breasts, and SRK’s wit.

But, and I’m getting somewhere here, you would then have also acquired the cricketing skills of Sachin Tendulkar (who has endorsed Pepsi for the longest time). So if I have Sachin Tendulkar’s skills, why would I now want the lesser ability to play cover drives, from MSD? To put it to context, if you had a sufficient bowlful of steaming mutton Biryani, you wouldn’t get up and walk away from the table, in search of Marie Gold biscuits, right?

That leaves me with the only remaining category of audiences - women. I do understand that MSD has a large female fan following in India. But, given an options list consisting of Salman Khan, Ranbir Kapoor and SRK, MSD doesn’t stand a chance of getting into bed with another woman.

Which only means one thing. Whoever signs MSD on to promote their product couldn’t afford to sign the above mentioned trio. Which means they have settled for fourth, or maybe fifth best. That, then, automatically becomes a reflection of the product itself. And a brand that makes ‘fifth best’ products should be spending Rs.210 Cr on making themselves better, not signing it off to a cricketer. And that’s common sense.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Now Pyromaniac Beats GM’s baby

I dislike mobile phones on a, pun intended, cellular level. While I don’t doubt their utility, which is on par with that of photocopier machines, and Metallica, I’ll never wake up at 3am, with an urge to coin Wordsworth-ish lines in awe of them. On a regular call, I will hold a conversation for about a minute. If it’s somebody I badly want to get into bed with, it can go up to six.

Apart from the primary function of calls, and messaging, I have no particular interest in how mobile phones function. As long as I don’t have to use needles to operate the buttons, I’m just fine, thank you. I’m even less concerned (and ignorant) about mobile software technology, or whatever it is that makes them do their thing.

But the Internet is a great leveller. I hate laptops, so the internet provides me with unlimited access to Chitrangada Singh’s, ahem, interiors. I dislike mobile phones, and then the internet offers me themes for my Nokia N72. So now I get iPhone thrills for the price of dirt (basic internet charges as may be applicable. No South American interventions). Add cheap, duplicate body panels to the scene, and you get the plastic equivalent of a boob job, mascara and Chanel Number Sex for a phone that is still, basically, soggy old feet. Just like the Chevy Beat then.

In today’s half page advertisement in the Times of India, ten minutes, says GM, is far too short a time to make a car buying decision. And they couldn’t be more wrong. Ten minutes is in fact, way too long. I made my (not) buying decision against the Beat in time that can only be registered on an atomic stopwatch.

If the Beat was a girl, it would be seventeen. It would chew on bubblegum, wear collared Nike tee shirts, and would be friends with middle of the road boys, whom she’d occasionally sleep with at 6 in the evening.

But what really beats me about the, er, Beat is the expanse of plastics used. While some of the trim does feel ‘sporty’ (sigh, that word again), the glossy-black accents feel tacky, cheap and tasteless. It’s like those plastic ‘leather’ sandals women buy off Linking Road. Or, more appropriately, like the bits on a woman’s handbag. They’re fine as long as they’re shiny, but they’re a fingerprint magnet, and will go out of fashion faster than the Beat runs out of breath. Add to that the eccentric, electronic fuel gauge, and you have a recycle bin on wheels.

That the Beat is a city-centric car is bollocks. Yes, it steers fairly well – and that’s a given for a car of its tiny size – but you have paid 4+lacs for the car, and you are bloody well going to drive it to a hill station with your all of your girlfriends in tow. But just then, your bubblegum would have burst. You see, the Beat has the most disconnected drivetrain in the world. It’s like driving one car, and shifting gears of another. It’s like having sex with a log of wood – limitlessly unrewarding, and ends in a lot of bleeding.

You have my word; for half the price, you can buy the Tata Nano. It is perkier, more fuel efficient, only slightly smaller, and as a consolation, you can buy one in a Loud Yellow. Of course you’ll end up on fire, and dead, moments after you pull out of the dealership. But rest assured, you won’t end up in that dreaded halt between heaven and hell. Which is where Beat owners go to die, having failed an overtaking manoeuvre in second, at 11,000rpm. Alongside ladies handbags. And plastic shoes.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Three Letters Red

Man invented the wheel. And two hundred years later, when the tube light came on, he tried covering up his folly under a sheet of traction control linen. For years, I’ve covered my nose with a handkerchief, making faces at the very mention of electronic driving aids. Yes, when it snows, you’ll try as much to reverse out of your driveway in your rear wheel drive supercar. And you will always end up in a donut. But it doesn’t snow here, and we don’t drive supercars to work.

This morning, I read an article by someone who allegedly ghost-writes my column every week. Traction control, he said, made a good read in the spec sheet. Very true. When someone says his car has traction control, I don’t have to look at his wrist to tell he’s wearing a big watch. Traction Control Man has a steady girlfriend, wears impeccable driving shoes, and has a Playstation 3.

Coming to which, I had a go on the Need for Speed Shift game a few days ago. And it’s fantastic! They’ve got the audio just right, the visuals even more so, and gameplay is more interesting than foreplay, once you get the hang of it. They’ve even managed to make the Merc SL65AMG feel realistically hateful. You have roughly two dozen cars to choose from – starting from an Audi S3, all the way to the Blue Whale of supercars – the Bugatti Veyron.

And then, you have the Lamborghini Murcielago LP 670-4. Wow. What a rocket. It’s like a Monica Bellucci F16 fighter jet. It’s like having frantic sex on a roller-coaster, with an AK 47 resting point blank on your temple. It is a fright. If I owned one, I’d peel off the Murcielago badge, and write BASTARD all over it with Lion blood. It is, really, a Rottweiler hypermachine in a world of Alsatian supercars.

The Germans have nailed it. True, Lamborghini is Italian by birth. But that’s rubbish. Today, Lamborghinis are made in a factory full of mad German bosses from Audi. And Germans wouldn’t know democracy even if it jumped out of the bushes, brandishing a bloodied dagger.

Look around. The best in everything comes from Germany. BMW owns Rolls Royce, and that really is a shame for the Brits. As if that were insufficient, the Germans murdered England in the FIFA World Cup with a 4-1 defeat last evening. Volkswagen makes the fastest production car in the world. Okay, they don’t, but they own Bugatti. So it’s the same thing, really. Sebastian Vettel has proven, time and again, how much better he is than his spider-eating team mate, Mark ‘Flying Shag’ Webber. And this is just off the top of my head.

The Murcielago, in this scheme of things, is more than just a mad-fast hypercar. It is a sign. It’s a sneak peek into the largest dictatorship the world has ever seen.

And the Schutzstaffel of the new world is going to be Mercedes GP. You’ve seen that commercial during the F1 races. Tell me you don’t see a Hitler-in-anticipation in that red helmet, and I’ll show you a blind man. Those eyes, they’re it. The micro-moustache will sprout. Or maybe they’ll sacrifice it in the name of weight reduction. But world domination for Germany has just begun. And three letters will rule the world – MSC

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pig beats Pyromaniac, hands down

Being the ‘auto guy’ is fun. Women love you because you’ve got a motorcycle. People reckon you’re the outdoorsy type – hungry for adventure, and an expert in survival tactics. Show up at a party with grease-stains on your jeans and men will loathe you, while you’re busy chatting up cleavages of varying dimensions.

You make good friends with the opposite sex. And when the holiday season arrives – and it happens thrice in India – you’re the one who gets to keep the wheels. “Love, my boyfriend’s taking me to the Andamans. I wish you could come too. Have a lovely Christmas. Oh, and here, just keep her running, will you? Muah!”

The ‘her’ is obviously a car, and not, as would have liked, her horny seventeen year old sister. Being a dyed-in-the-wool, you find it hard to refuse a chance to drive anything at all. So you’re there, in a battered black Mitsubishi Lancer Sfxi, wondering why it has that big spoiler on the boot, and a stupid python teddy on the parcel tray. Women do strange things to cars. But unless you’ve got embroidered seats, consider yourself decently fortunate. Oh, and don’t bother with that jar of Elle 18 nail enamel that has just rolled out from under your seat. It will jam itself behind the brake pedal, and is going to kill you.

Now, I’ve often been accused of having a fetish for bad news, and Mahindras. It’s no secret that I love all Mahindras except, perhaps, the Scorpio. I will write good stuff about their cars even if they come with lizards in the glove box and occasionally spray battery acid into the cabin from the air-con vents.

Much to my delight, hence, an English lady in her fifties left behind a car I was rather looking to drive. It’s an MM 540 DP, and it’s featured on my shopping list for ever. It’s got the works - short wheelbase, two doors, a canvas top, a rugged diesel engine and its party piece, a four wheel drive unit. I’d like mine with a camel-beige (or deep blue) body, and painted-white wheel rims.

This one, however, is a colour that, as Jeremy Clarkson once put it, should be called ‘old’. Oh, and it’s not a four wheel drive either. In fact, it’s a no wheel drive.

Well, okay, it works. But we barely reached 30, in fourth, when the clutch caught fire. And then there is the braking. Or rather, there isn’t.

You have to hold opposite lock for the simple task of travelling in a straight line. Oh, and you daren’t get out at night even if you have murderers helping themselves to your cash and your daughter; the headlamps are pathetic. And if you crash into something (which you will), the steering wheel will gatecrash your anatomy, leaving you crippled, and homeless.

And for this very reason, I absolutely love it. Drive a Honda CR-V, and you will fall asleep in a couple of hours. At 180kmph. On the expressway. Eight minutes later, you will have rolled over onto a field, covered in some blood and six airbags.

But in the MM 540DP, sleep is impossible. And if you do roll over, it will simply plough on, as if nothing happened. In the slushy stuff, it is better company than Chitrangada Singh. And if you ever run out of fuel, feel free to relieve yourself in the fuel tank – it will run, no sweat. You may as well be dead and decaying in the cabin, but as long as the engine’s running, you’re unstoppable. And Evo san, here’s my retort to your ‘flames or no flames’ comment to my previous rant.

There is an unbelievably large difference between being on fire, and not being on fire. So if you want a car for a lakh, buy a used MM 540 DP. You couldn’t be more politically incorrect, but at least you won’t be on fire.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


On Tata Nanos catching fire, word is that it’s a manufacturing defect. Some say, alternatively, that it may have been a case of owners’ negligence. To which, I say, bull.

It is going up in flames, because owners are setting it on. In the first odd case, I typically suspected the hand of a correspondent from Overdrive – they have a tendency to do unbelievable things to test vehicles – but we will, obviously, never hear about it from them. But to be fair to them, I believe the entire deal is in fact, a conceptual defect.

You see, every mass-centric idea in India (HH Splendor and M800 duly excused), has been a big ticking atom bomb. Local trains in Bombay are bombarded by working-class crowds on a daily basis, occasionally leaving the task to neighbouring countries. When Reliance launched mobile handsets for Rs.999, offering 500 minutes of free talktime, everyone bought one. And showed it the way to the bin, when the bill came knocking on the door. Reliance Mobile, today, is sulking in a corner, licking its wounds.

In India, ‘cheap’ works. But ‘cheap and best’ does not. Simply because while a product is cheap, it is not the best. Best as compared to what? Grapes? The fact is, the Nano doesn’t excel at a single thing. It is inexpensive, yes, but the used car market clearly overshadows the fact. It isn’t spectacularly fast, except of course when it is over 80kmph, and on fire – which is more spectacular than fast, really.

Autocar India took the Maruti 800’s speedo past the bump stop, to an outrageous 141.1kmph – but nothing happened. The doors didn’t fall off, and more importantly, it did not catch fire. And the 800 could seat five, had 5 gears, fuel injection a surprisingly peppy engine and an a/c that worked just fine. We owned one. Look ma, no burns!

But to buy a Nano, first, you have to get past the waiting period. Now I enjoy the concept of having to wait a year, at times two, for my Bentley Arnage to arrive home. Simply because I know they have spent two years finding that Lion in Zambia, whose hide I wanted for my steering wheel cover. In the Nano’s case, you can’t even chose the b(lo)ody colour until the lot has arrived in the stockyard a year later. Where you have to beat other Nano customers with thorns so they don’t pick the only colour you want - yellow, of which there is only one.

And then, with blood gushing out of one eye, and a dangling nose, you make your way out of the dealer’s in a not-so-bad Gray. But now you’re on the four lane. And you have to follow run-in instructions. So you’ll have to move into the slow(est) lane. Oh, but you can’t see – there’s no LHS rear view mirror. Great, now the idiot in front of you has decided to do a u-turn at the junction. Woohoo! The brakes don’t work. Obviously – it’s raining, and drum brakes won’t work even if you propose to feed them to lions. So you’re rocketing towards a fast decelerating Audi Q7, stuck in the fast lane with brakes that don’t work and with no clue what’s coming from behind you on the left. Bloody merry, innit?!

Put me in this situation and I’ll most gently smear aviation grade fuel all over the car’s dull gray, and hire an F16’s afterburners to do the decent thing. Others will perhaps just go the traditional Indian kerosene-matchbox way. Moral of the story; if you love the idea of being alive, with zest, forget the Nano. But on the other hand, if using a laptop frustrates you but you can’t afford to lose all the valuable data – buy a Nano. It’s cheap to buy, plasticky, and admit it, there’s nothing more fun than watching a car parked. And on fire.