The Legend of ‘Chappal Day’

For the safety and security of all except me, I have changed the names wherever necessary. Any resemblance to known people could be intentional.

I used to hate the word ‘chappal’ but this has changed with reminiscences of the day where we boys became men through this ubiquitous piece of footwear. The all boys Jesuit run school we were in had a super strict dress code. Besides the obligatory navy blue shorts and white button down shirt there was a further strict rider – no chappals, only shoes and socks. And being a high school student meant our class was expected to set an example to all those we hazed when the teachers looked away. Considering all this we still managed to look like a mauled bunch in some African safari by the time the day ended.chappal

Now our teachers had some quirks. There was one who coudnt stand boys who sweat in class. You were immediately puled up and made to sit down on the ground before the blackboard if this ever happened. And god-forbid you had an afternoon class in the Mangalorean heat. You had to make sure not a drop of sweat came down your brow.
Now as we were completing our 10th standard (we had just finished our mock final exams for which I definitely did not study) we had a few classes left before hitting the SSLC final exams. We were made to know that this was a do-or-die exam that would define our future. Who knew from then on we would be told that every exam was a life defining point. Now as our classes concluded, we decided to do something that would make us stand out and remember our days in high school. Oh boy! How memorable we made it that we even talk about it today on the WhatsApp class group.

Was it a good old school hall send-off with speeches and all – No. Was it a felicitation of performers followed by distribution of sweets and Thums Up – Nope. Was it prayer followed by song and dance for our teachers and juniors – No No No. A good classical send-off it was not. We ended up with Chappal Day.

I still have no clue as to who started this thing, though my suspicions surround our last benches as the originators. Every trip to the principals office was facilitated by the last bench (I was an integral part of this througout, though I managed to escape trips to the office at the expense of others).

Our class teacher was Achal Sir, a genial Kannada teacher who went on the rampage if anyone disturbed his class. “Hey pattinga” and the duster flew towards you if you ever whispered sweet nothings to the Debonair magazine centerfold on your lap as Pampa and Ranna were explained from the dog eared textbook on your desk. This combined with the fact that Achal Sir was a career NCC man made the subsequent whackings something to remember. But he was an extremely sporty guy who knew that high school boys need to let off steam from time to time. Now, I dont know why chappals were selected as a send off motif. Maybe it was the antithesis to the strict dress regimen we had, or the need to needle some of our teachers who let a holier than thou approach pin us all year long. Well, whatever it was we just decided that we would come one Monday (which also happened to be the last day of class before the revision holidays) dressed in our best whites and well pressed navy blue shorts, but with chappals. Further, we also got a buy in from Achal Sir to go ahead with this. In not so many words he said OK. Basically as he was finishing class on Friday, we slipped in the fact that Monday would be Chappal day. He ‘Hmm’ed and that was good enough for us.

Monday came up and we trooped in to the morning Assembly in our finest chappals. Bata, Paragon, Action, Premier, and every Market Road brand were on show as we went through the Assembly without a hitch. Some teachers were looking at us weirdly, knowing something was amiss. The first class of the day was Mathematics. Now, we had Michael Sir or Mickey as we all called him – a nervous, twitchy sort who came in with a martyred look like St. Stephen about to be stoned. His wailing explanation of Acute, Obtuse and all sorts of angles that you might as well learn from the Kamasutra, made it the most boring lecture of the day.

As soon as Michael Sir entered he saw the words “Happy Chappal Day” chalked on the blackboard with some cheap flowery motifs around it in purple and green – the only other chalk colours that were available. This was the work of Edmund (last but one bench, even then the usual suspect). Mickey looked up and we saw his face going red as hell. Oh Oh, someone’s gonna get hurt real bad. He stood quietly on the platform for sometime, possibly trying to get his BP down. For once we were thankful that his goody-two-shoes boys in the second bench were in his face to soften his anger. These choir boys were tall guys who couldnt make it to the first bench but were good enough for a second row.

And so the class began, with an obviously still simmering Mickey explaining for one last time the intricacies of algebraic equations and summarizing chapter after chapter. During the class a bit of chappal football took place. With the boys removing their chappals and trying various positions with their shoe-free feet for the first time, others took advantage and began playing footsy with the slippers. And that’s how Praful’s chappals ended up under the lecture platform, having started its journey from the last bench. All this while Michael Sir knew something was afoot. He droned on while suspiciously looking around – like a meer cat checking out the landscape.

And so the class ended as the old electric bell rang. Michael Sir collected his books and register and began his walk down the platform. He hadn’t even wished us the best of luck for our exams. It was at exactly this point that Edmund decided he needed to add to his artwork on the board. He sat on the last but one bench, right in front of us, and gave a rapid clap under the desk. Now a clap spreads like a Mexican wave and in this case the whole class took this as a cue to give one thunderous clapping farewell to Mickey. I am sure the whole school heard us and thought it was an appreciative send-off to a teacher from one of the 10th standard classes. If only they knew. Mickey turned around immediately snarling, “who was that idiot who clapped. I want that fellow to come to the staff room within the next 10 minutes.” As if we would give up one of our own! But then we have our holier than thou souls.

And so it happened, after Mickey walked out, we had Achal Sir come in for the Kannada class. And surprise, surpise, our class teacher had on a pair of black slippers. He had given up his shiny shoes to ensure that he joined us for our last class givng in to our quirky request. The class began with all of us forgetting about Mickey and his scowling brow, to an excited chatter. “Shssssh” was the first thing that Achal Sir said and the class fell silent. One thing Sir would not tolerate was insubordination. Just because he acquiesced to our request didn’t mean he was going to let us off the hook. The class respectfully fell silent and the final Kannada lesson began.

Fifteen minutes into the lesson our class had a visitor. No, it was not a crow roaming the verandah searching for scraps of cookies that someone threw out of the classroom when the teacher spotted them. It was our principal Fr. Savio. He walked in with a genial look on his face like he had come to wish and bless us all for the final exams. Boy, were we wrong! The first thing that caught Fr. Savio’s eye were the slippers worn by Achal Sir. This was an obvious anomaly considering that fact that no one had ever seen Sir without shoes. The principal then moved his eyes to us scanning every John Johnny Janardhan and it was obvious he got the drift of what was happening. “All those who have worn shoes please come out”. A couple of guys who missed the boat when the message had gone out about Chappal day and a few other Judas’s made their way to the podium. We counted four. And then we heard a shuffling from one of the last benches. Peter (or Pedro as we all called him) was half standing and slipping on some shoes. He had worn shoes to class and had changed into slippers later. He was now trying out the goody two shoes act and make it up front.

Post this hungama we escaped the wrath of the principal. Call it providence or the SSLC exams round the corner, it died an immediate death. Maybe our class teacher had something to do with that, I don’t know. However this event is still talked about in our WhatsApp groups and was brought up during one of the conversations. I need to chronicle this event cause it really signified what our class was all about. A rowdy bunch with the coal and steam to make it in life. We continue in that vein, though operating under the radar.

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Where have all the good toys gone?

Big in Japan. There used to be a time when every toy out there was manufactured in Japan or Taiwan or Hong Kong. Be it Matchbox, Mattel or even your Lego blocks – these countries were the usual suspects. The quality was good, the blocks were harmlessly edible and the wheels never left scratches on the floor. And of course Hong Kong was very much a part of cool Britannia. The toy guns fired bullets that neither blinded nor left angry red bullet marks on your body. Kids were safe.

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A scene from ted

And then came the Chinese invasion. High quality metal gave way to cheap quality plastic. Your Lego or Duplo blocks now tasted funny, probably a result of the smoggy weather and the weird coloured water in Xinjiang province. Hong Kong was ‘liberated’ by China. Your toys now cost hardly anything. And so we bought and bought and broke and broke and babies laughed at weird Chinese lullabies cackling out of their crib hangings. Daisy guns were no longer safe, maybe relics from the People’s Liberation Army. Your clothes now smelt funny and left angry welts on your body. It itched like a insect infested tropical rain forest. Everything looked so tacky.

Japan and Taiwan faded to return to their Zaibatsu’s and the uncertainty of the Formosa strait respectively. It’s hard when you see quality degenerate as you grow up.

I look at the toys lined up in Landmark and they scream out saying “So this is how it feels like to be cheap.” A sad reality if there was any.

Sore Plums in India from Her Majesty’s Trade Mission

Top Gear Gang
Top Gear Gang ‘It’s all about thrust and power eh’  – L to R – Richard Hammond ‘Hamster’, James May and Jeremy Clarkson ‘Orangutan’

They all want to do business in India and who are we to stop them. The East India Company was here and a fine job they did. Circa 2010-11 – James May, Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson land at India Gate and have a look around. And they are a part of David Cameron‘s finest trade ambassadors. It’s a mission and it’s not impossible.

But hey, can you Jaguar your way with a Rolls and a Mini Cooper for company on India’s busiest streets? And with a motor mouth like they have, you have one of the greatest episodes on TV out there. Top Gear never felt this good. And I am an Indian. You will realise why I resort to such chest thumping.

Pulled up post their India episode by all the liberal cuckolds in London and India, Top Gear was nearly forced to apologise for something that is a classic if there ever was one. Clarkson and gang run with the dabbawallahs with pure British horsepower (the Germans contributed here and there and India owns a major chunk of one), take the leap in a train, break into a sweat in Rajasthan, before heading for the cool climes of the Himalayas. India has never been chartered so wittily.

Wondering what the fuss was about, I got a chance to watch the complete 90 minute episode online. Bing, Bang, Poof… these guys sure know how to entertain and pull a rabbit out of a hat. They did that through and through. First running the dabbas through the streets with Hammond ‘the Hamster’ dumping half the dabbas, curries and all, on the Churchgate street as his Mini Cooper made a Bourne Identity-like car swerve. James May was his usual OCD self but looked like he landed in Sanjay Gandhi National Park trying to deliver his dabbas with the Rolls not doing much when it comes to navigation. Clarkson drove the Jag to the hilt. Pedal to metal and the dabbas on the floor. Sambar boot space he got in the end.

I dunno how they managed it, but the Mumbai-Jaipur train journey was a laugh riot. Not for the three musketeers though. They puffed and painted their way with banners that spke wonders of Her Majesty’s business acumen and what she had to offer and pasted the train cars with the message of a lifetime – “The United Kingdom Promotes British IT for You” and British bakers got a boost with “Eat English Muffins” being promoted with great fanfare.

A minor change in bogies at Jaipur ensured that the message remained on the train cars with a slight realignment of letters. The images below would clearly define this.

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Aah… I got IT
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How I love doing business with the pommies

“Manual labour and queueing are two things I can’t do,” so says Clarkson. But he sure has a lot of patience putting up an elaborate set up for the “Trade Missions” gala nite at one of Delhi’s poshest suburbs. And boy, what a night it was. Pants off, the best sports car keys in a bucket, boring the arc lights off the glitzy women, feeding McVities biscuits with sour cream on top and passing it off as Gordon Ramsay manna… ha it was a sight to behold and truly exposed Delhi’s shallow underbelly.

This is Brit humour documented with some of the sharpest screwballs in history. The British cars, standing for all that is under Her Majesty’s bonnet, made it up to the Himalayan foothills and boy what a journey it was. Ragged, but definitely worth it, and I would say, India has been cheerfully exposed for all it truly is – beautiful, slimy, crowded, stupid, inventive, breathtaking. Yup, I loved it. Keith Vas and all you sods out there trying to drop your liberal pants whenever Mr Clarkson catches a stinging cold… go ahead, do it. Do it by the Thames, will ensure there are sharks at the river’s edge.

White men can rap – Fallon Timberlake nail it

Justin Timberlake’s latest outing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon has thrown up one of the most memorable rap homages ever. All in fun, but also in respect, this duet with the talk show host and the award winning singer (whose work as an entertainer has gained respect over the years away from the bubble-gum pop origins) featured an awesome mash-up  some of the greatest hip-hop tracks ever – from the Sugarhill Gang to Jay-Z’s ‘Empire State of Mind’.Jimmy Fallon Justin Timberlake

I knew Timberlake could nail it, having seen the guy do his thing on other talk shows and live concerts, and I know Fallon has an impeccable comic timing, but the two together really got into the groove here and matched each other line for line and step for step. Check out their moves here.

A History of Rap: Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake & The Roots.

Off the air and back again

I am on the verge of having my cable connection disconnected. I guess Night Watch will be the last movie I am going to see on cable in my room. I usually watch TV using my laptop. Connecting an HonestTech external TV tuner box for the last three odd years has taken its tollTV-Sucks and the TV tuner box is about to packup. Dodgy USB cable, snowy beginning and end channels, shaky points on the box that actually make the laptop restart every time the table upon which it sits is shaken. I can’t handle such delicate stuff and this is showcased by the fact that my ultra delicate Sony Ericsson headphones for my Walkman mobile have let me down twice in the last six months. I can’t even fold the wires cleanly without ending up with one dead earpiece.

Anyway, this could be a blessing in disguise, as I need to stimulate my writing and move away from the mundane B2B, B2C stuff that happens in office. My writing has been stuck with IT cliches like ‘Best-in-class’, ‘streamline’, ‘delivery process’, ‘faster time-to-market’ – I could puke a dozen more if it pleased a techie reading this piece. ‘Corporate whore’ that’s what a good friend would say every time I concentrated on my work and spouted stuff that would fill some tech geeks PPT presentations.

Corporate whore – well the term has got me thinking now. What’s a corporate whore? Rather who is a corporate whore? If I were to go by my colleagues definition of this term I would define it as someone who sleeps around with half a dozen presentations, brochures and internal company dossiers spread out on his/her lap while faking an orgasm on receiving a bonus and a hike for raising the monetary graphs of an MNC brought up on a steady diet of bullshit from the pimping top management and the coffers of half a dozen cross-dressing Wall Street types.

Speaking about Wall Street, I hear Charlie Sheen and Martin Sheen are reprising their roles in a sequel by Oliver Stone. Something about the recession – that’s what they say. After the drivel that Stone’s shoved down our throats over the last decade, I would say that he might as well sell off his kidney if he wants to stay alive in Hollywood and maintain his lifestyle. Permit me to have a laugh after a long time – the Kidney Stone – get the drift? Is Charlie Sheen going to have a dekko at Gordon’s Gekko this time around? Kiss and make up and join forces with Wall Streets Mr. Greed and generate the next ponzi scheme that would actually provide returns to every investor. Well that’s what I am hearing, cause E!News says its a new and improved Gekko who is being shocased now and he is out to gain his sainthood before Mother Theresa.

Now that my cable connection is on its last leg, I am getting a bit nostalgic about it. I will miss Punk’d on VH1 along with Ashton Kutcher’s butchered dialogue, Rajdeep Sardesai doing absolutely no justice to Dileep Sardesai’s otherwise impeccable gene pool, Celina Jaitley bandying around like a monkey with mascara on a diet of fermented bananas hoping that someone with a falsetto poked her from behind, T. Rajendar judging one of the most unjudgeable dance shows on Zee Telugu (now I know why my set top box packed up, this channel shook up the circuits), hey the list goes on. BTW the Telugu version of So You Think You Can Dance is so out of this world that it would give Star Trek a run for its money in the galaxy box office charts. I would rather watch the Klingons vibe to Chiranjeevi’s hit songs than the nest of deadbeat performers who whored themselves to get stitch a set of buttons on their vests.

I am tired, I need to go home now, I need to watch my last movie on cable and it’s a toss up between ‘Closer‘ on Sony Pix and ‘Night Watch’ on Zee Studios. Hey and BTW I will sincerely miss the Tonight Show with Conan and E!News with Ryan Seacrest. I love the inside scoops on Hollywood.

Bhaskar Special – Forrests’ Rump

It’s been a month since the announcement of the Bhaskar Awards by Christy Bharath. This is my first contribution to all that’s classically nonsensical in the parallel universe of our mainstream films.

bhaskar-awards1994 was an epic year at the Bhaskar’s as ‘Forrests’ Rump‘ swept away all the contenders in its path. The late eighties and the early nineties heralded all that was wrong with the human psyche and physiology. From ‘My Left Foot‘ to ‘Children of a Lesser God‘ to ‘The Gods must be Crazy‘ – absolutely no one was spared. The decade of the retard culminated in this masterpiece of 1994 when a guy with a deformed behind that stuck out like a sore… well what can I say but ‘behind’ again, sat on this bench in a seedy part of the neighbourhood waiting for the city bus.

‘Life is like a box of coconuts’ – said the deformed rump of the person whom we shall name Forrest. Why Forrest – cause he was too retarded to spell ‘forest’ as a kid and the name stuck to him ever since. This seedy part of the neighbourhood has its share of weird stuff falling around and this carton of coconuts fromt the Dominican Republic was found and kept by Forrest. During the time that he waited for the bus in this neighbourhood (by the way he was too dumb to know that no buses plied this route), he had coke sniffing rastafarians, Chinese triad gang members dressed as monks, prostitutes plying their trade way after their expiry date and homosexual pimps enquiring if Forrest was ever interested.

Some dumb blabbering from time to time completely turned off these people who tried to make the bench their home. One even bought a bunch of coconuts to shut Forrest up as he narrated his life story and went about singing ‘I have a lovely bunch of coconuts’ to drown out Forrest talking about his rump.forrest-gump-bump

Sample some of Forrests’ stories – he is recruited for the Vietnam War, joins his platoon on duty in some godforsaken part of the South East and stumbles onto the set of Coppola’s Apocalypse Now ending in huge delays, hence the late release of that classic. The other is when Forrest played ping pong with Mao Tse Tung as a POW and ended up hitting a ping into Mao’s pong resulting in severe lower abdominal pain for the great dictator. This hastened the great one’s death leading to the rise of liberal China and the rise of Chinese soap bubble guns in the American market that ended up blinding 80% of the kids who used them.

Then there was Forrests’ crush Jenny who helped him get rid of those leg braces by calling out ‘push Forrest push’ somewhere in the middle of Grandpa’s haystack and in the process the leg braces broke off. Jenny went on to be known in the Adult industry by her real name Jenna and the surname that she sharedwith the publisher/editor in chief of a certain Daily Bugle.

All the above made for a very engaging movie that could not stop the juggernaut that it was that year and for this reason only – i.e. being unstoppable in suspending everyone’s disbelief, we hand over the Bhaskar to Forrests’ Rump. BTW people made fun ofhis rump throughout the movie and this was the running gag in it. Sample this – Kid stands behind Forrests’ Rump and knocks on his rump saying,

‘Knock Knock.’

‘Who’s there?’

‘Forrest’

Forrest Who?

Forrest Rumpelstilskin who dares you to repeat that name. Bah!

Rise in camcorder sales… guess why

It’s the week leading up to Feb 14 and there is a rush at the local Sony showroom. Weird, I say. In these times of recession I don’t see any discount offers on this premium brand nor do I see any heart-shaped TVs on sale. Still…

sony-camcorder

I pop in out of curiosity hoping that Sony is going to have a distress sale on its Playstations. I jostle in through a crowd of fork wielding individuals. They are all dressed in a colour very close to red (saffron or orange I think). I guess this is a new way of celebrating a pre-Valentines bash. I got to get myself one of those colours. Mom always said I was a loner and I got to get into good company. These guys seemed pretty nice (they didn’t poke me with their forks but poked a few of the store girls) and confident, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to be a part of this club.

The orange guys (as I will call them henceforth) are checking out various cameras. Are they getting ready to shoot the next episode of ‘Mysooru Mallige’? A thrill goes down my spine. I check out a camera next to one of the orangies. He is fumbling with the viewfinder and I help him use it. He mutters thanks and then asks me if I can teach him to shoot the video. Sure, I say.

The orangy buys the camcorder and along with the rest of the group moves to the nearest park to test the camcorder. I was wrong all along, these are nature lovers. They buy me a packet of aloo bondas on the way. Man, these guys are real sweethearts. Nearly everyone in the group has a camcorder. I guess they have some major shooting schedule.

They want to test running shots and rapid shots while handling the zoom function. For a trial run they make the smallest guy in the group sit down next to a lazing cow in the park. The guys then hide behind a bush, far away from the scene, and film the couple sitting at the other end. I help them use the viewfinder and zoom in to the cow chewing cud. The orangies are excited. They make the small guy sit at various angles and in various positions along with the cow, till they are sure they have a hang of the entire long-distance camera handling process.

What they needed next is a running shot of the two mammals. This is what I call the ‘Blair Witch Project’ shot. You jump out of the bush and run towards the couple while keeping the camera focused on them all the time. There is a lot of rapid camera movement involved, but I help them reduce this by making them clasp the camcorder with their ‘lungi’ to avoid the camera slipping from their grasp. So far so good. They get the complete shot and zoom in on the couple. The cow moos and gets up to chase them away.

The leader of the group clasps me by the shoulders and thanks me for teaching them to shoot on their camcorders. Why don’t you join us for the Feb 14 shoot, he asks me. I am excited as hell and I immediately acquiesce to his request. It’s going to be a busy weekend. I will be filming across the city non-stop. Watch out for me, they say I may be on TV too.

P.S. Someone just sent me this report to help me understand what’s going on.